Iran Prohibits Chess (Again)
In my very first APCT column for the January-February 1989 issue of this publication I reported that the Ayatollah Khomeini ruled that playing chess in Iran was forbidden, claiming that chess promoted gambling. A short time later that prohibition was lifted. In modern Iran chess has become popular and there is an Iranian chess federation. The recent religious "fatwa" condemning chess is not a legal document, but the religious leaders' statements often have the power of law in practice. The recent liberalization in Iran, leading to a partial separation of church and state, may reduce the number of pronouncements such as this one banning chess. One chess leader suggested that the religious objections to the game stemmed from an ancient form of the game where the moves were dictated by the role of dice.
Fischer Coaching GM Peter Leko?
There has been a recent rumor, reported on the "Chess-L" mailing list, that previous world champion Robert Fischer has been in frequent contact with Hungarian superstar GM Peter Leko and that they frequently analyze together. If Fischer does indeed live in Budapest, as I've been led to believe, this seems to be a possibility.
Peter Leko has also made his mark recently in correspondence chess, representing Hungary in cc team competition. Here's a game of his from the ICCF Email Team Tournament, Final, board 1. This game was presented on the ICCF web site as the first "Game of the Month", presented by USA cc GM Vytas Palciauskas, the 10th cc world champion. Note that Leko didn't win this game, though he's one of the highest rated OTB players in the world.
Valery Pankratov (RUS) - Peter Leko (HUN) [D85]
Jeroen Piket Wins First Kasparov On-line Tournament
Garry Kasparov has recently launched a very ambitious chess web site on the Internet. One of his more interesting plans is to hold regular GM events on-line, with the players scattered around the world. Each player would play using the Internet for communicating moves. The players can choose between using a chessboard display on the screen or having the moves transferred to a regular chess set. A tournament official would be present at each playing site to insure proper behavior and lack of problems.
The first such on-line event has already occurred with Jeroen Piket of The Netherlands defeating Kasparov in the final knockout match to take first place. Piket defeated Seirawan, Morozevich and Svidler to reach the finals. The 16 participants in this first event were Garry Kasparov (RUS), Alexander Morozevich (RUS), Michael Adams (ENG), Nigel Short (ENG), Peter Svidler (RUS), Yasser Seirawan (USA), Loek van Wely (NLD), Boris Gulko (USA), Ivan Sokolov (NLD), Jeroen Piket (NLD), Gilberto Milos (BRA), Utut Adianto (Indonesia), Miguel Illescas (ESP), Nick de Firmian (USA), Dibuendu Barua (India) and Deep Junior, 1998 Computer World Champion.
The event wasn't without its controversy. The controversy concerned the last-named competitor. In the match between Mickey Adams and Deep Junior there were numerous problems with lost Internet connections and other delays. In the end the computer program was forfeited, though it had played well. Though the computer was operated in the Kasparov web site offices in Israel there were just too many problems to allow Adams to compete in acceptable match conditions, so the computer was forfeited.
I expect to see more such events in the future, involving not only top GM's but also players of all classes. Undoubtedly, many of the problems encountered in this first event will be solved before the next on-line tournament is held.
Kasparov to (Finally) Defend Title?
A press conference in London on 5 April 2000 announced the organization of the "Brain Games World Chess Championship". The match is scheduled for 16 games to be played in London (probably) starting on October 9, 2000. They have ambitious plans for a 2-year cycle of championship matches with a challenger's tournament to determine future challengers. The first challenger will be Vladimir Kramnik, who accepted the invitation after V. Anand refused to sign without an advance payment of $300,000.
It will certainly be interesting to see if one of these championship matches finally takes place, after so many failures in the past few years. Of course, what would an OTB title match be without its share of controversies? Organizing the match was Raymond Keene, who has been accused by David Levy of improper behavior. Keene and Levy were both stockholders in MindSports Olympiad Ltd., which was also interested in organizing a world championship match with Kasparov. Legal action is expected.
I've found things quite hectic recently with so much work to do updating Internet web pages. I see a lot of concern about chess engines ruining correspondence chess as they become stronger and stronger. On The Correspondence Chess Message Board one player maintains his Doomsday Clock marching towards midnight and the end of correspondence chess. Others view the advances in computers as a great boon to chess, leading to improved communications and the general popularization of the game. I predict that email chess as we know it today is a short-term method of conveying moves with more advanced and convenient methods of play coming in the near future. If the prophets of doom are proven incorrect then I think we are approaching a golden age of chess. OTB events, such as the one documented above at the Kasparov web site, will become more common and chess will be available to everyone with the ease of sitting down at one's computer.
My first correspondence chess hero was, without a doubt, the Fifth Correspondence Chess Champion of the world Dr. Hans Berliner. His book on the championship tournament "The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship", with co-author Ken Messere, was my cc bible for some time. I played the Alekhine's Defense, following his practice in that tournament.
Berliner, the first American to win the championship title, won in a most impressive fashion, finishing as the only undefeated player a full three points clear of the field with 14-2 (+12=4 -0). In 2-3 were J. Hybl and K. Husak (both of Czechoslovakia) at 11-5 while the previous champion V. Zagorovsky finished with 10-6. The tournament was played from April 1965 through January 1968. Some speculated that his dominating performance was due to his access to computers. Indeed, he was a computer scientist at Carnegie-Mellon University (I believe it was simply Carnegie Institute at that time). Working on chess software might have given him some insights into the game missing in others, I suppose, but it seems silly to think computer chess in the late 60's was advanced enough to help him in any way.
Others have suggested that he got help from Bobby Fischer in the analysis of his games. On TCCMB Pedro F. Hegoburu, the current Marketing Director (and previous Press Officer) for ICCF, stated that he has asked Fischer about this charge when Fischer visited Buenos Aires a couple of years ago. Fischer said that this claim was false and that he didn't remember ever analyzing anything with Berliner.
Berliner's achievement stands as an amazing accomplishment, meeting the world's best players and winning in dominating fashion. He remains as my cc hero showing what is possible when you combine skill with dedication and a good work ethic.
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There wasn't any input from readers this time. I encourage all readers to drop me a line if you have something of interest to report to the other readers or if you have a strong opinion on a cc topic. This column provides a forum for the discussion of anything of interest to the cc community. About the only thing I don't cover here is detailed chess analysis, which is handled in abundance in other columns. News, opinion, discussion of rules and ethics, novel events and stories are invited. Do you feel strongly about this fantastic art/sport/science? Do you think my previous description of chess is silly? Do you have a poem about chess or a humorous incident to share? Do you think chess is more than just a game or that it is only a game and people like me are absurd?
copyright © 2000 by J. Franklin Campbell
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