An English team qualified for the Final of the ICCF Olympiad 16 Postal Tournament in 2009 with a 68% score in Section 2 of the Preliminaries, ahead of the Ukraine with 62% and the Czech Republic with 59%. Our four man team consisted of SIM Keith Kitson who scored 4.5/9 on Board 1 (Category 10), SIM Russell Pegg who scored 4.5/9 on Board 2 (Category 8), myself who scored 7.5/9 on Board 3 (Category 5, SIM norm 6.5) and SIM Mike Nicholson who scored 8/9 on Board 4 (Category 4, SIM norm 7). This was a great performance by all as we were often out rated. I am pleased to say that half the team were from Hertfordshire, being myself and Keith on Board 1. My own SIM norm over score usefully went towards my SIM title as I was technically a game short.
We could not keep the exact team for the Final which started in 2010, although Russell, Board 1 and myself, Board 2 are teamed with Julian Corfield, Board 3 and SIM Ian Pheby, Board 4. We, therefore, have a strong and experienced team, but our opponents this time do out grade us considerably with Board 1 at Category 13, Board 2 at Category 12, Board 3 at Category 11 and Board 4 at Category 9. Russell is up against 8 GMs and 4 SIMs and is holding his own with 4.5/9, being 9 draws and 3 to finish. I have finished with only 4/12, being 8 draws and 4 losses. Julian has finished with 5.5/12, including 1 win and 9 draws. Ian has 3.5/10, including 7 draws with 2 to finish. We are now in 9th position (40%) out of 13 countries with 5 games remaining, although, unfortunately, we do expect to finish lower down as other teams finish their games. Our non-playing captain for the final is Neil Limbert who has been very helpful and inspiring throughout.
In my group, despite my score, I did have some exciting games and met some interesting players, especially the ones who played by post. My world stamp collection has grown considerably! Postal chess does have its merits, even with its increased costs and the occasional delays. There is more personal contact between players, which you do not get so much with email or webserver.
One exciting and extremely complex game, even though I lost, was against the Italian SIM Vincenzo Dell’Isola and has already been featured in one magazine showing a possible ‘save’ for Black. Unfortunately, I believed that after White’s move 25 I was completely lost, with no chance of a draw unless White blundered. The magazine did publish a retraction after seeing my analysis, but it is very unusual to have to prove that a game is lost rather than drawn! I did, of course, play on for the sake of the team until a loss was inevitable. Have a look at the position and decide for yourself. White took full advantage of Black’s weak dark squares and king safety with a very enterprising 25th move.