The Campbell Report - Jan/Feb 1998

The Campbell Report Begins Tenth Year

This column represents the start of my tenth year in the APCT News Bulletin and is a real point of pride for me. Before getting too impressed with myself, though, it's interesting to note something about that issue of the magazine containing my first column. Among the other columns were "Games From APCT Play" by Jon Voth and "The Problem Solver" by Newman Guttman, which are still regular features of this magazine. Even earlier issues of the magazine contain articles and columns by other writers who still frequent the pages of APCT NB. For instance, Keith Hayward was writing his column "Draw Yah" and Stephan Gerzadowicz was writing "All the King's Horses." "World View" by John Tomas, "Games of the World" by Jim Marfia and "The Wooden Soldier" by Don Maddox were also regular features. Current readers of this magazine will find all these names quite familiar. Of course, Jim and Helen Warren have been editing and publishing this magazine (along with their many other contributions) for almost thirty years.

Ten years? Pah! It would seem there is little to boast of here. It would appear that starting my tenth year makes me merely the new guy on the block. At least I can claim to be in very good company. I'm thankful for the opportunity of being associated with the finest cc magazine and the greatest chess enthusiasts in the USA for nine great years.

"If Moves" Used For Psychological Advantage?

The use of conditional moves in correspondence chess, often referred to as "if" moves, is a useful and sometimes dangerous tool for the cc competitor. On one hand they can speed up the game considerably, maintaining interest and reducing postal expenses. Especially in the case of foreign games they can cut months off the playing time. The danger is that "if" moves provide one more potential source of error. I know that I've won games due to my opponents' faulty "if" moves. Some writers have recommended that a sound postal chess methodology should avoid all use of "if" moves. Personally, I recommend the use of "if" moves. They have obvious advantages and, in my opinion, any competitor capable of playing strong chess moves is capable of avoiding faulty "if" moves.

I recently received a card from a new opponent in the 1997 Rook tournament with a string of eight "if" moves! I commented on my next card that, usually when I receive a lot of "if" moves on a card, it means my opponent has a forcing line and sometimes a forced win. The reply I received from APCT'er Alex Martin of Columbus, GA was extremely interesting:

"I send if moves to get the game going. I have found very few will accept many or sometimes any -- so I send the best that I can think up."

This sounds like psychological chess to me. By giving the best opening moves as "if" moves I was forced to either accept his "if" moves and play into his choice of opening or vary from his "if" moves, perhaps choosing an inferior line. This is very creative! I have on occasion thought of sending "if" moves to either encourage my opponent to enter a specific line or to try to scare him away from a line I wanted to avoid. It's sort of like an OTB player staring intently at one portion of the chess board in an attempt to divert his opponent's attention from another part of the board ... very tricky stuff.

Perhaps other readers have discovered unique and clever uses of "if" moves. Your comments on the use of "if" moves (or any other chess topic) are invited.

Best Chess Book Written

Recently I've read several claims about the best chess book ever written. The back cover of New In Chess advertised The King by J. H. Donner proclaiming this new English translation to be a majestic moment in chess publishing. To quote: "At Last! The English translation of 'the finest chess book ever written' in a royal deluxe edition." They certainly grabbed my attention with that claim. In an article on Mikhail Tal I found this: "The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal is arguably the greatest chess book ever written, Murray Chandler claims in the new edition published in July this year." I've also seen the same claim for Bobby Fischer's My 60 Memorable Games. Another book that comes to mind is the book on the Candidates Tournament, Zurich 1953 by David Bronstein, which many people have proclaimed as "the best." Chessco's catalog says of Search for Chess Perfection by C. J. S. Purdy: "Perhaps the best instruction book ever written. Belongs on every chess bookshelf." This is stated to be Bobby Fischer's personal viewpoint of this book.

I can personally say that the book by Tal is outstanding. Combining his skills as a top grandmaster, an outstanding journalist, a wonderful story teller and an attacking genius at the board the Magician from Riga created a wonderful book. I have the older Descriptive edition and wouldn't part with it. However, I'm a little unsure how to view all these recent claims about the best book ever written, particularly when applied to so many different books. The question that presents itself is this: is there a best chess book ever written? Is this a question that can be answered?

Another View on Time Recording

Last time I gave some viewpoints by Nathan Sills on not recording time used in postal competitions. Two APCT'ers took the time to email me their opinions concerning this topic. I must admit that my personal views are more similar to Stephen Wead's remarks than to Mr. Sills' views. Following are the edited comments by these two APCT competitors.

Stephen Wead of Illinois wrote:

"As usual, a fine column. Particularly interesting I thought was the philosophy expressed by Nathan Sills. Superficially, the letter reminded me of Don Lundberg's of several months back, but a close re-reading made me realized these are two entirely different kinds of people--though united in their 'I don't want to improve' philosophy.

"I think that Nathan is a good reverse role model for those of us growing older (well, O.K., who's getting younger?). His defeatism and indifference ... is exactly what we should not emulate, no matter what it costs us. ...

"When I consider how Pete Bramante and Jim Finger, in their 80's, are fighting me tooth and nail for anything they can get from our games (indeed Bramante is about to mate me. Yikes!). ... I mentioned Bramante and Finger as real fighters. But who can overlook the good doctor Harvey Roys, an elderly 'killing machine' if there ever was one. And a great gentleman about it!!

"With regard to keeping track of time, yes, it's a trivial thing. But it doesn't take much time really, and it's important to do because OTHER people believe it's important. After all, we could've just sat around playing Solitaire chess instead of electing to test ourselves by joining with others. As Jon Edwards is fond of saying, CC is about a lot more than just chess. One of the more things is the trivial effort involved in keeping time just for the sake [of] conveying a social attitude. It's good form, good manners, and good ethics. It's a minor discipline that says 'I'm NOT sitting on Mt. Olympus above all you peasants and your petty concerns.' ..."

Pete Raynolds of Tennessee wrote:

"I enjoyed Nathan Sills letter in your recent column in APCT. I've used the 'whatever...' line myself.

"I have completed about 2 dozen games in five APCT e-mail events since February. In that time, only one person even considered using time reports. Whatever the rules say (and I wasn't aware that time reports were required), it simply isn't being practiced in our e-mail sections.

"The games finish up in two to four months, at most, and more than a few end a game with zero reflection time."

Thanks for the comments! I decided to try an experiment. I'm playing two APCT sections that started recently, a Super Queen and a Rook prelim. For this little test I decided to arbitrarily select the last card received from each of my 18 opponents and check for missing date information. My results: all 18 opponents recorded the received and sent dates while six opponents left off the time used. That means a third of my opponents in these high-level APCT events left off this required information. Required? ... maybe not. I'll quote from the latest APCT Prospectus, which gives the rules of play: "It is essential that both players confirm the time used on each card, both for that single move and the total time consumed. No claim for time overstep shall be accepted which does not include full and accurate records."

My conclusions? It appears that I was wrong to say the date information was required. I've made the same mistake I've noticed others making, namely applying the rules of play of one organization to the games played in another. The ICCF rules require this information on every card. Each failure results in a time penalty. Repeated failure results in forfeiture. However, in APCT play it would appear that this information isn't actually required. However, if you leave it off you will have no basis for claiming your opponent has overstepped the time limit. Personally, I will continue to record this information religiously and insist that my opponents play within the specified time limits. This is mostly a matter of form since very few of my opponents come close to using all their time. Still, for me, playing postal chess includes all the documentation that goes with it. I lovingly dot every "i" and cross every "t" in my daily devotion to the goddess Caissa.

A Humbling Experience

Last time I promised a report on the progress of my "Tag-Team Match" with teammate John Penquite and opponents Charles Pote and Vine Smith. John and Charles faced each other in the opening phase of the game, handing the game off to Vine Smith and myself to finish. This brain-child of Charles Pote has certainly been an interesting form of competition. Last time I mentioned the unusual pressure I felt, feeling that I would be embarrassed to inherit a great position from my teammate only to spoil it in a few moves. As it turned out it didn't take several moves; two were enough. Though I may not have actually lost the game, I certainly missed an important element of the attack my teammate had put together and made a truly terrible move. That's the danger of playing on a team ... your responsibility goes beyond representing yourself. The only positive is that I now recognize a clear fault in my play. This embarrassing situation has finally forced me to examine my play for weaknesses and I expect to be the better player for it. In the meanwhile I'll just have to live with the embarrassment of spoiling a strong effort by my teammate. New experiences like this often provide valuable insights that are missed in more familiar surroundings.

Review of "KingPin"

I was a real fan of Chess Chow, published by American GM Joel Benjamin before it disappeared from the publishing scene. It combined serious chess with humor and provided a glimpse into what makes the top players tick. When I read a sample article from KingPin on the Internet I was reminded of this wonderful publication. I had to see more. I obtained the two most recent issues of KingPin, planning to review them for this column and to satisfy my own curiosity. After some delay, here is that review. Though officially listed as publishing three issues a year, the publisher of this English magazine Jonathan Manley candidly admitted this was inaccurate. He said, "You have homed in on what is perhaps Kingpin's main weakness: infrequent publication. Subscribers receive three issues of the magazine, but at present there is a delay of 6-7 months between issues." Having dealt with the frequency question, what about the content of the magazine?

Unlike some magazines, which emphasize recent tournaments and the latest opening theory, the attractiveness of KingPin is not effected by any slight delays in publishing. Indeed, picking up a few back issues will provide some very entertaining reading. Getting somewhat ahead of myself I heartily recommend this delightful publication. You can either subscribe or buy individual issues from Chess Digest.

Issue 26 Autumn 1996: The cover has photos of Fidel Castro, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi under the banner, "FIDE announces new presidential team." This sets the tone for the magazine. The "Kingpin Questionnaire" has the replies by IM Colin Crouch, and he answers such questions as: What is your first memory of playing chess? What was your worst defeat? How do you relax? What is your favorite record? What is your favourite television programme? (remember, this is an English magazine). Which meal do you most like to eat and could you cook it yourself? What was your most embarrassing moment at the chess board? Who is the most courteous person you have played? There are many other interesting questions and answers along these same lines.

Following is a regular column with perhaps the most appealing title I've come across, Gary Lane's Agony Column. Perhaps this title was my first clue of a similarity to Chess Chow as it contained a regular feature titled Michael Wilder's Agony Column. Lane's column is different, though, with a Q&A format where he answers the questions sent by "readers." One sample: "Dear Gary, why not save time by reading a chess book in the shower. Simply cover all the pages in cellophane and it will be waterproof. Probably." Gary: "The best ideas are often the simplest ones." Well, you get the idea.

GM Glenn Flear contributes the next article named What's the difference between a 'good' and a 'bad' performance? He says, "If you've ever examined your own games after a tournament, it's amazing how just a few critical moments make the difference between a great result and a disaster." He then documents this concept with examples from his personal experience ... very interesting, with some very real examples in the form of annotated games.

The Voice of Reason by GM Nigel Davies explains why wooden sets are better plastic. Of course, there is more to this article than this little topic. Perhaps it's a personal idiosyncrasy but I rather enjoy glimpses like this into a "foreign" society such as the English. GM Davies gives his opinions on how to improve the chess club scene in England with many interesting observations.

There was also a lengthy article by Edward Winter. His explorations into the history of chess are well known to American readers and are always interesting. Other articles in this issue: Sophisticated Ideas: The Importance of Open Lines by IM Luc Winants, More Ideas in the Blackmar-Diemer Gambit by IM Gary Lane, Letter from France by GM Tony Kosten, C.J.S. Purdy: AN Unconventional Chess Thinker by Amatzia Avni, a caption contest (most amusing), Hack Attack ... Happy Bloody Birthday by GM John Emms, Neutralising the Norm-hunters by GM James Howell, and Confessions of a British Nightclubber by IM Aaron Summerscale fill out the remainder of this issue, followed by over eight pages of book reviews by notable chess authorities.

There were few advertisements and over 50 total pages in this entertaining issue. A little humor mixed in with some serious chess makes for a winning combination.

Issue 27 Summer 1997: The cover has a photo of Nigel Short and Bulgarian IM Antoaneta Stefanova. He's saying, "Are you fun-loving Chess Spice?" I think this is an English humorous remark, but I can't be sure. The "Kingpin Questionnaire" is of GM E. Gufeld. There's Gary Lane's Agony Column followed by a more serious article Did Intel Break its Word to 20,000 Children? by IM Michael Basman. There's The Article With No Name by GM Tony Kosten which mixes chess games and lots of personal stories. Next to the article The Fine Art of Swindling by FM Jonathan Rogers is a fake (?) ad for Kirsan Toilet Tissue. There's also The Lost Weekend by GM Stuart Conquest, Before and After the IM Title by IM Susan Lalic, Skewer (a real potpourri of chess behind-the-scenes stories) and (a personal favorite) "Nunn is out to ruin me" -- Golombek's shock claim. It starts, "The world of chess publishing was rocked to its foundations last month when former world champion chess writer Harry Golombek launched a scathing attack on B. T. Batsford and editor and typesetter John Nunn. In the course of a two-hour diatribe organised by spiritualists in Buenos Aires, Golombek claimed that Nunn had 'deliberately improved my analysis' in the new Batsford algebraic edition of his classic Capablanca's 100 Best Games." The article continued in this vein. I particularly enjoyed the reply attributed to Nunn. "I never had any of this trouble with Alekhine."

Also in this issue: Never Forget the Elephant Gambit by Gary Lane, Forum by Edward Winter, Old Masters Never Die, They Just Fade Away by GM Nigel Davies, Scenes from Paris by GM Jim Plaskett, Blood from a Stone by IM Jonathan Rowson and about ten pages of book/magazine reviews. Overall, this publication provides a nice mix of serious chess and humor in a most attractive and readable fashion. The articles are written almost entirely by titled chess players ... very nice and very readable. There's little specifically for the correspondence chess player but that doesn't prevent me from recommending this excellent publication to my readers. on the Internet contains chess book reviews by Bertrand Weegenaar and makes for some interesting reading. His review number 21 contains a short review of KingPin number 27. The editor of KingPin can be reached directly by email at: "Jonathan Manley" <>.

Chess Digest is selling No.26 for US$8.95 and No.27 for US$9.95. Sterling prices for a 3 issue subscription: UK = 8.00, Europe = 10.00, USA/RoW = 12.00. Jon Manley added, "As a special offer to your readers, they can acquire all available issues (14-27) for 25.00 or US$45.00. Checks only to: Kingpin, 27 Quebec Road, Ilford, Essex IG2 4TT, England. If your readers would like to order by credit card, I suggest they contact either Chess Digest or the London Chess Centre. Several Kingpin articles are archived in the Chess Cafe's Skittles Room. ... Kingpin No.28 will be out in January ..." Featured in No. 28 will be: an interview with Yasser Seirawan which contains some very straight talking about Kasparov, Edward Winter's Forum, IM Gary Lane's Agony column, GM Tony Kosten's Letter from France, IM Crouch on Kasparov's analytical gaffes, IM Chris Ward on Paul Morphy, A mysterious letter from Hungary from one Robert Fischer, IM Gary Lane advocates the Grand Prix Attack (2 Nc3, 3 f4 Sicilian), IM Richard Forster on a curious 19th century chess variant, GM Nigel Davies says that preparation is unimportant, IM Jonathan Rowson on the supernatural power of chess intuition, and a selection of book reviews.

copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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