This columnist has a new address! I welcome comments from readers, especially material I can use in this column. Unless you specifically ask me not to use your comments in this column I feel free to use anything submitted to me, though I may have to edit it to fit it in. So please send me your ideas and comments on subjects discussed in this column or subjects you think SHOULD be discussed. And be sure to use my new address at the head of this column. Your input is the life blood of this column. Postal chess is a lot more than cranking out strong moves. I hope to reflect the spirit of competition, the esthetic beauty, the humor and many other aspects of correspondence chess in this column. And I hope to reveal what APCT members are thinking about, what you think is important, what you think is interesting, what inspires and amuses you. Your continual input is absolutely vital!
Chess Software for Postal Record Keeping
I believe there is a need for a good record keeping software package for postal chess players. In my opinion such a software package should contain certain fundamental elements. Not only should it keep track of your current positions but it should also perform the following tasks:
Allow Easy Entry of Moves, Maintain Current Positions
When an opponent's move arrives it should be easy to enter the new move(s). I prefer using a mouse to enter the moves. Perhaps typing a standard chess notation should be allowed as well. The current position should be saved and be available for easy recall. The user should be able to freely move the pieces about the chess board and with the touch of one key recall the latest "real" position. If there's one task in postal chess I dislike it is the constant resetting of the pieces on my analysis set ... so much care must be taken to return to the original position ACCURATELY.
Maintain Personal Information on Opponent
Name, Address, Rating, etc. It might be useful to have a "comment" section as well to add information about his/her job, family, chess-playing style and so forth.
Maintain Competition Information
Organization, Tournament Section, Time Control in Use, Date Started, etc. It might be nice to have a separate record of the tournament crosstable as well.
Keep Track of Correspondence
How often have you had an opponent answer a question and you have no idea of what your question had been? I keep copies of most of the cards I send out so I can check what I had said to my opponent. This is also useful in case of a question about a recording error or a mistake in a time-used calculation. A software package should retain a copy of anything you send an opponent ... or at least allow you to print a duplicate copy for your records (as I do now). Of course this implies the incorporation of at least a crude word processor for composing your correspondence.
Print Postcards, Score Sheets
The usefulness of a record-keeping system would be crippled if it didn't provide a method of corresponding with your opponent. Printing postcards would be essential. Printing score sheets would be useful as well, since some organizations (such as ICCF) require a copy of the score sheet at the end of each game. The ability to print a version of the game scores including annotations would be nice as well. I keep notebooks with records of my postal games. A printout suitable for inclusion in my notebooks would be important to me. It might be more practical to create a file with your games in a format which can be exported to one of the major chess database programs, such as ChessBase. That would allow the use of a powerful annotation tool which I wouldn't propose including in my postal chess software package.
I have used a crude software package I wrote in BASIC for several years. It doesn't have most of the nice features I have mentioned above. But it does allow printing nice postcards with the diagram of the current position. I have found that it adds to the joy of playing postal chess to be able to send out attractive and very readable cards. I have had many opponents in need of some kind of help as far as producing readable cards!
I would welcome reader comments about desirable features of a postal chess software package. One of these days I hope to actually design and program such a package. But it's easy for one person to overlook important and significant features. One aspect which has worried me is the ability of the software to eliminate notation errors. Does this violate any of the rules about receiving help from another? Clearly any kind of move-generating or analysis capability would create problems with some rules of play. And notation errors along with recording errors have been a part of the game for a long time. But Helen Warren ruled the use of ChessBase legal for recording positions in APCT competition. I've never seen this issue raised elsewhere. I suspect many players would welcome the elimination of these elements from competition. In fact, APCT'er Harry Ingersol of Saint Joseph, Missouri recently wrote, "No, I don't think record keeping software packages violate the rules abo ut getting help. I think that recording errors are an unfortunate, unnecessary part of correspondence chess - I certainly wouldn't miss that aspect of the game if it went away completely!"
Stephan Gerzadowicz Replies
In my last column I quoted extensively from an "Open Letter" sent to me by chess journalist Stephan Gerzadowicz on the subject of taking back moves in postal chess. I mistakenly thought it was a copy of a column he had previously published because of the stationery he used (it looked like a column). Unfortunately, in all the confusion of moving across the country, I am unable to lay my hands on his original document. Though I deny any intentional misrepresentation on my part I thought it only fair to pass along the entire letter I received from him since that column appeared. Hopefully he can get the entire 'Open Letter' printed some time so you can judge the merits of his following comments.
Some "Musings" from Philip Laren
APCT member and board-prize winner for APCT in the First USA National Team Championship Philip Laren of Irmo, South Carolina sent me what he labeled "Some musings on postal chess for your always interesting column." Following are his 'musings:'
Thanks to APCT'er Philip Laren for his "musings" above. They contain some very interesting observations about the game we love so much. Correspondence chess presents a rich tapestry wonderful in its many complexities and intricacies. Thirty years of correspondence chess and I'm still discovering new and beautiful aspects to our version of the Royal Game! My involvement with this column has been one of the most exciting and rewarding chess experiences of recent years. The observations I receive from APCT members, such a Philip Laren above, have enriched my understanding and enjoyment of postal chess.
Morphy's Laws of Postal Chess
When I recently moved to a temporary address in Michigan one of my APCT opponents Chris Caligari of Hudson, New Hampshire wrote: "Murphy's law #9 of postal chess: If your opponent moves house - it's always to a longer address!" Later he said, "Maybe it should be 'Morphy's Law for Chess?'" Some additional laws of postal chess he sent along:
Chris added, "I forgot to share Morphy's law #1 - You'll always find a better move than the one you mailed on your way back from the mailbox!" He also suggested that it would make a good contest asking for the best "Morphy's Laws of Postal Chess." While I don't plan a contest for the moment I'd still be pleased to hear any suggestions for additions to "Morphy's Laws of Chess."
Another Note on Taking Back Moves
APCT'er Cary Taylor of Triangle, Virginia recently sent the following note on his approach to an opponent asking to take back a move:
"Enjoy reading your column, especially the discussion on ethics. In the Golden Knights I had a good OTB player ask me to allow a take back. I replied if the TD thought it appropriate. My opponent resigned."
Thanks for the note. The subject of postal chess ethics has proven to be of great interest to the readers of APCT News Bulletin. The subject of taking back moves is more controversial than I had realized. But I agree with your approach completely.
An interesting example of taking back moves at the highest level of OTB chess occurred recently at the elite 1994 Linares super tournament (see p. 20 of the April 4, 1994 issue of Inside Chess for a fuller report). It's claimed that there is video tape showing that PCA World Champion Garry Kasparov, while playing Judit Polgar, moved a knight to a square which would have cost him the exchange. Apparently, even though he had released the piece, he picked it up again and moved it to another square and went on to win the game. So even players at the top can be tempted. My favorite quote picked up by Yasser Seirawan was by FIDE President Florencio Campomanes who is reported to have said, "What do you expect from an unrated player?" For those who missed it, FIDE removed both Kasparov and Nigel Short from their rating list when they played their world championship match under the PCA instead of FIDE.
David Kurfman Waxes Poetic
APCT'er David Kurfman of Pennsylvania sent the following interesting observations:
Thanks for the contribution, David. You are indeed a poet of Caissa. And I especially like the part about "correcting opponents with gentleness." Many opponents do not especially appreciate being "corrected" so gentleness is indeed essential.
copyright © 1994 by J. Franklin Campbell
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