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The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
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"The Campbell Report" - May/June 2005

1st Webserver USCCC underway

The first US Correspondence Chess Championship (conducted by the ICCF-U.S. office) to be played on a webserver has started with six sections of seven players each for the preliminary round. The winners will advance to a future USCCC Final to determine the USA cc champion. Formerly referred to as the 3rd Email USCCC, it was renamed with the more appropriate name 1st WS USCCC after it was moved to the server. Spectators can follow the event on the ICCF webserver. Go to the server web site at: http://www.iccf-webchess.com/

The link on the left of the web page "Tables and results" will give a list of webserver events. Near the bottom of the list you'll find links for the six USCCC sections. If you click on one of the section links (say my section "1st WS USCCC-P03") and click on any of the crosstable squares you'll get to see the game between those two opponents (if the game hasn't finished the last three moves for each player won't be displayed). Four sections P03-P06 have this live display, while the first two sections P01-P02 are being played without live display. The tournament director is Ralph Marconi.

Excessive Accumulated Time

In my opinion, ICCF faces a serious problem with excessive accumulation of time. It is not unusual for players to have many months of time saved up, in the bank for future use. In my current situation with eight games going I have eight months of time saved up in one game and 200 days saved up in a couple others. I am at complete liberty to use this time any time I wish. I consider this bad for chess. Not only does it allow players to stretch out games where they are losing (referred to as "The Dead Man Defense" by my friend John Knudsen, see next topic), but it also encourages laziness. If you have a difficult position and don't feel like tackling it, you can just let it go till another day/week/month. It's true that sometimes you need some extra time family or business concerns must come before chess moves. However, often it is just preference a player doesn't feel much like working on a position and making a move, so he doesn't. There is no pressure to move when you have several months of extra time accumulated.

I have a couple games going where I feel I have easy wins. I am thankful that my opponents have finally burned up most of their accumulated time. They are both down to around 45-50 days left for the next 7-8 moves. Thus, the games will make significant progress in less than two more months. Actually, this is rather pitiful, to be thankful the accumulated time is less than two months forcing my opponents to make a handful of moves in that period. Waiting two weeks for a move is about to an end. How does this happen?

With ICCF's email and server time limits set to 60 days for 10 moves it is easy to accumulate massive amounts of time. With postal chess and APCT time limits (30/10) this isn't a problem. The switch to email meant an elimination of transmission time, so a longer time limit seemed the obvious solution to avoid rushing players. However, if you play quickly, the extra 3 days per move added to replace transmission time can now be accumulated. In addition, it is now quite easy to move without even being charged one day. You can easily move within the time interval allowed for claiming zero time used, allowing you to accumulate a full six days per move, something that was extremely difficult in postal play. Some of us are working on proposals for a solution to this problem.

I'm pleased that the new 1st Webserver USCCC will be played with a 40/10 time limit, which will help avoid so much accumulated time. The APCT time limit 30/10 (or 3 days per move) certainly avoids problems. It is true that it isn't possible to have as heavy of a game load in email chess as with postal with the fast transmission time, but players can adjust their game load. Games will finish faster so they can still play a similar number of games over the long haul. I understand the International players' objections to the faster time limits, but surely we can come up with some solution, such as using a Fischer clock or restricting the amount of time we may accumulate.

The Dead Man Defense

This is a term (mentioned above) coined by John Knudsen, creator of the web domain Correspondencechess.com (where my main chess site resides as well as the APCT web site) and The Correspondence Chess Message Board (TCCMB). When I checked with John to be sure I was attributing the term properly he supplied this description:

I did coin this term - "The Dead Man Defense". The idea is that the pace of the game is so abnormally slow that you are hoping your opponent (the victim) dies in the interim. It could be the only way to save the game. Because cc players are generally older, on average, the chance of this actually happening is enhanced by using this defense.

Not only is it used when you are losing the game (or drawing a previously won position) it is also a legal way to be contrary, for no reason at all, other than for the trouble/anxiety it causes your opponent...

Monkey Chess

An ICCF tournament director (Virginijus Grabliauskas) recently posted a comment on the on-line cc message board TCCMB. He said that the TD in a server tournament can observe the games going on in his events. He noticed that one player had two identical games going, one with white and one with black. He was apparently copying the moves made in one game to the other. I.e., he would wait for his white opponent to make a move before he made his white move against his black opponent. Then he would reverse the roles. This way he was able to conduct two identical games, one with white and one with black. This would allow a 1-1 score vs. two strong opponents. With liberal time limits he was apparently getting away with it without risking time trouble. The question asked by the TD was whether or not he could penalize the player for this conduct. A clever scheme by the player, but is it legal and/or ethical? Interesting questions, to be sure. I don't have an answer, but I thought the term coined for this scheme was imaginative and quite descriptive Monkey Chess!

ICCF GM Simon Webb, RIP

I am sorry to report the death on March 14, 2005 of an outstanding cc player Simon Webb, an ICCF GM and a FIDE IM. This widely liked and respected English GM was currently living in Sweden with his family. As I understand it, he had returned home from an OTB tournament and got into an argument with his son, who stabbed him to death and then (unsuccessfully) attempted suicide by crashing his car. Apparently it was a drug-related incident. The entire cc community mourns the tragic passing of this fine gentleman. GM Webb is known for his popular chess book Chess for Tigers.

More on Grandmaster Draws

There has been a lot of discussions in recent years about how to avoid the GM draws in OTB events. In the big events, it kills the interest of both fans and sponsors. I won't repeat descriptions of particularly unpleasant occurrences in recent major events, but I do have a couple new things to report.

I was listening to Chess.FM chess radio recently when the host Tony Rook brought up the famous Gold Coin game. USA champ Frank Marshall played a particularly inspired and fantastic move to win a tournament game. The spectators tossed gold coins on the board in appreciation. This suddenly brought a vision to my mind's eye of spectators reacting to a short GM draw by pelting the players with ripe tomatoes. Perhaps this is the answer to short draws pass out buckets of tomatoes to the spectators as they arrive! What GM would dare play a lifeless and unsporting draw when the spectators are sitting there just waiting for an opportunity to shower him with tomatoes? GM Alex Baburin liked my idea enough to publish it in his daily chess report Chess Today.

Another practical try is being made in the upcoming Super GM Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria (May 11-22, 2005). The participants expected to play are Viswanathan Anand (India, 2786), Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria, 2757), Vladimir Kramnik (Russia, 2754), Michael Adams (England, 2741), Judit Polgar (Hungary, 2728) and Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukraine, 2700). The key point in this double round robin, classical time control event is that draws by mutual consent will not be allowed. The rules:

  1. A draw by mutual agreement between the players is forbidden.
  2. No player is permitted to speak to his opponent or offer him a draw
  3. A player can claim the draw only in case of perpetual check, threefold repetition and if the position is a theoretical draw.
  4. The draw offer is made to the arbiter, who is the only person who can decide the outcome of the game.
  5. The arbiter will be advised by a strong Grandmaster.

The GM advisor will be Zurab Azmaiparashvili (Georgia), FIDE Vice President. It sounds like an interesting experiment, one that could catch on if no problems are encountered. I'll be watching this with the greatest interest. I wonder if a player proposes a draw to the arbiter ... must his opponent agree before the game can be called a draw? Thanks to the ChessBase web site for this fascinating information.

Reader Feedback

Thanks to those who sent their comments. The first one I'll give is relevant to the above discussion on GM draws. Rick Massimo (Providence, RI) sent this:

I've said it before and I'll say it again. The problem isn't the draws themselves; it's the ties that they lead to. If someone's played well enough that they can coast with short draws, that's like "taking a knee" in American football. And no one really objects. Short draws are objectionable when an anticipated big last-round showdown turns into two players chickening out and taking a guaranteed decent payday over a chance at a huge one (with concurrent chances to lose and take a very small one).

The solution is simple: Play out all ties. 30-minute games, 10-minute, 5-minute, whatever. No time handicaps for Black. Instead, do it like baseball: If Player A wins with White in the first game, Player B gets a chance to win with White. If he loses or draws, it's over. If he wins, they go again. If the first game is a draw, they play again, and if Player B wins with White it's over. If Player A wins with Black in the second game, it's over. If it's a draw, they go again. And obviously, if Player B wins the first game with Black, it's over. And it's for all the marbles. (Well, you know what I mean: the winner of the playoff gets the whole first prize; the loser gets the whole second prize. Or third and fourth, whatever. None of this business where they split 1st-2nd and play for another $100 or something, because that's been done and no one cares about that.)

There could still be short draws in the last round, but now they'd be exciting calculated decisions, made by a player who likes his chances in a playoff. I can hear the screams now: "The best player might not win!" That comment has done more to hold back chess than anything else in the last 30 years. Who's the best player? The highest-rated one? Then why do we play the games at all? In every successful sport in our society, sometimes the team that should've won doesn't.

"The chess will be ragged! One blunder can decide everything!" The football in overtime can be ragged; so can the baseball in extra innings when all the star pitchers have been used. One dropped ball or slip on the turf can decide everything. That's why it's exciting. Yes, maybe after three playoff rounds of beating each other's brains out, the chess could get ragged. But those two players deserved to be there.

In chess, we're hung up on the idea that the biggest games should also be the best games, with the best player always winning. There just isn't any way to guarantee that. Great games happen when they happen.

Thanks for the thought-provoking comments, Rick. You have made some very good points. I got the following letter from Richard "Pyle Driver" Pyle of Coalinga, CA (I love that nickname!):

I play OTB with a friend who started boasting his game was better than mine because he won three games straight. So the friendly games ended, I turned up the heat, and started keeping score of my wins, draws, and losses. After several months (to avoid an "I'm in a slump" excuse) I have an impressive tally. However, I am unable to figure out what my friend's rating "area" is and what percentage of games he won. Please explain the win-loss ratio and rating "area" of the following result:

Pyle Driver: 829 wins, 71 losses, 8 draws
"Boaster": 71 wins, 829 losses, 8 draws
Total games: 908

My OTB rating is 2013 - my cc rating is 2228, and I assume you need to know them to calculate the Boaster's rating area.

Please show how to calculate such ratios in APCT News Bulletin, as I'm sure a lot of players would find it interesting.

Please inform the members of APCT's future has anyone stepped up to insure its existence? Does it look like anyone will step up? Have you heard any rumors about new management or ownership? Other than CCLA, where can members go? Would it do any good if every APCT member sought Polgar Chess Center's "rescue" of our organization?

A lot of APCT members may not write in, but we all rely on your column for our chess information, especially prisoners like me who can't access the Internet. Any word of Mr. Fischer's dilemma?

Thanks for your interesting letter, Richard. And congratulations on your impressive score in your match with Mr. Boaster. It's fun to keep records I still have my scoresheets from the first year I played chess (1959). I also have created a database with every correspondence tournament game I've ever played, starting with the 1964 Golden Knights conducted by Chess Review magazine. I wish I had kept more of my International post cards, but space considerations caused me to keep few of these old cards, which would now be so interesting to see.

I assume by "rating area" you mean approximate rating. Given your OTB rating and the results of a large number of games (908 qualifies nicely!) I would calculate your score as 91.74% (total points scored 833 divide by games played 908). I found this equation on the Internet for calculating "Performance rating", which is the rating you would have that would predict the score you just obtained.

PR = [sum of opponent's ratings + 400(W-L)] / num of games

PR = [908*2013 + 400*(71-829)] / 908 = 1679

So, Mr. Boaster has a performance rating of 1679 in your match.

I can't speak to APCT's future. There has been plenty of time for someone to step forward to take over APCT and it hasn't happened, so I wouldn't be too optimistic about that happening. I doubt the Polgar Chess Center would be interested, but I can't speak for them. I have heard one rumor about players trying to get together to work out something, but that was some time ago and I've heard nothing more. We'll have to watch other area's of this magazine for more official word about any news. I do know that the Warrens are running this club for the players, not for any profit. Unlike some past clubs (The Chess Connection comes to mind), APCT is not going to suddenly disappear but will be shut down in an orderly fashion with events played to the finish. The magazine will continue to be published. My column will continue, probably to the very end. I owe a personal debt of gratitude to Helen and Jim Warren for involving me in the world of chess journalism and providing encouragement to me. As for Fischer, he is now living in Iceland (see report below). Other places to play? There is CCLA and USCF. Both have their supporters and detractors. USCF has never (in my opinion) really been a supporter of cc, though they have their points. I know players who hate CCLA because of some bad experiences, but others play with CCLA very contentedly. I am a long-time member of both organizations. Personally, I play almost exclusively in ICCF webserver events. See the related next topic on USCF.

I want to thank a third reader for writing, though his letter was not for publication. It is always a treat to hear from our Games Editor Stephan Gerzadowicz. There are few cc competitors as interesting as Mr. G.!

USCF Appoints New CC Director

FIDE Master Alex Dunne has been appointed by USCF as their correspondence chess director. Alex is best known for his regular Chess Life column "Check is in the Mail." Good luck to Alex in his new role. He also served as the editor for the first four issues of the on-line chess magazine ICCF Amici.

The ICCF "Crisis"

I'll make my commentary about the ICCF "crisis" very short. The call for an extraordinary Congress that I mentioned last time failed to get sufficient support, so the next meeting will be the normally planned Congress in Argentina next October. As far as I can tell, the current ICCF officers have delivered all the reports promised and the finances appear to be in good shape. The only thing that appears to be a major obstacle to a successful future for ICCF is the loss of Amici Sumus among the officials (Amici Sumus "We are Friends" is the official motto of the organization). I have seen longtime friends break off their friendship over the current disagreements. This does not bode well. The chess server project has produced an excellent chess server, which is now being heavily use for cc tournaments. There is no practical reason ICCF can't continue its successful and important work, if only the officials will remember that marvelous motto and take it to heart.

An Interesting Game

I ran across this short and sweet game from the giant Aeroflot open tournament in Moscow. The final position gives a good impression. You don't see such short wins at this level too often.

Bacrot,E (2715) - Filippov,V (2621) [D31]
Aeroflot Open Moscow RUS (8), 22.02.2005
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 c6 4.e4 dxe4 5.Nxe4 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 Qxd4 7.Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8.Be2 Na6 9.Bd6 f6 10.Nf3 Bd7 11.0-0 0-0-0 12.Bd3 Qg4 13.c5 e5 14.h3 Qe6 15.Qa4 Nc7 16.Bc4 Qf5 17.Qa5 Ne8 18.Bf7 1-0

GM Garry Kasparov Retires from Tournament Chess

It appears that Kasparov's recent announcement of his retirement from tournament chess was sincere. Everyone seems to be accepting it at face value. It seems that Kasparov may be satisfied with having been the top rated OTB player in the world for 20 years. The recent difficulties in resolving the world championship problems (no matches of reunification being organized) and the lack of effective action by FIDE seems to have been part of his decision. Kasparov has also become very active in Russian politics. Part of his statement, according to the ChessBase web site:

"It is very difficult to quote one reason. But if I try I could tell you that, as you know, I am a man of big goals. I have to achieve something, I have to prove something, I have to be determined. But I no longer see any real goal in the world of chess. I did not want to leave in bad shape, as I was six months ago. I wanted to get back to my top rating, and I wanted to show some decent chess. I wanted to prove to myself first of all that I play better than others. I did."

It is impossible to find a single quote to summarize his reasons for retiring, but the world championship situation obviously was a factor. Kasparov had apparently decided to retire immediately after the Linares super-GM tournament. He won this event by tie-break over Veselin Topalov (both scored 8-4) after losing his final game vs. Topalov. He explained losing this last game due to the difficulty in concentrating, knowing he was about to announce his retirement.

Thanks to Garry Kasparov for 30 great years of chess! His last published FIDE rating was just over 2800. Remarkable.

Anand Wins Annual Melody Amber Event

Following his third place at the Linares Super-GM tournament Anand went on a rampage and demolished all competition at the annual Melody Amber tournament in Monaco, sponsored by the current cc world champion J.J. van Oosterom. This is an unrated and fun tournament (with a large prize fund) combining blindfold chess with rapid chess. Anand won the blindfold competition handily with an 8-3 score, two full points ahead of a big tie for second. In the rapid chess he won with 7.5-3.5, half a point ahead of Alexander Morozevich. That added up to an impressive total score to win the combined championship 2.5 points ahead of Morozevich. Other top scorers: Ivanchuk, Leko and Kramnik, in that order.

Fischer Becomes Citizen of Iceland

The Bobby Fischer saga continues. He is so appreciated in Iceland that, when simply granting him a travel visa to Iceland didn't convince the Japanese government to release him for travel to Iceland, the legislature there granted him full citizenship. As soon as this was officially communicated to the Japanese government he was released from custody (he had been held for nine months) and he immediately traveled to Iceland. A TV company there supplied a private jet, and they carefully avoided landing at an air field that might have USA military jurisdiction. The USA government is still after Fischer, but their pressure on the Icelandic government did not assuage them from welcoming Fischer to their shores.

It will be interesting to see how Fischer is considered after he has been there a while. I would guess the most likely thing to happen is that he will mostly disappear from public view and lead a quiet life out of the public eye, but I could be wrong. I've heard that his attorney is prepared to sue the USA government over their harassment of Fischer. I found one widely circulated quote from Fischer very interesting. After arriving in Iceland he said, "I don't play the old chess. But obviously if I did, I would be the best." For some years he has promoted an improved version of chess known as Fischer Random (FR Chess) or as Chess960 (referring to the 960 possible starting positions for the pieces). Though I'm not a fan of Fischer I must say that I'm glad to see this terrible situation settled in a peaceful fashion. I hope Fischer finds some peace in the friendly chess-crazed country of Iceland.

It is said that Iceland has an extradition treaty with the USA, but it is unlikely they would ever extradite an Icelandic citizen. I think Fischer has found a safe haven.


copyright © 2005 by J. Franklin Campbell

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