I chose to play the game below like maniac. Michael Spiegel was a notable USA chess player six years older than I. His old FIDE rating was 2155. When we played, he was at his peak ICCF rating of 2281. I had seen his published games and was very impressed. Clearly Michael Spiegel was a correspondence opening expert and I was stuck playing the Black pieces. What should I do? What could I do? What would I do?
We begin 1.e4 e5. The first five games I played respectable grandmaster openings. I answered Michael Spiegel's Italian Game with the Two Knights Defence. When he played the aggressive 4.Ng5, I played 4...Bc5!? for only the second time in my life. The year before I drew a club game as Black vs David Parsons. That was it. In the 1800s the Czech player Karel Traxler played the gambit in a handful of published games. Decades later, Kenneth Williams and John Menovsky analyzed the line in great detail, so much so that they named it the Wilkes-Barre Variation where their club was located.
What inspired me to play this gambit was that Wilkes-Barre, PA lies in between where the two of us lived at the start of the game. Tim Harding wrote in his excellent Counter-Gambits book that Wilkes-Barre was in New England, but it is not quite. New England is the six states east of New York. Wilkes-Barre is in Pennsylvania, west of New York, about 140 miles from New England. Maybe that is about the distance from Dublin, Ireland to Liverpool, England. In the grand scheme of world geography, they are about the same, but not quite if you live there. A minor inaccuracy in a great book by an author I enjoy.
If Spiegel went west 125 miles and I east 75 miles, we would meet in Wilkes-Barre (pronounced "Wilks Barry"). Since I knew he played the Italian Game, why not chose this variation? It seemed fitting to battle over a Wilkes-Barre. During the game Michael moved to Asia which made this my last postal game to finish.
After the tournament finished, it was published that two of my opponents had tied for first place with fine 4.0-2.0 records. I wrote to the tournament director and asked what place I finished with a 4.5-1.5 record. They changed the result and put me first. ICCF never sent me the Master certificate (postcard, not a title) that noted the achievement of winning such a section. What I got was a full year of satisfaction playing very good chess.
Spiegel (2281) - Sawyer (2157), corr ICCF 1995 begins 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.Ng5 Bc5 [4...d5 5.exd5 Na5] 5.Bxf7+ [5.Nxf7 Bxf2+ 6.Kf1 Qe7 7.Nxh8 d5 8.exd5 Nd4 9.d6 Qxd6 (9...cxd6 10.Kxf2 Bg4 11.Qf1+-) 10.Nf7 Qc5 11.d3 Bh4 12.b4 Qe7 13.Nd2+/-] 5...Ke7 6.Bd5 [6.Bb3] 6...Rf8 7.0-0 d6 8.h3 [8.c3 Bg4 9.Nf3] 8...Qe8 [8...h6 9.Nf3] 9.c3 Qg6 10.d4 Bb6 11.f4 [11.a4] 11...exf4 12.Bxf4 h6 13.Nf3 Nxd5 14.exd5 Rxf4 15.dxc6 bxc6 16.Qe2+ Be6 [16...Kf8=] 17.Nbd2 Kd7 18.Kh2 [18.a4=] 18...Re8 19.Qf2 Qc2 20.Nc4 Qxf2 21.Nxb6+ cxb6 22.Rxf2 Bd5 23.Kg3 Ref8 [23...Rf6=/+] 24.Raf1 g5 25.b3 [25.Nh2 h5 26.Rxf4 gxf4+ 27.Kf2=] 25...h5 26.h4 gxh4+ 27.Nxh4 Rg4+ 28.Kh3 Rxf2 29.Rxf2 Be6 30.Nf3 Rxd4+ 31.Kh2 Rd3 32.c4 Re3 33.Kg3 Re4 34.Rd2 d5 35.cxd5 Bxd5 36.Kf2 a5 37.Nd4 a4 38.bxa4 Kd6 39.g3 [White could try to draw a rook ending down a pawn: 39.Ne2 Rxa4 40.Nc3 Ra5 41.a4 Kc7 42.Nxd5+ Rxd5-/+] 39...Kc5 40.Ne2 Rxa4 41.Nc3 Rd4 42.Rb2 Bf7 43.Ke3 Bg6 44.Ne2 Rd3+ 45.Kf4 b5 46.Kg5 Bf7 47.Rc2+ [Black is better after 47.g4 hxg4 48.Kxg4 Ra3 49.Nc1 b4-+] 47...Kb6 48.g4 hxg4 49.Kxg4 b4 50.Kf4 c5 51.Nc1 Rd1 52.Ke3 c4 53.Ke2 Bh5+ 54.Ke3 Kc5 55.Nb3+ Kd5 56.Na5 Rd3+ 57.Kf2 c3 58.Nb3 Bd1 59.Rc1 Bxb3 [Black can force a win by 59...c2 60.Na1 Rc3 61.Nb3 Rxb3-+] 60.axb3 Rd2+ 61.Ke3 Rb2 62.Rd1+ Kc5 63.Rd8 Rxb3 64.Rc8+ Kb5 65.Rb8+ Ka6 66.Ra8+ Kb7 67.Ra5 Rb2 68.Kd3 c2 0-1
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