Correspondence Chess Basics and FAQ

WHAT IS CORRESPONDENCE CHESS?

Correspondence chess is chess played by various forms of long-distance correspondence at a much slower time control (we're talking days per move rather than hours or minutes!) than over-the-board chess.

US Chess Correspondence Chess (CC) is a great way to improve your game and have fun. You don't even have to leave home! US Chess offers CC play by sending moves through regular postal mail, via email or using a correspondence chess server.

GETTING STARTED IS EASY!

You choose which event you wish to enter. You can play against one opponent (match), three opponents (quad), or even six opponents (round robin). Tournament entry fees vary depending on the tournament format and the prizes involved.

For example, let's assume you're already a US Chess member and you want to enter a tournament in which you play against three opponents. (That's the maximum we recommend for beginners.) Once you submit your entry fee, we pair you with three other players according to the approximate strength you indicated on your entry form.

All four of you are sent a copy of the same pairing sheet. Players are given numbers 1 through 4, and playing assignments are noted accordingly. The pairing sheet includes the name and addresses (regular or email) of your three opponents, as well as information on the tournament format. You will play a total of six games - two against each of your three opponents, once as White and once as Black. After receiving the pairing sheet, note what player number you are assigned. Refer to the pairing chart and see whether or not you have to send your first White moves to any of your opponents.

It's possible that you are assigned Black for all three first games. In that case, wait to receive a White move for Game A from your three opponents. After you receive each opponent's first White move, respond with your Black move. At the same time, send your first White move for Game B in the same email or on the same postcard. After the first moves have been exchanged, you will be sending two moves each time; one move for Game A and another for Game B.

REFLECTION TIME

If you are asking, "How do we keep track of time?" - it's easy. We allow 30 days of reflection time to make every 10 moves. Unused time can be carried forward to the next 10-move series, which allows you plenty of time later in the game when you want to ponder a position.

Email events and Postal events count reflection time in slightly different ways:

  • For email events, the date/time your server receives the email is important, not the date/time you actually open the email and read it. If you only take up to 23 hours and 59 minutes to send your reply, based on the date/time your server says the email was received, then you use zero days of reflection time. If you used at least 24 hours then you used one day, at least 48 hours would be 2 days, etc.
  • For postal events, if you receive a move from your opponent today and your reply is postmarked the same day, you used zero days of reflection time. If your reply is postmarked the next day, you used one day, etc.

WHAT EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?

For email games you need access to a reliable email account and for correspondence chess server games you need access to the internet. For games played by postal mail, we highly recommend move-mailing postcard such as those sold by US Chess at https://www.uscfsales.com/correspondence-chess-move-mail-card-50-pack.html.

HOW TO SEND YOUR MOVE

Example: Today's date is September 6, 2020. The section number is 20CD01. If you're sending your first move as White, you wouldn't have an email or card from your opponent. Thus, you won't be noting any receipt date from the email or postmark. "Received date" is the date you received the tournament pairing sheet/opponent's move. If you receive and sent your reply move on the same day and your postmark is also the same date, your reflection time is zero days.

Let's say your reply date is September 7, 2020. "My time," meaning your reflection time used on the move, would be one day - provided you receive a postmark date of September 7, 2020. Your total time would be one day, since this is move 1. "Your time" refers to the reflection time your opponent used. Since this is move 1 of Game A, there's no need to fill in these blanks. (However, if you were on move 2, you would have to give an account of your opponent's reflection time calculation as of this move.)

Game A: Since you're playing White, your name goes in the blank box above "White" and your opponent's name goes in the blank box above "Black." Below the box labeled "Game A," under "Move no.," write "1." In the next blank box to the right, note your first move; for example "e4." This is all you would send at this time, because you can't send a move for Game B until you receive your opponent's first White move for that game.

You may be asking, "Why so many blank boxes to write just one move for each game?" Once you receive your opponent's move, you're required to note what your opponent's move was, along with your reply. This enables your opponent to be sure you understood and noted his move correctly.

Once your move-mailing card is filled in, write the names and addresses, put on the correct postage, and pop the card in the mail!

When sending the above moves in an email, it would look something like this:

  • Date: September 7, 2020
  • Section: 20CD01
  • Your move received: September 6, 2020
  • My time: 1 day / Total time: 1 day
  • Your time: 0 days / Total time: 0 days
  • Game A Move: 1.e4
  • Game B Move: N/A

Say your opponent replies via email on September 8, 2020, and you then send your next moves on September 10, 2020, your email would look something like this:

  • Date: September 10, 2020
  • Section: 20CD01
  • Your move received: September 8, 2020
  • My time: 2 days / Total time: 3 days
  • Your time: 1 day / Total time: 1 day
  • Game A Move: 1...c5 2.Nf3 (note we put the opponent's move to act as a confirmation for accuracy)
  • Game B Move: 1.d4 Nf6

"If" moves are also an option. These are moves you offer based on your opponent's acceptance of certain moves. Newcomers are not advised to use "if" moves.

ALGEBRAIC NOTATION

US Chess CC play requires the use of algebraic notation (AN), unless you and your opponent agree to another form. AN is easy to learn, simple to use, and useful for enjoying chess columns and chess books. If you don't already know AN or need to brush up, click here to learn it.

COMPUTER ASSISTANCE

US Chess CC play does NOT allow the use of computer chess playing algorithms or programs/engines to assist you in coming up with your moves and/or analyzing your positions. However, you may use a computer program to help you keep track of your games, and you may use any published opening database or endgame tablebase in your games, even if those are attained via a computer program or online.

HOW DO I GET AN OFFICIAL US CHESS CC RATING?

As a newcomer, you must indicate on the tournament entry form your approximate playing strength. This enables us to pair you appropriately with your opponents. Four rating levels are available. Class A: Very strong; Class B: Strong; Class C: Intermediate; and Class D: Novice. If you just learned how to play chess, you are considered Class D. If you know how to play and write notation and are familiar with all aspects of the game, we suggest Class C.

When you receive your pairing sheet (as described below), regardless of which Class you noted, your rating will appear as "Unr." When your first game is finished, we calculate your rating based on your result. If you're interested in the details of how the CC rating formula works, see our CC Ratings Explanation further down this page.

You now have a US Chess correspondence chess rating! Each CC game is rated as soon as it's finished. You may wish to enter more CC events, so having a chess rating will be helpful in matching you with new opponents of a similar level.

READY TO PLAY CC?

You should now have a better understanding of what CC is, and some idea what items you'll need to help keep your game records accurate. When you receive your pairing sheet, you will have a better idea who sends the first move to whom! You've also found out how to write chess moves and how to achieve a chess rating.

Well, that about covers it! We're more than happy to answer any questions. Now, let's play some correspondence chess! To register for a US Chess correspondence chess event online please visit: https://secure2.uschess.org/webstore/tournament.php.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I play US Chess Correspondence Chess will I get a correspondence chess rating?

A: Yes! As soon as you finish your first game, notify the Correspondence Chess Director (CCD) at US Chess and a provisional rating will be calculated. After you have 25 CC games rated, your rating is recognized as established. After each game, your result information will be posted in an online searchable database for CC players at http://www.uschess.org/datapage/corr-history.php.

Q: I am unrated, how do I determine what Class to start in?

  • Class A: Very strong (1800 and above)
  • Class B: Strong (1600-1799)
  • Class C: Intermediate (1400-1599)
  • Class D: Novice/beginner to chess (1399 and below)
  • (Note: If you have a US Chess over-the-board rating, use this as a guide.)

Q: Can I use my chess computer?

A: No! Using the chess playing algorithms of a software program, except when such computers/programs are expressly permitted by special rules, is prohibited. However, you may use a computer program to help you keep track of your games, and you may use any published opening database or endgame tablebase in your games, even if those are attained via a computer program or online.

Q: Can I refer to chess books?

A: Yes. Players are free to consult chess publications or literature but are not permitted to consult with other players.

Q: What equipment do I need?

A: For email games you need access to a reliable email account and for correspondence chess server games you need access to the internet. For games played by postal mail, we highly recommend move-mailing postcard such as those sold by US Chess at https://www.uscfsales.com/correspondence-chess-move-mail-card-50-pack.html.

Q: How do I contact my opponent?

A: You will receive a pairing sheet w/playing instructions from the Correspondence Chess Director (CCD). If you are playing in a postal mail event, it will be sent through email for players that have an email account on file with US Chess and by postal mail for all others. If you are playing in an email or correspondence chess server event, the pairings will be sent to you at your email address. You will exchange moves with your opponent via the format of the event you are participating in. If you are playing in a postal mail event but you and your opponent want to exchange moves using email, it will be allowed.

Q: Can I achieve a title?

A: US Chess awards the following Correspondence Chess titles to players with established ratings (at least 26 games) if your rating is: 2000-2199 the title is Candidate Master, 2200-2399 is Master and 2400+ is Senior Master.

Q: Where can I find the Official US Chess Correspondence Chess Rules?

A: https://new.uschess.org/correspondence-chess/rules.

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