The Ten Steps To Playing Correspondence Chess
1. Do some research - see if the club or organization has possibilities for you. I would particularly recommend the ASPCC, APCT, and CCLA for American players (in no particular order). Send away for information on what is offered. Study what you receive and make your choice.
2. Join only one organization in the beginning. Choosing a chess organization is somewhat like choosing a mutual fund - the more brochures you have to go through the harder it is to make a decision. Send off your dues and soon you will start receiving the magazine or bulletin.
3. First hard choice - choosing your first event. Take it easy, there is no rush. Resist the temptation to enter every tournament in sight - the games take much time and effort! Get a feel for what is going on before you jump in with both feet. If your club or organization has a "social" tournament or "class section", enter it first. Call it the basic training of CC, if you like. There will be plenty of time later on for more challenging fare. You will meet like minded players of similar skill level.
4. If you have questions, ask! Many of the members of organization that you will bump into have been members for dozens of years. Most players are happy to assist and mentor new players. Else, where would the new opponents come from? Make yourself familiar with the rules - and follow them. Rules bring order to the CC world. Without them we would all be fighting all the time and about everything except chess!
5. Keep orderly records. Record keeping is a necessary part of CC. The discipline that results from keeping good records will enhance your enjoyment of the game and will reduce clerical errors. This record keeping is not something that can be taught - you will learn how to do it along the way. Remember that poor record keeping accounts for most glaring mistakes in CC. The more attention to detail, the smaller the chance you will lose a game to a simple mistake. Keep a notebook on each tournament - and use it!
6. Study each position every time you must make a move. Many skillful players pride themselves on being able to play "blindfold", but, for the rest of us, a thorough study of the position will be more practical. Yes, you can move the pieces about the board and try out various schemes and combinations. Make sure that you analyze from the actual game position, though! In this regard, you simply must become an expert at chess notation. It doesn't do any good to uncork a brilliant seven move combination when you are looking at the wrong start position!
7. Some days, you will not be able to work on a game. Whether it is stress from work, or stress from home, learn to recognize these things and don't even try. Put the game away and try again tomorrow. It is one of the great things about CC that you can work on the games when and where you want, within certain limitations, namely - the time control for the tournament.
8. Give it your best effort. We all make mistakes - no matter what our playing ability. Try to make the best of what you have before you, and, above all, try and calculate all of the possibilities. This involves quite a bit of work, and you can bet that your opponent will be trying his or her best to anticipate your moves and strategies. For some comic relief, play over some of my CC games. Over 300 so far, and perhaps 30-50 of them are master class games. The rest range between the simply bad and barely playable. Always repeat this advice when you make a mistake in your game - it will make you feel better and make you realize that your talent has potential!
9. Try to get to know your opponents. Some of the people you will come across will be fascinating, others dull. Everyone has a story to tell and sometimes the humor on postcards or in emails will have you rolling on the floor in laughter. Correspondence chess allows a friendship that will hardly ever lead to intrusion or imposition.
10. Give something back. Get involved in administration, in writing, in sharing your experiences. The desire to give something back will come once you feel confident in your experiences and your ability. You will have a story to tell that others will want to hear. There is always room for fresh ideas and techniques.
There you have it - a formula to begin playing correspondence chess. Not that much to it, is there? Sometimes, the first step is the hardest, after that everything is just experience.
About The Author
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.