A review of Winning Correspondence Chess by Kon Grivainis

Reviewed by P.P.O. Kane

Winning Correspondence Chess
By Kon Grivainis
Caissa Editions, 1997

Konstantins Grivainis has led a varied and interesting life. Born in Latvia, he emigrated to Sweden in 1944 when only seventeen. Later he settled in South Africa; and later still, in America. Grivainis is a Grandmaster and a World Champion by correspondence play, and there are two aspects to this interesting book. On the one hand, it is a collection of the author’s best games. On the other hand, it serves as an introduction to the world of correspondence chess.

In the first chapter, Grivainis presents the fourteen games from the World Correspondence Chess Federation (WCCF) World Championship Tournament, which took place from 1992-1995, that won him the world championship. He won the tournament with thirteen and a half points out of a possible fourteen, finishing four points ahead of the second-placed player. Pretty much a convincing victory.

The second chapter offers some advice about how to approach and improve your correspondence chess play, and some of this advice is relevant to “classical chess” too. For example, Grivainis recommends specializing in little known or little explored openings. Often, it is difficult for over-the-board (OTB) players to make the transition to correspondence chess. For one thing, the OTB player lacks the spur and the stimulus of having a flesh and blood opponent before him (or her) and so may find it difficult to stay alert. One rash or casual move may spoil months of hard work. And here is another factor: correspondence chess is a marathon and not a sprint; games may last months or perhaps years…

Chapter three is an introduction to correspondence chess, and includes contact information for various organizations, such as the WCCF. The main playing rules are set out, especially as far as the use of computers is concerned.

The meat of the book is contained in chapter four, where Grivainis gives twenty six of his best games, arranged by theme (e.g. “Positional Wins”, “Defending Attacks Against the King”, “Middlegame Struggles”). In the main, Grivainis appears to be a solid positional player, but with a drop of poison. Like Lasker, he seems adept at tailoring his play to combat his opponent’s style. And he has a penchant for the Trompowski Attack.

This book could be probably be improved by adding some information about playing chess by email, or playing correspondence chess via a chess server on the internet (see www.schemingmind.com for one such website; and www.chess-mail.com for another). Nonetheless, Winning Correspondence Chess is a book that I found to be enjoyable, informative and instructive. Learn from the master!

For readers in the USA, this book can be ordered directly from the publisher:

Caissa Editions

P.O. Box 151

Yorklyn, DE 19736

For readers in the UK, this book can be ordered from the following outlets:

Chess & Bridge Ltd.

369 Euston Rd.

London NW1 3AR


British Chess Magazine

44 Baker Street

London W1U 7RT


The Chess Player


About the reviewer: P.P.O. Kane lives and works in Manchester, England. He welcomes responses to his reviews and you can reach him at ludic@europe.com