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I play correspondence daily.

My reason to do it is I am weak in openings and I can survive to the middlegame because I have access to databases; and I want to learn how to survive the opening and to play properly at 90+30 over-the-board games.

Do you think playing correspondence is a good way to improve?

What are the pros and cons of spending time playing correspondence?

  • Are you talking about correspondence chess with engine assistance or without? – Akavall Dec 7 '19 at 19:45
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    @Akavall Without asistance. At my level, 1900 on lichess, I play without engine. I must be playing against players that do not use engines as my federated rating rounds 1800 – Universal_learner folding home Dec 7 '19 at 19:55
  • But from answers it looks at a higher level computer asistance is frequent – Universal_learner folding home Dec 7 '19 at 19:56
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    @Universal_learner It depends on the site; some allow it and some do not. – D M Dec 7 '19 at 20:54
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According to friends who play correspondence chess they report the following benefits:

  1. Variety - you play lots of games all at the same time. Although you might not match Claude Bloodgood, who allegedly had hundreds of games in play at the same time when his postage costs were paid for by the US taxpayer because he was on death row, you will play all your games in a round robin at the same time. So, if you are playing in a 10 player double round robin you play all 18 games at the same time.
  2. You have time and motivation to learn, particularly openings. With typically several days per move you can do serious research into the openings you choose to play, learning the ideas and plans for both sides. Unlike over-the-board you do this during the game when it can affect the result not after when you have already lost.
  3. You eliminate blunders. All your moves are checked by the engine.
  4. You learn how to use engines properly. Again this happens during the game not like OTB after. I often run my finished games through the engine to spot blunders and missed tactics. You will be looking for interesting ideas in games still in progress. You will be checking out the engines 3rd or 4th suggested move because it looks really interesting.

All of these things will help improve your OTB chess by making you think more deeply and intelligently about your moves.

Funnily enough my correspondence playing friends don't think their are any cons! I'm not so sure. From the pleasure perspective they miss out on the adrenaline rush of blitz and even just the excitement of bad moves by either side. If I play a really good move I like to see my opponent sweat. That just doesn't happen in correspondence chess.

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    Make sure to know the rules before you use engines; some places allow it and some do not. – D M Dec 7 '19 at 18:48
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    Points 3 and 4 may be true for highly rated players, but at my level, 1900 at lichess, as a non engine user, I don't find troubles to have a rating equal or higger than my fed rating on 90/30 games. Have I played against computer users? For sure but not in the most of my games. I cannot beat an engine playing 3rd and 4th non loosing lines – Universal_learner folding home Dec 8 '19 at 11:57
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    One "con" is that since you can spend hours on a move, you may end up spending hours on a move, and then wonder where your day went. :-) – itub Dec 8 '19 at 14:33
  • If you are a slow mover when playing OTB, maybe playing Corr makes this worse. – Msiipola Dec 9 '19 at 9:45
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Frankly, the biggest con is that today's correspondence game has turned into computer vs. computer contests. So yes, you learn how to use the computer well, but you may as well play your own computer daily since there is very little difference.

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    I play maybe in the safetiest place, lichess. At other sites or higher ratings you migth be totally rigth, but I can be sure most of my oponnents don't use engines because my fed rating rounds 1800 on Spain and without wraping my neurones as over the board, I am in 1900 at the site on correspondance. I was asking more about things as the analysis board may harm your capability to calculate lines from a static position. But thanks for clarifying if I reach my level I will met for computers for sure. I don't want that. – Universal_learner folding home Dec 8 '19 at 11:39
  • I get angry when analyzing with stockfish I find obvious players that use a computer to have my rating then stops using it and loose rating, then they use the engine again to play at 1900 level. I use to flag – Universal_learner folding home Dec 8 '19 at 11:41
  • Well, I think the biggest thing is that if you enjoy it, continue to do it. :) I still think that there is too much room for computer use for my liking. – PhishMaster Dec 8 '19 at 11:53
  • The other option on servers is to play blitz good master. Magnus Carlsen only plays bullet at lichess. Well he is more exposed to cheating. I play 10+0 sometimes. There I can be playing with an engine too. And on correspondance I analyze a bit games with a physical board. I think I learn. For the moment cheaters are a minority. – Universal_learner folding home Dec 9 '19 at 17:51
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There is traditional correspondence and now a version played over the internet. You appear to be talking about the internet version. For me there is no real advantage. You might find it less stressful to take more time for a move. Con is that you will really not improve by doing that.

If you want to play OTB better then you will need to learn openings. Pick ONE and master it for white. Have a defense for black. Learn both of them and do not try to learn others. There are just too many. Learning principles is better than memorizing moves but you should be familiar with your openings so you do not waste clock time at OTB.

You should also learn basic tactics so you can recognize them OTB and not have to hope you can discover them on your own during a game.

Next you should learn end games. Finally learn middle game and positional strategy.

You learn by studying not by playing any speed chess. You improve by playing people just slightly higher rated while also spending time learning so your rating improves faster.

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My understanding of modern correspondence chess is that it's mostly a computer vs. computer slugfest. Everyone will be using computer assistance - in arenas where computers are "banned", there are many, many cheaters - and the winner is the one who feeds their computer better ideas (although they are very strong, computers still have blind spots where human input improves their play). Playing without computers is suicide. Even with it it's very time intensive if you want to win at the highest level, because chess is probably drawn with best play and humans operating a strong computer are so close to perfect that it's very hard to win.

Because so much of your time is spent working with your computer, and you won't have a computer in OTB play, you probably won't improve a lot by playing correspondence chess. However, you will learn a lot about openings, because opening preparation is where the biggest edge in correspondence chess comes from.

Quoting top US Correspondence Chess player Wolf Morrow:

DN: Many players of the past were correspondence chess players. I think also today it's quite important, for improving to practice correspondence chess. What's your opinion about this?

WM: It depends on what you want to get out of modern correspondence chess. For me, I found it's a great tool to learn new openings or get a better understanding of main lines. As a result of my CC games, I'm more familiar with the Sicilian Sveshnikov than I would have ever learned as a passing interest in say a chess book or video on the subject. I've also heard and actually seen for myself that top OTB GMs will often use winning approaches taken directly from correspondence games, and then they get all the credit for coming up with this 'brilliant' new novelty to win the game. As I said, I've seen this happen on more than one occasion, and I say to myself "Uhh, no. He didn't invent that move, it was played 3 years ago on ICCF and we CC players are quite familiar with it".

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