The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

I received the following from Joseph Bacon, a participant in ICCF US13F, the 13th United States Correspondence Chess Championship Final round. As a strong chess player he speaks with knowledge of the game. Though I personally have had little interest in chess variants, I believe such players should be listened to and their opinions considered. I must also admit to playing Transcendental Chess by correspondence for several years with great pleasure, though that variant (like Fischer-random) uses the same board and pieces. Joe Bacon can be reached at: joseph.bacon@worldnet.att.net -- J. Franklin Campbell

A Modest Proposal
By Joseph Bacon

I am compelled to write about how I feel about computer programs and databases. This is really prompted by your Nov/Dec APCT column. [Note: the Nov/Dec 1999 The Campbell Report column is now available in the print magazine APCT News Bulletin but isn't available on-line yet. It should become available in mid Jan. 2000 ... check The Campbell Report menu for availability. It reports on one player who is giving up cc due to his concerns about opponents using computers. -- JFC]

I have read over and over about how computer databases and programs are killing correspondence and internet chess. I have never spoken out on this before, but after reading J. Frank's last column, I would like to say that if you are using a them against me, I DON'T CARE. IN FACT, I WILL SAY "PLEASE PLEASE" AND GET DOWN ON MY KNEES LIKE JAMES BROWN!

I have a 500+ volume chess library which I peruse for opening tricks. The center of my collection is 38 volumes of rare and foreign literature on the Alekhine Defense. YES, I have used TINY NOTES in THESE BOOKS to BEAT YOU! and I KNOW THAT THERE ARE SOME OF YOU WHO USE CHESSBASE, FRITZ, NIMZO, CHESSMASTER and even any DINKY MACHINE in the USCF catalog to BEAT ME.

The Question Before Us is simple: "How do we create a level playing field?"

Let me make a modest proposal which I hope will open a serious dialogue with serious chess players...

Back in the 20's, GM Capablanca proposed expanding the chessboard by adding two new pieces.

I would like to build on Capa's proposal and take it several steps further.

Capa proposed adding two new pieces to the chessboard--an ARCHBISHOP, which combines the moves of Bishop and Knight, which was placed between the Queen and Queen Bishop; and a CHANCELLOR, combining the moves of Knight and Rook, which would be placed between the King and King Bishop. Like the current Rook/Bishop combination piece we know of as the Queen, either of the new pieces could move as either one of the base pieces.

Ed Lasker wrote that he and Capa played many test games with the variant on a 10x8 board. This is documented in Edward Winter's magnum opus on Capa. However, no game scores survive.

Let me propose taking Capa's idea and expanding it--

FIRST--add a pair of Chancellors and Archbishops to the board. Put the Chancellors on both sides of the King and Queen and then place the Archbishops next to the Bishops, then Knights, Rooks to fill out the back row.

The ranks would remain the same from 1-8, but the files would change from a-h to a-l. This would expand the board from 8 x 8 to 8 x 12. Of course, four pawns would be added to each side to put in front of the new pieces.

I suggest that a cross should be used as a symbol for the Archbishop and a mace could be used as a symbol for the Chancellor.

I also propose adding OPTION CASTLING to the variant, which would allow a King and Rook to be placed on any square of the same rank as long as the spaces between them are vacant.

I further propose RESTRICTIVE PAWN PROMOTION in which a pawn could be promoted ONLY to a piece that had been captured. If no pieces have been captured, the old rule would still apply.

I propose calling the variant CAPACHESS, in honor of its inspirer.

CAPACHESS would effectively null out or mutate opening theory. Databases and existing algorithms would be rendered useless and the programmers would have to start over. Middlegame complexities would increase (according to Ed Lasker's recollections and Dr. Berliner's own work on the A/* search algorithm) as maxive middlegame position possibilities would ride from a maxive 62 to 284 candidate moves. Endgame knowledge would mutate as the new piece powers are truly uncovered. (Capa thought that the true power of the Chancellor would show in endgames).

This will surely tax heuristic programming and cripple computers in the "horizon effect" which limits what they see.

Anyway, this is my "MODEST PROPOSAL", which, I do hope, will trigger a spirited dialgue. I believe CAPACHESS would restore chess to a true human intellectual challenge, being realistically retooled for the millenium, just as the Renaissance regenerated chess during the 1400's.

May my proposal let your imagination and creativity run as wild as possible, for there are no precedents for such battles.

I therefore put my proposal before you and await your comments

Copyright © 1999 Joseph Bacon, all rights reserved.

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