The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - September/October 2001

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Two Personal Highlights

As most readers probably know, I maintain a personal chess web site (The Campbell Report). My old columns are archived there, as well as many other features, such as current ICCF and US CC Championship crosstables, articles, annotated chess links, cartoons and other material. Recently, my site received it's 100,000th visit (it took a little over 3 years).

My second personal highlight was being nominated for the annual Fred Cramer Awards for Excellence in Chess Journalism for my work on the web site for CJA, the Chess Journalists of American (http://chessjournalism.org/) along with Dan Lucas (Georgia Chess Bulletin), Hanon Russell (Chess Café web site), GM Yasser Seirawan (Inside Chess web site) and GM Eduard Gufeld (General Works). It seems unlikely that I could win, but being nominated along with these outstanding gentlemen of the chess journalism world is award enough.

My Approach to using Reader Contributions

I love input from readers. Whether I'm reading New in Chess or Chess Life, one of the first things I read are the letters from readers. Larry Evans' popular CL column is in this format, with letters from readers followed by his responses. The readers form the life blood of a publication, and their opinions and observations are important. Thus, I try to use as many reader contributions as possible. For one thing they represent a wide spectrum of opinion and membership interests. For another, they stand as a useful foil to the viewpoints of an individual columnist and are useful in curbing excesses and oversights all too possible for an individual.

Here is a response I received recently:

Since you've ignored my last 3 or 4 contributions to your column, it leads me to suspect that your liberal politics don't put you above censoring somebody.

It turned out that my ignoring the last 3-4 contributions was a misunderstanding due to publication delays. I had not ignored anything. Also, there is some truth to the accusation that I have liberal political leanings. In fact, I could actually be labeled a "flaming liberal." I'm also a "card carrying ACLU member." However, claiming "your liberal politics don't put you above censoring somebody" is insulting indeed! Censorship is hardly a liberal concept! Quite the opposite is true. I often publish opinions that are in conflict with my own. I will argue my point of view, but I will not censure.

Well, editorial judgment must certainly be exercised. If I judge a contribution to be unsuitable for publication in my column for any reason I will not use it. Contributions that are of poor quality, address unsuitable subjects or are abusive or offensive are good candidates for exclusion. I also retain the right to make corrections in spelling and punctuation and to make slight changes in grammar. I will also edit for length in some cases, though it is my objective to be totally fair and to avoid any misrepresentations or any changes that would alter the meaning of the contribution or the opinions of the contributors. Clearly (as shown by the past) I won't satisfy everyone, though my intentions are the best.

N. Eric Pedersen's Qualifications

Congratulations to APCT's N. Eric Pedersen on what appears to be a record. As documented in the following e-mail message I received from him recently, he has not only qualified for the top events in the three major USA domestic organizations, but he's playing in all three simultaneously! Wow … I'm impressed. Way to go, Mr. Pedersen!


Well, I got my USCF Absolute assignment last week. Now I'm playing in the Absolute, APCT King, and CCLA Championship in addition to NAICCC IX, ICCF World Championship XXIV semifinal, the Pacific Area Team Tournament, two ICCF Master Norm sections, CCLA's North American masters' class section, and a couple other miscellaneous things.

I'm sure I'm the first person to play simultaneously in the premier invitational for the APCT, CCLA, and USCF. In fact I doubt if anyone else has even qualified for all of them.

N Eric Pedersen

Top Six APCT Players in ICCF Ratings

Once again I must revise my list. It's not easy sorting through these rating lists looking only for certain subsets of players! Congratulations to John Knudsen for "joining the list" (sorry for leaving you out before, John).

  1. Jon Edwards (2509)
  2. John Knudsen (2485)
  3. N. Eric Pedersen (2452)
  4. Tony Albano (2420)
  5. Allan Savage (2400)
  6. Robert Domanski (2399)

Using a Demo Board for CC

7th U. S. Correspondence Chess Champion Dave Taylor recently accepted the challenge of playing a team of players who are regulars at The Correspondence Chess Message Board (TCCMB) on the Internet. I commented on his speed of play … he has used one day of time for his first 24 moves. I got this response from Simon Fitzpatrick of the message board, which I found quite interesting:

Yes, Dave seems to be playing speed chess by correspondence standards. I do too, but I take a few days occasionally when I need to put the position up on my demonstration board at home so that I think about it every time I go past it. It does help think about it. I recommend it, and you can make a demonstration set for not much more than a standard chess set.

An interesting approach to analyzing a current cc position. I wonder how common the use of a demonstration set may be.

More on Computer Use in CC

I recently received the following from APCT'er Chip Chapin of Hawaii. I don't honestly know if his speculation about wide-spread illegal use of computers is correct or not. I've always thought of APCT'ers as a good group of competitors who play by the rules. The APCT rules are very clear about the illegality of using a computer for anything but record keeping and database searching … no use of computer chess engines (which evaluate moves) is allowed!

A new term has recently been coined … "Postman." A postman is a person who handles the mail for the computer. When a move arrives the "postman" feeds the move to the computer and waits for "orders." When the computer has made a move the "postman" records the move and puts the response in the mail. I use to use the term "secretary" for this type of person. Thus the former player becomes the servant of the computer, doing the menial work while the computer makes all the intelligent decisions. What kind of reversal of roles is this, where the human serves as the servant of the computer, instead of vice versa?

Of course, a player may make use of a computer chess engine to help evaluate positions and decide on moves to play without being a "postman." I can frankly appreciate that some people would enjoy this role, even though I'm with Chip on this one … it doesn't suit me at all. I had to perform this role for 1-1/2 years in the Senior Master Steve Ham vs. Computer Engines match, where I did the grunt work of running the computer and not being involved in any of the chess decisions of the games. It was a worthy experiment, but I sure got tired of running the computer's errands.

I don't know whether illegal computer use is a real problem with APCT or any other organization. Rest assured that any use of computer chess engines to evaluate positions brands you a cheater in APCT play. See what Chip has to say:

Since your column is a good place to gripe, I'm going to do so. It's up to you, whether or not you want to publish this, or maybe you can answer some of my questions.

Why is computer assisted play now running rampant in APCT? My rating has gone from over 2200 to below 1900, while many former experts are now masters and many former "D" players are now "A" or expert rated. I never use my computer to make my moves for me and now I'm suffering because of it. The prevailing attitude seems to be, "well, if my opponent's using a computer, then I might as well too." But what satisfaction do these people get from having their comp beat up on somebody on the other end, who's playing an honest game of chess? Winning in such a manner is very perverse. Is it the money? I doubt it; it costs far more in postage to play a tournament than the prize is that goes with winning it. Don't these people realize they're frauds? Sad when the only thing a person can do to say that he's good at something, is fool himself into thinking he actually knows something about this great game of ours.

Best Wishes, Chip Chapin

Ian Brooks scores GM Norm

Many APCT News Bulletin readers will remember with fondness the regular column by Ian Brooks. I would like to congratulate him on his recent GM norm and second place finish with O. Buraschi (ARG) in the ICCF Reg Gillman Memorial B tournament. The GM norm was 9 points and Ian scored 10/14, just half a point behind the winner V. Andriulaitis (LIT).

Chess "Engrish"

From the FIDE web site http://www.fide.com/ coverage of the games of the "Dortmund Sparkassen Chess Meeting 2001". In a round 8 game Anand - Topalov (annotated by Vladimirov and Ehlvest) I read, "Topalov's opening choice indicates that despite dark colour of his pieces he is in an aggressive mood. An important role plays, of course, that Anand is in groggy." As indicated, this was not a good tournament for Anand. Most of us have probably experienced an event where we could describe our play in this fashion ("in groggy").

There's an amusing web site http://www.engrish.com/ which documents similar humor, though I didn't spot any instance of chess humor there. By the way, the FIDE web site is certainly much improved over the past and is worth visiting.

Speaking of Weird Stuff on the Web

GM Valery Salov maintains a web site as President of the World Players' Council. I believe this group purports to represent the interests of professional chess players, but, to tell the truth, the following description for Salov often crosses my mind: running dog of FIDE President Kirsan Iljumzinov. I always loved that old communist descriptive term "running dog" and it seems to apply here. It's funny to think of this guy as representing the interests of the players. The site has articles with titles like "Another Democracy Hater? Mark Crowther Spurns Peaceful Dialogue" and "The Moral Bankruptcy of Yasser Seirawan." Of course, Mark Crowther is one of the outstanding chess journalists and GM Yasser Seirawan is famous as a great gentleman of chess and for his logical and reasoned letters. Here is a quote from Seirawan and the response by Salov:

Seirawan: "Truly you have personalized our exchanges out of all proportion … We will not publish your letter and I welcome you to publish it as you see fit on your own site."

Salov: "This only characterizes you as a belligerent and intolerant person, a vehement adversary of democracy, a sworn enemy to freedom of expression, glasnost, "open and honest debate", peaceful coexistence, etc., as someone always "ready to slay any thoughts of dissension". In other words, a typical egotist displaying utter contempt towards the lives, interests and opinions of his colleague-chessplayers."

Man, this had me rolling on the floor! Sometimes things are so over the top that they are downright funny.

In another article discussing the lawsuits brought against FIDE, as reported by chess journalist Leontxo Garcia in his chess column for El Pais (in Spanish):

Of course, there is no guarantee that these exact words were pronounced by Judith. It may well be yet another example of ventriloquism from the cesspit known as "chess column of El País". Quite a few chessplayers have already been unpleasantly surprised by the interpretation that their opinions sometimes receive in the hands of the malevolent skinhead from El Pais (his emphasis!).

But if this is the rare case of a perfect criminal accord between "the beauty and the beast" our duty is to kindly warn both of them of the grave consequences that their defamatory statements will inevitably bring along with them. No crime will remain unpunished, no attempts to besmear the reputation of the WPC and its President will be tolerated, the times of journalistic impudence are over.

Well, I am really astonished at the way GM Salov expresses himself. It's hard to take his points seriously, when they are couched in such vitriolic language. It's no wonder that Seirawan eventually decided to stop publishing their exchanges on his web site.

Notes from a Super-Max Prison

I often hear from prisoners, inmates and clients, whatever the proper title. The message is pretty much the same, stories of harsh treatment, lack of interest in rehabilitation, over-crowding and of "warehousing" of prisoners. Chess can provide one small window to normalcy, though, and provide a source of pleasure and some small measure of self expression and a feeling of self worth and achievement. One such chessfriend recently sent me a publication describing the Supermax Prisons, with this cover note:

I live in one of these so-called Super-Max prisons here in Shirley, MA, but it's one of the easier ones. I have my chess set and a few books plus a single cell, which is big nowadays. I don't at all mind the 21 hour per day locked in my cage. It's my brier patch, as the rabbit might say. Am I here because I'm violent? No … I simply refuse to live in double, triple cells or dorms (50 to 100 men in a single room). After 30+ years in prison, I decided that I would claim my own little piece of space in which to age and die. Even if that piece of space was the "hole." After a few months in the "hole," I was transferred here for more long term confinement. Been here 2-1/2 years now and enjoy my postal chess. Started in class C and am now working on slipping into the ranks of the class A players.

More on the Tournament of World Champions

Last time I discussed the amazing ICCF Jubilee tournament matching the eight living world champions plus the ratings leader. Never has there been such a tournament!

Michael Ware wrote the following, just before my last column was published:

Who is the top cc player in history? This tournament will certainly add some spice to the debate. Apologies to Walter Lewis of Soledad, whose convincing advocacy of Dr. Eduard Dyckoff is compelling indeed. I'm sure that Walter and many of us lovers of cc play would enjoy watching this lineup do battle.

USA (Hans Berliner and Victor Palciauskas), Germany (Baumbach and Rittner), Russia (Umansky and Savakoev), Estonia (Tonu Oim), Denmark (Sloth) and for Holland (Gert Timmerman, who is expected to win the 15th World Championship).

This tourney is being sponsored by the Max Euwe Association. … If I weren't a prisoner I'd run out and purchase a computer in order to watch this tournament. Hoping you'll give it the coverage your correspondence chess readers deserve.

I'll try to give adequate coverage. I'll certainly be following this wonderful event with great interest. I fully expect excellent coverage by the ICCF web site. Since it's being conducted by e-mail it should move right along. I suspect some of the players will experience some difficulty adjusting to an unfamiliar form of the game (e-mail). I predict we'll see some outstanding chess competition that will enrich our chess heritage and leave us with some memorable games. But who will win?

The tournament should be underway, but due to delays till the games all diverge from one another plus a 3-move delay before publication, the ICCF site hasn't yet started "live" coverage. Hopefully we'll be seeing some positions soon.

Max Euwe Centenary

Dr. Max Euwe, the World Chess Champion from Holland, was born 100 years ago on May 20, 2001. This popular champion defeated Alexander Alekhine in 1935 to claim the championship and helped create the Dutch fascination with the game. One of my friends who lives near Amsterdam reports that they have 38 very active chess clubs in that one city! The chess tradition lives on to this very day.

I remember as a high school student who had recently learned the game (and was already firmly in Caissa's grip) that we called this venerable gentleman "Dr. U" or, sometimes, "Dr. A-E-I-O-U", having not the least idea how to pronounce his name. However, even then I understood this was a universally respected man and a very strong chess player.

In honor of his centenary, New in Chess has published an English language edition of the book Max Euwe, The Biography by Alexander Munninghoff, a new edition of his original 1976 Dutch book. We'll undoubtedly be reading a lot about Max Euwe and this new book plus interviews of the author Munninghoff.

(More) Reading Chess Annotations

In a game vs. Karpov, annotated by the young Russian talent Alexander Grischuk: "Looking at my position after reaching the time control, I discovered to my surprise that I was winning." Earlier in the same game he commented, "After my game with Polgar I realized that the main thing in chess is to attack various enemy pieces with every move. Following this method, I endeavor to create mating threats, which are especially effective with time trouble imminent." In an interview he said, "When I was very young, they thought that I might want to be a physicist, too [like his parents - JFC]. But when I was eight years old I told them that I wanted to be a football player first, then a chess player and only then a physicist. For soccer I don't have any talent, so now I am a chess player."

In his notes to games from the Cappelle la Grande 2001 tournament in Norway, Einar Gausel said, "Julian Hodgson, my colleague in the German club Lubeck, seems to have a lot of success with teaching kids so weak that they don't even know the chess rules. It makes his own playing more relaxed, he says. I just get tired and confused."

Writing about the amazing Viktor Korchnoi (who, by the way, at the age of 70 has just won a strong Biel tournament ahead of Svidler) Genna Sosonko told this story: "When Korchnoi plays chess, he forgets about everything. Tal once told me that before a simultaneous display in Havana, Viktor was told: 'You will be playing Che Guevara. He is a rather weak player, but he loves chess passionately. He would be delighted if he were able to gain a draw.' Korchnoi understandingly nodded his head. A few hours later he returned to the hotel. 'Well?' Tal inquired. 'I crushed them all, all without exception!' 'And Che Guevara?' 'Che Guevara? I also crushed Che Guevara -- he hasn't a clue about the Catalan Opening!'"

My First Invitational and E-mail Methodology

Last time I wrote about playing in my first invitational event, which would be played primarily via e-mail, with which I have little previous experience. My postal methodology, developed over years of postal play, was clearly not suitable, so mistakes are just waiting to happen in this new tournament. I received the following (via e-mail) from Stan Evans:

Hi Franklin!

I read your article in the most recent APCT News Bulletin a few minutes ago and, since I was already on-line, I thought I'd drop my two cents worth on ya! As usual, I found your material quite interesting! Keep up the good work! I visit the website irregularly also. Love it!

I paste all the moves I receive each time I go on-line (note: this can be mutiple times per day) into a word processor program, date the sheet and print the sheet out. Some opponents send the entire gamescore and sometimes this is handy, but I tend to use my original gamescore as my reference. Mistakes can creep into the e-mailed gamescore due to repeated cutting and pasting. I check off each move I have replied to on each sheet. All current sheets are kept on my desk till all moves are replied to. Once all the moves on a sheet have been replied to I destroy the sheet.

A second redundancy I use involves compiling my scoresheet in a ring binder on notebook paper and dating. Entry dates and exit dates determine if I have replied. I keep regular mail and e-mail games separate. Each group is alphabetized by opponents' last names. I try to avoid knowing any ratings.

So...I have two checks to make sure I reply. Additionally, I keep copies of all my sent and received mail on my hard drive until the game is complete. I can verify a third way with this alternative.

Since this is your FIRST e-mail event be very wary of the seduction of speed. It is easy to start playing "blitz" correspondence chess! The time limit for the event you mentioned is plenty enough to slow down with and establish a new and careful e-mail approach now. Speed kills...even in positions you think you know.

I strongly recommend sending all the day's replies in a single mailing session. This keeps you focused on analysis and not speed. As you complete all the days moves...add the replies to your "Mail to be sent" folder. When you are done and satisfied...mail'em and do no more chess that day. You can still get a "zero days" reflection time with this method.

Thanks, Stan, you have some great ideas there. Of course, everyone will develop their personal methodology based on their personal approach to the game. I can apply some of your ideas directly to my approach, though. I can verify that the possibility to play "blitz" is very real. Most of my games have averaged less than a day per move. I am slowing down now, though, attempting to avoid rushing my replies without adequate time to absorb the intricacies of the position. I think I've come up with a pretty solid methodology … at least there have been no notation or recording errors so far. It is obvious that e-mail is not the same as postal in the recording and other mechanical aspects of the game. I particularly appreciate your emphasis on redundancy, which I believe is an important ingredient in an effective cc methodology.

Your comment about avoiding knowing your opponents' ratings is also very interesting. I've noted in the past that I sometimes played differently against different opponents, being more cautious vs. the higher rateds. Though I occasionally check my opponents' ratings I now try to play with the same focus and in the same style against all opponents and do, indeed, forget their ratings. When it comes time to offer or accept a draw or to resign a game, though, I'll probably be checking those ratings very carefully.

copyright © 2001 by J. Franklin Campbell

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