The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

Though I am primarily a correspondence chess player, like most of us I maintain an interest in the wider world of chess. I follow the big GM tournaments, have my favorites among the OTB Grandmasters and have a particular interest in the really big events ... World Championships, Super-GM Tournaments, World Team Championships and the Chess Olympiads. With all the flaws in the current OTB chess world (FIDE, World Champions) there is something compelling about the meetings of these giants of the chess world. If I had to choose a single major chess tournament to attend, I think I'd choose an Olympiad.

If you'd care to check out the games of the USA Men's team here they are in PGN format: elista98.pgn (all 13 rounds). Apparently, FIDE reversed their decision to sell the games (referred to below) and the games are supposed to be available for download from Russian Internet Super Chess.

But what about the chess? You'd expect to see some outstanding chess played at such an illustrious and important chess competition. But it is, after all, over-the-board chess ...

Mistakes in Elista, 1998
By J. Franklin Campbell

This particular Olympiad will be remembered for many things besides the quality of the chess. There was considerable controversy (even some talk of boycott) concerning the host city Elista, Kalmykia, the home of the even more controversial FIDE and Kalmyk President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. There was the construction problems finishing "Chess City" in time for the Olympiad. In fact, the competition started two days late because of the hall not being ready, causing the cancellation of the final round and elimination of one free day. Some teams also encountered problems reaching Kalmykia, not exactly the center of the known universe. The British arbiter Harry Lamb left before the competition even started because of the weird housing provided. He described it as a sanitorium on the outskirts of the city. They had apparently just removed the patients. However, he said, " There were people in white coats everywhere" and he mentioned armed guards at the doors, not an environment conducive to concentration on chess matters.

Perhaps the one move that will in the end overshadow all these problems is the one made by FIDE to charge for the game scores. They've been talking about copyrighting the games scores from FIDE-rated tournaments, but I don't think many people took them seriously. Now, however, they've made their first move. Instead of making the games freely available at their website, as has been typical with many major events in recent years, they've offered the games for USD 19.95 at their on-line store! There's little to stop anyone from asking a price for a service provided, but they also are forbidding others from transmitting the games over the Internet. I don't believe too many people believe they have a solid legal basis for this. It will certainly be interesting watching the fallout from this ... is this just the first step in eliminating the free circulation of chess game scores?

However, as should be expected at a giant chess competition such as this with players of all strengths mixed together, not all the blunders were made "off the board." Here are two games that caught my attention.

In the first round the powerful USA team faced an undermanned squad from Iran and presented them with a "bagel" (i.e., they beat them 4-0). Following is the game from Board 1.

Amir Bagheri - Alex Yermolinsky (2625)
Iran - U.S.A. 0-4 Bd 1 Elista, Kalmikia (1), 1998
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 e6 3.Bg5 c5 4.e3 d5 5.Nbd2 Be7 6.c3 Nbd7 7.Bd3 Qc7 8.0-0 0-0 9.Qb1 h6 10.Bf4 Bd6 11.Bxd6 Qxd6 12.b4 c4 13.Be2 e5 14.dxe5 Nxe5 15.Rd1 Bg4 16.Nxc4 Nxc4 17.Bxc4 Bxf3 18.gxf3 Qe5 19.f4 Qh5 20.Bf1 Rac8 21.Rd3 Ne4 22.Bg2 Nxc3 23.Qe1 Ne4 24.Rc1 Rxc1 25.Qxc1 Qe2 26.Bxe4 dxe4 27.Rd4 Re8 (see diagram)

The position clearly contains some danger for White. The White King is open to checks on the g-file and the White squares are extremely weak. With only Queens and Rooks on the board you'd expect Black to have some difficulties winning, though. Black has pressed White throughout the game ... perhaps White finally just snaps under the pressure.

Bagheri - Yermolinsky
After 27. ... Re8

White covers his a-pawn, offers to exchange the Queens and puts some pressure on the Black e-pawn. Without doing any actually analysis this move seems reasonable. However, would any cc player fail to check the obvious Qg4 check? 28. Qd2 or even 28. h3 would be much more reasonable.

28. ... Qg4+ 29.Kf1?

What is this, an attempted self-mate? White has blocked the only square open to his Queen to protect against the Black Rook reaching White's first rank. 29. Kh1 Rc8 30. Qf1 Qf3+ 31. Kg1 Rc2 32. a3 looks good for Black but still leaves him with a lot of work.

29. ... Rc8 0-1

So we have an almost humorous final position where White's Queen is helpless.

Well, the above game was from the first round, where we'd expect to see some mismatches and poor play from weak opposition. How about later, when the opponents would all be top players with astronomical Elo's?

Following is a game played on the second board between two 2600+ players. Do players of this calibar always escape without the sort of mistake seen above? Judge for yourself.

Giorgi Giorgadze (2610) - Alexander Shabalov (2645)
U.S.A. - Georgia 2.5-1.5 Bd 2 Elista, Kalmikia (6), 1998
1.d4 e6 2.c4 b6 3.Nc3 Bb7 4.e3 f5 5.Nh3 Nf6 6.f3 g6 7.Bd3 Bg7 8.0-0 0-0 9.e4 Nc6 10.d5 Ne5 11.Be2 fxe4 12.fxe4 Qe7 13.Kh1 Rae8 14.Bf4 exd5 15.cxd5 c6 16.Bg3 cxd5 17.exd5 Qc5 18.Bf2 Qc8 19.Nf4 Kh8 20.Rc1 Qa8 21.Bh4 a6 22.a4 h6 23.Bxf6 Rxf6 24.Qd2 Qb8 25.Rcd1 Ref8 26.h3 Qc7 27.Ne4 R6f7 28.b3 Kh7 29.Qe3 Qb8 30.Rf2 Ng4 31.Bxg4 Rxf4 32.Rxf4 Rxf4 33.Bf3 Qe5 34.Qxb6 Bxd5 35.Ng5+ hxg5 36.Rxd5 Qe7 (see diagram)

Giorgadze - Shabalov
After 36. ... Qe7

First appearance would give the edge to White in this position. The material is equal but Black has the doubled pawns. However, Black does have a passed pawn and White's King position is more open to attack, so White needs to take some care. One interesting line: 37. Qd6 Qe1+ 38. Kh2 Rxf3 leading to a draw by perpetual check. Other unambitious moves, such as 37. Qg1, seem to avoid problems.

37.Qa7? g4 38.Bxg4

Of course, 38. hxg4 Rd4 leads to a lost game as well.

38. ... Rf1+ 39.Kh2 Qe1 0-1

And, just like that, it's forced mate!

Copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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