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Correspondence Chess - My Experiences So Far

Jul 24, 2014, 10:59 AM 0

My main training goal is to acheive a master-level rating OTB. However, with four childrean under the age of 8, I don't have a whole lot of free time to spend traveling to and playing in OTB tournaments. This is where correspondence chess fits perfectly into my life. No travel is required, I can play at my own pace, and it allows me to study chess while I play in tournament situations.

I'm no stranger to correspondence chess, having played official correspondence matches as early as 2001. However, after my first match, I was left a bit disappointed because rather than get 6 full games against my opponent, he forfeited after roughly 4 or so moves.

After watching NM Aww-Rats' youtube series, which strongly suggest using correspondence chess to improve strength, I decided to give it another go and signed up for the 2014 Electronic Knights tournament.

The initial round of pairings had me dead-smack in the middle of the group of 7 (see ratings to the left) with a rating of 1514. It was looking like it was going to be pretty tough to get out of this round.

[Side Bar: For those unfamiliar with the Electronic Knights tournament format, it is a three round tournament. In order to progress to the next round, you need at least 4.5 points from your first round games. If nobody scores 4.5 points, then those with 4 points will move on]

However, I was determined to try my best and dutifully sent out my first move to three of my opponents and awaited the first move from the other three.

My setup for tracking moves was two-fold. One, I kept two spiral-wound notebooks (one for black games, one for white games) in which I kept a manual scoresheet and also all of my analysis notes for the different moves. Two, I kept a separate word document for each game on my computer. This word document was for ease of replying to the emails when sending moves. I could easily update the document, copy and paste the moves into the email and hit send.

For actual move analysis, I preferred to sit at my desk which had a full tournament-sized board on it and play through the different variations that I was analyzing. However, I would also sometimes rely on just thinking about the position while I was on the train commuting or going for my early morning run.

Two of my opponents forfeited fairly early in the process. One of the unrated individuals made a single move before he forfeited to everyone in the group. The other was the one rated 1277. He made 6 moves before forfeiting on time. Unfortunately, I think that in early stages of tournaments, you are more likely to run into these forfeitures as it may be people who are just trying their hand at correspondence chess. A bit disappointing, as I was looking forward to playing a full game, but something that is bound to happen.

I also learned early on the importance of accurate record keeping for correspondence chess matches. My opponent rated at 1910 ended up resigning to me after 12 or so moves. He misunderstood which rook I moved (not due to my fault, as the move sent was clear), and dropped a piece. Additionally, my 1859-rated opponent didn't pay attention during the first three moves of the game and thought I moved Nc6 when I actually sent Nf6.

So, in addition to the three easy wins (two forfeits and one resignation), I was able to play through two entire games and beat the remaining unrated opponent and my 1859-rated opponent. This left me with one remaining game (still ongoing) against my highest-rated opponent, and a first round score of 5.0 which allows me to proceed to the second round of the tournament.

Thus far, I have found correspondence chess to be a great training tool. The ability to read through chess books and apply the information as you play an actual game is invaluable in reinforcing your understanding of the material. Additionally, the pace and time frame of the games fits perfectly into my schedule. 

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