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The February Check is in the Mail Print E-mail
By Alex Dunne   
February 2, 2011
steveham.jpgGM Stephen Ham

Stephen Ham has become our eleventh International Correspondence Chess Grandmaster. Stephen was born on August 27, 1954 in rural Minnesota.  He began playing postal chess around age 15 and USCF CC in the 1970 Golden Knights.  Stephen finished a strong second in the 1994 Absolute tournament  Work and marriage enforced a semiretirement in his game, but the love of the game eventually brought him back, this time bolstered by study and a deeper grasp of strategy.

It was in the international arena that he put forth his greatest efforts, playing fourth board in the North America vs. South America match and winning an ICCF Master tournament, winning a Master-norm event, and now earning the title of ICGM.


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg7 4.e4 d6 5.Nf3 0-0 6.Be2 e5 7.0-0 Nc6 8.d5 Ne7 9.Ne1
No Bayonet Attack, not this time.  Ham elects for a more conservative line, but one that scores well enough for White.  Now follows some thematic moves for both sides.
9...Nd7 10.Be3 f5 11.f3 f4 12.Bf2 g5 13.Rc1 Rf6
And here 13...Ng6 as in Topalov-Radjabov, 2nd Pearl Spring 2009 has been tested as more flexible.
14.Nd3 Rh6 15.c5 a6 16.Qb3
Lenderman-Barcenilla, Cooper State 2009 saw 16. c6 bxc6 17. dxc6 Nf8 18. Nb4 with advantage.  Weaker for Black is 17...Nxc6 18. Nd5 Bb7 19. Qb3 Na5 (19...Rb8? 20. Rxc6 Bxc6 21. Ne7+ Kh8 22. Nxc6 Rxb3 23. Nxd8 wins.) 20. Ne7+ Kh8 21. Qa3 Qxe7 22. Rxc7 Nc4 23. Qb4
Conventional wisdom has it that such Pawn moves on the side of the board where one is being attacked are short term solutions that lead to greater long term problems: the weakening of the c6, d6, and b6 squares.
17.cxd6 cxd6 18.Rfd1 Qe8 19.h3 Qh5 20.Bf1 Rb8
Black's kingside action has stalled. He needs  a Pawn on h5 to support ..g4 (Hence 13...Ng6 as in Topalov-Radjabov)
21.Rd2 Qe8 22.Rdc2 Rg6 23.Nb1 h5 24.Nd2 g4
Both sides have reorganized to facilitate their attack, but White is way ahead.
25.hxg4 hxg4 26.fxg4 Rxg4 27.Rc7 Qd8 28.R1c6! Rg6
After 28...Nxc6, White's pieces swarm all over the board from every direction -- 29. dxc6+ Kh8 30. Ra7 Qe8 31. Nxf4 Nc5 32. Qh3+ Kg8 33. Bc4+ etc.
29.Nf3 b5 30.Ra7 Bb7 31.Qc2 Rh6 32.Be2 Nf6 33.Rc7
The invasion of the queenside is complete.  White wins outright..  
33...Nxe4 34.Raxb7 Rxb7 35.Rxb7 Ng3 36.Bxg3 fxg3 37.Nb4 Qe8 38.Nc6 1-0

Quote: I love postal chess - where else can you get weather reports five days late and a 1000 miles away?


Undefeated, a point ahead of the field, GM Edward  Duliba has won the 17th United States Correspondence Chess Championship.  News of his victory has been delayed in "The Check Is in the Mail" due to a long-lasting game that is still at this writing unfinished. 

As ICCF no longer has an end date for its tournaments, "The Check" will change its reporting to announce the "end" of a tournament when a clear winner is determined.

Andrew Gach and David White shared second and third place.

17 United States Corres. Chess Championship  


(Notes by GM Duliba)

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.g3 d5 4.Nf3 dxc4 5.Bg2 a6 6.0-0 Nc6 7.e3 Bd7 8.Nc3 Nd5
I now think 9. Qe2 would be a better try for an advantage.
9.e4? Nxc3 10.bxc3 Be7 11.Bf4
I wanted to test 11. Bf4, but I was in time pressure here for the next series of moves.
11...0-0 12.Qe2 Na5 13.Rad1 Ba3 14.d5 Qc8 15.Bh3 b6 16.Ne5 Ba4 17.dxe6 fxe6 18.Qg4 Kh8 19.Nf3 Bxd1 20.Rxd1
White is out of time pressure hereafter.
20...Be7 21.Nd4 e5 22.Qxc8 Rfxc8 23.Bxe5 c5 24.Bxc8 cxd4 25.Be6 d3 26.Bc7 Bc5 27.Kf1 Ra7 28.Bf4
The Bishop will revisit f4 again and again.
28...b5 29.Bd5 Re7 30.Rb1 h6 31.Ke1 g5 32.Bb8 g4 33.Bf4 Kg7 34.h3 gxh3 35.Kd2 Bxf2 36.Rh1 Nb7 37.Rxh3 Nc5 38.e5 Rd7 39.Bf3 Ne6 40.Bxh6+ Kg8 41.Be4 Rd8 42.Bf4 b4 43.cxb4 c3+ 44.Kxc3 Be1+ 45.Bd2 Rc8+ 46.Kxd3 Rd8+ 47.Ke2
White has taken some risks probing, but the draw becomes clear.
47...Bxd2 48.Bd3 Bg5 49.Bc4 Kf7 50.Bb3 Rd7 51.Rh7+ Ke8 52.Rxd7 Kxd7 53.Kd3 Bc1 54.Bc4 Ba3 55.Kc3 Nc7 56.g4 Ke8 57.Kb3 Bc1 58.Ka4 Kd7 59.Ka5 Bd2 60.a3 Bc1 61.Bxa6 Nxa6 62.Kxa6 Bxa3 63.b5 Ke6 Draw

My opponent wondered why I did not use "if" moves.  It is my policy never to proffer a conditional for two reasons.  Firstly, it provides information to the opponent.  That can only benefit the opponent and never the player.  Secondly, it speeds up the game.

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous patron, once a year a Beauty Prize of $100 will be given, one to a Master game and one to a non-Master to a game published in "The Check Is in the Mail"  For 2010 in the non-Master category the nominees are March: Hadley-Plum and November: Chattopadhyay-Evans.  And the winner -


In the Master category June: Turgut-Tiemann and July: Menke-Adams. And the winner is:


Winners should contact USCF, Tennessee.

John Ballow has won the 18th USCCC with an undefeated +4 =9 score.  This is John's first major success having previously tied for first in a 2007 Master Express Tournament and a winning clear first in a Master level 2007 Palciauskas Tournament and tying for first in a Master level Walter Muir webserver event.

Thomas Biedermann and Steven van Enk tied for second and third.




LEARN CHESS BY MAIL !  Lessons given by mail, telephone, ICC - many different ways.  I specialize in players rated 800-2100 who would like to improve their game.  Contact me for information.  Alex Dunne, 324 West Lockhart St., Sayre, PA 18840 or [email protected]

SIM Kristo Miettinen First in 11th NAICC

Kristo Miettinen has clinched first place in the Eleventh North American Invitational Correspondence Chess Championship with a comfortable edge over the field.   Kristo also earned his SIM title in 2010.   

White's 22nd move will make you sit up and take notice as Kristo wins a sharp game against David Myers.




John Collins
Michael Butler                      09C23    5 ½-½

Walter Muir

Tadas Vizbaras         10W31     6-0
Bernard Miller         10W10     4 ½-1 ½

Biederman 1st in Master norm

As reported in "The Check" 2010 Thomas Biederman won his section of the ICCF Master Norm Tournament, exceeding the norm and actually scoring in the Senior Master result and thus gained the ICCM title.



Tadas Vizbaras writes "I knew once I got two hanging Pawns in the center on Move 17...e5 there should be some advantage".