Try Chess Problem Solving
Regular readers of this column know there is one subject I return to over and over ... finding different ways to enjoy chess. Recently I decided to give problem solving a try. I've always enjoyed the problems with actual game positions where the goal is to find the winning move. And I'm a fan of the endgame compositions or miniatures, where there is little material left on the board. There were two problems with reduced material in the last APCT News Bulletin (see Newman Guttman's column "The Problem Solver" on page 34). While I was there I thought, "Why don't I give the other problems a shot?"
I have little experience with the classic "Mate in Two" and "Mate in Three" compositions. This is unknown terrain for me. Some of the terminology and chess notation is strange and unfamiliar. Terms such as Pf3X, a generous key and battery appeared in Newman Guttman's discussion. Here is a chess subject where my education is sadly lacking. But one thing is clear: the standard rules of chess apply to how the pieces move. So even a beginner without a grounding in the language and "rules" of the two-mover should be able to work out the solutions with enough time and effort. This is a subtle and artistic corner of our chess world. Composition must be very challenging and rewarding. I suggest that you take a look at Newman Guttman's regular column and give problem solving a shot. And, if you'd like a little chuckle, you can check the ladder standings for a new entry for Franklin Campbell to see how I did in my first attempt to solve the six problems given in his last column.
More On Chess Magazines
Last time I discussed subscribing to smaller-circulation chess magazines as another way to enjoy our favorite activity. Since then I received another sample copy of a magazine on Charles Pote's Top Ten list which I would like to recommend to my readers. It would appear that chess is alive and well in the great state of Texas. A one-year subscription (six issues?) to Texas Knights costs $10. Send your check to Gary Gaiffe, Texas Chess Assoc. Treasurer, P. O. Box 161052, Austin, TX 78716 or request a sample copy. This appears to be another outstanding regional magazine.
Here is an interesting sample from the cover of the January-February issue of Texas Knights. The solution is given below following the next topic.
Another Kindred Spirit
In past columns I've lamented the deterioration of my prized magnetic chess set which I use every day to study my postal positions. Fellow APCT'er Glen Shields of Racine, Wisconsin shares my distress and sent the following:
"Read with a chuckle your notes about your magnetic chess set. I have a set that is well aged. Used it in the late '60's when I played on the high school chess team. Our games would often be played over two days. After the first day, the move would be sealed. We were not allowed to take our game score or write down our position. I would run to my bus stop and set up my position on my 'magnetic set.' I would study it and get ready to finish the game the next day after school. I have used that set millions of times. The magnets are worn. The vinyl board is falling apart. One of my white pawns is broken (it was chopped up in the beater bar of my vacuum cleaner!). I love my set and want to replace it!" I know how you feel, Glen.
I'd also like to pass along a few of the comments I received from another APCT'er Steven Pollard of Falls Church, Virginia: "Played in the Eastern Open and took 4th place in category and won $200. Yeah, now if I can win about $5,000 more I'll be even for entry fees, books (and) postage over the years!" Though modest in his success Steven is yet another example of how successful many of our members have been in OTB events. Congratulations, Steven!
The solution to the Texas Knights problem in the diagram above is: 1. Rc4! b5 (or 1...Kb5 2. Rc1+ Ka4 3. Ra1++) 2. Bh3! bxc4 3. Bd7++. Composer: Cook. From Chervev and Reinfeld, The Fireside Book of Chess. When even the magazine cover has an interesting chess challenge I believe the magazine must be worth reading!
When Your Opponent Oversteps
The following comments arrived from APCT'er George Arons of Irvington, New Jersey:
"Your magnificent column is a significant proving ground for debate and expressions of opinion on matters pertaining to the Royal Game. It is in this spirit that I offer for consideration and discussion a subject I've not yet seen broached. The question: What to do when an opponent has not yet replied and he's already exceeded the time limit. I offer my own background for clarification.
"I play a stranger for the first time, and by the time the game is over he's my friend. I've made countless friends in the more than 50 years I've been playing postal. When A FRIEND is late or delayed in making his move I don't file a time complaint! Rather, I write to him and I ask him: Is he ill? Are family problems plaguing him? Has there been a death in the family?
"I invite an open discussion of his situation. My feeling has always been -- let's talk! Recently an opponent filed a formal time complaint against me following his third move. This was but FOUR days after he had sent me the first move. Might not a little conversation have eased matters considerably? I invite discussion. What do YOU do under such circumstances?"
Well, George, I must compliment you on your understanding approach to the matter of a late reply. We can all learn a lot from your example. And I respect the opinion of any postal chess player with over 50 years of experience! My practice is to assume the best of my opponent. If my opponent is late with a reply I send a repeat of my previous move assuming my last card was lost in the mail. If I receive no reply by a week or so after he or she would normally have time to reply (from the date of my repeat) I then drop the tournament director a note. Much of my approach is dictated by the previous behavior of my opponent. A chronically late opponent who has given me no reason to extend my trust will get a time complaint faster than someone who has given me the feeling they wouldn't purposely delay the game or do a "silent withdrawal."
Is this a subject about which others have a strong opinion? If you have something to say on this subject then respond to George Arons challenge to present your viewpoint. My address is at the top of this column.
The Etiquette of Offering a Draw
I recently proposed a draw to a strong opponent in an ending where he had a slight edge. He declined and we played ten more moves. The Queens had been exchanged so I once again proposed the draw. Though I wasn't surprised that my opponent still chose to continue I didn't think my offer was out of line. It would seem to me to be improper to "harrass" an opponent with one draw proposal after another, but the passage of ten moves and removal of Queens seemed enough to justify a new offer. But it did make me wonder about just what was the proper etiquette to offering draws.
Here are a few thoughts I've had on the subject. It is proper to propose the draw (again) after: (1) the passage of some number of moves, (2) a major exchange of pieces (simplification) has taken place or (3) it is not proper for you to propose a draw again (since your opponent has declined a draw it is up to him to make the next draw offer).
My first draw proposal occurs for several reasons ... I'm not enjoying the game, my opponent has some sort of minimal advantage that makes me uncomfortable, we've reached a type of position I don't play well, we've reached an ending without winning chances or the pawns are locked up making progress impossible. I guess there are other reasons as well.
Several opponents have written of their dislike of draws. Many would risk losing rather than tamely agreeing to the draw. Some would much rather win one game and lose one game than to draw two. I must admit I'd much rather draw the two games. I hate losing! There is clearly a difference of perception here. How do you feel about draws? And what do you think is the proper ettiquette to draw offers after a first offer is rejected? Let me know your opinions.
This subject often reminds me of a cartoon by APCT'er Ben Miramontes that ran in this column in Nov-Dec 1992. The postal player was explaining his position to his wife. He said, "First he seized the initiative, then he took a piece, now he's taken my last hope of counterplay away. All I have left is my dignity ... so I offered a draw."
State Postal Chess Championships
It has come to my attention that several state chess organizations conduct postal championships for their states or membership. APCT'er IWCCM Christine Rosenfield is organizing the 1995 Michigan Chess Association postal championship open to all MCA members. If you are an MCA member and want to participate send your $10.00 check made out to the Michigan Chess Association to: Chris Rosenfield, 2520 W. La Palma Ave., #307, Anaheim, CA 92801. Entry deadline: April 1, 1995.
The Massachusetts Chess Association is conducting their first annual MACA Correspondence Chess Championship in honor of the 25th anniversary of Chess Horizons magazine. To enter send $10.00 check made out to MACA to: Joe Sparks, 40 Boston Street, Somerville, MA 02143. MACA membership is required. Entries close March 15, 1995 and the tournament director will be our own Helen Warren.
I read announcements for the 1993 Maryland postal chess championship and have seen mention of a few other state tournaments in the past. I don't know any specific information about any events other than the two listed above but, if you are a member of a state chess organization and would like to play in a state or regional championship, I suggest that you investigate the possibilities. If your state doesn't offer such an event you may be just the person to organize one! And, if your state magazine doesn't have a postal chess column, why not start one?
Become a Chess Journalist
Recently a letter from a gentleman who was interested in trying his hand at chess writing was forwarded to me. His main concern was that he would be exposing himself to ridicule if he wrote an article which contained errors. There was certainly no lack of enthusiasm for chess in his letter, which was well written and demonstrated a good writing style. And he had several very good ideas to use for subjects of articles. He was particularly interested in submitting an article to his state chess magazine. Here are a few of the comments I sent him:
"It's natural to worry about mistakes and criticisms. I believe it is a good idea to start small and gain experience and confidence. I would recommend that you try something at the club level (does your local club have a newsletter?) or the state level to gain this experience. The Maryland Chess Newsletter [he lives in Maryland] would seem to me to be the perfect place to test the waters with your first writing efforts. I suspect the editor would be very pleased to receive fresh material. And don't worry too much about exposing yourself to ridicule and embarrassment. While I do suggest careful attention to details in your writing, it is impossible for any writer to avoid making any mistakes except, of course, by never publishing anything. I, too, was hesitant to publish annotations to my games or comments on the world of chess news. But I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the response to your efforts.
"... One of my pet chess subjects is that there are many ways to enjoy the royal game. Studying history, solving problems, photographing chess events, collecting chess on stamps, designing chess forms, drawing chess cartoons, writing chess articles, writing chess software, collecting chess autographs, collecting chess sets, making chess sets, annotating your own games, teaching chess to beginners, etc., etc. This list goes on and on. The chess enthusiast (and I have identified you as one of these) should search out a large number of ways to enjoy our fabulous art/science/sport. It would be unfortunate to restrict your enjoyment of the game to just a few aspects. You have a lot to offer to the chess community through your chess writing. And, I can guarantee, you will receive a great deal back from the experience. You have the enthusiasm, the skill and a bunch of good ideas to start with. I suggest that you stop thinking about whether or not to try chess writing and start working on your first article. ... I'll demonstrate my publishing attempt that seemed to invite criticism. Though I was at first reluctant to publish my chess cartoons which seemed so amateurish I never-the-less have made it a habit to place one at the head of my column for the last few years. I have never received a single complaint. Though very simple I believe the readers appreciate my little attempts at humor. If I can publish this 'Lunchbag Art' then you can certainly publish your chess articles."
If you recognize yourself being addressed by the above then I encourage you to give chess writing your best shot. We all have our own particular talents. If you are a strong player or particularly good at some phase of the game you might enjoy annotating games or writing technical articles, such as our new APCT News Bulletin columnist Ray Gatten. He has used his particular skill at understanding the openings to create a very interesting new column for this magazine. Or perhaps your talents and enthusiasm lie in understanding the history of the game. Some of the most enjoyable articles I've read have been on the history of the game and the players of the past. If you are a talented teacher perhaps you could write about the basic elements of chess. Are you a problem solver or composer? There's certainly a place for you. Do you enjoy reporting? There are many chess events worth a write-up in the appropriate publication. You'll recognize many of these features already represented in this magazine. But there are many smaller magazines out there in need of enthusiastic writers to fill their pages. Many states have their own magazines. And many local chess clubs have newsletters (or would benefit from you creating a newsletter for them).
There is an organization for people interested in chess journalism. If you are interested then I suggest that you join the Chess Journalists of America. You don't have to be a chess journalist to join. If you are interested in promoting chess journalism or becoming a chess journalist yourself you can join for $10.00 a year. Just send your check made out to CJA to Tim Just, CJA Treasurer, 37165 Willow Lane, Gurnee, IL 60031. You'll receive the quarterly journal The Chess Journalist along with your membership. The current editor is Helen Warren, editor of this magazine.
Trouble in FIDE-land
Chess politics is with us again (still). I was amazed when I saw the cover of the Jan 23, 1995 issue of Inside Chess. There was a depiction of two "birds of a feather" with the heads of GM Garry Kasparov and FIDE President Florencio Campomanes with their wings wrapped around each other. Over their heads was what appeared to be the emblem for FIDE with the words "Bribery, Intimidation, Cheating" and the legend "Gazza et Campo uni sumus." I recognized immediately that this was not going to be a normal issue of this wonderful magazine.
Contained within the magazine was an incredible story of corrupt behavior during the FIDE elections at the recent Chess Olympiad in Russia. Campomanes, who had long ago announced that he would not run for re-election, had been elected president of FIDE once again with the support of his long-time bitter enemy Kasparov. Amazing! The tales of bribery and intimidation were startling and hard to believe. I'm not competent at this stage to report on what actually happened there but I am concerned about the integrity of this world body and fearful for its survival. Many have expected FIDE to fail. Will this be the straw that breaks the camel's back? I'm going to be watching the reports on the FIDE elections with great interest. Apparently the USCF Policy Board supported the Campomanes election campaign. Reports on the FIDE situation should make for interesting reading ... keep your eyes open for first-hand reports. This could be better than the OJ trial!
My Postal Chess Methodology
Most postal chess competitors have their own methods of keeping records and planning their moves. I suspect there are many different approaches and techniques applied by APCT members. I'll just summarize my approach.
I keep my games organized in a 3-ring binder. I have a separate tabbed section for each opponent. First comes the score sheet, one sheet for each game (as I mentioned in a previous column I design my own scoresheets so they fit my requirements exactly ... this is easy to do with the popular word processors available for home PC's). The scoresheets have all the current moves along with name/address/ID of my opponent, tournament and section ids, general comments, dates and time used after each move and a column for comments where I note "if" moves, vacation time-outs, ideas for future moves, etc. Following the score sheet are copies of my correspondence with that opponent. When I print a postcard I just print a second copy onto 3-ring binder paper (I get 3-5 postcard images on each sheet). I also keep all my current positions in a Post-A-Log notebook. Each page has a chess diagram on each side with stick-on pieces that are easily moved. I don't use the scoresheets provided with the Post-A-Log pages preferring my own scoresheets.
When I receive a move I note the date received on the face of the card (e.g., 7/29- /94) leaving room to note the date I reply. I open my notebook to that opponent's scoresheet, check the position in my Post-A-Log (I usually check to be sure the previous couple moves on the score sheet were properly recorded in the Post-A-Log at this stage), verify that the new moves are legal, unambiguous and properly numbered, write down the move(s), dates and time-used on the scoresheet and update the position in the Post-A-Log. After checking for any notes I may have written in the comments space on the scoresheet for any ideas I had previously worked out, I proceed to work on my move. The Post-A-Log diagram has the current position so during my analysis I can always reset my analysis set to the proper starting position (I never make candidate moves in the Post-A-Log ... I always use a separate chess set to work on the position). After deciding on my move I record it on my scoresheet, update the Post-A-Log diagram and print the postcard (with a copy for my notebook). I note the date sent on my opponent's card in the space I left for this date and file the postcard with my opponent's previous cards (I just keep a rubber band around each opponent's cards and file them alphabetically in a shoe box). I print the postcards using my computer, but that's another story. How I analyze the positions is also another story but with the small Post-A-Log notebook I am able to carry all my positions with me anywhere I go. My wife reads a book in waiting rooms; I study my postal chess positions.
I'm sure every APCT member has his/her own methodology and I would be interested in hearing about different approaches. I tend to be very cautious. For instance, I usually print a diagram of the current game position on the postcard I send my opponent. Before mailing the card I carefully compare the moves recorded against my scoresheet and the diagram printed against my Post-A-Log position for exact matches. If there is a discrepancy I correct it immediately. Using this careful approach I successfully avoid recording errors. Following a solid, well thought out procedure will minimize your errors.
copyright © 1995 by J. Franklin Campbell
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