The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - Sept/Oct 1996

Go directly to "Computers in cc" discussion

Whole Family Plays Postal Chess

I don't think I've ever heard of a case where the whole family plays correspondence chess. Usually, it seems, one postal chess fanatic per family is enough. The Kremen family is different, though, with husband, wife and son all playing postal with enthusiasm. Both Raymond and Donna Kremen are participating in the 13th USCCC tournament. I personally played their son Michael in the Al Horowitz Memorial Open several years ago. I inquired of Raymond for more information about his unique chess playing family and found a story demonstrating once again how chess can contribute in a very positive fashion to the quality of life of those who seriously pursue our wonderful art/science/sport.

The Kremen family are all on permanent disability. Donna and Raymond have multiple sclerosis while their son Michael, now 26, is congenitally brain-damaged with a seizure disorder. They live in a one-level ranch house in Illinois, just west of Lake Michigan. After Donna married into this chess-loving family Raymond and Michael taught Donna the game in 1988 and she has gone on to play in three consecutive USCCC tournaments, an event requiring a high level of previous achievement.

To quote Raymond, "WE now have about 160 current games going; our mail box is 'filled' every day! ... What a monthly bill at the post office for stamps we have! No, we don't play OTB. M.S. causes uncontrolled mental 'short-circuiting,' which inadvertently causes one's thinking process to 'call for total stop' once in a while, delivering convoluted brain messages/erroneous signals, etc. ... Also, abrupt fatigue often suddenly sets in, causing the M.S.'er a sudden need to lay down to rest, even sleep. I used to play a lot of OTB in the early 70's, but found that sudden urge to 'rest my brain' just didn't work in a tournament hall. So, instead, we 'support' the U. S. Postal System."

Thanks for the information, Raymond. You have provided us with another inspirationally story of the value of postal chess in our society. Following is a 'quickie' played by Michael.

Michael Kremen - Lee Petropulos, 83-N167, 1996 1.d4 d5 2.e4 dxe4 3.Nc3 f5? 4.Bg5 h6?? 5.Qh5+ Kd7 6.d5 Qe8 7.Bb5+ c6 8.dxc6+ bxc6 9.0-0-0+ Kc7 10.Qxe8 Nd7 11.Rxd7+ resigns

Postalite Meets German Opponent on Bicycle!

After playing a few Higher Class events in his first ICCF tournaments, Randy Ryan of Hamilton, OH advanced to the Master Class. In his first Master Class event he played a German opponent Christoph Groger, who was fluent in English. This ICCF 2400-rated 24-year-old bank employee shared his enthusiasm with bicycling with Randy in their correspondence and revealed his project to bicycle across the USA. Randy Ryan is also a bicycling enthusiast, so these competitors shared two interests, and an invitation to spend the night with Ryan was extended to his German Schachfreund.

It's a rare opportunity to meet an international opponent in person. Thanks to pursuing an interesting correspondence in addition to sending moves, these two took advantage of the situation and recently met in person. After starting in San Diego the German and a friend arrived in Hamilton late in the evening (the suggested route contained some unexpected hill climbs, leading to slower progress than expected). These chess competitors had an opportunity to talk, play OTB and share part of the cycling ride before parting ways.

I encourage competitors to include correspondence as part of their postal chess pleasure. I've heard of cases where players made special trips overseas to meet and visit with good friends made through the wonderful world of correspondence chess. I've exchanged books and other gifts with a few opponents, along with some good stories and jokes, and you don't have to play a foreign opponent to find a very interesting correspondent. The APCT is full of interesting and talented individuals well worth getting to know better.

Pat Robertson on Women and Chess

I recently received the following quote of a statement made by this well-known millionaire TV evangelist and conservative politician. In November of 1989 he was addressing his TV audience discussing the difference between men and women and said the following: "[T]he key in terms of mental [ability] is chess. There's never been a woman Grand Master chess player. [O]nce you get one, then I'll buy some of the feminism ..."

Of course, there were two female GM's from Georgia when he made his statement and three more have become GM's since. I wonder if Robertson has now embraced feminism? It's always interesting to hear the views of chess held by non-chess players, especially those of well-known individuals.

Another Challenging Internet Problem

There's an interesting mailing list set up on the Internet for chess enthusiasts called the "Chess-L" list. It recently had a mailing list of 738 recipients, world-wide. By sending a message to the proper address, your message is distributed to everyone on the list from the central site in The Netherlands. I've lost track of who proposed this interesting challenge but see what you can do with it. White's first four moves are required to be the following: 1. f3 ... 2. Kf2 ... 3. Kg3 ... 4. Kh4 ... . Fill in Black's moves so that this is a legal game and Black delivers mate on move four. It's not easy, but is possible. The solution appears below, following several paragraphs. Try to solve it before you peek.

An Amusing Story

Dan Pressnell recently told the following amusing story on the Internet. After asking for permission to repeat his story, he told me that it was somewhat different from the original that is printed on p. 222 of The Even More Complete Chess Addict by Fox and James, but I really like Dan's version, as follows:

"I read a story in a chess trivia book. I think it was about Alekhine. A man came to his hotel room and said that he found that White, at the beginning of the game, had a forced mate in 19. And he showed him several times. No matter what Alekhine did with the Black pieces, the man delivered mate in 19 moves. So Alekhine killed him." That one had me rolling on the floor!

"Winning at Correspondence Chess" - Review

It's not often that a book comes along aimed squarely at the postal chess player, so it's a big occasion when it happens. "Winning at Correspondence Chess" by international cc star Tim Harding of Ireland (176 pages, soft cover 8.5 x 5.5 inches, list price $25, available from APCT for $23.75) is such a book. The emphasis is on text, with games and analysis mostly given to illustrate points. Although clearly written for the British reader, there is much of value for the North American reader. I strongly recommend this book. This is a book you can pretty much sit down and read (without a chess set at hand). In fact, one night I discovered I had continued reading several hours past my bed time. The final section on "Computers and the future of CC" kept me going till I finished it at one sitting.

Tim Harding is well-versed in international cc (correspondence chess) play, representing Ireland in various high-level competitions and serving on ICCF committees. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this book and shares many interesting stories and insider viewpoints with the reader. He told me that he was only told at the last moment that the book would be published in the USA. Otherwise he would have included more references for the American reader. Most of the references and addresses are for British readers. The language is very "British" as well. Personally I found this interesting, except I would have liked to see the addresses of USA postal organizations given for the uninitiated cc player. He's promised that these references will be updated in any future edition to include USA organizations.

This book is aimed squarely at the competitor, as opposed to the person who plays postal in an attempt at perfection in play. Thus there is no advice to give back moves or such. Instead, he aims at helping the cc competitor to improve his chances at winning games through proper attitude and application of skills. As he says in the preface, "This book is primarily a battle manual for the player who wants to be a winner at correspondence chess." For instance, on page 49 he discusses publishing games and notes in magazines and says, "The corollary to this is that you should not be too keen to publish your games and analysis because they reveal details of your style and opening preferences." Following are a few more miscellaneous quotes to give the flavor of the book.

"... it is advisable to approach each new tournament in a standard way." "If you have other games still in progress and quite possibly at a critical stage, it is important to decide on clear priorities ..." "In particular, do not underestimate opponents who tell you they are in their late sixties or even in their eighties!" "Victories, particularly when well-earned, are still very sweet and there is nothing like a resignation card from an opponent to make your day." "An important piece of advice for any CC player is: know the rules! Study them!" "... it is important for all CC players to have a reliable 'move processing' system ..." "Check every step and then check again ..." "Opponents' conditionals should always be considered first anyway, in case your opponent has not given himself the best move, enabling you to make a move that would otherwise have been bad." "Every Friday evening look through your notebook and see what games are slow and, if a repetition seems due, send it off on Saturday morning." This provides a small window into the types of practical advice you'll find on every page of this outstanding book.

There are a few comments I found amusing. His recommendation to use " ... either a hardcover ruled foolscap book ... or, alternatively, a ... 'single cash'" to keep tournament records had me scratching my head. But these instances were more amusing than anything. On the other hand, this book is packed with interesting stories and practical advice. You may find yourself thinking, "Of course, why didn't I think of that." He covers how to use books and databases in your selection of openings, loads of practical advice on the conduct of both individual games and tournaments and he even provides a short history of cc, including brief biographies of the leading players. This is a marvelous book. Every cc player should have it on their shelf (after thoroughly reading it).

How Do You Propose a Draw?

I received a draw offer recently as follows: "I will offer a draw if you like." This caused me to wonder about the proper wording for offering a draw. How about, "Would you like a draw?" I feel that both of these wordings are inappropriate. I can just see sending my agreement to a draw only to have my opponent write back, "I just wanted to know if you wanted a draw. I didn't actually propose one." As in so many things in postal chess, draw offers require some precision. An interesting question appeared on the Internet. One player wanted to offer a "double draw." He was better in one game and worse in a second game with the same opponent. He didn't want his opponent agreeing to a draw in one game and not the other. I suggested using an "if move" to extend the offer. If you agree to a draw in game A then I offer a draw in game B.

By the way, I recently noted a new chess "magazine" on the World Wide Web that Internet users might enjoy checking. Its www address is: http://www.planetchess.com/. Two other web pages of interest to postalites are Hanon Russell's "Chess Cafe" at http://www.chesscafe.com/ with a column by Tim Harding of Ireland and Tim Harding's personal web page at http://users.homenet.ie/~tharding/.

Solution to Internet Challenge:
1. f3 d5 (or d6) 2. Kf2 Qf6 3. Kg3 Qxf3+ 4. Kh4 Be7++.

[Correction: as noted in a later column, Jack R. Clauser submitted this correction:
1. f3 e5 (or e6) 2. Kf2 Qf6 3. Kg3 Qxf3+ 4. Kh4 Be7++.]

A Delightful Letter from Don Lundberg

I recently received the following letter from APCT'er Don Lundberg of Albany, OR. Receiving letters like this cause me to really appreciate being a columnist. Don invited me to "chop away" at his letter but I prefer to quote it in full. I hope you find it as delightful as I did.

"I enjoy your column and share your relish for varying viewpoints on the subject of chess, so this letter expresses what I suppose is an unusual statement.

"I'm 75 this year, a time for taking stock. My mother taught me chess when I was six, and I've played ever since; my high school yearbook, for instance, had a picture of a friend and me playing chess in the school library. About 20 years ago my doctor told me I had to stop o-t-b, because I couldn't help getting worked up, with serious effects; so I quit chess until about ten years ago, when I discovered postal isn't the bore I considered it -- indeed, quite the opposite! I played first with friends, then in USCF and NWCF, which I'd kept membership in; and then my postal friend Jim Amidon urged me to join APCT, assuring me it's even better, and so 'tis. NW has too few members, and USCF has no heart for little guys like me; so, to disagree with Goldilocks, Mama Bear is just right.

"I recently had the honor of losing to the great John Penquite of Des Moines, arguably the best postal player in America, playing in the NW Postal Invitational (they were hard up for players, so stuck me on the bottom of the list with only 2063). John wrote once that he can't send a move till he KNOWS it's the best possible.

"I don't have that time or energy to put into chess! I'm retired from teaching, but my wife of 49 years and I have nine children, all married, to keep track of (my youngest son, for instance, is presently flying an Army plane over Bosnia). Besides letters, I write science fiction and technical material, including texts and a software system for teaching English to illiterates and non-native speakers (quotes on request!); I exercise actively an hour a day; I read every day; I hear and/or see (mostly VCR) an average of probably two operas a week; and last, but certainly not least, I'm a functioning member in the most vigorous church in the world.

"I own a computer to store games in, but not to find out what to do next; as anyone who has played a lot with me -- Mike Mays, for instance -- would tell you, no computer is as crazy as I am; he's always scolding me. A couple of weeks ago a correspondent reproved me for missing a 7-move mate. I assured him he was vastly over-rating me; once I did find a 5-mover, but I don't know how I saw that.

"I don't want to become a better player! And it isn't just age -- if I were a young man of 65, I would feel the same. I'm ashamed to say it, but I don't much enjoy following the games the great men play. My favorite games are my own, and all I have time for. I enjoyed the article on Judy Polgar (yes, I know it's Judit in the Hungarian, but Hungarian I ain't!). She showed uncommon sense, including saying she isn't concerned about being world champion. Now, there's a girl who uses her brains for something besides figuring out the next move. No wonder she finds most chess hotshots 'shallow.'

"To get started in a game, I look to the 'big three' (ECO, BCO and MCO, which I find valuable in that order), and my own old games using that opening. I tried a database system, but sent it back; too much monkey-business.

"I play for fun. By now, I've found where the enjoyment is. Most by far is fooling around with a game I believe I've won -- seeing what he (poor fellow) can do, and what I'll do back. If I had my way, I'd do away with resignations. I'm tickled when the other fellow should quit but won't; we continue a game I'm truly enjoying. Of course, some games look like draws to me, and I play along for a while hoping a mistake will change the game. Then there are the games in which I wish I were my opponent; these games I scan hastily for the first plausible move I can find, send that, and hope it'll be over soon.

"I know my attitude is contrary to the approved chessick pedagogy, but I don't see any good reason for caring. I might add, just to prove my viewpoint, that I don't want any chess books except the Big Three. I'm far more afraid of boredom than I am of any opponent! Though I did just buy DeVault's Opening Lexicon, which I appreciate."

Computers in Postal Chess ... Subject Exhausted

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the lengthy discussion of using computers in correspondence chess. The subject is (to me) fascinating, full of subtleties and complexities. However, we have certainly discussed this subject in great detail and have covered most of the obvious points. The subject isn't declared "off base" but any future discussion will be very limited. Read Helen Warren's comments on page 111 of the July-August issue for her very clear statement of APCT policy. As far as I know all the domestic CC organizations (except Transcendental Chess) have the same restrictions.

Writing to express a common viewpoint and referring to the rule against using computers APCT'er Eric P. Davis of Ontario, OR wrote in part, "I believe I should win or lose on my own merits and faults. Having a computer make moves for me would degrade my sense of accomplishment."

I would also like to clarify a point which Stephan Gerzadowicz mentioned to me. In several instances readers have submitted comments (which I published) describing clear cases of "bending" or breaking the rules. One such instance was the use of chess software to check moves for clerical errors before mailing. By not clearly condemning these acts as cheating Gerzadowicz pointed out that I appeared to be approving of them. I would like to state in the clearest terms, I do not approve of using competitive techniques that are illegal. When we enter a CC event we agree to abide strictly by the rules of play. Different organizations have different rules. I urge you to study these rules and apply them strictly to your conduct. In APCT competition it is unethical to use a computer (or a person) to check your move for notation errors or oversights. You may not use a computer as a "practice opponent" using live game positions. You may certainly not use a computer to suggest moves or evaluate positions. Use of a computer to study openings introduces some difficult gray areas. Common sense will help resolve many questions here. As the Gerz has pointed out, if you are in doubt, don't do it. I'll have to agree with that viewpoint. Personally, I plan to continue to explore the difficult questions in those gray areas and to consider how computers will impact postal chess competition in the future.

Another point I'd like to clarify. Gerzadowicz and I are both passionate about chess (as are many of you) and we often clash on individual points. As he said in a recent communication, "Your Readers would be astonished by how much we agree." The Gerz serves as a "watchdog" for me and gives a good bark when I stray from his interpretation of correct behavior. I appreciate and respect his opinions and am happy to continue our jousting in the future. Through sincere and enthusiastic debate between the two of us (and other dedicated chess fanatics) we should come to a much clearer understanding of our wonderful art/sport/science.

ICCF-U.S. "Rule" On Using Computers

The 13th USCCC (US CC Championship) recently started. This is an ICCF tournament run by the USA office of the ICCF under the authority of ICCF-U.S. Secretary Max Zavanelli. As a USA-only tournament certain international rules are modified and special interpretations are made for this event, such as the use of algebraic notation in place of international numeric. Here is the one clarification that really got my attention:

"17. It is ICCF policy that the use of computers (even 'chess playing' analyzing computers) is not forbidden. The use of computers for purely 'bookkeeping' functions is also allowed. (ICCF did not establish a rule regarding the use of computers because there is no method of enforcing this rule.) Most U.S. players consider it unethical to employ a chess playing computer (or a computer program with a chess playing function) to assist them in their play."

I won't comment on my personal view of this ICCF-U.S. "clarification" but I thought it would provide readers with something to consider. The primary question is this: is it or is it not ethical to use computer assistance in ICCF events?

Which Music Goes Best With Chess?

Some recent suggestions overheard for which music best combines with specific opening play:

King's Gambit - "Ride of the Valkyries" (Arlen P. Walker)

Ruy Lopez - "Gregorian Chants" (Ken West)

and from Chris Bradley,
Caro-Kann - "The Bolero"
Alekhine's Defense - "any Prokofiev"
King's Gambit - AC/DC
Sicilian Defense - "Theme from The God Father"

Any more suggestions out there? Reader Contributions To This Column

A vital component of this column is the input from APCT members. I welcome your comments on the many possible subjects that intersect with chess, postal chess in particular. If you have something of interest to fellow APCT'ers, send it to me at the address heading this column. If you have a viewpoint that needs to be presented to the readership, send it in. If you have suggestions for improving this column, please write me. It's important that you are aware of my deadlines, though. Please write within a week or two of receiving this magazine to reach me before my next deadline. My sincere thanks to all the readers who have contributed to this column in the past!

copyright © 1996, 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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