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I've begun my first postal correspondence chess tournament through USCF. Actually, it's the first tournament I've ever played other than those I play on Chess.com.
I was interested in the "old school" chess experience, especially as I read through some of the master level correspondence games in our history. It seems there was an age in chess when reflection on a chess move was a romantic and even spiritual experience. While this may still be true for some of us, I am beginning to wonder if the use of chess databases and computer technology has changed this. I am not sure whether to give in to the pressure of using these chess steroids because everyone else seems to be or quietly rebel. I welcome any guidance from those of you who may have been down this road before.
I believe that there must be some kind of middle ground to discover here. I know that I won't be satisfied as a competitor if I actually "cheat" through the use of a computer (I believe it's illegal in USCF Corrsepondence anyway), however, I don't exactly know where the line is from their perspective. I only know what would "feel" like cheating.
For example, I'm not a strong chess player yet, and I know every game I play is a learning experience, especially as I study openings and the ideas within.
I would feel like I am cheating if I didn't think through the ideas and strategies I am learning about and apply them to the game. I would feel like I am cheating if I simply did what the computer told me to do or just followed what a master player had done before without any thoughtful intention of my own.
So does that mean I get to review my chess literature and utilize chess.com's game explorer to see what others have done in similar circumstances? Isn't this just information gathering? Or am I being seduced by the opportunity to get bigger muscles before I am ready for them?
As I said earlier, I don't know if there is any official answer to these questions and since it can't really be enforced the official answer doesn't really mean much anyway. What does matter is how I feel at the end of a match.
I still need to make the final call on what move I write on the post card. Correspondence chess takes the memorization of lines out of the game. Whether a person is using rote memory OTB or blindly following moves from a chess database, that person is still missing the chance to experience the brilliance of a true chess player. This brilliance seems to rest within his/her understanding of the possibilities that emerge as each position is reached and the ability to step off that cliff when decision time arrives. I am far from experiencing such brilliance personally, however, I am beginning to appreciate it when I get a glimpse.
I guess we'll see how it turns out for me. We are only at move 5 with 5 other oppponents sending cards and scratch paper back and forth, probably for at least a year. I am getting the chance to actually put pen to paper and place a stamp on a post card which I don't think I am doing for anything else in my life right now. I send all letters and bills electronically so it's been an interesting experience to just write someone's address on a post card and mail it out. I have some other thoughts about the experience that I may write about later. For now, please consider sharing any perspectives about what cheating in correspondence chess means to you. I know that Chess Life just published on this as well so it seems to be of interest to many.
Be well and enjoy the journey.
Chacku (user name Viswamitra)