The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - July/August 2001

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APCT'ers in ICCF Rating List … Correction

It's always risky to gather your own statistics, and I made a slip in the last column when I listed the top five APCT players in the latest ICCF list. I received the following from Tony Albano:

"I was crushed to see that you left me off the APCT top 5 ICCF list. At 2420 I'd be number 4. I don't get no respect..."
Tony Albano

You're absolutely correct, Tony. My apologies, you do get plenty of respect from me. The corrected list is shown below. Did I leave out anyone else?

Top Six APCT Players
  1. Ian Brooks (2563)
  2. Jon Edwards (2509)
  3. N. Eric Pedersen (2452)
  4. Tony Albano (2420)
  5. Allan Savage (2400)
  6. Robert Domanski (2399)

Eight Living World Champions Meet!

ICCF has organized a really special tournament to celebrate their Jubilee (50th Anniversary). The tournament director for this special event has published this announcement:

This year ICCF celebrates it's 50th Anniversary. One of the events which is being organized is a very special one: ICCF 50 years World Champions Jubilee Tournament. In this tournament all eight living Correspondence Chess World Champions are playing. On 05.05.01 the starting documents have been sent to the players. The participants are:

  • Fritz Baumbach (GER, 2489), the 11th World Champion 1988 - 1990
  • Hans Berliner (USA, 2763), the 5th World Champion 1967 - 1971
  • Tonu Oim (EST, 2610), the 9th World Champion 1982 - 1984 and also the present (from 1999 on) and 14th World Champion
  • Vytas Palciauskas (USA, 2558), the 10th World Champion 1984 - 1988
  • Horst Rittner (GER, 2577), the 6th World Champion 1971 - 1975
  • Grigory Sanakoev(RUS, 2597), the 12th World Champion 1990 - 1995
  • Jorn Sloth (DEN, 2605), the 8th World Champion 1980 - 1982
  • Gert Timmerman (NLD, 2744), who is the top of the ICCF Rating List since 1995
  • Mikhail Umansky (RUS, 2633), the 13th World Champion 1995 - 1999.

The tournament is played by email, which is quite new for some players. The average rating is 2620. This means that the tournament has category XV, and therefore one of the strongest cc tournaments ever. The official starting date is 01.07.01. There is a total amount of prize money of Euro 25.000, generously sponsored by the Max Euwe Association, Monaco. The first prize will be Euro 7000, with the place prizes totaling Euro 17.500, and a further Euro 7500 being awarded using the concept of games (3 points) to games drawn (1 point). The games will monthly be published on the ICCF web site with a delay of three moves, under the following condition that the publication will start only when all games are different. At that moment this will be announced on the web site.

Nol van't Riet
Tournament Director

Early thought on this tournament is that the 5th World Champ from the USA Dr. Hans Berliner won't do well due to his long layoff from competitive play. However, I'm not willing to count him out yet. I listened to his interview with a local newspaper during the ICCF Congress in Daytona Beach last summer and he sounded full of confidence and vigor. Now that he's retired from his college teaching I would expect to see some new books from him, and I don't think he's lost his zeal for the game. I'll be watching the live Internet coverage with great interest to see how my first cc hero performs in this high level event.

I'm glad to see our other world champion Dr. Victor Palciauskas also participating. He's one of the great gentlemen of cc and a very strong competitor. He also attended the ICCF Congress in Daytona Beach and it was my great pleasure to meet him along with his charming wife Aurelia. I expect him to be competitive in this strong event and I'll be cheering for him to win a top prize. V. Palciauskas is currently writing a monthly column for the ICCF web site, the Game of the Month. His latest column, titled "Max Zavanelli and The Sleeping Beauty," features a win by ICCF-U.S. Secretary Prof. Max Zavanelli from the Reg Gillman Memorial Tournament E, where Max clinched first with 11-2 (one game remaining) and qualified for the IM title.

I think it's remarkable that all eight living world champions are competing. It speaks well both for the champions and for the organization. Rounding out the field, to allow for an even division of colors (each player will have eight opponents) is another outstanding player Gert Timmerman (NLD), one of my favorite players. His games are a pleasure to play over. He is also in an excellent position to win the 15th World Championship. With eight wins and six draws (11-3) he only needs to draw his final game with V.V. Tomkovich of Russia (who currently has a score of 2-6) to take the title (unless, as Volker Jeschonnek pointed out to me, F. Finocchiaro (ITA) wins all his unfinished games … he has 6 points and 6 remaining games), so this could become a tournament matching the living nine world champions. My personal guess of who will win is Timmerman, but with this collection of chess talent in one tournament, anyone could win. Man, what a tournament!

More FIDE Silliness

Just when the world OTB organization FIDE appears to have gone as far overboard as possible, they find a way to outdo themselves once again! There's been much talk of a reunification match to return the OTB world to a single world champion. With Anand reigning as FIDE World Champion, Vladimir Kramnik as Braingames World Champion and Kasparov still sitting atop the rating list and winning every super GM tournament in sight, there is a desire to simplify matters with some kind of event among these players. There was talk of a four-player tournament among Anand, Kramnik, Kasparov and Shirov to decide things. However, that talk somehow disappeared without comment. The latest I saw was an article by renowned chess journalist Leontxo García in El Pais, a Spanish publication. Here is a rough translation:

To create a single world champion is a difficult task but not an impossible one. Marcelino Sión, an official of Leon, and Raymond Keene, promoter of the British company Brain Games, World-wide organizer of the Kramnik-Kasparov match, signed an agreement on Sunday (June 3, 2001) with that objective. The first step is a Candidates Match to determine a challenger for Vladimir Kramnik.

If the project is finalized, the invited players will be Alexei Shirov of Spain, the Russians Alexander Morozevich, Anatoly Karpov and Alexander Khalifman, Hungarians Peter Leko and Judit Polgar, the Briton Michael Adams and the winner of a special Internet event. The Candidates Match is scheduled for March or April of 2002 in Leon, with about 25 million pesetas in prizes, contributed by Brain Games; the winner would face Kramnik in a championship match.

And what about Gary Kasparov, who was defeated by Kramnik seven months ago in London? In a very pragmatic statement, Keene and Sión suggested that the still-number-one (Kasparov) only wishes to play in a Candidates Match for revenge. So they plan to organize a tournament with these six players without the current FIDE Champion Viswanathan Anand of India, and Kasparov; who has won the events in Wijk aan Zee (Holland), Linares and Astana (Kazajstan) after his loss to Kramnik. The Candidates event could occur in Leon or Bahrain, where Kramnik will face the chess program Fritz in October.

Well, this is a pretty rough translation, but is it conceivable that a Candidates Tournament could be arranged without including Anand and Kasparov? With FIDE it would appear that anything is possible. Perhaps this is just a proposal by Braingames and will be rejected by FIDE. I do believe that a world championship that excluded Kasparov and Anand would further decrease the credibility of FIDE.

Man vs. Computer Match Ends

The Steve Ham vs. the Fritz and Nimzo chess engines (played at cc time limits) has ended with Nimzo 7.32 scoring a win and a draw while Fritz 6 obtained two draws. Thanks to Senior Master Steve Ham for his dedication to play for 1-1/2 years under difficult circumstances to test these top computer chess engines under practical cc playing conditions. He played without using chess engines himself and played as though he were playing human opponents (no anti-computer techniques were applied). In the end he lost the match due to a few all-to-human errors. The engines demonstrated some poor judgment in calculating the value of positions but also calculated tactical situations very well. Ham expressed surprise in the high level of play demonstrated by the chess engines. I must admit that after running my computer day and night for over a year I'm quite happy to see this match end. Ham wasn't the only one who worked hard!

Tim Harding published a very nice article in Chess Mail with all four games annotated. I have the four games archived at my web site with extensive annotations by Steve Ham, mostly written during the heat of battle but with addition comments and corrections written after the match. Of considerable interest are the additional comments Steve received from computer chess experts, which he incorporated into his notes.

The Humor of Evgeny Bareev

Recently I was reading my favorite publication New in Chess when I suddenly started laughing out loud. In an article on the FIDE Knockout World Championship one of the participants annotated his win, one that was in a losing cause. This is what GM Evgeny Bareev wrote concerning his sole win in his match vs. Alexey Shirov:

"It is always unpleasant to comment on one's lost games, but I regard losing a match after winning the first game as not simply a tragedy, but stupidity. I can, of course, console myself with the fact that one learns from one's mistakes and the other player's flair, but at my age … Everything can also be explained by the demonic shadow of Alexey, shortening and swallowing my own timid shadow, but, strictly speaking, there can be only one outcome -- it is time to go over to training work, so where are you, my pupils?" [my emphasis -- JFC].

Odd, but my wife didn't understand the cause of my fit of laughter. Is it possible that only a chess enthusiast would be so amused by this? Is it possible that even this doesn't explain it?

Once again I recommend this excellent publication. It's almost entirely devoted to coverage of the OTB world, but New in Chess is sponsoring some major events within ICCF now. And it can be enormously entertaining, especially with commentary by wits like Evgeny Bareev. There should be an article or two coming on the 1st Email World Championship, which is being sponsored by New in Chess.

Reading Chess Annotations

The literature is full of games annotated by strong players. For instance, the above-mentioned New in Chess is full of such games. I often read through the magazine, including the notes to games. I seldom set up a board, though, and can't normally follow the game without sight of the board for more than a few moves. Well-placed diagrams can help a lot. However, the notes I enjoy the most are the ones that impart information and entertainment without the necessity of understanding the subtleties of the position. Often the annotators have some fascinating comments to make on chess in general and some quite interesting anecdotes. If you read chess magazines and skip the games you're probably missing some great reading pleasure. For instance, the comments I reported above come from such a reading of a game score.

More Suggested Titles

Last time I printed this quote by Nigel Short: "My grandfather plays more interesting chess than Peter...and he's been dead for years!" I followed this up with a number of suggested book titles for GM Peter Leko, predicated on his penchant for draws. One title was "My 60 Memorable Draws." A number of other suggestions were posted on The Correspondence Chess Message Board.

  • Zack Gonzales: Also, didn't he have a bit part in Kubrick's "Dr. Slowchess, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love The Draw?"
  • Bill Jempty: 10 Openings to Draw with Featuring the exchange variation of the Slav Defense, Exchange variation of the Ruy Lopez, The Lasker and classical variations of the QGD, The Bern variation of the French, The Nd7 line of the Caro Kann.
  • Wim van Vugt: What about this title: "Drawing lessons from your losses" by Johan Cruyff, Elsevier (1991) ISBN 1-901685024-X
  • Gary Ruben: Look After the Draws and the Wins Will Look After Themselves.
  • Steve Ryan: I have heard of a medieval text on chess called "The Bridge to Draws". It got used a lot back in those times to defend your castle from Sicilian Dragons.

My First Invitational

I was recently pleased to receive an invitation to play in the Scottish CCA Bulletin, 21st Anniversary Tournament from the Scottish Correspondence Chess Association. Of course, I was thrilled to be invited to play, and I could hardly turn down this opportunity. An extra incentive was the chance to play for an ICCF title, since a 10-4 score would earn the IM title. This tournament celebrates over 20 years of publication of the SCCA's magazine. To celebrate this the SCCA has invited people to play in this special event who have had some connection to the magazine, so most participants are journalists or organizers, about half of them from Scotland.

So how did I get hooked up with the SCCA? I'm not completely sure, but over a year ago they had set up a web site and were planning an email event called "The Friends of Scotland." Being of Scottish origin myself and feeling a connection to Scotland I decided to play and started corresponding with them about it. Unfortunately, the event had problems and was never played. I wrote them concerning potential problems in running such an international event (they planned for it to be ICCF-rated). I also sent them comments on their web site, which are currently published there under the title, "Testimonials". You'll also find comments there by another APCT participant Ralph Marconi. I find it quite interesting that among the 15 participants fully 20% of them are APCT members! Besides Marconi (Joliette, Quebec, CAN) and me (Mason, MI), the third APCT'er is Ted Greiner of Camp Hill, PA.

Other participants include ICCF General Secretary Alan Rawlings (ENG), SCCA President Iain Mackintosh (SCO), SCCA Vice-President and ICCF Qualifications Commissioner George Pyrich (SCO), SCCA Publicity and Membership Chairman Bernard Milligan (SCO), current Scottish Champion C. R. Beecham (SCO), previous Scottish Champion C. Jonathan Lennox (SCO) and the before-mentioned ICCF NAPZ Zonal Director Ralph Marconi (CAN). The Tournament Director is ICCF President Alan Borwell (SCO), who is also the SCCA Bulletin editor. This is quite a who's who of Scottish cc personalities, with a good flavor of ICCF organizers tossed in. Add strong competition from Australia, Ireland and Latvia and we have a fascinating international lineup.

This is a postal event, but out of 14 games 11 are being played by email. New ICCF regulations allow such games to be played with different time limits, so we're playing 10 moves in 60 days for the email and 10/30 for the postal games. This is my first real "email" event, and the moves are flying into my in-box! This has required a real adjustment by me. Everyone wants to "bank" as many days as possible for later on, when the positions become complex and the pressure of receiving many moves quickly can cause problems, so many moves have been made with "zero time." There has been a little confusion based on playing in different time zones. I send most of my moves in the evening, and when it's getting late here it is already the next day in Europe. However, the spirit of AMICI SUMUS (the ICCF motto "We are friends!") is strong.

I recommend to players who are new to email chess to carefully examine their methodologies. After playing postal chess for many years I have developed a set of procedures which help me avoid forgetting to respond to received moves and to avoid other playing errors, such as recording errors and analyzing the wrong positions. Part of my methodology is based on the physical postcard, which I place in a special place on my desk with the date received/sent written on the face. If the card hasn't been answered, only the receive date is recorded. When I print my reply (with a diagram of the position) I always compare it to the position I've saved in my database and in my Post-A-Log binder. There's redundancy and cross checks to help me catch errors before mailing my move. I haven't developed such careful techniques for email chess yet, so I'm afraid mistakes are just waiting to happen. People have recommended special recording software, such as ECTool, so I may be looking into this in the future.

Chess in Prison

Last time I reported on a short story "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree: A Short Story" by Timothy Blevins. This was written by a prisoner who is also a chess enthusiast. Since he didn't have access to a computer or typewriter the story was carefully hand-written. I took the time to transcribe the story on my computer so it could be published. I was astonished to find that the copy I had sent him (for review and correction) was being returned to me. The envelope containing the story weighed over an ounce, which violated some regulation.

My impression is that prisons are becoming very mean places, with arbitrary rules aimed solely at making life more miserable for inmates. The theory of rehabilitating prisoners seems to have disappeared in these times of increasing conservative politics, when profit and punishment have totally replaced worker welfare and rehabilitation. I suppose this is the wrong place to express my liberal political leanings, but I am alarmed at the treatment of prisoner friends. I recently read of a case where an inmate was not allowed to have a chess book because it violated a regulation about "codes."

The good news is that I expect to publish the short story "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree: A Short Story" at my web site in the near future. I'm hoping for more material in the future that will give us a better understanding of what chess in prison is really like.

copyright © 2001 by J. Franklin Campbell

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