Stephen Ham Earns ICCF GM Title
By Robert Rizzo   
November 29, 2010
November 28, 2010

Contact: Robert Rizzo
ICCF-US Titles Officer
Phone 516 984 7438
Stephen E. Ham has earned the title of Correspondence Grand Master as confirmed via email from International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) Qualifications Commissioner, Neil Limbert. Steve's Certificate and Medal will be awarded at the 2011 ICCF Congress to be held next autumn, however, his title becomes effective immediately. He is the eleventh correspondence GM from the USA Federation. After a drought of many years the US has now produced seven GMs since 2004.

Steve achieved his two norms in the 50 Israeli Championship - Jubilee (ISR/C50) and in BdF-Silber 2008 (BdFS08). In the first he met the GM standard and in the latter he surpassed the GM norm by ½-point. He also won the BdF-Silber tournament by a clear ½-point over the field. In all he completed 27 games undefeated, winning 8 and drawing 19, while achieving a combined performance rating of 2638. He faced 8 GMs, 9 SIMs and 1 IM, far surpassing the titled opponents requirement (rule 3i) for the GM title. The crosstables of those tournaments can be located via the following links:

Steve offers up the following game as an example of his outstanding technique and creative genius at the board. It is taken from the BdF-Silber 2008 event where he made his second GM norm. It has added significance as it was the tournament's deciding game. His Russian opponent, Boris Mikhailovich Zhak, currently rated 2653, finished second ½-point behind Steve (and in doing so also earned a GM Norm and the GM title). The game below is presented without annotations. For those who are interested in understanding the depth and breadth that one needs to explore in order to attain the GM level (assuming one also has the requisite talent), the fully annotated version can be found at:

The game is characterized by three sacrifices and perhaps introduces a new chess theorem - he who sacs last wins! Eerily reminiscent of Fischer's "pry open the KR file, sac, sac, mate," (although not necessarily in that order) Steve borrows from that recipe and cooks up a gem.