I am in three postal ICCF correspondence chess matches. Two matches are with four players where we each play each other as black and as white. This means 6 games per match (12 games). I am also on the Australian team playing against Sweden. I was matched with an opponent and we play each other as black and as white (2 games). Finally I am playing a casual game with someone from Texas who offered to play me via chess.com, again as black and as white (2 games). I also have 2 games on a webserver but when that is over I will concentrate on postal matches.
I have seen a few people saying that correspondence chess is dead, it has been replaced by webserver chess; it is too slow, it costs too much, it’s confusing and it’s open to cheats. I can see all these points as being valid but I still like postal chess. I like the coded postcards, I like remembering what personal snail mail is like, I like the walks to the post box, the setting up of a real board, the detailed recording of written information and the stamps.
Two of the players I am playing against, a German and a Swede, collect stamps and they have sent me beautiful stamps. In return I have gone to the post office and bought nice stamps for them. This weekend I suggested to my son that we collect the stamps that we are being sent and he liked the idea. We moistened the stamps so they’d peel off, we let them dry and pressed them, my son then divided them up into two piles, one for me and one for him, so that we could trade. It took about an hour and it was a great way to spend time with my son. The stamps teach geography, history (subject matter of some stamps) and currency. The image above shows a Czech stamp we received which shows an oil painting by the French painter L.F. Lejeune from 1808. It captures the atmosphere on the eve of the Battle of Austerlitz when Napoleon and his generals interrogate Moravian farmers. The picture is displayed at the chateau in Versailles.
The idea of playing correspondence chess came at me from two directions. The first was from a BBC documentary called “How To Win At Chess” which was part of their BBC Timeshift series. It can be seen here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x19so3x_how-to-win-at-chess_sport At the 13:30min mark there is a little vignette about correspondence chess that I found charming. I liked the quiet, pensive nature of it, I liked the ‘lite’ human connection between players and I liked the paraphernalia that was associated with the process. The second point of inspiration came from looking up an article on chess.com with the enticing title “Gain 100+ rating points quickly and start improving your chess” by someone with the moniker Aww-Rats, the article is here: http://www.chess.com/article/view/gain-100-rating-points-quickly-and-start-improving-your-chess. In this article, Mr Aww-Rats, strongly advocates correspondence chess as a way of improving and he is a Nation Master. Mad not to absorb the wisdom of older people.
So I sought to find out where and how I could play correspondence chess. Chess.com has a feature called ‘Online Chess’ which is web-based correspondence chess and I have started games here but I wanted something that I could view more seriously. I googled and found the Correspondence Chess League of Australia which confusingly has, at this time, two different websites. The correct one being http://www.ccla.net.au/ It wouldn’t be described as a welcoming site being hard to use and out of date in many areas but there it was, the official, FIDE endorsed, portal to national correspondence chess. So I joined and was entered into a match called Australian BICYCLE B12 (Bicycle because it didn’t permit chess engines). This is a web-based match against 7 other players. Further to this I asked to be entered into a friendly postal match and I was. The match is an ICCF Promotion Tournament called WT/0/150. The title is suitably austere and information came to me via snail mail.