The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - September/October 2002

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Former APCT Columnist Gains GM Title

Many will remember the APCT column "The Chess Chalkboard" written by Ian Brooks. It was my favorite column. This talented chess journalist went on to serve the chess community in other outstanding jobs, such as ICCF Tournament Director and ICCF Rules Commissioner. Ian has now added to his chess achievements by earning the cc Grand Master title, which should be awarded at the upcoming ICCF Congress in Seixal, Portugal taking placed in October 2002.

Congratulations to our friend Ian on this great accomplishment. The title was achieved by earning GM norms in two tournaments, Reg Gillman Memorial B where he scored 10-3 (GM norm 9.0) and Prelim Group 3 Olympiad XIV where he led the England team on board 1 to qualification to the finals. His score of 8-3 secured another GM norm. In this string of top-level games Ian scored 13 wins and only a single loss. Man, what a great run!

American Earns GM Norm and Qualifies for World Championship Finals

Congratulations to SIM John Timm on his outstanding result in the ICCF - XIX World Championship 3/4-final, Section 3. He took first place in this 17-player section and advanced to the final of the World Championship. His score of 12.5-3.5 (without loss) also earned him his first GM norm. Check out the announcement, player profile and annotated game on the ICCF-U.S. web site.

U.S.A. Team Qualifies for Email Olympiad Final

In June I received a copy of the following message from the ICCF-U.S. Secretary Max Zavanelli:

"Congratulations! We have just received notice from Olympiad Tournament Director Roald Bertelsen that the United States has qualified for the Email XIV Olympiad Finals. Congratulations to IM Stephen L. Jones, IM Jeffrey L. Tilghman, Christopher T. Sergel, IM Wayne Conover, IM Anthony Albano, and Steven Smithers for their good play and hard work over the last 2 years. This is only the second time that a US team has qualified for the Finals.

"Our thanks also go to the reserves, Richard Aiken and SM Kevin Embry for cheering on the team and to Maurice Carter, Team Captain, for his good work."

Congratulations to the entire team, including the current APCT champion Tony Albano (see the APCT NB cover story for July-August 2002 describing Tony's win of the 2000 APCT King tournament), and to International Arbiter Maurice Carter for captaining the team to this great accomplishment! The final will start on 1 December 2002

USA Team Tied for First in 13th Olympiad Preliminary Group

The USA team in the XIII Olympiad Preliminaries, section 4 is also well placed for possible advancement to the Final. As I write the USA team is tied with Russia at 70% with France (67%), The Netherlands (66%) and Ukraine (65%) close behind. There are still a number of games remaining in this event being played by post so it may be a while before the final placement is known. Go Team USA! The team, starting with board 1, is: J. De Mauro, J. Edwards, G. Kubach, B. Maillard, J. Timm and D. Fleetwood. Special kudos to SIM John Timm (mentioned above) for his amazing 10.5 - 1.5 score on board 5! It should be noted that the entire team is playing very well indeed. Out of the 63 finished games I only counted nine lost games for a 44-19 team score. Please note that board two is being handled by APCT superstar Jon Edwards. Congratulations to Jon and to the entire USA team!

By the way, higher-rated players wishing to participate in these high-level team events representing the USA should contact the ICCF-U.S. office. With so much success on their hands, the ICCF-U.S. Secretary is going to have his hands full finding enough strong players to fill all the teams that will be playing in these top events. ICCF Title norms are frequently available in these tournaments. For contact information go to the ICCF-U.S. web site at: http://www.iccfus.com

Kasparov Winner of 2001 Chess Oscar

The 64-Chess Review magazine published in Moscow runs the annual competition for the top chess player in the world. The 2001 competition was won easily by former world champion Garry Kasparov. His ten straight super-tournament wins from 1999 Wijk aan Zee through the 2002 edition of the Linares tournament probably contributed to his award. The race for second place was very close. Here are the top ten:

  1. Kasparov
  2. Kramnik
  3. Ponomariov
  4. Adams
  5. Anand
  6. Grischuk
  7. Polgar
  8. Topalov
  9. Korchnoi
  10. Kosteniuk

The magazine invites chess journalists, Grandmasters, and officials to vote for their personal top 10 choices. This year over 300 lists from over 60 countries were received. Kasparov accumulated a weighted score of 3,943 (including 260 first places) votes, Vladimir Kramnik 2,970, Ponomariov 2,959 and Vassily Ivanchuk 1,100. There were no cc players in the top ten, despite my first place vote for twice world correspondence chess champion Tonu Oim (Estonia).

Previous winners of the Oscar: Bent Larsen 1967; Boris Spassky 1968-69; Bobby Fischer 1970-72; Anatoly Karpov 1973-1977 and 1979-1981; Viktor Korchnoi 1978; Garry Kasparov 1982-1988, 1995-1996, 1999 and 2001; V. Anand 1997-1998; Vladimir Kramnik 2000.

Information Request re: Lou Veith

APCT'er Grayling Hill asked me to pass along a request to all APCT'ers. He said, "I'm sure I would get a lot of material, since your column is the first thing everyone reads when they get the APCT News Bulletin." Well, with that sort of flattery how could I say no?! Here are Grayling's edited comments.

"When I first joined the APCT I played a fellow by the name of Lou Veith. He was a real character, we had a good game and some good correspondence. …

"Lou passed away on April 4th 2001 and the Fred Miller Chess Group is holding a memorial tournament in his honor, in which I am playing. I have recently decided to write a short biography/article about Lou as one of the unsung heroes of CC. He truly played for the love of the game even though he never achieved a very high rating.

"The favor I need is that I would like for you to mention in your column that I am looking for stories, games, pictures, and information about Lou, his life and his CC career."

If you can help out Grayling with information on Lou Veith, please send it along to him right away. Following are his email address and postal address.

Grayling Hill
1107 Bridgewater Dr.
Benton, AR 72015
email: Gvhill@aol.com

Chess Features in Law Professor's Novel

I was listening to the "Diane Rehm Show" on public radio in June when she interviewed the Yale law professor Stephen Carter about his newly published thriller "The Emperor of Ocean Park." Carter presented himself as a chess enthusiast and said that each chapter of his book starts with a chess motif. Carter said he's always been interesting in chess problems and wanted to incorporate them into a novel. I later read Robert McCrum in The Observer saying, "Carter is a fanatical chess-player, and played late-night internet games while attempting to focus on the novel. Chess features in the plot, but Carter says it is pure coincidence that the number of chapters in the book is the same as the number of squares on a chessboard. This is not really that kind of book. Carter's main business is storytelling."

Proposing a Draw … On Every Move!

Recently a competitor asked a simple question on The Correspondence Chess Message Board. The competitor appeared to be Brazilian, going by his email address, so his first language was obviously not English. I present it here as originally stated, though, since his meaning is clear.

"What a correspondence Chessplayer must suppose to do, when a opponent insistently and repeatedly propose a draw, if you think that his position is a lost one???"

There were a variety of responses, as in all cases of this nature. Some suggested that he gently ask his opponent to stop proposing draws and, if he continued, to notify the tournament director that his opponent was purposely bothering him, which is against the rules. Others were more demonstrative in their condemnation of this rude behavior giving various ideas on what to write their opponent.

I considered suggesting that the player should write something like "I believe this is a win for me, therefore I decline your draw proposal" and print it on labels using a computer. This label could then be placed on each postcard giving the full reply without the bother of writing it out each time. In the end my only posted response was the suggestion that the player (1) simply ignore the repeated draw proposals and play strong moves to force the win and (2) that each time he sees the draw proposal he take simple pleasure in the fact that his opponent was resorting to psychological warfare in an attempt to salvage an obviously lost game.

Some basically agreed with my point of view that there was no point in doing anything besides ignoring the draw proposals and playing the game. Others insisted that the opponent's behavior was unacceptable and should not be ignored. I remember once that, after a game with Kramnik, Garry Kasparov expressed the opinion that his opponent had insulted him with an improper draw proposal (Kramnik had a slightly inferior position, therefore it was incorrect for him to initiate a draw offer). It seems that many people feel there are unwritten rules that must be followed in chess competitions. I consider this idea dangerous, since every individual would have their own specific view of what these rules should be. I suppose if pressed I could come up with a few "unwritten rules" that I think should be followed, such as being polite, but I'm very reluctant to insist that my opponent abide by any such "unwritten rules."

Similar discussions pop up from time to time concerning other behaviors during a game … not recording all the required information on each transmission, playing more slowly when the position becomes lost, silently dropping out and so on. The truth, as it appears to me, is that every person has their own special list of offenses and the relative importance of each offense. I know I become offended from time to time over things my wife finds ridiculous. Other times, such as with the repeated draw offer problem, I'm not bothered at all. I suggest in our reactions to offenses by our opponents that we all avoid reacting too fast and temper our responses. More than once I've reacted and then wished I could take it back. As the ICCF motto says, "Amici Sumus" … We are Friends!

"Why I Dislike 60/10 Time Rules"

The ICCF time limit for email games is different from the APCT rules. To quote from the APCT rules: "E-mail sections use 10/30 time control and rules are essentially the same as regular mail except a day is defined as a 24-hour period starting with the date and time an opponent's move is placed in your mailbox. Answering within 24 hours counts as zero days." In ICCF play the time limit is 60 days for each 10 moves

I recently received a message from an APCT'er who is playing some ICCF email games under this ICCF time limit of 60 days for 10 moves. The idea of this time limit is to make play more like postal competition so players can maintain a roughly equivalent playing schedule. One problem, in my view, is that players are able to move quickly during the opening, banking large numbers of extra days for later use. Then, late in the game, they may have a couple hundred days to burn, say after the game is objectively won by their opponent. This can lead to lengthy delays in finishing the game.

This competitor preferred a faster time limit and was able to express his views quite well. On my urging he wrote an article "Why I Dislike ICCF's Current 60/10 E-mail Time Rules" by "The Modern Correspondence Chess Player". Normally, I don't like pseudonyms and insist on real names. I have made two exceptions for material published at my web site. The first exception was an interview I published by a web personality known as Chess Chick, who publishes articles from a feminist viewpoint. She gave me what I believed were good reasons to maintain her secret identity so I abided by her wishes.

Here are a few excerpts from the article, as published by my web site The Campbell Report:

The answer is very simple. It allows too much reflection time and too much opportunity for abuse. There are basically two groups of thought on this rule. One group wants to play at postcard pace, but avoid paying postage. The other group wants to play at a faster pace, one more consistent with e-mail. I happen to be in the latter group.

I've been playing correspondence chess since the late '60's, so I'm no novice at this. I always liked CC, but I find the faster e-mail pace to be much more suited to my tastes. I keep my game load to about one third to one quarter what it was in the "postcard" days. It takes about 3 months to finish a good game, often less. The games are better played because there is flow and continuity. International play is practical. My plans are more real-time and the execution is more like a chess game, not a series of chess puzzles executed over 2 years. I'm completing more games annually by e-mail than I ever did by postcard, and in the process, I'm improving my game and enjoying correspondence chess more than ever. I consider myself a member of "the modern correspondence chess movement."

This APCT writer certainly has some interesting points. I had always thought switching to email required a slower rate of play to accommodate the faster speed of transmission. I always had moves in my "in box" waiting for replies. To play all the games I was use to playing I needed something to simulate the postal delays in transmitting moves. I didn't want to reduce the number of tournaments in which I was playing. To put it in a few words, I didn't want to change anything but my mode of transmission of moves. It's time to re-think my concept of play. Of course, there are other potential approaches to the time situation. Chess servers could allow more complicated calculation of time used, application of "dead time", and other concepts in cc time management. Eventually these questions will be sorted out. Perhaps in time we'll have multiple time limits as you find on the Internet at places like the Internet Chess Club, where you can play anywhere between slow postal rates to game/1 minute, called "bullet" chess.

Having Fun in Correspondence Chess

Some competitors are more serious than others in their approach to the competitive side of cc tournaments. Many people combine serious competition with enjoying the fun side of the game. Long time readers will know that I advocate enjoying chess in as many ways as possible. Serious competition is one way to enjoy our wonderful art/science/sport … but it is only one of the ways. Some people enjoy participating in gambit tournaments or thematic events. Some play on the Internet to get in some unrated games just for the fun of it. I use to enjoy the speed tournaments and 30/30 events at my old club The Sven Brask Chess Club in Massachusetts. I love correspondence chess, but there are the wider horizons that demand a portion of my chess time. Some years ago I lived in Georgia and played on (and later was team captain for) the Dixie Chess Team in the APCT Regional Team Championship. What fun! I wrote a newsletter and team members submitted their stories and games. I think somehow all this pleasure we were having in the different facets of the competition bubbled over into our focus on the games, since we won several championships.

Now I'm playing in the ICCF Champions League with three other APCT'ers on my team "Team CC.COM." We are all webmasters of sites at the http://correspondencechess.com/ web domain (where the APCT site is located). Yes, we're enjoying our games, but we're having a devil of a good time trading "trash talk" with other team members. We have a fun web site with photos of ourselves, brief biographies, joke stories, standings, links to all the other web sites set up by other teams, and a general debate over who has the best team logo. If you're on-line be sure to visit our team web site at: http://team.correspondencechess.com/

Another team that has been doing a lot of "talking" is the Romanian team Chess Club Potaissa Turda. We chided them for not having a team logo or web site, and they responded by promising a web site soon. After they announced their new web site would be available in one week I created a special web page called Chess Club Potato Turda, where I wrote some (hopefully) amusing text and decorated the site with pictures of Mr. Potato Head. The logo I created for them featured Mr. Potato Head and the words "Chess Club Potato Turda" around the edge. For the webmaster information at the bottom of the page I put a name and picture of "Spuds McKenzie" (the dog from the old beer commercials). I spent one whole evening creating the web page, logo and finding appropriate potato-oriented graphics. Chess … no. Chess-related fun … yes! I posted the site with an announcement about finding what might be their web site development site.

The other team members appeared delighted and quite enjoyed my little joke. Of course, such things are really complementary. It's like having Weird Al Yankovic record a parody of your song. I may be no Weird Al (well, maybe the "weird" part holds true) but still it was my recognition of their team and coming web site, and it was appreciated. In fact, I must have made quite an impressioin on those guys. When their real web site was launched it contained a special award page devoted to "MADUS DOGUS". I should explain that part of our "fun" consists of taking on nicknames. Our board 1 John Knudsen is "The Great Dane", board 2 and captain Grayling Hill is "The Hitman", board 4 Ralph Marconi is "The Masher", while on board 3 I am known as "Mad Dog."

Next time you enter a competition perhaps you should consider adopting an appropriate nickname. At any rate, sometimes you just have to look past the serious side of the game, the hard work of pressing every tiny advantage and squeezing the maximum out of every position, to just sit back and enjoy the game. We're lucky to have such a fabulous pasttime which will last us a lifetime of joy. Even now as my health deteriorates and many other old activities become difficult to pursue, I have my chess to keep me company and to give me great pleasure. I will continue to enjoy chess to my last days on this earth, and I'll continue to enjoy the friendship of all my long-distance friends who share my great passion for this excellent game, which is both the Game of Kings and the game of humble mad dogs.

copyright © 2002 by J. Franklin Campbell

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