The Campbell Report - September/October 1995

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1995 APCT Regional Team Championship

There's no tournament I love more than the semi-annual APCT Team Championship. I played in three consecutive events, till my recent move caused me to miss the 1993 event. Now that I'm settled into my new location (and new region) I'm anxious to get involved in the 1995 event. This is a tournament in transition, as Helen Warren attempts to revamp and revise it to meet current needs. It would appear that this new set of events will be even more interesting and exciting than past events!

The "All Star" team event will consist of ten-board teams from the traditional five regions. Expected to be a Master/Candidate Master event this will (by my estimation) be one of the truly great APCT tournaments, drawing most of the highest-rated APCT competitors. Looking at the top ten boards in the 1993 RT as a guide to expectations it promises to be a very competitive event. Expect to see a book produced on this outstanding tournament.

But what about the Open Team Championship? For all you players who enjoy close competition this looks like the tournament for you. Using a special "z" method of assignment to boards the teams will be very closely balanced. Not only that but every board will be closely balanced. There will be no pre-tournament favorites based on ratings, as in most past RT's. I predict the winner of this tournament (and most board prizes) won't be determined till the very end of the competition.P This isn't an advertisement for this team tournament. I just want other APCT'ers to have a chance to experience a great chess event. Like you, I haven't seen the final plans for this tournament yet. I would urge you to join me in checking out the final plans, undoubtedly printed elsewhere in this issue.

Postal Version of "Chess Recorder" Released

As mentioned last time, chess software developer Eric Churchill has modified his Shareware program Chess Recorder (for use with Windows) to version 5.0 to include features for postal chess players. Though it lacks the bells and whistles of the large (and expensive) chess database programs it is modestly priced at $15 and now has postal features lacking in the more expensive packages. The chess board display is very readable. The user has tremendous latitude in adjusting the colors to suit personal tastes. The pieces are moved by clicking on the piece and then on the destination square. Illegal moves are not allowed, unless you turn on the "Disable Move Checking" switch (I haven't seen this very useful option in other programs). You can also reverse the board if you prefer Black at the bottom. Another feature is a display of captured pieces with a calculation of material advantage (from the viewpoint of the player who just moved).

Of course, games can be saved by name and reloaded later. Each move can be annotated (a good place to indicate "if moves," vacation dates, draw offers and ideas for future moves). Postal chess players can enter the latest move(s) and save the file. A week or two later the game can be reloaded and updated with the new move(s). At any time the game can be printed or placed on the clipboard for use in your word processor. A simple but clear text-only diagram can also be printed. A clever user could write a macro for his word processor to transform this simple diagram into a format for use with one of the excellent chess fonts. The game score can be printed with or without annotations.

You can enter name/address/rating for each player along with tournament information. The software generates one of three user-specified notations for the moves: algebraic, long algebraic or coordinate (International Numeric is planned for a later release). If you click on the "Postal" button a display of dates and time used is presented. This display is independent of the game. If you are entering an existing game you can enter either the moves or the dates first. In practice, when you updated the game with the latest move you would add the pertinent dates at this time. The time used for each move is automatically calculated for you, and the running total for each player is displayed. You must enter dates for every move (even "if moves" which have no independent time used info.). I got around the situation of restarting the clock on an opponent who overstepped the time limit once by entering a negative time used to zero out his total.

Though this program won't provide all the features you may want (such as the wonderful "move guessing" algorithm of ChessBase and Chess Assistant) it is useful and priced right. Eric Churchill has incorporated all the familiar Windows features you expect in a true Windows program. something I really appreciate.. To keep costs down there is no manual, but "help" is built into the program. Eric reports 205 registered users of previous versions, including 40 outside the USA. You can obtain a copy (postpaid) by sending $15 to Eric Churchill, 23241 NE 73rd St., Redmond, WA 98053. Indicate 3.5 or 5.25 inch diskettes. A demo diskette is available for $5. You can also reach him at the following email addresses:

Print Your Own Personalized Chess Postcards

For those of you who have decided to try printing attractive postal chess cards using your word processor, here is another hint. If you want to print an additional chess diagram on the address side of your card, lay out the address side as a "table." In the left column set up the return address and diagram in their own table cells. On the right side of the card insert your opponent's name and address. By adjusting the column widths you can design a card with good spacing. If you wish to send a chess position (or just decorate your card) drop a chess diagram into the table cell you have provided for this purpose. If you don't want to send a diagram, just clear the data from that table cell. The spacing of the name and address will not be changed.

"How To Get Better At Chess" - A Book Review

While browsing through the chess book collection at a local book store How To Get Better At Chess by Evans, Silman and Betty Roberts caught my eye (paperback, 254 pages). A brief glimpse was enough to tell me that I had to have a copy of this unique book. I purchased a copy from APCT ($16.95 postpaid) and must say that this marvelous book has completely lived up to my expectations. Ms. Roberts has collected the views of a variety of top chess players over the years on various topics and has given us their answers to some questions, some of their anecdotes and player profiles (along with games annotated by Silman). The topics covered are:

How Does One Get Better At Chess?
What's More Important - Study or Practice?
What Books or Players Have Influenced You the Most?
How Do Top Players See Things So Quickly?
Is There An Age When Improvement Stops?
Is Memory Important In Chess?
How Does Winning and Losing Affect You?
Profiles and Games

As my readers know, I delight in the human side of chess. This book provides a good dose of this and provides some delightful comments by some of the best known chess masters. Here is a sample which I particularly enjoyed. Miguel Quinteros (in reply to the question "What's More Important - Study or Practice): "... Some players have no talent for the game. They don't enjoy playing and they lust after success but don't want to work. Since they are doomed to remain weak they would be well advised to take up something else, like knitting." Another marvelous remark by Larry Christiansen, "Truthfully, one's peak is reached at about thirty-five or thirty-six. I've seen lots of players reach this age and then stop all forward progress. Then they become worthless hacks, good only for donating blood."

This book is full of such quotes, some thought-provoking and some merely outrageous. Whether you agree with them or not (and they certainly don't agree with each other!) I think you'll find the views of so many top players gathered together to be most interesting and entertaining. There's some useful advice here, too. I haven't bothered going over any of the games. This is a book you can just sit down and read. I recommend it.

Age and Improvement in Postal Chess

The book reviewed above has an interesting chapter on the effects of aging on chess improvement. The general consensus, it seems to me, is that as you get older and gain additional experience your understanding of chess becomes greater. However, with age comes a decline in stamina and ambition. It is generally agreed that most players will drop off in their practical results as they grow older. But remember that they are talking about over the board chess.

I have a feeling that postal chess is ideally suited to older players. The improved understanding of chess is important in postal chess. Lower stamina is a minor factor. While an older player's quality of play may decline in the fifth hour of play OTB or in the third game of the day in a weekend Swiss system tournament, this just isn't a factor in postal chess. In postal you can analyze when you are feeling your best. You can rest when you are tired. You can move the pieces about the board instead of trying to visualize the positions. You can play under optimal conditions on every move. I don't think it is necessary for an older player to lose drive and ambition. My feeling is that, as long as the desire is there, the older postal chess player should fare very well indeed and should be able to improve his/her play to a quite advanced age. In fact, many of my past APCT opponents could hardly be described as spring chickens. Yet their play was, in many cases, of very high quality. As a chess player in his fifties I have plans to improve my level of play. I see no reason not to be optimistic.

Your Objective In Chess - Results or "The Game"?

APCT Master Fred Bender recently jarred me with these comments taken from two different postcards: "I know it sounds stupid but I never keep track of my results in any of the sections. I just go by the games and once in a while I find I've won something. ... I enjoy the games; winning prize money or sections doesn't interest me."

By contrast, I frequently examine the crosstables of my events calculating my best estimate of various competitors' scores and my odds of advancing to the next round or winning a board prize. I may adjust my approach to a game by my standings in the event, playing more aggressively if I need the win badly or playing more solidly if a draw is exactly what I need to reach a goal. I adjust my playing approach to the demands of my position in the event.

My first thought was that Fred must be in a small minority of players who play entirely for the love of the game. On second thought I wondered if I could be mistaken. Perhaps Fred represents the majority of APCT postal chess competitors. I believe this to be a most interesting question ... which is the most popular approach to postal chess in the APCT organization? Do you play each game as an individual challenge? Do you play primarily out of your love for playing chess? Or do you follow my approach of keeping one eye on the crosstables during all your games? I've played many lovely games which were wonderful chess experiences independent of the events. I've enjoyed some wonderful chess correspondence with some super people. But I have also been very cognizant of my tournament standings at all times. How about you and your approach? Your input on this fascinating question is invited.

Chess Ratings ... Reward or Measurement?

It is my opinion that the introduction of a rating system into an organization is bound to increase interest. Many players, including myself, are extremely interested in their ratings. I carefully follow the ratings of my opponents during play. And I can accurately calculate the effects of various game outcomes on my rating.

Ratings provide a measure of your progress. Is an even score in a tournament a success or a failure? One way to answer this question is to examine the results as shown in your change in rating. If your rating goes up do you consider your result as a success? Or do you measure success and failure by another measurement, such as winning a prize or advancing to the next round? Fortunately, we don't have to limit ourselves to any single measuring stick. This means that I can consider a 5-1 score in a Rook preliminary round a success (since I would advance to the semi-finals), even if I lost rating points. And I could consider a 4-6 score a success in the Rook finals, if I faced strong competition and raised my rating with such a result.

Objectively, a chess rating measures your level of skill and provides a method of predicting results and of pairing for tournaments. They provide useful information to tournament directors for assigning boards in a team event and seedings in a Swiss system tournament. In the upcoming "All Star" Regional Team Championship they'll provide a method of selecting the top ten players to represent their regions. But, beyond these practical applications, I view ratings as a method of rewarding (and penalizing) a player for good (and bad) results. Even if I do badly in a tournament section and lose rating points overall, that one big victory over a higher rated opponent can still provide me with a reason to feel good.

An Unusual Chess Problem from the Internet

I have recently started experimenting with the Internet. There seems to be a number of attractions for the chess enthusiast. One message from a law professor caught my attention. He wanted an example to use in his classroom illustrating a change in rules. He claimed that the earlier rules of chess concerning pawn promotion did not require that the pawn be promoted to a piece of the same color. I.e., White could advance his pawn to the eighth rank and promote it to a Black piece. While I don't know that his interpretation of the old rules is correct he did ask an interesting and challenging question. Is there a position where White could promote a pawn to a Black piece and deliver mate with that move? See if you can construct such a position. Two such positions are given following the next topic, but see if you can come up with the reasoning required to find such a position before taking a look.

Mystery of the Missing Bishops

Some years ago I was a member of the Sven Brask Chess Club in Massachusetts. I moved away from there over ten years ago but still have many friends in that area. A couple years after moving from Massachusetts I was working with another member Charlie Caranci via mail to produce a tournament book for the annual club championship. I was also playing a postal game with another old club friend and frequent club champion Dr. Peter Sakkinen. After not hearing from Dr. Sakkinen for some time I got a sad phone call from Charlie Caranci informing me of the accidental death of our friend. We immediately decided to dedicate our club championship booklet to the memory of Dr. Sakkinen, who had died before he could finish a playoff match for the championship (he had tied for first in the tournament). Using my correspondence with Dr. Sakkinen I was able to incorporate many of his own words into this memorial booklet. Charlie and I put a great deal of effort into this booklet and felt it was our best way of commemorating this outstanding individual.

Later Mr. Caranci was helping dispose of Dr. Sakkinen's chess possessions and he thoughtfully sent me one of his old chess sets. He also kept another set for himself. But he noticed an odd circumstance. Both sets were lacking a single piece, a Black Bishop. Neither of us could come up with a plausible explanation for this odd coincidence. I never have been able to locate a replacement for the missing wooden Black Bishop and always have to use some substitute item to represent the Black Bishop. I've often wondered what Dr. Sakkinen did with the Bishops from these two different sets.

Following is a solution (to the above Internet question) that was given on the Internet:
White: Ka1, Rf7, Pg7
Black: Kh7, Rh8, Pg6, Ph6
1. g7-g8 (=Black Knight) mate

Here is a different solution that I worked out:
White: Ka1, Rf7, Bf8, Pg7
Black: Kh6, Pg5, Pg6, Ph6
1. g7-g8 (=Black Bishop) mate

Of course, this solution works just as well if the pawn promotes to a White piece. Perhaps you can find a more ingenious solution different from the first solution but with the requirement that, for the mate to work, the pawn must promote to a Black piece. The Internet published solution may be as clever as you can get, but I wouldn't want to bet against the APCT membership when it comes to cleverness!

World OTB Championship in the USA

The latest news concerning the PCA World Championship match is that it will take place in New York City at the World Trade Center starting September 11. There's a possibility that the games may be reported in real time on the Internet and that CNN may cover some of the games. Current PCA Champion GM Garry Kasparov will defend his title against GM Viswanathan Anand. The match will have a maximum of 24 games with a 12-12 tie leaving Kasparov as the champion. The match will end earlier if either player gains 12.5 points or scores six wins. In an interesting quote from India Today Anand is reported to have said, "I'm not going there to admire him. I'm going to bury him." Sounds like fighting words to me.

There's also a strong chance that the FIDE World Championship match between GM Anatoly Karpov and American GM Gata Kamsky will take place in the USA later in the year. It's too bad that FIDE has been having difficulties finding a sponsor for this important match. When they have the re-unification match between the FIDE and PCA Champions we could have another rematch between Karpov and Kasparov. Dare we consider the possibility that the match might be between players from the United States and India?

Fun With My Chess Database

Like so many other chess players I bought one of the neat sounding chess databases that are available. I have ChessBase. Reading comments from users on the Internet I gather that chess players are split between ChessBase and Chess Assistant about 50-50 with a lot of brand loyalty shown by users. I believe they are both excellent and both have their faults. But there's no question that I love having a chess database.

One of my projects was to create a database of my own tournament postal chess games. It's been like seeing old friends again viewing these games as I entered them into ChessBase. Since joining APCT I've finished 77 rated APCT games. My total collection spans 30 years of postal chess competition, including ICCF-U.S. games and games played with Chess Review magazine, USCF and CCLA, and it consists of over 400 rated postal games I've learned that more of my games were decided by blunders than I had thought. I have a lot to learn by reviewing my old games, and there they are, just a mouse click away. When I get a new opponent it takes just a few minutes to find any games we've played before. It took me about 30 hours to enter all my old games, but it was time well spent.

Another project I have started is examining the games of the 1994 Moscow Olympiad. My thought was that here is a chance to see how the stronger players deal with the "weaker" players. After all, the ratings of some participants from smaller nations are not all that much higher than my own. I wanted to see how moves I might make myself would be punished by the super-strong. So, as a first project, I copied the Olympiad games won by Black to my clipboard database and sorted them by ELO rating of the Black player. I think I've learn a lot seeing how a very strong player can win with Black. But I do run across the occasional mystery. Here is one of those mysteries:

Antonio,R (2490) - Akopian,V (2630) [B22]
Moscow Olympiad, Round 9 PHI-ARM ; 1994
1. e4 c5 2. c3 Nf6 3. e5 Nd5 4. Nf3 e6 5 .d4 cxd4 6. cxd4 b6 7. Bd3 Bb4+ 8. Bd2 Bxd2+ 9. Qxd2 Ba6 10. 0-0 0-1

Antonio had a fine Olympiad, winning more than he lost. Why did Antonio resign? Was he just impressed by the 2630 rating of his opponent? Did he faint and have to be carried from the playing hall? Did he move so slowly that he forfeited on time? Is there a mistake in the game score? Alas, when all you have to work with are the raw game scores there are many mysteries that cannot be cleared up. I may never know the secret behind this ten-move game. Possibly Antonio lasted many more moves but the data entry clerk just got tired of entering moves and stopped after move ten. I've found several other games in this ChessBase collection where the moves stopped making sense near the end of the game (pieces left en prise, an obvious win ignored). So, database owners, beware ... your database of hundreds of thousands of games may not be as valuable as you think, especially if it's full of games like this one.

copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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