| Brief match description: Two 2-game matches pitting an unaided
human master (computer may be used for database search, etc. but use of chess
engine not allowed) vs. a computer played under normal correspondence chess
conditions. The games will be displayed "live" on-line at The
Campbell Report with extensive notes (during the progress of the match).
Stephen Ham Bio
I learned to play chess when I was 8. Due to being raised in rural Minnesota where OTB chess opportunities were unknown, I began playing correspondence chess when about 12. Upon graduation from St. Johns University (MN.), the need to support myself and hold a job left little time for chess, so I accepted the fact that my only future in chess would be in the correspondence arena. I played with modest success until approximately 1984 when I reached a point where I wasnt improving and my chess desire was low. Therefore I abandoned chess competition altogether.
During this retirement, I re-examined my play and was unhappy with what I saw. I had a safety-first attitude (the fear of loss greatly outweighed my will to win) and a general unwillingness to calculate deeply because I had an inferiority complex about my tactical skills. Also, I was lazy and easily upset by sloppy play by either myself or my opponent. Therefore I promised myself that if I ever returned to correspondence chess, Id always try to play the move that I thought objectively best, regardless whether it suited my conservative style. I therefore made a conscious effort to improve my ability to calculate tactically by studying GM level games in depth. Simultaneously, I abandoned many of my opening preferences in favor of more aggressive lines.
So for the next 5 years I studied on my own and sensed improvement. During this time I played hundreds of speed chess games on my lunch break at work with the MN. State Chess Champion; we shared the same employer. Finally I grew bold enough to challenge a strong correspondence chess master to a couple of games. I won one game sharply and, due to my newer/riskier style, I blundered in the second game. Still, this result gave me confidence to play USCF correspondence chess again. After the requisite number of games finished, I earned a masters rating in excess of 2300. I then accepted an invitation to play in the 1993 Absolute Chess Championship (reserved for the 13 highest rated players accepting from the US). I scored 50% and learned a great deal about chess at higher levels. Therefore I entered the 1994 Absolute Chess Championship. Although I was the lowest rated player, I won clear 2nd place, ½ point behind the winner.
Now, at age 45, my rating is 2508 (ICCF) and 2432 (USCF). Hobbies beside chess are: weight-lifting, kick-boxing, playing soccer, and listening to Celtic folk music. I am employed as a Senior Risk Analyst for GE Capital. Im married to Tao Ham and the proud father of Alexander (32 months old) and Cordelia (10 months), and thus have little time for serious chess. Still, victories in both of the ICCF Master tournaments I entered allow me to play in the XXIV ICCF World Ch. Semi-Final. I may elect to begin that competition in Spring 2000. Therefore, Im preparing for that challenge by keeping in shape via friendly challenge matches (see my Interactive Chess Matches at Ralph Marconis web site). Since I presume that many of my opponents in the ICCF will be using computers to guide their play, I think this match will give me valuable experience when combating a mechanical enemy.
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