I have achieved a credible record in both correspondence as well over-the-board tournament and match play. The champ in the Reithel family however as far as both records of achievement in correspondence play goes to my oldest brother Raymond. He is a very talented player and writer, formerly conducting columns in both The Chess Correspondent as well as in the Knights of the Round Table (NOST) magazine Nostalgia with his regular column.
Ray learned the game from the Encyclopedia and made rapid progress as a teen while the family resided in Ithaca, New York. He worked for Professor Scoville, a strong chessplayer, taking care of his farm animals and was introduced to the Ithaca Chess Club. After graduating high school, he was inducted into the Army and after boot camp became a training tech NCO both at Fort Landing, Florida and then Fort Benning, Georgia. While serving in the military, he got acquainted with postal chess and some of his earliest games he employed 1.b3! on more than one occasion. This was in the early 1940s mind you when 1.b3 was almost unheard of as a viable weapon for the white camp. After military service, Ray went to college, got a BS degree in chemistry and hired by Kodak where he worked in research. Married with four children, Ray, like most professional men had little time for o-t-b chess tournaments but was a member for a few years in the Rochester Chess & Checker Club, played in a few USCF otb tournaments but turned to postal play which he felt was the purest form of the game. His remaining o-t-b activity rested with participation in the Industrial-Civic League where he played for the Kodak team. His best result was something like 13.5 points scoring over 95%. He tabulated a plus record of 214 games with very few defeats almost all in the master class sections of CCLA and NOST where he achieved many lst, and some 2nd or 3rd place results–46 events with results of 20 lst place, 10 2nd place and 4 3rd place finishes.
Perhaps his greatest joy was being asked to play 6th board for the US Olympic VIII where he scored 4 wins, 3 losses and 5 draws to finish with a 6.5 record.
Ray and his wife Marilyn raised four children and during this period is when Ray got to join NOST, founded by Bob Lauzon, a multi-games club, many of whom were mensa members. Eventually Ray got me interested in NOST as well and we both played in their events. Despite our joint interest and play in CCLA and NOST, we rarely met in play. Our match games were heavily in Ray’s favor, something like 21-8 or so when I was working on honing my skills. It was only in my most productive years in chess that I managed to come out with 3-1 edge but he conked me the vast majority of our postal matches while I was maturing. I think the spankings helped hone my own skill. I was once asked by a NOST member who was the stronger, Ray or I. I said Ray which is the truth.
In some ways I found playing Ray was like battling a boa constrictor. Another feeling was one of hitting my head against a brick wall because he disallowed very much room for working up any type of advantage sufficient to win and trying too hard only made defeat more sure. Whereas he relied much upon his opening books and fine chess library, my own style was more off the cuff and I liked experimenting too much or trying lines not in my range of understanding and/or style.
In examining a number of his games, I came to realize his pragmatic approach to excellence. This came from a deep inquisitive nature to research where he dug deep into opening play discussed by the great players from the past and present. From the opening he employed his natural and learned skills from studying MY SYSTEM by Nimzowitsch, THE GAME OF CHESS by Dr. S. Tarrasch, a careful study of Alekhine, Capablanca and other great players. I think his favorite book ever was Richard Reti’s MASTERS OF THE CHESSBOARD. Over the years he added many classics to his chess library which I am sure added to his prowess as a player.
In our life in Ithaca, I was 3-6 years old, he taught my older sister and brother how to play and me the moves. Chess became a family joy! For some reason his own children never cared to play chess.
In his latter years of chess competition, Ray devoted most of his time with NOST and got me interested in joining. The great thing about NOST was the friendships formed. Each year the NOST held a convention somewhere in the United States which brought out a number of game players and games like GO, various chess variants, regular chess and competitions having original ideas and treats for mental challenge. NOST was dissolved and integrated into the Miller Group which carried on the main features of NOST. Why NOST closed is due to loss of leaders and officers who did an enormous job in having one of the best of game magazines. Les Roselle was Nostmaster for many years and known for his imagination and artsy nature creating Chesster the Pawn and Cee Cee. Some dropped out to join or be hired by other game magazines and since both the Millers and NOST membership overlapped in many areas which made having the two separate groups made no sense. So the two combined into just the Miller Group.
Ray played in three simultaneous exhibitions in Rochester. He is proud of his draw versus GM Samuel Reshevsky, a hard fougt but losses to Spanish champion and former boy prodigy Arturo Pomar and also a valiant fight against GM Robert J. Fischer in 1964.
Here are some of Ray’s games randomly selected and I hope to add a number more in due course.
Olympiad VIII Finals, Board 6
White: M. Ziembinski (Poland) vs Black: R. Reithel (USA)
Opening: King’s Indian Defense–Saemisch/Byrne variation
1.P-QB4 N-KB3 2.P-Q4 P-KN3 3.N-QB3 B-N2 4.P-K4 P-Q3 5.P-B3 P-B3 6. B-K3 P-QR3 7.Q-Q2 P-QN4! 8.O-O-O
This was often the play here but interesting is the alternative idea of 8.B-Q3 PxP 9.BxP P-Q4 10.B-N3 PxP 11.PxP P-K4 12.N-B3 NxB 13.QxN O-O 14.P-KR4 B-N5 15.P-R5! with attacking chances.
8. …. Q-R4!
This is key to the Byrne variation. Risky is 8…O-O 9.B-R6!
9.K-N1 QN-Q2 10.B-R6 BxB! 11.QxB P-K4 12.P-Q5 P-N5 13.QN-K2 PxP 14.BPxP K-K2!
My King is safe behind the wall of pawns.
15.N-R3 Q-N3 16.Q-Q2 P-QR4 17.N-B1 B-R3 18.N-B2 KR-QB1 19.BxB QxB 20.Q-Q3 Q-N3 21.R-Q2 R-B6! 22.Q-K2
On 22.PxR PxPdch 23.K-B2 PxR 24.QxP R-B1ch etc.
22….QR-QB1 23.N/1-Q3 P-R5 24.PxR PxPdch, 25.R-N2 PxR 26.QxP Q-R4!
The insecurity of the white King gives me the advantage.
27.K-R1 R-QN1 28.Q-B2 N-N3! 29.R-QB1 R-QB1 30.Q-N2 P-R6!
Avoiding 30…N-B5 31.Q-N4 which was embarrassing.
31.Q-N3 RxRch 32.NxR Q-B4!
White said he did not consider the strength of this move. And now he makes a wrong choice. Better was N/1-Q3.
33.N/B2-Q3? Q-Q5ch 34.K-N1 N-B5 35.Q-N4
A little better was 35.Q-B2.
35. …. N-Q2
*** *** ***
NOST CHAMPIONSHIP 1987
White: J. C. McCarty Black: R. Reithel
Opening: King’s Gambit – Cunningham Defense
1. P-K4 P-K4 2. P-KB4 PxP 3.N-KB3 B-K2
Scottish master H. Cunningham (1650-1730) invented this defense and was it was considered for a time a bust to the KG. (Let me see. Did not Robert J. Fischer also have a so-called bust to this gambit? He wrote his bust for Larry Evans’ AMERICAN CHESS QUARTERLY and this pesky gambit continues on and on today with the same double-edged sword as always. King Gambiteers will tell you that it is alive and well.
4.B-B4 N-KB3 5.P-K5 N-R4!?
This is my own concoction that has produced a number of successes for me. The Knight holds the BP and threatens the white K-side via N6.
Robert Eberlein tried in the 1966 Industrial-Civic League team matches 6.N-B3 B-R5ch 7.K-B1 O-O 8.P-Q4 PQ3! 9.B-Q3 R-K1 with good active play.
6. …. P-Q4 7.PxPep QxP 8.P-Q4
On 8.BxPch KxB 9.N-N5ch BxN 10.QxN Q-N3!
8. …. B-N5 9.P-B3
More challenging would have been perhaps: 9.N-B3 O-O 10.N-QN5 Q-QN3 11.N-B3 B-B3 12.N-Q5
9. …. O-O 10.QN-Q2
I had analyzed 10.Q-N3 BxN 11.RxB N-QB3 12.QxP NxN!? with complications.
10. …N-Q2 11.B-K2 P-QB4 12.N-K4 Q-KR3 13.N-B2
I was more concerned about 13.P-Q5! here.
13. …. N/2-B3 14.NxB
Again, more complications emerge with 14.N-R4.
14. …. NxN 15.N-K5 NxN 16.PxN KR-Q1!
My opponent said he did not see the full ramifications of this strong move.
17.Q-N3 P-B5 18.QxNP B-B4ch 19.R-B2 Q-N4! 20.Q-B3 QxP!
Now if white tried 21.QxN I have R-Q8ch 22.BxR Q-K8mate!
21.P-KN4 PxP 22.QxPch K-R1
The King in the corner is often a very safe haven.
23.QxN PxRch 24. Resigns.
*** *** ***
NOST ANNUAL CHAMPIONSHIP 1995-6
White: R. Reithel vs Black: Don Cotten
Opening: Ruy Lopez –Schliemann Defense
Don Cotten is one of the top postal players and at the time had a USCF postal rating well over 2500. Don has been very active in NOST plays a very sharp and aggressive game from either side of the board.
1.P-K4 P-K4 2.N-KB3 N-QB3 3.B-N5 P-B4 4.N-B3!
Dr. Dyckoff, the famous correspondence player, considered this White’s best against the Schliemann Defense.
4. …. PxP 5.QNxP P-Q4! 6.NxP PxN 7.NxN Q-Q4
The interesting alternative here is 7…QN4 after which it seems white gains a bit of advantage by 8.Q-K2 N-B3 9.P-KB4 QxBP 10.N-K5dch P-B3 11.P-Q4 Q-R5ch 12.P-N3 Q-R6 13.B-QB4.
8.P-QB4 Q-Q3 9.NxPdch BQ2 10.BxBch QxB 11.Q-R5ch P-N3 12.Q-K5ch K-B2 13.N-N5 P-B3 14.Q-Q4! Q-K2 15.QxR N-B3 16.P-QN3! R-Q1 17.B-N2 B-N2 18.B-R3 Q-Q2 19.N-Q6ch! K-K3 20.QxR QxQ 21.NxNP Q-Q5 22.O-O K-B2 23.B-B5! QxQP?! 24.KR-Q1 Q-B5 25.N-Q8ch K-N1 26.NxP N-N5! 27.R-Q8ch K-B2 28.R-Q7ch K-K3 29.QR-Q1!? QxRP 30.K-B1 B-B3! 31.R/1-Q6ch K-B4 32.R-B7 Q-R8ch 33.K-K2 QxP 34.N-Q4ch K-B5 35.R/6xBch NxR 36.RxNch K-K4 37.R-K6ch K-B5 38.B-Q6ch K-N4 39.B-K7ch
This is not bad but the quickest win was missed by me. 39.P-B5! and Black’s Queen will not be able to stop the Pawn’s advance to the 8th.
39. … K-B5 40.R-B6ch K-N5 41.N-B2
Again, 41.P-B5 was better.
41. … Q-R7 42.N-K3ch K-R6! 43.R-B7 P-R4 44.N-Q5 Q-K4 45.B-B6!
I have to keep the Queen off the QR1-KR8 diagonal. Black puts up a gallant fight in hopes of a White miscue.
45. …Q-B4 46.R-B8 Q-B6ch 47.K-K1 Q-R8ch 48.K-Q2 Q-QN8 49.N-N4 Q-N8 50.B-Q4 Q-N4ch 51.K-B3! P-R5 52.P-B5!
Playing what should have been played on move 39. Better late than never!
52. …K-N7 53.P-B6 P-R6 54.P-B7 P-R7 55.R-KR8 Q-B4 56.RxPch!
Winning but also winning would be 56.N-Q5.
56. … KxR 57.N-Q5 Q-Q2 58.B-K5ch K-N7 59.N-N6 Q-B3ch 60.K-N2 QxN 61.P-B8(Q) QxBPch 62.Q-B2 P-K6 63.B-Q4 Resigns.
This game illustrates the depth of Ray’s chess understanding. His notes to this game are much expanded and were limited to save space. Don Cotten is indeed a very talented and tough opponent!