11 February 2008

Why Play Correspondence Chess?

A story titled 'Dopage par Ordinateur' ('Doping by Computer') is the lead story in this month's L'Echiquier Belge, the official bulletin of the Belgian correspondence chess federation (circulation 117). It repeats a story from Rochade Europa, a German chess magazine that I've never seen.

The story is about the Hermann Heemsoth Memorial, a strong ICCF tournament that started last month and that counts four ex-World Correspondence Champions among the participants. One of the other players sports a correspondence GM title but has an OTB rating of only 1661, a class B rating by USCF standards. That player has apparently climbed the ranks of correspondence chess thanks to a 'battery of computers'. The story concludes, 'Strong players no longer have any chance unless they spend the necessary money to procure regularly the strongest computers and the most up-to-date and powerful [chess] software.'

The most surprising aspect of this story is why anyone would be complaining about it in 2008. Ten years ago it might have been news, but today it's a 'dog bites man' story. Anyone who plays correspondence chess in search of an impressive title or a stratospheric rating is ignoring the reality of chess in the 21st century. Correspondence titles and ratings have been meaningless for years.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Not everybody playing correspondence chess is using a computer. How do I know? Well, first of all I am playing CC and don't use a computer. Secondly, I am winning a CC game every now and then and because I am an less-than-average chess player, this means that there must be plenty of people around not using computers.

Anyway, why do I play CC? Because I really like it. It enables me to actually think about a move even if I have only 10 minutes for playing chess during the day. Without CC, I would have to play blitz only.

I never played at "official" ICCF sanctioned tournaments, though, and the fact that computers are allowed is one reason for it. Some people argue that the combination computer and human gives a better chess game than either one alone, but I doubt that. I play only on sites where computer help is forbidden, and everybody in my rating range would not be there if he/she would use a computer anyway.