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I received an email from the USCF that now they have a server for playing online.
I registered, but I cannot understand the rules there.
The ICCF (which is approved by FIDE) and releases the official titles like GM or IM for correspondence play, do accept the use of computers in correspondence play. Does anyone know if the USCF follows the same rules? I also don't understand if playing online could affect my OTB rating, but I cannot find a help file to explain it.
Is it free for non US players?
USCF stands for United States Chess Federation, you must be a player who is a member of the USCF in order to use it. And in US nothing is free! Sorry :-)
I think for corrospondence play you can use a database like chessbase 11.
If the USCF uses the same rules of ICCF you can use an engine and database. However, if the rating would be for titles, I don't understand how someone can become a GM and use an engine.
Because using an engine is not enough. 90% of my wins on ICCF come from preparation & research. The other 10% comes from a combination of analysis techniques and luck.
If you were to go into the ICCF with just the idea of "I'll have the computer figure it out", you'd get ripped apart by the higher rated players. I remember one of my first wins on ICCF was using a 40-move deep computer trap line in the Sicilian Najdorf Poison Pawn variation. I entered the entire sequence as a conditional string from move one. Two weeks later, I got an email notification of my opponent resigning. When I clicked on the game, I saw he had followed his computer all the way through my conditional string until he was dead-lost. This was five years ago, but even as of this year, I still get wins from trapping peoples' computers. Free rating points is what I refer to them as.
Anyway, I didn't see the need to even worry about USCF CC, since you can directly play in ICCF tournaments without a USCF membership. It seems redundant and a waste of money if you're not playing OTB rated games anymore.
Thanks for your message, but I have some questions.
1. I read the ICCF website, and from what I understood (or misunderstood) they ask that the player is a member of the federation in the nation he plays. So I thought that was an obstacle. And it also seemed a kind of complicated site, compared to here chess.com which is very easy to play correspondence chess.
2. From your message it seems is just a question of exploiting hard calculation made by the engine. But that would deny the existence of strategy if it is all based on how many moves you look ahead, I believe it is called brute force. Can you explain more about it?
3. I believe the comment on the GM title was based on the idea that OTB GMs do have actually to memorize lot of stuff, so if a player is not able to memorize will never reach a GM level. While in that sense using databases it is easier for people using engine assistance.
4. How long do you let the engine think on a particular move? I don't have a recent hardware, but I noticed that often a minimum of 30-60 minutes is needed to see the correctness of some sacrifices on H7.
Let's get to your questions:
Being a member of USCF is not required. The easiest way to get started is via the 'Direct Entry' program. You start with the 'World Individual Open Class (Webserver)' as the first tournament you can enter on your own. When you fill out your details as to which country you'll be playing for, that federation branch will be notified of your entry. In our case, the USCF is NOT the official USCC branch, but rather simply the ICCF-US. Here's the US ICCF web site: http://www.iccfus.com/
Remember that if you want to enter USA tournaments, you must go through the ICCF-US web site (usually by just sending Corky a paypal payment for the required entry fee). For international tournaments, you can go directly to the ICCF main site and enter via the direct entry process.
As for the complicated layout of the site, I do agree it could be designed better. While chess.com may be easier to use, only the ICCF is the officially recognized international CC ratings body, exactly like FIDE is for over-the-board ratings.
There are many facets to winning a CC game. I intend to write a book called 'Modern Correspondence Chess' after I finish the USA CCC and get my IM title, so it would take several pages to describe in detail the process I use. Right now, all I can tell you is the engine output is only one of many tools you'll need to compete. Everything from databases, opening books, research materials, endgame tablebases, engine choices, hardware, and so on are entirely up to you to determine on your own.
Over the years, I worked out my own system of research and database analysis that has served me well. I have somewhere around 25 wins as white, 17 wins as black, 35 draws, and only 2 losses since I started on ICCF. Deriving lessons from my draws and losses has also improved my CC game a lot. I even keep a text file on my desktop with my own analysis notes and lessons I learned from each game. I'll rank each game with stars in terms of winning chances, and post variation analysis under each game note.
Finally when it comes to engine analysis, this is also something that requires a little more skill than just letting the computer run variations. I use my own style of a hands-on approach, where I will make moves and try out alternative lines on my own. The engine only serves as a blunder check for me, whereas others will spend $8,000 on a monster xeon machine and primarily use it to think for them. I've never been intimidated by these types, because they usually have no human chess skill to help guide the machine away from drawing themes or false-positive horizon effects. So having some human chess skill goes quite a long way to getting that extra edge. That's why ICCF games are almost always going to be far deeper than engine game databases.
From my own experience on ICCF and going for my IM title, it's based on everything I mentioned above about out-preparing your opponent no matter what hardware they may be running. Consider for a moment the current IM norm I'll be obtaining. I have to win at least 4 games and draw the rest to obtain the norm, and I'm on pace to get 5 wins. ALL of my opponents are using engines on hardware that is more than likely more powerful than my outdated 5-year-old desktop. I'm getting the IM norm because of my efforts to overcome that with my own skills and preparation. Had I just tried to match silicon with them, I'd be nothing but fodder to them.
As I explained, I do a hands-on style of analysis most of the time. It's only when I find lines of possible winning chances that I'll use extended length engine coverage to try and assemble a complete analysis table of all reasonable tries by the opponent. This can take several days If the position is complicated, and I keep adding notes to my text file as I monitor the results from each line I look at. In one of my current games, I reviewed a prior game played by a 2600, whom used a brilliant sacrifice to win the game. Engines think the sacrifice is unsound even with a long time to calculate it, so naturally the move gets overlooked. I spent something like 5 hours analyzing the resulting lines from the sac until I was absolutely certain it was both sound and winning. My opponent had been blitzing his moves out, but when I played the sac, he has since not made a move in several days. Thats when you know you've got them on the ropes ;-)
Anyway, that's a small nutshell of my experience on ICCF. Like I said, I intend to write a more detailed book on the subject during the next couple of years.
Sorry a couple of more questions:
1. Some engines have some parameters which can be changed, to make them play more boldly, do you think that would change the sac overlooking if you change the parameters?
2. Why do you use a txt file on your desktop, and you don't use chessbase or Chess Assistant as database for your games?
3. From how long are you playing in order to obtain the IM title?
4. Do you think they accept OTB ratings?
5. Some people said that the last engines are capable of strategic decisions, maybe Houdini was nominated, do you agree?
The idea of your book seems quite interesting, because like me, many other players are ignorant of modern correspondence chess, and you could help to shed light on a very interesting field, but most of all clarify the misconceptions or cliches. Thanks for answering all the questions in such informative way, it is great to read you.
Unless there has been a very recent change of rules, you cannot use a chess engine in USCF CC.
If they intend these ratings to be counted for ICCF tracking, they have no choice in the matter. If they intend them to be a separate USCF rating (much like the USCF OTB rating is compared to FIDE), then they can demand no engine use. The problem is they would have a nightmare of expending resources in dealing with cheating accusations. Along with that is the issue that people are going to want the more world-wide recognised ICCF rating anyway, so it would be an all but wasted effort on their part to have different ratings/rules at this point.
Anyway, on to Mr Ford's new questions:
1. In some scenarios, yes, that has been known to happen. However, this sacrifice is the kind that engines miss because of their built-in selective-search function. This function usually benefits the engine by allowing it to discard moves that would seem to be a waste. Even an aggressive engine would have missed this move, because the nature of the sacrifice was positional, rather than a forcing line that flushes the king out. When the game is over (which may not be for a couple months), I'll post a blog on it so you can see how it worked.
2. I have several programs: Chessbase, Deep Rybka GUI, and Aquarium to name a few. My text file is merely for my personal note-taking. It's easier for me to organize and read my thoughts that way. Just a personal preference is all. What I do is list the opponent's name, rating, and side color. Then I list the name of the opening, the current move, and my personal ranking of how the game is going. Below that, I list any analysis lines I've prepared for the coming moves ahead. This allows me to quickly reference it when I'm notified of a new move, and I don't have to bother loading up my chess programs if the move was one I prepared for.
3. Well in order to even try for an IM title, I had to first reach a 2300 rating. This took me nearly 5 years because I got started as an 1800 provisional. Since most everyone on ICCF is a heavy engine user, the other provisional players I faced were just as strong as the established 2400-2500 players. As such, I had to fight and claw my way up 500 points. Some people have a lot of money to spend, so they speed up the process by mass-entering many tournaments. I took it slow and entered no more than two tournaments at a time.
4. They indeed do accept OTB ratings if you want to be started off from the same rating. However, if your rating is not above 1800, it's better to just start as a provisionally rated player anyway.
5. Ultimately the engines still base their moves on the following factors:
Tactics (looking for a line that wins material or checkmates)
Piece activity (how much a piece can influence the strength of the position)
Space advantage (engines are generally programmed to prefer more territorial control of the board).
What could be considered 'strategic' is the depth at which engines now calculate for the above factors. I'd point out this is still not quite the same as what humans play for strategic concerns. An example is the Sveshnikov Sicilian. Black will often appear worse to computers because white gets better piece activity and sometimes even a material advantage early on. What black gets in return is a strategic plus of being able to slowly take over the center during the course of the entire game. One of my recent wins on ICCF is a classic exmaple of this:
Keep in mind my opponent was using engine help and made no blunders or missed tactics on any one move. It was strategy trumping the engine's nature to grab space, wreck pawns, and take material. Now granted, there are lines that allow white to fight back, but they can easily be missed without proper research and preparation. In fact, I'm currently in a vote-chess game on the white side of a Sveshnikov, and my team has all the chances to win right now because of the research I put in on the game. It literally makes all the difference in the world. Much more so than what engine you choose.
You didn't really answer if the USCF currently allows engine use. You seem to saying that the USCF will have to allow it, and not they currently do for USCF rated CC games.
I can't speak for USCF because I don't know what they intend to do. I'm just saying it would be a bad idea on their part to try and maintain a separate rating for CC with no engine use allowed. Cheaters are rampant on free sites, so you know it will be even worse in prize tournaments.
They already have a rating system in place with an engine ban. There is nothing stopping a USCF member from getting an ICC membership and playing in their CC tournaments. The simple solution is don't have large cash prizes. Most amature players don't play for the cash prize they play for the love of the game. I think the amount of cheating in CC games is exaggerated. I think the USCF will continue with it's non-engine ban since there is a large demand for it among its members. Those that enjoy engine assisted games have other options.
And once again, what I'm trying to get across to you is they CANNOT impart an engine ban on ICCF rated games. I know they already have their own CC ratings they maintain with engine bans in place, and I explained that I think it's a bad idea on their part. I'm just saying they cannot supercede ICCF rules for ICCF-rated games if they want to run ICCF tournaments.
I completely agree that if the USCF wants to run an ICCF rated tournament they would have to follow ICCF rules, just as if they want to sponser a FIDE rated tounament they would have to follow FIDE rules. I just found the thread confusing since it sounded like the USCF had changed their rules for USCF rated games. The separate USCF rating system makes sense to me because engine assisted and non-engine assisted are two different games and there is a demand for both.
How much does it cost to enter tournaments?
Depends on the tournament. On ICCF the prices range from something line 8.10 euros for the first open class you can enter to 50 or so euros for the norm tournaments (once you reach the required minimum rating). They used to have money prize tournaments, but they had to stop holding those since people were teaming up to fix the outcome of the tournaments. I remember being awarded $100 in back prize money when it was discovered my opponent intentionally lost to my rival and forced a draw with me in order to bump me down to 3rd place. That was a nice $100 from out of nowhere as I had completely forgotten about the tournament.
The USCF is not a part of the ICCF. You must purchase a USCF membership, and you will have an OTB rating and a Correspondance rating. In CC the official USCF rules are no engines, you can only use "static" sources such as books and databases. This is avaliable to play by email if you want the online factor. The ICCF would be, as far as I know, and independent server such as ICC or FICS
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