Correspondence Chess - A History
A correspondence chess game was thought to be played between the Emperor Nicephorus and the Caliph of Baghdad, Harun al-Rashid (763-809), in the 9th century.
A correspondence chess game was thought to be played in 1119 by King Henry I (1068-1135) of England and King Louis VI (1081-1137) of France.
In 1650 Venetian merchants were playing correspondence chess against Croatian merchants.
In the 18th century, Frederick the Great (1712-1786) played a correspondence game with his early tutor, Voltaire (1694-1778), by royal courier between Berlin and Paris.
The first authenticated correspondence games were between a Dutch army officer named Friedrich Wilhelm von Mauvillon (1774-1851) stationed at The Hague, and one of his friends from Breda, Netherlands in 1804. Mauvillon's 3 postal games (he won two an drew one) were published by him in a chess book in 1827.
In 1823 the Paris Chess Club first challenged the London Chess Club to a correspondence match. Nothing came of this match.
In 1824 one of the earliest recorded postal games occurred between the the Amsterdam Chess Club and the Rotterdam Chess Club. The match was won by the Amsterdam Chess Club after winning two games.
In 1824, the London Chess Club challenged the Edinburgh Chess Club to a match that would be played until three decisive games were played. Draws did not count. The match began on April 23, 1824. According to the terms of the match, two games would be played at the same time, each club playing white on the first move. If a game was drawn, another game would start. The side which first won a game was to have White in a third game. The letters were carried 400 miles by mail coach and the letters were delivered within three days (better than today's mail). Edinburgh won the match with 2 wins, 1 loss, and two drawn games. During one of the games, the London chess club tried to take back two moves. Edinburgh declined, and went on to win the game. London had thrown away the second game in a winning position. The match lasted until July, 1828.
It is of interest that London chose the rare moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 (suggested by J. Cochrane) but lost the game. In two of the later games Edinburgh adopted the same opening, and achieved a win and a draw. Their success led to its name, the Scotch Opening. Several newspapers published the moves, and for the first time readers could study the games of contemporary players.
In 1825 the Manchester chess club challenged the Liverpool chess club and won.
In 1828 the Madras chess club in India challenged the Haiderabad chess club and won.
In the 1830s the London chess club was playing the Paris chess club in a series of correspondence matches. On Jan 29, 1834 the Paris chess club challenged the Westminster chess club to a correspondence match of two games, which lasted two years and won by Paris. In the game opened by Westminster, 1.e4, the Paris team responded with 1..e6, suggested by Pierre de Saint-Amant. At the time, this was the most popular opening defense in France and was called the King's Pawn One Defense. After the postal match it was renamed the French Defense.
In 1836, correspondence games were published for the first time in Italy by Giuseppe Gasbarri of Florence, Italy.
The earliest surviving correspondence game in America is a game from the Washington DD Chess Club vs, the New York Chess Club, in 1839.
On January 10, 1840 Sir Rowland Hill (1795-1879) of London introduced the Penny Post, the first postage stamp. Individuals could now afford to play correspondence chess. Prior to the postage stamp, letters were sent and it was the person who received the letter who had to pay. The postage rate depended on the distance the letter had to travel. When the postage stamp was introduced, the sender of a letter prepaid his postage according to weight and not distance. In two months after the introduction of the postage stamp, there was a very large increase in the number of correspondence games.
The first correspondence games in the United States was between Norfolk, Virginia and New York in 1842.
In 1843 the Paris chess club challenged the Hungarian chess club to a correspondence match. The Hungarian chess club, led by J. J. Lowenthal and J. Szen, won the match with a new defense, 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Be7. After the match this Defense was called the Hungarian Defense.
In the 1850s some chess magazines promoted correspondence chess tournaments.
In 1870 the first chess club devoted just to postal chess, the Caissa Correspondence Club, was founded in England.
In 1883 Cambridge University played a postal match with some of the chess players at the Bedlam insane asylum. Bedlam won.
In 1884, the French magazine LA STRATEGIE organized an international chess tournament.
In 1888 an international postal tournament was held. It was organized by the Mondre Illustre newspaper and won by Johann Berger.
In 1895 the first moves transmitted by telegraph over cable was between the British Chess Club and the Manhattan Chess Club.
in 1895, the first Italian chess correspondence tournament was held. It was won by Francesco Abbadess.
In 1896, the Pillsbury National Correspondence Chess Association (PNCCA) was formed.
In 1897 a cable match between the British House of Commons and the U.S. House of Representatives resulted in a draw.
The Correspondence Chess League of America was loosly organized in 1897.
In 1897, the first Hungarian Correspondence Chess Tournament was held
In 1902 the first radio chess match was held, between two ships in the Atlantic 160 miles apart.
In 1906 the first national correspondence chess association, the British Correspondence Chess Association, was formed.
In 1909 the Correspondence Chess League of New York (CCLGNY) was founded. By 1917, CCLGNY and three other groups merged to create the Correspondence Chess League of Ameria (CCLA). It publishes THE CHESS CORRESPONDENT, the oldest national magazine in the U.S. The CCLA was the first organization to have a numerical rating system for chess players, in 1933.
In 1917, the Chess Correspondence chess magazine was introduced in the United States.
In 1921, the Canadian Correspondence Chess Association was forned.
In December 1928, the Inernationaler Fernschach Bund (IFSB) was founded in Germany. It is the most popular correspondence chess magazine in the world and distributed in over 60 countries.
In 1929 the German chess correspondence magazine Fernschach was founded.
In 1929, the Commonwealth Correspondence Chess Lague was formed.
In 1932 the first international correspondence tournament was held and won by Janos Balogh (1892-1980).
In 1933, the Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA) adopted a numerical rating system, the first organization to have a rating system.
In 1935 a correspondence chess olympiad was held with 17 countries participating. Hungary won. This olympiad was for European countries only.
In 1935 the U.S. start a 1,002 board correspondence match with England. It was stopped in 1941 when the British government's Board of Censors thought that chess notation was some kind of code for secret messages. When the match has halted, the U.S. had won 223 games, lost 203, and drew 100. There were 476 games unfinished.
In 1937, the Correspondence Chess League of Australia was formed.
In 1940 the USSR held its first postal chess championship. It was won by Alexander Konstantinopolsky (1910-1990).
In 1942 the British held its first correspondence championship. It was won by R. Bonham,a blind player.
In 1943 Humphrey Bogart (1900-1957) was visted by the FBI and prevented from playing postal chess. The FBI thought that his chess notation that he was sending to correspondence chess players overseas was secret enemy codes. In the 19th century chess master Joseph Blackburne was arrested as a spy for sending chess moves in the mail. The British government thought they were coded secrets.
In 1945, the International Correspondence Chess Assoication (ICCA) was formed,
The 1946 Golden Knights Correspondence Championship had 1,456 entries.
In 1949 the International Correspondence Chess Association (ICCA) was formed by FIDE.
In 1949 there were 125,000 correspondence players participating in the championship of the USSR collective farms.
On May 1, 1950 the first world correspondence chess championship began. There were 78 entries. It was won by Cecil Purdy of Australia in 1953.
In 1951 the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) was formed. About 65 countries are members of the ICCF, with over 100,000 individual members. Its motto is "Amici Sumus" - We Are Friends.
In 1953 FIDE granted the first titles of Grandmaster of Correspondence Chess and International Master of Correspondence Chess.
In 1955 the first world blind correspondence championship began and was won by R. Bonham of England.
In 1960, Hans-Werner von Massow (1912-1988) was elected ICCF president, and continued to be president until 1987, 27 years.
In 1962 Alberic O'Kelly de Galway became the first grandmaster of over-the-board play and correspondence play.
In 1962 the first Grandmaster of Correspondence of the Blind was awarded to R. Bonham.
In 1963 the British Postal Federation was formed.
In 1965 the first women's world postal championship was held.
In 1968 Hans Berliner won the 5th World Correspondence Championship. His 3 point margin of victory was the greatest margin of victory ever achieved in the World Correspondence Championship, and his winning percentage (87.5%) was also the greatest of any correspondence world champion. He was inducted in the Chess Hall of Fame ion 1990. He was the first U.S. Grandmaster of Correspondence Chess.
The first British Grandmaster was Keith Richardson, who became a Grandmaster of Correspondence Chess (GCM) in 1975.
In 1981 Volf Bergaser (1904-1986) of France became a Grandmaster of Correspondence Chess at the age of 77.
In 1982 Grandmaster Duncan Suttles became Canada's first Grandmaster of Correspondence Chess.
In 1984 Victor Palciauskas compiled an undefeated score to win the World Correspondence Championship. He was inducted in the Chess Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1985 Nick Down, a former British Junior Correspondence Champion, entered the British Ladies Correspondence Chess Championship as Miss Leigh Strange. He was later caught and admitted his deception. He is banned from all British correspondence events.
In 1988 Stan Vaughan played 1,124 correspondence games at once, making it a new world record. Previous to this, Robert Wyller held the record of 1,001 correspondence games at once in 1948.
In 1990 Dr. Christine Rosenfeld became the first U.S. Correspondence International Woman Master.
1n 1993 John Penquite broke the record of highest rating in America when his USCF correspondence rating was 2939 after 58 straight wins, no losses, no draws.
In 1994 the International Email Chess Group (IECG) was formed by Lisa Powell.
In 1995 the International Email Chess Club (IECC) was formed by Lisa Powell devoted solely to E-Mail correspondence chess.
In 1999 Walter Muir died at the age of 95. He was known as the dean of American correspondence chess. He played chess for over 75 years. He was the first US player to defeat a USSR postal player in ICCF play.
The ICCF holds correspondence olympiads where countries are represented by a team of 6 correspondence chess players. A few years ago there was only one player from Peru who tried to play all the games himself. His "team" did not do so well.
Players who are grandmaster in correspondence chess and over-the-board (OTB) chess inclulde Ulf Andersson, Igor Bondarevsky, Aivars Gipslis, Curt Hansen, Jonny Hector, Janis Klovans, Olita Rause, Lothar Schmid, and Duncan Suttles.
Men's Chess Correspondence World Champions have included:
- I 1950-1953 - Cecil Purdy (Australia)
- II 1956-1959 - Viacheslav Ragozin (USSR)
- III 1959-1962 - Alberic O'Kelly de Galway (Belgium)
- IV 1962-1965 - Vladimir Zagorovsky (USSR)
- V 1965-1968 - Hans Berliner (USA)
- VI 1968-1971 - Horst Rittner (Germany)
- VII 1972-1976 - Yakov Estrin (USSR)
- VIII 1975-1980 - Jorn Sloth (Denmark)
- IX 1977-1983 - Tonu Oim (USSR)
- X 1978-1984 - Victor (Vytas) Palciuskas (USA)
- XI 1981-1987 - Friedrich Baumbach (Germany)
- XII 1984-1990 - Grigory Sanakoev (USSR)
- XIII 1989-1998 - Mikhail Umansky (Russia)
- XIV 1994-1999 - Tonu Oim (Estonia)
- XV 1996-2002 - Gert Jan Timmerman (Netherlands)
- XVI 1999-2004 - Tunc Hamarat (Turkey/Austria)
- XVII 2002 - Ivar Bern (Norway)
- XVIII 2003-2005 - Joop van Oosterom (Netherlands)
- XIX 2004- - Christophe Leotard (France)
Women's Chess Correspondence World Champions have included:
- I 1968-1972 - Olga Rubtsova (USSR)
- II 1972-1977 - Lora Yakovleva (USSR)
- III 1978-1984 - Ljuba Kristol (Israel)
- IV 1984-1992 - Liudmila Belavenets (Russia)
- V 1993-1998 - Ljuba Kristol (Israel)
- VI 2000-2005 - Alessandra Riegler (Italy)
- VII 2002-2006 - Olga Sukhareva (Russia)
The Chess Correspondence Olympiad Champions have included:
- I 1949-1952 - Hungary
- II 1952-1955 - Czechoslovakia
- III 1958-1961 - USSR
- IV 1962-1964 - USSR
- V 1965-1968 - Czechoslovakia
- VI 1968-1972 - USSR
- VII 1972-1976 - USSR
- VIII 1977-1982 - USSR
- IX 1982-1987 - Great Britain
- X 1987-1995 - USSR
- XI 1995-1999 - Czechoslovakia and Grmany
- XII 1998-2004 - Germany