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The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
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"The Campbell Report" - Jan/Feb 1999

Hans Ree Says CC Has Class!

In the Dutch newspaper NRC-Handelsblad for September 12, 1998 Hans Ree wrote an article on "Class and Glamour" (republished at the Chess Cafe website on the Internet). After lamenting the loss of class in Grandmaster chess with the ever-increasing tournament time limits, knock-out world championships, and unsavory actions involving FIDE, he stated, "Nowadays Ulf Andersson is hooked on correspondence chess. No glamour there, no money, but a lot of class." I'd have to agree with that assessment!

Jon Edwards Book

Our own resident class act is Jon Edwards, frequently at the top of our APCT rating list, currently the USA champion and a long-time columnist in this publication. His book The Chess Analyst is now available and has the appearance of a classic of cc literature. I just received my review copy and will publish a review at my website, but my first impression is extremely positive. Other reviewers, such as cc webmaster John Knudsen, have already published glowing reviews of this superb book. APCT'ers will have a special interest in this tome, knowing Jon as we do.

Of course, much of this material has previously been published in the APCT News Bulletin in Jon's regular column "Win, Lose, or Draw" and will be familiar to APCT readers. However, it is nice to have all this material gathered together into a single volume for easy reference and reading. APCT listed this volume for $18.95 in the previous issue of this magazine and it looks like a valuable addition to any cc enthusiast's bookshelf.

A Word to the Wise Concerning CC Books

We cc'ers have never had an abundance of chess literature available aimed directly at us. When books do become available they are often short-lived and soon become unavailable. I was rather disappointed when I was reading the book reviews at John Knudsen's website The Correspondence Chess Place and noted what a large percentage of the cc books were out of print and almost impossible to obtain.

Based on this simple observation, I strongly urge all of you with any interest in building a worthwhile collection of cc books, when you see a new book buy it immediately! It may not be available for long, so strike while the iron is hot and the book is still available. Get Jon Edwards' book now. Support cc book publishers and authors by buying those few books that do become available.

By the way, I've heard a rumor that the outstanding book Der 3. Versuch, "Mein Weg aum Fernschach-Weltmeister" by ICCF World Championship XII winner Gregory Sanakoew will be translated into English. I sure hope this happens! This German book (itself a translation and expansion of the original Russian edition) is the story of this outstanding cc champion's road to the world championship and has had wonderful reviews (by those who can read German). If this book becomes available I would suggest snapping it up immediately. In the meanwhile, keep on the lookout for those illusive correspondence chess books that are available now and get them while you can.

The Accidental Scotch

People have various opinions about the place of luck in chess. However, as GM Larry Evans once said, "For a game which is a monument to skill, chess has its moments which, for lack of a better word, can only be described as luck." He probably wasn't thinking about correspondence chess, but his quote came to mind when I read about the following incident, which was passed along to me by USCF Master Keith A. Rodriguez of Melbourne, FL, describing his opening in a 14th USCCC game:

"My game with (Richard) McLauglin sounds a bit tougher than yours, though mine does have some humor. (Bob) Rizzo says I should call it 'The Accidental Scotch,' of course with apologies to The Accidental Tourist. The game began 1.e4 e5 (however I inexplicably wrote in my book 1.e4 c5), and the game continued 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 exd4 and only here did I realize that I wasn't playing against a Sicilian. So I am now involved in my first ever Scotch! Fortunately the move sequence left me in some main line of that opening."

By good luck Keith Rodriguez has landed in a playable opening after making a possibly disastrous recording error. Now I'm waiting to find out whether or not he becomes a devotee of the Scotch!

My Chess "Diary"

It's important to have a solid "methodology" in cc. That is, you should have a system for handling receiving and sending moves and insuring that you don't make clerical errors. A mistake in one of the "non-chess" areas of competition can lead to anything from a small loss of time to a heart-breaking loss. I have little experience with e-mail chess but have found that the differences between e-mail and postal make it imperative that I make adjustments in my methodology.

On another front, I have set up a new feature at my website called a "Diary." Here I display the game score, date I sent my last move and a diagram of the current position for every game I'm playing in the 14th USCCC (plus a couple APCT Super Queen games). A number of fellow cc enthusiasts are watching my progress through the 14th USCCC, including a few of my opponents.

One of my opponents agreed to play our game by e-mail. At one point I received the following message from him (on 10/28/98): "I noticed on your website that you made a move 22.Rxd7 in our game and dated it 10/26. I never got an email from you for your 22nd move?! Please let me know if that is your move."

How embarrassing! It appears that I decided on my move and intended to send this move to my opponent, but I failed at the critical step of sending the e-mail message with the move! Fortunately, my opponent noticed the move in my website "Diary" and we got the game moving again, after a two day delay. This provided an unexpected bonus from my Internet chess diary.

Chess Pride Magazine

It's not unusual to see a new chess publication appear on the scene. However, occasionally one shows up that has a special mission. Chess Pride magazine is such a publication. Some may think a magazine which combines a concern for Gay Rights with chess is a rather strange idea. However, read what editor and publisher Eric C. Johnson has to say.

"Just as with so many areas of gay and lesbian history, our sports history is poorly documented. Many famous sports heroes have been gay or lesbian -- just think of Greg Louganis and Martina Navratilova. How many of our chess heroes have been gay or lesbian? Chess Pride will be our publication of record, an historical reference for our past and a guide to our present (and future). ... There are approximately 85,000 members of the U. S. Chess Federation. Even using conservative estimates, that means there are several thousand gay and lesbian chessplayers in the U.S. who currently are members of USCF. ... Chess Pride will raise the visibility of our gay and lesbian chessplaying community, so that our strongest players will be more willing to show their ... chess pride!"

So far three issues have been published. The planned publishing schedule is three issues per year, though that schedule has shown some slippage. The goal of raising awareness of the chess accomplishments in the gay/lesbian community is a worthy one, in my opinion. Like any minority, especially one that has traditionally been so suppressed, the accomplishments of members of that minority are often invisible and the absence of successful role models for the members of that minority creates a real and damaging void. Bravo to those who attempt to correct this terrible situation! I, for one, am an enthusiastic supporter of those who work to end prejudice against any minority group, be it racial, ethnic, religious or sexual orientation. The recognition of self-value is of tremendous importance. Chess accomplishment is one measure of accomplishment.

This new publication must therefore be judged in two areas: (1) does it achieve its aim for raising awareness and creating a record of accomplishment and (2) is it a good chess magazine?

The first area is a little difficult for me to judge. However, it certainly goes miles beyond anything with which I'm personally familiar. The career of the famous gay chessplayer Anthony E. Santasiere is covered in Issue 1. His career is recounted, along with numerous games and descriptions of some of the major events in which he participated. For me the highlight was the very interesting interview of GM Arthur Bisguier. He professes to have no prejudices and is glad to support chess and the recording of chess history. The second issue covers Paul Morphy, not personally known to be gay. However, there were a few gay-related issues involved with his trip to Europe. An article by Jerry Hanken "My First U. S. Open Opponent" (in 1957 ... the opponent was Santasiere) was named the winner of the 1998 CJA award for the Best Human Interest Story. In issue three the main topic was Weaver Adams, another well-known gay chess master famous for his White to Play and Win approach and advocacy of the Vienna Game and Bishop's Opening. Publisher and chess master Ken Smith is interviewed along with an autobiographical article by Adams himself (previously published). It seems to me that Chess Pride is off to a good start in raising awareness.

The second area must be judged with some consideration of it's first goal. We wouldn't necessarily expect to find the ultimate chess analysis here, but we might expect to find some decent chess. The main chess content so far is the games by the famous players highlighted in each issue. There is also a readers' games column with some light annotations.

The magazines are 8-1/2 x 5-1/2 inches with 20 pages including covers (covers are heavy weight colored stock) with good printing, art and layout. The writing is excellent and the overall appearance is quite impressive. Most of the magazine content will appeal to all chess enthusiasts, though I've seen no specific cc content. I can heartily recommend this little magazine to all chess enthusiasts, except those who may be homophobic. To subscribe send $19.95 for one year to: Chess Pride, 39F Wellington Drive, New Windsor, NY 12553. Individual copies are $7.00 each. They can be reached electonically at chesspride@aol.com

Chess for Tigers Discussion Continues

The value of the book Chess for Tigers has been praised and disputed by contributors to this column. This time APCT'er James W. Howe of Lake Village, IN weighs in with his opinion:

"I would like to comment on Ian Brook's recommendation of Chess for Tigers by ICCF GM Simon Webb. I have never seen that book, but I totally agree with him. Chess is a game of psychology. All the variables have to be taken into account, such as rating difference, choice of opening move, strategy or tactics of opening move, time control, strategy or tactics used in the game, psychology of the reply to the first move (closed, semi-closed or open), the opponent's messy or neat writing or printing, 'if' moves and your own strengths in opening the game as either Black or White.

"One thing that I do is to play what is comfortable to me as White or as a reply to White's first move. I never accept an 'if' move if it is against my style, only if it is a forced move. I almost never send 'if' moves because it tips your hand, unless it is a forced move to prevent mate, material loss or positional or tactical disadvantage. You never know when he might miss the best reply against your style of play. Studying their past games that you played with them or games they played against other opponents ... this can tell you how your opponent has improved, and his style. Chess is 90 percent tactics, 10 percent positional play. So you have to watch for tactical and positional surprises. On 'if' moves, to me they are only good if they are forced and they also speed up the game. Even anti-positional moves are good as long as you get a tactical or static defensive advantage. Dynamic chances are often obtained by anti-positional or point sacrificing moves. Myself being a class C player now (used to be high class B, lower class A) this is my opinion on chess and the book. Psychology is very complicated, and the best move against the opponent you are playing might not be the best on the board. Two other things that have an effect are if you are tired or (the state of) your body's conditioning."

Thanks for your contribution, James. In my opinion, much disagreement can be traced to different players' reasons for playing chess. If the motivation is to pit all your skills against opponents and strive for the victory, then they will appreciate your arguments. I'm in that camp. If, however, their sole motivation is their love of chess and appreciation of the beauty of the game, then such 'competitive' arguments may not be convincing. Personally, I try to blend these components and enjoy both aspects of the Royal Game. Chess is esthetically pleasing with many attractions. Tournament chess provides a great opportunity to express my competitive nature. Simon Webb is a brilliant competitor and explains his approach to competition very clearly in his book. Chess for Tigers is an excellent textbook for competition and, along with Ian Brooks, I highly recommend it as such. I would be very surprised if GM Webb didn't also enjoy the beauty of the game as well. However, those who read his book looking for instruction on the game itself will be disappointed ... Webb leaves that for other books and other authors.

Play On or Resign?

APCT member Mark Kern of Michigan comments on continuing play when the game is apparently lost:

"Hi j.f., just wanted to add my 2 cents to what Dan Dorak said in your last Report (which is the best part of the bulletin). It is the best way for C/D players to improve our endgames, the dollar or buck-fifty in additional postage is not going to kill anyone, and hopefully we will be better players. The next time we meet. Keep up the good work!"

Not all competitors will agree with me (and I'm also of divided opinion on this) but sometimes I enjoy playing a won game. When an opponent 'plays on' in a lost position, my normal goal is to find the most efficient winning plan. It can be fun playing a won position. Instead of fighting to obtain a better position the question is finding the best way to finish off an opponent. Yes, that can be most enjoyable, especially if the opponent is a good correspondent. I don't encourage players to play on in positions that have nothing to offer, though. If you're down a Queen with no apparently chances for a stalemate, then what's the point? However, if the win isn't so obvious, playing on would seem most reasonable.

An unpleasant opponent who plays on, however, brings out the worst in me. My goal becomes to make the game as non-enjoyable as possible for him. Instead of pushing for the quickest, most efficient or beautiful win, I seek to totally eliminate counterplay, presenting him with the bleakest possible view of the future in our game. I like the idea of cornering my opponent where all he can do is shift his King back and forth watching me surround his King with my pieces or march my pawns down to get as many Queens as possible. My goal is to make the position so pitifully one-sided that he'd be embarrassed for others to see it. Fortunately, this kind of opponent is extremely rare.

I recently caught a Master opponent in an opening slip that allowed me to win a piece and force the exchange of Queens. The game was an obvious win for me and he resigned, but he commented "my competitive instincts tell me to continue." I believe his competitive instincts have served him well and must at least partially be responsible for his top rating. I wouldn't have been at all offended if he had continued play, since a strong player can often generate a surprising number of problems for a lower rated opponent to solve, but I would likely have resigned in that position as well. Why play on in a totally lost position where there is nothing to gain? It's depressing. I think it's better to put such lost causes behind me and move on to better, more promising, challenges.

I received another note from Chip Chapin of Honolulu on this subject. His comments follow:

"Re: Mr. Dorak's comments in Nov-Dec '98 News Bulletin. Myself, I tend to resign or accept draws rather prematurely (I usually resign lost middlegames, especially in light of "if" sequences that convince me I'll get mated or lose lots of material). Certain types of endgames (where I'm losing but it takes proper technique from my opponent) I will drag out to the bitter end. I've reversed my fortune in enough such endgames to convince me it is worth playing them out.

"I also want to improve my chess, and playing endgames is a good way to do so. I've been on the winning side of a lot of endgames where I wouldn't dream of playing out the losing side. Yes, it is irritating, but I never say a word to my opponent. I just keep playing until he resigns or is mated. If a player wants to play a lost position, that is his right. Hopefully he will improve his own chess."

Dragging the Game Out ... Ethically Bad?

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Black to play

In a situation somewhat similar to the above question of resigning or playing on, a fellow APCT competitor phoned me recently wanting to discuss a problem he's having with a current APCT opponent. He gave the above position as current with an opponent, who will also remain nameless. However, his opponent (Black) has been a highly rated master in APCT in the past but has clearly been outplayed in this game. Perhaps a beginner might want to play this out to see how his opponent would win ... I might even play on a bit if I thought my opponent was about to withdraw or had a terminal disease (this is a joke!). A glance at the position shows that Black is helpless. Of course, as has been suggested before, an opponent is under no obligation to resign. So what is different in this case?

The fellow who called claimed that his opponent was delaying the progress of the game by claiming lost cards, sending registered letters (knowing his opponent would have difficulty picking them up at the post office) and making trivial complaints concerning missing time used, difficult to read moves, etc.

Are these delaying tactics unethical? Is this a kind of gamesmanship that's just part of the game? Would YOU play on in the above position?

My personal experiences with the unnamed player making the complaint provides me with some additional information. He does leave off the time used on his cards. The pertinent APCT rule covering this (in the 10/30 rules) says, "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." How is this to be interpreted? My understanding is that the penalty for not listing the time used is loss of the right to claim time oversteps by the opponent. No other penalty is listed, though the tournament director in APCT tournaments has wide discretion over such matters and an additional penalty can't be ruled out. I personally have complained to this player concerning the lack of time used on the card. In fact, he says he never does list these times. So, I'm playing on the understanding that I could claim a time overstep on him (since I am recording accurate time used on each card) but I could overstep without penalty. Otherwise, there has been no effect on our game and it is being played at a good pace. It appears that this will have absolutely no effect on our game whatsoever.

This player also does not write very neatly. I do occasionally have to examine his written moves pretty carefully to be sure of his move, but I don't think I've ever had to ask for a repeat to clarify his written move. I certainly haven't submitted an official complaint to APCT. I suppose it is possible that his other opponent, mentioned above, may have received some impossible-to-interpret moves. However, my feeling is that most opponents would be able to play a full game without any serious difficulties or the need to contact the tournament director.

So, what do you think, readers. In this fellow correct to be upset by the antics of his high-rated opponent? Would you be embarrassed to behave as this losing opponent has behaved, or is this guy just fighting tooth and nail trying to avoid loss? Would you use stalling tactics of this nature when losing to a much lower rated opponent, or just resign gracefully when the position got as bad as that shown above? When does the drive to avoid loss and compete to the end cross the line to become just plain bad sportsmanship? We've mostly just heard one side of the story here, with a few of my observations thrown in. Given what you have read here, though, what do you think?


copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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