Tuesday, 31 January 2017

011. Chess Correspondence

White: D.M. Andrew - BCCA Premier, 1991

Not only did we used to play chess by post – with cards, envelopes, stamps and so forth – we used to correspond about chess by post as well. My two most regular correspondees, both now deceased, were Otto Hardy and Donald Andrew. Otto was a significant opening theoretician and his letters were full of his own games and analysis, of which I still have three files worth. Donald was... well, I'm not sure what Donald was exactly. Perhaps the most apt word is “enthusiast”. Donald used to collect other players’ game scores and pick their brains about opening analysis. As well as me, I think he also wrote to and received stuff from Jeff Horner and John Littlewood, and very likely there were more of us. For services rendered, as it were, Donald used to send me an occasional book of first class stamps, which I used for my postal games.

Googling today, I discover that Donald was Yorkshire Champion in 1949, came joint second in the British Major Open the same year and, much later, was joint British Senior Champion (in 1985). A game of his features in the updated edition of John Littlewood's book How to Play the Middle Game in Chess (Batsford 2001), where John wrote:

[I]nexperienced players have somehow acquired the erroneous belief that middle games with opposite-coloured bishops are also drawish. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact, I am tempted to generalize by stating that, in middle game situations, opposite-coloured bishops tend to unbalance play and tilt it even more in the favour of the player with the initiative. As an instructive example of this, I quote a correspondence game played recently by an old friend of mine, Donald Andrew:

That game was Andrew-Roach, correspondence 1999: 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4 Nf6 3 d4 exd4 4 Nf3 Nc6 5 e5 d5 6 Bb5 Ne4 7 Nxd4 Bd7 8 Bxc6 bxc6 9 0-0 Bc5 10 f3 Ng5 11 f4 Ne4 12 Be3 Qe7 13 Nd2 Nxd2 14 Qxd2 Bxd4 15 Bxd4 c5 16 Bf2 d4 17 c3 Bb5 18 Rfe1 d3 19 c4 Bxc4 20 Rac1 Ba6 21 Rxc5 0-0 22 Ra5 Qe6 23 f5 Qc8 24 f6 h6 25 Re3 Rd8 26 Rg3 g5 27 Rxg5+ hxg5 28 Qxg5+ 1-0.

I never actually met Donald in person, but I played him five times in BCCA tournaments. All the games were drawn. The first of these followed (or rather, transposed to) the same line of the Two Knights Defence as the one above, until Black deviated at move seven. As it happens, Donald could have gone for opposite-coloured bishops in our game too.

Here 13 Bxc5 gxf3 14 0-0! was possible, after which my handwritten notes give a terse “14...Bh3!” and no further. Twenty-five years on, Houdini continues this line with 15 Re1 Bxg2 16 e6 Rd8 17 exf7+ Kxf7 18 Re7+ Kg6 19 Bd4 Qf5 20 Rxg7+ Kh5 21 Rxg2 c5 22 Rg3 Rhg8 23 c3 and claims a slight advantage for White. This is perhaps why virtually everyone else has preferred 11...Qe7.

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