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The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
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"The Campbell Report" - Nov/Dec 1995

Go directly to "Computers in cc" discussion

T. Orban, Comm., Die Schwalbe 1976
Position after Black's 4th move ... Find the moves
Solution at bottom of page.

Retrograde Analysis on Internet

There are many resources for chess players on the Internet. For those of you who enjoy retrograde analysis (where you must determine how a position was reached) here is an interesting example taken from a World Wide Web page specifically for you (http://janko.at/Retros/index.htm). Check it out, or just try to solve this one problem. There are simple solutions for reaching this position in 3 or 5 moves. But there is one very tricky solution that satisfies the four moves for each player stipulation. Just be prepared to consider rather unexpected moves. There is a solution. Following the next section I'll give a hint. The solution will follow the next section. Have fun, and visit the www page if you're on the 'net.

My personal reaction to this kind of puzzle is very positive. I find the problem given above vastly more interesting than the typical White to Move and Mate in Two. But, then, I also don't care much for Jazz music. Chess, like many other fields, contains a huge variety of activities to appeal to all sorts of people.

Too Much Computer-Related Material?

I got the following note from APCT'er Charles Thomas of Spanish Fort, AL concerning this column: "The Campbell Report is the best thing in the APCT News Bulletin, but I hope you will ease off on computer-related material a bit. You may be overestimating the number of your readers who are 'into' electronic chess. Don Maddox wrote relaxed, interesting stuff for Helen in the beginning, but he fell in love with a database or modem and became dull when he was unable to write of anything else. Keep up the good work, but don't be carried away by a toy many of us don't play with."

Of course I'm always pleased to get a compliment concerning my column. While I intend to continue writing about computer-related material I will try to keep this warning in mind and try not to allow computer-related material to dominate my column. Thanks for your input.

Michael Brent of Stockton, CA (see next topic) offered another perspective in an email communication: " ... computers are here to stay. They have improved my hobby a great deal and made it more enjoyable. I've learned more about chess in the last year with the help of a computer than I had in the previous ten years with 'only' books. Computers greatly enhance the availability of material chess players have at their disposal."

[hint: in the above retrograde problem, White's Bishop is captured by the Black King. Even with this hint it's still hard!]

One Loss in Twenty Years!

Mike Brent sent the following remarks concerning his remarkable career with APCT: "You asked, 'which is more important, the result or the game?' Tough question to answer. When I was younger (20's) I cared much more for the quality of the game, even the quality of each MOVE. If I played a weak move it would tear me apart for weeks, even if I won the game there would be no solace. Of course, as time went by I learned there was NO perfectly correct move for every position in every game. You just play something and keep your fingers crossed. But I have maintained something from my youth, this is a total desire to win. This can never be compromised ... so I guess for me the result is more important now. In my 20 years with APCT I have suffered one loss in over a hundred games so I have lived up to my credo. Keep writing those great articles ... yours is like a Talk Show for magazines."

I had to get more information about this remarkable record. In his second message of reply he said, "... Just looking thru some records and saw that I started USCF OTB and postal in 1972, went to APCT in 1975, dabbled with ICCF because of their international team events, and played in TCC (two wins in a match vs. Walter Muir). Yes, in APCT I've played 105 games (90 wins, 14 draws, 1 loss). The loss was one of those 'work all day, stay up late, make the decision about two a.m. and not recheck it in the morning' moves. But I'm not sad about it because there have been other games that I could have lost but didn't. For instance, in the National Team Competition I finished 7-1/2 -- 1/2, but the draw could easily have been a loss ... it was a miracle save on my part due to pure will power and tenacity (Lewis vs. Brent)."

Thanks for the information, Mike. Congratulations on a remarkable record of play and thanks for sharing it with us. "Pure will power and tenacity" ... you're my kind of player!

Computers and Postal Chess (One Man's Opinion)

The power of the chess-playing computer has been growing rapidly, as both hardware and chess software continues to improve at a staggering pace. Some see this rise in playing strength as a threat to our beloved correspondence chess. It undoubtedly forces us to reconsider the rules of play and how we view the subject of ethical behavior of competitors. I believe that, just as the invention of automobiles didn't end running competitions and the fork lift didn't ruin weight lifting contests, chess playing computers shouldn't cause concern about the future of postal chess. However, we must move with the times and some "adjustments" need to be made to update our rules of play and our expectations of competitors.

In the world of over-the-board chess I suspect we'll also see modifications in order to make the use of computers during competition more difficult. We'll probably see fewer adjournments. To tell the truth I've felt all along that the use of "seconds" to analyze an adjourned position didn't make much sense. Receiving help during the game has normally not been allowed whether the help came from a person or a computer. Why should this rule be changed just because the game has been adjourned? One reason, of course, is the difficulty of enforcing a rule against receiving help during an adjourned. Why have a rule that can't be enforced?

A postal chess game is rather like an OTB game where there is an adjournment after every half-move. Most postal rules do not permit receiving help during the game. Thus we have rules much like the rule that was abandoned by our OTB brethren as unenforceable (allowing the use of "seconds"). In the past it's been my conclusion that the rule against receiving help was more or less self-enforcing, since it's probably very difficult to get a strong player to spend hours with you on a regular basis. This, of course, doesn't apply to computers, who are more than willing to work with (for) you day and night, week after week. Should we just give up and allow competitors to use computers to their heart's content? I believe this might be part of the answer.

I've heard that the body building competitors, who faced a problem with the unethical use of steroids, tried the following solution. They created two types of competitions, one for those who used steroids and one for those who didn't. Just as some body builders were unwilling to give up steroids, there are chess players who want to play with the full use of their computers. And why not? It can be fun using a computer as a tool to help determine the best move. There's no doubt using a computer can help you improve your play considerably (I'm not talking about just plugging your position into the computer and letting it crank out your move). Perhaps what we need are some competitions where using a computer is explicitly permitted. Then, like the body builders who wanted to continue using their steroids, there would be a legitimate place to compete. And, like those who competed specifically in competitions not allowing the use of steroids, there would be no question about just ho w unethical using a computer would be in the non-computer competitions.

Hey, postal chess is fabulous! There's room in our wonderful art/science/sport for all sorts of people with all sorts of interests. I believe there is a lot of interest in competitions allowing full use of the computer. Right now there are some fine lines drawn between legal and illegal use of computers. It is generally accepted as OK to use your computer to search large databases for games pertinent to your postal games. A database program which uses a tree structure (such as Chess Assistant or BookUp) allows you to specify a chess position. Then it finds all the moves in its collection of games that were made from this position. While not evaluating the moves it does never-the-less basically "suggest" moves you should consider. Yes, there's a fine line indeed between the legal and illegal uses of computers in postal chess competition.

Here's an example that actually happened to me while studying a postal game position using the database program ChessBase (perfectly legal under any rules, as far as I know). I was actually entering the move I had decided to make and which I was about to mail. When I clicked my mouse on the piece to make the move the wonderful "move guessing" algorithm took over and suggested the square it should move to. This is a great feature to speed up move entry (just let up on the mouse button without moving the mouse and the "guessed" move is made). This can really speed up entering games. It's not meant as a high quality move generating tool. Yet, the simple developing move that was suggested (and that I had not analyzed) suddenly looked intriguing. After spending some time analyzing this "suggested" move I decided to make it. Was this legal? I guess so. I didn't ask for computer help and I didn't depend on computer-generated analysis to choose this move. But I probably woul d never have looked at this move without ChessBase bringing it to my attention. This may seem an extreme example, but it is a real one. To be completely legal while using ChessBase do I need to find a way to turn off this move-entry tool? Computers make you stop and ask these hair-splitting questions as long as there are rules against their use.

Like men and women living together, we have the well-known situation: you can't live with them and you can't live without them. Computers are here to stay and I can't conceive of life without one, including in my chess life. But I am committed to playing strictly within the rules of competitive play. What is the answer? A two-tiered solution, like the body builders described above? Continual reminders to competitors not to use their computers? Opening up competition to allowing any sort of computer usage? These questions won't go away.

Antonio Game Mystery Solved

Last column I published a short game from the 1994 Moscow Chess Olympiad where R. Antonio resigned to V. Akopian in just ten moves in a fairly even position. Tim Sawyer provided the answer, which seems obvious once you hear it. He wrote, "I thought about offering you a deal. If you would e-mail me your BDG games, I'd tell you what happened in Antonio-Akopian." However, he kindly continued, "I'll tell you anyway. According to my Chess Assistant database (built from the Internet), the Antonio-Akopian game did conclude after 10 moves as a draw" (my emphasis).

Of course! When you find a short game from a tournament that ends abruptly in an even position what would you guess? But I didn't. Thanks for the solution, Tim. I've corrected my ChessBase records to show a draw, and one more of life's little mysteries has been solved.

Solution to Pawn Promotion Mates

Dennis B. Jessup of West Paducah, KY sent the following comments addressing a challenge given last time:

"Your Internet chess problem caught my attention. Though not a regular at solving or composing chess problems, I find composing more enjoyable than solving. So, here's my shot at your "pawn promotion to a piece of opposite color" [giving mate] problem. So that you understand my perspective, a list is included of some unwritten rules I follow when composing a problem:

1) Both Kings must be on board.

2) The position must be realistic (possible to reach).

3) Within the theme, find the most economical setup (use the fewest pieces possible, the least powerful pieces possible, and get the maximum use from each piece used).

"To clarify number three, after setting up the position I count the total number of points on the board (Black and White, P=1, N&B=3, R=5, Q=9, K=0). I keep working until unable to reduce the total value further. Here's my best effort at this theme:

White: Kc6, Bc8, Pb7
Black: Ka6, Pa5, Pa7
1. b7-b8 (=Black B) mate.

"This is a total of six points (point count is from original position, not following the mating move). Can someone do it in five points or less?"

This is an approach that I can really appreciate! Not only has Dennis Jessup produced a problem, but he has constructed a set of rules by which to judge his success. I believe that the more you put into a project, the more you'll get out of it. By the way, I can't find a position with a smaller count, either.

William B. Stone of Chicago, IL sent the following: "Regarding the 'Internet Problem' you give in the Sept.-Oct. APCT News Bulletin: the idea of having to promote to a Black piece would seem to be that if it were a White piece Black could capture it. One (no doubt of a number) of the solutions would be:

White: Ka1, Be4, Rc6, Rf7, Pe7
Black: Kd7, Rd8
1. e7-e8 (=Black Knight) mate.

"p.s. The Oxford Companion To Chess, under "Promotion," states that 'until modern times the St. Petersburg laws were perhaps the only ones to state that the promoted piece must be of the same colour as the pawn, and some problemists took advantage of the oversight.' Apparently the Internet problem was dealt with years ago!"

Thanks for the interesting background material. You went right to the heart of the problem with your analysis. Your problem could not be solved by promoting to a White piece. And both problems require the promoted piece to be one particular piece.

Gerzadowicz Returns to The Campbell Report

Many readers of this column realize that Stephan Gerzadowicz and I have different viewpoints on many (most?) chess topics. In fact, I once proposed to Stephan that we write a joint article where we both gave our viewpoints on a variety of chess topics. I believe such an exchange of equally valid but different perspectives could provide a useful starting point for a discussion of many chess questions. So, it was with a little trepidation that I opened an envelope that arrived with the ominous note in red written on the front that said, "Well, Son of a Gun. We disagree again." However, I found a good-humored letter that did indeed present a different point of view, in this case agreeing with Fred Bender's approach previously documented. His letter said:

"Smart fella, Fred. I likewise do not keep track of section results. Indeed, I'm often not really aware of whether a game is in APCT or CCLA. Of course the section numbering gives it away, but I don't think about it. Just play. Likewise with ratings. I'm playing five or six CM's, but only one is rated. And I had to think about that to be sure. ...

"Hmmm. Pondering. I've never been very competitive. Worrying about 'external' things (ratings, prizes, opponents) seems to be missing the point. My best results (getting to USCF 2394, I think) came only because of family health problems. A severe stroke. I did what I could, all I could. And then I needed an escape. Would give chess 100% (please!) of my attention.

"I don't do that now. Just like to watch the pieces move ..."

Thanks for the letter, Stephan ... excellent points. I also want to thank Stephan for offering to help fill the gap in my old chess set from the estate of our mutual friend Dr. Peter Sakkinen. He's going to check his "spare parts" for a Bishop that matches the set described in my last column (which is missing one White Bishop, it turns out). Thanks.

Draw/Draw or Win/Lose Revisited

William O. Clark of Sarasota, FL sent the following: "I have been thinking about the question of win & loss vs. two draws. From an artistic view I've decided it does not matter to me as long as all the games were played well. But chess is not just Art, it is Sport also, and the sportsman in me hates to lose. So, from a sport view, I guess I'd rather have two 1/2's than a loss, even with a win.

"Then the practical side of me took over and I wondered about the question from the standpoint of how it affects a rating. Then the opponents' ratings comes into play along with whether or not it was win-loss or loss-win. Still haven't figured that one out."

The ratings question can muddy the waters a bit, Bill. If both results were rated in the same 2-month rating period between lists, then a 1-1 score (however reached) would have exactly the same effect on your rating. If your losses were rated first and drove your rating down enough, then your later reported wins could result in a slightly higher rating gain. If your wins were all rated first and then later your losses, then you could lose a bit more. However, the differences are really tiny, just a point or two (unless you have a massive number of results rated).

A Hypothetical Question

APCT'er Daniel Pimm of Yorktown Heights, NY sends in this interesting poser:

"A few days after posting a move you realize that you've suffered from a case of chess dyslexia. You sent c5? when you meant f5!, for example. After spending the next several weeks trying to make your "blunder" look like a "speculative sacrifice" you receive a repeat from the opponent indicating that he never received your last card. Is a player bound by rules or ethics to post the same Bad move? And, more importantly, how many of us would actually do it?

"The ethical high ground (and the rules) say, "a move once posted is binding" but it's not so easy to trash your own game when it seems Providence or Divine Intervention or just plain old good luck have given you a reprieve. If a postcard is not received has it really been posted? If a tree falls in the forest and there's no one to hear it ... etc., etc. You get my point, I'm sure."

Yes, Daniel, I certainly do. I once had something very similar to this happen to me in the opening where my move wasn't bad but I changed my mind about the opening I wanted to play. I consulted Helen Warren and she didn't see any reason not to send any other move I wished (I sure hope I'm remembering that one correctly). But it turned out that my opponent was a "silent withdrawal" so I never actually faced the reality of the situation. Any opinions?

Kasparov Retains PCA Title

Like many other chess enthusiasts, I've been following the PCA Championship match with great interest. First we had the eight straight draws to start the match, setting a new record for consecutive draws to start a championship match. This led to speculation about possible effects of the new match rules (shorter match, faster time controls, no adjournments, 40/2, 20/1 followed by 30/smash time limits). Were the players scared to take risks early on? Was Kasparov attempting to slowly play himself into form? Was Anand trying to ease into the match without risking early losses? Was this simply an early feeling-out process? Were the spectators and commercial sponsors being cheated?

Then the electrifying game 9 win by Anand occurred. This was followed by a blitz of Kasparov wins (four wins and a draw in the next five games) putting the match away. After game 14 the match was effective over with Kasparov leading by three points. As this is being written games 15 and 16 have just ended in short, uneventful draws. It looked as though Anand had given up in a hopeless situation. But no, Anand made a fight of it in game 17 playing till nothing was left on the board but the Kings. Apparently he was just trying to stop the bleeding with those 20-move draws and gave it one last tremendous effort. With three games to go (as of this writing) Kasparov has clinched at least a tie in the match at 10-7 and therefore keeps the title. It would have been interesting to follow the chess politics of a Kasparov loss, but, in my opinion, Kasparov has answered his critics by retaining his "title" in dominating fashion.

[solution to retrograde problem: 1. e4 e6 2. Bb5 Ke7 3. Bxd7 c6 4. Be8 Kxe8]


copyright © 1995, 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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