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The latest Golden Knights winners include a man who has now won both premier USCF correspondence chess (CC) events and a retired Hawaiian who only picked up Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess a mere 13 years before the event started

By FM Alex Dunne

1998 Golden Knights

On January 3, 1998 the first section of the 1998 Golden Knights went out. In it was two time champion Robert Keating. Over the rest of the year 105 other sections would be assigned totaling 742 aspirants to the title of 1998 Golden Knights champion.

The field of 742 consisted of 52 masters and 133 experts (many of these were repeat entries, however). Among the hopefuls were some other familiar names: 1978 Golden Knights champion Richard Aiken; John Burton, who finished second in 1997; the notorious murderer, Claude Bloodgood; future USCF President Steven Doyle; future IMs Corky Schakel, James Skeels, Robert Rizzo and Edgardo Limayo. Also fighting were Richard McLaughlin, Kenneth Poole (highest rated at 2472), Don Maddox (past editor of Chess Life), past ICCF Secretary Robert Karch, Peter Hardman (1983 Golden Squires winner), Peter Cullen, Chuck Cul lum, William Jempty, Abe Wilson, and Robert Ilderton (1994 Golden Knights winner). The names were illustrious, but there were no hints that this was to be one of the most hotly contested and close cut Golden Knights ever.

By the end of round one, the perfect scores emerged. It does not require a perfect score in the preliminary round to win a Golden Knights championship, but it certainly helps! After the first round there were 10 masters and 15 experts with 6 0 scores. There were also 13 class A players who brought in the magic 6 0 score, and one lone class B player, Chuck Cullum. Two unrated play ers rounded out the perfect scores at the end of round one. Out of a possible 106 perfect scores, only 41 were made.

In the very first round the past met the present. The 1978 Golden Knights Champion Richard Aiken (no relation to the Richard Aiken who won the 1946 event) met Corky Schakel, who would win the USCF Absolute championship ten years in the future.

Ponziani Opening (C44)

Corky Schakel (2272) Richard Aiken (2287) 1998 Golden Knights preliminary Notes by Schakel

I. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. c3 Nf6 4. d4 d5 5. Bb5 exd4 6. e5 Ne4 7. Nxd4 Bc5

This is a known second best move; ... Bd7 gives Black a solid position.

Again a known second best move. Bet ter is 10. ... Ng5.

II. fxe4 fxe5 12. Rxf8 + Qxf8 13. Be3 exd4 14. cxd4 Bb6 15. e5 Be6 16. Qa4 Bd7 17. Nc3 Qf5 18. Rf1 Qd3 19. Re1 Rd8 20. Qd1 Qc4

21. Rf1 Be6 22. Qa4 Qd3 23. Bf2 Bd7 24. Qd1 Qc4 25. Qe2 Bxd4 26. Qxc4 Bxf2 + 27. Rxf2 dxc4 28. Rd2 Kf7 29. Ne4 Ke7 30. Nc5 g5 31. g3 Bf5 32. Rxd8 Kxd8

Black has the bishop vs. knight for the endgame, but his pawn structure is just too weak to hold the draw.

33. Kf2 Ke7 34. Ke3 Be6 35. Ne4 h6 36. Kd4 Bd5 37. a3 Bxe4 38. Kxe4 Ke6 39. Kd4 c5+ 40. Ke4, Black resigned.

The semifinal round was naturally much rougher. Six zip results would be as scarce as fool's mates. Corky Schakel managed the sweep in the first semifinal in a field of four masters and three experts. Class A player Humberto Cruz (soon to be master) did the same trick in his section in a field consisting of two class A players, one master and four experts. Expert Ivica Mikic faced five experts and a 1999 player in equalling Schackel's and Cruz's feat. And expert Ivica Mikic faced five experts and a 1999 player. Roy Tate was the fourth and last player with a perfect score. Roy, a class A player at the time, was the lowest rated player by 200 points in his section of three masters and three experts.

These four had to be considered favorites going into the final round, but early perfect scores do not necessarily make a champion. The final rounds are the real test.

Sicilian Defense (B20)

Mike Decker (2307) Edgardo Limayo (2319) 1998 Golden Knights semifinal

Emanuel Lasker recommended 4. Qf3!? here, but such an early exchange of queens didn't have many adherents.

Players often play 8. ... Qd7 here with fair results for White. Limayo has an entirely different idea for this game.

Both positions look awkward here Black's queen looks like a target and his king is airy. White's king obstructs his own kingside development.

Worth investigating is a plan of Be3 and Kg1 h2.

Of course! The white king's wing has been compromised by g3 g4 and Black looks to open it up.

12. g5 Nd7 13. Nh4Qd6

After 13. ... Nd4 White would continue 14. b4! with chances for both sides. Limayo's plan is to safeguard both king and queen before continuing his king side action.

Pawn hunting here looks like the wrong idea and Limayo quickly proves it is.

16 a6 17. Na3 Qc7 18. Bxg6 e6 19. Bxh5 Nde5 20. Bg4

After 20. f4 g6 21. Be2 Nf7 Black has compensation for his material in the frag ile shielding around White's king.

After 23. Qe2

White stands three pawns ahead but his a1 rook and knight couldn't be farther from their king. White has had his day; now it is Black's turn.

23 Bd6 24. Nc4 Qc6 25. Rg1 Nf3 26. Na5 Nh2+ 27. Ke1 Qb6 28. Nb3

Black is doing well after 28. Nc4 Rxc4! 29. dxc4 Re8.

28 Re8 29. Kd1 c4! 30. Nxd4 Qxb2 31. Rc1 Bf4 32. Qe3 Bxe3 33. fxe3 cxd3 34. Bf5 Rxe3, White resigned.

Dutch Defense (A80)

James Fisher (2322)

Corky Schakel (2337)

1998 Golden Knights semifinal

1. d4 f5 2. Nf3 e6 3. e3 Nf6 4. Bd3 d5 5. c4 Bd6 6. c5

Fisher chooses to leave the books early with this advance. His plan is intrigu ing: he intends to sacrifice a pawn for a dangerous passed b pawn.

Schakel immediately begins a coun terattack on the White queenside claim. If left alone, Fisher will back up his c5 pawn with advantage.

Rightfully so. Black's plan has the appearance of taking advantage of White's c5 advance as White cannot maintain his c5 pawn but Fisher has another goal.

Schakel eliminates his one weakness the backward c pawn and we get to see the strengths and weaknesses of Fisher's plan more clearly.

13. Qc2 Bd6 14. a4 Qc7 15. Nbd2 0-0 16. Rfb1 c5 17. Bc3 c4 18. Be2

After 18. Be2

White is down a pawn, and both sides have a protected passed pawn, but White's b pawn is free to advance while the c4 pawn is thoroughly blockaded. White's rooks have power, but Black's only have defense. But ultimately in ana lyzing this position, Black has the advantage in the center where he has a mobile pawn mass. It is a game made for a championship confusing, compli cated, and challenging with a winner take all attitude.

18 Ne4 19. b6 Qb7 20. Nxe4 fxe4 21. Ne5 Nc6 22. Nxc6 Bxc6

The game revolves about the e5 square whoever wins that square will domi nate the play.

23. Bg4

Capturing the a5 pawn leads nowhere for White 23. Qd2 Bc5 24. Bxa5 Qa6 25. Bc3 Bxb6 and the dangerous b pawn is gone.

23 Rfe8 24. Qd2 Bc5 25. Bd4 Bxd4 26. Qxd4 Qd7 27. Ra2

Fireworks fail 27. Qe5 Bxa4 28. Rxa4 Qxa4 29. Bxe6+ Kh8 30. b7 Rab8 31. Qxd5 c3 and the c pawn is decisive.

And so the Black pawn mass begins to move and will sweep all away before it.

30. Qc3 Qc5 31. b7 Rb8 32. Bc8 Re7 33. Rab2 d4 34. exd4 exd4 35. Qg3 Qe5 36. Qxe5 Rxe5 37. Rb6 Rc5

Everything holds together and White is powerless against the black pawns. The rest is just careful sheparding of the passed pawns to their goal by Schakel.

38. Be6+ Kf8 39. Rxc6 Rxc6 40. Bd5 Rd6 41. Bxe4 d3 42. Rd1 d2 43. Kf1 c3 44. h4 Rxb7 45. f3 Re7 46. Bc2 Rde6 47. Kf2 Re1, White resigned.

The final round of five groups natu rally had some extremely strong sections. Section 1 had Corky Schakel, John Bur ton, Bleys Rose and Bert Kuiper, all rated above 2300. Two other masters Michael DuBoy and Christopher Reeves added to the strength, and Dale Crutchley at 1874 would not be easy.

Section 2 saw five masters: Roy Tate (Yes, his rating had gone up 296 points since the preliminaries!), Fred Aversa, Jeff Snedeger, John Burton (again) and Edgardo Limayo. Two experts Ivica Mikic and Humberto Cruz (a 127 point increase) rounded out section 2.

Section 3 found six masters: Robert Rizzo, Chuck Cullum, John Burton (again!), Patrick Ryan, Lars Pedersen, and Gerald Weiner crossing swords. The lone expert was Faraday Strock.

Section 4 had Five masters, an expert and a class A player. Unfortunately this was the unlucky section. Master Gardner Johnson and class A player John Mese died during the final. Jim Musumeci had to withdraw. That left Peter Cullen, Ray mond Smith, John Burton (again!) and Douglas Werner to fight it out for a top spot.

Section 5 completed the finals with six masters and an expert. Robert Keating (the defending champion), James Fisher, Gardner Johnson (did not complete a game), Abe Wilson, Barry Endsley, Jim Skeels, and expert Christopher Ward rounded out the event. John Burton was not in this section.

Sicilian Defense, Yugoslav Attack (B78)

John Burton (2468) Peter Cullen (2364) 1998 Golden Knights final

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 g6 6. Be3 Bg7 7. f3 Nc6 8. Qd2 0-0 9. Bc4 Bd7 10. 0-0-0 Rc8 11. Bb3 Nxd4 12. Bxd4 b5 13. Nd5

White chooses simplification toward an endgame, but Black is quite equal here.

13 Nxd5 14. Bxg7 Kxg7 15. exd5 Qb6 16. Rhe1 Rfe8 17. a3 a5 18. g4

White does not want to enter into the drawish waters of 18. Qd4+ but there is little to do on the kingside.

And now Black shows an interest in playing for the win, but ambition is two edged here.

Black has to acquiesce to a queen exchange as White's attack is stronger than Black's. The problem is that the endgame is in White's favor, too.

23. hxg6 hxg6 24. Qxb4 axb4 25. Rd4

After 25. Rd4

Black has two problems here: the b4 pawn and the e7 pawn. These would be fatal if it were not for the bishop on b3 being bad. White is better, but strong play by Black will hold the ending.

25 Rb7 26. Rde4 Kf8 27. g5 Bf5 28. Rh4 Kg7 29. Reh1 Rg8 30. Kd2 Kf8 31. Rh7 Rg7 32. Rh8+ Rg8 33. Ba4 Rxh8 34. Rxh8+ Kg7 35. Bc6 Kxh8 36. Bxb7 Kg7 37. f4 Kf8 38. Bc6 e6 39. c3 bxc3+ 40. Kxc3 Ke7 41. b4 exd5 42. b5 Kd8 43. b6 Kc8 44. Bxd5 Be6 45. Bc6 Kb8 46. Kd4 Kc8 47. Bg2 Kb8 48. Bd5 Kc8, Draw agreed.

White has no forced breakthrough.

The final results were brutal there were no prefect scores. Peter Cullen fin ished in third place money with an overall score of 15% 2% (37.85 in weighted totals). John Burton had another remark able tournament finishing second, third, fourth, and seventh, but as he was eligi ble for only one money prize, John took second place (41.25 best weighted total). The winner added to his considerable resume, Corky Schakel with two perfect rounds and 5 1 in the final for a 17 1 overall (41.70) and the first prize money and title of 1998 Golden Knights cham pion.

As a historical note, though this was Corky Schakel's tournament, John Bur ton's achievements were for the record books. John entered four sections of the 1998 Golden Knights and scored 6 0, 6 0, 5% % and 6 0 in the preliminary rounds, 4 2 (one loss, highest score in section), 5% %, 5 1 (one loss) and 5% % in his semifinal sections, and undefeated in the finals, he finished 4% 1%, 5% %, 5 1, and 5 1 for an aggregate score of 63% 8%.

The winner of the 1998 Golden Knights has now won both of the USCF's most prestigious CC titles, the Golden Knights and the Absolute Championship. Corky Schakel, of Lakeland, Minnesota, born June 30, 1944, finished third in the 1992 Golden Knights, and tied for first in the 2003 Absolute (with Wesley Brandhorst). He has received his International Corre spondence Chess Master (ICCM) title, and has become the U.S. secretary for the International Correspondence Chess Fed eration. After these successes, Corky just went on to score more: He finished first all alone in the 2004 Absolute and now first place in the 1998 Golden Knights. Congratulations, Corky!

2000 Golden Knights

The 2000 Golden Knights was not as large or as strong as the 1998 event, but it was just as ferociously contested. There were 546 entries rated from 2403 to unrated. There were thirty masters com peting (no duplicate entries counted) and among these masters there were players who were used to winning. In alphabeti cal order some of the contestants were Walter Brower, who would show his great strength in the 2006 Absolute; John Bur ton, who had finished first or second in the last three Golden Knights, rated at 2403, had to be considered the favorite again this year; Gordon Everitt, who dur ing the course of this event would play in five USCF Absolute tournaments; Gard ner Johnson, the Pennsylvania state correspondence champion of 1990; Robert Keating, who had won back to back Golden Knights in 1995 and 1996; Michael Mays, a member of the winning 1992 USCF team championship Carson's 4; Corky Schakel who had finished third in 1992 and first in 1998, and who would garner Absolute titles in 2003 and 2004 along with an ICCM title, had to be con sidered a strong favorite.

Among the non masters at the starting line were a number of players who would make their mark on the correspondence chess pages. Among them was Claude Bloodgood. Bloodgood died early during the course of the tournament (August 4, 2001). Claude was convicted of murder ing his mother, sentenced to death, later had his sentence reduced to life impris onment, gained permission to attend a chess tournament while in prison, escaped, and was later recaptured. Back in prison Claude continued to play chess, both over the board (OTB) and postal. A further controversy arose when Claude played many, many tournament games against fellow inmates at Powhatan prison. With a closed system, and Claude the strongest player, his USCF OTB rat ing on the 1996 Annual Rating List soared to 2712, second only to Gata Kamsky's 2789. In the USCF postal world Blood good's rating was a more realistic 2028. Since then the USCF has taken measures to prevent closed system rating inflation.

Starting in the 2000 Golden Knights was also a 1600 player, William Jempty, Jr. William would be the first player to break the 1,000 rated games mark on the new (at that time) computerized rat ing system. His 1,000th CC game came in mid 2008, meaning William was averag ing 120 finished games a year during the course of the 2000 Golden Knights and pushed his rating from 1600 to over 2200. Unfortunately, William had to withdraw from the chess battles this year to turn his attention to his battle with cancer. I speak for the correspondence chess commu nity, many of whom have played Bill, to wish him a successful fight.

On January 12, 2000, the postcards started moving. The 2000 Golden Knights would prove very tough to the established masters. Of the 30 masters who started the tournament, only nine managed per fect 6 0 scores. These nine, in rating order, were Bleys Rose, Del McClure, Bruce Johnson, Thomas Green, Karl Diebler, Mark Larzelere, Wesley Gales, Terry Tuohy, and Dana Daves. In the group of perfect scores, Glenn Ruiz (1941) was the only entrant to make the score twice. He was one of seven class A play ers to accomplish the feat (a 6 0 score), but the record was held by Sautchay Chareunsack with a 1496 rating.

Closely following with 5% % scores were some illustrious names Abe Wilson, Gordon Everitt, John Burton, James Fisher, John Blood, Robert Keating, and Gardner Johnson (who also had a 6 0 result) and, oh yes Corky Schakel who had a draw with William Jempty.

King's Indian Defense, Fianchetto Variation (E68)

William Jempty (1608)

John Burton (2403)

2000 Golden Knights preliminary

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. Nf3 0-0 5. g3 d6 6. Bg2 Nbd7 7. 0-0 e5 8. e4 exd4 9. Nxd4 Re8 10. h3 Nc5 11. Re1 a5 12. Nb3 Nfd7 13. Qc2 a4 14. Nxc5 Nxc5 15. Be3 c6 16. Rad1 Qa5 17. Bd4 f6!?

After 17. ... f6

Burton's strategy is akin to the hedge hog here find good squares for his pieces and let White overextend. That is what happens on Jempty's next move. Rea sonable now is 18. Qd2 with the idea of pressuring d6 with equality.

Black's position is quite safe while White has problems on the kingside and the queenside.

White had to take the a3 pawn that now is but two squares from queening.

Problems on the kingside, problems on the queenside, and now problems in the center. Burton masters the whole board.

The culmination of Black's strategy White's queenside falls apart.

26. axb3 Qxb3 27. Bf1 a2 28. Ra1 fxe4 29. Nxe4 Qb2 30. Rec1 Rxe4 31. Qxe4 Qxa1 32. Rxa1 Bxa1 33. c5 Bf6, White resigned.

The semifinal consisted of 22 sections, but only five players, John Burton, Dana Daves, Wayne Pressnall, James Wood, and Gardner Johnson would make per fect scores. That left three players leading the pack with 12 0: Dana Daves, James Wood and Gardner Johnson. There was a healthy crowd of 5% % scores in this round to keep the players in contention Gardner Johnson had two such results, (Gardner and Javy Gwaltney III both qual ified three times to the final. No one else made it even twice.) Closely following them were Chuck Cullum, John Blood, Tom Green, Wesley Gales, Robert Keating, Brian Stewart, Guido Stueber, and Abe Wilson.

Some of the muscle got cut when Larzelere, Everitt, Schakel, and Tuohy


At the September 2008 Interna tional Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) Congress in Pleven, Bulgaria, the ICCF bestowed international titles upon two Amer icans. Michael Proof of Riverside, California for his performance on board 3 at the Ninth Panamerican Team Championship was granted both the international master (IM) and senior international master (SIM) title. Michael exceeded the norm for the SIM title a week after his IM confirmation came through.

Joining a select group of seven other Americans (four native born, three adopted citizens) who have earned the title, Dan Fleetwood of Brentwood, Tennessee has become the eighth to claim the title ofinterna tional correspondence grandmaster. Dan earned his title by playing on boards three and one in the 14th and 15th International Correspon dence Chess Olympiads respectively during the last five years. He also fin ished tied for seventh in the finals of the 18th World Championship.

all ended up in the same section with three strong experts, and no one made better than a 4% 1% score.

Reti Opening (A05)

Steven Brosnan (1670)

Gary Adams (2267)

2000 Golden Knights semifinal

What to call this opening? Santasiere's Folly Deferred is one name. ECO's name is probably best: A05. If this is an attempt to get the well booked Gary Adams into unfamiliar territory, it doesn't work.

3 Bg7 4. Bb2 0-0 5. Bg2 d6 6. 0-0 e5 7. d3 Nbd7 8. Nbd2 Re8 9. c4 c6 10. Qc2 a5 11. a3 d5

Adams makes a bid for center play here. Previously played has been 11. ... Qb6 12. Bc3 axb4 13. axb4 Rxa1 14. Rxa1 d5 as in Morzov Minakev, USSR 1991, which led to an equal game for Black.

White has an ambitious plan but he overextends his position.

White needed to try the ugly 16. bxa5 here, but Black is better.

16 Nxe5 17. Bxe5 Bxc4 18. Bxf6 Bd3 19. Bxd8 Bxc2 20. Rac1 axb4 21. Rxc2 Rexd8 22. axb4 cxb4 23. e5 Bxe5 24. Rxc6 b3

After all the exchanges, Black is left with a passed b pawn.

25. Rb6 Ra3 26. Rb5 Bd4 27. Rd5 Rxd5 28. Bxd5 b2 29. Be4 f5 30. Bb1 Rc3 31. Kg2 Rc1 32. Ba2+ Kf8 33. Bb1 Bc3 34. Bd3 Kf7, White resigned.

The final round of the 2000 Golden Knights had six sections, five of the six had an average rating in the 2200s the sixth had four masters, two experts and one of the two surviving class A players for a 2161 average. The finals lasted from September 2005 to June 2008 when the last game finished. In any event that lasts nearly ten years, there are always some losses. Gardner Johnson, Jr. died during the finals. Both Dana Daves and James Wood faltered at the end with Daves los ing to John Burton and James Wood dropping two to Gary Adams and Wayne Pressnall. That left the field open to the best finisher, and that was Abe Wilson whose 6 0 score was scored against three masters, two experts, and the other remaining class A player.

Closed Ruy Lopez (C90)

Auro Bustillo (1996) Abe Wilson (2336) 2000 Golden Knights final

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. 0-0 Be7 6. Re1 b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 0-0 9. a4 b4 10. a5 Rb8 11. d4

The game actually started in December of 2005 so both players may have been aware of Morozevich Bacrot, Biel 2003, which continued 11. Bc4 Be6 12, Bxa6 Ra8 13. Qe2 Qb8 14. d4 bxc3 15. d5 cxb2 16. Bxb2 Nb4 17. dxe6 Nxa6 18. exf7+ Rxf7 when 19. Ng5 would have given White a plus. Bustillo may have planned a theoretical novelty (TN) later based on 11. d4.

11 bxc3 12. bxc3 exd4 13. Nxd4 Nxd4 14. cxd4 d5 !?

Wilson doesn't give White the chance for a TN based on Kavelek Lutikov, Beverwijk 1967, when Black had the better game after 14. ... c5 15. dxc5 dxc5 16. Qc2 Ng4. Wilson's plan looks risky.

16. Re5 Ng4 17. Re2 Qd6 18. g3 Nf6 19. Re5 Bb7 20. Qf3

After 20. Qf3

White holds the sacrificed pawn but his development lags and his pawn struc ture is not proud.

The old expression was "in for a penny, in for a pound." Perhaps that should be updated to "in for a dollar, in for a euro." With this pawn thrust, Wilson compli cates the center battle.

21. Bf4 cxd4 22. Rf5 Qe7 23. Bxb8 Rxb8 24. Qf4 Re8 25. Nd2 Qe2 26. Rd1 Bc8 27. Nf3

White cannot save the exchange directly by 27. Rg5? Bh3! and there are too many black threats, nor does 27. Rxf6 work as Black again plays 27. ... Bh3!

Black is down a rook but he is in con trol of the game.

Wilson just can't give his pieces away fast enough, but the knight is taboo as 31. Qxd6 Bxf5 leaves too many threats. How ever, 31. Nxd4 appears to hold.

31. Bc4 Bxf5 32. Rf1 Qc2 33. Bxa6 d3! 34. Kg1 Qb2 35. g4 Be4 36. Rf2 Qa1 + 37. Kg2 Bxf3+ 38. Rxf3 Re2+ 39. Rf2 Rxf2+ 40. Kxf2 Qd4+ 41. Kf3 Qe4+ 42. Kf2 Qf4+ 43. Kg1 Qxg4+ 44. Kf2 Qe2+ 45. Kg1 Qe1 + 46. Kg2 d2 47. Qxd6 g6 48. Qb8+ Kg7 49. Qb2+ Kh6 50. Qb4 d1 =Q, White resigned.

The top ten finishers in order of their finish are Abe Wilson, John Burton, Gary Adams, 4th 5th tie Wesley Gales, Guido Stueber, Robert Keating, Javy Gwaltney, Gerald Weiner, Chuck Cullum and James Wood. ■

Download a .pgnfile of all the games in this issue at

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