A

25...ie5 26 Sh3 We7 27 Bh5 f5 28 %6+ Wg7 29 We6+ Wf7 30 Wf8 31 Wxc7 £g7 32 fixfS WeS 33 Sg5 ttT8 34 JXxa5 cxb2 35 Sa7 1-0

Black is completely tied down and will be soon mated or lose more material.

It is only fair to mention a few points that some players consider to be drawbacks to CC:

a) "It is only half a game," once wrote C.H.O'D.Alexander, one of Britain's leading post-war masters who took up CC towards the end of his life, claiming: "It does not make anything like the demands on character, willpower, nervous stamina that OTB play does." I think most regular CC players do not see this rather abstract objection as a problem and had Alexander lived to play more CC, his views might have modified.

b) Some players find the pace of CC too slow, particularly international events, which can take years to complete if there are long endgames. Alexander saw another side to this:

"If you play ten CC games at a time, you receive about one move a day -and the time soon comes when far from being impatient you rather hope for a postal strike".

c) There are occasional frustrations, usually when an opponent suddenly stops replying. Then repetition moves have to be sent, involving extra expense, and there is a wait before the game is restarted or the tournament controller grants you a win by default.

d) Sometimes you meet opponents from a country whose postal services are not of the best; new technologies are starting to overcome this problem. It does require patience to conduct a long game with a slow opponent and also strict observance of the rules about repeating moves that do not receive prompt replies and about making claims for wins on time.

e) Occasionally an adjudication (rare in OTB chess nowadays) is necessary because of the long duration of some games. CC organisations usually prefer to play to a finish games that affect important titles and qualifications, e.g. by moving to a two-year instead of one-year cycle in the Scottish and, more recently, British CC Championships.

f) Postal chess can seem expensive, when you are starting and have initial expenses such as subscriptions, entry fees and the purchase of some basic equipment. Once you are under way, the main cost is the stamps and your outlay depends on how many games you play. An average postal game costs £8-£10 depending on postage rates and the number of accepted conditional moves. On the other hand, you are probably saving on entry fees and travel to OTB events, possibly on accommodation expenses also. The membership subscription to a CC club is likely to be much cheaper than to your local chess club. While teenagers and students may need financial assistance from parents to play CC, anybody in work should not find the expenses involved a burden.

g) CC can be very time-consuming if you play a lot of games at a high standard, analysing them very deeply, with a major goal like a national title or 1M norm in mind. Thus the main excuse that some players offer for giving up (or not returning to) CC is: 'It takes too much time'. They do not mind spending an evening on a club match or perhaps a weekend on a six-round Swiss tournament but then they can forget chess for a while; such people are often perfectionists who prefer not to play CC unless they can do very well. It is of course possible to win some games 'on autopilot' but to play a CC event properly, to enjoy it and have some hope of success, involves a commitment to spend a few hours each week for several months on chess analysis. Otherwise you had better not play CC until you are older or less busy. Even if the results are not too important to you, there is really no point in playing CC if you are not enjoying it or feel guilty that you should be doing something else with your time.

Apart from a few individuals who work as chess journalists, authors or teachers (mostly in the former USSR and eastern Europe), CC is almost entirely an amateur activity. Occasionally cash prizes are offered, but (outside GM invitation events) usually only the winner will receive enough to exceed his expenses significantly. So 99% of CC events are played for honour and the joy of playing. Prizes may be books or certificates giving promotion to national championships or higher level events. Other motivating factors for CC players are improved ratings (many organisations now organise CC rating lists), the hope of international selection and the chance of earning IM and perhaps GM titles.

This may be a good place to mention the unsung heroes of CC: the hundreds of voluntary and unpaid workers who organise the game. Most players probably give little thought to this side of the equation. Every CC organisation (national or local) needs an efficient secretary and treasurer, people to organise internal tournaments and external matches, and somebody to edit a bulletin, newsletter or magazine including announcements, results, games and the chat that oils thfe wheels of organisations linking people who may never meet face to face. The danger for CC bodies is that most or all these jobs are done by just one or two people who eventually cannot continue or must reduce their workload. These days, word-processors have eased some of the workload of maintaining contact with members and other organisations and of publishing a bulletin, but without dedicated honorary officers who give hundreds of hours annually to such work - because they enjoy it and because somebody has to do it - CC would grind to a standstill.

The only players to whom I would not recommend taking up CC are the complete beginner, primary school pupil or teenager studying for school-leaving exams and the student or young adult with a busy or itinerant lifestyle. For them it is better to fit in OTB games when they have some time available. Beginners should come to grips with OTB first, learning the notation as well as basic openings, tactics and strategy, not to mention such points of etiquette as when to resign a lost game. As well as book study, they should raise their playing strength by joining a school or local club or (if that is not an option) by buying a cheap dedicated chess computer and learning to beat that first. Most under-18s should restrict themselves to competitions for juniors, learning the mechanics of CC without taking on too many games.

The difficulty for the person who travels a lot on business is not so much bringing CC equipment with him but rather missing the incoming moves, unless there is a reliable person at home to tell him by phone or fax what moves have arrived. For the person in this situation, the notebook computer is already a big help and the new e-mail events (as discussed in my final chapter) will be very suitable, enabling players to collect then-moves from a computer mailbox instead of a physical location. Journeys and lonely evenings in hotels far from home will then make an ideal opportunity for such a player to work on his games without any interruption.

A busy lifestyle is the biggest handicap to performing your best at CC. I once had to play in a World Championship Semi-Final against an American doctor, working for Saudi Medical Services, and was dismayed to learn that he had recently won two major ICCF tournaments with a score of over 90%; he had earlier won one of the major annual American events, the Golden Knights. The work of a doctor is hard and time-consuming but the out-of-hours distractions in Saudi Arabia are no doubt far fewer than in a busy American city. Sol took it as a good sign when, after only four moves, he left the Middle East for a U.S. metropolis where he probably had both a busier working life and a hurly-burly life-style much less suited to making big scores in postal chess. He blundered in a difficult position against me and ceased to reply; I later heard that he dropped out of postal chess altogether.

Unfortunately, this case is not unique. There seems to be a syndrome in CC - mostly affecting strong, ambitious players - that sudden setbacks can lead them to abandon play, sometimes permanently. In the extreme case it can take the form of 'silent withdrawal' (they suddenly stop playing without warning). A player not quite so badly affected may just have a bad patch lasting a few weeks or months, from which they recover - but this can be enough to ruin a tournament for them.

I call this phenomenon 'hitting the wall', after the well-known distressful state that can affect marathon runners with a few miles to go. Even experienced athletes can succumb to this when apparently going strongly and something similar, but entirely mental, seems to happen to some CC players. Sometimes, outside influences such as increased work pressure or a spouse putting his/her foot down may be responsible, but the opponents rarely find out the reason. Two English CC grandmasters, PH.Clarke and P.R.Mark-land, gave up CC fairly abruptly in the 1980s; in the latter case I was actually in the middle of a game with him but I never received a line of explanation.

Fortunately, England's first CC grandmaster is still very active. K.B.Richardson is a bank manager, family man and was an active amateur cricketer but he also found time to take third place in two World Championship Finals; the first of these medal placings earned him the ICCF GM title in 1976 and was a great inspiration to many British CC players. Earlier, Richardson had been a member of British student olympiad teams and played with me on the Athenaeum Chess Club team that won the London league and National Club Championship in the mid-1970s; I still remember the hair-raising time trouble that used to feature in his OTB games as he tried to solve all the middlegame problems before committing himself to making a dozen, usually deadly, moves as his clock flag hung precipitously.

In the following game from the very strong Axelson Memorial tournament that began in 1984, he wins against a German GM who was soon to become world champion.

Richardson - E Baumbach

Axelson mem 1984

1 e4 cS 2 £}f3 3 d4 cxd4 4 £>xd4 g6 5 c4 £}f6 6 £k3 £ixd4 7 #xd4 d6 8 &g5! £g7 9 WdZ 0-010 £d3

Black's move-order is inaccurate since White is not obliged to defend his e-pawn with bishop or f-pawn. Baumbach has a new formation in mind for Black, but it does not work out well.

Baumbach played a similar plan after Morgado's 11 ficl in the same event.

13 £>d5 £.xd5 14 exd5 Wd715 f4 e6 16 dxe6 2xe6? (D)

This concedes a comfortable advantage which White converts instructively. 16...fxe6 was necessary when, Richardson comments, "although White has a clear edge with the two bishops and a better pawn formation, the game still has to be won."

18...fie8 19 Wh4 is even worse for Black.

After 20...£ixc4 21 &f6 (White is threatening 22 i.xg7 &xg7 23 f6+) 21...£xf6 22 Wxf6 £)e5 (22...d5? 23 fxg6! hxg6 24 &xg6 with a mating attack if the bishop is taken or 22...Wd8 23 fxg6 Wxf6 24 2xf6 hxg6 25 ¿Ld5!) 23 Sdl! Wd8 24 Wxd6 ^xd6 25 Sxd6, White has a winning ending thanks to his powerful rook and bishop.

21 £d5 b5 22 iLf6! &xf6 23 Wxf6 bxc4 24 fxg6 hxg6 25 3f4 Wd8

To break White's attack, Baumbach must go into a lost endgame in which White's main concern is to contain the d-pawn.

26 &xf7+ &f8 27 #xd8+ Exd8 28 £.xc4+ &e7 29 £xa6 Ea8 30 Ea4 d5 31 b3 d4 32 £e2! Sd8 33 &f2 d3 34 £dl Sc8 35 &e3 Scl 36 &d2 £bl 37 £f3 Ehl 38 h4 Sfl 39 2e4 &e6 40 a4 1-0

A mini-history of CC

Chess is ideally suited to correspondence play, but although it has been played by post since the early 19th century, if not before, people interested in the origins of CC are not well-served. Most chess encyclopaedias and histories give only skimpy coverage. In the 1820s, challenge matches between cities became popular and the origin of the Scotch Game in the Edinburgh-Lon-don postal match of 1824-8, won by Edinburgh 2-1 with two draws, is well-documented. It was in fact London who, in the second game, were the first adopt the move (1 e4 e5 2 &f3 £>c6) 3 d4, following an old Italian recommendation, while the Edinburgh players took it up with success in two later games.

London later played Vienna and Pest (one half of the modern-day Budapest), and beat Paris in the early 1840s. There was another vogue for such matches in the 1870s and 1880s when both Edinburgh and Glasgow were involved in similar challenges. These matches took the form of consultation games where the leading players in each city or club took responsibility for the moves and let the lesser lights have the opportunity to make a few suggestions. However, individual pairings seem to have been used when the Scottish Chess Association beat the Irish Chess Association in 1886 by 37 -28 in a correspondence match.

However, it was the development of the railways and the pre-paid postal service in the 1840s that really gave a boost to the game of chess. Although this meant that face-to-face contests became easier to arrange, beginning to some extent the divergence between those who played OTB and those who preferred CC, the increased efficiency of the post benefited CC also. In the last quarter of the 19th century, tournaments for individuals were organised in many countries by chess magazines and by newspapers, but central organisation was lacking.

The early history of CC in Russia goes back to 1837 when A.D.Petroff played three consulting players from St Petersburg. However, the first Russian CC tournament was not organised until 1882-5, by the Moscow-based Shakhmatny Zhur-nal (Chess Journal); the event was won by Mikhail Alexandrovich Sha-belsky (1848-1909).

The great M.I.Chigorin played many fine games by post (between 1876 and 1900 approximately) and he also led a team representing St Petersburg against London and other cities. Towards the end of his life he organised tournaments through the newspaper Novy Vremya (New

Times) in which he wrote a regular column; other papers also organised CC events in Russia. In addition Chigorin played in matches where the moves were sent by the 'new technology' of international telegraph, as in his two-game match in 1891 with Wilhelm Steinitz to test the World Champion's idea of 9 £>h3 against the Two Knights Defence and one of Steinitz's many strange ideas against the Evans Gambit. Chigorin won both games and can be considered the unofficial CC European, if not world, champion of the 19th century.

On the whole, Chigorin did not meet the same level of opposition in his CC games as in his peak OTB years and he was able to win most of the time in gambit style. When Lasker's Defence to the Evans caused him difficulties, he switched to the King's Gambit in his later years. His opponent in the next game won two ShakkmatnyZhumal tournaments (in 1893-4 and 1901).

Chigorin -1. Zybin

Corr 1899

1 e4 eS 2 f4 exf4 3 ±c4 $ 4 £>c3 &c6 5 $)f3 Ab4 6 0-0 d6 7 5 ¿g4 8 c3 la5 9 Wb3 ¿hxdS 10 i.xd5 £b6+ II d4 £\a5

Black has conceded too much central control; now he tries to confuse matters.

12 Jtxf7+ &f8 13 Wd5 Wf6 (D) Seeking simplification svnce if 13...c6, then 14 %5: 14...£xf3 15

,&xf4 hxg5 17 JSixd6 mate.

Black resigned in view of the forccd line 17...gxf4 18 Bxf4Wxf4 19 Sfl «fxfl + 20 fcxfl £xl8 21 Wt5+ &g8 (if 21...&e7, then White replies 22 Wg5+ and Black must either return his king or lose his rook) 22 Wg5+ &f8 23 Wf6+ <&g8 24 £dl! 25 £b3 SfB 26 Wg5 mate. Chigorin would have been able to foresee this finish before playing 14 b4.

Karl Karlovich Behting (1867-1943) was the next great figure after Chigorin in European CC although future world champion Alexander Alekhine played many fine attacking CC games while living in Russia before the Revolution. Behting (or Bet-ins, to use the authentic Latvian spelling) was a Latvian who lived most of his life in Russia; he remained active at CC into the 1930s and his victims included Schiffers, Chigorin and Nimzowitsch.

Behting - Nimzowitsch

April-December 1912

1 e4 e5 2 d6 3 d4 4 £c4 £ixe4 5 0-0 d5 6 £ixe5! dxc4 7 Sel l..&e,l 8 Sxe4 $Le6 is better. 8 ^xc6 bxc6 9 Sxe4+ £e7? 9...£e6.

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