Corr 2015 - Fearless games, fantastic gambits

by Albert Silver
8/15/2015 – When one talks about the highest quality of chess, and games, the usual knee-jerk response is the world champion or anyone in the top ten. However, there is usually one source of games that go beyond even that in sheer depth and quality of analysis: correspondence chess. These are games defined by fearlessness, openings exploration, and fireworks. Here is an update to the ultimate collection.

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In a sense, the number is fairly startling: over 1.2 million correspondence games, from the earliest in 1803, to the very latest dated 2015. Why is this startling? Because it still suggests an enormous volume of games that will take months to play out at the very least, even in today's day of instant email. Even the Mega Database 2015, which covers all over-the-board games, including blitz and rapid events, as well as junior competitions, contains fewer than seven million.

Needless to say, correspondence chess has undergone many mutations over the years, and not just because of the means of delivery. The first games on record in the database date from the beginning of the 19th century by Friedrich Von Mauvillon and an unknown officer, are surmised to have been played via military dispatch, as explained in the notes of the games. Nowadays games are played via email or special online servers.

What about 'cheating', you might ask. There is no such thing. At least not in the way we have come to worry about in live events. The solution is simple: since there is no way to ban engine use from postal chess, just as you could not prevent or detect someone consulting another player, massive engine use is the norm. The strongest players will still navigate their usage far better than a normal player would, and none are foolish enough to simply let the engine sit on a position for a day and play the move. It is a good way to lose.

The quality of the games is astonishing overall, and of course there are many games investigating the most hair-raising opening lines imaginable, since contrary to live chess, where a player might hesitate to enter a chaotic line for fear of being unable to navigate the mess, in postal chess, that is not a problem. It is the number one medium to investigate the craziest gambits imaginable. Consider this game played by former World Champion Gert Timmerman in the World Championship tournament itself, and annotated by him.

Frankenstein-Dracula variation

"This is the starting position of the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation in the Vienna,
so called because of the monstrous complications that can result from it.  Black
gives in return for a long-lasting initiative a full exchange. (...) The positional
compensation for Black exists in the fact that the white rooks will play for a long
time a role as passive spectators." - Gert Timmerman

Carleton - Timmerman, 1996 World Championship - Annotated by Timmerman

[Event "W-ch15 corr9601"] [Site "ICCF corr"] [Date "1996.11.01"] [Round "?"] [White "Carleton, John Joseph"] [Black "Timmerman, Gert Jan"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C27"] [Annotator "Timmerman"] [PlyCount "80"] [EventDate "1996.??.??"] [EventType "tourn (corr)"] [EventRounds "15"] [EventCategory "13"] [Source "Myers"] [SourceDate "2012.11.12"] 1. e4 {Myers Timmerman} e5 2. Nc3 Nf6 3. Bc4 Nxe4 4. Qh5 Nd6 5. Bb3 Nc6 6. Nb5 g6 7. Qf3 f5 8. Qd5 Qe7 9. Nxc7+ Kd8 10. Nxa8 b6 {Timmerman: This is the starting position of the Frankenstein-Dracula Variation in the Vienna, so called because of the monstrous complications that can result from it. Black gives in return for a long-lasting initiative a full exchange: a black Rook disappears against a white knight. The positional compensation for Black exists in the fact that the white rooks will play for a long time a role as passive spectators.} 11. d3 Bb7 12. h4 f4 13. Qf3 Nd4 14. Qg4 Bxa8 15. Bd2 Bg7 16. Nh3 (16. O-O-O $5 Bf6 17. h5 (17. Bb4 a5 18. Bxd6 Qxd6 19. Nh3 Qc6 20. Ng5 a4 21. Bc4 b5 22. Nf7+ Kc7 23. Nxh8 Bxh8 24. h5 g5 25. c3 bxc4 26. cxd4 cxd3+ 27. Kb1 Qc2+ 28. Ka1 a3 29. Rb1 Be4 30. Qd1 exd4 31. Qf1 d6 32. f3 Bf5 33. Qc1 d2 34. Qxc2+ Bxc2 35. Rhd1 d3 36. Rxd2 Kb6 37. h6 Kb5 38. Rf2 Kb4 39. Rd2 axb2+ 40. Rxb2+ Ka3 {0-1 Ekebjaerg,O-Timmerman,G/corr NBC 1991/}) 17... g5 18. Bb4 a5 19. Bxd6 Qxd6 20. c3 Nxb3+ 21. axb3 Bd5 22. c4 Be6 23. Qe2 Qb4 24. Qc2 e4 25. dxe4 a4 26. e5 Bxe5 27. Nf3 Bf6 28. Nd4 Bxd4 29. Rxd4 axb3 30. Qc3 Qxc3+ 31. bxc3 Kc7 32. Kb2 Rf8 33. Ra1 Rf5 34. f3 Re5 35. Kxb3 Re2 36. Ra2 Re1 37. Re4 Rxe4 38. fxe4 Kd6 39. Ra6 Ke5 40. Rxb6 g4 41. Kc2 g3 42. Kd3 f3 43. gxf3 g2 44. Rb1 Kf4 45. h6 Kxf3 46. c5 Kf2 47. Kd4 g1=Q 48. Rxg1 Kxg1 49. Ke5 Bg4 50. Kf6 Kf2 51. Kg7 Ke3 52. Kxh7 Kxe4 53. Kg7 Bf5 54. Kf6 Bh7 {1/2-1/2 Wibe,T (2530) -Van Oosterom,J/corr NBC 1991/}) 16... Bf6 $1 $146 (16... N6f5 $2 17. Ng5 h5 18. Qh3 Rf8 19. c3 Nxh4 20. Qxh4 Nxb3 $2 (20... Nf5 $1 21. Nf7+ Rxf7 22. Qxe7+ Rxe7 23. Rg1 Bf6 24. a4 Kc7 $132 {Myers}) 21. axb3 Bf6 22. Rxa7 Bxg2 23. Qh2 { 1-0 Carleton,J-Tait,J/corr ENG 1995/}) 17. Bb4 Kc7 18. c4 $2 {Timmerman: Too brusque. In exchange for the break-threat c4-c5 White leaves the dominant black Knight unharmed. The square d4 will later also be conquered by another black piece.} (18. c3 $5 N4f5 $44 {Timmerman} 19. Ng5 h5 20. Bxd6+ Nxd6 21. Qh3 Bxg5 22. hxg5 Qxg5 $36 {Myers}) (18. O-O-O $5 a5 19. Ba3 b5 20. Bxd6+ Qxd6 21. c3 a4 22. Bc2 Nxc2 23. Kxc2 Bd5 24. Kb1 $11 {Myers}) (18. Ng1 $5 a5 19. Ba3 Re8 20. c3 Nxb3 21. axb3 Qf7 22. h5 Qxb3 23. hxg6 hxg6 24. Qxg6 $14 {Myers}) 18... a5 19. Ba3 Qg7 $1 (19... N4f5 $2 20. c5 bxc5 21. Rc1 Kd8 22. Bxc5 $16 {Myers}) 20. Ng5 h5 21. Bxd6+ (21. Qh3 N6f5 {Timmerman} 22. Bd1 Nxh4 23. Ne4 g5 $17 { Myers}) 21... Kxd6 22. Qh3 Bxg5 23. hxg5 Qe7 (23... f3 $5 24. g4 h4 25. Kd2 Qe7 26. Rae1 Qxg5+ $17 {Myers}) 24. Ba4 Rh7 $1 (24... Rf8 $5 25. O-O-O Rf5 26. Rh2 Rxg5 27. Rdh1 f3 28. g3 e4 29. Qf1 Kc7 $17 {Myers}) 25. O-O-O Qxg5 $44 { Timmerman: The pawn plus with increasing pressure for Black weighs more than the exchange plus for White.} 26. f3 $8 Qg3 $1 {Timmerman: Especially in a Queenless endgame the black advantages come to the fore: the pawn-break ... g6-g5-g4, an active black King across the black squares, and the passivity of the white Rooks.} 27. Rd2 (27. Qxg3 $2 fxg3 28. Rh3 Bxf3 $1 (28... g5 29. Kd2 $2 h4 $19 {Timmerman}) 29. Rd2 h4 30. gxf3 Ne6 31. d4 exd4 32. Bc2 Rh6 $19 { Myers}) (27. Rde1 h4 28. Bd1 Qxh3 29. Rxh3 g5 30. Rh2 Bc6 31. b3 Rh8 32. Kb2 b5 $17 {Myers}) 27... h4 28. Kb1 g5 29. Bd1 Qxh3 30. Rxh3 Kc5 $1 31. b3 Nf5 32. Rh1 $2 (32. d4+ Nxd4 33. Kb2 Rh8 34. Kc3 b5 35. cxb5 Nxb5+ 36. Kb2 Nd4 37. Rh1 d6 $17 {Myers}) 32... Kd4 $1 33. a3 Ne3 34. b4 g4 $1 35. fxg4 (35. c5 h3 $1 ( 35... Nxd1 $1 36. Rhxd1 gxf3 $19 {Timmerman}) 36. gxh3 bxc5 37. bxa5 g3 $19 { Myers}) 35... Bxg2 36. Rxg2 (36. Rh2 f3 37. g5 Nxd1 38. Rxd1 h3 $19 {Timmerman} ) 36... Nxg2 37. Bf3 Ne3 38. Be4 Rh8 39. Rc1 axb4 40. axb4 Rf8 0-1

This also highlights one of the wonderful strengths of the Corr 2015 database: in it there are over 15 thousand commented games, including many by the world champions themselves. Comments on fantastic exciting games by players whose analytical abilities were unparalleled. What is more, there are some oddball pearls found within that may surprise. For example, I found a game commented by Capablanca himself, when he was a student at Columbia University, and not for a game he played or that of a rival.

Annotations not only by greats in correspondence, but also Capablanca, Alekhine, Keres, and more

The database is obviously a wonderful resource both as an alternate source of games and analysis, and should not be ignored for its overlooked for it significant value to openings research. In it you will also find all the main events in the modality, such as all games from the 27 correspondence chess championships, the 18 correspondence chess olympiads, as well as the continental and national championships.

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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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brabo_hf brabo_hf 8/15/2015 11:21
I am curious if the latest ICCF games are included. If yes then how was this possible as ICCF has blocked external access to their databases. Only ICCF members are allowed to consult the games.
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