The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - July/August 2003

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Too Much Spam

I recently conducted an experiment with my email address, which has remained the same for many years. I stopped deleting the unwanted/unsolicited emails for a full day to see just how bad the spam had gotten. The count was over 70 spam emails for the one-day period. The time has come to abandon my old email address, which must be on hundreds of email lists being circulated. My new email address will not be available on any of my web pages in machine-readable form (regular text). That includes the copy of this column available for downloading to the publisher (APCT).

If you wish to contact me by email (and I am always happy to receive mail of any sort from APCT News Bulletin readers) go to my web site or to one of the web sites listed on my personal domain http://JFCampbell.US. Just click on one of the links "Contact Webmaster" at the bottom of most pages and you'll find my email address. I'm shutting down my old email address soon. I am looking forward to no longer receiving all those messages offering me low mortgage rates, on-line pharmacies that supply their own doctors to write your prescriptions, XXX sites with degrading words and photos right in their unsolicited emails, get-rich schemes, Nigerian scams offering me millions of dollars and medications allowing me to lengthen and enlarge various parts of my anatomy. A new day is coming when the "ding" of my email program will announce real messages that I'll be happy to see. How long will it last?

MegaCorr3 Released

Publisher Tim Harding (IRL) is well known to the correspondence chess community as a strong player and a writer. He is an ICCF SIM (Senior International Master), a publisher of many books, including the excellent cc guide to competition Winning at Correspondence Chess, Internet columnist at Hanon Russell's famous Chess Café (http://www.chesscafe.com) with his column "The Kibitzer" and a publisher, best known for his international cc magazine Chess Mail. He has also committed himself to publishing well researched and accurate collections of cc games, with great concentration on details, such as spellings of names and consistent formatting for all the games. His previous CD's MegaCorr and MegaCorr2 were great successes. Now he has released his updated version MegaCorr3 with more games and other material.

USA cc enthusiasts can order this fantastic disk from the ICCF-U.S. office. Go to http://www.iccfus.com for ordering information. The CD contains a database of over 520,000 games in ChessBase and PGN formats, 58 issues of his Chess Mail magazine in PDF format, and a web site (readable using any Internet browser) containing a lot of interesting information and history, such as info on the world championships. I was surprised by a photograph in one of the early issues of Chess Mail showing a person wearing a shirt with a position from a famous cc game. I did a quick search of the database and found the following amazing game won by one of the cc world champions.

Sanakoev,G - Shaposhnikov,Y [B47]
USSR ch-06 6364 corr, 1963
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Qc7 6.g3 a6 7.Bg2 Nf6 8.0-0 Be7 9.Be3 0-0 10.Kh1 Rd8 11.f4 d6 12.Bf3 Rb8 13.Qe2 Na5 14.g4 b5 15.g5 Ne8 16.f5 b4 17.fxe6 fxe6 18.Bh5 g6 19.Qf2 Ng7 20.Qf7+ Kh8 21.Bxg6 Nc4 22.Nc6 Ne5 23.Nxe5 Bb7 24.Qxg7+ Kxg7 25.Rf7+ Kh8 26.Rxh7+ Kg8 27.Ng4 1-0

There's a lot more neat things to discover on this MegaCorr3 CD. For instance, you'll find over 400 games played by J. Franklin Campbell! Of course, you'll also find thousands of games played by the strongest players in the world, including a claimed 30,000 with annotations. If you have ChessBase or another full-featured database program you'll be able to search for and find many useful, entertaining and instructional games. I can't recommend this latest publication from Tim Harding highly enough. It is simply superb. The ICCF-U.S. order form shows a price of $45 ($35 for owners of MegaCorr2). While ordering, if you have any interest in the history of international cc I also highly recommend the first ICCF book "ICCF Gold" for $24.

If you get MegaCorr3 I recommend that you copy the database to your computer's hard drive. You'll probably want to change the properties of all the files to turn off "Write Only".

Same Game Counted Twice

While reading the latest issue of Chess Mail magazine (3/2003) I came across a fascinating story of one game counting twice. The two players were playing each other in two different tournaments starting only a month apart. They agreed to play a single game and report the result for both tournaments. Harding was cleaning up his games database, deleting duplicates, when he ran across the two identical games. The game was decisive, so the winner netted two points for a single win.

John Knudsen Replies

In the March-April 2003 issue of this column I wrote about chess notation used in correspondence chess under the title "Chess Notation." There I mentioned SIM-elect John Knudsen's support of PGN (short algebraic) as the standard notation for international play, but I cautioned that there was a problem with making an English-language type of format the standard. He sent the following reply:

"This is misleading - PGN is used officially in IECC and IECG, both of them large international cc organizations - so the whole argument in favor of alphanumeric (or numeric, for that matter) is basically pointless, in the practical sense.

"PGN is already the standard in chess software, numeric and alphanumeric is not. Therein lies the difference. The chosen notation, in every case, must facilitate the use of software to assist in cc games, in my view."

Thanks for your comments, John. John Knudsen has established himself as a leading journalist in all issues related to correspondence chess, so his opinions should be carefully considered. He helped me enormously when I first entered the world of cc journalism on the Internet. Though we sometimes have different viewpoints I always consider his opinions require careful consideration.

Further Comments on Fischer Random Chess

Romanian FIDE Master Marius Ceteras sent the following interesting comments concerning my discussion of Fischer Random chess in my March-April column:

"…, Romanian GM Dorian Rogozenko played an exhibition Random Fischer match against a computer in Germany. The computer crushed him without any problem. In a game, Rogozenko (playing as Black) was completely lost after ... the first 2 moves :-))

"According to Rogozenko the computers are much more dangerous in Random Fischer Chess because the human player has no theoretical support."

Fortunately, issue 91 of Correspondence Chess News (edited by John Knudsen) just arrived in my inbox and there is an article titled, "Shuffle chess against the all-mighty computer" by FIDE GM Dorian Rogozenko translated by Valer-Eugen Demian. The match was really shuffle chess, not Fischer Random. The only difference is that shuffle chess does not have the castling move. This makes it possible for any chess computer to play the game (I know of no computer chess software that can handle FR castling). Of course, if you just happen to have a starting position with the King and at least one Rook on the same starting squares as in regular chess, you would need to instruct the chess engine that castling was not allowed. Rogozenko played against the chess engine Chess Tiger 15. In the game shown that FM Ceteras must have been referring to Rogozenko said (after white's second move), "I couldn't believe my eyes: 2 of my pawns on e5 and a7 were already under attack. Facing a strong chess program in such a position is like a death sentence …" My thanks to Eugen Demian for making this article available in English and to John Knudsen for publishing the excellent on-line magazine CCN.

Basketball is like chess?

As always, my ears perk up when I hear chess mentioned outside of my regular channels. I'm a TV sports fan and have been following the NBA basketball championship playoffs. Los Angeles Laker's star Kobe Bryant was being interviewed following the Laker's series win against Minnesota on May 1, 2003. He answered a question about the team's approach to playoff games. He said, "That's the way we view the playoffs. We view it as a chess game."

New Chess Magazine "Squares"

Bob Long, owner of Thinker's Chess, has started a new quarterly chess magazine named, "Squares, The Chess World's Picture Magazine." I received a review copy of the first issue published in March. I hadn't realized it was being published by Bob Long before it arrived, and my first reaction was negative, possibly colored by my memory of Long publishing material copied from my web site without my permission in a previous publication of his. I immediately looked for all the great chess photos I expected, given the magazines name. This was a real disappointment, as the photos were all B&W and were of relatively low quality. Still, there were some interesting pictures. A lot of the material in this first issue has been previous published elsewhere, but not being widely read they were new to me.

I published a mostly negative review of this magazine at my web site (review written by chess historian and author Neil Brennen). Other published reviews were a bit kinder. I must admit, even with the many flaws in this first issue, I think the magazine shows promise, and I also must admit that I found much of it entertaining. Long commented on his company's web site that future issues (after he gets some subscription money) will contain better photographs. Hopefully it will also become less of an advertisement for Thinker's Chess publications. If you are like me and spend little time reading chess analysis in magazines and prefer reading entertaining text and looking at pictures, you may find this publication worthwhile. For chess analysis and reports on recent tournaments you'd be better off with Chess Life, New in Chess, Chess Horizons or the Illinois Chess Bulletin. Hopefully this new magazine will provide entertaining reading of a different type. If you want to give it a try send your check for $30 to Thinker's Chess, Dept CHRM, P. O. Box 3037, Davenport, IA 52808 or call 1-800-397-7117.

Letter from Walter Lewis

APCT'er Walter J. Lewis of Soledad, CA sent a letter that I'll quote from:

"There are players that resign their games to opponents, but then send the TD a withdrawal notice. The resignation is then only scored by the TD after calling in the game for adjudication! The rules of chess are clear, the resignation is the equivalent of checkmate and the position on the board is irrelevant."

I must agree with this viewpoint. Once a game is resigned it is over. I'm not sure what APCT Tournament Director Helen Warren ruled in this case, but I would think if the card/letter with the resignation were supplied then the game would be ruled as a win. Of course, there may be other issues here of which I'm unaware. In general, I think it is a bad idea for a player who needs to withdraw for personal reasons to send resignations to all opponents. This can create artificial situations, such as ratings being calculated inappropriately or one player who lost or drew earlier being put in a bad situation with opponents getting easy wins.

In general, I think withdrawals should be avoided. It is unfair to the other competitors. Withdrawal without appropriate reasons should be penalized in some fashion. In APCT, a player withdrawing from only some games (not all games being played) is forfeited in all those games, with the games rated as losses. If all games in all events are withdrawn from, then only games that are submitted for adjudication are rated. Perhaps in this situation the TD determined that the player was effectively withdrawing from all games, so none of the games should be rated, except for those submitted for adjudication.

Note that sometimes withdrawals are necessary. We are all subject to occasional situations based on family, job or health issues where we are unable to continue tournament games. This is unavoidable and should be accepted as part of life. If a player simply takes game commitments too lightly or attempts to escape bad positions by withdrawing, then withdrawing is unacceptable, in my opinion. We should play according to the ICCF motto Amici Sumus (We are Friends) and treat our opponents in that spirit.

"Another case is the player whose name appears for months in the TOURNAMENT NOTES for advancement to the Rook Final, but does not withdraw until long after the assignment sheets have been sent out. They also fail to notify the other opponents of their withdrawal as required. Let me give you an example.

"I qualified for the 96 Rook Final; however, I had too many games at the time so I wrote the TD that I was declining advancement. This allowed another player that wanted to play, in this case Ted Greiner, the opportunity. It makes the tournament more competitive. It gives the other players in the section another quality opponent, and to do otherwise is disrespectful.

"Now, the 1997 and 1998 Rook Final each had a player withdraw in direct violation to the 6. Withdrawal From Play rules, but neither were cited. The first, a player from England, never notified anyone of their intent to withdraw. The cost to players sending cards to England (including repeats!) was uncalled-for. The player should have been FORFEITED!

"In the second case, the 1997 Rook Final, the same thing happened. This player not only made no attempt to notify the other players, his withdrawal was not a withdrawal from ALL sections as is required. He was, and is, playing in a 99 Rook Semi-Final! He should have been FORFEITED!

"I suggest this player with a cumulative score of 12.25 did not see any money in his future with such a score. The quality of games in the final as opposed to the 99 Rook Semi would support this supposition. This is a chess player that cares little of actually playing chess for the competition or love of the game.

"What do you think? Shouldn't these players have been forfeited?"

The straight forward application of the APCT rules of play would dictate that the second player should have forfeited all games from which he "withdrew" since they didn't withdraw from all tournament games. The tournament director may have had reasons to make exceptions for some unknown reasons. Another possibility is that there was an oversight. With the number of tournaments being conducted within APCT it would be easy to overlook that players withdrawing from one event are still active in other events. I suggest dropping a line to the TD pointing out the problem. In the first case I am unsure of the proper action. Certainly the player should have withdrawn earlier, and in any case all the opponents should have been notified. There may have been some personal problem preventing it of which you are unaware. If the player in the end withdrew from all games then the rules would not dictate forfeits. Not all bad behavior results in official penalties.

It should be pointed out that the APCT rules of play are not meant to be comprehensive. This allows the rules to be simple and concise. Instead of a rule for every contingency there is great latitude for the tournament director to use discretion in making logical and reasonable rulings. Where the rules are clear they should be enforced, though even here the TD may apply common sense to allow exceptions where warranted.

One area where the APCT rules are unclear, in my opinion, is in the very first rule, 1. GENERAL. All games shall be played by correspondence and shall be governed by the rules of chess published by FIDE, except those inapplicable to postal play. However, with the approach taken by APCT (the TD applies common sense to make decisions where the rules are not specific) makes this a minor issue. Of course, people may disagree with the decision rendered by the TD. In the case of ICCF, which has the same sort of reference to the FIDE rules, it is more problematic. My feeling is that the reference to FIDE rules is to avoid including all the specifics about how the pieces move. Including all these mechanical instructions makes for a big set of rules. However, in the area of behavior it isn't so clear if something applies to OTB but not to CC. For instance, offering draws frequently can be a real problem in OTB chess where each draw offer requires getting your opponent's attention and diverting her/his attention away from the position. These distractions would be considered illegal in OTB competition. However, in CC we can hardly claim the opponent has been distracted from concentrating on the game. In CC, unlike with OTB, life creates one big distraction following every move. The sheer mechanics of the game are so very different that some sensible and obvious OTB interpretations of an action would make absolutely no sense when applied to CC. This is not just a theoretical problem. I've seen lengthy "discussions" (more like battles) concerning such interpretations of when FIDE rules apply to CC in ICCF events.

Thanks for your thought-provoking letter, Walter.

Another APCT Competitor Writes

I received the following note from Ken Chaney of Houston, TX:

"I just won a game in a Knight-A section (rare occasion). My opponent implied that I received assistance from a computer. What a compliment! My only computer is between by ears."

Congratulations on the win, Ken. I can tell you really enjoy your chess. Of course, it's always easy to find excuses for losing. Who was it that said they had never defeated a totally healthy opponent? Even in tournaments where using a computer is legal (not APCT events, where using a computer for analysis is clearly cheating), you may feel more satisfaction in playing without such assistance. I have absolutely no criticism of players using computers in competition where it is allowed, but if it diminishes your pleasure in the game then it is a mistake. Also, using a computer to determine candidate moves can cause you to overlook some very strong moves that the computer misses due to the horizon effect.

I also recommend that all players be good losers. I do not agree with the person who said, "Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser." Perhaps they were implying that you shouldn't accept losing too easily, that a strong desire not to lose will help you find difficult defensive moves and motivate you to play your best. However, when you do lose I believe you should do so with good grace and give your opponent the respect and credit due for their victory. I just lost a game in a little over 20 moves where my Romanian opponent played the opening very well, put me on the defensive, and then blasted my King position open with an excellent Rook sacrifice that I didn't see coming. I wrote my opponent a very complimentary note congratulated him on his excellent play. Even losses can provide some fun and education (I believe I learned a valuable lesson about King safety which I'll apply to future games).

GM Maurice Ashley's War on Draws

Recently, two major events brought the draw to our attention in a big way. The USA Championship in Washington state was an exciting affair with eight players tied for first going into the final round. They were paired up in four high profile games in what promised to be a tense final round. The spectators were ready for a battle royale as the competitors duked it out for the championship and the top money prize. The organizers, the spectators and the commentators were all extremely disappointed when three of the four games ended in draws after about a dozen moves, true grandmaster draws. The chief organizer and fund raiser for the event, Erik Anderson, was most upset and disappointed, declaring it was an insult to the sponsors and fans for the players to suck the excitement right out of the event with their unsporting behavior. He actually awarded a special $5,000 bonus to the two players who fought it out and gave the spectators some excitement. Shabalov defeated Akobian for the USA Championship and the $25,000 first prize money. I was following the event on the Internet and Chess.FM Internet Radio and can say that I had the same feelings of disappointment in the early draws. Fortunately, the Shabalov vs. Akobian game was spectacular and was most entertaining.

I heard John Fedorowicz covering another event and he addressed his short draw with Joel Benjamin. He said they never play real games since they are good friends and have trained together for years. They just don't want to play seriously against each other. While I can understand their feelings, they are professionals, so is it legitimate for them to play in an event where they have no intention of producing a real game of chess when they happen to meet? I'm not too sure about this, but it is a real shame when it occurs, in that the organizers and spectators will not see what they expect. Perhaps players should be required to register pairings which will not result in real games before the tournament starts, so the organizers can avoid pairing them.

The other event that brought the GM draw into disrepute was the Kasparov vs. Deep Junior Man vs. Machine match. This event attracted tremendous world attention. The match was tied going into this final game. I was watching the last game on ESPN TV! How many chess events have you seen with national television coverage? It was a great show with lots of big chess names in the audience making appearances. I was impressed particularly at two points in the game. As black playing the Sicilian, Kasparov played a typical exchange sacrifice in an apparent attempt to develop real winning chances. At this point the crowd erupted into applause. It was an exciting TV moment and must surely have impressed many viewers. Little did we know that with the move Kasparov made a draw proposal. It wasn't apparent, since the Deep Junior operator rejected the draw offer. However, shortly afterwards he offered the draw on behalf of the computer and they were shaking hands. At this point the spectators started booing! This was a fair display of the passions I shared with the audience, and it was an embarrassment for chess to have the game end in this fashion before such a huge audience. I don't think this represented good advertising for our game to the TV audience. As GM Maurice Ashley put it, "… the players stunned everyone by agreeing to a draw in a position where the tension was just reaching its peak."

After these two events, American GM Maurice Ashley gave the subject some thought and wrote an open letter where he proposed that the chess community needs to create a solution to what is actually a major problem in organized chess. Will this actually prompt the chess community to produce some real solutions? It certainly isn't a simple problem. Already I have noted one tournament in the USA with an experimental rule that draws could not be offered before move 50, and one commentator claimed that it worked well in that tournament.

You can find the open letter several places on-line. One location is: http://www.chesswise.com/ma_drawoffer.htm

Kasparov Wins "Chess Oscar" for 2003

Each year chess journalists vote for the player with the best year. This year the top vote went to former world champion Garry Kasparov by a wide margin. Before finishing ˝-point out of first in his last Super-GM tournament, he had won ten straight such events. Peter Leko edged Indian GM Viswanathan Anand for second place. Here is the list with the votes received, according to the chess web site Chess City Magazine:

  1. Garry Kasparov (Russia) 3802
  2. Peter Leko (Hungary) 2668
  3. Viswanathan Anand (India) 2453
  4. Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine) 2145
  5. Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) 1471
  6. Evgeny Bareev (Russia) 1132
  7. Vesselin Topalov (Bulgaria) 964
  8. Judit Polgar (Hungary) 771
  9. Anatoly Karpov (Russia) 741
  10. Alexander Grischuk (Russia) 706
  11. Alexei Shirov (Spain) 568
  12. Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukraine) 483
  13. Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) 276
  14. Michael Adams (England) 250
  15. Boris Gelfand (Israel) 188

World Championship Unification in Confusion

The much discussed unification process for the OTB championship (started by USA GM Yasser Seirawan) continues to be in a state of confusion. The agreed-upon matches to determine the two finalists still don't have clear schedules and may actually not be played. The Kasparov vs. Ponomariov match seems to be in the best shape and will probably occur before the end of the year, but no one can be sure. The Kramnik vs. Leko match seems to be in real trouble. The organizing authority Einstein Group has announced its failure to find sponsorship for the match. Speculation is that after the Einstein contract runs out the players will find their own sponsorship, but that sounds shaky to me. Fortunately for us, the correspondence chess world is much better organized (of course we don't have million dollar prize funds to worry about). Our current 15th world champion is Gert Jan Timmerman of The Netherlands. The 16th world championship has a clear leader in Tunc Hamarat of Austria with 11 points (1 game remaining). Tunc is also a strong backgammon tournament player. There is one player with a lot of unfinished games who can still theoretically catch him (I. Samarin of Russia has 6.5 points with 6 remaining games). Tunc told me that it is a big advantage to have a lot of games still outstanding, since Samarin now knows what he must accomplish to take the championship and can play accordingly. I'll be reporting on the winner when it has been finalized.

The Return of Gata Kamsky?

Those who follow OTB chess will be aware that GM Gata Kamsky has played little in the last few years, last seen at the 1999 FIDE Knockout Championship. Sam Sloan has been widely reporting that he will return to play for his college team in the 2003 Pan American Intercollegiate Championships. He's a student at Brooklyn College. He gives his son, a student at the same college, as the source for the quote, "It sure beats playing video games by myself, or pin ball in the Brooklyn College games room".

It would be exciting to see the highest-rated American player come out of his self-imposed retirement. However, I should warn readers that this same Sam Sloan is the person who widely reported on GM Peter Leko's death by traffic accident, a story that fortunately turned out to be totally phony.

copyright © 2003 by J. Franklin Campbell

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