The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - March/April 2005

No Input from APCT Readers

Another two months has passed with no input from APCT'ers. I almost said "APCT Members", but that is a confusing term since, like ICCF, APCT doesn't have individual members. APCT has magazine subscribers, which are permitted to enter tournaments and have published ratings. ICCF consists of national federation members, so no individual players are considered members.

Ah, back to the original point. I use to receive numerous cards, letters and emails from APCT "members" concerning issues I brought up in previous columns or things which the "members" thought should be covered in my columns. Has there been a loss of fervor among readers, or perhaps I no longer write about issues that catch the imagination (or stir any emotions at all)? Consider this column the "letters to the editor" department if you have something of value to say to your fellow APTC'ers. My address is given above, and you can find my email address at my personal web site listed above. Emails are preferred, but I'll accept letters, postcards, telegrams, etc.

New World Champion Crowned

ICCF has announced the winner of the 18th world championship final. Congratulations to Joop J. van Oosterom of The Netherlands who has clinched the title. 15 players representing 10 nations participated in the round-robin final round of the XVIII World Championship Tournament. Van Oosterom won eight games and drew six for an undefeated 11-3 score. The battle for 2nd place is still underway with the following players still in contention: Wolfram Schön (GER) 5½ (5 games remaining), Hans-Marcus Elwert (GER) 7½(2), Mikhail Umansky (RUS) 7½(1), Mrs. Olita Rause (LAT) 5½(3), Daniel M Fleetwood (USA) 5(4), Achim Soltau (GER) 8(1), and Patrick Spitz (FRA) 5(3). This event began 1 June 2003 and has an average rating of 2614. The Grandmaster norm is 7 points.

J. J. van Oosterom received his Grandmaster title in 1993. He is currently the highest rated player in ICCF with a rating of 2754, just ahead of Sweden's GM Ulf Andersson at 2737. Pedro Hegoburu (ARG), the ICCF Membership & Services Director, estimates his next published rating will be 2773, surpassing the old record highest rating (2765) by the 5th World Champion Hans Berliner of the USA. He is better known in the OTB world as the sponsor of the annual Melody Amber Tournament in Monaco, where a dozen elite players play both blindfold and rapid games.

Two Short Book Reviews

I have two books I've meant to review for some time. Both are excellent and deserve attention from correspondence chess enthusiasts.

Gladiatoren Ante Portas by Volker-M. Anton and Fritz Baumbach

Unfortunately for English speakers this book is currently only available in German. I hope that it, like the wonderful book Der 3. Versuch by 12th World Champion Grigory Sanakoev, is soon translated into English (World Champion at the Third Attempt). But like that book I was unwilling to wait for a possible translation and bought the German version. CC books have a way of going out of print and becoming difficult to find. Gladiatoren Ante Portas is the tournament book of the Hans-Werner von Massow Memorial tournament which had a world-class field (including many world champions): Volker-M. Anton, Gert Timmerman, Grigori Sanakeov, Juan S. Morgado, Erik Bang, Dick van Geet, Simon Webb, Vytas Palciauskas, Jorn Sloth, Horst Rittner, Mikhail Umansky, Fritz Baumbach, Jozef Franze, Tynu Yim, Heinrich Burger. What a field! The book contains photos and biographies of all the participants along with all the fabulous games fully annotated. For a small additional fee you can get the companion CD-ROM containing everything in the book. It's a nicely produced hardcover book of 6"x8.5", 235 pages, with games index by player. Anton won by tie-break over Timmerman with Sanakoev and Morgado coming in 3rd and 4th. I recommend buying both the book and CD-ROM. Go to the web site at http://www.anton-baumbach.de and click on the "Buch bestellen" link at the bottom (immediately after turning off the terrible music) for ordering information. Or you can send an email. Volker Anton will send you a courteous and informative reply.

Fischer, Kasparov, and the Others by Don Schultz

The subtitle is "The Best of CHESSDON and Much More". This is a follow-up of Schultz's book Chessdon. He says that there were too many additions and changes to just consider it a second edition, so he gave it a new name. I haven't read Chessdon but can recommend this new book with enthusiasm. Don Schultz has been a chess organizer and official for many years. He's been there, done that, and he's known most of the major shakers and movers in the USA and International chess scene. These are his personal stories of interactions with these other people, and he gives his frank opinions about the people and events he has observed and been a part of. There's a lot of inside information here about the personalities that have dominated FIDE. Let me put it this way. When I first received my review copy of this book I picked it up to just read a few words to get a flavor of it. I didn't put it down for hours! I finished off the 6"x9" paperbook book of 240 pages over the next couple days and found it mesmerizing. Whether you agree with Schultz on various issues or not, you'll find his writing entertaining and full of fascinating stories. Again, I recommend this book most enthusiastically, unless you want all your books to contain chess analysis. You'll find none of that here. Rather you'll find stories of chess politics and personalities, stuff I find quite gripping.

The ICCF "Crisis"

The elected president of the ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation) Josef Mrkvicka of The Czech Republic resigned effective 1 Jan 2005. In his resignation statement he cited health, personal and business reasons for his resignation. In fact, he had previously been unable to perform his duties for a while due to a health emergency. Shortly after his resignation became effective and Max Zavanelli assumed the duties of acting President there were two additional key resignations by the World Tournament Director Chris Lüers (Germany) and the Direct Entry Officer John Knudsen (USA, living in Germany). Max Zavanelli apparently announced his intention to press some new interpretations of ICCF policy to emphasize the national sovereignty of the member federations, including restrictions in "meddling" in internal affairs, such as restrictions on the fees the national federations could charge for playing in ICCF events.

John Knudsen didn't make an announcement to explain his resignation. Following are two statements. The first statement is the resignation of Executive Board member Chris Lüers, the World Tournament Director. Following is acting President Max Zavanelli's posted remarks about the resignation of Chris Lüers. There are doubtless many other communications, but these are all I have available for publication.

Dear friends,

Due to unsolvable problems and differences with the new policy and philosophy of the new Acting President about the future of ICCF and with his leading style in general the ICCF World Tournament Director bears the consequences and resigns with immediate effect from all ICCF positions.

I gratefully thank all the people of the tournament sector who worked with me during all these years past - I have always enjoyed work and loved this organization. Also many thanks to all my other friends in ICCF who I worked, played or argued with; I enjoyed our discussions, your company and friendship.

I wish everyone good skills and the necessary luck in whatever you do.

Amici sumus - Chris Lüers, 10-Jan-2005

Dear Chessfriends:

Regrettably our world tournament director has resigned upon the very first criticism. He had blatantly attacked in an email to many including outside the Executive Board a federation after I had stated the policy clearly.

The statutes say "ICCF observes strict neutrality in the internal affairs of member federations". I reminded him of that and so he has resigned.

He has done great work for ICCF and we admire it and are saddened by his departure. At the same time we cannot have anarchy and have someone attacking members. Everyone cannot do what they what and say what they want if it violates the harmony and spirit of ICCF.

We already have an excellent candidate for world tournament director and are open to any nominations. This is for the time until the Congress when there can be elections. After discussions with EB, we will quickly fill this position on a temporary basis. I anticipate no problems at all in the continuing operations of the world tournament office as we have many others there working hard for us doing an excellent job who are also dedicated to ICCF amici sumus.

Max Zavanelli, Acting President, 11-Jan-2005

A month later there is still no appointed World Tournament Director, but Pedro Hegoburu, the Membership & Services Director, has been appointed to cover this position temporarily.

There has now been a call for an Extraordinary Congress to resolve unspecified issues, but apparently they involve finances (the new server has been quite expensive), the Direct Entry program (which allows players to enter events without going through their national federation), communications, "meddling" in national federation affairs and elections to fill the vacant EB positions of President and World Tournament Director. If 22 countries vote for the Extraordinary Congress by Feb. 13 (just after the deadline for this column) it will be held. The ICCF Executive Board is not in favor of this extra congress and has announced it will take place in Trinidad and Tobago if it is held and will cost a minimum of $12,000. The date set is the latest allowed by ICCF statutes: August 13, 2005. With the regular ICCF Congress scheduled to start on October 30 many people believe the special congress is unwise … why not wait the additional time and resolve issues at the normal annual Congress. The Argentine officials organizing the regular Congress are also unhappy with the idea of two Congresses so close together, fearing it will reduce the attendance and importance of the regular Congress. The last I heard the voting for holding the Extraordinary Congress needed about 10 more federations to vote for it.

Those initially calling for the Extraordinary Congress believe the issues (especially finances) are too important to delay till the regular Congress. They have been called the "Frankfurt Nine" since they suggested holding the EC in Frankfurt. They are all quite well-known and respected ICCF officials: Roald Berthelsen, delegate for Norway and Honorary Member, Alan Borwell, Honorary President and Honorary Member, Carlos Flores, delegate for Spain, Søren Peschardt, delegate for Denmark, Gerhard Radosztics, delegate for Austria and Honorary Member, Alan Rawlings, delegate for England, Nol van 't Riet, delegate for the Netherlands and Honorary Member, Per Söderberg, delegate for Sweden and Ragnar Wikman, Honorary Member. I'll be following the developments and reporting on them here. These are exciting times in the history of the ICCF … will this crisis be resolved with a return to business as usual or will there be lasting damage to the organization? I maintain that if the people involved follow the spirit of the wonderful ICCF Motto Amici Sumus (We are Friends) that everything will turn out fine. Without this spirit of friendship and cooperation we may see permanent damage to this great organization. I'll let you know my verdict right here when things become clearer to me.

GM Kasparov quits championship re-unification process

Following the collapse of his scheduled match vs. FIDE champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov in Dubai in January 2005, a part of the world championship unification program, former world champion Garry Kasparov made a statement announcing his withdrawal from the program and his lack of faith in FIDE. It seems strange to me that the administration of FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov remains in control of FIDE with their dismal record of failure after failure. Following are a few excerpts of Kasparov's statement, as published on the ChessBase web site on January 18, 2005.

"In 2002 I joined with FIDE in Prague to try and unify the world championship. Over the past two and a half years, unification matches have been scheduled four times and each time the deadlines have come and gone while the financial guarantees were ignored.

"Perhaps the last straw was watching the Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee currently underway in the Netherlands. I was forced to give up my invitation to play in this event when FIDE insisted that the match would take place in Dubai on conflicting dates. It breaks my heart to watch such a great event from the sidelines. It hurts me, and I believe chess is poorly served as well."

"It's not about money or winning the title; it's about my disillusionment with the process and the others on which it depends. In 2002 I dreamed of a legitimate chance to revive - and reclaim - the real world championship title. That no longer seems to be possible. Even if by some miracle the match is held and I win, I would bear a great deal of responsibility and still have no opportunity to unify the title. FIDE has proven itself incapable of the task while others are unwilling."

Peter Leko Wins Corus

GM Peter Leko played solid chess to win the Super-GM tournament in Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands held January 14 to 30, 2005. He scored four wins and nine draws (no losses). Viswanathan Anand finished half a point behind after losing his game in round two to Leko, but a string of three straight victories in rounds 5, 6, 7 against Morozevich, Ponomariov, and Lazaro Bruzon put him back in the hunt. Two wins were with Black. What a fantastic tournament! Oh, what a shame Kasparov wasn't there. Of particular interest was the presence of GM Judit Polgar, who returned after a year away from chess to have her baby. Following are the final standings.

1. P. Leko 8½ 2. V. Anand 8
3. V. Topalov 7½
4. A. Grischuk, J. Polgar, V. Kramnik, M. Adams 7
8. L. Bruzon, R. Ponomariov, L. van Wely 6½
11. P. Svidler 6
12. N. Short 5½
13. A. Morozevich 4½
14. I. Sokolov 3½

I thought Kramnik played extremely well and was a little unlucky not to have a better score. He only lost a single game to Topalov but managed only two wins. Leko was the only undefeated player. Of great interest is the winner of the GM-B tournament, the young player Sergey Karjakin, who will have the opportunity to play in the top GM-A tournament next year with the big guys.

Next up on the Super-GM circuit is the Linares tournament, also known as The Chess Wimbledon, which will be played in Spain February 23 to March 10, 2005. The seven participants in this double round robin are: Gary Kasparov, Viswanathan Anand, Veselin Topalov, Peter Leko, Michael Adams, Paco Vallejo and Rustam Kasimdzhanov. I'm anxious to see how FIDE world champion Kasimdzhanov does in such company. Vladimir Kramnik was originally expected to play but dropped out to be replaced by Kasimdzhanov. Already after dropping out of the Russian Super Final (citing doctor's orders to rest following his World Championship match with Leko) Kramnik was being called "chicken" for avoiding playing in an event with Kasparov. Now he has once again dropped out of a Kasparov event again citing the need for rest. Kramnik apparently felt his bad result at Corus was due to returning to play too soon. Others are simply saying "chicken" again. I can't help but think Kasimdzhanov may be a more interesting participant than Kramnik. We'll still get to see the top three rated players in the world. The last FIDE ratings show Kasparov still on top followed closely by Anand and then Topalov. Kramnik has dropped to number four.

Fischer Saga Continues

For those interested in the activities of former world champion Bobby Fischer the latest news is that Fischer is still being detained by the Japanese government pending possible extradition to the USA to face charges. First Iceland offered him a visa to enter their country. Japan rejected the request by Fischer to leave Japan for Iceland, so now Iceland is considering offering him citizenship in an effort to get him released. I must admit, even though I haven't been a Fischer fan since he broke his word to his American fans (to be the most active world champion in history), I think it would be most interesting to see him welcomed into Iceland, one of the most chess-crazed countries in the world.

Correspondence Chess on the Server

Like a lot of players I moved from postal to email chess a few years ago. Unlike some, though, I never felt comfortable with email chess, finding my old, well-developed postal methodology didn't work so well for email play. In my email games I had some very poor results and lost a ton of rating points. Now I have started playing on the ICCF chess server. It wouldn't seem that there would be much difference between email and server chess, but for me it's like a re-birth. I am taking to server chess like a duck to water, and my old bad email days are over. I have promised myself never to play by email again. I love server chess and find it has put a lot of fun back in chess for me.

I am playing in two server events now, the Chess Mail ICCF-Webchess Inauguration event and the ICCF Champions League. I am signed up for the 3rd Email USCCC (to be played on the ICCF server). No more postal or email for me, unless it is something really special. I feel much the same about directing ICCF tournaments. With postal there are too many difficult situations that are simply no fun at all. When a player complains that his opponent is cheating by claiming lost cards or late arrival times, it is almost impossible for the TD to really figure out what's happening. It is much the same for email chess. For server chess the TD can simply check the move dates and time used on the server … no fudging is possible.

Server chess is really the wave of the future, though who knows what may be coming next. Play may become even easier and more convenient using some new technology. Hopefully correspondence chess will remain the same within these new technological structures. After all, it's still chess, the greatest game in the world.


copyright © 2005 by J. Franklin Campbell

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