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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ICCF, LSS and QueenAlice

     It has been a number of years since I played at ICCF so I was under the mistaken impression that one had to be a member of the CCLA in order to play at ICCF. However, I was recently informed that because the no engine rules in the USCF and CCLA were at odds with the ICCF’s allowance of them, one is no longer required to be a member of either the CCLA or the USCF to play in ICCF events. The top US player is GM Alik Zilberberg rated 2604 which puts him at number 40 on the rating list.
     I am in the North American Pacific Zone which includes Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand and the US. They offer NAPZ Individual Open Class, NAPZ Individual Higher Class and NAPZ Individual Master Class. All events consist of 7 players (6 games) with a time limit of 10 moves in 40 days and the sections start when filled.

Qualifications for the tournaments are:
Individual Open (a) a player new to ICCF or without an ICCF rating. (b) a player rated below 1900 at the time of application.
Individual Higher Class (a) a player rated 1900 to 2099 at the time of application. (b) a player who has won an Open class tournament is entitled to one start in the Higher class, regardless of rating. (c) a player without an ICCF rating who is nominated by the National Federation and accompanied by a statement of qualification.
Individual Master Class a) a player rated 2100 or above at the time of application. (b) a player who has won a Higher-class tournament is entitled to one start in the Master class, regardless of rating. (c) a player without an ICCF rating who is nominated by the National Federation and accompanied by a statement of qualification.

     The entry fee for any of these events is $9.25 and must be paid using PayPal. Regarding ICCF play, I had to ask myself, because I would be playing CC in an organization that allows engine use, is having an “official” correspondence rating worth paying $9.25 per tournament?  Not to me. 

     Lechenicher SchachServer is free…totally. No dues and no tournament entry fees. They offer a full range of tournaments. Currently you can sign up for the LSS Anniversary 2014 Open. Players can register by subscribing to the waiting list and entries close on 15th April, 2014. In this event the group size is 11 players (10 games) with pairings done to create all groups of approximately the same rating average. The time limit is 30 basic plus 2 days per move.
     In addition to other open and class events they also have Chess960 tournaments. My personal preference is the Rapid tournaments, 7 players, 10 Basic plus 1 day per move and no vacations allowed because I no longer want to play a game lasting 2-3 years.
     Of course LSS ratings are “officially” meaningless, but in the world of “real” (OTB) chess, all correspondence ratings are meaningless. They always have been. Years ago, before engines, one CC GM went to an OTB tournament that advertised free entry to GM’s and the organizer wouldn’t let him enter for free; the CC GM title didn’t count. The top US player there is number 20 ranked Edward Kotlyanskiy at 2495.

    Queen Alice isn’t a bad site and for a couple of years I played there quite a bit, but apparently the site admin hasn’t been around for months and in the past they’ve had some server crashes; I had trouble logging on the site today because the server was moving at a snail’s pace. 
     It’s totally free and tournaments are automatically generated by the server and you are limited to the ones you qualify for based on your rating, beginner, intermediate, advanced, and master. Group sizes are 4 players, 2 games per opponent (i.e. 6 simultaneous games) with a time limit of 7 days per move. Or, if you want, you can also play as many individual (open) games as you want. 
     The one disadvantage to the tournaments is that if you win, you are automatically entered in the second round and have to play another 6 games. One advantage is that I didn’t run into a lot of engine users there even at the “master” level. Unlike the ICCF and LSS, real names are not used.

On all of these sites it appears that at the beginner and lower levels engine use is not an issue.  I have looked at some of the lower rated players' games and they definitely were not using engines.  Beyond that I cannot say, but you need to be aware that especially at ICCF and LSS from about 1800 and up engine use is  the norm and this means that whatever rating you start at is probably where you will stay unless you a) reach about 2300-2400 OTB and know when engines are recommending faulty moves or b) you become an expert at using engines.  For example, you go to the length to prepare openings as described HERE or you want to invest in a lot of software and master IDeA analysis with Aquarium as described HERE.  Obviously, these days correspondence chess is another animal and these days it's a far cry from the days when we used these:

"Sam" is Samuel Reshevsky

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