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Monday, February 27, 2012


       I was watching a debate unfold on a forum about whether or not playing correspondence chess will help your over the board skills.  I think cc will help only to a limited extent.  After all they aren’t played the same way. In CC you don’t have to remember opening lines and endgames can always be looked up.  The same holds true for middlegames to some extent.  You can search out similar positions and play over a lot of master games to get a feel for how to handle similar positions.  And the fact that you have a lot more time to select a move is a big factor. Research and hours of analysis of a cc game won’t hurt you but fiddling with the pieces won’t help your powers of visualization …an important factor in otb games to be sure!  To hone that skill requires a totally different approach.
        I often hear of players who use cc in an attempt to enhance their otb skills.  Players who do this usually treat cc games as though they were otb games, but personally I think there are better ways to train yourself to play otb games.
       The biggest argument I hear is that using books, databases, and these days engines, shuffling pieces around in the analysis process, etc. is not a good way to learn anything.  For some reason a lot of players assume correspondence players are trying to hone their otb play or are trying to learn something.  I haven’t played in an otb tournament in decades because I realized I didn’t like playing chess at the rate of three games on Saturday consuming 12-15 hours and then coming back on Sunday playing two more for another 8-10 hours, finishing up late at night, arriving home near midnight then getting up at 5:00 am to go to work for 10 hours.  Fact is, I’m ‘chessed out’ after playing an hour or two; always have been.  With correspondence play I can spend as little or as much time on selecting a move as I want and then only when I feel like it.
       I’m not trying to learn anything!  I haven’t actually studied chess for years.  I play for fun.  I enjoy fiddling around with opening and game databases, doing research and checking out different move suggestions in order to find the best move I can.  Whether that means letting two or three engines analyze for a few hours then checking their recommended lines for flaws, running shootouts to see if the position really does favor one side, digging similar games out of databases and seeing how strong players handled the position or even (gasp!) experimenting with my own ideas to see if they are any good…that’s what I enjoy and it’s why I play correspondence chess.  I’ll leave trying to improve to the younger guys who play in tournaments and dream getting a high rating and becoming a Grandmaster.

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