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Saturday, June 18, 2016

One of the Best Postal Games in History

     Back in 1980 all of the U.S. correspondence organizations took part in a 50-board match against the Soviet Union. Although the U.S. lost the match the highlight was when, on board one, Tony Cayford defeated the former world correspondence champion Vladimir Zagorovsky. 
     In a poll of Chess Mail players held in 1998 this game was voted as one of the best 20 postal games in history. It may very well be that it is one of the best. 
     I was going to let Stockfish analyze it at 10 seconds a move then go over it and type in a few notes, but the subtitles were tremendous. In the end I spent half a day looking at the game! 
     Were engines used in this game? In 1945 Alan Turing (1912-1954) used chess-playing as an example of what a computer could do and in he wrote the first computer chess program.
     By 1956 experiments were being run on a Univac MANIAC I computer which performed an astonishing 11,000 operations a second and used a 6x6 chessboard without Bishops to play chess. It required 12 minutes to search to a depth of 8 plies. Chess programs were making rapid progress because the following year a chess program at MIT could do 42,000 operations per second and had a memory of 70K with a 4-ply search taking 8 minutes. By 1963 Botvinnik was predicting that a Russian chess playing program would eventually defeat the World Champion. 
     Chess computers didn't enter the real world of chess until 1966 when a computer from MIT was entered in the Massachusetts Amateur championship where it scored +0 -4 =1 and obtained a USCF rating of 1243. The following year the computer actually beat its first human (who was rated 1510) and it finished the year with a record of +3 -12 =3. By then the idea of chess computers was becoming a real topic of discussion and in 1968 IM David Levy made his famous $3,000 bet that no chess computer would beat him in 10 years. He won the bet. 
     It wasn't until the early 1970s that engines actually began showing real promise and in 1975 David Bronstein used the endgame database in KAISSA to win an adjourned game in a tournament in Vilnius. And, in 1976 a program named CHESS 4.45 won the Class B section of the Paul Masson tournament in Northern California with a performance rating was 1950.
     In 1977 CHESS 4.5 won the Minnesota Open with a score of +5 -0 =1 and its performance rating was 2271. That was the year Michael Stean went down in history as the first grandmaster to lose to a computer even if it was it only a blitz game. In 1978 SARGON won the first tournament for microcomputers, David Levy won his 10 year bet by defeating CHESS 4.7 and experts predicted that a computer would be world chess champion in 10 years; they were wrong. 
     By the early to mid-1980s that engines actually began to become a serious threat to humans. But, for the general public in 1980, when this game was played, not much was available. In 1979 Novag had come out with its dedicated Chess Champion Mk II and in 1980 there was a chess program for the Tandy Radio Shack Color Computer that I owned that ran off a cassette tape. The manual for this program is available online HERE.  It's funny now, but the color selection gave two options. Orange and pink pieces on a turquoise and light grey board or red and blue pieces on a green and yellow board. I said all that to say this: chess engines were no help to the players at the time this game was played. 

The players: 
Richard Anthony (Tony) Cayford was born on December 3, 1939 and lived in Manchester, New Jersey. He was originally from Canada but moved to the U.S. in the mid-1960s.  His correspondence record was impressive: 
1962-Canadian CC Open Champion 
1964- second in the Canadian CC Open 
1972-Golden Knights champion 
1973-tied for first in the Golden Knights 
1974-75-winner of the First US CC Championship 
1992-winner of the First Anglo-Pacific Tournament 

     He was awarded the Senior IM Correspondence title in 2000 and his ICCF rating was 2492 Cayford was once active in OTB play and in 1961 he tied for third in the Canadian Closed Championship and after some success in tournament on the East Coast after moving to the U.S., but increasing commitments to business and his family he decided to switch exclusively to correspondence play for the CCLA and Chess Review. Under the Chess Review postal rating system that was in effect his rating was second only to that of Hans Berliner and at one stage he had a streak of 77 straight wins.  Cayford died September 22, 2005. 

Vladimir Pavlovich Zagorovsky (June 29, 1925 in Voronezh, Russia, formerly USSR – November 6, 1994) was a Russian grandmaster of correspondence chess. He is most famous for being the fourth ICCF World Champion between 1962 and 1965. OTB he won the 1952 Moscow City Championship.  On the July 1972 FIDE rating list he had an over the board rating of 2370. 

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