The Campbell Report - May/June 1995


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"A Chessic Vision"

In a vision I beheld
there upon some lonely feld,
knights in armour, battle waged,
the clerics four in prayer engaged ...
"Our father which art in heaven
unto this game send us leaven."
This battle fought upon chessic square
'tis a centuries old ancient affair,
where the lowly pawn a bulwark strong
stands guarding the king from the enemy throng.
The rooks, a fortress o'erlooking the field,
in unison , their might, causing foe to yield.
Behold the queen in regal splendour,
the deadliest of all, havoc doth render!
"God save our gracious queen
from the deadly trial about to convene."
To capture the king, 'tis the grandest theme,
taking all your wiles, and a masterful scheme.
But oh think not the task to be light
for in the end his majesty can put up a noble fight.
... In a vision I beheld,
chessic battles won, foes quelled!
--- Daniel J. North

Get Yourself a Chess Font

Chess is fun. When I enjoy something I want to share it with my friends. One way to share chess is to send diagrams of chess positions, whether it be current games, chess puzzles or whatever. If you have a Windows home computer (as I do) or a Macintosh computer then sending diagrams has become as easy as typing. Just get yourself one of the chess fonts now available.

Steve Smith, owner of Alpine Electronics, is a well known producer of chess fonts. The diagram in my previous column was produced using his Linares True Type™ chess font (he also provides chess fonts for the Macintosh computers). He currently sells three different chess fonts. The choice of a chess font is a matter of taste. I prefer the Linares font ... you may prefer the Hastings or Zurich. Each "font" actually consists of a whole family of fonts. The one you use depends on your purpose. I use one font (Linares) in the software I'm developing. This font contains a complete set of characters for every chess display need, including a selection of Informant-type chess symbols. I use another font (LinaresDiagram) in my word processor to type in chess diagrams. And I use a third font (LinaresFigurine) to produce a game score in FAN notation. Here the standard piece designators (KQRBNP) are replaced by the familiar piece symbols. Another new version of each font is designed to work with ChessBase. Chess Assistant versions are also provided. Below are samples of the three fonts available from Alpine (diagram font followed by the FAN font). These first samples were printed using an Epson 24-pin dot matrix printer and illustrate all three fonts. Following is a complete diagram printed using a laser printer and demonstrates the superior quality possible with such a printer. This diagram was printed using the Linares font.

Chess Fonts Examples Not Available

I encourage every Windows or Macintosh computer user to obtain at least one chess font. You can decorate your letters and envelopes with large chess pieces or add a chess piece to your return address. Or you can produce your own chess newsletters with diagrams and game scores in FAN notation. Or you can pepper your letters with chess diagrams to show off your latest winning positions. The font for typing in chess positions couldn't be easier to use. Easy-to-remember keyboard keys are used to represent the various pieces (on white or black squares) along with a choice of borders. I have created a labor-saving set of macros for my MS-WORD word processor to insert a complete empty chess board into my document complete with a border or a full board with pieces on their starting positions. Then I just modify the board to create the position I want. One day I plan to write a macro to convert a shorthand diagram notation, such as Forsyth, into a complete diagram. These fonts have opened up many new avenues for chess enjoyment with numerous possibilities for future projects.

I believe the ultimate would be to create your own set of chess fonts. I would love to spend endless hours deciding where each little dot goes in every chess symbol. But, if you don't have the hundreds of hours required to design a chess font, or the tools to do the job, then you can buy the chess font(s) you desire. The source for the fonts covered here is Steve Smith, Alpine Electronics, 526 West 7th Street, Powell, WY 82435. The prices: $29 for one font, $49 for two, $59 for all three. Excellent documentation is provided and the fonts are quite easy to install following the provided instructions. Be sure to specify which computer you use.

More on Offering Draws

My ideas in the last column on offering draws brought in a few comments. Gregory Conlon of Jenison, Michigan offered the following: "... I would like to add that a draw does not always signify a tame acquiescence to the inevitable. More than a few draws are the aftermath of heroic struggles on the chessboard. In my minds eye a picture occurs of a battle of champions in a medieval joust. The stakes are so high that the warriors give their all, only to collapse from exhaustion, lying side by side. I believe there are occasions when a draw is offered out of courtesy and as a matter of respect. ... If a draw seems unavoidable, why waste postage? This is not to say that one should play for draws or not exhibit a fighting spirit, but the beauty of the defensive side of chess should not be ignored. The great Emanuel Lasker took particular delight in the defense of weaknesses and leading his opponents into uncharted waters and along slippery slopes! So then, a draw isn't a win, but sometimes there is a victory tucked away in a hard fought draw." You make some good points, Greg. I particularly appreciate your final thought.

Ralph Marconi of Joliette (Quebec), Canada, APCT master and ICCF International Arbiter, adds, "I feel very awkward offering a draw when I know I am in trouble. Kind of feel like I am insulting my opponent's ability or something. But this is my opinion. Once I offer a draw, and my opponent declines, I usually tend to wait for him/her to make the offer before I will again. ... I think offering a draw when the Queens have been exchanged and the position appears to be balanced is an appropriate time." Thanks for the input, Ralph. I'd like to alert readers to watch for your new column in Chess Correspondent on the international postal chess scene. Ralph is also the new Games Editor for the Canadian Correspondence Chess Association and a tournament book may be in his future. We have a lot of talent in the APCT!

APCT master and Top 30 player Rick Callaghan of Ivy, Virginia also wrote on the question of draws: "May I suggest an informal poll that I think might be of interest. Question: Would you rather play two draws or score one win and one loss? I'll cast the first vote: two draws. If the poll results in a lopsided count, it might be interesting to speculate on the 'why.' After all, a point is a point. Would the result be about the same for OTB players? I venture to guess that OTB players would favor the win and loss side of the equal equation. Why? ... they are on the whole a more sadistic bunch and the conditions of postal make it a more genteel endeavor." Well, Rick, I agree with your vote for two draws. I would speculate, however, that your characterization of OTB players as "sadistic" and postalites as "genteel" may generate more mail than your proposed poll question. But I'll tabulate any responses received and report them. Two draws or a win and loss? What do you say, readers?

Communicating With Your Opponent

Daniel Pimm of Yorktown Heights, NY wrote about an incident where two consecutive postcards he mailed were lost in the mail. When he didn't hear from his opponent he sent in an official complaint. His opponent was surprised when a complaint was lodged even though he hadn't received any moves. Mr. Pimm said, "Obviously a breakdown in communication is source for the problem. If we can talk we can play chess." He and his opponent cleared up the confusion and, he adds, "(we) have subsequently exchanged phone numbers and personal assurances to call before issuing any time complaints. A very good and workable idea. Now we're talking!"

Daniel Pimm and his opponent found a logical and peaceful solution to their temporary problem. More of us should follow their examples. From time to time I receive comments from postal competitors asking me if I have had any trouble with a common opponent. In almost every case I reply that I haven't. In many cases I'm having a delightful and very pleasant correspondence with the person in question. I believe a lot of the friction that can occur between competitors only occurs because BOTH parties are partially at fault. If you are willing to look at a question from your opponent's viewpoint and give her/him the benefit of the doubt then many small problems will simply go away rather than expand into a real (big) problem. It takes two to create an argument. Of course there are a few irritating characters who attack your honor and falsely accuse you of improper behavior. Fortunately, they are few and far between. Like most, when confronted with that type of behavior I also react in a negative fashion.

Endgames (and Correspondence) Can Be Fun

I recently received an interesting letter and game score from APCT Master Fred Bender of Madison, Wisconsin, one of my current opponents. I encourage all postalites to share their joy and love of the game with others through such correspondence. The ending was Queen vs. Rook (no pawns). He wrote, "... I had never played a Queen vs. Rook endgame and over the board it might have been very difficult to win. But it wasn't so hard by correspondence when you can consult references as to the proper way to proceed. The idea is to use the King and Queen together to force the King to the edge of the board and then, by combining threats of checkmate and picking off the Rook, you force a separation of the King and Rook so that they don't mutually protect each other. And then, by a series of checks, you pick off the Rook." I believe Fred was being overly modest here as the task couldn't have been as simple as he describes (for lesser players, that is). The game he sent me displayed this plan very elegantly and efficiently and was a pleasure to play over. I remember a club OTB tournament many years ago when an opponent was able to force a Q v R ending in an attempt to salvage a bad game. I can tell you I was really sweating out the 50-move rule before I was finally able to achieve the situation described above.

On another occasion Fred Bender made this interesting observation: "I usually don't spend more than 20 minutes on a move, sometimes more, but if you can't analyze a position in 1/2 hour maybe you're in the wrong game. What do you think?" In a later missive he added, "Of course I make mistakes - but usually I think 1/2 hour is enough time to find a move." I find this an interesting insight into the methods of one of the APCT Top 30 players.

Knights or Bishops?

I have several Knight and Bishop endings going at the moment. Walt Stephan of Upper Montclair, NJ asked this probing question: "I wonder what personality types prefer Knights over Bishops and vice versa? Do Republicans prefer Bishops and Democrats Knights? Any ideas?" Later he added, "Think that Knights can pull off more upsets than Bishops. Those horses can be devilish." You may have a point there, Walt. I've spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out how to deal with my opponent's Knights. I'll admit to a sneaking appreciation for the Knight but, in general, I prefer to have the Bishop. And I'm a Democrat!

Another Postal Chess Methodology

Responding to my invitation to readers to send in their personal approaches to postal chess play Jack R. Clauser II of Shiremanstown, Pennsylvania sent the following remarks: "... You asked for reader approaches to postal chess. Below is an abbreviated approach that I try to follow:

1) When I receive a card, I write the date on the front bottom left corner of the card. This helps me when I do not work on a card for a day or two. I can keep track of which card was received on what day.

2) I play from start to current position every game when a new move arrives. This gives me a feel for the game and I make very few position mistakes.

3) If I see a move I write a comment so I can review when I'm fresh -- usually 5:00 am [Oh, Mama! -- JFC]. If I'm already expecting my opponent's move I have it in comments on the diagram sheet so I can send my move out that evening.

4) At critical points I write variations under a diagram and put in my 3-ring binder to look at or add notes to.

Along with the comments above, Jack sent samples of the forms he designed for his 3-ring binder: a special score sheet with spaces for all postal chess information and comments and a diagram sheet for recording positions and comments. I find it exciting to see examples of thoughtful and inventive approaches to our sport/science/art. Jack has a well thought out approach and has designed the tools he needs to play his games in a thoughtful and error-free way. Bravo!

Sending Repeats

My experience with repeats is pretty much as follows. I review my chess notebook from time to time for overdue responses. When I discover an opponent whose reply is quite late I repeat my last postcard to him, noting on the card that it is a repeat. I also note the date of my repeat on the scoresheet. After my opponent has more than adequate time to reply to my repeat I then drop the tournament director a note giving all pertinent information about when I last heard from my opponent and giving the dates of my reply and repeat. If a postcard was lost in the mail then this approach gets the game going again without too much of a delay.

One curious thing I've noticed is that I rarely receive repeats from my opponents. Logically my cards should be lost just as often as my opponents' cards. But till I repeat the game is generally delayed. Could this be caused by a general lack of attention to chess records? Do others simply not check to see which moves are late? Or do most of my opponents prefer to wait longer than I before sending a repeat? I start anticipating the arrival of moves and notice quite soon when one is late. To keep games moving along and to keep delays to a minimum I suggest that all players periodically check their records for overdue cards and send out repeats without too much of a delay. Occasionally this results in a repeat being sent when not needed. Personally I'd rather send out the occasional spurious repeat postcard than delay the progress of my games. Any different viewpoints out there?


copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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