Rare as the Dodo Bird

04.07.06 Well not quite, but of the 385 Mainers with USCF over-the-board ratings, only 41--a mere 10.6%--have a correspondence rating. Take a look at the following statistical analysis of Maine over-the-board and correspondence players for some insight into this enigmatic practice we call correspondence chess.

When asked what advice he would give to a player wishing to improve his game, former world champion Boris Spassky replied, ’ÄúPlay correspondence chess!’Äù Another former world champion, Mikhail Tal, did not share Spassky’Äôs opinion. The always colorful and witty Tal ventured the following: ’ÄúI drink, I smoke and I chase women, but correspondence chess is one vice I do not have.’Äù

Grandmaster Boris Spassky

Grandmaster Mikhail Tal

Chess certainly has many forms--from standard over-the-board play to quick chess (time controls from G/10 to G/29), blitz (time controls of less than G/10), blindfold (when one or both players does not have sight of the board), and a myriad of chess variants including Chess 960 (Fischer Random), loser’Äôs chess, crazyhouse, bughouse, giveaway and atomic as well as many others. (For an explanation of these and other chess variants see www.chessvariants.com here.)

Compared with blitz chess, correspondence chess, also know as postal chess and more recently as email chess, is on the other end of the chess time continuum. The veritable geologic time scale of correspondence chess allows its devotees to plumb the depths of a position in an almost never ending search for truth on the chessboard. It is not uncommon for a single rated correspondence game to last upwards of one to two years.
The following statistics do shed some interesting light on which Mainers are playing correspondence chess and there does seem to be a correlation between over-the-board playing strength and the playing of correspondence chess.

Figure 1:

Figure 1 indicates 50% of all master and expert over-the-board rated players in Maine also have correspondence ratings. A caveat here: currently Maine has but 2 master-strength players one of which also has a correspondence rating and 10 expert players of which 5 have correspondence ratings. (Master players have ratings of 2200 and up while expert players have ratings in the range from 2000 to 2199.) The percentages remain above 20 from Class A (2000-1800) through Class D (1200-1400) then sharply decline and in fact we notice there is not a single player who is rated under 1000 (a group that includes 210 players) that also has a correspondence rating.

Figure 2:

Figure 2 shows similar results. The top 100 ranked Maine players are the group which includes the highest percentage of correspondence players. Again the percentage drops quickly and when we get to the 5th group of 50 players (players ranked 201 -250 in the state) and beyond, there is not a correspondence player to be found.

The jury may well still be out on the question of the benefits of correspondence chess. It does seem however, based on both rating class levels and state ranking, that players who engage in correspondence chess realize a benefit in their over-the-board play.

For more information on correspondence chess you may find the following links helpful:


International Correspondence Chess Federation

World Correspondence Chess Federation


Correspondance chess takes me back 25 years. I was Maine's first postal master with Elowitch close behind. I was around 2290. I started in 1980. In '85 or '86 I was playing in the closed US championship. Circumstances changed for me as I moved to Florida and I dropped chess for some time. Since I had to resign all my games my rating dropped to 2100+. I even got game of the month In Alex Dunne's chess column August 1984. On reflecting back, I don't think postal truly helped over the board chess. You do of course learn openings and don't leave pieces en prise and can find references for endings so the quality of the game goes up, but to transfer this to over the board to me is minimal. It's simply a different kind of chess. I like Lasker's maxium chess is a fight. At that time, I did loose a match to Elowitch 3-1/2 2-1/2.

Dan.....You certainly have
developed a really wonderful
site. The interview with Maggie is a great read and
sets the stage for more and
more interesting and inventive stuff.
Best regards, Jon Malev

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