The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Volker Jeschonnek

Volker Jeschonnek writes for The Chess Correspondent, the magazine of the Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA) http://www.chessbymail.com/ . He is their Readers' Games columnist and regularly contributes articles to the magazine. Recently Volker has accepted an offer from Chess Today http://www.chesstoday.net/ to report on correspondence chess. Togther with other columnists he will help produce a monthly column called "Correspondence Chess Today." The first of these columns was written by Junior Tay and appeared in September. Volker can be reached at vjeschonnek@hotmail.com.

Review of
First Anglo-Pacific
Invitational Chess Championship
by ICCM Erik Osbun

Review by Volker Jeschonnek
(posted 19-Oct-2003)

When this book arrived in the mail I liked it right away. It is a pink 6"x 9" paperback of 192 pages. What first caught my eye was the nice layout, the many diagrams, and that Osbun annotated many games in much detail. The book has survived reading it from cover to cover, entering many notes, and several long trips. Apparently it can take some abuse.

The publisher is Caissa Editions (P.O. Box 151, Yorklyn, DE 19736, USA), ISBN 0-939433-64-8. The book can be ordered with the publisher. The price is $21 + shipping ($3.00 within the United States).

The book contains 135 games from the First Anglo-Pacific Chess Championship, an invitational postal tournament that started in 1985. Only a few of these games were known before. International CC Master Erik Osbun annotated the vast majority of games. They are recorded in figurine algebraic notation.

The book also contains:

  1. a preface by Erik Osbun
  2. (one page)
  3. an article "1st Anglo-Pacific Invitational" by Maurice Carter (one and a half pages)
  4. a profile of tournament winner Roger Chapman (half a page)
  5. a tournament table (one page)
  6. notes on how the book was produced by James Carter (one page)
  7. several indexes at the end (four and a half pages).

The font size in these six items is rather small. Hence they contain more information than one might expect.

International Arbiter Maurice Carter was the tournament secretary and his son James did the technical computer work for this book.

It is my assumption that people will be curious about this book for very different reasons. That is why I decided on three different angles, which are treated individually. The conclusions are somewhat different as well. My hope is that the readers will not waste their time with discussions that are meaningless to them. The three angles mentioned above are:

1) The book as a historical record. 2) The book as training tool (for players aiming at strong expert or master strength). 3) The book as a collection of games or as a gift.

Still, it is possible to read the three sections in a row.

1 The Book as a Historical Record

I am not an expert on this topic but a few things come to mind. The questions I asked were: Is the tournament of historical significance? Does the book contain all the essential information? Is the information easily accessible?

The answer to the first question is easy. Yes, the First Anglo-Pacific Invitational Chess Championship is an important tournament.

Tournament Secretary Maurice Carter tells us in his quite detailed overview that the tournament was "the first major event of the newly formed Anglo-Pacific Tournament Bureau." We also learn that the original concept of the event conflicted with ICCF rules. These difficulties were solved by (formally) making it an invitational tournament. Still, the winner received a spot in a World Championship ¾ Final.

The names I recognized were Max Salm (Australia), David Eisen (USA), and Walter Muir (USA). Salm and Muir held the ICCM title at the time (Eisen obtained his IM-title in 1998). There was one more titled participant among the field, ICCM Steven Tennant (USA).

Overall there were 17 players - four from Australia (Salm, Keast, Harrison, Henri), four from the USA (Van Dyck, Eisen, Muir, Tennant), two from Canada (Pare, Jurgens), two from Hong Kong (Domenden, Schepel), two from Japan (Mori, Majima), two from New Zealand (Chapman, Van Dijk), and one from Singapore (Glaser).

Regarding the second question: Does the book contain all the essential information?

In my opinion Carter's article covers all necessary information regarding the tournament as such. For example, he mentions that Schepel withdrew after a few months of play and he discusses why Tennant was disqualified later. These unfortunate events produced many game fragments but this cannot be held against the book as a documentation of history. One could ask for more general information: biographies and photos of participants, for example. This would have added more color but I think the bases are covered.

What about the games? I mentioned that the book contains 135 games. It was a 17-player round robin tournament hence there should be 136 games. Checking the player index confirmed that the encounter between Majima and Tennant is missing. Osbun and Carter don't mention this.

In several cases Osbun's notes are based on / include those of the players. That is certainly a big plus for the historian.

Regarding the third question: Is the information easily accessible?

The layout of the book is very good. Hence it is easy to replay games (either those with or without annotations). The number of typographical errors is low. I noticed just a few in the annotations.

The games are arranged by openings. More convenient (from our current perspective) might have been an alphabetical order according to who was White. The book contains an index that lets one look up game numbers for a certain player. Finding the common number for two players gives the number of their direct encounter. By no means luxury but it works. This index does not indicate whether a player had the white or black pieces.

My summary and assessment (as a historical record): The book offers few luxuries but has all the necessary ingredients. It is a good and solid record of this tournament. Recommended.

2 The Book as Training Tool

Well-annotated games are a very good learning tool. One can work with the bare game score first and compare annotations afterwards. One can let the annotator guide one through the game and see if there is anything that appears unclear or even wrong. Yasser Seirawan said in an interview that he was not too fond of studying. However, if a strong player's claim contradicted his own intuition he felt challenged to find out the truth. One can learn a lot this way.

I mentioned already that International CC Master Erik Osbun annotated many games in much detail. The annotations are in English and there is a lot of text in the book. Chess Informant symbols such as "+-" (White is winning) occur but they are rare exceptions.

It turns out that Osbun is an excellent teacher. His annotations are clear and meaningful. At times one would appreciate more detail but after some analysis or consulting additional sources one realizes that he got to the heart of the matter. There is no bias toward tactical or positional play: he criticizes miscalculations as much as dim knights on the rim. Players who are on the jump to strong expert or master strength (or more) will find some of the material very helpful. By the way, Osbun's annotations are very entertaining at times. For example, we hear about big bad bulls in china shops and men in white coats.

Osbun often cites games that the players could have known. This is helpful and fair. When I checked whether he deliberately did this with all games I found exceptions. Some games were played as "late" as the early 1990s. Unfortunately, we are not given an explanation. Possibly Osbun reworked some annotations for another publication and used this material in the book.

As an aside, older material is often still relevant. Variations are often abandoned after a crushing defeat at the top level. However, the reason for that is sometimes more of a psychological or practical kind. In several cases there are improvements for the loser (and some are not very hard to find). The loser often abandons the line anyway because of the bitter memories or because the loss attracted a lot of attention (opponents received a hint on how to play the position). If alternatives are available players sometimes feel it is more practical to move on. So one should keep in mind that some refutations are just "refutations."

I counted nine games that take up three or more pages in the book. Several games are discussed on two pages or more.

The first thing in the book that challenged me was a comment that Osbun made in Game 5 (Glaser-Van Dijk). Regarding the position below he wrote that Black had a straightforward way to achieve equality. Could it really be that easy?

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.0-0 Nxe4 6.d4 b5 7.Bb3 d5 8.dxe5 Be6 9.c3 Be7 10.Be3



Here Osbun writes: "Black accepts the traditional treatment of this old variation. The new challenge to the worth of the development 10.Be3 is 10…Nc5 11.Bc2 Nd7!?, which forces White to consider now the most effective method of abandoning his e-pawn [as 12.Bf4? g5! 13.Bg3 (13.Be3 Ndxe5 14.Nxe5 Nxe5 15.Bd4 f6 16.Nd2 Bd6 17.Re1 0-0 18.h4 c5 19.Bxe5 fxe5 20.Qh5 e4-+ is Sokolov - Kaidanov, Vilnius, 1984) h5 14.h3 g4 strongly favors Black.]"

Afterwards Osbun discusses 12.Re1 and 12.Nd4 (he cites Tal -Timman, 3rd match game, 1985) and concludes that Black was fine.

The paragraph above can be seen as a sample of Osbun's writing style (although the -+ is not typical).

My motivation to "lock horns" with Osbun was that Vytas Palciauskas played 10.Be3 against Heinrich Burger in the Hans-Werner von Massow Memorial. As in the game Burger shunned 10…Nc5 11.Bc2 Nd7. I suspected that there was something good for White in this line.

Current opening theory suggests 12.Re1 for White but supports Osbun's view that Black equalizes. Two hours of my own analysis did not uncover anything clear-cut for White. So regarding the original question it is advantage Osbun. Of course, I learned a lot.

I should probably say that the resulting positions are not easy and that the game Osbun cites regarding 12.Re1 does not constitute best play for Black. Easy for me to say since this is covered in detail in the popular opening manual "Modern Chess Openings" (14. edition) and other sources. So there is no point in making many waves here.

Since I discuss opening theory I would like to point out an inconsistency in the order of games. The games are ordered according to openings. The Open Games come first and within that group we have a natural and intuitive suborder. Half-Open Games are next etc. That's fine with me as I have arranged my opening books in roughly the same manner. However, games that are identical for many moves do not necessarily come back to back. Possibly they were rearranged to avoid layout problems. Osbun gives references within games to other games but I haven't checked whether these cover all cases.

In the book there are some games with theoretical relevance. However, I will mention only one in order not to steal the book's thunder. I omitted almost all of Osbun's annotations in this case.

White: Philip Jurgens
Black: S. James Henri
1. APICC, 1985
Sicilian Defense, Alapin Variation [B22]
Notes by Volker Jeschonnek
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.c3 Nf6 4.e5 Nd5 5.d4 cxd4 6.Bc4 Nb6 7.Bb3 d6 8.exd6 Qxd6 9.0-0 Be6 10.Na3 Bxb3

New theory books recommend the brave 10...dxc3. The text move is something for those who prefer to keep things simple.

11.Qxb3 Qd5 12.Nb5 Rc8 13.Nbxd4

More natural appears 13.Nfxd4 but since Black captures the knight it doesn't make any difference.

13...Nxd4 14.Nxd4 e6 15.Rd1 Bc5 16.Qb5+ Qd7 17.Qe2 Qe7

The Small Encyclopedia of Chess Openings (2nd edition) has 17...0-0 18.Nb3 Bd6 drawn, Charbonneau-Lesiege, Canada 1999. This might actually be the way to play the black position. 19.Bf4 doesn't win anything because Black has 19...Nd5 (20.Bxd6 Qxd6 21.c4?! Qa6) and also 19... e5 deserves consideration.

18.Nb3 0-0 19.Nxc5 Qxc5 20.Be3 Qc6 21.Bd4 Nd5

"A new, but rather obvious improvement upon 21... f6?! ... " (Osbun). Indeed, after ... f6 White exchanges the minor pieces and will try to exploit Black's weaknesses.


On 22.Bxa7 b6 gives White a headache.


Forced since 22...g6 weakens the dark squares too much.



23.Bxa7! is possible and forces at least accurate defense from Black. The point of White's play is that the bishop can be freed. 23...b6 What else? 24.c4! Nc7 The game suggests that Black would have defended this way. [24...Nb4 leads to enormous complications in which Black might well hold his own.] 25.c5! [25.b4 Ra8!; 25.Qd4 Na8! 26.Qd6 Rfe8 might just have been what Black hoped for.] 25...Qxc5 [25...bxc5 26.Rac1 with a plus for White since 26...Na6 allows 27.b4!] 26.Rac1 with a plus for White, I believe. 26...Qb5 (Not 26...Qa5?? 27.Rd7+-) 27.a4 (27.Bb8!?) 27...Qxb2 (27...Qa6 28.Bb8!) 28.Rb1 Qc2 29.Bxb6 with a thematic position.


23...Nb4 is now dubious because of 24.Bc3. However, 23...Ne7 is worth some thought.


24.Bxa7! b6 25.c5 transposes to the main line in the note to move 23.

24...a6 25.Bb2 e5 26.Rd7 Ne6 27.Rad1 Rfd8 28.R7d5 Qe8 29.Rxd8 Rxd8 30.Rxd8 Drawn.

"Gentlemen, is this a perfect game?" (Osbun).

I think White should have captured the a7-pawn either on move 23 or 24.

My summary and assessment (as training tool): Players who seek to improve will appreciate Osbun's teaching skills and very good annotations. Many games are good training material. Players of expert strength or somewhat below might get the most benefit from this book but there is certainly something in the book for stronger and weaker players, too. It is not a free ride, of course. For example, opening theory is not up to date. But those who read carefully and do work on their own will learn something. So you can have your "own IM" at a bargain price. Recommended.

3 The Book as a Collection of Games or as a Gift

Above I discussed the book from two rather specialized perspectives. Usually the historian will take the games as they are and the student will just pick suitable annotated games. And I agree that these approaches are perfectly okay.

But what about giving the book to a chess player whom one doesn't know very well? What will be the reaction? This section deals with the result of looking at the good games and the not-so-good games in this book and what picture they paint. Of course, the result will depend to a certain degree on personal preferences.

The good: Several great and exciting games were played in the tournament and two examples can be found at the end of the article. In the previous section I already mentioned theoretically important games. So, serious players will find plenty of worthy material in the book. I am impressed.

The not-so-good: The book is not a self-explaining and universal gift. Of course, few books are. If you give it to someone it might be wise to explain your choice. In other words, despite the good reputation of CC and some rave reviews of this book (deserved, I might add) it is not really of the same type as Tim Harding's "64 Great Chess Games."

To me, the biggest problem of the book as a gift (!) is that it might fail the recipient's expectations. Yes, it is a great book. On the other hand, correspondence chess as such does not come across the way I hoped it would. Writing these lines I am aware of my own disappointment. Of course, nobody promised me a "feel-good" book.

Obvious problems - mentioned by Osbun in his preface - are many game fragments caused by the withdrawal of one player and the disqualification of another (for a few more details see 1 above). A disqualification is always unpleasant but the withdrawal was, too. The latter incident occurred only a few months after the event had started. Tournament Secretary Maurice Carter reports that the player withdrew "after losing a short game to Muir." Actually, the short game lasted only eight moves. The loser hung a rook.

Closer inspection reveals more unpleasantness: One player forfeited three games on time where he held an advantage. Three games were drawn in positions in which one side should have played on. In one instance we get an explanation: A dispute about time arose between the players. The TS ruled in White's favor but Black appealed. The appeal was dismissed after 15 months (!). Black, who probably had enough, offered a draw. White's comment was, "Here Black, for reasons best known to himself, offered a draw. White faced with twin threats … was in no position to decline. Acrimonious, unsatisfactory, and drawn."

The number of blunders and strange occurrences in the tournament is probably tolerable. Osbun assigned double question marks ("??") to moves in twenty games. Two games contained a move that was called a blunder in the annotations (but received only one question mark). Since two players account for nine of the above occurrences I feel that this is acceptable. Actually I have never believed in the "no blunders in CC" statement except at the highest levels.

It looks like Tim Harding gave a very accurate description of the participants in his review in "Chess Mail" 6/2003. He wrote that the tournament "had a wide range of players … , involving strong masters (including Max Salm and Walter Muir) plus a few relatively inexperienced players." I might add that some of the blunders were bad. There might be "explanations" like clerical errors, analyzing the wrong position, etc. I assumed that these would be very rare exceptions at this level. Not so.

The strange occurrences are the following two incidents:

  • Osbun found that in the game between the winner and the runner up an illegal move was played (illegal castling). Neither player seemed to notice.

  • A game that was important for the top positions was adjudicated. Both players claimed a win. White submitted supporting analysis. Black provided only a positional assessment. The adjudicators found that the position was probably a draw but this finding was actually irrelevant. White's first move in analysis was a blunder and hence the adjudicators had to award Black the win.

Above I omitted the players' names because it is not my intention to pick on anyone. Overall, we see a good number of high-class postal games - ambitious chess, fighting chess. Roger Chapman, the winner, showed great preparation and bravery as Black in the French Defense. We see David Eisen push as White in the Sicilian. Other players seemed not to find their rhythm or to somehow hold back in the tournament. I won't speculate why. Some games seem to go downhill too fast. Some games are quite weak.

But enough of the critical stuff! Let's see some good games: my pick of the coolest move of the tournament and a good technical win:

White: Tadahiko Mori
Black: Roger Chapman
1. APICC, 1985
French Defense [C19]
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Ne7 7.a4 Nbc6 8.Nf3 Qa5 9.Bd2 Bd7 10.Be2 f6 11.Rb1 Qc7 12.Bf4 Ng6 13.Bg3 fxe5 14.0-0 cxd4 15.cxd4 0-0 16.Bb5 Rac8 17.Re1 a6 18.Bd3 Nf4 19.Bxf4 Rxf4 20.g3


20...Rxf3 21.Qxf3 Nxd4 22.Qe3 Rf8 23.f4 Bxa4 24.c3 Nc2 25.Qxe5 Qc5+ 26.Kh1 Nxe1 27.Rxb7


And here comes my favorite move in the tournament:

27...Qg1+ 28.Kxg1 Nf3+ 29.Kg2 Nxe5 30.fxe5 d4 31.Rc7 dxc3 32.Rxc3 Bb5 33.Bxb5 axb5 34.Rb3 Rb8 35.Rb4 Kf7 36.Kf3 Ke8 37.Ke3 Ke7 38.Rg4 g6 39.Rh4 h5 40.Rb4 g5 41.h4 Kf7 42.g4 hxg4 43.hxg5 g3 44.Rg4 Kg6 45.Rxg3 b4 46.Rg2 b3 47.Rb2 Kxg5 48.Kd4 Kf4 49.Rf2+ Kg3 50.Rb2 Kf3 51.Kc5 Ke3 52.Kd6 Ke4 53.Rb1 b2 54.Kc7 Rb4 55.Kd6 Kf5 56.Kc5 Rb8 57.Kd4 Kf4 58.Rf1+ Kg3 59.Rb1 Kf2 60.Kc5 Ke3 61.Kd6 Rb6+ 62.Kc5 Rb3 63.Kd6 Ke4 64.Re1+ Kd4 65.Rd1+ Kc4 0-1

White: Max Salm
Black: David Eisen
1. APICC, 1985
Sicilian Defense [B33]
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 e5 6.Ndb5 d6 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 Nb8 9.a4 Be7 10.Be2 0-0 11.0-0 f5 12.f4 a6 13.Na3 exf4 14.Bxf4 Nd7 15.Nc4 Nb6 16.a5 Nxc4 17.Bxc4


17...Qc7 18.Qd3 Bf6 19.c3 Bd7 20.Bb3 Rae8 21.Qc4 Qxc4 22.Bxc4 Be5 23.Bd3 Bxf4 24.Rxf4 Re3 25.Rd1 Rf6 26.Rb4 Bc8 27.Rb6 f4 28.Kf2 Bg4 29.Rd2 Re7 30.Be2 Bc8 31.c4 Rc7 32.b4 Kf8 33.c5


33...Ke7 34.h3 Kd8 35.Bf3 g6 36.c6 h5 37.Rb2 bxc6 38.dxc6 Ra7 39.Rc2 Rff7 40.Bd5 Rfe7 41.h4 Re3 42.Rb7 1-0

A fine positional squeeze.

My summary and assessment (as a collection of games or a gift): The book contains great annotations and many valuable games. In this regard it is a treasure chest. Unfortunately, some games are quite weak. Outside circumstances and certain occurrences might affect readers with strong opinions on CC or with a "weak stomach." They will certainly recognize the good in the book but they might also experience a certain disappointment at another level. Some readers will weigh the good against the bad. For many this will be easy and they will enjoy the book. For others this will be tough and they will learn something about life. Recommended (with a cautioning).

Keeping the above in mind I wish to congratulate Erik Osbun on committing himself to this task. Others might have feared that certain shortcomings of the material would reflect unfavorably on them. I would not blame them. This risk was real and accepting this risk shows heart. Moreover, Osbun's efforts make a big difference. He succeeded in putting the games into perspective and making clear what is good about them.

© 2003 Volker Jeschonnek, All Rights Reserved.

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