The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - Jan/Feb 2004

Ruth Ann Fay New NAPZ Director

ICCF has just concluded its elections for the four Zonal Directors. Ruth Ann Fay, of the ICCF-U.S. office, joins her husband SIM Max Zavanelli on the ICCF Executive board (Max is the ICCF Deputy President and Development Director, in addition to his position as ICCF-U.S. Secretary). I wonder if this is the first husband/wife combination to serve on the ICCF Executive Board, previous called the Presidium? Congratulations to Ruth Ann on her new job she has served very well as Deputy Director for some years. Retiring as NAPZ Director after four excellent years of service is APCT member and good personal friend Ralph Marconi of Canada. Thanks for your good work, Ralph! The North American/Pacific Zone consists of these countries: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, USA.

The other three zonal directors are: Europe - G-M. Tani (Italy), Latin America - G. Toro Solis de Ovando (Chile) [who edged out P. Salcedo Mederos (Cuba) by 7 votes to 5 votes], and Africa/Asia - M. Samraoui (Algeria). All four are well-known and respected international chess organizers who should serve ICCF and the cc community very well indeed.


Richard Pyle of Southern California sent me the following amusing version of the Royal Game. After reading all the serious discussion of chess ethics below, you may decide to try this form of the game yourself! Richard says these rules were described "on the local country station here in Southern California".

Pawns: shot glasses with shot of Snapps
Rooks: shot glasses with Amaretto
Knights: shot glasses with shot of Bourbon
Bishops: shot glasses with shot of Tequilla
Queens: glasses with 2 oz. Vodka and 4 oz. Orange Juice (& ice)
Kings: glasses with 2 oz. Bicardi 151 proof Rum, 3 oz. Cola, 1 oz. Grenadine

To play, all standard chess rules apply with the following additions and exceptions.

  1. If you're going to move, and you must move, you have to drink a shot of beer to start your move.
  2. If you touch a piece and choose not to move it, you have to drink a beer before you can move another piece.
  3. If you touch your opponent's piece without taking it, or when you can't take it (without announcing adjusting), you have to drink it's contents (bartender will refill it so game can continue).
  4. When a piece is captured, owner of lost piece must drink its contents.
  5. When either side castles, a "Royal Toast" must be done by everyone (including spectators). A "Royal Toast" is a 6 oz. glass with 2 ounces Triple-sec, 2 ounces Grenadine, 1 oz Vodka, 1 oz Rum.
  6. When checkmate occurs, the winner drinks the contents of the checkmated King; the loser drinks the contents of all pieces left on board.

"I thought you might enjoy reading this one on chess -- or use it for your column."

Thanks, "Pyle-Driver". I enjoyed reading about this interesting form of the game, though my doctor would never allow me to consider participating myself! I would think bar owners would like to see this form of the game catch on.

Kasparov vs. X3D Fritz on TV!

In November 2003 there was another high profile man-computer match in New York City. The first game saw Kasparov as White getting a clear edge, but Fritz defended well and got the draw. Game two saw Kasparov as Black defending a Ruy Lopez, appearing to get a slight advantage with a possible King-side attack. At a critical moment in some time pressure Kasparov blundered away a pawn allowing Fritz a direct attack on his King. I turned on the TV to watch coverage of game three (of four total games) on the sports network ESPN2. First I watched the end of the previous program on team rope jumping. Then I got to see Miss New York City speak the first move for game 3. Not only is the game being played using a "virtual chess board" but the human moves are being made using voice recognition. Kasparov sits in front on a computer monitor wearing special 3D glasses, which gives him a 3D view of the chess board (which he can adjust to the angle he wishes). When he decides on his move he speaks it into a microphone and the computer interprets his words using voice recognition software.

I just switched to Chess.FM internet radio (during a TV commercial break) and heard GM John Fedorowitz commenting on the jump rope competition, which he found quite interesting. I find it amusing that the match is being called a world championship event. How will Kasparov respond to being down by a point with just two games remaining? Will the blunder in the previous game create special psychological problems for the past world champion?

Update following end of match.

Kasparov came through playing a masterful anti-computer game with White in game 3 to level the match. Then, to the surprise of no one (except the TV commentators), he played a solid, drawish line as Black to get the 2-2 tie. I've seen a pre-publication version of an article by strong cc competitor Bob Rizzo which should be published in a future issue of Chess Life and I can recommend reading it. I must admit that I found this "world Championship" event most interesting. Kasparov showed very clearly in game 3 how a human player can outplay the computer by maneuvering it into the right kind of position. He showed a very human weakness in game two by making one critical error, possibly due to fatigue. If you worry about your opponents using a computer to make their moves you might gain some understanding of how to play against the computer by carefully examining the first three games of this match, where Kasparov had advantages. Don't bother with game four, though.

Checkmatey Cartoon Star?

In my channel surfing I was stunned to find a TV cartoon focusing on the participants of a chess tournament, in particular a character named "Checkmatey." The cartoon was part of a series named "Fillmore!" on the Toon Disney channel. Checkmatey was a rap-style rhyming artist who celebrated his victories by bustin' some rap-style lines, to the delight of his fans and disgust of his non-fans. He had a devoted fan club (mostly teenage girls) and an equally devoted group opposed to his approach to chess (one of them yelled, "Return dignity to the royal game!"). I liked their meeting room with posters like "Chess Rules!".

In the end Checkmatey learned to face his fear of losing to a superior player in the final of the championship and to lose with dignity. He summarized his loss by explaining, "His moves are way too slamin'". I was impressed with the realistic depiction of chess moves and the use of the chess clock. It is encouraging to see chess penetrate American culture to the extent of being a normal setting for a cartoon. The hero of this story was actually Fillmore, who solved the mystery of the disappearance of Checkmatey just before the final. He said, "Don't mess with the mistro." In this case he was referring to himself, though, after dismissing a challenger to his crown in a Sloppy Joe Eating contest (he ate his opponent under the table).

The Rules Define the Ethics (Once Again)

Last time I issued a challenge to readers:

"Come up with a concrete, unequivocal example of something, within the narrow confines of the rules of chess, which is legal and yet at the same time unethical."

SIM Robin Smith, a 2-time USA champion, sent this short, to-the-point comment:

I should think murdering your opponent would qualify.

Neil Limbert, a BCCA member from Yorkshire, England, sent this:

You have asked for possible examples of unethical play within the rules. I would like to propose that the use of Endgame Tablebases may fit this criteria.

It is now possible to play 5 piece (sometimes 6) endings perfectly accessing such Tablebases. In fact, you no longer have to buy Endgame CD-Roms as access is now available, for free, on the Net (see Chess Mail 8/2003).

However, imagine you have struggled in a game for several weeks/months, a pawn down, desperately trying to draw. Suddenly, you reach 6 pieces or less & your opponent will immediately know if there is a forced win. In fact, he may have already consulted the Tablebase with a theoretical position & traded down accordingly! You may have been wasting your time for months.

Is this unethical or just good research? Is not a Test of individual Endgame technique a crucial part of the game?

Here are some additional remarks by Stephan Gerzadowicz, now living in Texas and involved with after-school enrichment programs for students with poor testing results.

Of course I think I have been giving the asked for examples. But here are a couple more, one CC, one OTB.

I think it is unethical to offer an "if" move that you know is not the opponent's best move, hoping that by so doing he fails to find that best move. Of course, he should still analyze with his usual intensity, but he may be lazy - OR TRUSTING. I think the offer of the second rate move is a form of deception.

I was directing a tournament. Dan was paired with Ron. 50/2. Ron always got in time trouble. Dan scrawled his first three moves on the score sheet, using four move lines to record them. Then he neatly wrote the players' 4th moves on the line for move 5. And maintained a model score sheet thereafter. Ron, in time trouble, stopped keeping score. Dan left his score sheet clearly visible. When he recorded Ron's last move on line 50 Ron saw that - and relaxed. His flag fell. Dan called me over, said, "Gee, I didn't notice how sloppily I had written earlier, but it seems that whatever the move line shows we actually made only 49 moves and poor Ron has lost on time."

I knew Danny. His smile as he was talking told me that this ploy was intentional. It was legal. It was unethical.

You say you "have considered unwritten rules a very bad thing." Sorry. We have them. Every culture does. They are called Ethical Norms. They evolved because they make a society work better. Disregarding them in any context is bad for society and our own psychology.

Don't you think Dan behaved badly? We encourage such behaviour when we stress Legality, discourage it when we stress Morality.

Forwarded to me by Stephan Gerzadowicz are these comments from Edward Viens:

If you know your flag has fallen, but your opponent does not, offering a draw is legal but certainly not ethical.

If during adjournment you realize the move you sealed is invalid, offering a draw is legal but certainly not ethical.

If during adjournment you tell your opponent you sealed a stronger move than you actually did and thereby gain his resignation or draw agreement that is legal, not ethical.

Black castles through check. White realizes this but instead of pointing out the illegal move, he launches an all out attack. Eight or nine moves later, White realizes that the has sacrificed too much material and that he is losing. NOW he points out the illegal castling move and has the game returned to the position before that move. Legal, not ethical. (This one could be OTB or CC.)

Internet cc guru SIM John Knudsen contributed these comments:

The only rule that I can come up which clearly involves questionable ethical practices is the ICCF's "phony day rule". It states that even if you receive an email one day (and start analyzing the position) you can claim that you received the email the next day. In other words, regardless of the actual circumstances, you are being encouraged to engage in a falsehood with your opponent. This rule was intended to cover time zone problems regarding email transit time, but has become simply an extra day's reflection time per move. Taking the extra day each day is perfectly legal, but could be highly unethical, depending upon the actual circumstances. It could in fact be a bold-faced lie.

I would also like to comment on Stephan Gerzadowicz' stimulating piece in the November/December column. Stephan's basic problem in logic is that he seeks to apply his own high standards of ethics to others. Some situations have absolutely nothing to do with ethics. The given cc scenario is a good example of ethics only being remotely germane to the situation. Whether a player insisted that a clerical error stand or not is a personal choice - in fact, some playing rules prohibit a legal move once made being changed in any way! So you could in fact have a situation where Stephan's behavior was unethical, because it violated the playing rules. Yet, from Stephan's higher plane of existence (for lack of a better phrase to use) it is the most honorable and noble course to take. Complicated ethical matters seldom have easy solutions.

I believe that Stephan and I have something in common, a great respect for Henry David Thoreau. My favorite Thoreau work is "Walden". As you know, Thoreau went into the woods, built a cabin, and contemplated life in general. In Walden, Thoreau writes:

"When I wrote the following pages, or rather the bulk of them, I lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor, in a house which I had built myself, on the shore of Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts, and earned my living by the labor of my hands only. I lived there two years and two months. At present I am a sojourner in civilized life again."

What Thoreau fails to mention is that he used to pop into Concord for supper at a friend's house, or just to visit with a friend, when the solitude got to be a bit much, during his time in Walden Pond. Was it unethical for Thoreau to not mention this in his book? Was it unethical for him to make it seem like he was out of touch with civilization (more or less) for two years and two months? Does it make the book Walden any less brilliant for the reader to know this?

I mention this only because I think many things have less to do with ethics, and more to do with choices, in conjunction with the playing rules. For the avocation of correspondence chess, the playing rules must be the ultimate judge of ethics - everything else is a personal choice or prejudice, one way or the other.

Lyle Cherner (Arizona) sent the following:

I will tell you why I no longer allow any opponent to take back moves anymore.

  1. It is against the rules. Once a move is transmitted it cannot be changed
  2. Nice guys finish last
  3. It is against my religion
  4. Winning is everything

Ok, those are NOT the true reasons. While I have allowed take backs in the past, I no longer will, and here is the real reason. There is no telling what effect it can have on a tourney. The last time I did it, I was playing in an email clubs "World Championship". Nine player with top 2 advancing to the next round. I was 7-0 and guaranteed advancement. The last game I was playing was against a fine opponent and it was a truly fun game. I was struggling to hold the position and really enjoying the game. Each move was tough, and each receipt of move was enjoyable, and painful. He then sends me an out-and-out blunder that is mate in two. It was obvious that it was either a typo or he had a wrong position.

I allowed him to correct the error, and as expected I lost the game in another month or so. It was no big deal to me; I had already qualified to the next round. What bothers me to this day was the effect of the take back. My 'friend' finished 2nd and also qualified......by a 1/2 point. By allowing the take back I inadvertently decided who qualified. I cheated the #3 player out of his rightful place in round 2. These things also can happen in any tourney. By taking moves back, you can decide who wins money, or prestige. Even when nothing but pride is involved, you can really hurt someone.

Robert C. Woodworth of Omaha, NE sent the following"

Example #1 - When playing OTB in rated tournament chess and when it is your turn to move, constantly touching and appearing to move your pieces (with no verbal warning) which legally cannot move but for which there is no touch-move penalty for doing so (e.g., rooks at the opening phase of a game).

Example #2 - In correspondence chess, always sending your opponent a legal but absolutely, totally ridiculous "if-move" which he will never accept but will annoy him considerable.

In conclusion, I don't endorse the above two examples of poor gamesmanship but strongly believe there should be some penalties for doing so!!

Rob Wright of Ashland, KY wrote:

There seems to be some confusion of issues. The rules of chess are absolute laws, and, therefore, not subject to ethical consideration. A Queen may never move like a Knight, which may never move like a Rook, which may never move like a Bishop. If we change these absolutes, we are no longer playing chess, and the question of chess ethics become meaningless. Questioning the rules of the game is like questioning the "cattiness" of a cat; neither is a profitable investment of thought. However, the issue of the rules of a particular chess organization, which goes beyond the rules of chess, is another matter. Most postal organizations permit consulting books, magazines, data bases, and other such resources, but not asking the opinion of another player. Are not the aforementioned legal references anything but the opinions of other players? I'd never ask my buddy Joe what move to make in any given position, but I'd seriously consider making the move that Lasker or Taimanov recommends. This is legal, but is it ethical? Many cc groups forbid the use of chess engines to generate actual moves, yet they permit the use of data bases which can tell me that in 85% of the cases such-and-such a move resulted in a win for White. Again perfectly legal, but is it ethical?

I wish to comment on something previously written. Mr. Gerzadowicz gives an example of a second baseman tagging a base runner so hard that it knocks the runner's teeth out-perfectly legal, but not necessarily ethical. If I am given the opportunity to capture an opponent's Knight with a Pawn (a "soft tag") or with a Queen (a "hard tag"), and everything else being equal, am I unethical for making the Queen move? Both are legal. When given the opportunity to promote a Pawn to either Rook or Queen, and either of which would checkmate an opponent, is one move more ethical than the other? Chess is a violent game by nature, and moves that exert maximum force or minimum force are not a question of ethics but of esthetics. Or is it? If I am facing a particularly weak opponent, who has maneuvered himself into a hopeless position, and I am able to enforce mate in 5 moves with an ugly yet effective combination but choose instead to continue the game for 20 moves so I may enforce a pretty little mate with my KB-Pawn, have I been ethical? Legal yes, but making my opponent waste money on the additional but unnecessary postage may not be the kindest thing to do.

GM Tunc Hamarat (Austria), who is battling it out with I. Samarin (Russia) for the 16th World Championship, contributed the following remarks on the cc message board:

My short golden rule is as follows: The ethics in chess is in our heart and not in rules.

As an example: Any player who has some big problems should be helped, let's say not considering his time taken for this bad time for him, although this is against the rules.

This is my subjective opinion, of course, and most of the people beginning with Kasparov will joke with such a behaviour.

So I cannot give an answer to this question !

My Conclusions

It is hard for me to give clear, unbiased conclusions since I started this discussion by taking a strong stand on one side of the question. However, my attempt is to remain open to examples of unethical behavior which is clearly legal. There are some very interesting examples above, some not very convincing, some that make me wonder.

I particularly like Gerzadowicz's real-life example of the player who intentionally numbered his moves incorrectly in an OTB game, expecting his time trouble prone opponent to use his numbering to dictate his actions. This may separate the hard-core "rules define ethics" people from the hard-core "rules do NOT define ethics" people. Was this player clever to exploit his opponent's known weakness? Or was he a jerk who will set his ethics aside to win a game by an underhanded, unethical trick?

What about Robin Smith's humorous example of murdering your opponent? This is clearly an illegal and immoral act which anyone would consider unethical. However, in a strictly chess sense, would this technically be considered illegal? There would be no problem in APCT, since the rules of play start with this statement: "The following rules of play apply to all APCT events, and are intended as general guidelines. They do NOT cover all game situations. The judgment and decision of the Tournament Director shall be invoked when no specific rule is applicable." If you were the tournament director, would you have any problem determining the legality of murdering an opponent to get the point?

The ICCF rules aren't so clear. I found this in one set of ICCF rules: "any matter not covered in them shall be decided by the Tournament Director according to the principles stated in the Preface of the FIDE Laws of Chess."

FIDE Rules, Article 12: The conduct of the players

12.1 The players shall take no action that will bring the game of chess into disrepute.

12.5 It is forbidden to distract or annoy the opponent in any manner whatsoever. This includes unreasonable claims or offers of a draw.

I think a TD might reasonably apply either of these rules to murdering your opponent. If my opponent murdered me, I might be highly annoyed! I could also accept the argument that ending a game of chess by murdering your opponent could be interpreted as bringing chess into disrepute.

A number of other actions that may not clearly be covered by the rules of play could be interpreted as illegal by a tournament director, such as repeated offers of a draw or giving ridiculous "if" moves. I had a single unpleasant occurrence in the ICCF Champions League event. I gave an "if" move that was clearly inferior. My opponent found a much better move leading to a win (my "if" move would allow me to draw). However, it was unintentional! My opponent analyzed the position better and thought I was trying to trick him. Though not illegal, he interpreted my "if" move as an unethical trick and complained about it. We eventually settled our differences and continued peacefully, but this does show the dangers of assuming the worst of your opponent. ICCF has a motto which covers this type of situation Amici Sumus (We Are Friends). This implies thinking the best of your opponent, giving her the benefit of the doubt. So many problems would never occur if all cc players followed this wonderful motto.

How about gamesmanship? The player who numbers her moves incorrectly proposed a draw after her flag is down claims an extra day thinking time on each move using the ICCF "phoney day" rule proposing an inferior "if" move are these acts, assuming they are legal, unethical? Or are they clever?

The person who players by the rules and insists that her opponent do the same thing, is in good company when we include all competitive sports. The basketball player who steps on the line as she inbounds the ball, the baseball player who hits a homerun but fails to touch a base while rounding them, the American football pass receiver who inadvertently goes out of bounds and then comes back inbounds to catch a pass all these players will be penalized for a trivial mistake. Yet it is a critical part of competing to be able to rigidly follow these rules of play. For example, allowing a take-back seems to me to be a non-issue. In a non-competitive situation I wouldn't hesitate to allow it, but in an official event I wouldn't let my opponent take back her move. A baseball player doesn't strike out and say, "I was expecting a curve and you threw a fastball give me another swing." No serious sport allows such excuses. No one expects the rules to be set aside to their team's benefit. In American football we often use TV replay to examine the minute details of a play to determine the accuracy of an official's decision. The decision isn't an ethical issue it's an issue of accuracy.

Have any of you been convinced? Do any of these examples fulfill the stated objective? I'm still open to input on this critical question. Critical? maybe not. I summarized the discussion from the previous two columns and posted the summary on the Internet asking the same questions of my Internet readers, and I got very few submissions. I expected to be snowed under with suggestions. Besides Mr. G. and myself and the few others who have kindly shared their opinions and experiences in this and previous columns (thanks to you all!), not too many people seem to believe this is an earth-shaking, life and death type of issue.

When it comes right down to it, I like the view expressed by the world championship contender Tunc Hamarat when he said, "The ethics in chess is in our heart and not in rules." If you heart tells you that you must apply certain unwritten rules to be an ethical player, then I suppose you must apply these rules. We must all be faithful to our own ethical selves. However, we should also be careful not to expect our opponents to abide by our personal unwritten rules. A personal example in ICCF play I don't ever claim the extra "phoney day" allowed (described above by John Knudsen), but when my opponents do I never question it. It is legal, I just "choose" to apply the rule in the way I think it was intended to deal with the difference in time zones.

Dav Tarlecki's Opening Laboratory

I got an interesting letter from APCT'er Dav Tarlecki of La Rose, Illinois, which I'll quote from below. Dav has been showcased in "Games from APCT Play" and was a winner in the 2000 Best Games competition. He wrote, in part:

Enclosed are some of my "Macheide" Opening/Defense games from APTC so that you can verify I do, indeed, invent "original" openings. It was my intention to introduce my numerous "original" openings via APCT tournaments, as I did with my Macheide O./D., but in June 2003 pain in my shoulders brought to my attention that "osteoporosis" had returned to me. The purpose of this letter is not to tell you my troubles but, rather, to enlist your aid to enable me to introduce my "masterpiece" openings to the world chess community.

I am 69 years old, and I have more than 37 "original" openings needing to be introduced (double that amount if you count their Black counterpart, not mentioning about 20 to 30 more that are not of the same quality as the first 37!), and considering that it takes a year or better to conclude a section, I doubt if I have 37 more years to live! I seek no remuneration for my openings gifts to Chess, only the satisfaction that I have returned some of the joy Chess has brought me.

All the great chess players, the world champions, and other Grandmasters, since at least the 1920's (probably before) had all been saying that there are no more good openings/defenses to find (invent), for they had all already been found (invented). Wrong!! My Paul Morphy, Caissa, and Macheide openings/defenses prove them wrong, but my "Genius!" O./D. proves them wrong in spades. My "Genius!" O.D. will live up to its name! Many of my other openings children are equally brilliant and beautiful and will make me immortal in chess history. Do you have any "ideas" on how to introduce my openings??

Alas, considering my own age/health I'm not sure I can help, though the first thing to comes to mind is to create Internet web pages to publish this material to the chess world. This much material would take a considerable commitment by a webmaster, though. Perhaps readers can suggest practical ideas for publishing Dav's opening discoveries or perhaps produce a volunteer to help him publish his ideas.

Free counters provided by Andale.

copyright © 2004 by J. Franklin Campbell

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