Correspondence Chess - The Beauty of Perfection
Ivar Bern (born January 20, 1967) is a Norwegian chess player, most famous for being the XVII ICCF World Champion in correspondence chess. In over the board chess he holds an International Master title.
You check the mail-box, put the coffee on, plug in Fritz, and away you go?
If you have a talent for chess, some free time and an unusually developed interest in chess analysis, you just go ahead. If your playing strength is good enough and you are patient enough, you can start in the Open Class and end up in the World Championship final. In addition a computer and selected software are prerequisites. The first time a Norwegian reached the top of the CC world, was when Frank Hovde of Steinkjer in the 1980s chose to live alone with chess analysis, returning to the civilisation several years later with the title of European CC Champion. Bern says he saw daylight again at the end of 2003, when 10 of the 16 games were finished. With only 6 games remaining the workload was so reduced that Fritz had a couple of good nights sleep, and the time had come to crawl out of the cave and get an honest job.
Very few of us can fully understand what lies behind such an achievement.
Many OTB players, and some former CC players as well, have problems
understanding how CC can survive the "computer death". Some are worried
about chess in itself, and then CC is hanging in a very thin thread. Bern's games
in the final are good news in that regard. CC at the top level today
is also a demonstration of the computer programs' limitations. Bern himself is not at all worried by the future of (correspondence) chess, so what should ordinary OTB fear in the foreseeable future? But if you want to make a career in CC, you should be aware of the conditions:
CC is getting closer to perfectionism. I have always had a small scientist inside of me, and for me the use of computers is what appeals to me. I can understand that some strong OTB players do not share this fascination and therefore leave CC. Personally, I like to think of CC as "Advanced chess", computer-assisted chess. Kasparov and his companions were involved in this some years ago, but they only played rapidgames. We have all the time in the world, so the games are on a really high level.
We would probably play about even against Kasparov and his computers,
because I would have invested more time and energy than he would. It is
extremely hard to beat the team of Bern & Fritz. Possibly, I made 5 inaccuracies in the final, but I was never in the danger of losing a game, although obviously I had to play very exact in several positions. I was close to losing when I made an erroneous evaluation as Black in one of my Sveshnikovs, but after a week of hard work I finally found a variation that was sufficient to draw.
My program isn't even close to playing perfect chess. The same goes for the
other programs that some of my opponents use. There is a lot of work left for humans.Therefore, I have no fear of the computer death. But it is important to leave some of the work to the computer. Fritz never rests. The best CC player is he who manages to supplement the computer programs most effectively. I am never satisfied with the conclusion "unclear" but keep on going until the computer gives preference to my position.
Bern, himself a strong OTB player, is the only FIDE-IM in the field. Deeper
understanding of chess and OTB playing strength lead to a more critical attitude
towards the computers. Several of the games demonstrated that you couldn't blindly trust the computer programs. I discovered that an opponent who consistently followed the computer's first choice. That gave me a belief in victory, because in reality I only had to see a bit further than the computer. Fritz alone doesn't stand a chance against Bern & Fritz!