Philippine Correspondence Chess Association February 5, 2023
The WZ Individual Championship Final #2 was recently concluded last January 13, 2023 with the only win in this event that resulted to first place finish and championship by SIM Gordon Dunlop from Australia.
This is a strong Category 9 tournament with an average rating of 2460. The start date was 3/31/2021 and ran for almost two years. Of the total of 78 games, 77 games were drawn and with 1win(1 loss) inflicted by SIM Dunlop against GM Sergio Badolati. So we have 11 players out of 13 that are tied for the 2nd place with the identical scores of 6 points each and same tie break scores.
Sad to say that due to the demise of the World Zone effective the start of the year 2023, this is the last of the World Zone Individual Championship Final.
I reached out to SIM Gordon Dunlop with a set of questionnaires to have his experience and insights of the present status of correspondence chess.
Interview between Arthur Simplina and Gordon Dunlop.
AS: Tell me something of your personal life before we discuss chess.
GD: At 67 I have been playing correspondence chess for most of my life. Now a retired mathematician working in the Water Resources Industry. In a very happy second marriage like so many others. My wife was a school teacher and very happy to have me out of the way playing chess while she was doing lesson preparation. Between us we have 4 children and 10 grandchildren.
AS: Why did you take up chess?
GD: Like so many players it started as a school activity and then other things in life took priority. Later in 1982 I went to a club in search of an activity. On the second week there was a round robin blitz. It was an affront to have a score of 0/13. This started a period of intense study and eventually a serious addiction to chess. A slightly higher score and I may not have bothered to continue. Study was thorough books without a coach.
As a mathematician with a strong interest in computing I started writing chess software in 1984. This was done in assembly on an 8088 processor. This led to correspondence chess. Although computers were later banned, I allowed an exception for personally developed engines. The engine that eventually defeated Kasparov was initially called Deep Thought. So my engine was called Little Think. Work on Little Thnk64 which now has over a million lines of C++ and assembly code.
AS: Who is the chess player that influenced you most?
GD: Like many players in the 60s we were inspired by Fischer, and I later studied his games. All top players have something different to offer and I have enjoyed watching the Sinquefield Cup to learn more about their varying approaches. Of most influence has been Nigel Short. He stayed with us for 5 days at the beginning of his Australian tour in 2016. It was enlightening to spend time with someone having a wide knowledge of so many topics. Not just chess.
Nigel has been critical of correspondence chess and wrote an article in NIC. NIC later published a letter I wrote defending correspondence chess.
The following is a picture of Nigel Short on our balcony with Christine and myself during his stay.
AS: What were your achievements prior to your participation in the ICCF correspondence chess.
GD: Only a good club player winning a few weekend events. A long involvement with administration Have been on the State Chess Council for 30 years and President of several Clubs during that time. I have organized and run several hundred tournaments and still do this for my local club.
AS: What has been your experience in the ICCF?
GD: I joined the ICCF in 2010. This was after playing CCLA (Australian Federation) for 25 years. It was an obvious choice as engines were allowed. It also saved on stamps. Boxes of 200 stamps were purchased regularly.
An early observation made was the severely flawed rating system. A lot of effort has been required to overcome these flaws. Fortunately, a new rating system will be in place in 2023 that remedies most of these flaws. Tournament organization has worked extremely well. It has been pleasing to see players from so many countries participating and Federations cooperating.
AS: Who are your favorite correspondence players?
GD: I would not like to single out players. I have dialogue with many players and can get perspectives on a wide range of topics from players from different countries and cultures. With 200 games being played at once it is not possible to converse with everyone. Google Translate has been helpful. It is used by many players. It is advisable to translate from your language to the opponents and then back again. Short sentences are best to avoid mistranslation.
AS: How do you compare the correspondence chess now (with the use of chess engines) and before?
GD: When I first started on Little Think there was no internet and certainly no public software. I thought there might be a battle between engine developers with lots of decisive games being played. Clearly this was a badly flawed prediction. Chess engines have almost destroyed the game. I have been campaigning for variants to be implemented. This may not work as neural net technology may quickly solve any of these alternative games. I have started playing Chess960. Engines are still relevant but without opening databases the lines to known draws are not obvious. The middle game starts at move 1. Variants may allow the activity of correspondence chess to continue for a little longer.
AS: What is your personal thoughts about the benefits of correspondence chess to you personally?
GD: In addition to social interaction with players from all over the world there has been many other benefits. Chess develops strategic thinking in players. This is easily verified by considering new players we have at the club. Many are too keen to snatch a piece without thinking of the consequences. Chess requires longer term thinking balancing aggression for advantage while being mindful of risks.
Strategic thinking has put to good use in investment decisions. Investing counter cyclically has resulted in the ability to fund Physics research by the family. This supports Fellowships for post PhD students while they develop their reputations. Currently funded research is done in the area of quantum relativity at the Planck scale. If a Quantum computer could be created at this scale it would easily solve the game of chess.
Strategic thinking is also useful in managing married life although I would prefer Christine not be aware of this.
AS: Has correspondence chess made your life more meaningful?
GD: I have loved every minute of this addiction. It gets me out of bed in the morning. This is an important ingredient for a long life.