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The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
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"The Campbell Report" - March/April 1996

Go directly to "Computers in cc" discussion

4th North Atlantic Team Tournament

Last time I mentioned three APCT'ers participating in the eleven team, ten board ICCF team tournament, namely Tony Albano and N. Eric Pedersen for the USA team and Ian Brooks for England. I failed to note that another APCT'er Ralph Marconi is playing for the Canadian team. Four APCT players representing three countries ... not bad! I should note that Ralph Marconi is also an International Arbiter for the ICCF organization and is the West team captain in the current 1995 APCT All Star Team Championship.

Ian Brooks Defeats GM Morgado

The IECG (International Email Chess Group) organized a two-game match between APCT'er Ian Brooks and ICCF GM Juan Morgado of Argentina. Morgado finished second to the USA's GM Victor Palciauskas in the X Correspondence World Championship (1984). The games were the first GM games to be played by email and are expected to be the first email games published in the CCYB series (Correspondence Chess Yearbook). Congratulations to Ian on a fine victory in the following game! He has promised to cover this game in detail in a future article, so watch future issues of APCT NB for it. The endgame play with Queen and pawns vs. Queen is particularly notable. I look forward to Ian's full discussion. In the meanwhile, here is the score of this historic game.

Ian Brooks (2435) - Juan Sebastian Morgado (2540)
IECG 2-game match, 1995, D53
1.c4 e6 2.Nc3 d5 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nf3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bh4 0-0 7.Rc1 b6 8.cxd5 Nxd5 9.Nxd5 exd5 10.Bxe7 Qxe7 11.g3 Re8 12.Bg2 Ba6 13.e3 c5 14.Qa4 Rc8 15.Ne5 Qe6 16.Rc3 Rd8 17.h4 Qf5 18.Rc1 f6 19.g4 Qe6 20.Ng6 Qxg4 21.Nf4 Bb7 22.dxc5 Nc6 23.cxb6 axb6 24.Qb3 Ne5 25.Bh3 Qf3 26.Rg1 Qe4 27.Bg2 Qf5 28.Qxb6 Rdc8 29.Kd2 Nc4+ 30.Rxc4 Rxc4 31.Qxb7 Qc2+ 32.Ke1 Qc1+ 33.Ke2 Qc2+ 34.Kf3 Rxf4+ 35.Kxf4 Qxf2+ 36.Bf3 Ra4+ 37.b4 g5+ 38.Kf5 Qxf3+ 39.Kg6 Qe4+ 40.Kxh6 Qxh4+ 41.Kg6 Qe4+ 42.Kxf6 Qf3+ 43.Kg6 Qe4+ 44.Kxg5 Qxe3+ 45.Kf6+ Qxg1 46.Qxd5+ Kh7 47.Qh5+ Kg8 48.Qe8+ Kh7 49.Qxa4 Qf2+ 50.Ke7 Qe1+ 51.Kd7 Qd2+ 52.Kc8 Qc3+ 53.Kb7 Qg7+ 54.Ka6 Qf6+ 55.Kb5 Qe5+ 56.Kc4 Qe6+ 57.Kc3 Qe5+ 58.Kb3 Qe3+ 59.Kb2 Qd4+ 60.Ka3 Qe3+ 61.Qb3 Qc1+ 62.Ka4 Qc6+ 63.Ka5 Qa8+ 64.Kb5 Qe8+ 65.Kc4 Qc6+ 66.Kd3 Qf3+ 67.Kc2 Qe2+ 68.Kc1 Qe1+ 69.Kb2 Qe5+ 70.Qc3 Qb5 71.Qc5 1-0

CCLA Championship Books

Old friend Roy DeVault was the games editor for the CCLA magazine Chess Correspondent for years and wrote books on the last several annual CCLA championships. He passed along the information that APCT'er John Vehre has taken on the job for producing at least the next couple books for the 8th and 9th CCLA championships. We have a lot of talent within the APCT! Have fun, John.

"Chess Openings Lexicon" - Book Review

At the risk of appearing guilty of conflict of interest, I'd like to introduce APCT members to a useful little book written by my friend Roy DeVault, mentioned above. It was interesting to hear ideas about the book mentioned from time to time as the concept occurred to DeVault and the plans for the book evolved. And now I have a copy of this just-published reference book in hand. Why didn't anyone think of this book before?! It's a marvelous combination of opening reference, dictionary of opening terms and cross reference between ECO and NIC codes. I wish I had owned this book when I edited the APCT Team Newsletter during the first National Team Championship! Assigning ECO codes to the many game scores published was a nightmare. This book would have allowed me to identify the opening codes with ease.

The book opens with a brief history of opening classifications. It then launches into the real meat of the book with entries for every ECO code from A00 through E99. For each code the identifying moves are presented (often a number of different lines fall under one ECO code and they are all given). The corresponding NIC code is listed for each variation. The common names are also listed. If you want to identify the Koltanowski Variation of the Giuoco Piano it's right there as one of the many lines listed for C50. You can easily find it by checking the extensive 18-page index in the back of the book. The intent of this book isn't to introduce original ideas. Rather, it has brought together all the essential chess opening codes and nomenclature that are normally spread throughout your chess library.

I heartily recommend this book. It should be on the reference shelf of every chess enthusiast with an interest in openings. The index makes identifying specific names easy. This 6x9-inch Chess Digest softcover book has 127 pages with a list price of $16.50.

Newman Guttman Comments

Problemist Newman Guttman (author of the regular APCT NB column "The Problem Solver") contributed the following comments concerning pawn promotions to another color. Thanks for considering this problem from the viewpoint of a knowledgeable traditional problem solver, Newman.

"Number 3 of Jessup's criteria for economy isn't 'standard.' Most problemists place greater weight on number of pieces and minimum value of pieces. From this point of view, the most economical position is likely to be: White: Kh5, Rf7, Pg7; Black: Kh7, Rh8. The solution obviously is 1. g8(bN). The mating picture is termed 'ideal mate' in that all pieces participate without duplication of guards. If we change wR f7 to wQ, there is a cook by 1. gxh8(bR) (not 'ideal' since g6 is guarded twice). But we then could change the stipulation to 'two solutions,' in which case the problem exhibits two underpromotions."

You Might Be A Chess Geek If ...

This is the colorful title to a contribution I received from APCT'er Stephen Wilkins of Coulton, GA. I can just sense more mail on this subject being inspired by Stephen. I think I saw a similar thread on the Internet, which attracted a number of additional ideas. Following are possible ways to recognize that you might be a chess geek, courtesy of Stephen Wilkins:

... your dog is named Tal, Karpov or Fischer.
... you only go on vacation where there is a really big tournament.
... "One Night In Bangkok" is still your favorite song.
... you have bikini underwear with "It's your move" on front.
... you wear a USCF pocket protector.
... your highlight of the day is when your postal chess cards arrive in the mail.
... you stay up late hoping to see a glimpse of Kasparov on David Letterman.
... you know the meaning of words j'adoube and en passant.
... you have a picture on the wall of dogs playing chess.
... you have fantasies about women whose last names are Polgar.
... you know that the Swiss System has nothing to do with government.
... you can recognize Bruce Pandolfini in a crowd.
... the only kind of cookies you eat are Pepperidge Farm's Chessmen cookies.
... you are reading this!

What can I say, Stephen? I am still inordinately fond of "One Night In Bangkok" (I almost had a wreck the first time it came on my car radio ... I couldn't believe my ears!). My family is use to me checking the mailbox every few minutes when the mail delivery is due. Just behind me hangs the traditional "dogs playing cards" picture I inherited from my parents. I have to pretend they are playing chess. And, not only have I been reading your list, I've been entering it into my word processor! I'll add a couple of my own:

... you never go to a "waiting room" without your Post-A-Log.
... you print chess diagrams on your correspondence as decorations.
... when you accidentally bump into someone you mutter "j'adoube."
... you have video copies of movies such as "Dangerous Moves" and "Knight Moves"
... you subscribe to more chess magazines than you can possibly read.
... you rearrange your sleeping schedule so you wake up after normal mail delivery time (no more waiting for the mail!)

I'm afraid that the last point above strikes rather close to home! I'm waiting for more lists to start pouring in. Any additional ideas out there?

Stephen Wilkins also sent the following comments:

"I thought you might enjoy this little tid-bit ala Jeff Foxworthy style. Feel free to substitute Chess Nut instead of Geek, if you wish ... [I like Chess Geek myself so I left it that way. But then, "Revenge of the Nerds" is one of my favorite movies! -- JFC]. I very much enjoy your column every issue. But I agree with Mr. Thomas of Alabama concerning too much computer related material. While I see no problem using computers for postal chess record keeping, etc. I think computers could be the downfall of chess. How long will it be before a computer will be world chess champion? Or, even worse, solve the game? Perhaps e4 will be a forced win by White in 42 moves or less, while d4 will be a forced draw in 65 moves, etc. etc.

"Question is, how to keep computers from ruining chess!? Postal chess should be obsolete in 10-15 years or sooner. I think email trend will slowly kill postal chess. And, while I have no problem with this kind of computer progress, what bothers me is the playing strength computers seem to be gaining at hyper speed. I wish the GM's would all refuse to play computers, especially at tournaments. Maybe this is the only way of keeping computers out of the record books."

Postal Chess A Different Game

Michael C. Mays of Bellevue, WA sent in an interesting write-up on the differences between postal and OTB chess:

"I am writing to, hopefully, generate topical interest in a subject I am surprised does not get more comment/interest in "The Campbell Report" ... simply, OTB vs. CC strategy/play and how to get more satisfaction from postal play. ... I sincerely believe more attention needs to be addressed to postal chess strategy --- I am convinced 'given' no time pressure, no clock, the use of much multi-reference material re: books, database programs, additional analysis sets to move pieces around in move preparation, postal chess is a different game from OTB.

"With OTB, excluding master/GM tournament play, I am convinced the best strategy is to attack, menace anything/everything to simply create the opponent's error. This is especially true in local club action chess games.

"Gambit play is more likely to be successful in OTB than CC where a player has time to work out the defense from an attack based on rapid development. The comfort of home analysis produces a more relaxed, beneficial atmosphere for chess thinking than OTB playing conditions. Hence these significant factors between OTB/CC can only have one conclusion: the strategy, specifically re: CC play, needs to be addressed!

"We can argue, debate, discuss until 'the cows come home' the use of books, database programs, 'Ken Thompson's endgame databases,' computers, help from friends/chess trainers, but the facts are frequently that one or more players (postal players) uses one or more of the above in their games. We can't control, change or legislate a solution to this!

"What I would recommend and like to see happen is for postal players to 'pool' their efforts in 'The Campbell Report' to generate a study from APCT players, specifically re' 'best' postal chess strategy --- what works, what doesn't work, what is questionable, what is ... etc.! This could result in all players hopefully obtaining more satisfaction from their postal play and, at a minimum, would help the lower rated player become more competitive and to give the more skilled players a 'better' game.

"It is just most interesting to me given the abundance of chess publications on the market today that there is little, if anything, on the art of postal play, postal chess strategy, etc. Chess books appear to think in terms of OTB and postal chess being the same game ... I disagree! Take opening selection. Now I get much more satisfaction with an opening move that provides/emphasizes transpositional flexibility than, say, 1. d4 or 1. e4. I simply hope to avoid well traveled defenses ... I got so tired of 1. d4 King's Indian Defense I tried 2. g4 simply to avoid mailing 'book' moves for several months!

"I have also found that spending more time to record my thoughts/analysis at a given move helps me to maintain continuity and is especially beneficial on those days when, for some reason, I get the majority of the weeks' reply cards in one day! Hence, I keep a Post-A-Log and the moves on an analysis sheet on 8-1/2x14 legal size paper. More work ... yes ... but most helpful! More interest ... simply 'more' everything! Excellent reference material for reviewing games fourteen+ months later!

"I am sure many of you reading this have your thoughts on how to get more satisfaction from postal play and on OTB vs. CC strategy. How about sharing your views, thoughts, expertise and experiences re 'the art/science of postal chess?' Incidentally, when playing in a section I think, for postal chess interest, it 'helps' for players to share results from play ... what is wrong with that?

"In OTB tournament play, didn't we all find interest in who was winning/losing the different rounds? Nothing illegal. There are no secrets to results in OTB play, so why(?) in postal?

"Ps. After a loss, a good way to work off anger is to tear up, destroy your analysis sheet!! Haha. Step on it, walk on it! Ha ... use it for your dart board! It (analysis sheet) has many uses!"

Thanks for your thoughtful ideas. On a related subject, check out the following description of a proposed match between OTB and correspondence chess players.

Correspondence vs. OTB Chess Event ?

Those of you fortunate enough to be on the Internet are probably aware of the weekly chess report "The Week in Chess" by Mark Crowther. In a recent edition of this very useful publication he reported an event being planned by Mart Tarmak of Estonia. The event is apparently only in the planning stages but sounds fascinating. If it comes off I'll try to get a report for this column. Supposedly it could occur within the next couple of months.

Mart Tarmak is quoted as saying, "It is to show a little the "laboratory" of correspondence chess player to the audience. GM Ehlvest agreed to play simultaneously against the best Estonian correspondence chess players who are allowed to use all that they normally do (books, second board for analysis, computer, other chess-players). Ehlvest has 2.5 hours for four games, the correspondence players for the whole game. ... Already agreed to play are correspondence chess world champion Iym, Tonu and hopefully Jaan Merilo who has the highest ICCF rating (2600) among Estonian players will also join. ... We would like to inform the chess world beforehand because we hope that the event will have broader than only all-Estonian interest."

Warning! Computer Material Follows

Several readers have supported the views of Charles Thomas of Spanish Fort, AL concerning the overabundance of computer-related material in this column. Many others are quite interested in such material. I'm attempting to satisfy both camps by continuing with the computer material but grouping most such material towards the end of this column. So, those who have no interest in computer-related stuff, you may now safely continue on to another article or column. All the remaining material pertains to computer databases or other computer/chess items.

APCT'er Describes His Chess Database Setup

Bill Clark of Sarasota, FL shares his chess database methodology in a recent letter. He said,

"I'll throw in my 2-cents worth regarding computer subject matter in your column. I'm all for it, but then I'm biased. Some of the stuff I don't really use or need, such as your bits about designing forms, etc. but I do enjoy reading it anyway. I remember reading in Dunne's column in Chess Life a while back about the different databases a correspondent (chess player) should have. That might make an interesting subject for your column some time. My own chess base is set up this way on the hard drive:

A) First my APCT database where all games are correspondence with at least one player an APCT active or former player.

B) A database of my own correspondence games.

C) A database of my OTB games.

D) Five databases called Vol.-A, Vol-B, Vol-C, Vol-D, Vol-E, one for each volume of ECO. These are all big databases 25,000 - 45,000 games each.

E) Finally, a database I call games. It is my work-in-progress database. I'll go thru my games collection books and any games not in my database I'll put in this database. When I get up to about 300 or 400 games I'll run the ECO program on it and export the games out to the ECO databases then delete the games database and start a new one.

"I have found that my large ECO databases are still too big so I also set up separate databases on disk for the openings I play the most. I play the Caro Kann a lot, so I have ten separate disks B-10 thru B-19, etc. The same for the Dutch and King's Gambit, Grobs Attack, The Wing Gambit, Benoni, etc. Naturally, I will keep back-ups of everything and usually update these about once a month or so."

Thanks for your complete description of your approach to handling computer databases, Bill. It seems to be a very logical design, ideal for your personal approach. I'd be interested in hearing from others who have developed logical layouts for their computer databases. From personal experience I can say that a good, logical approach is not easy to develop.

Ethical Use of Computers - Hypothetical Scenarios

William Clark of Sarasota, FL sent this very interesting and useful analysis of the dilemma facing computer users (thanks for the nice Christmas card, Bill).

"With apology to A. Karpov here are some Grand Patzer Musings on the use of computers in correspondence chess. I will begin with two scenarios taken from a hypothetical opening book. I believe both these scenarios could also apply to the middlegame or endgame, also. If you were using, say, an annotated game collection.

Scenario A: Chuck the correspondence chess cheat is playing in the regional team championship. He's been following the book for the first ten moves and at each move cranks up his PC to see what it says about the moves. Suddenly, on the 11th move, the computer announces mate in five. Chuck is overjoyed he's found a cook in all the opening books and sends the move off. Chuck-1 Opponent-0.

Scenario B: Ethical Eddie knows he's about to play in the regional team championship. He's decided he will play a certain opening in this event and so he prepares. He gets out his trusty opening book and starts playing over the lines on his computer. He happens to pick the same line as Chuck and, as he gets to move 11, his computer also announces mate in five. Eddie is very happy and notes the new move in his book. A few months later the position comes up in the regional team tourney and he plays the new move. Eddie-1 Opponent-0.

"According to the rules case A is wrong because it happened during the game. But, in case B the computer was not used during the game, so it's OK. My musings do not really see any difference between the two cases. In both cases the computer is being used as a tool to help improve your game. It is because of this that I do feel computers should be allowed to be used. Especially as the rule cannot be enforced anyway.

"Another possible reason against computers might be that only the people with enough money to own computers would have a great advantage over those without the PC. This is true, but the same can be said about the people with the money to buy a large chess library.

"Now, on a personal note I must admit I try not to use my computer to make my moves. After all, I'm not paying all that postage just to send someone my machine's moves. I like to think that they are my games and my moves. Having said that, I do have to admit that I am curious to see how my moves stack up against the computer and sometimes I will set up my board and the same position on the computer and then compare moves after 30-40 minutes. I'm pleased to say most of the time given that much time we agree.

"Another thing I do that I'm really not sure is quite ethical is when I'm recording my games. Like most players I keep the score of the game in a notebook and the position in a Post-A-Log but I also keep the score in my database and after I make my move on the card the final thing I do is enter it in my database. While doing this I will usually have Fritz running. Every once in a while I will find that the move Fritz answers to my move will win a piece or something. This is usually because I've made a recording error on the card. Without this computer check I would have sent off a wrong move. I'm really not sure that's entirely ethical but I must admit I do it anyway."

Thanks for your interesting analysis of the situation, Bill. Your two scenarios certainly make your point. I find myself in a difficult situation at the moment. I am learning new openings. I'd like to use my computer as a practice opponent. However, I've entered the beginning phases of some of these openings in tournament play, and I feel constrained not to use my computer to study these openings since I feel it is technically illegal. A solution I'm thinking of trying is to get a copy of BookUp, which is specifically designed for opening study. It has no analysis engine (though I'm sure one could be added). The questionable "move guessing" algorithm is absent, also. This is a difficult situation ... there is no easy solution.

Additional Feedback on Computers in Postal Chess

There continues to be tremendous response to this topic. Thanks to everyone who has contributed their viewpoints on this important and controversial topic.

Rudy Vance II of Sebring, FL sent this:

"On the subject of computer use for correspondence play, I basically regard any use of a computer as cheating. For those concerned about opponents cheating, there is always OTB chess. Thus correspondence chess will cease to exist as everyone gets a computer.

"But wait! With today's faster time limits for OTB chess, correspondence chess is ideal for working on middlegame plans and endgame strategy arising out of your favorite openings ... not to mention it is also useful for fleshing out opening systems and new opening lines. Correspondence chess is here to stay, although it might eventually be replaced with on-line play."

John P. McCumiskey sent the following via email:

"Regarding the comments in your most recent column, I would have to agree with Ian Brooks' comments about game and positional databases. The only difference I see between an electronic database and a library of books is the speed and method of looking up information.

"Let's say, as White I have an endgame of 3 pawns on one side of the board with one Knight and one Bishop and my opponent has 2 pawns on the same side of the board as my pawns with one Knight and a Bishop of the same color. With books, you slowly flip from page to page to find an identical or similar position, then review the game score and/or analysis. With a database, you quickly search for an identical or similar position, then review the game score and/or analysis. In the end, it seems to me, the processes are the same (review game score and/or analysis).

"I play chess to win, but if I'm not getting anything out of it (fun and enjoyment), then I'd just quit. I have access to chess playing programs, but I don't use them for any type of analysis. Where's the fun in "playing" that way? I use my databases in the same manner as my chess library ... research. The databases simply make the process faster for me (and my wife, LaVerne, appreciates that).

My Evolving Opinion About Computers

I find that my personal attitude towards use of computers in postal chess has evolved during the discussions here and elsewhere. I find myself drifting towards the view that there should be NO limitation on computer usage, at least in some competitions/organizations. The logical difficulties, such as those illustrated so clearly by the two scenarios offered by Bill Clark above, are starting to make me think that the lack of restriction on use of reference books makes no more sense than not allowing computer aid. I think it would be silly and self-defeating to just let computers crank out our moves, but an opponent who could afford a large chess library (and even research assistants) clearly had the advantage over most of us in the past. The computer databases have just brought down the price of doing good research. I'm still not completely convinced, and I will certainly continue to abide by the spirit and strict interpretation of the current rules against such usage. Unlike some, though, I'm not convinced that computers will do any harm to our beloved postal chess. If anything, computers have allowed greater access to chess by thousands of new players and expanded the pleasure to be gained by playing chess. Time will tell if the computer will actually damage our wonderful art/sport/science. I would be very surprised if these new tools don't create changes. I truly believe I get a lot more pleasure out of the game since I got my chess database. I feel the predictions that postal chess will be destroyed by computers and chess software are unjustified. If anything, I feel there is a new excitement about the game resulting from the new tools made possible by modern personal computers.


copyright © 1996, 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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