The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - March/April 2002

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World Champions Jubilee Tournament

When the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) planned celebrations of it's Jubilee (50th year of existence) several special Jubilee tournaments were planned. This allowed free entry for cc players all over the world. The most fascinating event, in my opinion, is the World Champions tournament, matching all the living men's championship winners against each other in an all-play-all format (round robin). The only non-champion invited was the rating list leader Gert Jan Timmerman of the Netherlands, who delighted his supporters by duly winning the most recent XV world championship, making this tournament an all-champions event.

The ICCF Web Site promised "live" coverage of this spectacular event, once the games all diverged from each other. The good news is that this has now occurred and all the current game positions and moves are posted on the Internet, subject to the restrictions that updates occur once a month and the last three moves made are omitted. This gives us a chance to follow these important games and to judge, as best we can, the progress of the players.

I must admit that I am rooting for the two USA representatives, V World Champion Dr. Hans Berliner and X World Champion Dr. Victor (Vytas) Palciauskas. The nine participants in this event are among the strongest cc competitors that have ever lived, so the competition will be fierce. So far the crosstable shows no results, but I believe that will change by the publication of my next column.

Victor (Vytas) Palciauskas is a powerful chess player and one of my favorite chess people. When I first encountered him a couple years ago at the ICCF Congress in Daytona Beach, he approached me and introduced himself as though I were the celebrity. I was overwhelmed! A nice guy, a strong player, and the 10th World Champion … there's a lot to like about this guy! He also has his own web site at: http://correspondencechess.com/palciauskas/ (webmaster John Knudsen) and writes the popular "Game of the Month" column for the ICCF web site.

Berliner clinched his championship back in 1968 and hasn't been active in competition since then. This has caused some people to write him off as a threat in this tournament. However, he has obviously remained intensely interested in cc. He wrote a popular and controversial book The System : A World Champion's Approach to Chess, published in 1999 and I believe it is likely we'll see additional books by this talented chess player. When I met him at the 2000 ICCF Congress in Daytona Beach, FL I could feel his intensity and self-confidence. I would not be surprised to see this great fighter win it all, and I'll certainly be shocked if he doesn't turn in a very good score.

Next time I hope to have some results to report. For now I can just say that the games look exciting and that some real fighting chess is being played.

ICCF Champions League (Team Event)

The ICCF has created a new team competition for teams of four players. In the future the teams will be divided into different divisions with the winner of division "A" being declared the ICCF Champion. For the first competition the teams will be divided into arbitrary groups with the teams earning positions within specific divisions in future competitions based on their finish. All APCT competitors are eligible to enter. Since entries must be received by the ICCF office by April 15, 2002 there is no time to waste. Entry is $50 per team, payable to ICCF-U.S. To enter send the name, address and email address of the four team members and the team captain to ICCF with your payment. Send entries to:

Max Zavenelli
U. S. Secretary ICCF
1642 N. Volusia Ave, Suite 102
Orange City, FL 32763

I'd love to see several teams of APCT'ers enter this competition to represent the finest cc organization in the states. Join forces with three of your friends, choose an appropriate team name (e.g., "The APCT Kings" or "APCT Crushers"), select a team captain, and send in your $50 check. For more information consult the announcement on the ICCF-U.S. web page at: http://www.iccfus.com

So much for the dry announcement. I find this the most exciting new tournament announced by ICCF in a long time, as far as personal competition is concerned. I love team events and was an enthusiastic member of the APCT team when we won the only national team championship (NTC-1) held in the USA. I've documented this great tournament at my personal web site.

I've joined with my fellow webmasters at the CC.COM chess domain, where my personal site and the APCT site live, to form Team CC.COM. We are having a ball, even with over two months to go before entries close (as of the writing of this column in early February). We've been "trash talking" on the CC Message Board, we all have taken on nicknames (I'm "Mad Dog") and we have a great team logo. Check out our team web site at http://team.correspondencechess.com/ where I've been posting "News Releases" about our team's preparations. What fun! There's more to chess competition than hard work, and we're all having a lot of fun. One warning, though. Some of the teams are going to be power-packed with a number of GM's and many, many IM's playing.

I'm very proud of our neat team logo, which is prominently displayed at our above-mentioned web site. I particularly like the flaming chess pieces being blown off the board by the dragon symbolic of our team's fierce play. I'm thinking T-shirts and hats now!


APCT NB Editor Appointed to USCF Post

Following the resignation of George De Feis, APCT News Bulletin editor Frank Niro was appointed Interim USCF Executive Director. In these times of USCF financial problems, reduction in the size of Chess Life and rumors of the demise of USCF correspondence chess, it's nice to see a real cc'er in a leadership position. You can see a nice photo of Frank Niro shaking hands with George De Feis on page 7 of the March 2002 Chess Life.

Computer Use in (OTB) Chess

The same March 2002 issue of Chess Life mentioned above has an article on the use of computers to help competitors analyze positions. "What?", I hear you saying, "an article in Chess Life about correspondence chess?" No, this article, titled "Advanced Chess -- Is It the Future of Chess on the Internet?", is about OTB (over the board) chess and focuses on the recent FIDE Internet World Chess Championship. This event, which allowed eight players to qualify into the FIDE Knockout World Championship, was conducted at normal OTB speed on the Internet.

In the end a number of players were forfeited based on the belief they used computers to aid them in their play. Basically, the lower rated players were determined to have played too well. It is suspicious when lower rated players beat higher ranked players. One of the players forfeited was the American Rafal Furdzik, who had finished in 2nd place. He didn't take his forfeit sitting down … I saw some open letters on the Internet from him giving his side of the story and trying to drum up support for his cause (he denied using a computer, which is against FIDE rules). He was pleading for help from lawyers to argue his case. A committee of FIDE GM's examined games finding what they considered clear cut examples where players made computer moves consistently.

In an unrelated case I read elsewhere about a player being kicked out of an OTB tournament for consulting his pocket Fritz chess computer during play. With personal electronics becoming more and more compact, will we come to a point in OTB competitions where players will not only have to pass drug tests but also be searched going into the playing area for illegal electronic devices? I believe cell phones are already not allowed. Just imagine an important tournament site … will organizers have to carefully search their venues for hidden devices placed there beforehand for unscrupulous competitors to recover during important events? … for even lower level amateur events?

Nikolai Vlassov, the author of the referenced Chess Life article, made a suggestion that is very familiar to cc players. He suggested that the rules against computer use in Internet OTB events leading to qualification to OTB tournaments be changed to not forbid the use of assistance during games, including assistance by computers. If fact, various cc organizations around the world, including the ICCF, have taken this approach already. What cannot be prevented is no longer forbidden. It is interesting that our OTB brethren are following the example of some cc organizations. Perhaps the OTB world should look to the cc world more often for innovative ideas.

You Never Know What You'll Find

I was searching the Internet for the answer to a quiz (Q: who was known as the "Yugoslavian Tal?" … A: Dragoljub Velimirovic … oh, oh, the Kasparov web site gave Ljubomir Ljubojevic as the answer … controversy!) when I ran across a fragment of a web site. I frequently find pages like this, and by modifying the web page address (URL) I can often find some fascinating material. This is part of the pleasure of being on-line. However, this time I landed at a mysterious site without proper links on the page to take me to the home page. Trying my tricks didn't work. I had to settle for a small set of pages listing chess names/terms in alphabetical order. Bill Wall was given credit for the material.

Of course, you never know what you've found on the Internet. Search for the NFL standings, as I did once, and you may find the standings on a date five years ago. People start ambitious projects and grow tired, lose interest, or perhaps win the lottery or become ill. The pages often hang around in cyber space for years and years. If you don't know the source is reliable, then it's not safe to assume that it is. That doesn't mean it isn't interesting, though.

Here are some examples of definitions that I found on this occasion:

Great Stone Face
Nickname of Mikhail Botvinnik.

Grefe, John (1947- )
Tied for first in the 1973 U.S. Chess Championship in El Paso, Texas. He attributed his success by his complete devotion to the Guru Maharaj-Ji, a 15 year-old prophet from India.

Saemisch, Friedrich (1896-1975)
Loser of more games of chess on time than any other master. In one tournament he lost all 13 games on time. He once spent 45 minutes before making his first move, got in time trouble and lost. In another event he lost a game on time in 13 moves. The time control was 45 moves in 2 1/2 hours.

Star Trek
Kirk and Spock have played chess three times on STAR TREK. Kirk won every game.

Zuckerman, Bernard (1943- )
International Master who was playing in the 1975 Cleveland International when a spectator became loud. Zuckerman (Zook the Book) told him to shut up. When that didn't work, he hurled a captured bishop at the spectator. Zuckerman was reprimanded for his "unsportsmanlike" conduct.

Zaitsev, Alexander (1935-1971)
Russian Grandmaster (1967) who died of a blood clot after having a leg lengthened.

I think I'd like to read more material written by Mr. Wall!

Actually, he has a very interesting web site known as Bill Wall's Chess Page at: http://www.geocities.com/SiliconValley/Lab/7378/chess.htm There's all sorts of interesting material here, including an article titled, "APCT Chess Miniatures" with short games from APCT play. The URL of the pages with his definitions referred to above is: http://chess.liveonthenet.com/chess/trivia/ If you're on-line, check out these interesting chess pages.

Prisoner loses guitar, takes up chess

It might surprise you that a large fraction of the chess mail I receive is from inmates. I won't speculate about the reasons. Here are a few excerpts from the last letter I received from a prisoner of 35 years.

"… until about a year ago I spent my leisure time playing jazz guitar, when a new director of the D.O.C. forced us to dispose of our musical instruments. In search of a new activity to challenge my intellect, I've turned to chess, and herein lies my problem.

"We are locked down 23 hours a day, and thus it is difficult to play on a regular basis - this is why I obtained the copy of the (APCT) news bulletin - with the hope that through it I would find a way to play other people through the mail. … I can afford the $17 to subscribe to the bulletin - I earn $10 a month - but the cost to enter contests is simply beyond my reach."

If anyone would like to provide a little competition for this gentleman please contact me and I'll provide his full mailing address (use my email address at the top of this column or drop me a postcard). He's a beginner so don't expect strong competition. You can be sure he won't be using a computer, though!

Paranoid Thrillseekers

The English news web site Independent.co.uk had an article by Roger Dobson on some research done by psychologists reported in Journal of Personality and Individual Differences. To quote from the news story,

"The psychologists set out to see if people attracted to chess had a sensation-seeking nature. Using a personality test on players and non-players, they found that those who scored highest for sensation-seeking were those who played chess. 'Winning a game of chess is associated with a rise in testosterone, especially when the game is close, suggesting that winning corresponds to an experience of excitement and dominance,' the researchers report."

The article also said, "the game attracts sensation-seekers with a thirst for action and adventure on a par with skydivers, scuba divers, mountaineers and skiers" and "More competitive chess players have been shown to score highly for unconventional thinking and paranoia, both of which have been shown to relate to sensation-seeking."

This makes one think … maybe there's more to this game than I had previously considered. Maybe I didn't really take up this game based on its intellectual challenge. Hmmm.

Euwe of our club

I recently received a copy of the JAX Chess News in my email in-box from the Jacksonville Chess Club (if you're interested try contacting the club at the email address chessborje@hotmail.com). Such newsletters can often be surprisingly interesting and entertaining.

Max Euwe was world champion from 1935 to 1937. During his title years, he once traveled by train to Haag, when a fellow passenger offered to play him a game. He warned Euwe that he was three times champion of his club. Then lost all the games to Euwe. Then remarked , "Its impossible! Lose to a random man in a train. Me, who is called the 'Euwe of our club.'"

There was another interesting article by Elliot Wisanski on chess players at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York and at CERN near Geneva. According to this article chessplayer Richard Reti was a physicist, and he believed the famous Tunguska event in Siberia was caused, not by the collision of a comet or meteor with the earth, but by the passing of a tiny black hole through the earth. The article went on to describe current experiments at the two labs that could create such a tiny black hole. CERN is said to be less concerned with safety restrictions to avoid the possibilities of creating a black hole China Syndrome where a black hole could sink to the middle of the earth and proceed to absorb our planet. A Swiss chess player was quoted as saying, "The Americans won't be able to save the world this time."

Thanks to the Jacksonville Chess Club for sharing this very interesting newsletter!

Chess Player Mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery?

Those who are involved with the on-line chess scene will be familiar with the name of Sam Sloan, who constantly infuriates and/or entertains us with his fantastic stories. Recently, Sam reported on the on-going feud between the English chess personalities Raymond Keene and David Levy. Apparently, Keene has accused Levy of being involved in the famous The Great Train Robbery, the sensational crime which took place in England in 1963. I didn't find the actual accusation documented, but Levy responded with an open letter "admitting" his criminal involvement. To quote from his letter, as passed on by Sam Sloan:

"At last I have been unmasked. By a brilliant piece of detective work, fully worthy of Sherlock Holmes, my links to the Great Train Robbery have been uncovered.

"As many of you will know the Great Train Robbery remains the most audacious crime ever committed in Britain. It took place on the night of August 8th 1963. Even though I was only 18 at the time and had been studying for my "A" level exams, I had spent the summer planning every detail of this brilliantly executed plan. My technological skills (and my "A" level Physics syllabus) came to the fore when I thought of using a Woolworths battery and a small light bulb, located behind the red plastic in the signals, to stop the train. Those of you who have read about the robbery will believe that Roger Cordrey deserves the credit for this masterstroke, but now you know.

"Probably the hardest task of all was coming up with a convincing alibi in case I was arrested. Chess players amongst you will enjoy this. I entered for the British Boys under 18 Chess Championship in Bath. I had games on both the 8th and the 9th of August so on the evening of the 8th I went to my bedroom (I was staying in a B & B) having first made sure that the landlady saw me going upstairs. (I think of everything!) Once I was certain that everyone in the B & B was asleep I climbed out of my bedroom window, down a drainpipe and walked to the edge of the city where I had a rendezvous with a helicopter. I was flown to Bridego Bridge, near Cheddington, Buckinghamshire, where the train was relieved of its mail bags and £32.2 million. (Oh for the days when £32.2 million was a lot of money).

"When the rest of my gang went off to Leatherslade Farm I got back on the chopper and arrived at the B&B in Bath in time to climb up the drainpipe and get into bed before anyone was awake. When my landlady knocked on my door in the morning I opened the door so she could see me - how could anyone refute the fact that she had seen me going to bed the previous night and I was there bright and early in the morning?

"As things went I did not need to use the alibi because I was never suspected of masterminding the Great Train Robbery. But it's always as well to have all your bases covered.

"Channel 5 TV do not know of my involvement and so I wasn't interviewed for the forthcoming programme about Ronald Biggs. Nevertheless, I believe that it will be entertaining viewing."

Well, I don't know if you have the same impression as me, but it seems to me that the world of international chess personalities is a bizarre one, full of amazing characters and almost unbelievable stories and strange antics.

REM Sleep … Ideal Time for Chess Analysis?

I'm a big fan of Public Radio and often listen to the entertaining and informative programming. One recent show dealt with sleep research. Apparently, sleep has various stages. There is the relatively short period of deep sleep, when we benefit most as far as rest is concerned. During REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) it is said that our brain activity becomes much more creative but less logical. This creativity may be most beneficial.

The story that caught my attention was about the famous American inventor Thomas Edison. He had a technique that allowed him to take advantage of this heightened creative capacity. This is how he achieved this.

He would lightly hold a spoon between his thumb and finger. The spoon was held over a tin plate. As he relaxed thinking about a problem he would allow himself to drift off into the early stages of sleep (now known as REM sleep). As he fell asleep his grip on the spoon would relax, causing the spoon to drop onto the tin plate and awaken him. By repeating this process he could spend lengthy periods of time on the edge of REM sleep and wakefulness, allowing him access to his most creative thinking processes.

Was this effective? It's hard to know, but he certainly achieved a lot and demonstrated some extremely creative thinking. Would this be an effective technique for correspondence chess players? Though solid analysis is critical, perhaps the creative thought process could be the key to taking your game up a notch, giving you that critical edge over a difficult opponent.

So, next time you have a tough game and are searching for that elusive plan to change the character of the game, go get yourself a spoon!

copyright © 2002 by J. Franklin Campbell

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