In Lichess, any form of external help (e.g. engines) is forbidden, even in correspondence chess. However, there is an option to open a separate board where one can make unlimited scratch moves.

I would regard using a separate board as cheating because building variations in the player's mind is in the spirit of chess and is subject to failures. For example, overlooking a piece that refutes an attack could be eliminated by using a separate board, so while using it will undoubtedly hinder a player's personal improvement, not using it will place him in disadvantage over another player who does.

Assuming external help is forbidden, is it ethical to use a scratch board in correspondence chess? Am I wrong that it goes against the spirit of chess?

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    Why not just agree with the person you're playing with on how you want to do it? – user1954 Mar 8 at 15:08
  • @BenCrowell There are normally tacit assumptions of the rules. From the answers and comments, I've learned there is no consensus on the case in question. In such cases, a previous explicit agreement is indeed the best. But I guess at the technology era online platforms will consolidate a de facto standard, even if involuntarily. – Quasímodo Mar 8 at 19:30
  • Nice question. I sometimes use a board. It never occurred to me that there could be ethical considerations. – Michael West Mar 9 at 18:50

Your question is a bit paradox: analyzing is the whole point of correspondence chess (and since strong engines exist, it is sort of a zombie). It is very unfortunate (and not your fault) that Lichess called it that way in the first place: e.g. ICCF explicitely allows engines. Better would be calling it "very long time chess". Consequently, you may analyze per hand. Of course, you again must distinguish from, how shall I call it, postal chess - a friendly game between strangers just for the sake that it's possible (today much faster and easier, of course), and you tacitly agree not to analyze.

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    ICCF rules – SecretAgentMan Mar 7 at 20:21
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    Thank you for the answer! I'm confused: I did assume correspondence chess was just "very long time chess" indeed (at least under Lichess it is, as you say), did the meaning totally change since the introduction of engines so that it is now "computer assisted chess"? The whole chess (except maybe for bullet) would be sort of zombie by that logic, but since players are not allowed to use engines, it is still alive (assuming they don't cheat). – Quasímodo Mar 7 at 20:32
  • @Quasímodo: No idea of the meaning changed (I never played correspondence), but the praxis definitely. (See Wiki article.) Chess itself is somewhat zombie-resistant, as it is not that trivial to bring an engine to an OTB fight, but that can only change to the worse when technology marches on. – Hauke Reddmann Mar 8 at 9:27
  • Is this correct?: "Having a separate board for unaided analysis is actually a normal/expected thing in correspondence chess, as opposed to tighter time controls." Is that what your answer tries to convey? Sorry if I'm being a bit slow. The Wikipedia article provides no insight on that. – Quasímodo Mar 8 at 12:18
  • @Quasímodo: Yes, this was true at all times. – Hauke Reddmann Mar 8 at 17:24

In its FAQ, lichess explicitly states their rules for what they call "correspondence chess":

Is correspondence different from normal chess?

On Lichess, the main difference in rules for correspondence chess is that an opening book is allowed. The use of engines is still prohibited and will result in being flagged for engine assistance. Although ICCF allows engine use in correspondence, Lichess does not.

I found no official mention of manual analysis on a separate board (except on forum threads), but the lichess user interface explicitly and deliberately provides easy access to both an opening database and an on-line analysis board (with engine features disabled). Thus, it is safe to assume that this is considered "part of the game". It would be nonsensical to allow an on-line analysis board, but disallow an off-line "physical" analysis board.

This is consistent with the correspondence chess rules and the user interface of other online chess platforms, e.g. gameknot (which explicitly allows move databases but disallows end-game tables) and chess.com (same).

Obviously, you are free to play by stricter rules if your opponent agrees.

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    One thing I would add is that this analysis board and opening book aren't terribly obvious, so I point them out whenever I'm playing with someone new. As long as you both have full information about what the other is doing and agree, it can't be unethical – llama Mar 8 at 18:43
  • @llama Indeed, I for one only found it out because I wanted to premove and using that board is the only way. – Quasímodo Mar 8 at 19:31

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