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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Some Views on Correspondence Chess

The Endings in Modern Theory and Practice

      I was recently browsing and came upon one site where CC was being discussed and some of the comments were interesting. One player, rated around 2100 OTB, stated he had given it up because he was not good enough to take advantage of any “weak” moves played by engines, adding that no matter how much time he spent on the game, even using his own engine, he simply could not tell a “good” engine move from a “bad” one. He added that an OTB master and 2400 rated CC player had the same problem. His opinion was that in order to successfully play CC you have to be strong enough to know when an engine generated move is not the best and for that you need to be rated at least 2300. That lets most of us out.
      In response, one FM replied that endgames are still the engines Achilles Heel but you need to be a master of endgames to succeed against engines. That lets most of us out.
      He also pointed out that in closed middlegames an experienced strong player can come up with a better plan than engines which often do nothing but shuffle pieces. That lets most of us out
      Additionally he felt that in order to take advantage of an engine’s opening book, you need to be rated about 2300 OTB. That lets most of us out
      This FM, and many other strong CC players think that to be successful in CC these days, it’s the openings where games are won or lost. You need to find a line with long term strategy or an endgame the engine can't understand or play an opening innovation where the advantage of the move is over the engine’s horizon. That lets most of us out.
       I have to agree with this FM. In fact everything he said is in agreement with CCGM Robin Smith’s statements in his book, Modern Chess Analysis.
       Another interesting observation of this player was that the rating difference between an 1800 rated and a 2000 rated CC player was practically zero and the difference between an 1800 and 2400 is quite small…probably the only difference was endgame knowledge. He went on to add that CC still remains a good way to improve because it requires a LOT of study, but if all you’re looking for is wins and a rating then you will find it very frustrating.
       It’s quite clear to me after returning to CC in 2004 after an absence of about 12 years that with the proliferation of engines, legal or not, I am facing the same problems as the original poster. I’m simply not good enough to outsmart a chess engine in the opening, or force the game into a closed middlegame where I can plan a winning strategy 20 moves in advance while the engine twiddles its thumbs, aimlessly shifting pieces nor am I an endgame expert. Oh, I can play K and P and R and P endings pretty good because years ago Basic Chess Endings and Peter Griffith’s Modern Chess Endings were my best friends, but that’s not good enough because I still lack a 2300’s understanding of these things.
      The short version is that if you aren’t 2300 OTB you are reduced to 1) playing only engine generated moves which is no fun or 2) trying to find another move that probably won’t work and likely will lead to losing the game which is no fun either. Since I am not good enough to play CC at the top level and am not looking to improve my game, only have fun, why bother with this form of chess at all? I don’t know why I do it.

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