"It is much easier to play like Kasparov or Alekhine in correspondence chess. One has plenty of time, days and weeks; and one can move the pieces on the board, check and recheck ... it was a great pleasure for me to calculate the lines over and over again." — Dr. Eugene Martinovsky, US Master (otb) and strong CC player.
Jerry Meyers, a top level US CC player, had some things to say about his method. He searches hard for opening innovations in almost every game. He does this by immersing himself in a main sub-variation of his openings and carefully examining databases and periodicals.
One problem with databases is they frequently lack players’ notes and ideas so he prefers to experiment with real chess pieces. By going through lots of games, especially old ones, the new move reflects a lot of chess “history” which helps him to better understand the idea behind it.
Jon Edwards, another very strong CC player, says he uses a large chess library consisting of about 1,500 books and he also relies heavily on periodicals as well as databases.
For endgames he uses a database in order to find all endgames similar to the ones he is playing and said that once you play through 200 or so games with a similar theme, the positional ideas become much more clear. For the middle game he also uses a database to search for all games with similar pawn structures, material balances, etc. and says it’s important to have complete games so that he can see positions in which specific maneuvers work as well as positions where they don't work. He prefers using a database because he can play through the games much faster.
He claims that at his level of play in the ICCF computer use, while not illegal, is not of much help. He explained an engine might see 5-6 moves ahead but a good CC player frequently sees 15-20 ahead. Some players say they use engine to guard against blunders but Edwards said he feels he is quite unlikely to hang stuff after looking at the position for 10 hours.
When it comes to play in the ICCF he stated that it is not easy to reach 2450. Edwards gives the following scenario:
Player X thinks that Rd1 is the best move, but the computer, after a day's thought, prefers Rc1. The computer says that Rc1 is +39.
So, what does Player X do? He plugs in Rd1. After another day's thought, the computer says that Rd1 is +33. So what move does Player X play? Will playing the computer's recommendation result in a 2450 rating?
Edwards states that he prefers CC chess because in over the board chess he makes mistakes, throws away advantages, and gets distracted. In CC, he can plan to his heart's content, and every now and again, he can play an error-free game
So it appears that if you want a title with the ICCF you are going to need, in addition to the best software available, a large library, lots of time to do research and some real understanding of the game. You’ll also need a huge amount of time patience!
A few years back I wanted to try my luck playing some “serious” correspondence chess and entered some events at Lechenicher Schach Server at my official US CC rating (2060). An old, slow computer, an outdated version of Fritz, a lack of patience and a huge lack of talent lead to a result (after 30 games or so) of +1 and a loss of well over 200 points. So, it's not that easy! I have to be content with my piddling official US CC rating because I think that in order to get over 2200 I’m going to have to play like Jerry Meyers and Jon Edwards and the truth is I don’t have the hardware, software, books, patience or talent. That’s why I Blog. Those who can, do and those who can’t…Blog!