The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - May/June 2003

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Postal Chess Will Not Die Easily

Last time I wrote, "I think some people will retain their love of postal chess and will continue to play a few games using the lowly post card." This prompted our esteemed Games Editor Stephan Gerzadowicz of Hallandale Beach, FL to write:

"A few? I play all of my (18 currently) games using the heavenly postcard, usually a pictured one such as this [Thanks for the picture postcard of Hallandale Beach, Stephan! -- JFC]. There is a computer here. I would not know how to turn it on. Is there a crank? or do you put a quarter in?"

There are others, also, who prefer the more leisurely pace of postal chess, as opposed to email chess. I just completed my only remaining postal game with an opponent in Latvia. I had intended to focus entirely on email chess in the future, but I don't know. It seems like I always have a large number of moves in my inbox waiting for replies, so the pressure is always on to crank out moves. Even when I bear down and reply to all those waiting email messages it is just a matter of hours before the moves start pouring in again. I'm sure this explains some of my recent inaccuracies. Instead of eagerly checking my mailbox each day to see if a new move has arrived I check my inbox when I hear that "chime" telling me an email message has arrived. Too often my response is, "Oh no, another move." When you have eight chess moves to make in other games, a new arrival isn't always so welcome.

Maybe I need to rethink my decision to switch entirely to email. Hmm it's cheaper, I don't have to worry about postmarks, foreign games no longer take six weeks a move, problems (lost moves, communicating with team captains, sending "if" moves, etc.) are more easily and quickly solved. Overall, I really like email play. Sometimes, though, I feel more like I'm playing rapid chess than correspondence chess.

Umansky Wins World Champions Tournament

13th World Correspondence Chess Champion GM Mikhail Umansky of Russia has won the ICCF 50th World Champions Jubilee Tournament (50WCJT) with an amazing score of 7-1, only giving up draws to 10th World Champion Dr. Victor Palciauskas (USA) and current 15th World Champion Gert Timmerman (NLD). What a tournament! All nine living world champions are participating in this all-play-all event (sponsored by the Max Euwe Association, Monaco and played as part of the ICCF's celebration of their 50 years jubilee). Even the 5th World Champion Dr. Hans Berliner (USA) came out of retirement to participate.

The only other two undefeated players Palciauskas (4.5-2.5) and Timmerman (3.5-1.5) are battling for second place, each with two wins. Palciauskas has one remaining game with 11th world champion Dr. Fritz Baumbach (GER). It looks like he has excellent winning chances. Assuming a win, Timmerman would need to score 2-1 against Baumbach, 8th world champion Jrn Sloth (DEN) and 9th/14th two-time world champion Tnu im (EST) to match his final score. Judging from the positions this is very possible, but the positions are far from easy to judge. An outside chance for second is Estonian Tnu im, who has only finished two games so far but has a loss.

Following is the game between the two American former world champions. Palciauskas showed great technique in winning the ending. I should point out the Berliner has only lost two games, this one and one to the overall winner Umansky. He also defeated Jrn Sloth and has four draws. If he can convert his pawn advantage in his only remaining game with Tnu im he can finish with an even score, very impressive after his long layoff from serious play. Also, based on his return to play and finishing games in this event, Berliner is once again listed on the ICCF rating list. Based on his phenomenal past record (winning the world championship by a huge margin) he has been listed as number one in the world with a rating of 2751, replacing past leader Ulf Andersson (SWE) with a 2736 rating and Gert Jan Timmerman (NED) with 2733. Using the very clever Eloquery software (available for download from the ICCF site) I calculate Berliner's new rating (based on the three additional results since the rating list was published) at 2729, but if he can eke out a win versus Tnu im with his extra pawn (looks like a difficult assignment) he'll jump back up to 2738, possibly good enough to hold on to the top spot.

Palciauskas,V (2558) - Berliner,H (2763) [C80]
ICCF 50th World Champions Jubilee Tournament
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 exd4 7.Re1 d5 8.Bg5 Qd6 9.c4 dxc3 10.Nxc3 Be6 11.Nxe4 dxe4 12.Nd4 Qd5 13.Nxe6 fxe6 14.Qh5+ g6 15.Qh4 Bc5 16.Rad1 Qf5 17.g4 Bxf2+ 18.Qxf2 Qxg5 19.Rxe4 Qe7 20.Qf3 Rd8 21.Rxd8+ Qxd8 22.Bxc6+ bxc6 23.Rxe6+ Kd7 24.Qxc6+ Kc8 25.Qxa6+ Kb8 26.Re4 Qd1+ 27.Qf1 Rd8 28.Qxd1 Rxd1+ 29.Kf2 g5 30.Rb4+ Ka7 31.Rb3 c5 32.h3 c4 33.Ra3+ Kb6 34.Ke3 Rb1 35.Kd4 Rxb2 36.Kxc4 Rd2 37.Rb3+ Kc6 38.a3 Rd1 39.Rf3 Rd6 40.a4 Kb6 41.Rf5 Rh6 42.Rxg5 Rxh3 43.Rb5+ Ka6 44.Rh5 Rg3 45.g5 Rg1 46.Kd5 Rd1+ 47.Ke6 1-0

All the games of this fabulous event can be viewed on-line with java replay at the ICCF web site http://www.iccf.com/.

Making a Living at Correspondence Chess

Is it possible to be a professional correspondence chess player? That is, can you make a reasonable living as a cc player? Irish publisher and chess journalist Tim Harding comes to mind, but he also is an active OTB competitor and probably makes his living from his writing and publishing. The gossip now is that GM Mikhail Umansky of Russia, 13th world cc champion and winner of the prestigious ICCF 50th World Champions Jubilee Tournament (see above) is attempting to do just that. His first place prize for winning that tournament is 7,000 Euros (about $7,500 US). Of course, such tournaments are unique. However, he has also joined forces with a new chess server ChessFriends.Com (CFC). There he is available to play cc simuls with commentary and questions answered after the game. The CFC charge for one game vs. Umansky is 45 Euros. I believe he is also playing in the big CFC prize tournament a with 80,000 Euros prize fund (30,000 for first place). If he can play and win this event every year (a new event starts each year) then he will eventually have a steady income of 30,000 Euros, not a bad base salary. Of course, winning such an event would be a remarkable achievement, especially doing so on a regular basis. I would assume that he plans to give lessons and perhaps provide other services for a fee. I wish him luck with his quest. I wonder would this make GM Umansky the first professional correspondence chess player in the world?

"The Last Chess Player"

Ken Chaney of Houston, TX writes:

"I feel as though I am the last chess player. Everyone else seems to be a chess researcher. While my rating remains low, every move I've ever made came from the computer between my ears."

Thanks for your comments, Ken. I think you are not alone, though. I think there are many, many players who play for the love of the game and the fun of working out the moves on their own, as opposed to simply racking up wins. Speaking for myself, I enjoy the research of looking for similar games played by the masters and for recommendations in opening books. However, such research can on occasion become an end to itself and cause me to overlook interesting aspects of the position. For instance, it's possible that a very reasonable looking move could lead to a beautiful and complicated response that would demonstrate the incorrectness of the first move. If you only look at master games and opening books they may not even bother to mention the move or give the winning response. Only by examining the position yourself will you discover the flaw in the move and see the beautiful response. Perhaps by playing some subtle move a move or two earlier in the opening line you'll be able to exploit the otherwise flawed move. Perhaps you'll just enjoy seeing the interesting refutation never mentioned in any reference material.

Let's see what the former OTB world champion Tigran Petrosian said in the book of his collected writings Petrosian's Legacy:

"I have said repeatedly that the sporting result has never been my primary factor in chess. Now, although it has become more difficult for me to produce first class chess, I try to preach (particularly to the young upcoming players) the creative side in order to point out its primary role. The creative principle which has made chess a world game which has survived and blossomed through centuries. A game that enabled chess players to create masterpieces belonging to the treasury of human lore. I am an adept of this kind of chess, and I wish those young men who devote themselves to this game should first discover its creative side. I wish them to consider chess a creative activity which brings great pleasure to millions because of its aesthetic satisfaction;. As for victories, they will follow of their own accord as night follows day."

Petrosian wrote this well after he had lost his world championship and was nearing his 50th birthday. Even players at this high level of accomplishment enjoy the game for much more than victories, titles and prizes. We were all originally attracted to chess because of its aesthetic appeal. It's all too easy to let this slip away and simply labor at winning points.

Sending "Tricky" Conditionals Good or Bad?

In the above position I had just moved 38.Rd2-c2 and offered the conditional "if 38Rxc2, 39.Rxc2". My opponent's email reply was lost, and when I sent a repeat I received the following statement with my opponent's reply:

"By the way I also made a remark to you regarding your use of a conditional move sequence. The short version is that I dislike the idea that you may have used this conditional in the hope that I would overlook it, and make my intended reply to your primary move (I *have* heard of that kind of disasters)."

My first reaction was to take offense at his apparent accusation that I was doing something improper. But, after a while, I starting thinking about his thought-provoking statement. The move he sent 38Rdc7 turned out to be much better than my suggested conditional. On the other hand, my conditional was just an effort to speed up the game (after 38Rxc2 my response was forced). But there are a lot more possibilities for using "if" moves.

A conditional can be used to attempt to guide your opponent to follow a preferred line. Though I hadn't intended it that way in this particular instance, I find that I would certainly have preferred my opponent to make the suggested capture. His actual move turned out to be much more difficult for me. My opponent felt I was trying to trick him into playing an inferior line, and he was offended by my apparent attempt to trick him.

Now the question is is it legitimate to use conditionals to attempt to get your opponent to follow a certain line of play? I have on occasion suggested moves via a conditional in the opening hoping my opponent would follow my preferred line. It hadn't occurred to me that I may be doing something unethical.

I'd be interested in receiving your opinions concerning this question. Is this one of those dreaded (by me) "unwritten rules" you shall not attempt to trick your opponent into playing an inferior line by offering a clever conditional." Or is this all just nonsense? Is using a conditional to attempt to guide your opponent's play just another tool in the bag of a serious cc player?

In a follow-up email from my opponent he explained,

"But how fair is it to send an unforced move proposal leading to a lost position for your opponent? It is not against the rules, but neither is it Amici Sumus - in my very humble opinion!"

"Amici Sumus" is the ICCF motto "We are friends." We both apologized for any misunderstandings and have continued play in the spirit of Amici Sumus, but the question remains was my conditional incorrect? I've seen advice never to send conditionals, since they can lead to errors, but I've never considered this possible error before.

ICCF Considering Banning Computer Use?

On the on-line message board TCCMB John Pugh brought this item to our attention:

"It is expected that players will decide their moves for themselves, without seeking external advice. There can be no satisfaction derived from playing moves which players have not decided for themselves, using their own skills and thought processes."

This was from the minutes of the last ICCF Congress (note, this has nothing to do with APCT's rule against computer use). Mr. Pugh questioned whether this wording gave it any force of the rules of play. He said,

"As this is a guideline and not a rule what is the position if someone breaks it (as of course they will!). If I suspect my opponent is using Fritz, getting help from grandmaster X or doesn't even know the rules, can I complain to the TD with my evidence (eg followed Fritz's moves for last 20 moves) or is this just moral guidance only?"

ICCF President Alan Borwell replied,

"The ICCF President introduced new Code of Conduct Guidelines (Appendix G) and these were discussed by the Congress, with various amendments being proposed. Wordings shown in italics in Appendix G, are those where review was being considered. Unfortunately, there was insufficient time to produce an updated draft or discuss it before the end of Congress and therefore adoption of the Guidelines was deferred until the next Congress. This would enable wider discussion of the more controversial proposals contained in the draft, before decisions were made. Further suggestions for inclusion in the Guidelines had been received and others were made during Congress. These would all be considered and an updated draft would be circulated, before the next Congress".

"The words to which you refer are in "italics" and therefore are amongst those for this ongoing review. The Code of Conduct Guidelines remain as a "draft" and will not be finalised or 'adopted' until this year's Congress. There are many differing opinions on whether the particular paragraph, which you refer to, should become ICCF policy - some delegates may consider that the words should be strengthened (although not fully policeable), whereas others may feel that they should be excluded completely. As said in the latter part of the Minute, this issue will be given the widest possible discussion, before a conclusion is reached."

The idea of having a set of "guidelines" is most interesting, though it sounds awfully close to those "unwritten rules" that I'm not happy with. My position is that if something should not be done, then there should be a rule against it. What does saying that players are "expected" to play without the aid of computer advice achieve? If something is clearly stated as against the rules, then all honest players will avoid it. Saying that behavior is against a code of conduct makes it less clear. What is the penalty for violating the code of conduct? If it is the same as for violating a rule of play, then what's the point? If there is no penalty, then what ? I will be following this story very closely at the next ICCF Congress this October in the Czech Republic.

Some Entertaining Quotes

I've very much enjoyed listening to chess people discussing our favorite subject on the internet radio station http://chess.fm. Recently GM John Fedorowitz said,

"In the old days playing blitz if you advanced a pawn and promoted to a Queen you'd yell, It's a girl! and pass out the cigars."

John Fedorowitz is a constant source of entertaining quotes. Here's his comment after Radjabov's loss to Leko in the first round of Linares when he heard Radjabov would be playing black against Kasparov the next day.

"The vultures could be trying to chew on his carcass pretty soon."

As it turned out, Fed was wrong on this one (see next topic). Though not referencing chess I really liked this one from an announcer on the sports network ESPN:

'Expect the unexpected and you never know what it's going to be!"

That, of course, is good advice for anyone, including chess players!

Kasparov a Sore Loser?

Much has been written about former OTB world champion GM Garry Kasparov being a bad loser. Perhaps this fire is what drives him to be the top player in the world? His tie with GM Viswanathan Anand for third half a point behind GM Peter Leko and GM Vladimir Kramnik at the annual Linares super tournament in Spain broke his incredible string of ten straight wins in Super GM tournaments. Perhaps it would have been different if he hadn't gone wrong in his round two game with the youngster GM Teimour Radjabov and lost. When that game was voted the "Most Beautiful" game of the tournament by the journalists he was inflamed. He reportedly made quite a scene at the closing ceremonies after this prize was announced. He is reported to have said,

"I believe that this one is not the best game of the tournament, it has been chosen solely because it was the only game that I lost, and I consider that this is a public insult and a humiliation." He added, "It is the greatest insult that they [journalists] have done to me in my life! It is an insult towards me and chess. You consider yourself chess journalists? If you think that this was the most beautiful game in Linares, you are damaging chess with your reports and articles. Radjabov was completely lost in that game."

The game was certainly flawed, but it was an exciting contest and journalists defended their choice. According to Mark Crowther's online chess newsletter TWIC (This Week In Chess) chess journalist Leontxo Garcia gave his reasoning in choosing this game as the most beautiful: "Beauty is a subjective concept for me and Nxe5 (Radjabov's piece sacrifice) was really a beautiful move and it is beautiful to see a 15 year old boy play with such imagination." Here is the game:

Kasparov,G (2847) - Radjabov,T (2624) [C11]
XX Super GM Linares, Spain (2), 23-Feb-2003
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.Nf3 Nc6 7.Be3 a6 8.Qd2 b5 9.a3 Qb6 10.Ne2 c4 11.g4 h5 12.gxh5 Rxh5 13.Ng3 Rh8 14.f5 exf5 15.Nxf5 Nf6 16.Ng3 Ng4 17.Bf4 Be6 18.c3 Be7 19.Ng5 0-0-0 20.Nxe6 fxe6 21.Be2 Ngxe5 22.Qe3 Nd7 23.Qxe6 Bh4 24.Qg4 g5 25.Bd2 Rde8 26.0-0-0 Na5 27.Rdf1? Nb3+ 28.Kd1 Bxg3 29.Rf7 Rd8 30.Bxg5 Qg6 31.Qf5 Qxf5 32.Rxf5 Rdf8 33.Rxf8+ Nxf8 34.Bf3 Bh4 35.Be3 Nd7 36.Bxd5 Re8 37.Bh6 Ndc5 38.Bf7 Re7 39.Bh5 Nd3 0-1

Rook + Invulnerable Bishop v Rook Ending

I quite enjoyed following the "live" coverage of the Corus super-GM tournament this year. In one game the young Radjabov had a simplified ending against Karpov with a Rook and Bishop vs a Rook. Apparently this ending is known to be a draw, but sometimes the defense can be difficult, so Radjabov pressed Karpov for the full 50 moves before a draw could be claimed. One reporter said the following (sorry, I have forgotten the reporter's name):

In the sixth round Karpov and Radjabov had a long endgame that Radjabov, having Rook + Bishop versus Rook, tried to win. Of course this endgame is a theoretical draw, but the defense is difficult, even more so because after move 60 players get only half an hour for the rest of the game.

At move 113 Karpov, with about ten seconds left on the clock, claimed a draw because of the 50-move rule. Days later he was still indignant because Radjabov had tried to make him overstep.

But imagine this, said Bottema (Tom Bottema, the chief of the press office at the Corus tournament). What if Radjabov had put his bishop en prise and Karpov would have taken it? Then a new 50-move stretch would start and Karpov would really overstep.

Would he? Karpov can be very quick with brain and hands. This hinged on a subtle point. Karpov was White, so the clock would be on his left hand. No, in that case he would have no chance to make it.

But can't you claim a draw with Rook versus Rook? Our distinguished columnist Geurt Gijssen gave a clear answer: only in rapid and blitz games, not in classical chess.

But Karpov wouldn't have to take the bishop, he could just ignore it, we tried to argue. But to this also Bottema had a considered answer: This would be so if Radjabov would put his bishop en prise near the end of his 50-move winning try. Then Karpov could safely ignore it. But if Radjabov would do it say ten or fifteen moves earlier, Karpov wouldn't be able to ignore this, for he would be mated. Rook + Bishop v Rook may be a draw, but Rook + Invulnerable Bishop v Rook must be a win.

Men vs. Women

According to the FIDE web site there will be a 4-board Men vs. Women match. As they put it, "Four Chess Queens from China, namely Xie Jun, Zhu Chen, Xu Yuhua and Zhao Xue will play a match against Four Chess Kings, namely Alexander Khalifman (RUS), Nigel Short (ENG), Yasser Seirawan (USA) and Ye Jiangchuan (CHN) in Bejing, Ji`nan, Xi`an and Chongqing, China from 22 May to 7 June 2003." That should be interesting. Unfortunately, no format is given for the tournament. I assume each man will play each woman at least twice, given the dates.

For ten years top cc competitor Joop J. van Oosterom of The Netherlands (number 4 on the latest ICCF rating list at 2725) sponsored a series of OTB tournaments called the Dance tournaments. The last event in this series was reported on by New in Chess magazine as follows: "The Veterans beat the Ladies 26-24 at the Clog Dance tournament in Amsterdam. Yet few, if any, of the participants cared about victory or defeat as a unique series of luxury events organised by Joop van Oosterom's Association Max Euwe came to a close." Each event was held in a different country and named after the national dance of that country, such as the Waltz tournament in Austria. A collection of veteran men faced a field of the best women players, each man playing each woman once. It was usually a close event. An interesting side note is that the person just behind van Oosterom on the ICCF rating list is Latvian player Mrs. Olita Rause, a woman AND one of the stronger cc players in the world. GM Judit Polgar may have proved that a woman can play OTB chess at the highest levels, but she never moved as high in her respective rating list as has Mrs. Rause. Van Oosterom is also the well known sponsor of the annual Melodie Amber tournament held in Monaco in honor of his daughter Melodie Amber van Oosterom.

A Small Personal Note

This month my wife Anne Gillies Campbell and I are celebrating being married one third of a century. Since I was already a chess fanatic when we married in December 1969 she has had to live with my obsession for the full third century. Speak of beyond the call of duty! Anyway, another milestone has been reached. At least with correspondence chess it isn't necessary to create "chess widows" to be able to play. She sits a few feet from me in the evening as I toil away on my moves and my other chess activities. She even nods knowingly when I explain why I was laughing like an idiot at some chess thing (a funny move or a funny quote). She listens to chess.fm right along with me and recognizes many of the players. She knows what it means when Kasparov puts his watch on and could probably debate cc ethics with the best of you. I hope you all have as understanding families people who will smile at your chess jokes and understand your depression when you make a blunder. Here's to the next third of a century. I'm hoping to improve my rating a bit during that period. But then, fortunately, there's a lot more to the game of Kings than rating points.

copyright © 2003 by J. Franklin Campbell

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