The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - November/December 2000

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Chess Piece Collector (continued)

Last time I discussed a young man who, though unable to play chess, is enthusiastic about collecting chess pieces. There are so many wonderful things about our exciting art/sport/science of chess that I’m not surprised that someone finds great pleasure in such a collection. I’ll mention another interesting method of enjoying chess below (there are so many!). I am pleased to inform you that some readers have contributed to Trevor’s chess piece collection. If anyone else wishes to contribute, don’t send anything to me but contact me at the above address/email address. I will get you in contact with Trevor’s mother Deborah so you can send your information and/or chess pieces directly to Trevor. I’ve found many, many chess players are eager to share their passion with others.

Chess Player Writes Short Stories

I just received a most interesting letter from APCT’er Tim Blevins of Waverly, VA. He states, “In the past 12 months or so, I have written three chess-related short stories … I sent one of my stories to Chip Chapin in Hawaii, who said he was impressed and suggested I send my work to you. …”

Tim was polite enough not to send his stories to me without first asking permission (knowing I keep very busy) but I wanted to mention his latest idea for enjoying the Royal Game. I believe this is a worthy endeavor. I haven’t had a chance yet to reply in person, but I’ll certainly be only too glad to read some “chess literature.” If I haven’t remembered to reply yet, Tim, please ship me some of your work. I notice from the latest on-line APCT rating list that Tim finished two games in the last two-month rating period so he is obviously an active competitor, as well as a writer.

I encourage all of you to take Tim’s and Trevor’s lead and find a way to enjoy chess in new ways. If you’re an accomplished photographer, writer, artist, collector, programmer, story teller, forms designer, web site designer, graphics artist, organizer, wood worker, etc., etc. there are ways to express your love of the game through your other interest(s). I know stamp collectors who collect stamps with chess themes. In my May-June 1996 column I even had a photo of an architectural feature built into a house by APCT’er John D. Tregidga of Woodinville, WA. He said, “As a fan of postal and Over The Board chess I have noticed that my love of the art of chess has started expressing itself in my work. I am a residential Architect by profession. Recently a speculative home design I created was completed, and I thought I would share this unique game board with your readers. The enclosed photograph shows a second story game room, in-floor, 48” square glass block relight ‘chess board’. … This is my first board I have custom designed into a house plan I created for someone else.” You can see the photo if you have that magazine issue handy. People have found some very cool ways to increase their pleasure in chess.

Current Status of Steve Ham vs. Computer

The matches between Senior Master Steve Ham of Minneapolis and two top chess engines Fritz 6 and Nimzo 7.32 continues, but the games are winding down. The 2-game match with Nimzo has ended with victory for the chess engine. After a simple oversight, allowing the computer to lock up the pawns and nullify his pawn edge leading to a draw Ham lost the second highly tactical game, for a 1½-½ win by Nimzo. I think we all underestimated the strength of these chess engines, assuming they would not perform well at cc speeds. Actually, Steve played very quickly, trying to keep viewers entertained with frequent moves and exhaustive analysis. He also played without using a computer himself to check his analysis. Another self-imposed limitation was to play as though he were playing a human. We were simulating a game versus an opponent using a computer without the knowledge of the opponent. There were no anti-computer moves here. Still, we were all surprised by the strength of Nimzo under these circumstances.

The match with Fritz 6 continues. Ham played the black line made famous in the Kasparov vs. Rest of World match, giving up the exchange for a pawn and play. In the end Fritz was able to hold the material but Ham converted to a drawn ending. The game hasn’t ended, but the computer seems to just be shifting pieces back and forth, clinging to the belief it is up nearly 3 pawns. We have King, Rook and Pawn vs. King, Bishop and Pawn, where there is no apparent way for the chess engine to make progress. I’ve installed the Fritz Turbo Tablebase, which has stored the solution to most positions with five or fewer pieces (counting Kings). ChessBase points out that there is little need to include certain positions, such as King and three Queens vs. a lone King. Well, that certainly sounds reasonable!

When I fire up the computer I can hear the hard drive buzzing away as it examines all lines, including those with exchanges leading to the 5-piece endings (therefore requiring a search of the giant tablebase). Every exchange initiated by the computer leads to a drawn ending, though, so no exchanges are likely. At least that’s how it appears to me.

The second game vs. Fritz is a fairly even ending, where Ham appears to have an edge but the chess engine calculates a small edge for itself. I heard of one case where someone was playing a chess engine against an identical chess engine. Both engines calculated they had the advantage! Perhaps by next issue the contest will be ended. You can always check my web site for the lastest developments.

“Ponziani Power” by David C. Taylor

Speaking of Steve Ham, last time I mentioned a new book about to be released called “Ponziani Power” by 7th USCCC (1987-90) champion David C. Taylor (who won by the amazing score of 13½-½). I’m hoping to be able to offer a short review of this book in this column next issue based on a full review written by Steve Ham. I’ll probably post the full review at my web site. Steve has played the Ponziani (1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3) in the past and should be able to offer a good evaluation of this new book. Watch for it next time. My initial impression of this book is that it looks comprehensive and well-written. Don’t wait for the review if you find this opening of interest.

End of the Pawn Sections

Bob Cain of Toledo, OH wrote the following:

I am very saddened to see the demise of Pawn sections in APCT. It seems like us lower-rated players are being given fewer and fewer tournament options, and thus fewer and fewer reasons to remain an APCT member.

Really, we C/D/E players have now only two realistic options, the once-a-year semi-Class event and the Knight-B’s. (If we want friendly games with a favorite opponent, we can have that without paying for a Challenge Match! And as for the Rook events: does anyone really want to see the Rook sections deluged with D/E players?)

I for one came to appreciate the more laid-back atmosphere of the now-defunct Pawn and Bishop tourneys, when we played more for fun and friendship and experimentation with new lines, and not to win some kind of prize or honor.

Unfortunately, a lot of lower-rated players are going to realize that APCT has very little left to offer them, and consequently we will see ever further decreases in an already-dwindling membership. Reducing options for our players seems like a good way to kill APCT.

p.s. I am especially concerned with our inmate members and also some of our handicapped and elderly players, for whom postal chess may be their primary source of contact with the outside world. Due to the “one-inmate-per-section” rule, for example, a prisoner wanting to play in a Knight tourney might have to wait for months before being assigned a section! What would you do in their situation?

Thanks for the letter, Bob. You pose some interesting questions. I’m sure Helen and Jim Warren would not have eliminated these tournaments without good reason, namely the lack of entries. Perhaps they would be restored if there were enough support. I don’t know the answers. I know that loss of membership is a common occurrence for cc organizations. Possibly the on-line email chess organizations are responsible, or the lack of young players taking up the hobby, or maybe there are just so many competing activities in this modern world that participation in CC is down.

Just Me and My Scanner

I just got a new scanner for my computer and I’m having a ball! Two strong motivations for purchasing a scanner at this moment were (1) I just attended the annual ICCF Congress and have bunches of photos to put on my personal web site and the web sites of ICCF-U.S. and ICCF, and (2) I have another hobby interest I plan to pursue with a new web site and many illustrations. With my daughter’s upcoming wedding I’m sure to find more applications, such as sharing pictures with family members who can’t attend. I also just realized that I may finally be able to post some of my chess cartoons at my web site. Man, everyone should have a scanner!

If you’re interested in seeing photos of many American cc players and International cc players and organizers, check out the ICCF-U.S. web site and my personal web site for the new photo albums.

New USA Title Holders

At the ICCF Congress held in September 2000 the following USA players received their new titles:

International Arbiter
   Alan Jones
   Allen F. Wright

Senior International Master (SIM)
   Richard S. Callaghan
   R. Anthony Cayford
   Kevin W. Embrey
   Daniel M. Fleetwood
   Gary L. Kubach
   Jerry Meyers
   Dr. Anatole Parnas

International Master (IM)
   Wayne W. Ballantyne
   Jon Edwards
   Dr. Eugene S. Martinovsky (posthumously)
   Paul L. Thompson
   Dr. Walter H. Wood

I was particularly happy to see the presentation of two awards, namely the IM title being awarded to our former APCT and USA Champion Jon Edwards and the special ICCF award the Bertl von Massow Silver Medal for ten years of service to correspondence chess presented to APCT’er Ralph Marconi, who is also the newest member of the Presidium of the ICCF. Ralph recently took over the challenging job of Zonal Director for the North American/Pacific Zone (NAPZ). Actually, like some other North Americans, Ralph earned his award some time ago but took advantage of this special occasion (the first time the ICCF Congress has been hosted on the North American continent) to receive his award in person. Ralph will be up for the Gold medal next year, marking 15 years of service.

ICCF Congress Held in USA

For the first time the USA hosted the annual ICCF Congress. At the invitation of ICCF-U.S. Secretary Professor Max Zavanelli and his wife Ruth Ann Fay the ICCF met in Daytona Beach, Florida September 16-22, 2000. I can’t praise them enough for the wonderful and detailed arrangements they made. On two separate occasions they were given standing ovations for their outstanding job. Bravo Ruth Ann and Max! Approximately 65 people met at this remarkable gathering of correspondence chess supporters. Both strong players and outstanding organizers were there from all over the world. I found the ICCF President Alan Borwell (SCO) and ICCF General Secretary Alan Rawlings (ENG) to be outstanding and energetic leaders with a wealth of knowledge and experience. The exchange of ideas during the official meetings were remarkable, with a tremendous amount of work accomplished. The main topic for this Congress was to restructure the rules of play, something that had been started at the Congress four years ago. This was a difficult subject, to be sure, but much was accomplished. I came away with a new respect for this organization and a fresh understanding of the official motto of ICCF Amici Sumus (“We Are Friends”). We had official meetings, unofficial meetings, social gatherings and even played a little chess. I averaged going to bed about 3am every night and was very glad to see my own bed again after a week in a hotel room. Ralph Marconi urged me to see the beach with him before we left or I may not have left the hotel confines, outside of our group trip to the Kennedy Space Center following the official end to the Congress. I did have a delightful day at the Space Center in the company of Ralph and Tim Harding, who bought me some space-age ice cream (it was good).

I mentioned hearing from Dr. Ted Bullockus in my last column. I’ve only played him once in the USA CC Championship ten years ago, but like many USA correspondence players I knew his name and had corresponded with him on occasion. Little did I realize that I’d meet him in person soon. In fact, he sat next to me at the USA vs. Rest of World team match, organized as the special event for the annual ICCF Congress. Ralph Marconi had recently appointed me to my first Tournament Director job for the Pacific Area Team Tournament (PATT4). One of the team captains in this event is Hirokaz Onoda of Japan. So there I was, sitting opposite Onoda as my opponent while Ted Bullockus was at my side playing Chess Mail editor/publisher Tim Harding. The top two boards were manned by four past CC World Champions, one of them my first cc idol 5th CC World Champion Dr. Hans Berliner (USA) (oh, I’m using his name as my password at work this week). He was playing 12th CC World Champion Grigory Sanakoev (RUS), who you may remember as the fellow whose hand I wanted to shake based on his writings about chess (see “Grigory Sanakeov and his Love of the Game” in my July-August 1999 column). Board 2 of this event matched 10th CC World Champion Dr. Victor Palsiauskas (USA) vs. the 11th CC World Champion Dr. Fritz Baumbach (GER).

One cool thing about attending this kind of meeting is that you get to personally meet many of the people you only know through correspondence or reputation. I took four books for autographs and was excited to have my photo taken with the two American CC World Champions. I roomed with Ralph Marconi and had lengthy chats concerning our respective web sites, our common work within the NAPZ Zone and many other topics, chess and otherwise. I had previously met very few CC friends in person, and now I was meeting them in large numbers! What a week, even if I did work like a dog writing up reports of the meetings and participating in the events. You can read my four lengthy reports at the ICCF web site. You can find links for all these cc web sites in my list of links at my personal web site named (of course) The Campbell Report. Just check the section labeled “CC Organizations” (while there check out the APCT site and the on-line books and supplies catalog).

Another wonderful moment was seeing American GM Victor Palciauskas receive a special engraved silver plate in honor of his 10th CC World Championship. I would encourage anyone who enjoys correspondence chess to try to meet some of their fellow cc’ers in person. It’s a wonderful experience. We played a little OTB, socialized, discussed important issues for cc competitors, and had a great chess-related experience. Of course, it was a disappointment that at the last moment Helen and Jim Warren were unable to attend.

Next year the ICCF Congress will be held in Rimini, Italy. It sounds like a great trip. I’m sure glad there was at least one opportunity to attend a meeting right here in the USA. The friendships I formed there will add meaning to my chess activities and make cooperation much easier. I’ve found that it is easy to be irritated by words received by email and post, but when I personally know someone I see beyond any possible negative interpretations of cold words on a computer screen. I remember our good fellowship and many shared opinions and experiences. It makes everything easier.

The “Incident”

One final story from the ICCF Congress. One of the traditions is the Blitz tournament, played at 5 minutes time limit. You can expect some entertaining (and humorous) moves when correspondence chess players go at it in blitz. I was pleased to finish the night with a slightly plus score and to have a few decent games. In one game I was sitting next to International Arbiter Maurice Carter. He’s a past APCT’er and has performed the TD duties in many major USA and NAPZ events. His opponent in this game was ICCF President Alan Borwell. The round started and hands were flying through the air, punching the chess clocks. On one move I got confused and pressed the button on the chess clock on my left instead of the one on the right. So, President Borwell’s clock was running while his opponent was on the move. IA Carter later confided he didn’t know how valid his claim of a win on time might have been, given the error. To quote Maurice Carter’s recollection of this “incident” as reported on The Correspondence Chess Message Board,

“I must add that all of us, Alan, Franklin and myself enjoyed the game! When Alan discovered his clock going on my move, and then we both noticed Franklin hit the clock, things got interesting. Alan asked what is going on? Franklin stated he must of hit our clock. I stated that Franklin was hurting Alan's chances and his own, as he works for Alan, but I appreciated all the help I could get. Then I had to add, thanks Franklin, now I can't claim on time! In summary, no international crisis happen and everyone had a good laugh. Later that night at the bar, Alan and I still were joking about it.”

That pretty well reflects the attitude of those attending the Congress. Serious work was accomplished, but a good spirit of fellowship and cooperation prevailed. What a great experience!

“GM RAM” by IM Rashid Ziyatdinov

If you read the September-October 2000 issue of this magazine you probably read the review of this book by IM Allan Savage. I also received a review copy so I’ll just add a few personal remarks.

This is an extraordinary book, unique in my experience. There are 256 raw diagrams of chess positions given. The idea is that these carefully selected chess positions comprise those positions a strong player must understand. This is not a book of instruction, but rather a starting point. I have no doubt that anyone understanding these positions would be very strong. Anyone who expended the effort required to study these positions and find the truth behind them would certainly have learned a tremendous amount of chess. The idea is intriguing, but I’m not particularly keen on the concept. Maybe this would work for some, but for me it is not appropriate. It seems more a novelty than a useful book. Still, it is different and may appeal to some.

The author’s name was familiar to me. I recall going to his web site some time ago. It think it was called, “Clever is not he who wins, but wins easily.” One feature of the site was a collection of logic puzzles. He captured my interest by stating that no one had ever gotten them all right. This was a challenge! I spent some time trying to get every solution correct, to see if I could become the first to get them all right. Unfortunately, the solutions were not available. I emailed him asking how I might verify my solutions and claim to have correctly solved all the problems. He replied that it would be self evident if my solutions were correct. Self evident! I could hardly believe it. I felt cheated, used. I deleted his link from my chess links and never went to that site again.

IM Ziyatdinov is apparently consistent in his belief in self determination. Just as no answers were given to his puzzles, no solutions are offered in his book. Some will find this book challenging and useful. Less energetic people, like me, will find it less useful. It is different. I certainly don’t discourage you from obtaining a copy of this unique and strangely appealing book. To be sure, though, if you are to get much out of this book you have to be prepared for some hard work and a great deal of research elsewhere.

copyright © 2000 by J. Franklin Campbell

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