Print Your Own Personalized Chess Postcards
Lately I've received a number of compliments on the appearance of my new postal chess postcards. I really enjoy sending out good-looking correspondence. Many people use pre-printed postal chess cards with places to fill in the required information, such as dates and time used. I prefer to design and print my own postal chess cards. If you have the equipment and software listed below you can also design and print your own postal chess cards. No special chess software is required. Following is a (smaller than life-size) sample of one of my recent postcards (back only). Though it may not reproduce very well take my word that it is a quite nice looking card. And you can do just as well!
Sample Postal Chess Postcard (reduced to 60% of life size)
Even if you don't have the following equipment you may be able to develop your own methods using the equipment you do have. The requirements for the method described below are a Windows personal computer, a printer capable of printing on standard postcards or index cards, one of the True-Type chess fonts (though this is actually optional) and a good word processor. I personally use an Epson LQ dot-matrix printer, the Linares chess font (see my last column for a discussion of three of the chess fonts available) and the Microsoft Word word processor. I print my cards on regular 4x6 unlined index cards. Using index cards has two advantages: the 4x6 size allows more room for printing and, if you spoil a copy, you just throw it away and print another without losing 20 cents. Only after a card is ready to mail do I add the postage stamp. Note that most printer devices will require you to have a reasonably large margin around the printed area, so you can't print on the entire 4x6 area.
For each opponent I save two documents for printing: the front of the card and the back of the card. The front of the card contains the return address and my opponent's name and address. This document will seldom require any modification. The second document is the back of the card with tournament ID, opponent's postmark, dates received and sent and time used by both players. These are arranged across the top of the card. The rest of the card I've divided into two columns. In the left column I place a diagram of the current position. If you don't have a chess font you can leave out the diagram. On the right side of the card I record the moves and my personal message.
The next time I prepare a postcard for an opponent I just call up these two documents. The front of the card is ready to print (unless there's been a change of address). The back of the card contains all the information from my previous card. I correct the dates and time used information to the new values, change the moves to reflect the latest moves made and update the personal message. I also update the diagram to the current position by "making the moves" on the diagram since the last postcard.
I also keep a 3-ring binder with all my game scores. Following each score sheet I keep records of all the correspondence I send that opponent. When you print chess postcards in the above fashion it is easy to position a blank sheet of paper in your printer and print a duplicate of the postcard information you are going to mail. Actually, I usually get three postcard images on each notebook sheet. By printing on front and back I can save six messages on one sheet of paper. It makes a great historical document showing all the correspondence you sent. And, if you print diagrams, it also provides a quick way to review a complete game without setting up a board. Furthermore, if there is any question about the moves you sent or the questions you asked an opponent, you have an exact copy of what you sent your opponent. That can be quite useful!
There are obviously a lot of possibilities for error in this approach. Since there is no intelligent chess software involved to insure correct chess notation, etc. it is easy to be careless and send out a card with date errors, notation errors and/or bad diagrams (just as in any hand-written method). My biggest problem is forgetting to change the dates and time used from the previous values. It's also easy to forget to update the diagram. So care must still be taken to insure sending the correct information. I still always compare the printed postcard to my personal records (moves on my scoresheet and diagram in my Post-A-Log) before putting the card in the mail. Frequently at this point I discover that I forgot to update my Post-A-Log diagram and correct that oversight. There are a couple of ways to insure greater accuracy, if you have a chess database. I use ChessBase to record my games. Then I can have ChessBase generate an accurate diagram, which I can cut and paste into my postcard document. The chess moves can also be cut and pasted, though I haven't tried that with postcards. The chess fonts discussed last time have versions that work with ChessBase and Chess Assistant output. After clipping the diagram out of the database and pasting it into your postcard, just change the font to LinaresCBWIN or whichever is appropriate in your case.
If you have a simple word processor that doesn't allow multiple columns, you can either leave off the diagram, print the diagram in a separate pass through the printer, or come up with your own clever solution. If you are planning to buy a printer you may want to keep this application in mind and locate a printer that will allow printing on postcards and index cards. I'm looking at a Brother laser printer at the moment that should work great.
There's a lot of scope for a clever chess player who wants to print professional-looking postcards. The appearance of your postal chess postcards can be as unique as you care to make them. For many the extra work required to design and print these cards would be wasted time that could be spent playing chess. For me it is one more way to express my love of the game and to experience the variety that chess offers its devotees.
An Interesting Position
Fellow APCT member Walt Stephan sent me this very interesting finish to a Regional Team game. In this position his opponent Don Lundberg of Oregon played a convincing move leading to a quick win. The winning move played by Lundberg is given below the next topic. [Note: I moved the solution to the bottom of the page. -- JFC] Thanks for sharing this with us, Walt.
Chess Recorder Program for Postal Chess
I recently received a copy of Chess Recorder, a modestly priced software package for saving games in progress. The software was developed with the email user in mind. The good news is that developer Eric Churchill has notified me that he is working on a version for postal chess competitors, with fields for dates and time used. This new version should be available at the end of the summer. When it becomes available I'll print a short review in this column with ordering information. It's always nice to see the needs of the postal chess community being addressed by developers of new products.
Evans Gambit Makes Dramatic Comeback
In case you missed it (and didn't understand the LunchBag Art cartoon above) the Evans Gambit has been resurrected by that expert of surprise GM Garry Kasparov. He uncorked his shocker against his upcoming PCA world championship challenger GM Viswanathan Anand. The game was played at the PCA Tal Memorial in Riga, Latvia and only went 25 moves. Was this a bit of psychological warfare by Kasparov or just a way to avoid revealing any opening preparations he may be making for the upcoming championship match? Or are we about to witness a revival of that classic gambit? This win allowed Kasparov to take first place half a point ahead of Anand. Wow!
G. Kasparov - V. Anand, Riga 1995, Evans Gambit C51
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Be7 6. d4 Na5 7. Be2 exd4 8. Qxd4 Nf6 9. e5 Nc6 10. Qh4 Nd5 11. Qg3 g6 12. 0-0 Nb6 13. c4 d6 14. Rd1 Nd7 15. Bh6 Ncxe5 16. Nxe5 Nxe5 17. Nc3 f6 18. c5 Nf7 19. cxd6 cxd6 20. Qe3 Nxh6 21. Qxh6 Bf8 22. Qe3+ Kf7 23. Nd5 Be6 24. Nf4 Qe7 25. Re1 1-0
Win/Lose or Draw/Draw?
A few comments have come in on the question of whether you prefer to win a game and lose a game vs. two draws. APCT'er Frank C. Vogel III of North Kingstown, RI wrote, "On the survey of ½-½ versus a win and a loss, I like the win/loss. I'd rather go down flaming in a good battle than have two draws. The draws aren't decisive, even if well played." Myles E. Lampenfeld of Oakland, CA commented, "Two draws are better than a win and loss. Most of my draws are the result of a hard-fought game, often into the endgame (no GM draws here). I love the anecdote about the famous GM who refused his opponent's 1st draw offer with, "... too early" and the 2nd with "... too late to offer a draw."
Jack Clauser of Shiremanstown, PA wrote, "I have a natural tendency to choose two draws and I suspect most players feel the same way. My natural tendency needs to be fought every time I play a double-edged position, every time I play an endgame where I have a slight advantage but the position is dangerous, or when a lazy feeling creeps into my head. I also believe a person learns a lot more from a win and a loss than from two draws because one's fear has to be tested or conquered. One may eventually learn to evaluate risks better and know when to ask for or accept a draw." Gene Estes of Niceville, FL states, "If I'm playing someone who doesn't respect and play within the rules, then I want draws and to be out of these games A.S.A.P. If I'm playing someone like Leo Whiteside, Travis Norman or Jack Clauser III then I'd like the 1-1 split after a protracted struggle on the chessboard and lots of great chess friendship."
There hasn't been enough response to really draw any clear conclusion, but it would seem (to my surprise) that there is a tendency to prefer the two draws, based on the above comments and those in my previous column.
More From Steve Smith (the Font Maven)
Since writing about the chess fonts available from Alpine Electronics last time Steve Smith has sent me samples of his latest font designs. He can now provide fonts for the DOS version of ChessBase, as well as rotated chess fonts (for chess variants) and checkers. In addition he has fonts for printing positions in several other games: go, othello, backgammon, Chinese chess and shogi (Japanese chess). If you have any interest in these fonts drop Steve a line at: Alpine Electronics, 526 West 7th St., Powell, WY 82435.
Steve Smith also wrote some revealing words about his feelings for postal chess. He said, "I miss the intensity and beauty of postal chess, those difficult and interesting problems that are always in the background of your consciousness and that wonderful feeling when the mist finally clears and the solution becomes clear. I treasure the friendships that develop over the months as the battle unfolds and both sides give it their all. I still correspond with a 90 year old Russian who was my opponent in a 1983 ICCF master class tournament. His perspective on the rise and fall of communism in Russia is enlightening and frightening."
Both Gene Estes and Jack Clauser III sent comments on this topic. Gene said, :"It's simple; just follow the rules! Under 10/30 time rules, after 16 days with no response from your opponent, then send a repeat. Why not? ... As for reporting rules violations to the T.D.: after one 'freebie' and I feel sure that the infraction has occurred twice, I register a complaint. Why not? ... Not to report violations only serves to promote continued and possibly worse conduct from the offender. ... Tis said that if someone hits you on the left cheek, then turn the right. That's OK with me in C.C. But I only have two cheeks. ..."
Jack wrote, "I also send out more repeats than I receive. I believe that my opponents really don't get as excited as you and I do about keeping a game going. I think I probably wait longer than you do (2-4 weeks after due) before sending a repeat because I do not want my opponent to have to send two cards for the same move if the first card was delayed in the mail. One delay comes to mind: after a repeat card by me with two subsequent cards received, I finally received the wayward original card from my opponent. Personally, I'd rather not send out repeat cards but on occasion I feel obligated to do so."
Create Some Special Games
In his letter quoted from above Jack Clauser III also had some interesting comments on Fred Bender's approach to analyzing: "One needs to look at the reason one plays postal chess as well as the goal one wants to achieve. I am a weaker player than Fred, yet I generally spend the same amount of time analyzing a move. My main reason for playing postal chess is to play chess; I enjoy the game. My main goal is to learn specific openings and their subsequent positions. My secondary goals are to learn endgames and to produce a few pretty games. To produce the few pretty games I vary my routine and spend time studying while my move is in transit as well as after the move arrives. I spend 2-3 hours per move. My goal in these games is to reduce errors and create some special games which become a source of pride for me."
Thanks for these comments, Jack. In the serious business of competing it's easy to forget the pleasure to be gained from chess. Creating the special games, which become points of pride, is an important concept for me. I've spend many enjoyable hours reviewing old games and reliving the glories of some really special games. I would suggest that many players would benefit from creating a collection of their "Best Games" for occasional review and inspiration. Chess shouldn't be all work. I would also suggest sharing these special games with a larger audience. The "Games from APCT Play" column by Jon Voth would be an excellent place to share your best games. You might even enjoy taking a crack at annotating your special gems. A little time spent with these games could be both educational and inspirational.
Chess and Basketball
It's fun to compare chess to other sports. Two critical incidents in college basketball reminded me of the technical requirements of competitive postal chess.
In the first incident the players lined up for a critical free throw in the last few seconds of the game. After the player to shoot the free throws had received the ball from the referee one of the other players moved in an illegal fashion. I wasn't aware that the player had broken a rule, but all the players on the opposing team immediately pointed out the infraction to the referee. The resulting penalty effectively reversed the result of the game.
In the second incident, from the recent NCAA championship playoffs, a player intercepted an inbounds pass and was laying on the floor with a few seconds to play and his team leading by one point. To avoid being tied up he called a time-out. His team didn't have any time-outs left. The resulting penalty allowed the other team a chance to tie the game and win in overtime. This technical "non-basketball" error probably cost his team the game.
Both of the above basketball errors remind me of the many technical "non-playing" errors which can cost us the point in postal chess, such as overstepping the time limit or making a notation error. And, just as a long well-fought basketball game can be lost at the last moment on a "non-basketball error," our well-played and hard-fought postal chess game can suddenly end due to a dumb technical error.
Postal Chess ... Something Special
Postal chess requires a special sort of competitor to make it work properly. Unlike OTB chess, where opponents, spectators and tournament directors have the players constantly under observation, postal chess requires that the competitors play fairly following rules of conduct that are self policed. Some infractions (such as overstepping the time limit) can be dealt with by a tournament official. But many rules, such as the rule against analyzing postal positions with friends or using a computer to help determine a move, require a player to play according to the "honor system." I play this game for the love of chess and competition. I love winning. I hate losing. But I am firmly committed to playing without bending the rules. My own pleasure in my accomplishments would be diminished if I resorted to illegal tactics to gain an advantage.
For me chess represents far more than just a game ... it is a way of life, and it inspires me daily. Those outside of the chess world can't appreciate the beauty and inspiration that is chess. I've written about many of the different ways to live the chess experience. When I'm living in the chess world I'm in a wonderful, beautiful, inspiring world where anything is possible. Poetry, mathematics, music, drama ... they're all there. I'm not willing to sacrifice the purity of that world to gain a few spurious victories. There's too much to lose. I really appreciate the opportunity to compete in a sport where fair play and good sportsmanship are the rule. What do you think ... have I missed something? Or do I live in a world of beauty and light? As Dr. Siegbert Tarrasch said, "Chess, like love, like music, has the power to make men happy." I can't say it any better than that.
[The solution to the chess challenge is ... Rb1+!]
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