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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

An Argument In Favor of Correspondence Chess Playing

Note to reader: The following essay has as its chief aim to interest more chess players in the art, sport, and science that is correspondence chess. If I use myself as an example too often, it is because I don't know anyone better than I know myself.

I will attempt to explain the lure and fascination of correspondence chess. I must explain at the outset - I enjoy both forms of the game. In over the board (crossboard) chess, the contest is a more direct one; we are more involved in the fight. The whole affair is over in a matter of hours, and we move on to the next challenge. If you are a grandmaster, or a highly skilled player, you do not need me to clarify for you the reasons you play chess. Every player has a chess drive, and this drive determines what you receive from the game; how it increases the enjoyment you receive from this strange world of wooden pieces and wooden problems.

The Quality Factor. There is no doubt, in my opinion, that you will raise your playing level one to three classes by playing correspondence chess. We have all bemoaned our glaring mistakes during our OTB tournament games. The clock is a factor, one that should not be ignored. If I play a six-hour OTB game, I will have spent perhaps 2-4 minutes on each move. In CC, I might spend anywhere from ten minutes to four hours on a move. Multiplied by thirty or forty moves, the total time could approach 100-120 hours for a game. Think of the masterpieces you could produce if you had as much time for an OTB game! This is the factor that allows a tyro, such as myself, to, once and awhile, play a master quality game. This is also the factor, by the way, which proves the undoing of many strong OTB players when they first try CC. They spend 2-5 minutes on a move, send it off, and expect their opponents to play the normal weak moves. When their opponent plays strongly, and the name is not familiar, the first impression is, "What kind of computer are you using?" But CC players are organized in thought and purpose. This is pure chess, without much of the psychology involved with OTB chess. The board is played, and there is always the search for the (absolute) best move.

The Expense/Trouble Factor. Over the board tournaments are expensive. Look at how much a good hotel room costs. And, even chess players must eat, when they are not playing chess. This all adds up to a considerable expenditure, what we pay to indulge in our chosen hobby. When we were kids and young adults, living at home, we could afford to travel and enjoy tournament chess. Correspondence chess, on the other hand, costs very little compared to over the board play. With the advent of email CC, the costs are so minor that they are not even worth discussing. When you grow older, you have more trouble concentrating on your game, competing with the younger folks. If I have a particularly difficult CC game, and I receive a card from my opponent, I can ignore it and wait until the next day. Or, if I need to do some more research, I can do it when and where I want to, within certain limitations. There is no "zugzwang" (or chess clock) which forces me to move within a few minutes. As a matter of fact, my game will probably improve the more time I spend on it.

The Friendship Factor. When was the last time one of your over the board opponents became a fast friend? I have met hundreds of people through CC. While you will run across the odd apple, for the most part, CC players are in it for more than the game. You can discuss chess, your lives in general, or whatever. Try that with your next over the board opponent. You barely have enough time to play the game, celebrate (or cry inwardly, as the case may be), before it is time for the next round. This factor in CC is one that is widely recognized but seldom spoken about. Some of my CC opponents end up being dear friends. You have something in common with your opponents. You love the game. No one, not even your long-suffering spouse, can take that away from you.

Are you ready for the challenge? Would you like to improve your game and make new friends? There are many great CC organizations ready to welcome you into their fold. All it takes is a desire and an ambition to try. Whether you are a novice or a grandmaster, there are plenty of like-minded players out there. Just what are you waiting for? You may find, after a time, that this is what you were looking for the whole time.
Copyright © 1998-2005 by John C. Knudsen, all rights reserved. May be reprinted freely with all contents intact.

John C. Knudsen is a Senior International Master (SIM), and has been playing competitive correspondence chess for over 25 years. He is the owner of http://www.correspondencechess.com which has been serving the cc community since 1996. He also has an E-Book site located at http://www.correspondencechess.com/knudsen/edition/ which features e-books in many different categories.
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