"Perfect" Chess?

"Perfect" Chess?

Aug 23, 2013, 6:24 AM |

What is "perfect" chess? What would you consider to be a "perfect" game? Is it a daring sacrificial attack, like we see in the games of Tal or Nezhmetdinov? Perhaps your choice would be a smooth, logical Capablanca masterpiece? Maybe instead a dynamic, high energy Kasparov game. Or what about an amazing Alekhine combination, where it is often not obvious until the very last move what is happening. I could go on and I'm sure you all have your favourites.

Ask the question of a hundred chess players and I suspect you would get more than a hundred responses. After all, our sporting teams, we don't have to follow just one player, we can marvel at all of them.

So, unlike them, we lesser mortals can usually only aspire to create our own immortal games. Our lesser skills lead us to achieve on a more modest scale. Among other things, time controls limit our ability to create as we would wish. Who hasn't had one of those positions we all love, only to mess up the finish due to a lack of time to look deeply enough and find the combination lurking just out of reach?

How then do we ensure a better success rate in converting those great positions we all get? One way is to play correspondence chess. In this form of the game, if it is played right, time rarely becomes a factor. WIth good time management, there is always plenty of time to dig deeper than is possible over the board and much more often find those hidden secrets.

Correspondence chess, or online chess as it is called here on chess.com, has been around for a long time. Before organised and reliable postal services, and faster means of transport, it was rather time consuming. Even with these it could be tiresome. I remember I first playing correspondence chess in the early 1970s, it could take a month or two to send a move and get a reply to it in many countries. Even within Australia it could be up to a week if the opponent was in a particularly remote location.

True correspondence play is different to over the board play. Many don't appreciate that and simply play OTB chess by mail, or very commonly by email these days. For many, that is all they want and that of course is fine. However for the true correspondence player, this form of the game gives them the time to delve much deeper into any given position and have a significantly greater chance of finding the truth as to what resources are available. It also reduces the possibility of playing those distressing blunders we all seem to find in our OTB games.

In correspondence, we can move the pieces around and we can make notes as we work our way through the variations under investigation. And "ordinary" players can play well above themselves - it is not uncommon for people to play at a level hundreds of rating points higher than they do over the board.

Some very strong players have greatly increased their skills by playing a lot of cprrespondence chess early in their careers. I'm sure the names Alekhine and Keres are familiar to you. Both benefitted from a lot of correspondence chess while still young.

Since there has been an increase in interest in correspondence chess recenly here at the DHLC, and quite a few new tournaments started, I thought I give you a selection of puzzles this month taken from correspondence games.


This position is from a game played in the Correspondence Chess Olympiad in 1946. Black has a few stray pieces while the majority of white's army is poised to infiltrate the black kingside. Let's see what you can find.

Also taken from the Correspondence Chess Olympiad 1946, this time from the final, white has sacrified his rook on a1 for a strong attack against the black king. How did he bring it home?
Here is a game played in the Baltic Sea Team Tournament in 1986. Black is a pawn up and white's king is not looking too safe. That passed pawn on e4 looks like it is blocked, but a well timed sacrifice helps it along the way.
In the next position, we see an unusual material imbalance. After a fascinating game, which featured a novelty on move 11 that white had waited 20 years to play, we see an attacking king and a marauding team of passed pawns. How did white quickly wrap this one up?
Of course, even with the benefit of lots of time to use for analysis, mistakes still happen in correspondence games. White has just played the poor Nb5 and paid the price. His king is just about to take an unforseen walk.
We'll finish with a shorter puzzle. From a game won by one of the UK's strongest correspondence players, you only need to find one move here. Of course, to do that you need to find the right idea first.
I hope you enjoyed these puzzles. See you all again next month.