The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"The Campbell Report" - May/June 1999

Tõnu Õim Wins World CC Championship

Tõnu Õim of Estonia is the XIV. World Champion of Correspondence Chess and becomes the first person in history to win the championship twice, having previously won the IX Championship 15 years ago. Congratulations to Tõnu Õim on this tremendous accomplishment! He edged out O. Ekebjaerg of Denmark by a slim 1/2 point. Note that ICCF designates the world championships by their number in Roman Numerals, thus Õim is the 9th and 14th world champion. Here are the final standings (unfinished games noted).

  • T. Õim (EST) - 11.0
  • O. Ekebjaerg (DEN) - 10.5
  • M. Lecroq (FRA) - 9.5
  • T. Hamarat (OST) - 9.5
  • J.S. Morgado (ARG) - 8.0
  • S. Webb (ENG) - 7.5 (1)
  • W. Stern (GER) - 7.5 (1)
  • V.-M. Anton (GER) - 7.0
  • J. Franzen (SLK) - 5.5 (1)
  • P. Boll (NLD) - 5.5 (1)
  • L. Kristol (ISL) - 5.5
  • G.K. Sanakoev (RUS) - 5.0 (3)
  • F. Baumbach (GER) - 5.0 (2)
  • P. Buj (ARG) - 2.0 (3)
  • J. Cordovil (POR) - 0.0

Following is a critical win by GM Õim over the previous world champion. It demonstrates the sort of tenacity required to win at this level. By the way, Chess Mail 4/1999 (April 1999) has this game with notes by the winner (on page 21).

G.K. Sanakoev (RUS) - Tõnu Õim
Ruy Lopez (C64)
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Bc5 4. c3 Bb6 5. d4 exd4 6. cxd4 Nce7 7. d5 Nf6 8. Nc3 a6 9. Ba4 O-O 10. e5 Ng4 11. O-O d6 12. Bf4 Ng6 13. Bg5 f6 14. exf6 gxf6 15. Bc1 Kh8 16. Bc2 Rg8 17. Ne4 Qf8 18. a4 Ne7 19. b4 Qf7 20. Bb2 Ne5 21. Nxe5 fxe5 22. Kh1 Nxd5 23. f4 Qg7 24. Ng5 Nxf4 25. h4 Rf8 26. Bxh7 Bf5 27. Bxf5 Rxf5 28. Qg4 Rxg5 29. Qxg5 Qxg5 30. hxg5 Kg7 31. Kh2 Nd5 32. Ra3 Be3 33. Bc1 Bd4 34. Rb3 b5 35. axb5 axb5 36. Kh3 Ra1 37. Rbf3 e4 38. Rf5 Be5 39. Kh4 Kg6 40. Rf8 Ra2 41. Rg8+ Kh7 42. Rb8 Rxg2 43. Rxb5 c6 44. Rb7+ Kg6 45. b5 e3 46. Rf3 e2 47. Bd2 Rg1 48. bxc6 Rd1 49. Ba5 Nc3 50. Bxc3 Bxc3 51. Re7 e1=Q+ 52. Rxe1 Bxe1+ 53. Kg4 Rd4+ 54. Rf4 Rxf4+ 55. Kxf4 Ba5 56. Ke4 Bc7 0-1

First Email Chess World Championship

ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation) has recently announced the first world championship of cc to be played by email. There is a movement to set up two parallel paths in all major events. This extends that plan to the most prestigious ICCF event.

154 players will be competing in 14 sections of 11 players each. The top two finishers in each section will qualify for the semi-finals (or the 3/4 Finals, using ICCF terminology). They will be joined there by a number of other top competitors to play for the opportunity to compete in the finals. Among the 154 players I noted APCT member and past columnist Ian Brooks, who not only is participating as a competitor but has been appointed as one of the two tournament directors. Go, Ian!

ICCF-U.S. Secretary Max Zavanelli earlier announced the USA invitations for this event. Note the presence of the X World Champion GM Victor Palciauskas in this list.

  • GM Victor Palciauskas
  • IM Erik Osbun
  • Steven Smithers
  • Christopher Sergel
  • IM Frank Camaratta, Jr.
  • Michael Millstone
  • Wesley T. Brandhorst

New Correspondence Chess Books

In my Jan-Feb 1999 column I reported a rumor that the XII. World CC Champion’s book describing his ascent to the crown was being translated into English. I thought it was such an important book that I have already obtained a copy of the German translation. Now the English version has been released, and I predict it will be a major contribution to the English-language literature of correspondence chess. The version I have is called, Der 3. Versuch, “Mein Weg aum Fernschach-Weltmeister” by ICCF World Championship XII winner Gregory Sanakoew. The English version is World Champion at the Third Attempt by Grigory Sanakoev. I strongly recommend that you get this book if you have any interest in the literature of correspondence chess.

As unusual as it is for a book to appear specifically aimed at the cc community, two such books have recently appeared. The second is also by a world champion, the first cc GM from the USA. The book is The System by GM Hans Berliner, the V. World Champion. I must admit, Hans Berliner was my first correspondence chess idol, and I spent many hours studying his outstanding tournament book of ICCF World Championship V. I still strongly recommend this wonderful book The Fifth Correspondence Chess World Championship by Hans Berliner and Ken Messere (1971). This out-of-print book is hard to find so you may want to snap up his new book while it is available.

No discussion of current correspondence books is complete without mentioning our own Jon Edwards book The Chess Analyst. This book has received overwhelming critical approval by reviewers so add it to your collection along with these other new books. Many chess competitors have large chess libraries, especially we correspondence chess players who depend so heavily on our reference books. However, a quick inspection of your library will probably reveal only a tiny number of correspondence chess books. I’d like to hear from anyone who can claim otherwise!

Another interesting area for potential collectors is in the area of chess videos. I only have a few. At this moment I’m playing one of my favorites (“Knight Moves” with Christopher Lambert) in the background. I plan to get “Searching for Bobby Fischer” one day (I’ll put it on my next Christmas list). I’d like to hear about any good collections of chess videos out there as well.

Good “Annotaters”

Chess players are a clever bunch in general and often demonstrate an interesting sense of humor. A recent note distributed in the Chess-L mailing list on the big 1999 Linares OTB chess tournament in Spain emphasized the superior level of play in this wonderful tournament. The writer concluded, “The games so far have been wonderful, with only a couple that could be called ‘grandmaster draws.’ This tournament is one for the ages; there only remains to sign a couple of good annotaters for the tournament book, and presto! Instant Classic (my emphasis).”

Later another person commented on the misspelling leading Arlen P. Walker, the original poster, to explain the spelling with this amusing story:

“The phrase derives from a potato farmer named Ann, who spent her evenings scratching long explanatory essays about Great Literature on the sides of the enormous potatoes she grew. The insightful, incisive essays earned her fame, and to this day we still remember Ann O'Taters.”

When Chess Positions Appear ...

Last time I mentioned how my eye was immediately drawn to the lower left-hand corner of a chess board any time one suddenly appeared on TV, in a movie or in a store display. I just have to know if they’ve screwed it up once again by orienting the chess board incorrectly. Robert Harrison of Danville, Virginia wrote the following in response.

“I was just wondering....in the March/April issue a reader, in commenting on the fact that the chessboard is often oriented wrongly in movies or store displays, said that he always looks at the lower left hand square to see if it is black. Well, that stuck me as just a bit odd since I always look for a white square on the right. Since ‘white’ and ‘right’ rime, I would think that most of us chess players would learn as beginners to place the board so the WHITE square is to the RIGHT and that this would be the sort of thing that would stick in our minds. I checked the book I learned chess from, The Beginner's Book of Chess by Frank Hollings (8th edition, no date), and--bingo!--on page 6 this statement was given in bold letters: ‘The principle thing you have to keep in mind about the board is that it must always be so placed that the corner square at your right hand side in the first row is a white square.’ So that may explain my habit of looking to the right. I was just wondering what most chess players do.”

Thanks, Robert, I can’t think of a good jingle to help me remember where the black square belongs. How about, “Put Black on the left, Jack!” No, that’s not quite it. Still, I can’t explain why, I always think in terms of the black square. Any more suggestions out there?

When To Resign?

An interesting topic that appears from time to time in one way or another is when is it appropriate to resign. Some resign a bit too quickly for my taste while some competitors don’t seem to understand the whole concept of resignation. Here’s a contribution to this subject from Lyle Cherner.

“I have resisted commenting on this debate for years now, but will no longer.

“If you pay your money, you have the right to resign when you feel comfortable to do so. You also are paying the money for each move, and are struggling over an obviously lost position.

“I usually resign a lost position quickly, but am going to rethink this. If the winning player is so upset over my wanting to have him prove that he can win, I may be able to steal a few points due to their frustration.”

An interesting point, Lyle. Is the frustration factor a useful tool for the cc competitor?

Politics and International Correspondence Chess

I am on the team helping John Knudsen administer a small international email chess tournament Exclam! that recently got underway. With eight sections of 56 players it has attracted players from many countries. One highly rated competitor Jovan Naumovic from Yugoslavia resigned all his games (this was shortly after NATO started bombing Yugoslavia). Along with his withdrawal from play he sent this comment, “God don`t blessing NATO States, please!” Later I discovered from another message he emailed to numerous people that he was the president of the Yugoslav cc organization (at least that’s how he signed it).

It’s a shame when politics interfere with sporting events, but it’s understandable that individual competitors find it impossible to ignore strongly felt political feelings. International email chess knows no borders. But what happens when opponents from warring countries meet “over the board.” Can these players really ignore politics and embrace the ICCF motto “We are friends?”

ICCF official Eckhard Lueers sent out this message on March 28, 1999:

“Dear CC friends,

“Dragan Savic, the official ICCF Email Contact of Yugoslavia, asked for special holidays for all Yugoslavian players in ICCF tournaments and for all players in the Memorial Bozidar Kazic.

“I agreed with the ICCF President, Alan Borwell, that we should give special leave of absence to all YU players until 30/4/99 - to be reviewed again thereafter, if necessary.

“Hopefully everyone can agree with this decision.”

Publishing Email Game Scores

One advantage of email chess is the fast availability of game scores. Tournament organizers can require game reports to be accompanied by compete game scores. At the discretion of the organizers, these game scores can be made available to the public immediately. This has obvious advantages. However, as in so many things, there can be unintended effects.

In one email event, where it was stipulated in the tournament rules that the games would be posted immediately on the Internet, one player submitted the following complaint. Note that the rules specified very clearly that the game scores would be made available immediately, but the player probably just didn’t read the rules carefully. Here is his complaint:

“I appreciate the desire for a complete record. However, why does it have to be available to the players so soon? Especially when the possibility exists (and in my game against [player X] this became reality) that a player will have the opportunity to see another game by an opponent before he starts to play their mutual game? Considering I am rated higher than [player X], and was White, it is no wonder he decided to play the same moves and obtain an easy draw. Had I been aware of the fact he had those moves available to him, I would have varied my game, and forced him to play, not copy. I feel the result is unfair. I feel that the continued practice creates the possibility for future unfairness.”

Of course, the player above makes a good point. Perhaps organizers should hold game scores for a period before posting them. However, one of the purposes of this particular competition was to collect some interesting games for immediate posting. Another lesson to be learned is the importance of knowing the playing conditions. The player quoted should have known that his opponent might have access to the completed game. If he had read the rules carefully and understood the announced playing conditions and then checked the file of posted game scores, he would have known what his opponent knew. More than a case of cheating or bad playing rules, this was a case of an opponent doing his research and reaping the benefits. So pay heed and always understand the playing rules and conditions.

copyright © 1999 by J. Franklin Campbell

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