The Campbell Report - Jan/Feb 1997

Charles "Swifty" Thomas Contest Winner

APCT'er Charles "Swifty" Thomas of Spanish Fort, AL presented a challenge to the readers in the last column, and several very interesting responses arrived. To repeat the challenge as originally stated: "I'd like to see a refreshingly new closing word or phrase on my postal chess cards. 'Regards' (used by most of us, I suppose) is polite, but seems a bit neutral and cool. Most of the others (e.g., Cheers, Best Wishes, Sincerely, etc.) are too formal or (after you've just been mated) inappropriate. I'll bet your readers could help me find something with charm, grace, dignity and, maybe, some humor. How about a contest to select the ne plus ultra of complimentary closings for chess players?"

Not only did a number of suggestions arrive for the contest but some other comments of interest were sent as well. I'll get to those additional comments later. For now I announce the winner of the contest as Rick Callaghan of Ivy, VA. Congratulations, Rick. You've probably received your prize of a volume of Chess Informant by now from our benefactor Mr. Thomas. Your clever prize-winning contribution will be given below. There were a number of other ideas that appealed to me as well. Paul Sholl of Moline, IL wrote, "Regarding the contest to select the best complimentary closing, what's wrong with 'love?' It's what makes the world go around, right?" Well, Paul, your suggestion certainly has its merits! Personally, I really liked your idea. Besides being very congenial your sign-off could provide a very effective "psychological" effect. Yes ... very effective.

Jack R. Clauser of Shiremanstown, PA sent the following: "For many years I've been closing my chess cards with 'Chessly Yours." It seems that a number of postalites have developed their own personal closings that become their own signature. See Bill Gray's comments further down concerning some very recognizable closings with which many of you will be familiar.

Thomas A. DiMattia of Wichita, KS provided a number of ideas, including another of my favorites, namely "Check it out!" As with the prize-winner given below it contains a double reference that shows humor and cleverness and possibly a bit of bravado. Additional suggestions: "Here's pushin' pawns at ya!" "May your Knights always be jumpin!" "May your battles always be Royal." "May you & your pawns always be advancing!" "May your Knights be shining & your Bishops Holy." I liked his personal sign-off even better, "Your fellow chess nut." He added, "p.s. there's lots more we can do here!" Right you are, Thomas.

And now we end with Rick Callaghan's winning entry: "Your Nov-Dec column was very good [sorry, I just couldn't bring myself to leave that part out -- JFC]. Re: closings for chess cards: I have used "On the square." There it is, Ladies and Gentlemen, the prize winner. It combines a chess term with an indication of absolute integrity, a necessary element for the fair pursuit of the highest ideals in correspondence chess. Thanks for your excellent contribution, Rick. In a later communication he added, "My daughter Susan suggested 'Good Knight' or 'Long Live the King'" and he signed off with "God Save the Queen."

I'll just add a few of my own personal remarks (just for a change, eh?). Some years ago I saw a card in a picture postcard display that caught my attention. One side of the card was covered with the sentence, "I HATE YOU, I HATE YOU." It was repeated hundreds of times. I thought, "The perfect card to send an opponent after a tough loss." It's still sitting in my chess drawer. As funny as the thought was when I bought the card, I could never bring myself to actually send it. Some day when I lose a game to a good friend and the moment seems right I may actually use it.

I was reading these contributions to my daughter Margaret when she came up with her own suggestion from a perspective unrepresented by anything mailed to me. Her idea: "Die you scum-sucking freak!" Ah, the sweet innocence of our daughters. She doesn't play chess herself but she has observed her chess-obsessed father her entire life. I wonder how she came up with this idea? I'm certain it couldn't have been anything I did or said. This reminds me of my favorite chess definition penned years ago by Elliot Hearst in Chess Review magazine (if you think you've seen this in my column before you're probably right). Opponent: a slimy character with an ugly face. After thirty-odd years I still laugh every time I think of this definition.

Famous Signoffs

The following was emailed to me by Bill Gray of Manassas, VA: "As for the signoff contest, I'll give it some thought. It might be interesting for your readers if you would (in addition to the contest) do a survey on opponents who have rather unique signoffs. For instance, in my own experience the vast majority of players either don't use anything or use the neutral and rather noncommittal "Regards." But there have been a few who are different and generally use:"

"Catcha Later" -- Jerry Hopfer
"Later" -- Wade Chabassol
"Sine Cera" -- Kristo Miettinen
"Take Care" -- Ray Kremen
"Bye from The Pawn Raider" -- John Myatt
"Best" or "Cheers" -- several
"Sincerely" -- These are usually the guys who open "Dear so-and-so."

"I'll doubtless think of others from time to time and will pass them on, but there really aren't very many who dare deviate from the norm." (signed) Euphemistically, Bill. "p.s. Herman Scott of Fort Worth, TX uses rubber stamps of cartoon characters as his trademark signoff. One day it would be Bugs Bunny, the next Woody Woodpecker, etc. Now that's unique!"

Thanks for your contribution to this discussion, Bill. I wish I could think of some additions to your list. I'm sure other readers will be able to supplement this list with addition famous signoffs. Another challenge! Chess players seem to thrive on challenges.

The Subject That Will Not Die

On his card with the winning signoff entry Rick Callaghan offered the following additional comments.

"Re: computers: I think we should all be required to sign a pledge 'not to use computers to generate moves for a specific game.' It is one thing to violate a rule and another to violate a personal pledge. I realize there is a gray area. This should be left up to individual conscience. If one doesn't feel that he has gone over the line, then one hasn't. Could add the phrase, 'except as a matter of general chess training.' Best wishes!"

Of course, anyone who abides by APCT rules will not use a computer to generate moves or evaluate positions. Though there may be gray areas the concept of feeling when one has gone over the line is a good one in general, not just in computer-related areas. Most people can "feel it in their bones" when they go over the line. For those of you who enjoy the discussion of the ethics of using computers in correspondence chess (where it isn't specifically forbidden, as it is by APCT rules) check out my article in the January 1997 issue of Tim Harding's Chess Mail, which will be answered by a companion article by ICCF official Ragnar Wikman of Sweden. There's nothing like a little controversy to liven up the chess world!

More On Draw Offers

After publishing Tim Sawyer's opinions on the proper attitudes towards draw offers I expected a number of responses, but only one has arrived so far. Dave Shanholtzer of Elkridge, MD responded as follows: "I am writing in regards to Tim Sawyer's comments re: it being disrespectful for a lower rated opponent to offer a draw to a higher rated opponent. I disagree and I disagree vehemently! Respect is a two way street." Thanks for your very clear statement of position, Dave. I rather imagine that you speak for many chess enthusiasts.

An Internet discussion of draw offers in OTB provoked a number of interesting comments on how best to reply to draw offers:

"Not yet"
"No, thank you"
"Of course not!" (R. J. Fischer)
"No WAY"
"You're joking, right?"
"No thanks" (with contempt)
"Excuse me, I have a winning position" (V. Korchnoi, 1993)
"I'd rather lose!"

OTB GM Gains CC GM Title

"GM Ulf Andersson of Sweden was reported by Inside Chess as having taken a big step towards dual GM titles by scoring his first Correspondence Chess GM Norm in a special Norwegian event to celebrate '50 Years of the Norwegian Correspondence Chess Federation.'" This is the way I reported it last time. Fellow columnist Ian Brooks sent the following correction (thanks, Ian): "There is one minor point that I should point out again, that is ... in major ICCF tournaments (>14 players) you only need one norm for the title, so Andersson is a double GM."

When Game Loads Get Heavy

It is common to hear complaints among postal chess enthusiasts about game loads becoming too heavy. It's difficult to play your best when you have too many games going. The causes for this situation vary greatly. Some get overly enthusiastic and sign up for tournament after tournament till they suddenly wake up one day with a couple hundred games going. It's quite easy to get anxious to play and sign up for another tournament, even though you have already qualified for a later round of another event. When you have to wait for months for the event to get started you can forget about the upcoming games. Then the assignments start rolling in. Another situation sometimes affects the higher-rated competitors. No matter how careful tournament entries are planned it is possible for special tournament invitations to arrive unexpectedly that simply can't be declined. When a once in a lifetime invitation arrives in the mail you can't just say, "no, my game load is too heavy." This is particularly difficult in that the extra games may very well be against strong master players (my thanks to Ian Brooks for bringing this last situation to my attention).

There is another perspective on the question of heavy game loads, however. Just as some players may find the pressure of blitz chess exciting, the postal enthusiast may find the constant barrage of moves exhilarating. As you are peppered day after day with move upon move you have to become finely focused on your objective. It is essential that you organize your time effectively and avoid wasted effort. I believe such focused attention to your game can lead to a surprisingly high level of performance. It can certainly be an exciting chess experience. However, I don't recommend a prolonged experience of this type, especially if you have a life outside of the chess world. Still, such as experience from time to time can be quite something.

If you find yourself in this situation in the future try to immerse yourself in the chess and get the most out of it. You may also want to promise yourself not to let it happen again!

JFC and his Amazing Technicolor Chess Cards

I've long advocated enjoying chess in many ways, not just through making moves. One way I've enjoyed the game over the years is through printing interesting chess postcards. I began by writing my own programs to print diagrams on my postcards using an old Atari computer and 8-pin dot-matrix printer. Later I expanded my program to keep a database of current positions and opponent addresses using an Amiga computer and 24-pin dot-matrix printer. The improved printer inspired me to completely redesign my printed chess diagram. I spent many enjoyable hours placing each dot in each piece design. Now I have a PC running Windows and the same 24-pin dot-matrix printer. Using the MS Word word processor I designed my complete chess postcard. ChessBase can generate diagrams or I can manually type them in (I wrote a handy macro to do this job for starting positions). The True Type Chess fonts from Alpine Electronics finish the job and allow me to print excellent chess diagrams. Many chess players now use a computer to store and study large chess databases. With a little extra effort these players could print first class chess postcards.

As my opponents would testify, my printer is sick and isn't producing the kind of cards I'd like to mail my opponents. I am now on the threshold of another giant leap in postcard design. I am about to purchase an inkjet printer with color! My brain is fairly swimming as I contemplate the application of color to the design of my chess postcards. Two colors for chess pieces, another color for headings, another for moves, another for dates and time used, etc., etc. Just how far can I take this? Will my postcards take on the appearance of colorful flags or become little jokes? My opponents will soon start seeing my first experiments with color. Shall I be conservative and just introduce a bit of color here and a bit there or shall I strike out with abandon and paint my postcards with every hue of the rainbow?

I could certainly use some ideas here ... a little guidance in how best to use color on a chess postcard. I'm sure you readers have some great ideas. Perhaps I'll print all checks and mates in red. One thing is for sure. When I resign a game it will be in the old familiar BLACK.

ChessBase enthusiasts may want to keep their eyes out for a new version promised (some day) by CB. The new version will supposedly have a whole bunch of neat new features (improved database format, multi-media functions such as spoken annotations imbedded in a game score, encyclopedia, photos of famous players, etc.). Some features are aimed squarely at the postal player, such as a capability to keep track of time used and to print out nifty chess postcards. A have no idea whether or not postal players will find these new features genuinely useful but it's nice to see some attention being paid to us.

copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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