The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - July/August 2005

Tunc Hamarat vs. Rest of World

16th World Champion Tunc Hamarat (AUT) is playing an exhibition match vs. a team of players to support ICCF. Each player on the opposition team made a contribution to ICCF. The two games being played are on display on the main page of the ICCF server at: http://www.iccf-webchess.com/

GM Hamarat has white in both games and played 1.e4 in one game and 1.d4 in the other. Both games as I'm writing have reached move 14. Tunc Hamarat has displayed a great interest in supporting correspondence chess and is to be congratulated on this interesting project both to provide some income to ICCF and to provide good publicity for the ICCF server.

The WebChess Gambit Match

The Chess Events Maastricht Foundation (The Netherlands) organized an OTB match between Dutch Grandmasters Loek van Wely and Daniel Stellwagen in May 2005, two games of Random Chess followed by two games of Advanced Chess.

They followed that with a correspondence chess gambit match between two world champions, Mikhail Umansky and Gert Timmerman. The prizes are being sponsored by Jan van Reek, an endgame specialist from The Netherlands. He also picked out the six gambit lines that the two players will begin with.

This unique and interesting match is being played on the ICCF server with the well-known Dutch International Arbiter Nol van 't Riet acting as tournament director. The openings are:

Game 1: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4
Game 2: 1.e4 e5 2.f4
Game 3: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5
Game 4: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d4
Game 5: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4
Game 6: 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4

Timmerman will have White in games 1, 4, 6.

The Liechtenstein Museum Match

A most unique International cc match has been organized. On one side will be SIM Khalid Chorfi (Morocco) and GM Yoav Dothan (Israel). On the other side will be IM Corky Schakel (USA) and SIM Pablo Salcedo Mederos (Cuba). The players will alternate moves in this great friendship match.

The match was the creation of Roland Stratmann, an artist from Germany with an interest in the history of games in art. Originally he proposed one side have players from Israel and Egypt, but a substitution proved necessary. Diplomacy is not the only point to the match, however. It is also artistic. As IM Schakel explained, "His vision was to display the game in the lobby of the Kunstmuseum in Liechtenstein on a 7 meter x 7 meter board, with the pieces coming down as banners from the ceiling. This will be a beautiful sight, just as the idea for the teams is a beautiful idea."

The 2-game match can be followed "live" on the ICCF server

The Kunstmuseum also has a web site

Here are two photos of the display provided by Corky Schakel

ICCF IM Ken Messere, RIP

Chess Mail magazine just published the sad news of the passing of IM Kenneth Charles Messere (1928-2005). His name was certainly familiar to me. For many years my chess bible was "Correspondence Chess World Championship" by Hans Berliner & Ken Messere. This was the tournament book of the 5th World Championship, won in so convincing fashion by USA GM Hans Berliner. In the 17-man Final he won by a huge margin of 3 full points. I played Berliner's openings and studied his notes carefully, using him as my model player. It appears that Ken Messere actually wrote a large portion of the book. He also played in the 5th World Championship final, though he finished near the bottom of the table. He was probably proud of his win over 4th World Champion V. Zagorovsky.

POSTMAN advances to WC 3/4 Finals

This was the title of a posting on the cc message board on the Internet. A "Postman" is a player who simply posts the moves made by his computer with no personal input on selecting a move. The WC Finals is the ICCF world championship qualifying tournament in between the "Semi-final" and the "Final". The top three finishers in a Semi-Final qualifies to the Final (now called the "Candidates"). International cc player IM Tansel Turgut (TUR) noted the following.

In one of WC SemiFinal tournaments, a player using only computers (as a postman) made into the first 3 and is advancing to the 3/4 Finals. This player played the computer's first recommendation from the beginning to the end and made it to the 3/4 Finals of WC.

I believe that ICCF needs to clarify these issues:

  1. Computer use is allowed by ICCF, and I believe that most of the players are using them. (With a lot human input I might add - at least for me)
  2. However, I don't believe that a postman has ever been so strong to advance from such a strong tournament.
  3. Considering that GM Nickel's results, we have to admit that the programs are getting very strong. If a computer can draw or beat a GM, it can advance to high levels.
  4. This will happen again. The issue can not be ignored.

The Nickel reference is to the on-line cc match between GM Arno Nickel vs. six different chess engines at the ChessFriends server. Arno Nickel lost that match with three draws and two losses (I'm not sure about the final game result). It is of considerable interest that GM Nickel has started a new match vs. the super strong computer Hydra with two wins (two remaining games). Perhaps he learned something from his first match about how to defeat computers.

APCT and many other national groups don't allow computer use, but ICCF and some national groups do. I wrote an on-line article giving my opinion of the current situation titled "Computers in the World of Correspondence Chess". I suggested that it is possible to provide competition without computers where players are bound by honor not to use chess computers.

Two World Champions Meet

I recently received a nice note from 16th cc World Champion Tunc Hamarat (Austria) concerning his meeting with previous OTB world champion Anatoly Karpov.

The meeting with Karpow was very nice, somehow he liked me and laughing and very friendly all the time.

In general I asked nonchess questions (like whether he likes playing chess as before etc.) But here I refer to his answers about CC. He is using Correspondence games in his analysis and he finds correspondence important for this case. He also knew me. He said that he can never analyze a game years and years and has really no time for it (so as expected he will not use the wild card which I asked him in the name of ICCF). He is also playing less chess having many duties out of chess and in his chess schools in the world. I presented him my poststamp and there is also a picture about it, if you wish I can send it to you too. Tim [Harding] and Franklin may use the photo and this information if they like to, maybe it is an advertisement for CC.

I believe the "wild card" GM Hamarat was referring to is something ICCF is using to attract a few top OTB GM's to play in high level ICCF events, such as the world championship. Normally, players have to earn the right to play by scoring well in qualifying events, but recognized OTB GM's would add some luster to these events and may be invited to enter without going through the qualifiers. The "poststamp" reference is to a postal stamp that was issued by Austria celebrating the world championship won by their citizen Tunc Hamarat.

16th cc World Champion Tunc Hamarat on left
Former OTB world champion Anatoly Karpov on right

Souvenir card sent to John Knudsen by Tunc Hamarat
with the Austrian postage stamp celebrating his world championship

Reader Input

It's always a pleasure to hear from Stephan Gerzadowicz, our APCT games editor. Mr. G. sent the following comments on topics covered in my last column:

Re: Sofia tournament draw rule - I assume "theoretical draw" will be more sharply defined. I claim a theoretical draw after 1.e4. [Mr. G., haven't you read Weaver Adams' books? Didn't he demonstrate that 1.e4 led to a forced win? :]> - JFC]

"Monkey Chess" is unethical. If the monkeier (monkeyer? Monkey Man!) is lower rated than his two "opponents" he will gain rating points he did not earn fairly, i.e., by playing. A higher rating could get him into a tournament open to the top applicants such as the USCF Absolute or ASPCC's Hawver Cup.

Mr. Pyle's suggestion that the Polgar Chess Center take over APCT is intriguing only because it would occur to anyone. The PCC offers an OTB playing site 7 days/week for its members and guests, runs weekly USCF rated OTB tournaments, holds classes for dozens of children each week, and sponsors various special events - all focused on OTB play. Some of our operations are done by member volunteers. There is no one with time or interest in running a CC organization. [Note: Mr. G. works at the Polgar Chess Center - JFC]

As for CC places to play when APCT is no longer with us I suggest the All Service Postal Chess Club. The "All Service" because ASPCC began as a CC group for the military. The time controls are a bit more flexible re "vacation time". Some years ago an opponent apologized for the delays - he was on the ground in Bosnia! Some vacation.

ASPCC members who left the military wanted to stay in the organization. A cousin or uncle asked to join Now it is open to all. For info contact Haskel Sikes, 1805 S. Van Buren St, Amarillo, TX 79102-3058 [or go to the web site http://www.chessaspc.com/ -- JFC]

Have you ever noted our historical near miss? My first tournament was the 1964 Golden Knights. [This is really interesting that the two of us started our cc career over 40 years ago in exactly the same event, the 1964 Golden Knights organized by Al Horowitz's Chess Review magazine. I still have my lapel pin (which I occasionally wear proudly to show my support for cc) that I received for qualifying for the Finals and finishing my playing schedule. A remarkable near-miss! - JFC]

The following is a note I received from Steve Morgan:

Just started section in 1st WS USCCC P05. It's one of the live sections and I really have my work cut out for me. I may be lucky to get a draw but then they may all underestimate because of my low ICCF rating. It will be a tough way to get embarrassed worldwide!

I saw in the latest issue of APCT NEWS Bulletin that no one had written you. Some of the issues have been talked out I think, and with Jim and Helen's announcement the club may be doing a slow dance downward. I'm sorry to see APCT go as it has been my favorite club. I do enjoy your columns and take on things and hope you keep it up till the end. I keep hoping someone takes over APCT but that would be quite the undertaking.

See ya on the web in the "live event."

Thanks, Steve. For those not familiar with it, this tournament is the first USA championship to be played via a chess server. The ICCF server is becoming very popular with national federation members starting to play some of their domestic events on it. I am playing in section P03. The games can be followed by everyone else (with a 3-move delay the position displayed doesn't show the last three moves by either player). The finished games can be viewed in full or downloaded in PGN format. I congratulate Steve for a win in his first result, winning as black against a higher rated opponent. Here's the game, decided by a nice attack against the King leading to a nasty pin winning material.

Garey, Arthur L. (2030) - Morgan, Stephan H. (1821)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Nf3 b6 5.Qc2 Bb7 6.a3 Bxc3+ 7.Qxc3 d6 8.b4 Nbd7 9.Bb2 Ne4 10.Qc2 O-O 11.e3 f5 12.O-O-O c5 13.Ne1 cxb4 14.axb4 Qe7 15.f3 Nef6 16.Bd3 Rfc8 17.Kb1 b5 18.Qb3 bxc4 19.Bxc4 Bd5 20.Rc1 Rxc4 0-1

For full coverage go to: http://www.iccf-webchess.com/

Click on the "Tables and results" link on the left and find the tournament link "1st WS USCCC". Select a section for the crosstable. Clicking on the game result (or "dot" for no result) allows you to view the game.

I also heard from Mihai Harabor:

Hello Mr. Campbell,

My name is Mihai Harabor, an old APCT member and a very enthusiast chess player. I been reading your APCT chess column for long time. It is always very informative. Even if might be a little late, I admire your work and appreciate all you do. I like to thank you for your passion for chess !

In the last APCT Bulletin I found the info. you wrote about the ICCF Server. Being an old ICCF player, I send in an entry for a Server Section. I have just started. It is great ! However, Three weeks ago I have discovered a site called : ChessWorld.net

At that time I have started to play. By the way, it cost $19.oo per year, and you can play unlimited number of games. For practice I find this place unequal.

If you don't know about this site, please let me know - I will sent you the "link" ASAP. Keep up the good work. Look forward to read next APCT Bulletin.

Thanks for the message, Mihai! I appreciate your kind remarks, and I'm glad you enjoy playing on the ICCF server. The URL for the ChessWorld server is: http://www.letsplaychess.com/

Some other interesting chess servers for cc players are:


I have little actual experience with chess servers (except for the ICCF server) so this isn't a recommendation, but I believe many people have found these servers useful, particularly for informal games used to gain experience and to experiment with openings.

The ICCF server has a different objective from most servers. For one thing all players must be registered ICCF competitors and play strictly under their own names (no pseudonyms). The server also will serve other administrative tasks, such as allowing rating of postal and email events. The server will perform a comprehensive set of administrative functions for ICCF officials. The games are, in general, serious games, though there are some unrated events. However, unlike with most servers, both players will always know exactly who they are playing.

Excessive Accumulated Time

This topic has continued to be hotly debated in the ICCF correspondence chess community. Unlike APCT, which uses the same 30/10 time limit for both postal and email events, ICCF switched to 60 days/10 moves. I have been advocating limiting the amount of time a player may accumulate, primarily based on some opponents who have used a huge amount of time since they got lost positions. The games are taking forever to finish. Also, it just seemed to me that too much accumulated time leads to players being lazy, not taking proper care to respond in a timely fashion. Why would a player need to use the hundreds of days that can be accumulated in ICCF at the 60/10 time limit? My official proposal to ICCF is that at no point may a player have more than 100 days accumulated. When a player reaches time control and gets 60 more days for the next ten moves, no more than 40 accumulated days may be carried forward. Other ideas discussed are to completely eliminate any accumulation of time (at each time control, any unused time is lost), reduction of the basic time limit to 40/10 or 50/10, the use of a Fischer clock or a limit to how much time can be used on any specific move.

One argument is that the email time limit of 60/10 was meant to mimic the old postal time limit of 30/10 an extra 3 days per move was added due to the lack of postal transmission time. However, under current rules the player may move quickly and accumulate not only the 3 days per move but also the additional 3 days added to compensate for the instantaneous transmission time. Accumulating 6 days per move can add up very quickly.

GM John Timm (USA) pointed out the other side of the issue. In general, email chess progresses much faster than postal chess, particularly compared to International postal chess where transmission times are usually much greater than 3 days. GM Timm argues that the extra time accumulated partially compensates for the fast transmission time, but to totally compensate the time limit should be more like 110/10 (110 days per 10 moves).

He also pointed out that many players respond to moves according to how much time is left, preferring to respond first in games where they are shortest on time. Therefore, they might not respond even in games where the move appears obvious (or even forced) due to working on other games first. Using this viewpoint it becomes unclear that players are using the "Dead Man Defense" in bad games they might just be busy working on other more pressing games.

This whole issue of finding the correct time limit and deciding how to deal with huge amounts of accumulated time is more complex than most people would have thought. There probably isn't an ideal solution perhaps different tournaments should have different time limits, or maybe different organizations should specialize in certain kinds of events, such as faster time limits for organizations that conduct less formal events and long time limits for ICCF, which conducts world championships, Olympiads and events which provide title norms.

Charles Allen of Texas sent me an interesting alternative to the simple "x moves in y days" type of time limit. With the server handling the time calculations, things do not have to be as simple (to avoid confusion) as with email or postal. Here is what Charles said:

This particular problem could be solved by adding a "transit time" to the server. Essentially:

* Player A makes his move on the server and his clock is stopped.
* The move is recorded, but NOT MADE AVAILABLE.
* The "transit time" passes.
* The move is made available and Player B's clock started.

Each player is assured of having a minimum of 2*transit_time before they will receive their opponent's reply.

What he is suggesting is an almost precise postal model. The only difference is that the transmission time is constant and reliable. I've never heard people complain about problems with the postal time limit of 30/10. With the addition of transmission time (in the mail) the game wasn't overly fast. I should comment that I proposed a similar approach years ago for email chess (a central email clearing house would have been required to act as a "middle man"), but I was figuratively "laughed out of the room." I thought I had a small improvement for a server version by suggesting that the server allow you to accept the move any time after your opponent made it, but your clock would start running only after you accepted the move, or after the official "transmission time" was up. I.e., if you opponent posted his move to the server, you would receive an email notice (a move has been made) and the server would indicate that your opponent has moved. You could choose when you looked at the game and saw the move, and then your time would start counting. If you didn't check the move within (for example) 3 days, then your clock would start anyway. This is like Charles Allen's suggestion, except the transmission time could be between zero and the "transit time" specified for the tournament. Again, this idea gained no support from anyone I showed it to.

Ah, getting consensus on the best way to calculate time used and time accumulated is a sticky business.

The Dead Man Defense

In a previous column I mentioned the term "Dead Man Defense". It describes the way a few players start playing excessively slowly when they get bad or lost positions. It's as though they think their only chance is to play so slowly that their opponent may die or give up in disgust. I have two ICCF server games where my opponents have now used up all their huge stores of accumulated time. One opponent (somewhat amusingly) had two moves remaining to time control and made his response with only one hour remaining! He reached move 40 so he got 60 more days for the next time control. My other opponent also made time control, but he had several days to spare. However, there is always a bright side. Both games are being so much fun as I've worked on how to transform both games into won King & Pawn endings.

There is little we can do about opponents that hang on and hang on in lost positions. Complaining doesn't help much. I saw Alex Dunne quoted the other day as saying the thing to do is always make the best move. My attitude is similar, but I also like to limit the possibilities of my opponent. Eliminate all counterplay. Eliminate chances for a surprise resource for my opponent. Eliminate any ray of hope. Eliminate any fun. Of course, this is more applicable to OTB in some sense, since a cc player doesn't have to worry as much about being surprised by something he overlooked. In my case, I like to simplify the position so my opponent has no resources remaining to give him even the tiniest hope. A King & Pawn ending is ideal, as long as you have the win, of course.

The Draw Experiment at Sofia

Last time I discussed the OTB problem with GM draws and mentioned an upcoming tournament that was experimenting with a system to discourage short draws. The N-Tel event didn't allow players to simply agree to draws. Instead, an independent arbiter had to agree that the position was a clear draw. The players in this Super GM Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria (May 11-22, 2005) were 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).

So, what was the outcome? The players seemed to agree that the system worked well. I followed many of the games live on the Internet and was happy to see the games going the distance. In fact, there were several games that would certainly have been given up as drawn under normal circumstances, and it was interesting to see how the players attempted to find winning chances in fairly even positions. As an observer my verdict was that the experiment was a tremendous success.

Of course, there were some interesting side effects. A number of games ended with a repetition of moves. There were also some massive trading of pieces. It seems the players didn't like to have to consult an arbiter to finish the game. Have you ever seen an OTB game end with two bare Kings on the board? I saw it in this tournament, not once, not twice, but three times, all in games involving Anand. Imagine, 30% of his games ended with only Kings on the board!

Things were distorted a bit by the new "draw avoiding" rules, but we should see this experiment repeated in the future. Everyone seemed to agree that it worked pretty well. Of course, the players may adapt in less obvious ways than trading all their pieces and heading to multiple repetitions.

Fake Tournament: Heroes of Chernobyl Memorial

I've never heard of a fake correspondence chess tournament, but fake OTB events seem to occur occasionally. This allows for inflating players' ratings and establishing phony title norms. The latest such event uncovered was the "Heroes of Chernobyl" event supposedly played in the Ukraine. Mark Crowther broke the news of this fake event in his publication TWIC (The Week in Chess).

The event came with a completed crosstable and apparently even a games file! It must have taken some effort to produce all this fake information. The Ukraine Chess Federation reacted with outrage at the deception.

Secret Fischer-Karpov game?

Chess Today reported an interesting incident in the April 20, 2005 issue. USCF NM Dennis Monokroussos, a regular lecturer at the ChessBase site, posted the following at the site:

In 1987, when I was living in Las Vegas, Filipino GM Eugenio Torre came to town to visit some friends and give a simul. When the time came, Torre and friends came to the site in a van, a van I must have walked past several times. Guess who was in it? As I was to discover - several days later, unfortunately - a certain famous chess player now living in Iceland was hiding inside.

My local Filipino friends felt bad that they couldn't tell me that Fischer had been staying at their place, so to make up for it they shared another bombshell, albeit one which I was not to tell anyone else. I agreed, but it seems to me that 18 years is long enough. Thus, for my ChessBase show for the week of March 28- April 3, I will present a hitherto secret game played between Fischer and Anatoly Karpov."

Of course, this caused sensational interest in the ChessBase on-line lecture. People didn't realize that the dates covered April first, the infamous April Fool's Day. It was all a hoax. I've seen this happen on numerous occasions. Subtle humor doesn't work very well on the Internet. In fact, some people didn't find this hoax funny at all and considered it as just a bad example of someone trying to get attention. My suggestion no more April Fools jokes.

copyright © 2005 by J. Franklin Campbell

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