The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Thanks to chess historian John Hilbert for providing another excellent article on the history of correspondence chess, the 10th article he has written for The Campbell Report. For more information on John Hilbert please check his previous articles in the On the Square Menu. For your convenience, the links to his other articles are also given at the bottom of this page. In addition, the six games in the article are provided for download in PGN format.

Download games in PGN format.

John Hilbert can be reached at: Jshchess@aol.com

A Correspondence Chess Historian
Meets the Computer Age

by John S. Hilbert

As a chess historian, I often find myself surrounded by paper, rough drafts of articles or books, xerox copies of old chess columns, bound copies of forgotten chess magazines. Every year or so I have to sift through my file cabinets just to make enough space so I have somewhere to put all the new pages, the ones that for one reason or another simply won’t fit in any of the two dozen or more three-ring binders that line my back room. Having just spent a weekend purging my files, I caught myself more than once looking wistfully at my computer, dreaming of how easy, how down right pleasurable, it would be to have all my chess history materials neatly nestled on my hard drive, available at my beck and call the next time a creative fit struck.

It was during one of these quasi-idyllic moments that I realized perhaps some of my dreams had already been answered. After all, what was preventing me from using one of the large, commercial databases available far and wide for purposes of studying the past? Why couldn’t I fully join the information age revolution, even though my interests look back over time rather than to the future? I regularly use a chess program to record my finds, but really hadn’t given much thought to how the mega-bases might ease my own study.

Having on hand a number of international correspondence chess games played shortly before the advent of the twentieth century, I decided to conduct a brief, informal comparison of my material with the results obtained using a large, commercial database. As this column hardly constitutes a proper review, the name of the database will be left to the imagination. And after all, aren’t so many of them alike? Suffice it to say the one I managed to find and finally install on my computer boasted just over a million chess games. Let’s simply call it the X database.

The first game on my list, given below, an Italian specimen, caused two minor traumas. First, it wasn’t among the X database’s million or so games. At that point I had the bright idea to search one of the board positions to see what other games X database could offer along similar lines. As it turned out, several games appeared through the move 11.Ba3. One of them seemed quite interesting, a game identified as N.N. – Paul Morphy, England, 1898. I was shocked to learn that “the Pride and Sorrow of Chess” had dropped a level game in eighteen moves to “N.N.” (Nightly Nemesis? Norwegian Nightingale?). But I was even more shocked to learn Morphy was still playing chess in 1898, fourteen years after his death. Perhaps that explained his poor play against “N.N.”. Nevertheless, something seemed amiss here.

Disheartened, I then returned to the dusty columns from days of old, and came up with the following game, with annotations by the Hungarian master Emil Kemeny, as taken from his chess column in the Philadelphia Public Ledger. Kemeny’s introduction read as follows: “The chess clubs of Genoa and Rome recently played a game by correspondence, which resulted in a victory for the latter. The game was an Evans Gambit, Genoa selecting the compromised defense. This variation gives White a powerful attack, yet Black, being two pawns ahead, by correct play may hold its own. In the present game the defense was played on somewhat novel lines. Genoa on its eleventh turn played 11...Bxc3 instead of 11....Rb8. This was followed by 12...b6, as against 12...b5, which forms the recognized defense. Genoa, by trying to save the b-pawn, soon got in difficulty, and castling queenside gave no relief. Rome was enabled to establish a powerful attack, regaining both pawns. Genoa might have escaped defeat by a sacrifice of the Queen on the thirty-third move. The play selected at this stage did not prove satisfactory, and by brilliant tactics Rome was enabled to force a win on its forty-ninth turn.”

1. Rome - Genoa
Correspondence Game, 1898
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.d4 exd4 7.0–0 dxc3 White establishes the compromised defense to the Evans Gambit. The attack obtained by White in this variation is a very powerful one, yet, by correct defense, Black is enabled to maintain a superiority in material. 8.Qb3 Qf6 9.e5 In his match with the late Zukertort Mr. Steinitz played 9.Bg5, followed by 10.Nxc3 Bxc3 11.Qxc3 and 12.Bd3. The move selected in the present game is considered superior. Black, of course, cannot well answer 9...Nxe5 on account of 10.Re1, followed by 11.Qa4+, should Black play 10...d6. 9...Qg6 10.Nxc3 Nge7 11.Ba3 11.Re1 or 11.Ne2 is often played at this stage of the game. The text move is, however, a very satisfactory one. 11...Bxc3 11...Rb8 should have been played, so as to be enabled to continue with 11...b5 which move is of great importance in the compromised defense of the Evans Gambit. Black could not well play 11...0–0 instead of 11...Bxc3, for 12.Rad1 would follow and Black could not easily develop his forces. The move selected by Black has a serious disadvantage, for he cannot well continue ...b5 and ...b6 is altogether too slow. White subsequently obtains a winning advantage. 12.Qxc3 b6 13.Rfe1 Bb7 14.Bd3 Qh6 15.Rac1 Nd5 16.Qc4 Na5 17.Qd4 0–0–0 Somewhat hazardous, since White commands the open c- and d-files, yet he had hardly any better continuation. 18.Be4 Nf4 19.Qc3 Ne6 20.Nd4 Nc6 Which loses a pawn, but Black had no better defense, since he could not well advance the c-pawn. 21.Bxc6 dxc6 22.Nxc6 Bxc6 23.Qxc6 Kb8 24.Be7 Rd2 25.a4 Qf4 26.a5 Ra2 Necessary, for a6 was threatening. 27.axb6 axb6 28.Bd6 Brilliant play. Black cannot answer ...Qf2+, followed by ...cxd6, for Kh1 and exd6 would follow. White then threatens d7 and Qc8+, which cannot be prevented by Black. 28...Qxf2+ 29.Kh1 Rc8 30.Rf1 Qd4 31.Rxf7 Ra1 32.Rff1 Rxc1 33.Rxc1 Qb2 34.Qc4 Necessary, for otherwise Black might have continued ...Nc5, which would have relieved his position. 34...Kb7 35.h3

Diagram a
Position after 35.h3

35…c5 Not satisfactory, as White’s powerful reply, Rf1, proves. Instead of ...c5, Black might have played 35...Qxc1+, followed by ...cxd6 and ...dxe5, and Black would remain with rook, knight and two pawns against the Queen. Should he lose the e-pawn or g-pawn, or even both, he would still have very good drawing chances. 36.Rf1 Nd4 37.Rf7+ Kc6 38.Rxg7 Qf2 39.Rxh7 Ne2 Better perhaps was 39...Nf5, in which case White could not guard against the threatening ...Ng3 by the advance of the e-pawn. 40.Qe4+ Kb5 41.Qb1+ Kc6 42.e6 Brilliant play. Black cannot play 42...Kxd6 on account of 43.Qxb6+. If then 43...Rc6, White continues 44.Qd8+ and Rh5+ or Rh7+, winning easily. If, however, Black plays 43...Kd5 or e5, then 44.Rh5+ would follow. 42...Qd4 43.Rd7 Ra8 44.Rc7+ Kxd6 45.Rd7+ Ke5 He could not capture the pawn, for Rxd4 and Qe4+ would follow, winning the rook. 46.Rxd4 Nxd4 47.g4 b5 48.e7 Kf6 To guard against the threatening 49.e8(Q)+ Rxe8, followed by 50.Re1+ and 51.Qxe8. Better, however, was 48...Kd3. The text move enables White to win with g5+, for if ...Kxe7, White answers Qe4+ and Qxa8. If, however, ...Kxg5, then Qf1, followed eventually by Qf7 or Qf8 will win. 49.g5+ 1–0

Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 5, 1898

X database did tell me the great Adolf Anderssen had played this variation four times as Black between 1855 and 1878, a period during which he was in fact alive, and that it has appeared in three correspondence games since then. Interesting to know, certainly, but without the game above turning up in X database, I would have had nothing to check in the first place.

It appeared that another test was in order. For the next game, a match played by telegraph between two chess clubs, I moved to France. Not physically, but in spirit. Here I found better luck, as the game was in fact in X database. The only trouble was that aside from including the bare score, the game was identified merely by cities, and not by chess clubs. And in fact, looking more closely, I found that wasn’t the only trouble. X database also neglected to mention this was the first game of a two game match between the clubs. Kemeny introduced the game by writing that “the Cercle Philidor, Paris, recently played two games with the L’Echiquier du Nord, of Lille, each winning one. The game, opened by the latter, was an Evans Gambit Declined, in which Paris was defeated, although it was creditable both to winner and loser. Paris in the opening moves might have improved somewhat on its play by moving ...Bd7 instead of ...Nf6 on its tenth turn. This, however, hardly endangered the game. The fifteenth move, however, was not a judicious one, for it displaced the King bishop. From this point to the end Paris was at a disadvantage, and try as it would it could not extricate itself. Lille conducted the game most skillfully, and Paris surrendered on the forty-sixth move, when all the pieces were exchanged, and its opponents had an easy victory, being two pawns ahead.”

2. L’Echiquier du Nord (Lille) - Cercle Philidor (Paris)
Telegraph Match, Game 1, 1897
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bb6 The Evans Gambit is extensively analyzed, and it is pretty safely established that Black may accept the gambit, for by proper defense he can stand the powerful attack and come out a pawn ahead. In actual play, nevertheless, the gambit is quite frequently declined; the reason for this is that most experts believe that Black obtains a slight advantage without being subjected to a harassing attack. White’s pawns on the queenside will remain weak. 5.a4 a6 6.c3 d6 7.Qb3 Qe7 8.a5 Ba7 9.b5 axb5 10.Bxb5 Nf6 10...Bd7 should have been played, threatening ...Bb6. The move selected does attack the e-pawn, yet after White castles he cannot capture on account of Qd5 attacking the King knight and threatening Bxc6+. The continuation adopted by Black gives White a passed a-pawn. 11.0–0 0–0 12.Bxc6 bxc6 13.d3 h6 Loss of time. Black should have played 13...Ba6, ...Be6, or ...Nd7, followed by ...Nc5. Black could not move 13...Bg6, for 14.axb6 and 15.b7 would follow. 14.Be3 Be6 15.c4 c5 Bad play, which closes in the Black bishop. Black did not care to exchange bishops, for this would give White the open f-file and a strong center. He might have played 15...Nd7, followed eventually by ...Nc5. White could not well reply 16.Qb7, for ...Bxe3 and ...Nc5 follow. Black also might have played 15...Rfb8, instead of 15...c5. 16.Nc3 Nh7 17.Nd2 c6 18.f4 exf4 19.Rxf4 He could not play 19.Bxf4, for Black would answer ...d5. In the present position this play is prevented, for if 19.Rxf4 d5 20.exd5 cxd5 21.cxd5 and if 21...c4 White captures 22.Nxc4 guarding the bishop. 19...f5 20.exf5 Bxf5

Diagram b
Position after 20. … Bxf5

21.Nce4 Well played. Black cannot answer 21...d5, for 22.cxd5 would be the reply, and if Black continues 22...c4, White plays 23.dxc4, guarding the bishop with the Queen. The play is of a very high order. White’s only advantage was that Black’s King bishop was badly placed. To maintain this advantage it was necessary to prevent Black from ...d5, which would relieve the bishop. It is quite interesting to observe that Black could not well play ...Qe5, followed by ...d5; the game was then likely to proceed 21… Qe5 22.Re1 d5 23.Nf3 Qc7 24.cxd5 c4 25.d6 cxb3 26.dxc7 Bxe3+ 27.Rxe3 b2 28.Nfd2 Rxa5 29.Nd6 Ra1+ 30.Kf2 and wins. In any other variation White gains at least a pawn. 21...Ng5 22.Re1 Nxe4 Better, perhaps, was 22...Ne6, followed by ...Nd4. 23.dxe4 Be6 24.Ref1 Rxf4 Which brings the White bishop into commanding position. Black might have played 24...Rfb8, followed eventually by ...Rb4 or ...Rb2, with some chances of establishing a counterattack on the queenside. 25.Bxf4 Rf8 26.Qg3 Bb8 27.Rb1 He could not well have played 27.Bxh6, for ...Rxf1+ would have been the reply. If then 28.Nxf1 Black captures the c-pawn. If, however, 28.Kxf1, then ...Qf6+. The text move is most powerful, and virtually decides the game in White’s favor, for White’s a-pawn becomes now very threatening. 27...Qf6 28.h4 He could not capture the d-pawn on account of ...Qd4+ winning a piece. 28...Bc7 29.a6 Rb8 29...Ra8 at once was hardly any better, White’s reply would have been 30.Rb7. 30.a7 Ra8 31.Rb7 Qa1+ 32.Kh2 Rxa7 33.Nb3 Qa3 34.Bxh6 d5 The only way to guard against the threatening mate. The play, however, does not prove satisfactory. White wins two pawns. 35.Rxc7 Rxc7 36.Qxc7 gxh6 37.exd5 cxd5 38.Nxc5 Bf7 39.cxd5 Qe3 He could not capture the pawn on account of 40.Qd8+, followed by 41.Qxd5. 40.Nd7 Qd4 Necessary to guard against the threatening Nf6+. 41.Qd8+ Kh7 He could not play 41...Kg7, on account of 42.Qf8+, followed by 43.h5+ and 44.Qxf7. 42.Qe7 Qf4+ 43.Kh3 Qf5+ 44.Kg3 h5 45.Ne5 The decisive stroke. White has skillfully guarded against perpetual check, and now he forces exchange of pieces, after which the pawns win easily. Of course, should Black play ...Kh8, White would not answer Nxf7+, for in that case Black may answer ...Qxf7, and White could not continue Qxf7, for this would be a stalemate. White, however, would play Qf8+, which would practically end the game. 45...Kg8 46.Qxf7+ 1–0

Philadelphia Public Ledger, December 21, 1897

It soon became more understandable why X database hadn’t alerted its users to the game above being but one of a pair. X database didn’t have the second game, and so once more I had to resort to Kemeny’s column in the Ledger. There, I learned that “the second game between the Circle Philidor, Paris, and L’Echiquier du Nord, Lille, was a Ruy Lopez, the former winning after forty-five moves. Lille had some chance to make headway on the queenside, but her play was too conservative, and on several occasions lost time, and Paris was enabled to enforce the kingside attack to great advantage. Lille, on the thirty-fourth move, was obliged to sacrifice the Queen in order to escape immediate defeat. This virtually decided the game in Paris’s favor, and ten moves later Lille surrendered.”

3. Cercle Philidor (Paris) - L’Echiquier du Nord (Lille)
Telegraph Match, Game 2, 1898
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0–0 Nxe4 5.d4 a6 The usual play is 5...Be7 followed by 6...Nd6, should White move 6.Qe2. 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.Qe2 f5 8.Rd1 Qf6 9.Nxe5 Be7 10.f4 c5 11.c3 cxd4 12.cxd4 c5 13.d5 0–0 14.Nc3 Nxc3 Not good, for it enables White to strengthen his otherwise weak d-pawn. It also gives the White bishop a good development. Black should have moved 14...Nd6. 15.bxc3 Bd6 16.a4 Re8 17.Re1 Re7 18.c4 Bd7 19.Bb2 Qh6 20.Qf2 b6 21.Re3 Qh5 Necessary, to give the Queen a safe retreat. 22.Rh3 Qe8 23.Qh4 h6 24.Re1 Bxa4 25.Qg3 Kh7 26.Qg5 Bc2 27.Ree3 Rc7 Loss of valuable time. He should have played 27...Raa7, followed eventually by ...b5 or ...bxe5 and ...b5. Black then had a good chance to make counter demonstrations on the queenside. 28.Reg3 Raa7 29.Bc3

Diagram c
Position after 29.Bc3

29…Re7 Better, perhaps, was ...b5 at once, which might have been followed up with ...b4. White then could not well move Nf3 on account of ...Qe3+. Black, by delaying the advance of the pawns on the queenside, enables White to make progress with the kingside attack. 30.Nf3 b5 31.Qh4 A powerful move, which forces Black to answer ...h5. White threatens 32.Rxg7+ Rxg7 33.Qxh6+ Kg8 34.Qh8+ Kf7 35.Qxg7 mate. If Black plays 31...Qf8 then 32.Ng5+ and 33.Ne5 would be the winning continuation. 31...h5 32.Qg5 Kg8 33.Rxh5 Bxf4 34.Qh4 Which forces Black to sacrifice the Queen. White threatens Rh8+ and mate in a few moves. White will remain with Queen and bishop against the two rooks. 34...Qxh5 35.Qxh5 Bxg3 36.hxg3 b4 37.Bb2 Bd1 He could not save the f-pawn, for Ng5, followed by Qh7+, was threatening. 38.Qxf5 Bxf3 39.Qxf3 a5 40.d6 Reb7 41.Qd5+ Kh7 42.Qxc5 a4 43.Bd4 b3 44.Qf5+ g6 45.Qh3+ Causes Black to surrender. White wins easily by continuing 43...Kg8 44.Qh8+ Kf7 45.Qh7+ Ke6 (or e8) 46.Bxa7. 1–0

Philadelphia Public Ledger, January 6, 1898

Another setting for an international correspondence match shifted me further to the east, as play took place between Vienna and St. Petersburg. As it turned out, X database had the following game, the first of the two played. And better than that, unlike Kemeny’s report appearing in the Ledger during play, X database had the conclusion to the game! Now here, clearly, was an improvement over the columns of yesteryear. The first game ran as follows:

4. Vienna - St. Petersburg
Correspondence Match, Game 1, 1898
1.d4 d5 2.c4 Nc6 3.Nc3 dxc4 4.d5 Na5 5.Qa4+ c6 6.b4 b5 7.Qxa5 Qxa5 8.bxa5 b4 9.Nd1 cxd5 10.e4 e6 11.Ne3 Nf6 12.exd5 exd5 13.Bb2 Be6 14.Bxf6 gxf6 15.Ne2 Rc8 16.Nf4 Rc5 17.Rd1 c3 18.a6 Bd6 19.Nfxd5 c2 20.Rc1 Bxd5 21.Nxd5 Rxd5 22.Rxc2 Ke7

Diagram d
Position after 22. … Ke7

The score ended at this point in Kemeny’s column, which appeared in the Philadelphia Public Ledger for April 23, 1898. Kemeny mentioned only that the game was still being contested and that it was “likely to terminate in a draw.” X database, though, showed the game had ended very shortly thereafter: 23.g3 Ra5 24.Be2 Be5 25.0–0 Rd8 ½–½

I then turned to the second game, hopeful that there too I would find the concluding moves in X database. As you will learn, I actually found much more than I had expected. First, Kemeny’s contribution, which appeared in the Ledger for April 6, 1898, and which included not only his annotations but the following introduction covering both games: “The chess clubs of Vienna and St. Petersburg are contesting two games by correspondence, the moves being transmitted by telegraph. In the first game Vienna had the first move and offered the Queen’s Gambit. The defense adopted by St. Petersburg was a somewhat novel one. The Russians sacrificed the Queen knight quite early in the game. They gained some pawns on the queenside, and the position was very much in their favor. Vienna, however, succeeded in bringing about an even game, and a draw is anticipated. In the second game St. Petersburg selected the Evans Gambit. Vienna defended conservatively, being quite willing to give up the surplus pawn. The Russians, however, pursued the attack vigorously. Vienna, with the eighteenth move, was enabled to turn the tables on its opponents. By a brilliant and sound sacrifice of a piece a winning attack was obtained. The game is not finished yet, but Vienna has a decided advantage, both in position and material, having a rook and four pawns against two minor pieces.”

5. St. Petersburg - Vienna
Correspondence Match, Game 2, 1898
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.b4 Bxb4 5.c3 Ba5 6.0–0 d6 7.d4 Bb6 A move adopted by Lasker. White may regain his pawn by playing 8.dxe5 dxe5 9.Qxd8+ followed by Nxe5 or Bxf7, according to Black’s ...Nxd8 or ...Kxd8, but then his attack is over and Black has a very satisfactory development. 8.a4 Nf6 9.Bb5 a6 10.Bxc6+ bxc6 11.a5 Ba7 12.Qa4 exd4 The best reply. White cannot well proceed with 13.Qxc6+ on account of ...Bd7. 13.cxd4 Bd7 14.e5 Nd5 Superior to 14...dxe5, in which case 15.Nxe5 and 16.Nxd7 might have followed. 15.Ba3 0–0 16.Qc4 Had White played 16.exd6 exd6 17.Bxd6, then the eventual ...c5 move would have at least equalized the position. The text move is more aggressive, however it does not prove satisfactory on account of the 16...Nf4 reply Black had on hand. 16...Nf4 17.Kh1 Be6 18.Qc1 He could not well play 16.Qxc6 on account of 16...Bd5; if then 17.Qc3, Black answers 17...Ne2, ...Bxf3 and ...Nxd4. 18...Nxg2 Brilliant play, which seems perfectly sound; White is obliged to capture the knight, and the continuation from this point is pretty near forced. 19.Kxg2 Bd5 20.Kg3 Necessary, since ...Qh4, followed by ...Qg4+, was threatening. 20...f5 21.Nbd2 He could not play 21.exf6, for this would bring the Black Queen and rook into action, after which the attack becomes irresistible. 21...f4+ 22.Kg2 Qg5+ 23.Kh1 Qh5 24.Qc3 Bxd4 Which wins the exchange and a pawn. White, of course, cannot capture the bishop, for 24...Bxd4 25.Qxd4 Bxf3+ 26.Nxf3 Qxf3+ 27.Kg1 Rf5 would follow, and White could not escape mate. 25.Qd3 Bxa1 26.Rxa1 Qxe5 27.Rg1

Diagram e
Position after 27. Rg1

All well and good, to this point. Similarly as with the first game of the match, Kemeny’s column ended with the score incomplete. With much anticipation, I searched the diagrammed position in X database, waiting for the game, complete with its final moves, to appear. And indeed, X database did pull the game up, giving the following moves:

27...Rab8 28.Rg2 Qh5 29.Kg1 Bxf3 30.Nxf3 Qd5 31.Qc3 Rb1+ 32.Ne1

Diagram f
Position after 32. Ne1

There was only one small confusion at this point. Not only did X database give me the end of the game, it gave me two other games as showing the identical position after 32.Ne1, above. The first, identified as St. Petersburg – Vienna, 1897, played by telegraph, included the moves 32…Qe5 33.Bb2 c5, and White resigned. The only problem with this conclusion, of course, is that besides dropping the bishop after 33.Bb2 (to 32…Rxb2), Black can also checkmate White in two moves by taking the knight … two transparent continuations Black proceeded to miss.

The second game in X database, apparently one played over-the-board, was St. Petersburg – Vienna, 1898. Thinking perhaps the two clubs had agreed to replay the game from the diagramed position, given they had so thoroughly botched the job the year before, in 1897, I was surprised to find the conclusion 32…Qd4(this time hanging the Queen) 33.Bb2 (the offer of which White ignores) 32…c5 0-1.

As it turns out, no one could claim the determined players of St. Petersburg and Vienna would allow such a travesty to go uncorrected. A mere fifteen years later, in 1912 (though no one knows after how many other attempts during the intervening years, attempts not picked up by X database), and this time during a correspondence chess game, Vienna wisely hit upon leaving the a1-h8 diagonal and played 32…Qe4, after which the game once more continued 33.Bb2 c5, when St. Petersburg, no doubt weary of replaying a lost position year after year, finally resigned. Again. 0–1

Feeling rather in awe, if not groggy, at St. Petersburg’s willingness to champion near identical lost causes by telegraph, over-the-board, and even correspondence chess over a fifteen year period, I turned to a game played, finally, by identified individuals. Once more, Kemeny supplied detailed notes to the encounter, after identifying the contest as being “a short but brilliantly contested correspondence game in Austria recently between Messrs. Zinkl and Huber”:

6. A. Zinkl – R. Huber
Austrian Correspondence Game, 1898
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.dxc5 Bxc5 6...Nc6 is the proper move. The text play enables White to proceed with Qg4, leading to a strong kingside attack, while ...Nc6 would have delayed this, and furthermore would have compelled White to guard against ...Nb4. 7.Qg4 0–0 Preferable, perhaps, to 7...g6, which would weaken the kingside, or 7...Bf8, which leads to a slow development. 8.Bd3 f5 9.Qh3 h6 Black had to guard against g4, followed by gxf5, which would render the d-pawn extremely weak. The move selected is perhaps better than ...g6, or ...Rf7, followed by ...Nf8, though it must be admitted it weakens the kingside. 10.g4 fxg4 11.Qxg4 Rf7 12.Nf3 He could not play 12.Qxe6 on account of ...Nf6 winning the Queen. 12...Nf8 13.Bd2 Nc6 14.h4 A powerful move. White intends to continue with Ng5, sacrificing the knight in order to obtain the open h-file, which leads to a winning attack. 14...Nb4 Black having advanced the h-pawn, White can move his bishop to g6. The text move, therefore, does not bring about an exchange of Queen knight against bishop, nor does it force away the White King bishop from the important diagonal it occupies. The move, therefore, is but loss of time. Better, perhaps, was 14...Nd4. If then White plays 15.Nb5, Black may answer ...Re7 or ...Rc7, otherwise Nd4 may be selected as the continuation. Black also might have moved 14...Bd7, which was better than 14...Nb4. 15.Bg6 Nxg6 Premature play, which enables White to establish a winning attack; much better was 15...Re7, which would have prevented White from Ng5. Black then might have ...Bd7, ...Nxg6 and ...Qe8. Another play Black had was ...Rf5 and White could not capture the rook for 16.Bxf5 exf5 and 17...Nxc2+ would have followed. White, however, would have answered 16.0–0–0, after which 16...Nxg6 is pretty nearly forced and again White obtains a winning attack, with 17.Qxg6 and Ng5. 16.Qxg6 Bd7 17.Ng5 hxg5 18.hxg5 Qb6 19.0–0–0 Threatening Rh8+, followed by Qxf7, after which Rh1 mate would follow. Black cannot well play ...Be8 for Rh3 and Rdh1 as well as Qh7+, Qh8+, g6 and Qxg7+ would win. The only other defense is ...d4, with the ...Bc6 continuation, so as to stop White from Rh1. 19...d4

Diagram g
Position after 19. … d4

20.Nd5 Brilliant play, which decides the game in White’s favor. The object of the move is to obstruct Black’s diagonal so as to make ...Bc6 more ineffective. It should be remarked that had White moved Ne4, which apparently brings about the same result without sacrificing the knight, he would have lost the game. Black then would have continued ...Nd3+, ...Ba3 and ...Rc8. The move selected attacks the Queen, thus preventing the ...Ba3 play. 20...Nxa2+ 21.Kb1 exd5 22.Rh8+ Kxh8 23.Qxf7 1–0 White now threatens Rh1, winning at least the Queen.

Philadelphia Public Ledger, April 20, 1898

And, as it turned out, X database had this interesting effort as well. Apparently I would not have needed to waste my time examining contemporaneous publications such as Kemeny’s Ledger column to obtain it. As one might expect by this point, however, there were some annoying little discrepancies. For one, X database had a Mr. Zink, not Zinkl, winning the game. On the other hand, perhaps Zinkl was not Zink after all, but two separate players. Such a conclusion would help explain why X database gave Zink’s win as taking place in 1903, five years after Kemeny had published his win by Zinkl. Whether the unfortunate Mr. R. Huber of the 1898 game was the same unfortunate Mr. Huber of the 1903 game could not be determined.

Kemeny published three more correspondence chess games involving international players and teams in the pages of the Ledger during the remainder of 1898, but X database has none of them. I will spare the reader more illustrations as to which source appears more accurate, instructive and richly textured. Surely, it must be admitted, a significantly different correspondence chess history could be written making use of X database than by going back to then-contemporary sources.

But for now, I think I’ll keep stuffing my file cabinets.

© 2000 John S. Hilbert All Rights Reserved.

John Hilbert's other articles at The Campbell Report
5-Dec-99: Mordecai Morgan: Mystery Man Of Correspondence Chess
3-July-99: Emil Kemeny and the Value of Correspondence Chess: An Historical Perspective
2-May-99: "To Checkmate the Kaiser": American Correspondence Chess at the Conclusion of the Great War
30-Nov-98: Oh, Brother: The Duffer's Guide to Handicapping
Correspondence Chess Siblings
6-Sept-98: "Emanuel Lasker, Vol. I (1889-1907)" by Egon Varnusz
2-Jul-98: Chess Columns: Now and Then
4-Jun-98: A Century Ago in Correspondence Chess
29-May-98: Two Generations, Generations Ago
28-Apr-98: Stalking the Blue-Eyed Chess Score

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