Over the Board Chess and correspondence chess - for the most part these are two different worlds. Sometimes, however, these two worlds come together. Sometimes they come together in spectacular fashion. Today there are two OTB super-grandmasters who are playing correspondence chess to test their openings and keep their game sharp: Ulf Andersson of Sweden who, a few years ago, was Number 6 in the world rankings, and Peter Leko of Hungary, who is currently Number 6 in the FIDE rankings. They represent both the successes and difficulties of playing correspondence chess at the top level.


Ulf Andersson has turned to correspondence chess in a major way. After 16 rated ICCF games he has established a provisional rating of 2803, which would make him Number 1 on the ICCF rating list. In the following game Ulf crosses postcards with the top-rated Gert Timmerman of the Netherlands in a colossal struggle that illustrates both sides at their best.

W: Gert Timmerman (2747)
B: Ulf Andersson (2803)
NPSF, 1994

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd4 4. Nxd4 Nf6 5. Nc3 e6 6. g4

The Keres Attack is a sound attacking line started by Keres in 1943. Andersson's antidote is a pawn sacrifice that leads to a long-term initiative.

6. ... h6 7. h4 Nc6 8. Rg1 d5 9. Bb5 Bd7 10. exd5 Nxd5 11. Nxd5 exd5 12. Be3 Be7 13. Qd2 0-0 14. Nf5

John Nunn, who knows a thing or two about openings, played 14. Bxc6 bxc6 15. 0-0-0 here in Nunn-Anderson (Kilkenny, 1997). With the blockade of the d-pawn lifted, Andersson now unleashes the d-pawn and White's king, caught on an open board, finds troubles everywhere.

14. ... d4! 15. Bxh6 Bb4 16. c3 dxc3 17. bxc3 Ne5 18. Be2 Re8 19. Kf1 Bf8 20. Bf4 Qa5 21. Rg3 Rad8

Both kings are now temporarily safe, but Black's pieces have better coordination. White's broken queenside pawns and over-extended kingside give Black compensation for the pawn - for example 22. Nd4 Qd5 23. Bxe5 Qh1+ 24. Rg1 Qh3+ with a draw by perpetual check, but Andersson is interested in more.

22. Nd4 Ba4 23. h5 Nc6 24. Be3

Maybe 24. Rd3 would hold here, but White's forces seem awkward at best. With the rooks shut out of the center, Black's two beasts dominate the middle lanes.

24. ... Nxd4 25. Bxd4 Re4 26. Qb2 Bc5 27. Rb1 Bxd4 28. cxd4 Bc6 29. Rd1 Rf4 30. d5?

It is certainly difficult to criticize the great Gert Timmerman, who will probably become our new world correspondence chess champion shortly, but after this return of a pawn to ease Black's pressure, White has only a bad game left.

30. ... Rxd5 31. Rgd3 Qc5 32. f3 Rxd3 33. Rxd3 Qg5!

Now the Black queen will nibble away at the dark squares around White's king.

34. Ke1 Rc4 35. Kf2 Qh4+ 36. Ke3 Rc5 37. Rd1 Qg3 38. Rd8+ Kh7 39. Bd3+ f5! 40. Qd4

Of no avail is 40. Bxf5+ Rxf5! 41. gxf5 Qg5+ with an easy endgame win.

40. ... Qxf3+ 41. Kd2 Qg2+ 42. Ke3 Qg3+ 43. Kd2 Qh2+ 44. Be2 Re5 45. Qc4 Bf3 46. Qg8+ Kh6 47. Qh8+ Kg5 48. Qxg7+ Kh4 49. Qf6+ Kh3, White resigns.

Correspondence players of both ilks should note that for the 50th Anniversary of ICCF, a free entry in either (or both?) an e-mail and a postal tournament is offered. For more information on a truly worldwide gala event, see the box elsewhere on this page.

Peter Leko has learned that correspondence chess can be very difficult. Leko has been fighting hard to make ICCM, a title which has eluded him so far. Leko, who regularly plays over the board with Kasparov, Anand, and Kramnik, has yet to find the key to such a dominating position in the postal world.

W: GM Peter Leko
B: Robert Felber (2333)
ICCF Team Tournament, 1999

1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Qxd5 3. Nc3 Qd6 4. d4 Nf6 5. Nf3 Bg4 6. h3 Bxf3 7. Qxf3 c6 8. Be3 e6 9. 0-0-0 Nbd7 10. g4 Qc7 11. g5 Nd5 12. Nxd5 cxd5 13. h4 g6 14. h5 Bg7 15. Kb1 a6 16. c4 Nb6 17. Rc1 dxc4 18. h6 Bf8 19. d5 Nxd5 20. Bxc4 Qd7 21. Bxd5 Qxd5 22. Qxd5 exd5 23. Bd4 Rg8 24. Rc7, Black resigns.

Atyashev won the USSR correspondence championship in the 1950s, and was thus qualified to play in the second world championship. Instead the USSR nominated OTB Grandmaster Viacheslav Ragozin, who went on to win the world title.

W: GM Viacheslav Ragozin
B: J. Schaposchnikov
USSR Correspondence, 1952

1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 c6 4. e4 dxe4 5. Nxe4 Bb4+ 6. Bd2 Qxd4 7. Bxb4 Qxe4+ 8. Be2 Na6 9. Bd6 b6 10. Nf3 Bb7 11. Ne5 f6 12. 0-0 fxe5 13. Bh5+ g6 14. Re1 Qh4 15. Bg4 Rd8 16. Rxe5 Nc7 17. Bxe6 Ne7 18. Bxc7 Rxd1+ 19. Rxd1 Kf8 20. Re3 Bc8 21. Rd8+ Kg7 22. Be5+ Kh6 23. Bxh8 Bxe6 24. Rd4 Qg5 25. Rde4 Qc5 26. Rxe6 Nf5 27. Rh3+ Kg5 28. Bf6+ Kf4 29. Rf3+, Black resigns.

Many a fledgling GM has started his career playing postal chess. Here is an early game by one of the greatest. Unfortunately, as he would do many times later in his life, he dropped out.

W: A. Conger (1698)
B: Bobby Fischer (1774)
Golden Knights, 1955

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 0-0 7. f4 c5 8. d5 Qa5 9. Qd2 Qc7 10. Bd3 e6 11. Nb5 Qb6 12. Nxd6, Black forfeits.