The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - May/June 2004

Another Deadline Approaches

Sometimes writing a magazine column is easier than at other times. This time it sneaked up on with little material sent in by readers and little hard news. This is column #92 for me since starting in January 1989. I invite readers to send me their comments, opinions, and news for publication. With magazines like New in Chess and Chess Life I usually turn to the Letters to the Editor first, since readers often have some very interesting things to say. I prefer email from readers to make it easier to copy & paste the comments, but letters are also invited. You can make my next column easier for me and probably more interesting for the readers.

USA Top 50 List Announced

The ICCF-U.S. web site publishes a list each six months of the 50 highest rated USA players on the ICCF rating list. To be listed a player must have finished at least 30 games (to get what ICCF calls a "fixed rating"). The Top 10 on the newest list follows:

  1. GM Hans Jack Berliner 2726
  2. SIM John C. Timm 2624
  3. GM Robin Smith 2610
  4. GM Alik S. Zilberberg 2607
  5. Timothy J. Murray 2595
  6. GM Victor V. Palciauskas 2585
  7. SIM Edward Duliba 2584
  8. IM Rene P. DuCret 2562
  9. SIM Jon Edwards 2539
  10. SIM Dr. Jason Bokar 2533

There are some notable players in this top 10 list, including world champions and USA champions. GM Hans Berliner and GM Victor Palciauskas won the 5th and 10th World Championships, respectively. GM Robin Smith, who will officially receive his grandmaster title at the ICCF Congress in Mumbai, India this summer, is also a 2-time USA champion. Timothy Murray was a USA co-champion in the 11th USCCC and makes a spectacular first appearance in the Top 50 list at number 5 (he just reached the required 30 finished games). We all know past APCT and USA Champion SIM Jon Edwards. Check out his Chess BLOG mentioned below. SIM Dr. Jason Bokar is becoming as well known for his organizational work as for his outstanding play. He was recently appointed Deputy Director for NAPZ (North American/Pacific Zone) and is developing a new web site for the zone. Of course, GM Alik Zilberberg, SIM Edward Duliba and IM Rene DuCret are consistent top 50 players, usually near the top.

One other newcomer to the Top 50 of note was pictured on the cover of this magazine last time as the 1999 Rook Champion. Congratulations to Grayling Hill on his first Top 50 listing. Grayling is also known as the Financial Director of ICCF.

Benner Dies after lengthy illness

I'm sorry to report the recent death of International Arbiter Dr. G. S. (Jerry) Benner. Dr. Benner directed many of the most prestigious USA and ICCF tournaments, including the 1st USCCC (USA Championship Final 1974-6), NTC-1 (the First National Team Championship of the USA, won by APCT), ICCF Master Class sections from 1968 to 1989, World Cup V, USA-Soviet match, and the USA-Peru match. He received his IA title in 1975. He received the Bertl von Massow Gold Medal for 15 years of service to ICCF at the ICCF Congress in Thun, Switzerland in 1999.

USA Championship Tournaments Announced

The 17th Postal and 3rd Email USA Correspondence Chess Championships have been announced by the ICCF-U.S. office. The postal event will start August 15, 2004 (entries close July 15, 2004) while the email event starts January 15, 2005 (entries close December 15, 2004). All members of APCT (as well as members of USCF and CCLA) are eligible to play if they are (1) a U. S. citizen or permanent resident and (2) have a minimum cc rating of 2000 (or 2100 OTB).

If you haven't played in a USCCC (United States Correspondence Chess Championship) before, I would recommend it, if you meet the requirements listed above. The postal event is played by mail (players can agree to switch to email, if they wish) and the email event must be played by email. The USCCC events are played in two rounds, with the winner of each preliminary group advancing to the Final. A few additional players are seeded into the Final, such as the champions of APCT, CCLA and USCF. The entry fee is $25. For more information visit the ICCF-U.S. web site at http://www.iccfus.com or write:

1642 N. Volusia Ave. Suite 102
Orange City, FL 32763

Past APCT and USA Champion Starts Chess Blog

The BLOG has become a regular part of the World Wide Web. BLOG stands for weB LOG, a sort of on-line journal kept by enthusiasts of various activities. My wife regularly reads BLOGs maintained by knitters and needleworkers. Our friend SIM Jon Edwards keeps a Chess BLOG. And what a BLOG it is! I honestly don't know how he does it. He posts comments almost daily ranging from big events of the day to great historic games and opening analysis.

Besides demonstrating his love of the game, Jon Edwards provides a lot of practical material. I've noticed that many of his book reviews provides databases of all the games in the book, and if he highlights something in particular he may also provide a database of games played using the same motive. The on-line magazine Chessville had a very positive review of this BLOG. They were right. Visit it on the Internet at:


USCCC Crosstables Project

I am sure many of you will agree, it is worthwhile to preserve our cc history. I have been attempting to document the USA championship events on-line to make them widely available. They reside at the ICCF-U.S. web site along with other important events:


The main missing info is for the USCCC preliminary rounds for the 2nd through 5th USCCCs. The 2nd-4th events were conducted by the CCLA, and some volunteers (N. Eric Pedersen, Bryce Avery and Jerry Honn) have been searching old issues of the Chess Correspondent magazine for results. If you check the on-line tables you'll see there are still many gaps, though. The 5th USCCC was the first conducted by the ICCF-U.S. office. I have no information at all about the preliminary rounds of that event. I've asked the ICCF-U.S. Secretary from that time Robert Karch, and he has no records covering this event.

If you played in any of these events and have personal records of section designations, participants and/or results, please send them to me for these important historical records. Your help would be very much appreciated, and I will list the names of any contributors on the web pages.

April's Fool (I am one)

The tradition of April's Fool jokes lives on, and I got caught twice. I am the webmaster for the ICCF Champions League pages. The main administrator of this team competition, Eugen Demian of Canada, sent me the following message to post:

"Today I have decided to add Potaissa Turda Chess Club to league A qualifiers. Any complaint against this decision will immediately default those teams to league D."

It should be explained that this tournament qualifies teams for the next season to four leagues, with league "A" being the top. Eugen Demian plays on the team Potaissa Turda Chess Club, which has actually qualified for the "C" league. Missing that this was April First I wrote back that someone had sent me a fake email, pretending to be him. I knew Eugen wouldn't actually promote his personal team to the top league and thought someone was trying to trick me into posting this message to embarrass us. It turned out Eugen was just posting an April Fool's joke. It just got me in a slightly different way. And, yes, a few people reacted angrily to the posting.

The second instance was in Chess Today, a daily chess newsletter published on-line for subscribers. Feel free to email me if you want more information on the excellent source of chess news and instruction. The story read:

FIDE Championship moves to Elista with a New Format. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has announced that the World Championship of 2004 will take place in Elista. He said, "This move from Libya will solve a number of problems with visas for players, etc. We have very good facilities in Elista and will prove once again that there Gens Una Sumus!"

The tournament will have a slightly different format. It will start with a knockout phase which will produce two qualifiers. They will then face Kasparov and Kramnik in the semi-finals. The prize fund will be increased to five million dollars. Ilyumzhinov is said to have deposited in a Swiss bank a further $50m for the development of chess in the world. Both Kasparov and Kramnik have confirmed that they will play in Elista. Ponomariov was not available to comment.

Wow, what a story! Some details made it believable. Anyone who has followed the laughable FIDE world championship situation already knows some of the problems. Does it really make sense to schedule such a big event in Libya, where some of the participants (from Israel) will not be able to play due to not being able to get visas to enter the country? Moving the event to another country makes a lot of sense. But the story made it appear that Peter Leko had somehow been dropped from the world championship setup. I was searching TWIC, ChessBase, Russian Chess and other major chess web sites for news of this big shift by FIDE, but I couldn't find anything. Why was such a big story being ignored by the big news sites? After Eugen Demian confirmed that his email to me was real and that his announcement was an April Fool's joke, it dawned on my that this news story was also dated April 1.

I've learned not to make such jokes myself. My skills at subtle humor have proved to be nil. Of course, I'm not the only person with this problem!

A Call for Chess Fiction Recommendations

I received the following from Steve Weeks of Rome, GA:

Thank you for a thoughtful and thought-provoking answer on cc and OTB play. Your response alerted me to several nuances of competition.

That being the case, my citing a favorite book on chess would seem unbridled arrogance. Instead, I'll suggest an element for periodic inclusion in your columns.

Enjoyable reading about chess needn't be restricted to non-fiction. Alas, novels and short stories remain the redheaded stepchildren of chess literature.

The relative lack of fiction on the game might render occasional reviews of chess-related novels and short stories a matter of interest to players. Please advise me accordingly.

First I would like to say your citation of a favorite chess book would be most welcome. Last time I mentioned my favorites at different times of my life. I would single out Lasker's Chess Manual as the single most significant book for me. As far as fiction works go I also have run across very little in the genre. I read The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis with some interest. It is the story of a young orphan girl who learns to play chess from the janitor. She becomes obsessed with chess and develops quickly into a very strong player. The book isn't bad, and the chess elements seems realistic, so if you don't mind all the drugs and sex in the book you may find it entertaining. I don't know of any other chess-related novels. I've seen some pretty good movies with chess themes, and some of them are probably based on books.

Here are some of my favorite movies with chess themes.

Knight Moves (1992) During a chess tournament a star player (Christopher Lambert) gets involved in a series of bizarre, ritualistic murders. This is an exciting crime/drama with a lot of chess content. There are some familiar elements taken from the world of real chess players.

Dangerous Moves (1984) A Swiss movie that won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film. It contains many details taken from the real world of the chess champions. We have the individualist vs. the Soviet system. We have the use of psychics during a championship match. The challenger's wife is suddenly released from a Soviet mental hospital during the match. Dirty tricks. And, in the end, a great love of the game by the players that transcends everything else. Plus it has one of my favorite actresses, Liv Ullmann.

The Luzhin Defence (2000) This is a dark movie about a chess player who is obsessed with the game, to the point of not having much else. Though not a great movie, it sure held my attention.

Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) A wonderful movie about the experiences of a young player in the world of scholastic chess. With great actors like Ben Kingsley and Lawrence Fishburne (along with appearances by some famous chess players) this is a very entertaining and well-made movie.

The Seventh Seal (1957) The chess element isn't as strong in this superb foreign film, but anything by the famous Swedish director Ingmar Bergman is worth watching, even if you have to read the English subtitles. A war-weary knight (Max von Sydow) encounters Death by the seaside and challenges him to a perilous chess match with his life in the balance. This is a fascinating and extremely well-made movie.

In the Open (1999) This is a movie made about chess by chess players. A group of young people are off to play in an open tournament. It's full of USCF references great advertising for USCF, but I'm not sure they ever offered the film in their catalog. Of course, the USCF catalog is now a thing of the past. USCF has outsourced their books & equipment sales to Hanon Russell's ChessCafe web site. Anyway, it's a realistic depiction of a group of friends off to compete in an open chess tournament. You can find out more about it at the web site for Wild Hearts Studios at: http://www.wildheartstudios.com/whshome.htm

Of course, there are many films/TV shows that have a chess element. Sherlock Holmes Faces Death (1943) with Basil Rathbone, 2001-A Space Odyssey (1968) with the astronaut playing the Hal-9000 computer and From Russia with Love (1963) with the villain playing the (flawed) chess match featuring a wall board showing a real game with a great finish. Many of my all-time favorite TV series have used chess scenes, such as The Avengers, Dr. Who, Columbo (the episode "A Most Dangerous Match" had a great deal of chess content and is a personal favorite), The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (one episode was titled "The Giuco Piano Affair"), The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan and Star Trek. Even Mr. Ed (the talking horse) has a wonderful quote I've used before, "I would have won by now if I hadn't swallowed my Bishop." As I sit here typing with the TV on (I've been watching the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine marathon) I saw an entertaining chess scene with a game between Commander Sisko and Dax.

Do you have any favorites you could share with us? Send me the details and I'll include them in a future column. A search of the Internet will turn up lists of movies with chess scenes. You can rent a number of these movies from Netflix or your local movie rental store. Even the old TV series are starting to turn up on DVD. I hope "Have Gun, Will Travel" becomes available soon. I loved the way the main character adopted the chess knight as his symbol.

Chess Journalists of America Awards Program

The Chess Journalists of America (CJA) have announced their 2004 awards program. Each year USA chess journalists and publishers are invited to submit their best work for the annual CJA awards. I myself received an Honorable Mention a couple of times for "Best Regular Column" and this magazine has received numerous awards as the Best Postal Chess Magazine. This year there is an additional category for correspondence chess Best Correspondence Chess Web Site. I intend to enter my personal web site "The Campbell Report" (familiar title, eh?) for consideration in this category. You chess journalists out there may want to enter your best work this year. A full announcement is available at the CJA web site: http://chessjournalism.org/

You may find this little incident amusing. I am both a member of CJA and the webmaster for their site. For years I've tried to get the wording for cc awards changed from "Postal Chess" to "Correspondence Chess". I finally succeeded this year. The key moment appears to be when I referred to the use of the term "postal chess" as quaint.

Current World Champion Threatens to Quit

Last time I reported on the new cc world champion Tunc Hamarat of Switzerland [Correction ... Tunc Hamarat is from Austria]. Recently he surprised us with the announcement that he would resign from his "ICCF career" if the system were not changed. Keeping in mind that English is not his first language, here is his unedited posting:

"This is not a critic but a personal decision caused by seeing the number of players in a new final.

"I dont like the ICCF system anymore. 13 player play a Final where all Finals I played were 17 players. Also the number of players in the semifinals and candidates are decreased in a great ratio. This is for me no more WC Finals and I dont like this system anymore. Without saying anything against the partipicians (because this is not their fault) I decided to stop my ICCF carrier unless this system will be changed in a logical way.

"This is not a critic to any player but my subjective and emotional decision, there are other things to do in life than to accept ICCF decisions which are not OK for me ! My best wishes to all CC players and organisators, maybe it is my fault not understanding the new time where old values are lost!"

An interesting and lengthy discussion followed his announcement on TCCMB (The CC Message Board). An important point is that ICCF secured sponsorship by New in Chess magazine for a World Championship cycle. They offered a number of prizes for participants, including prizes for the best annotations for games from the event. As such, some of the normal qualifying rules were not in effect. Only qualifiers from the sponsored qualifying events (semifinals and candidates tournaments) were allowed to participate, and the resulting field produced a smaller than normal final. I don't understand all the details, but the question of sponsorship dictating the normal world championship process was a major discussion point. Players are normally allowed to use the qualifications they have earned in a later event, but qualifications earned in a non-sponsored event were not accepted in this case.

I don't have a settled opinion at this point. Is it acceptable to change a few rules in order to get a valuable sponsorship? Should sponsors expect some special considerations in return for their sponsorship? I think both sides of the issue have merit.

I attended the ICCF Congress in Daytona Beach, Florida in 2000. I can report that the viewpoints of the world champions carry a lot of weight. This kind of public statement is something new in my experience, though. Tunc Hamarat is a nice fellow who is willing to communicate with the cc community and discuss things in a way that is unprecedented. He also has returned much to the cc community. His sponsorship of tournaments on the Chess Friends server to encourage young correspondence chess players is an example of his generosity and interest in the future of correspondence chess. I salute his involvement in the sport of correspondence chess, not only as a strong chess player but as someone interested in encouraging his fellow cc enthusiasts and making the sport better for his involvement. I still haven't decided what to make of his announcement, though.

[Note: I had messages from ICCF Deputy President & Development Director Max Zavanelli (USA) and the ICCF President Josef Mrkvicka (Czech Republic) responding to Tunc Hamarat's charges. A summary of these responses will appear in the next column. -- JFC]

copyright © 2004 by J. Franklin Campbell

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