The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - March/April 2006

New cc World Champion

GM Ivar Bern of Norway has clinched first place in the 17th World Championship final by scoring 10.5-5.5 (five wins, eleven draws, no losses). This was a very close competition with two others finishing with 10.5 points, but GM Bern had superior S.B. tie-break points. The other two players with 10.5 are IM Wolfgang Rohde (GER) and GM Joachim Neumann (GER). Half a point back are IM Asko Linna (FIN) and IM Gerhard Muller (GER). IM Gabor Glatt (HUN) could also finish with 10 points if he wins his final two games. Congratulations to GM Bern on his excellent win!

ICCF to send team to FIDE Olympiad

Even before he was elected President of ICCF, Mohammed Samraoui was working on an important new project, to arrange for ICCF representation at the FIDE Olympiad. FIDE and ICCF have long had a special relationship. As the official bodies of OTB and correspondence chess, respectively, FIDE and ICCF fully recognize each other's ratings and titles. ICCF is anxious to educate the OTB players about correspondence chess and to inform the strong OTB players about the benefits of correspondence chess. Of course, we are also hoping to achieve a greater appreciation and respect from our OTB brethren. We all know how some OTB players don't think we play "real chess" or think we just let our computers make all our moves for us.

There is a very interesting question that this experiment may help answer. Just how good at OTB chess are the best cc players? We all know that there is certainly some basic chess knowledge that both types of chess require for top performance, but there are also some very different skills required by each type of chess. Some desirable traits for OTB players may be of minor importance for success in correspondence chess while many cc skills may not be useful at all in OTB competitions.

The cc national federations have been asked by ICCF to nominate their top players who could play on the team. They'll have to be willing to pay their own travel expenses and will not be paid for their time. But a number of top players would jump at this unique opportunity to participate in such a glorious adventure! Besides the players, a few ICCF representatives will be there to help promote the organization and try to attract some of the top OTB players to play in the cc events. We already have a couple high profile OTB players in cc. Most notable is GM Ulf Andersson of Sweden, who for a while was the highest rated player on the ICCF rating list. He is currently in second position behind world champion GM Joop J. van Oosterom. Other famous OTB players have dabbled in cc competition, but ICCF would like to attract more players to cc play.

ICCF is expected to announce the team soon (probably not before the deadline for this column, though). I have seen a list of some of the players nominated by the federations, and it is a very impressive list containing many cc world champions and other top players. The ICCF Executive Board does not have an easy decision, since whoever is chosen means a number of very qualified players will be left out. What are the criteria for choice? I'm not sure, but I suspect FIDE rating may be taken into consideration. Whoever is on the team you can be sure I'll be rooting for them. Some expect close to a last place finish, but I'll be surprised if they don't do reasonably well. With players like Anand competing I don't expect any challenge for the medals, but I'll be overjoyed to see a modestly good performance. Time will tell, and the experiment is a worthy one.

From Readers and other musings

As is common now I didn't receive anything from readers except I did hear from our illustrious Games Editor Stephan Gerzadowicz. There's not much to repeat here, but I can report he is still slaving away at the Polgar Chess Center in New York. It's hard to think of Stephan being a New Yorker doesn't really seem his cup of tea, to me. I suspect he was more at home when he lived in his cranberry bog in Massachusetts. The love of chess takes us all to some strange places.

I enjoyed the cartoon.

Frame 1: Garfield's owner shows his bandaged hand and says, "Injuries are something we athletes have to live with."

Frame 2: Garfield watches as he walks away.

Frame 3: Garfield says (thinks?), "Got a paper cut playing chess by mail." Owner shouts, "Not funny. Not funny at all."

We old-timers will always view correspondence chess through our lens of postal chess. Ah, the correspondence with far away countries, the intriguing post cards and postage stamps, the struggling with foreign languages or deciphering the attempts of our opponents at English, some wonderful picture post cards, the fascinating comments of our opponents, the long, long waits and occasional lost cards, the trips to the post office to get today's postmark date applied. For most of us this is now part of the past. Some domestic play remains by post, since some countries like the USA have fast and dependable postal systems, but for International play it is dying out fast. Even email chess is on the way out, now that server chess is becoming widely available. I certainly don't care to ever play by email again, a form of chess communication that I don't find to my taste. Server chess, though, really appeals to me. The ICCF server is developing nicely and is an excellent way to play correspondence chess. It will continue to improve its interface with the user over time and is now having all sorts of administrative features added, such as automatically rating games and allowing keeping track of postal and email events using the server to record results and display up to date crosstables. As a tournament director for ICCF I have no interest in directing postal or email events ever again. As webmaster for the ICCF Champions League, where I manually update dozens of crosstables, I'll be very happy to have the server do this work for me.

There is a possibility the next ICCF Champions League (a popular team tournament) will be played entirely on the server (as opposed to the current event where only four of the 21 groups are being conducted on the server, the rest by email). I've been trying to get those who refuse to play by server to send me their reasons. I have had very little response, but one fellow informed me that the server is too impersonal that his opponents tend to never send any comments along with their moves. One opponent even responded to his best wishes for Christmas and the New Year by selecting the option to have no comments possible between the players. He found this a great loss from the older postal days. Even in email you can get a lot of correspondence. I must admit that my experience with server chess is much the same. I correspond with only one or two players, the rest of the games being conducted without any correspondence except for the occasional few words.

I'm getting a little taste of the old postal days. As a TD in an International tournament I'm acting as a go-between to help move the game along. I receive a move in the mail from Japan, scan the message, and then email this scanned document to his American opponent. I then get the response by email, print it out, and mailed the printout to his Japanese opponent. This allows me to monitor the game and insure that everything is moving along properly. It also gives me a chance to get and send nice postage stamps. The Japanese opponent always thanks me for the interesting stamps. Where do I get these interesting stamps? Many are from my postal history. I use to set up stamp "stock pages". On each page I would put a selection of stamps, to help me assure that I didn't repeat the same stamps to any given opponent. I still have several of these old stock pages with 4 cent and up denominations of USA stamps. It can take quite a few of these stamps to make up the current postal fee for a letter to Japan (84 cents). Ah, the old days. Maybe they weren't really all that bad.

Thanks again to Stephan Gerzadowicz for his letter to me. For those wishing to contribute their comments to this column, I recommend quick action. With APCT progressing with an orderly shutdown, this magazine isn't likely to survive into next year. If you have something you want to tell other APCT'ers (and others, since these columns are being archived on-line at my personal web site) you had better get on the ball and start writing. I haven't made a decision about continuing this column as an on-line column after the magazine ceases publication, but all the print columns should remain available on-line for some time.

Topalov and Anand Win Corus

The Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee took place January 13th-29th 2006. GM Viswanathan Anand and new FIDE World Champion GM Veselin Topalov tied for first place in the top "A" tournament, though Anand won the trophy on tie-break. The final standings were:

  1. Anand, Viswanathan (IND) 2792 9.0
  2. Topalov, Veselin (BUL) 2801 9.0
  3. Adams, Michael (ENG) 2707 7.5
  4. Ivanchuk, Vassily (UKR) 2729 7.5
  5. Gelfand, Boris (ISR) 2723 7.0
  6. Karjakin, Sergey (UKR) 2660 7.0
  7. Tiviakov, Sergei (NED) 2669 6.5
  8. Leko, Peter (HUN) 2740 6.5
  9. Aronian, Levon (ARM) 2752 6.5
  10. Van Wely, Loek (NED) 2647 6.0
  11. Bacrot, Etienne (FRA) 2717 5.5
  12. Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar (AZE) 2709 4.5
  13. Kamsky, Gata (USA) 2686 4.5
  14. Sokolov, Ivan (NED) 2689 4.0;

The final round was really interesting (I was able to follow the games "live" on the Internet Chess Club broadcast the Internet and chess are a perfect combination). Topalov led Anand by half a point, but he had Black vs. GM Peter Leko while Anand had White vs. GM Boris Gelfand. Topalov played well and pressed Leko, but the game ended in a draw. In the meantime, Anand sac'ed the exchange, won a couple pawns, and gradually outplayed Gelfand to catch Topalov in the standings.

The top three players in the "B" tournament were as follows:

  1. Motylev, Alexander (RUS) 2638 9.0
  2. Carlsen, Magnus (NOR) 2625 9.0
  3. Almasi, Zoltan (HUN) 2646 8.5;

The winner of the "B" tournament traditionally is invited to play with the big boys in the "A" tournament the following year. It appears that both Motylev and Carlsen have been invited. GM Magnus Carlsen is the young Norwegian player who has made such dramatic progress in the last couple of years. In the recent FIDE World Cup knockout tournament he finished in 10th place, which qualifies him to the next world championship matches. It will sure be fun watching to see how he does in the "A" tournament next year!

Both Topalov and Anand are expected to have an increase in their ratings both will be over 2800, just a few points lower than Garry Kasparov. Of course, Kasparov will be dropped from the FIDE rating list soon due to inactivity, but I'm sure both Topalov and Anand would be pleased to pass the former World Champion.

2006 USA Chess Championship (OTB)

The USA championship (OTB) will be played March 2-12 in San Diego, California. It appears to be a 9-round Swiss followed by a "Championship Match". Reading through the official web site at http://www.uschesschampionship.com I couldn't find any description of the championship match.

64 players will be participating with most of the top US players. Many lesser known players qualified through their performances in other events. Some of the top men competing are defending champion GM Hikaru Nakamura, GM Aleks Wojtkiewicz, GM Alexander Ivanov, GM Alexander Stripunsky, GM Yury Shulman, GM Alexander Fishbein, GM Dmitry Gurevich, GM Nick de Firmian, GM Walter Browne, GM John Fedorowicz, GM Sergey Kudrin, GM Joel Benjamin, GM Larry Christiansen, GM Gregory Serper, GM Gregory Serper, GM Gregory Kaidanov, GM Gata Kamsky, GM Alexander Onischuk, GM Boris Gulko , GM Ildar Ibraigimov, GM Alexander Shabalov, GM Varuzhan Akobian, GM Igor Novikov, GM Alex Yermolinsky, GM Boris Kreiman, GM Alexander Goldin, and GM Max Dlugy.

Some of the top women competing are defending champion WGM Rusa Goletiani, WM Esther Epstein, WFM Laura Ross, GM Susan Polgar, WGM Anna Zatonskih, IM Irina Krush, WGM Camilla Baginskaite, WFM Tatev Abrahamyan, and FM Jennifer Shahade.

The men and women compete together with the top score taking the US title and the top woman's score the US Women's title. It would be interesting to see a woman win. I suppose she would have a double title. An interesting aspect of this event, with the flexibility made possible by such a large field, is that two players are named to "wild card" spots. Most qualifiers either get their positions through their high USA ratings or by their excellent scores in qualifying events. This year the two "wild card" players are IM Alex Lenderman and the recently inactive GM Max Dlugy. Many will remember Dlugy, who was a very strong player and one of the youngest USCF Presidents during 1990-93.

From Russian Prison to US Championship

GM Max Dlugy retired from active play about ten years ago to become a securities trader. He then became a businessman in Russia. While working as the chairman of the Solikamsk Magnesium Works in the Perm region of Russia he got caught up in an alleged $9 million fraud and wound up in a Russian prison cell for nine months. Eventually the case was taken to court and he was released. He is said to have enjoyed playing chess while in prison and now has returned to the USA chess scene. It will be interesting to see how he performs after his big layoff. GM Gata Kamsky was in a similar position last year when he was granted a "wild card" spot following his return to play after a long layoff.

USCF Endorses Bessel Kok for FIDE President

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was elected president of FIDE in 1996 in a period of FIDE financial difficulties. Since then he has been considered by many as a disaster for FIDE and the reputation of chess. Though there have been several challenges to his position over the years, in each case the competition has withdrawn before a vote was actually taken. Generally these "competitors" became part of the FIDE administration, perhaps in return for their withdrawals. This year things appear to be different. The election of a president during the Torino, Italy Olympiad in May will indeed be contested.

There are two announced candidates opposing Ilyumzhinov. One is French chess organizer Leo Battesti. The other is Dutch businessman Bessel Kok, a well-known chess organizer who was involved in GMA and the Prague Agreement. Running with Mr. Kok for FIDE Deputy President is Ali Nihat Yazici, the current Turkish Chess Federation President who has done remarkable work in Turkey to promote chess. A dark horse in the presidential race is former world champ GM Anatoly Karpov. He hasn't made an announcement yet but I'm guessing he'll wind up endorsing Bessel Kok instead of running himself.

Bessel Kok has a well-organized campaign called "The Right Move Campaign". He has a nice web site documenting his campaign listing his many endorsements. His site (at this writing) lists the following national federations offering support: Andorra, Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Paraguay, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey and USA. Some of the famous chess players endorsing him are: Judit Polgar, Yvette Nagel, Michael Adams, Boris Gelfand, Vassily Ivanchuk, Henrique Mecking, Sergei Movsesian, Oscar Panno, Yasser Seirawan, Nigel Short, Ivan Sokolov, Genna Sosonko, Jan Timman, and some others.

I was rather surprised with the announcement by USCF that they are endorsing Bessel Kok. This is more courageous of an act than I would normally expect of our federation. I am, however, very pleased to see the USCF make this move. Many Grandmasters have stated they don't believe Ilyumzhinov can be defeated he is a crafty campaigner who knows how to win elections. Many of the minor federations probably feel his election is in their best interests. He has done some positive things for these federations. However, in my opinion his rule has been bad for chess. Bessel Kok believes that major commercial sponsorship will never occur as long as Ilyumzhinov is in charge. Nigel Short has mentioned the low quality of his team and how poorly they perform. This should be an interesting election to watch. I'm hoping to be there personally to observe and report on the proceedings. But, then, that's another story.

I tried to find the official statement of endorsement at the USCF web site, but I couldn't find it. Here are two paragraphs for the endorsement statement as reported on the "Right Move" web site.

Contrast what Mr. Bessel Kok and his Deputy President, Mr. Ali Nihat Yazici of the Turkish Chess Federation can do for chess to that of what Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and his team have failed to accomplish. Upon his election as FIDE President in 1995, Mr. Kirsan Ilyumzhinov stated goals included ending the world championship schism and to increase the support of FIDE's assistance to chess developing countries. Over ten years later, the results are woeful in the extreme. The world championship schism continues unabated and chess assistance to chess developing countries has not increased but rather has dramatically decreased.

Little wonder that the reputation of the FIDE is at the lowest level in its history. Today's rank and file players no longer believe that FIDE is a trustworthy organization. The perception is that Ilyumzhinov's led FIDE lacks both the competence and integrity necessary to develop chess. Commercial corporate sponsors have shunned the FIDE for over ten years. As a member federation of the FIDE the United States Chess Federation takes its responsibility most seriously and urges all the member nations of FIDE to join with it by voting for Mr. Bessel Kok for FIDE President.

copyright © 2006 by J. Franklin Campbell

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