The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - Mar/Apr 2004

New World Champion Tunc Hamarat

Tunc Hamarat of Austria has won the World Championship Final XVI and is our newest correspondence chess world champion. For many months I. Samarin of Russia remained in mathematical contention with far fewer finished games, but when he finally registered his first loss the title was determined. Hamarat has scored 7 wins and 8 draws (no losses) with one remaining game. The final started play in 1999.

May we look forward to seeing a book or two from our world champion? I believe so, since he has talked publicly about the kind of books we would like to see. I'll be in line to get the first book off the line when he publishes. You can find the crosstable for this event at the ICCF web site http://www.iccf.com. Congratulations to our new world champion!

Favorite Chess Book

Most of us have read (or at least owned) many chess books through the years. And many of us have a favorite book. In my over 40 years of chess I have had a number of favorite books. At first it was MCO (Modern Chess Openings, a one-volume opening guide), the first opening book I had seen. It was very helpful for a beginner who didn't understand openings very well. Then it was Ruben Fine's Basic Chess Endings, a book that made sense of the endings. Then it was Dr. Emanuel Lasker's Chess Manual, which I read cover to cover. It made me a better chess player. Dr. Mikhail Botvinnik's book on the 1941 Absolute Championship of the USSR was my favorite for some time, and I must mention our own USA world champion Dr. Hans Berliner, who wrote my bible for correspondence chess on the tournament where he won his title (World Champion V). I used his favorite Alekhine's Defense in many of my early cc games based on his play in this tournament. In recent years my favorite has been World Championship at the Third Try by Grigory Sanakoev, a wonderful book full of great games and an enthusiasm for cc seldom displayed anywhere.

Now my favorite book is J. H. Donner's The King, a collection of Donner's columns. I don't study the opening books much these days, but I enjoy reading about the experience of chess. Donner combines the two qualities of having been a strong chess player (and mingled with the very best, facing them in tournament play in the major tournaments) and also being an excellent writer. Another writer I can whole heartedly recommend is Genna Sosonko, who writes regularly for New in Chess magazine, the publisher of The King.

Here is an example of the kinds of insights you'll find in this book, from his column "What Makes You Not Make a Move?":

Every month I read the Russian chess magazine, Shakhmaty, word by word and I have never been able to find anything that was manifestly untrue. In analyses of openings or endgames, a continuation may be left out occasionally that ought to have been included for the sake of completeness. But mistakes, never! This has annoyed me on occasion. One has to get used to the extreme accuracy the Russians adopt before they put anything in black and white. A sacred fear of the printed word.

This brings to mind Botvinnik's advice that to improve you must publish your analysis. It seems the Russians had taken this point of view seriously. Donner's book is full of insights like this which are thought provoking and very, very interesting. It's a nicely bound hard cover book with a built in bookmark to allow you to keep your place. Since I do most of my reading on the move, such as at the dentist or while waiting for a car to be serviced, this is an appreciated feature. I like this book and recommend it highly. There are some games and a few B&W photos, but the real merit is in the words. It is beautifully written, and the author was fully immersed in the world of top level chess.

Here is another quote from The King describing a "live" chess game played in Heerenveen, The Netherlands during a heavy rain. Just a few excerpts are included here to give you a flavor of Donner's entertaining writing style.

"Four horses on either side were involved. Not only the knights were riding real horses, the kings and queens were mounted as well. The black queen, dark-eyed, and the white (blonde) queen performed admirable feats of dressage - had to, in fact, especially when their mounts were threatened by the rooks, weird contraptions steered by invisible men. At first, it seems, the eyeholes had been left out but these were added at the last moment, so the rooks' occupants would not feel too lonely. ... Little can be done with the pawns. These smallest - but o, so important - figures in the game of chess might simply have been dressed up as peasants but in Heerenveen a link was made with another attraction. Whenever one of them fell, he was given emergency treatment by a brigade of nurses from the local hospital - which had set up a special tent with red cross emblems for the purpose - and was then quickly and competently carried off the field on a stretcher.

"… 7.Qd1-d2 The white queen. Blonde and everything as one imagines women to be in Friesland. O'Kelly and I were sitting at the side, next to a4 and a5. I decided to move her to one of these squares as soon as possible. … 8. O-O-O Even people who don't play chess will understand that this move took some doing. The king and the rook had to pass each other but now it became clear that the horses took fright at the sight of a rook - a source of disruption later in the game as well. Admittedly, the rooks looked most silly. Their likeness to the small brick, or sometimes iron conveniences placed at regular intervals in our inner cities was accidental, no doubt, but striking nevertheless. … 20… Rh8-d8 Wisps of smoke were coming from this rook. Fire? No, he had lit a pipe. His patience was sorely tested. Now, he is soon to be exchanged."

Now an obvious subject arises. What are your favorite books? I would be pleased to receive comments from you describing your favorite books telling us why you like them so much. Emails are appreciate, but regular mail is OK too. Share your opinions with us so we can zero in on some great books (there are so many titles available now that finding the gems is very difficult). Check the top of this column for contact information, and send your input right away so I can include it in my next column!

SIM Jason Bokar Appointed NAPZ Deputy Director (ICCF)

ICCF has directed that every Zone must have a Deputy Director with responsibility to take over if the Director should become unable to function. In fact, this exact problem happened recently in the European Zone. This necessitated some quick re-organization work. Recently elected NAPZ Director Ruth Ann Fay (USA) has appointed SIM Jason Bokar (USA) as her Deputy Director. Jason is known for his work as a tournament director for the NAPZ Email Higher Class sections. He also maintains a chess website at http://webpages.charter.net/jasonbokar/www/myweb2/index.htm

The other ICCF Zones are Europe, Latin America, and Africa/Asia. The North American/Pacific Zone consists of these countries: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, USA.

Chess Players are Easily Annoyed

In recent discussions on The Correspondence Chess Message Board http://correspondencechess.com/bbs/ I've been struck by how easily some players are annoyed (feel harassed). In ICCF rules it is illegal to annoy or harass your opponent, but how do you define "harass"? Some are very liberal with their definition. Chess Mail publisher Tim Harding, who is very knowledgeable about ICCF rules, stated, "A long conditional string (more than 4-5 moves) could be construed as harassing the opponent". Other players have complained about opponents who do not resign promptly or who offer draws multiple times. Certainly, anything taken to ridiculous extremes can be annoying, but it seems to me that some players are just too sensitive. They appear to expect their opponents to harass them. It's likely that such players will never be disappointed.

Another problem that is frequently mentioned is of opponents who try to trick you with bad "if" moves (conditionals). In a position where you have an excellent move they will suggest an inferior move, apparently meant to mislead you down an inferior line. Is this attempt to mislead just a part of the game, a technique the player must be alert to so as to avoid making a bad move? Or is it an underhanded attempt to unfairly trick the opponent, something that should be labeled bad sportsmanship?

In my opinion this claim of harassment or bad sportsmanship is a case of applying "unwritten rules." For instance, in ICCF play there is no rule against consulting other players. Many cc competitors feel consultation with others is unethical, alien to the spirit of chess competition. For them it is an unwritten rule … thou shalt not consult. But many players disagree, living in a culture where consultation is natural and expected. "Unwritten rules" are fine to apply to yourself. For instance, I choose not to consult in ICCF competition. It's legal to do so, but for me it doesn't give me personal satisfaction. For me to avoid consultation is a logical thing to do. What wouldn't be logical is for me to condemn opponents who choose to consult. It's perfectly legal in ICCF competition, so I have no basis for accusing my opponents of unethical behavior, just because they do not choose to follow my "unwritten rule."

Of course, APCT play explicitly forbids consultation. In the case of APCT competition this is not an "unwritten rule." People who consult in APCT competitions ARE unethical and are cheating. It's very easy to confuse the rules when you play in multiple organizations. Before accusing an opponent of breaking a rule be sure it is a real rule and not an "unwritten rule". On the other hand, in your personal play you may have such unwritten rules that you should apply to yourself. For instance, if you feel you must not take advantage of an opponent's notational error then you should be true to yourself. If doing so would ruin the game for you, then by all means apply your "unwritten rule" to yourself. However, do not make the mistake of insisting that your opponent follow your "unwritten rule." This would lead to confusion (which "rules" are we following today?) and unfair accusations. Also, try not to be too sensitive when an opponent does something you find annoying. Perhaps it is not his fault that you feel annoyed.

Comparing CC and OTB Skills

APCT'er Steve Weeks (Georgia) wrote:

I'm an APCT newcomer who seldom gets to play OTB. The latter circumstance prompts a pair of concerns.

First, how likely is the nature of cc to result in a rating that overstates my ability in OTB play? Secondly, how best can I come to recognize and adapt lessons gleaned from cc to the faster pace of OTB play? (Note: I plan to play cc by snail mail, not e-mail.)

It's well known that many chess competitors have cc ratings much, much higher than their OTB ratings. This is not surprising since a different set of skills is required to do well in cc. Given the extra time available for analysis you would expect to play better. Many people don't have the memory skills to remember reams of analysis while sitting at the board. Also, the ability to move the pieces about on the board removes the importance of being able to visualize the positions without touching the pieces. Add the use of databases and books and you naturally should expect to play much better. However, many players do not have the skills or temperament necessary to succeed at cc. They don't have the patience, careful bookkeeping capabilities, and research capabilities that allow many players to excel in cc. Many very strong OTB competitors have tried cc only to give up in disgust when they are defeated. Not all players will have a cc rating higher than their OTB ratings since their OTB skills give them a much greater opportunity to win in OTB event than in cc events.

I recommend considering your cc and OTB ratings as completely different things. Don't use one rating to form your expectations about the other type of chess competition. Without a good deal of competition in either form of chess you can't expect to do well, so if you plan to play in some OTB events be sure to get some practice playing OTB beforehand.

As far as adapting things learned in cc to your OTB play it's difficult for me to say. The basic chess skills are the same, of course. Superior pawn formations, avoiding weak squares around your King, obtaining the Bishop pair or causing your opponent's Knight to be "bad" are applicable to both forms of chess competition. Many OTB players claim cc is a good way for them to develop their opening skills for OTB, but I'm skeptical. Some openings that work well in one form do not work so well in the other, at least in my experience. Perhaps you can practice important OTB skills while playing cc. For instance, when you analyze a position before sending a move you could analyze without touching the pieces or looking up any references. However, I would suggest this just as an exercise. Many people try playing cc the same way they play OTB, and they get their heads handed to them by people using more sensible cc techniques.

More on Clerical Errors

Walter J. Lewis (Soledad, CA) wrote:

As long as my opponent's move is clearly a clerical error and it does not adversely affect a third party, then I will give my opponent the option to play another move. My philosophy on this issue can be best described by a quote from Journal of a Chess Original by Stephan Gerzadowicz. "We are playing chess, pitting chess skills against chess skills. Sending a move clearly not the one intended is not a chess mistake. I grant that recording moves requires skill. But not a skill I wish to contest. We are playing chess." Allow me to present an example.

In 00RS-4 I had two opponents that sent me clerical errors. The first, Dan Easley would lose a Rook for nothing. A move he clearly did not intend to make, so I let him substitute another move. My reasoning, Dan's score would not be altered to the point where he would displace anyone else trying to reach the Rook Final. Under these circumstances, I feel I had the right to offer Dan a chance to continue. The game ended in a draw. My decision ultimately cost me .75 points in the Rook Final. In the second case, an opponent made a clear clerical error that would cost him a Bishop. His score in 00RS-4 had the potential of his qualifying to the Rook Final. If I allowed him to change his move, my action would possibly hurt someone else. I do not feel I have the right to alter the rules in such a case. My opponent, probably angry at me (!), refused to reply any further. Continuing his other games, he forced me to send several repeats and finally a time complaint. I won the game on forfeit.

This leads me to conclude that opponents that probably would never allow you to take back a clerical error will probably think you're a jackass if you don't allow them the opportunity. Moreover, I would venture that barely a handful of correspondence players (in the world!) would not accept the offer to exchange a move for a clerical mistake they made. If the rules are that "sacred," certainly accepting the offer must be as culpable as the offeree.

I play chess for the game. I don't care about prizes, and I believe that the notion "Winning is everything" leaves little room for morality.

In over 30 years of correspondence chess I've NEVER had an opponent offer to accept another move when I've made a clerical error. I doubt that it occurs very often.

Here's my latest. My opponent, 86 yrs. old with Parkinson's Disease. We're in a class event (No prize), he played 1. d4 Nf6 2. d5. He did not intend to play d5. As you can see, I allowed him to play his intended 2. c4. What kind of person would I be to hold him to 2. d5? I won't do it.

Walter's approach agrees completely with my personal viewpoint. There is absolutely nothing incorrect about insisting on an opponent living with an error, in my opinion, whether it is clerical or a chess mistake. I see little difference myself in whether a player overlooks a threat, makes a clerical error, or sets up the board wrong and analyzes the wrong position. Here I guess I disagree with both Walter and the quoted Stephan Gerzadowitz. However, I believe a player has a right to offer his opponent a take-back as a personal preference. Here Walter applies an additional test … if by doing so he may hurt the competitive position of another player he does not offer a take-back. This is a very good extension to my viewpoint, and one I now accept as correct. Thanks to Walter J. Lewis for his well expressed views.

The Great Shot Game

I received this interesting note from Stephan Gerzadowitz. Please refer to Richard Pyle's comments in my previous column on Chess-a-hol.

Your last column brought to mind The Great Shot Game. They make sets whose pieces hold their values in ounces of alcohol. What you capture you drink. We didn't have such a set in college but we had shot glasses and the wisdom of … youth. The match was made, me vs. John Grassilli. I was the better player, he the better drinker.

He sacked a Pawn early on. Then made some very strange moves to force … a Queen exchange. Four hours later I resigned in a winning position, physically unable to execute a move.

Forty (gad) years later John and I still sit at the board, now with Belgian Ale and all the wisdom we, er, ever had.

Message Board Quotes

I always have my eyes open for interesting stuff for this column. One source is The Correspondence Chess Message Board on the Internet. Peter Coleman (ENG) gave me permission to use the following posting that states a very balanced and fair position on players taking a while to resign a "lost" position.

I think it is fair for a player to play on as long as there is hope. It's fair to use lots of time (that you have in hand) while there's hope. If you are desperate to keep a few ELO points, then I understand that players will hang on beyond this.

But players should try to remember their opponents, too. At the end of the day, Amici Sumus ought to mean that players hold their opponents in high regard - and treat them accordingly.

"Amici Sumus" refers to the ICCF motto (We are Friends). Another good source of quotes is the Chess.FM coverage of major chess events. During the 2004 Corus Super GM tournament in Wijk aan Zee the expert commentator was NM Dennis Monokroussos. GM Vladimir Kramnik was trying out some new openings at this tournament, apparently trying to fit some more aggressive openings into his repertoire.

"It's kind of like watching someone who is learning a new language. Even when they have it mastered, they still have their own accent."

Referring to rd.2 Topalov vs. Sokolov after 20...Nh6

"Black is now in pure grovel mode."

Kramnik-Leko Match Back On

If you've been following the OTB world of championship chess you're aware of the plan to get the world championship back on track. The plan was for FIDE champion Ruslan Ponomariov to play a match with the top rated Garry Kasparov and the Classical world champion Vladimir Kramnik to play the winner of the Dortmund qualifier Peter Leko. The winners of these two matches would play for the unified world championship. However, not all has gone as planned. FIDE and Ponomariov couldn't agree to terms so FIDE threw out their official world champion. Now Kasparov is scheduled to play the winner of the next FIDE world champion, to be determined by a series of knockout tournaments. The Kramnik-Leko match has been left in limbo without a sponsor.

The Brazilian Dannemann tobacco company, which recently sponsored the Alexandra Kosteniuk vs. Sergey Karjakin match and the Kramnik vs. German Olympiad Team clock simul, has announced that it will sponsor the Kramnik-Leko match September 25 to October 18, 2004. If you missed it, Kramnik beat the German team with one win (vs. Robert Hübner) and draws vs. Klaus Bischoff, Rustem Dautov and Uwe Bönsch. If you go to the Dannemann web site (http://www.dannemann.com/) be prepared to listen to some music, though. I couldn't find a way to turn it off (putting music on your web pages is on my list of no-no's).

Free counters provided by Andale.

copyright © 2004 by J. Franklin Campbell

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