|Correspondence chess is chess played by some sort of long-distance correspondence, usually through a Correspondence Chess Server as myChess.de or e-mail or the postal system. Less usual methods which have been employed include fax and homing pigeon. It is opposed to so-called over-the-board (OTB) chess, where the players are sat at a chessboard at the same time.|
Correspondence chess allows people or clubs geographically distant to play one another without meeting in person. The length of a game played by correspondence can vary depending on the method used to transmit the moves - a game played via server or by e-mail might last no more than a few months, but a game played by post between players in different countries might last several years.
Correspondence chess differs from over-the-board play in several respects. While in OTB chess only one game is played at a time (the exception being in a simultaneous exhibition), in correspondence chess several games are usually played at once. All games in a tournament are played concurrently, and some players may have more than a hundred games continuing at the same time. A special game notation called the ICCF Numeric notation has been developed especially for the purpose of correspondence chess.
The time limits in correspondence play are usually between 30 and 60 days for every 10 moves. This allows for far deeper calculation, meaning that blunders are very rare. The use of any kind of assistance including chess databases and chess programs is allowed, although many hobby players voluntarily do without them. Due to computer assistance the essence of correspondence chess has changed and beside profound chess knowledge and analytical discipline the ability to interpret and guide computer analysis becomes important. Due to the fact that anybody with a computer can use the strongest programs to analyze his games the gap between the top level and beginner level has narrowed since a beginner can to a certain degree compensate his poor chess knowledge with long computer analysis. However the influence of computer assistance is controversially discussed and some argue that a chess program if left alone is no match for a top-level correspondence player.
The international governing body of correspondence chess is the International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) which organises postal and e-mail events. There are numerous national and regional bodies for postal chess, as well as a number of organisations devoted to organising e-mail play (such as the International Email Chess Group (IECG) and International E-mail Chess Club (IECC)).
The ICCF awards the titles International Master, Senior International Master and Grandmaster - these are equivalent to similar titles awarded by FIDE for over-the-board chess. The ICCF also runs the World Correspondence Chess Championships. Because these events can last a long time, they may overlap: for instance, in February 2005 Joop van Oosterom was declared winner of the 18th Championship (which began in June 2003), though the winner of the 17th Championship (which began in March 2002) had not yet been determined.
Although nowadays the strongest correspondence players are specialists, a number of notable players in over-the-board (OTB) chess have in the past played postal games during their chess career. Paul Keres, an Estonian sometimes regarded as the strongest player never to become world champion, played many games of correspondence chess, apparently because he had difficulty finding players in his native country anywhere near strong enough to give him a decent game. Alexander Alekhine and Max Euwe also played.
Also, there has been a recent trend of strong OTB players choosing to play in correspondence chess, either in part or whole. Many players who were in the world-class area in their younger years find that they do not have the time nor inclination due to family or careers to compete in OTB chess but still enjoy playing chess. Ulf Andersson of Sweden is the most notable of these, due to his high OTB rating to have joined the ranks of correspondence chess after an illustrious career in the world-class OTB arena.
ICCF World Champions
Dates given are the period in which the final of the championship took place, as given on the ICCF website.
- Cecil John Seddon Purdy (1950-53)
- Viacheslav Ragozin (1956-59)
- Albéric O\´Kelly de Galway (1959-62)
- Vladimir Zagorovsky (1962-65)
- Hans Berliner (1965-68)
- Horst Rittner (1968-71)
- Yakov Estrin (1972-76)
- Jorn Sloth (1975-80)
- Tonu Oim (1977-83)
- Victor Palciauskas (1978-84)
- Friedrich Baumbach (1983-89)
- Grigory Sanakoev (1984-91)
- Mikhail Umansky (1989-98)
- Tonu Oim (1994-2000)
- Gert Jan Timmerman (1996-2002)
- Tunc Hamarat (1999-2004)
- not yet determined
- Joop van Oosterom (2003-)
- Olga Rubtsova (1968-72)
- Lora Jakovleva (1972-77)
- Ljuba Kristol (1978-84)
- Lyudmila Belavenets (1984-92)
- Ljuba Kristol (1993-98)