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Monday, December 3, 2012


      "We will not see a machine replacing a human being in our lifetime. Man will be able to beat a computer in at least one game for a very long time," Kasparov told a press conference in Moscow a week after settling for a draw in a six-game match with the computer Deep Junior in New York.
       Grandmaster Peter Biyiasas (Canadian champion in 1972 and 1975) once said, "Chess was more fun when computers were patzers.”
       Maybe I am stuck in a time warp but for me the days of descriptive notation, wind-up clocks with mechanical flags, adjournments, Interzonals, round robin American and Soviet championships, ten-player Hastings Christmas tournaments, buying chess magazines and chess books from Europe, Tahl and Fischer.  What was better…Tahl’s tactical prowess or Petrosian’s defensive brilliance?  Masters were rare as hen’s teeth and IMs and GMs were mythical people who lived in faraway lands and they never played in weekend Swiss tournaments. Another thing about GMs…they wore suits when they played (and often smoked at the board).  Those were more interesting times.  Stahlberg, Larsen, Pietzsch, Ivkov, Gligorich, Pachman, Robatsch, Bilek, Parma, Szabo, O’Kelly, Tringov, Lehmann, Ciocaltea, Uhlmann, Gheoghiu, Donner, Najdorf.  Reshevsky, Fischer, Lombardy, Evans, Bisguier, Benko, Weinstein, Addison, Robert Byrne, Berliner, Steinmeyer, Kavalek.

       Corresdpondence chess involved pre-printed move cards, rubber diagram stamps, lots of postage stamps, a notebook, blank score sheets, postal recorder albums, knowing the ICCF Numeric Notation Grid, books and magazines for research and positions jotted down on scraps of paper and stuck in your pocket so you could analyze when you had a few spare minutes.  Waiting a week or two for an opponent’s move (even longer if you were playing international CC)…that was correspondence chess at its best. Engines, databases and computer programs with their cloud computing have destroyed a lot of the magic.
       Somehow these days of the Internet, engines, and games by world championship caliber players that have been sanitized by engine analysis until move thirty just doesn’t do anything for me. My wistful longing for the old days, the tournament and the players that inhabited them, won’t go away.


  1. Maybe it is just age, but I share a lot of your sentiments. The title "Grandmaster" sure meant a lot more when you could name almost all of them, and while the chess of the 60's may not have been as computer-polished, it was pretty damned exciting. And a lot of that excitement was created by moves the players actually thought of by themselves--during the game.

  2. Mr. Gottlieb - Well said!

  3. Agree with everything said here. I have a correspondence master rating since long before engines and recently entered an open CC event where out of 7 players 2 were under 1000. It soon became obvious that the 850 was playing WAY above his rating and after checking with Houdini I discovered ALL his moves were the top one or two suggestions. What the hell!! I don’t intend to lose to a legitimate 850 player with an engine. What am I supposed to do, report him? That’s voiding your bladder into the wind because the site has HUNDREDS of players rated above me. I am not foolish enough to think I am so good that very few people are capable of beating me, but also I cannot believe there are THAT many non-engine using master strength players on the site that out-rate me by 300-400 points. It seems the whole world has become glutted with correspondence masters. Where did all these 2400-2600 CC players come from?! The truth is that in this world of engine assisted correspondence chess, I am no longer a master! My rating only puts me in the top third of the players on the site so in reality I am only a class B at best!!

  4. Don't play with these computer-assisted idiots, play with trustworthy humans. Ignore ICCF until they introduce the matter-of-course anti-computer rule and put it into effective operation. Keep in mind: We are the CC nobility - true human strong chess players, they are the rabble, and we are way above this computerized trash. We aren't obliged to play with them. They are expected to keep their mouth shut when we discuss chess, they aren't welcome in our tournaments until they prove they are honest and capable to play at high level unassisted.

  5. Any recommended sites? I have run into them on QueenAlice, CCLA, Chessworld, ICCF and even RHP.