Monday, March 30, 2020 13:43

Thinking About Correspondence

Not of the casual variety, but Correspondence Chess.

For those unfamiliar, Correspondence Chess is a form of playing chess by postal mail or email. Typically the time control for games is ten moves for every thirty days. (It comes out to forty moves per quarter year and sixty in a half year – games can go on for quite some time. ;) ) In days before computer chess databases becoming popular and economical, it was common to use devices called “Post-A-Logs” to record games. Pre post-it notes, it has laminated board sheets with adhesive paper ‘pieces’ to indicate board position. In fact, I still have one – though I’d expect to use ChessBase to store any new games.

With the advent of online “live” chess servers many believe that correspondence chess is less popular today than in days past. The possibility of cheating is also out there – there are organizations like the USCF where use of computer analysis engines is forbidden but it is difficult at best to enforce the rule on anything but an honor system. Not to mention that while there are still postal mail correspondence players out there, with postcard rates now at 44 Cents per postcard, one can spend $20.00 every three months or less in postage per game.

But there are still reasons to play. Correspondence is often the most technically precise form of the game. This is because of both the long reflection time allowed, and because other resources like books, magazines, and game collection databases are allowed. It is a form of chess that can wait on one’s having time to consider and make a move – there is often ways to get ahead on timing which allow for thorough analysis of key positions / a little time away as it is needed.

There are several organizations which have correspondence play. Among them are the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) and USCF. Chess.com and others also offer play, and I read earlier this evening in Chess Life that now there are Facebook applications as well which offer correspondence play. I find it interesting that even as the popularity of correspondence may be declining a little that there are more opportunities out there than ever to play it.

I haven’t made a final decision yet if it’s something I’ll actually do. For myself personally, I do remember and recognize that it is a time commitment – nobody likes to be in the middle of the game only to have a player stop making moves without resigning. And I seem to have enough trouble of late just having an OTB life. But it is a way to enjoy one’s chess on a slower schedule. However you choose to play, I hope that you can still

Enjoy your Chess!

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