We've been peeking in at the 29th World Correspondence Championship every so often, and I'm pleased to report that with 89 games finished out of 136, the winning percentage is a very impressive 3.37%: three decisive games! It is fortunate that this sort of hyper-accurate, hyper-resilient play is only possible in man + machine events at a super-slow time control.
Entries in correspondence chess (8)
It only took 54 games, but at last, someone has won a game in the 29th World Correspondence Championship. Congratulations to Senior International Master Jacek Oskulski.
Curious about the latest correspondence world championships, I took a gander at the ICCF website and came across this crosstable of the ongoing 29th championship final. 44 of the 136 games are finished, and every single one of them has been drawn.
This isn't quite as bad as it sounds. In correspondence chess a quick loss should be a near-impossibility at the world championship level, so the first games to finish ought to be drawn. 44 in a row seems a bit much, though. The 28th championship is almost finished; there are just two games remaining and Croatian correspondence GM Ing. Leonardo Ljubicic has clinched clear first. Of the 134 games that have finished, 18 were decisive - six of which came at the tailender's expense.
The draw death isn't much of an issue for OTB (over-the-board) grandmasters (if at all), and for the rest of us it's a complete non-issue. But is correspondence chess on its last legs? (And if it is, can it be fixed?)
The current issue of Chess Life (January 2013) has a short article by correspondence chess Senior International Master Wesley T. Brandhorst, and it's about this position.
It's White to move. Can he breach the fortress, and if so, how? The answer, and more details, here.
The event isn't quite over, but Dutch correspondence GM Ron A. H. Langeveld has clinched clear first place in the 26th World Correspondence Chess Championship, and will by anywhere from a half-point to a point and a half margin. The most notable participant, to my eyes, is third-place finisher Rafael Leitao from Brazil, a GM in OTB chess. Also notable is that eight of the 17 players are undefeated so far, with only four games left unfinished. It's getting hard to win a chess game at the top!
(HT: Chess Today. Also a N.B.: you can download the completed games from the link given above.)
And all evidenced by the same game! More on this momentarily.
First, the background. The 100th edition of the New in Chess Yearbook (a misnomer, as it comes out several times a year - it didn't start in 1912!) has been published, and they've included some nice bonuses. The marquee feature is a theoretical article by Garry Kasparov, offering the "final word" on the Zaitsev Ruy Lopez - or at least the 12.a4 line thereof.
There are other bonus articles, and the one we'll cite here is by Rene Olthof, called "The Deepest Novelty". He shows a series of deep novelties in the article, and the further the article goes the later the novelty. Finally, he reaches this "opening" position:
Technically speaking, the novelty came 13 moves earlier, when Black played 51...Ra8, but everything Black has done since then has been following analysis by the loser of the earlier game. So here we are after 63 moves, at a position Vladimir Malaniuk claimed would have drawn his game with Artur Yusupov. (Or "Jussupow", for those looking him up in a ChessBase database.)
Now, because the analysis ended at this point, it's true that any White move, no matter how good or bad, would be a novelty. What makes the game non-trivial is that Malaniuk's evaluation is not just wrong but obviously wrong, and one doesn't need a tablebase or an engine to figure this out. (A good thing, since the sequel to Yusupov-Malaniuk was played in 1987.) The most obvious moves suffice, and all the more so since this was a correspondence game! White played 64.Kd5, which is obvious and best but not even the only winning move. (Six other moves also win!) The game continued 64...Kf3 65.Ke5 g4 66.Ra3+ and Black resigned.
Good prep by White, but horrible prep by Black! As the variation he chose left him a pawn down in a rook ending, he had to be extremely sure that it could be held. Unless he sent his opponent lots of if-moves (or a few extremely long ones), he had months and months to check and refute the Malaniuk line. At any rate, it's fascinating to see an analytical novelty on move 64 (an apt number for chess), and it sets a mark that's going to be hard to beat!
To see the full game, have a look here.
Marjan Šemrl of Slovenia has clinched first place in the 24th Correspondence World Championship, though it must be on tiebreaks, as Tansel Turgut (listed as Turkish on the event crosstable, but I think he has lived in the U.S. for many years now) is just a point behind and has one of the two hitherto unfinished games left.
HT: Chess Today
More info here, including a link to the games in PGN. This is generally worth checking out for the theoretical goodies, as correspondence players very often delve into the very sharpest opening lines (e.g. 6.Be3 and the Poisoned Pawn in the Najdorf, various 5.Bg5 Semi-Slav lines, attacking lines in the Marshall Gambit, etc.).