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Monday, December 20, 2010

Mikhail Umansky

Mikhail Umansky (January 21, 1952 – December 17, 2010) was a Soviet Correspondence Grandmaster. He was the 13th ICCF World CC Champion between 1989 and 1998. He was also USSR Correspondence Champion in 1978. He was living in Germany at the time of his death due to heart disease this month.

In OTB play he placed 2nd in the Russian Junior Championships of 1965 and 1966 and in 1968 was awarded the title of National Master. In 1997 he was awarded the IM title.

He placed first in the ICCF 50 Years World Champion Jubilee, a special invitational correspondence tournament involving all living former ICCF World Champions. It was this result that made him one of the most respected correspondence World champions.

While I have great respect for the ability of top level CC players, this game shows why their games are usually very boring; they are played using engine help and so the tactical mistakes that makes games interesting are rare. At the same time the game shows that the strengths of humans in evaluating positions is sometimes better than engines. I am positive that when Umansky played 19.Rfc1 he knew that even though the engine evaluates the position at less than 1/4 of a P in his favor the control of the c-file and coordination of his pieces would eventually give him a winning advantage. He was correct and from that standpoint the game is instructive. Watch how White’s control of the c-file, pressure on the enemy a-Pawn and threat to advance his P-majority, combined with Black’s lack of useful counterplay, allow White to gradually obtain a winning position. In the final position White’s advantage is over one P and at that level of play, further resistance was useless though I doubt, had it been an OTB game, Black would have resigned just yet.

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