Check is in the Mail: Examining the Elements, Pt. 2

Hello chess friends! This month’s column is the second in a series about the elements of chess analysis, using the email and correspondence games played by US Chess members as examples. The first column, looking at king safety, motivated a number of you to share your games, which is why last month’s column was something of a continuation of the first part of the series. This month we introduce the next element: time. Strap in folks, it’s another long one!


The Elements

Chess theory recognizes five different elements that impact the evaluation of a chess position: material, pawn structure, space, time, and king safety. This month we look at the element of time, usually defined as a lead in development (in general or in a particular part of the board). Time is a dynamic element, as opposed to a static element like material. Remember that an advantage in a dynamic element can fade quickly if you do not manage it carefully; each additional move contains the potential for the advantage to dissolve before your eyes. The best way to make use of an advantage in a dynamic element is by making moves that contain threats, so that your opponent has no choice but to respond. Here, however, it is not necessarily the king that is the target; it might be a weak pawn, or an undefended piece, or the chance to advance a passed pawn. In any case, we have a “local majority” (more pieces in the area than the opponent has), which permits us to promote our agenda rather than dance to our opponent’s tune.

Our first game should convince those of us who need convincing that bad development is definitely not better than no development at all. In Irons – Whittle, Black initially weakens the light squares around his king, and then plants his knight on the only dark square in the vicinity of the king. White finds a winning continuation, based on his lead in development, on move five!



In Irons – Moraes, I chose a gambit opening to force myself to play in more of a dynamic style than I normally prefer. While I didn’t lose the game, I felt that I was fighting an uphill battle the entire time. No more gambits for me!



Grinsteinner – Will features a counter-gambit – the Budapest counter-gambit, to be exact. Black temporarily (in most lines) gives up a pawn to strike at White’s center and get good piece play. Grinsteinner makes no move to hold the pawn, but rather gets his kingside pieces developed and castles quickly. When Black starts showing aggressive intentions on the kingside, White uses exchanges to lower the temperature of the game. By move 20 it is White who is ahead in development, and Black makes only a dozen more moves before turning over his king.



The game Brodhead – Raines is also a counter-gambit of a type; the main line of the Two Knights Defense has Black sacrificing a pawn for active piece play and control of central squares. After Black makes a particularly aggressive move in the early middlegame, both players make a series of aggressive but questionable moves that result in White having a material advantage but with all but one of his pieces still in their original spots! It’s difficult to win a chess game without your pieces.



The game Julkowski – Whelan shows a middlegame example of a player giving up material in return for time, specifically time to promote a passed pawn. White takes the bait, only to return it later in order to grab the initiative. Once they reach material equality, these two well-matched players agree to a draw. This exchange of advantages is worthy of study.



Our sixth game, Vila – Harper, follows a classic game in which a future world champion is pitted against a former world champion (Fischer – Euwe, Leipzig Olympiad 1960) until Black’s ninth move. Both players show their mettle until move 18, when White takes his light-squared bishop off a crucial diagonal, removing one of the defenders of his king. Black’s 18th move is enough for White to call it quits.



In game seven Charles Schaeperkoetter uses the Jobava system against James Lang, who plays solidly but not aggressively against it (I prefer Christof Sielecki’s 3. … c5 – see his book Keep It Simple for Black.) However, instead of completing his queenside development, Black chooses a pawn “break” that doesn’t work out well for him because White’s center is solid, while Black is behind in development. The result is that White has a winning advantage by move 14, and the game is over at move 19.



Our eighth game, DiPietra – Maretti, shows the Advance variation of the French Defense. Black tries a rather convoluted development of the dark-squared bishop rather than attempting to trade off his light-squared bishop when he has the chance. After castling, Black chooses maneuvers over development, then grabs a pawn that leaves his queen exposed in the center. It takes only five more moves for White to finish the job.



Our ninth and final game, Kuspa – Babcock, was played in the 2022 Golden Knights tournament (which is still ongoing). Joe Kuspa submitted the game along with notes and analysis (most of the variations are Joe’s, while his comments are in quotes). In a main line of the Taimanov Sicilian, White gives up a pawn to take advantage of Black’s tardy development. White recovers the pawn investment nine moves later, leaving Black in a cramped and uncomfortable position, and still behind in development. Black’s constriction is so complete that his light-squared bishop dies on its original square.



In chess, time is equal in use but not in application – since White moves first, he has a slight advantage in time. If he fails to use that advantage properly, Black has good chances for equalizing early in the game. On the other hand, if Black wastes time, it can cost him the full point. In chess, as in life, time is precious. Make the most of it!

I will continue to analyze your games regarding the elements, and part three of the five-part series should arrive in a few months. Please continue to send in your games, annotated or not, to me at Click here to show email address.

Good skill in your games!



News From the Front Office

Michael D. Buss, US Chess Correspondence Chess Coordinator


2017 Golden Knights Finals

The final round commenced play on August 7th. One hundred and thirty-three players began tournament play in 19 preliminary sections, followed by six semi-final sections. The finalists in order of start are: Dr Ferdinand Burmeister (2342), Oxnard, CA (2017 Electronic Knights Champion); Michael Buss (2405), Indianapolis, IN (2014, 2012, 2010, and 2006 Golden Knights Champion and 2020 and 2019 Electronic Knights Champion); Thomas Chromczak (2196), Whitesboro, NY; James Tracz (2305), Farmington Hills, MI (2011 and 2006 Golden Knights Champion); Abe Wilson (2214), Mililani, HI (2005 and 2000 Golden Knights Champion); Michael Gross (2087), Vienna, VA; and Chris Brunt (2007), Chino, CA.

Shortly after the finals commenced Abe Wilson had to unfortunately withdraw from the finals. We wish Abe all the best. We hope to feature his correspondence chess skill in an upcoming article.


“In Passing”

We are saddened to report the unexpected passing of Eric Godin of Lynn, MA on July 9, 2023. Eric was a prolific US Chess correspondence chess competitor having competed in numerous Class tournaments and Golden Knights preliminary and semi-final sections since 2004.

Charles “Chuck” Carey, Jr. of Lynchburg, VA passed away on July 20,2023. Chuck had just recently started playing in Challenge matches and the Golden Knights.

Harv Erlich of Minneapolis, MN passed away on July 31, 2023. Harv was another prolific US Chess correspondence chess competitor playing in the Golden Knights since 2008.

Herbert W. Gustafson Memorial CC Tournament

The Correspondence Chess League of America invites all to compete in the Herbert W. Gustafson Memorial Tournament. There is NO entry fee and you do not have to be a member of the CCLA to play. All games are played on the ICCF server. More information can be found here. Deadline to enter is October 15, 2023.

Recent Event Winners

Walter Muir E-Quad

22W05, Oswaldo Olivo 4½–1½

23W13, James Letellier 5–1

23W16, Akshay Kotamraju 6–0


John W. Collins Memorial

21C12, Wesley Underwood & Greg Whitlock 4½–1½