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The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
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"The Campbell Report" - November/December 2004


White to move and win

Humor in Chess

Once again you must contend with my weird sense of chess humor. The on-line magazine Chessville published this little, may I say, humorous chess problem for their readers to enjoy. You can find Chessville on the Internet and subscribe to their newsletter at: http://www.chessville.com/

Check out the winning line and see if you agree that humor is alive and well in the world of chess! Solution at the end of this column.

The Changing Modes of Play

On The Correspondence Chess Message Board (TCCMB) there have recently been some interesting discussions about the changing methods of playing cc. We've all noted the gradual shift of the name of our activity from postal chess to correspondence chess. This reflects the new and popular expansion of electronic methods of sending moves. Email chess has become very popular for a number of reasons speed of transmission, reliability, no holidays from delivery, no problems from postal strikes, etc. On the other hand, no interesting stamps, no time to think between moves (the down side of almost instant transmission), no interesting post cards, etc. Some consider this a loss to the "romance" of the game.

Personally, when I switched to email play I experienced some problems. My old time-tested postal methodology was no longer at work helping me avoid errors and play my best. The same problems had to be solved recording moves correctly (avoiding notation errors), analyzing the correct positions, keeping within the time limits. I found that email only had a couple real advantages over postal, and the advantage of fast delivery often worked against me.

Other forms of communication have been tried. ICCF experimented with FAX tournaments. I don't know how they turned out, but we don't hear FAX mentioned much any more. I've heard of people using phone. I guess the only serious use of phone I know of is transmitting moves received by mail to a player not currently at home. One player in an ICCF tournament I'm directing isn't living at home and has his son phone him each day a move arrives.

The newest mode of play to become popular is by chess server. This allows a player to log into a web site and see all his server games. The games are shown on a chess diagram and all the moves and time used can be displayed. When you make a move on the board (on the computer monitor) you can see the current position, thus allowing you to verify the position is the one you have been analyzing. If you make your move by using your mouse, there is no possibility for notational errors. The time the move is sent and received is automatically logged by the server, so there's no question of cheating by fudging the times, a frequent complaint in email chess. There are no lost post cards or emails to complicate matters. The Tournament Director can easily look up any details of a game in question, so disputes or other questions by the TD can be answered immediately, without writing or emailing the participants. Optionally, the games can also be made available to others on the Internet to follow.

One aspect of the message board discussion that was particularly interesting started with the statement that "Postal is dead". Is postal chess really dead? A number of people rejected that claim. It was pointed out that for national play (such as in the USA or another country with good postal service) postal chess is still practical and popular. I don't know the numbers, but I'm pretty sure that postal chess is still popular in APCT competition. Sure, it costs more than playing electronically, at least if you already have Internet access. But the old postal method still has a charm unlike any of the electronic forms. I well remember the days of excitement, waiting for the day's postal delivery to see what it would bring. At critical points in the game I really anticipated mail delivery.

There are still a number of players who have no choice. Some people don't have access to email service, either by choice or for reasons beyond their control. Few prison inmates have access to email or the Internet (chess servers). Some countries still have limited Internet connections for economic, political or other reasons. I personally think it is too early to dismiss postal play. Having said that, I doubt I'll personally play by post again.

Appeal for USCCC Information (Particularly from the 5th USCCC)

I need help with the USCCC documentation project. I keep asking for help, but very little arrives. Many of the early crosstables are incomplete, particular the 5th USCCC prelims, where I have very little crosstable information. If you have old assignment sheets, other start papers or any personal records of the players, results and game scores from these important events, please send them to me. Send photocopies or email scans of documents to me. Anything you can tell me about the 5th USCCC prelim round would be appreciated. The first four USCCC's were reported in The Chess Correspondent (though these records aren't complete). Starting with the 6th USCCC there were reports published in Chess International, The Chess Connection and News Releases of ICCF-U.S. The 5th USCCC slipped into the crack between these publications and seemingly disappeared into a black hole. My hopes are that readers will be able to provide much of the missing information. If you have any information at all on the 5th USCCC or any information missing in the USCCC archives, you can be pretty confident that if you don't send it to me then no one else will, so please help if you can.

The USCCC archive is located at: http://www.iccfus.com/games/usccc.htm

"The Last Chess-player"

Last time I referred to APCT'er Ken Chaney of Houston, Texas. I said I don't know why, but he signs himself as "The Last Chess-player". He has since explained this designation:

"You question my self-imposed title of the last chess player. You encourage others to get their moves from books and databases. When people do this they don't engage in chess games, but in research contests."

Now I understand. The character of our game has certainly changed over the years. With the current availability of inexpensive computers and large databases it has made it much easier to do research. In fact, at least at the higher levels, CC has always been about research. This is one thing that really sets it off from OTB chess.

Computers are certainly useful in chess. I particularly love the aspect of recording while analyzing in ChessBase all my lines of analysis are saved for me, and I can recall any line with the click of a mouse. This is a lot more fun than writing down everything in my notebook, the way I use to do it.

Of course, Ken makes a good point. Some people would consider this a research project instead of a chess challenge. At the worst, people who research heavily (whether using a computer or books) simply mimic the play of others till they reach a position they don't understand. At best, they study the games and analysis of others, vastly improving their understanding of their positions and of chess in general. Research can either be a great learning experience or a quick and dirty way of finding a move without too much effort and chess skill.

Some Musings on Correspondence Chess

APCT'er David Shanholtzer of Maryland sent the following by email:

"In the latest issue of APCT magazine, I see where Ken Chaney indicates having re-joined USCF and his otb rating being 1932, while his postal rating is somewhat lower. I can understand this; in the past I have played people with the same 'reversed' situation. I've also played players who, although they had ratings higher than mine, for some reason always ended up tipping their postal king. This happens from time to time.

"I've not played otb in quite a number of years, although I have been playing online at USCL occasionally. My 1+2 rating (one minute plus 2 seconds added each move) seems to stay in the vicinity of around 1400 - 1500. My 3+1 rating tends to stay around mid-1700's, occasionally dipping closer to 1700 (currently, I think.)

Standard times are a bit different, at a time limit of 15 minutes +, my current rating is 2103. All of this may be due to age (and an el cheapo mouse). Being 61 I seem not to move or think as fast I used to, and the more time I have the better my results. (Note I don't say the better my game - just my results.) On the other hand, I do not have a lot of time to spend playing online, so my number of standard length games is relatively few.

"This brings us to computers and chess playing engines. I've a number of chess engines along with my database program, Chessbase. I use these engines to play tournaments with each other and from time to time watch as they play. Later, I try to go over a few of the games that seem interesting to me; I've learned a lot from them, primarily just being careful, and reinforcing something I picked up from the Gerz (Stephan Gerzadowicz): that is to try looking at every move and extending them out a ways. Amazing how often games can take an unexpected path.

"But using my engines to play my games for me? I don't think so. Being retired (twice), I've been tinkering with computer graphics/art and spend most of my computer time creating fractal art and landscape scenery and doing some post-processing of my images. I've even managed to sell a few copies of some of my art. If I want to play against one of these chess engines, I do not need to do it in correspondence chess - I have it at home. If someone wants to play against one of my engines, s/he can either buy the hardware and software as I have done or let me know and something can probably be worked out. Except that it will cost, probably in the vicinity of $20 - 50.00 per game. Other than that, my opponents get to play me, and while at times I may play an acceptable game, generally I suspect I still make too many mistakes. Still, postal chess is a form of relaxation for me after working harder during the day than I ever did while I was 'working'."

Thanks for your interesting comments concerning your experiences and viewpoints. I agree completely about your views on letting a computer make your moves. I understand that there are other legitimate viewpoints, but simply acting as a secretary servicing a computer is not my idea of chess competition, especially in APCT, where this is the act of a cheater. In an organization where the use of computer engines to analyze is legal, then there may be a whole spectrum of computer uses, within the rules and as part of legitimate competition. I enjoy using my computer in various ways to aid my competition, but playing within the rules is the only way to make worthy achievements, in my opinion. I understand there are other viewpoints, though, where successful cheating may be a goal. This is the same sort of attitude that has led to problems with computer viruses. Thanks for your input, David. I welcome such commentary and invite all APCT'ers to contribute to this column.

My Personal Experience with Chess Server Play

I am currently playing in a test tournament on the ICCF chess server. My obligation is to answer questions and provide my comments on the chess server to help improve the system. Otherwise, it is a regular tournament played at normal speed and fully rated. I have six games going with people from all over the world. I only just discovered that one of my opponents has qualified to play in the ICCF World Championship final! I played the Caro Kann and seem to be doing OK so far, but that may just be my opinion and not a reflection on the true situation! I expect it to be a valuable learning experience, though there is always the chance his new load of world championship games could prove to be a distraction. At any rate, it is my first chance to play a world championship finalist and I hope to make the most of this rare and special opportunity.

Well, there was one other game. I sat down opposite the 10th World Champion Vytas Palciauskas at the Daytona Beach ICCF Congress in 2000. That was a wonderful opportunity as well, but it was over the board (speed chess, at that). I'd tell you if I won that game, of course. It was certainly a lot of fun. For now I must make an effort to play well in my current server games, including my game vs. a world championship contender.

My server experience has been exciting. I doubt I'll ever play again by email, unless there's a special incentive. I'll be playing for the "Four Wise Arbiters" team in the upcoming ICCF Champions League, which is an email tournament. However, they have announced some sections will be played on the server, and our team has requested a server section. If that doesn't work out I will indeed play by email, but I have my fingers crossed, so to speak. In my opinion, the days of email chess in serious competitions are numbered. Email chess will be viewed as a bump in the road in the long history of correspondence chess, where postal has had a long and distinguished career. Will server chess also have a long career? time will tell, since none of us can predict the future of electronic communications. Perhaps even the Internet will take on a new, unrecognizable form in the near future. At the moment, my opinion is that Internet server chess is the best format for serious (and not-so-serious) cc play where it is practical. For those without Internet connections postal chess will continue to serve well. Email chess? I won't miss it at all.

ICCF Congress in Mumbai, India

Finally, the ICCF Congress in Mumbai, India (formerly known as Calcutta) is approaching. The dates of the Congress are October 30 - November 5. I anticipate having some information on it next time. The All India Correspondence Chess Federation (AICCF) has set up a web site devoted to the Congress at http://www.geocities.com/iccf2004/ but due to poor Internet connections at the hotel I'll probably be posting reports and photos at the ICCF Congress web site at http://correspondencechess.com/congress/

The World Championship (OTB)

Like many chess players I am following the Classical World Championship being played in Switzerland with great interest. Once again the Internet is providing excellent coverage, and as a member of the Internet Chess Club I can follow the games move by move (there is also an excellent web site provided by the sponsor providing the same service). The OTB people can't seem to get their act together (we cc people can feel pretty smug in this area). However, this particular match has been well organized. Will Russian Vladimir Kramnik, the current title holder, be able to retain the championship he previously won by holding Garry Kasparov without a single win? Or will Peter Leko of Hungary outscore him in this 14-game match to snatch away the title? As I'm writing this Leko is up one point with four games remaining. The answer will be supplied within another week. I've been a Leko fan for a long time, so my rooting interest is clear. Kramnik is an impressive chess player as well, though, so I certainly won't be disappointed either way.

But what happens next? FIDE is trying (how hard is in question) to get a unified world championship. The current plan is for the FIDE world champion who won in the big Knockout Championship in Libya to play the mostly inactive Garry Kasparov, and the winner of that match will play the Kramnik-Leko winner for all the marbles. Quick who is the FIDE world champion? Give up? It's Rustam Kasimdzhanov (I still haven't figured out how to pronounce his name). Will FIDE be able to successfully organize the Kasparov-Kasimdzhanov match? It would seem that money will once again be the problem. Will this match fail to occur as have past matches? This has been blamed on the difficulty of finding a sponsor for a match that doesn't catch the public's imagination. I long for the old days when there was a well-established series of Candidates' events to determine the challenger for the world champion. They were great events, much anticipated and much enjoyed. The current FIDE system of a giant knockout event of 2-game matches may be fun, but it hardly seems like championship event.

Solution to "Humor in Chess" Problem

1.Nf6+ gxf6 2.Qf8+ (After finding this move try to convince me you weren't rolling around on the floor laughing like some demented, demonic chess-crazed hyena!) 2. Kxf8 3.Bh6+ Kg8 4.Re8++


copyright © 2004 by J. Franklin Campbell

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