ChessBase and Correspondence chess – part 2

3/27/2007 – In the latest of an ongoing series of ChessBase Workshop columns on correspondence chess, we describe how to set up your correspondence "recorder" databases. That's no typo -- you'll need more than one database. Find out why in the new ChessBase Workshop.

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In last week's ChessBase Workshop we excavated an old essay of mine on the benefits of playing correspondence chess, which also examined the differences between using a database (legal) and a chess engine (usually illegal) in correspondence play. This time around we'll start an examination of using ChessBase as a correspondence tool, beginning with the task of setting up your databases for correspondence play.

The first idea we'll look at is the use of two databases for each of your correspondence events: one for the games as actually played and a second to store your analysis. I think the reasons for this should be pretty obvious, but we'll discuss them anyway, especially for the benefit of readers who have limited experience in playing correspondence chess.

The single biggest reason for maintaining two separate databases is to avoid confusion. As an example, we'll use a typical USCF quad postal event as an example. In such an event, you'll be matched against three other players and contest two games against each of them -- one as White and one as Black. Your first database will contain six games total -- the games actually played in the event -- but the only moves contained in these games will be the ones actually played by you and your opponents. When you receive a new move from an opponent, you just add it to the gamescore, make the appropriate comments concerning date and time used (by using the "Special annotation" features provided by ChessBase for this purpose), and then use "Replace game" to store the information. After you've decided on your reply (by using the database research tools in ChessBase and/or by shuffling the pieces in the game contained in your second database), you simply add your move to the game in your first database, make any correspondence annotations required, and again use "Replace game" to save it. Optionally, you can then print out your reply card or send the move via e-mail from directly within ChessBase (two features which we will briefly touch on later).

You second database will also contain the same six games, but will have your "home analysis" added to them. The beauty of using ChessBase as a postal recorder and analytical tool is that you can shuffle pieces around to your heart's content, creating incredibly complex and detailed trees of analysis, and save the entire batch of analysis without worrying about having to write all of the information down -- you just use "Replace game" to save your work instantly. Here's an example of "homebrew analysis" of a game in the Danish Gambit, previously published on one of my old web pages (and later reprinted in Chess Horizons) all of which was done and stored simply by shuffling pieces around in ChessBase:

Lopez, S. - NN [C44]
casual e-mail 1999

1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.c3 dxc3 4.Bc4 cxb2 5.Bxb2 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bb4+ 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.Qc2 0-0

[8...0-0 9.0-0-0 (9.e5 Ng4 10.e6 Re8) 9...Bxc3 10.Qxc3]

9.0-0-0 d6 10.e5 Ng4 11.h4 Ncxe5 12.Ng5 g6 13.Nce4 Bf5 14.Qb3
This is the "winning" position in which I was interested.

14...a5

[14...Bxe4 15.Qxb4 (15.Nxe4 Nxc4 16.Qxc4 Re8 17.Ng5 Bc5 18.Qxf7#) 15...Nxf2 16.Rhe1 Nxd1 17.Rxd1 Nxc4 18.Qxc4 d5;
14...Ba5 15.Nxf7 Nxf7 16.Bxf7+ Rxf7 17.Ng5 Kf8 (17...Nxf2 18.Qxf7#) 18.Qxf7#]

15.h5

[15.Bxe5 Nxe5 16.Bxf7+ Nxf7 (16...Rxf7 17.Nxf7 Nxf7 18.Ng5 Qd7) 17.Nxf7 Rxf7 18.Nf6+ Kh8 19.Ng4 Kg8 20.Nf6+;
15.f4 Nxc4 16.Qxc4 Bxe4 17.Qxe4 (17.Qd4 f6 18.Ne6 Bc5 19.Nxd8 Bxd4 20.Rxd4 Raxd8 21.Rxe4 Nf2 22.Bxf6 Nxe4 23.Bxd8 Rxd8) 17...Nf2;
15.Nxf7 A) 15...Rxf7 16.Bxf7+ Nxf7 17.Ng5 (17.Nf6+ Kf8 18.Nxh7+ Kg8 19.Ng5 Qf8) 17...Qd7 18.Nxf7 Qxf7 19.Qxf7+ Kxf7; B) 15...Nxf7 16.Bxf7+ Rxf7 17.Ng5 Qf8 18.h5; 15.a3 Nxc4 (15...Bxe4 16.Nxe4 Nxc4 17.Qxc4 Bc5 18.Nxc5 Nxf2 19.Nxb7 Qe8 20.Rde1 Qc8) 16.Qxc4 Bxe4 17.Nxe4 Bc5 18.Nxc5 Nxf2 19.Nxb7; 15.Nxh7 Kxh7 16.h5; 15.Bxf7+ A) 15...Nxf7 16.Nf6+ (16.Nxf7 Rxf7 17.Ng5 Qd7 18.Nxf7 Qxf7 19.Qxf7+ Kxf7) 16...Kh8 17.Nfxh7+ Kg8 18.Nxf8 (18.Nf6+ Kh8 19.Nfh7+ Kg8 20.Nf6+) 18...Qxf8 19.Nxf7 Qxf7 20.Qxf7+ Kxf7; B) 15...Kh8 16.Bc4 (16.f4 Nf2 17.Nxf2 Rxf7 18.Nxf7+) 16...Bxe4 17.Nxe4 Nxf2 18.Nxf2 Rxf2 19.Bxe5+; C) 15...Rxf7 C1) 16.Nxf7 Nxf7 C1a) 17.Ng5 Qf8 (17...Qd7 18.a3 Nxf2 19.axb4 axb4 20.Qxb4 Nxd1 21.Rxd1; 17...Qe7) ; C1b) 17.Nf6+ 17...Kf8 (17...Kh8 18.Qxf7 g5 19.hxg5; 17...Nxf6) 18.Nxh7+ Kg8 19.Nf6+; C2) 16.f3 C2a) 16...Nf6 17.Nxf6+ Qxf6 18.Nxf7 Qxf7 (18...Nxf7 19.Bxf6) 19.Qxf7+ Nxf7 20.g4 Be6 21.h5 g5; C2b) 16...Nh6 17.Bxe5; 15.Bd5 c6 16.Bxf7+ Nxf7 17.Nxf7 Rxf7 18.Rxd6 (18.Nxd6 Bxd6 19.Qc3 Nf6) 18...Qe8;
15.f3 A) 15...Nf6 16.Nxf6+ Qxf6 17.Ne4 Qe7 A1) 18.a3 Nxc4 19.Qxc4 Bc5 20.g4 Be6 21.Qc3 f6 22.Ng5 Bf7 23.h5 Kg7 24.hxg6 Bxg6 25.Rxh7+ Kg8 (25...Bxh7 26.Nxh7 Kxh7 27.Rh1+ Kg7 28.Qc2 Rh8) 26.Rdh1; A2) 18.Ng5 18...Nxc4 19.Qxc4; B) 15...Nf2 16.Nxf2 Nxc4 17.Qxc4]

15...Qe7

[15...Bxe4 16.hxg6 A) 16...hxg6 17.Qh3 Nxf2 18.Qh8#; B) 16...Nxg6 17.f3 (17.Rxh7 Re8 18.Bxf7+ Kf8 19.Bxg6) 17...Nf2 18.Rxh7; C) 16...Bxg6 17.f4 (17.Qh3 Nh6 18.Qxh6) 17...Nf2 18.fxe5 Nxd1 19.Rxd1 Bh5 20.Rd2;
15...gxh5 16.Rxh5 Bg6 A) 17.Qh3 Nxc4 (17...Nf6 18.Nxf6+ Qxf6 19.Rxh7 Bxh7 20.Qxh7#) 18.Rxh7 Bxh7 19.Qxh7#; B) 17.Rh2 17...Bxe4 18.Nxh7;
15...Nxc4 A) 16.hxg6 A1) 16...Nxb2; A2) 16...Bxg6 17.Nf6+ Kh8 18.Rxh7+ Bxh7 19.Nfxh7+ Kg8 20.Nf6+ Kh8 21.Rh1+ Nh2 22.Rxh2+ Kg7 23.Rh7+ Kg6 24.Qd3+ Kxg5 25.Rg7+ Kf4 (25...Kh4 26.Qh3#) 26.g3#; A3) 16...hxg6 17.Rh8#; B) 16.Nf6+ Kh8 17.hxg6 fxg6 (17...Qxf6 18.Bxf6+ Kg8 19.gxh7+) 18.Rxh7#; C) 16.Qxc4 16...Bxe4 17.Nxe4 g5]

16.hxg6

[16.Nxh7 Kxh7 17.hxg6+ A) 17...Kg7 18.Rh7+ (18.Rh5) 18...Kg8 19.g7 Bxh7; B) 17...Kg8 18.Bxf7+ Rxf7 19.gxf7+ Qxf7 20.Qxf7+ Kxf7 (20...Nxf7 21.f3) 21.Ng5+]

16...Bxg6

[16...Bxe4 17.f4 (17.Qh3 Qxg5+ 18.Rd2; 17.gxh7+ Kg7 18.h8Q+ Rxh8 19.Rxh8 Rxh8; 17.Nxh7) 17...Nf2 18.Rxh7 Nxd1 19.Qxd1;
16...hxg6 17.Rh7 (17.Qh3) 17...Bxe4 18.Bxf7+ (18.Rdh1 Qxg5+ 19.Kd1 Nf6) 18...Nxf7 19.Nxf7 Rxf7 20.Rxf7 Qxf7 21.Qxf7+ Kxf7]

17.f4

[17.Qh3 A) 17...h5 A1) 18.f4 Nf2 19.Nxf2 Nxc4 A1a) 20.f5 Nxb2 (20...Qxg5+) 21.fxg6 fxg6 22.Qe6+ (22.g4 Qxg5+) 22...Qxe6 23.Nxe6 Nxd1 24.Nxf8 Nxf2 25.Nxg6 Nxh1; A1b) 20.Bd4 Bd2+ 21.Rxd2 Nxd2 22.Kxd2; A1c) 20.Qxh5 20...Bxh5 21.Rxh5 f6 22.Ng4 fxg5 23.Nf6+ Rxf6 24.Bxf6 Qxf6; A2) 18.Qh4 Nxc4 19.Bf6 Nxf6 (19...Qe6 20.Qxh5 Bxh5 21.Rxh5) 20.Nxf6+ Qxf6; A3) 18.Qxh5 18...Bxh5 19.Rxh5 Kg7 20.Rdh1 Kg6 21.Nf3 Nxf3 22.gxf3 Nf6 23.Rh6+ (23.Nxf6) 23...Kf5 24.Rg1; B) 17...Nxf2 18.Nxf2 Qxg5+; C) 17...Nxc4 18.Qxh7+ Bxh7 19.Rxh7 Nce5 20.Rdh1 Ng6 21.Rh8+ Nxh8 22.Rxh8#;
17.Qg3; 17.Ne6 fxe6 18.Bxe6+ Kh8 19.Ng5 Qxg5+;
17.a3 Bxe4 (17...Bc5 18.Qg3 Bxf2 19.Nxf2 Nxf2 20.Qxf2 Qxg5+ 21.Rd2 Nxc4) 18.Nxe4 Bc5 19.Qh3 Nf6 20.Nxf6+ Qxf6 21.Qxh7#;
17.Bd5 c6; 17.Bxf7+ A) 17...Bxf7 A1) 18.Qxf7+ Rxf7; A2) 18.Qh3 A2a) 18...h5 19.Nxf7 Rxf7 20.Qxh5 Rh7 21.Qg5+ (21.Qxh7+ Qxh7 22.Rxh7 Kxh7 23.Rh1+) 21...Qxg5+ 22.Nxg5 Rxh1 23.Rxh1; A2b) 18...Nxf2 19.Qxh7#; A3) 18.Rxh7 18...Bxb3; B) 17...Rxf7 18.Nxf7 Bxf7 19.Qh3 Bg6;
17.Nxh7 A) 17...Nxf2 18.Nxf8 A1) 18...Nxd1 19.Nxg6 Nxg6 20.Rh8+ Nxh8 A1a) 21.Nf6+ Kg7 22.Nh5+ (22.Qg3+ Kh6 23.Qf4+ Kg6 24.Bd3+ Kg7) ; A1b) 21.Qxd1 21...Qg5+ 22.Kb1; A2) 18...Nxh1 19.Rxh1 Bxe4 20.Qg3+ Bg6 21.Nxg6 Nxg6 22.Qxg6+ Kf8 23.Rh8#; A3) 18...Kxf8 19.Rh8+ Kg7 20.Rxa8 Nxe4 21.a3 Qg5+ 22.Kb1 Nc5+ 23.Ka2 Nxb3; B) 17...Bxe4 18.Nxf8 Kxf8 19.Rh8+ Kg7 20.Qh3 Qf6 21.f3 (21.Bxe5 dxe5 22.Qxg4+ Kxh8 23.Qxe4) 21...Nf2; C) 17...Bxh7 18.Qh3 (18.Rxh7 Kxh7 19.Qh3+ Kg7 20.Rh1 Nxf2 21.Qh7#) 18...Nf6 (18...Nxf2 19.Qxh7#) 19.Nxf6+ Qxf6 20.Qxh7#;
17.Bc3 A) 17...Nxc4 18.Qxc4 Bxc3 19.Qxc3 f6 20.Nxf6+ (20.Qc4+ Bf7 21.Nxf6+) 20...Qxf6 21.Nxh7 Bxh7 22.Qc4+; B) 17...Bxc3 18.Qxc3 B1) 18...Nxc4 19.Nf6+ B1a) 19...Kg7 20.Nd5+ f6 21.Nxe7; B1b) 19...Kh8 20.Nfxh7+ (20.Nd5+ Kg8 21.Nxe7#) 20...Kg8 21.Nf6+ Kg7 22.Nd5+ f6 23.Nxf6 Rxf6; B1c) 19...Nxf6 20.Qxc4 h5; B2) 18...Bxe4 19.Nxh7 Bxh7 20.Rxh7 Kxh7 21.Qc2+ (21.Bd3+ Nxd3+ 22.Qxd3+ Kh8 23.Qd4+ Kh7 24.Rh1+ Kg8 25.Qh8#) 21...Kg7 22.Rh1 Nf6 (22...Qg5+ 23.Kb1 Nxc4 24.Qxc4 Qf5+ 25.Ka1 Nxf2) ]

17...Nxc4

[17...Bxe4 18.Nxe4 Nf2 19.Nxf2 Nxc4 A) 20.Qh3 Qe3+ 21.Qxe3 Nxe3 22.Rdg1 (22.Rd3 Nxg2 23.Rdh3 f5 24.Rxh7 Nxf4 25.Rh8+ Kf7 26.R8h7+) 22...Nd5 23.Ng4 Rfe8 (23...Bc5 24.Rf1) 24.Rh5; B) 20.Qxc4 ;
17...Nf2 18.Nxf2 Nxc4 19.Qxc4 Qe3+ 20.Rd2 Qxd2#]

18.Qxc4

[18.Qh3 A) 18...Nxb2 19.Nxh7 f5 20.Nxf8 Qxf8 21.Qh8+ Kf7 22.Rh7+ Bxh7 23.Qxh7+ Ke6 24.Ng5+ Kf6 25.Kxb2; B) 18...Bxe4 19.Nxe4 (19.Qxg4 Bg6 20.Nxh7 Rfe8 21.Bf6) 19...Qxe4 20.Qxg4+; C) 18...Nce5 ]

18...Rae8

[18...Bxe4 19.Qxe4 (19.Nxe4 Qe6 20.Qxe6 fxe6 21.Rdf1 Ne3) 19...f5 (19...Qxe4 20.Nxe4) 20.Qd5+ Rf7 21.Nxf7 Qxf7 22.Qxf7+ Kxf7 23.Rxh7+ Ke6 24.Re1+;
18...h5 19.Nf6+ Kh8 20.Nd5+ Kg8 21.Nxe7#;
18...d5 19.Qxd5 Rad8 20.Qb3 Rxd1+ 21.Qxd1;
18...Nf2 A) 19.Rde1 Bxe1 (19...Nxe4 20.Nxe4 Bxe4 21.Rxe4; 19...Nxh1 20.Nf6+ Kg7 21.Rxe7) ; B) 19.Nxf2 ; 18...Rae8]

19.Nxh7

[19.Qd4 f6 (19...Nf6 20.Nxh7 Bxh7 21.Rxh7 Kxh7 22.Ng5+ Kg7 23.Rh1 Rh8 24.Rxh8 Rxh8 25.Qxf6+ Qxf6 26.Bxf6+ Kxf6 27.g3) 20.Nxf6+ Qxf6 (20...Rxf6 21.f5 Nf2 22.fxg6 hxg6) 21.Qxf6 Rxf6 22.Bxf6 Nf2;
19.a3 Bc5 20.g3 Qxe4 21.Nxe4 Rxe4 22.Qxe4 Bxe4 23.Rhe1 Nf2]

19...Qxe4

[19...Nf2 20.Nxf8 Nxd1 (20...Nxh1 21.Rxh1) 21.Rh8#; 19...Bxe4 20.Nxf8 Qxf8 (20...Bh7 21.Rxh7 Kxf8 22.Rh8#) ;
19...Ne5 20.fxe5 dxe5 21.Nxf8;
19...Qe6 20.Nxf8 (20.Qxe6 Rxe6 21.Nxf8 Kxf8 22.Rh8+ Ke7 23.Ng5) 20...Qxc4+ 21.Kb1 Bxe4+ 22.Ka1 Bc3;
19...Bxh7 20.Rxh7 (20.Ng5 Qe3+ 21.Rd2 Qxd2#) 20...Kxh7 (20...Nf6 21.Bxf6) 21.Ng5+ Kh6 22.Qf1 Qe3+ 23.Kb1 Re7 24.Qh1+ Kg6 25.Qh7#]

20.Nf6+

[20.Ng5 Qxc4+ 21.Bc3 Qxc3#;
20.Qxe4 Rxe4 (20...Bxe4 21.Nxf8 Kxf8 22.Rh8+ Ke7 23.Rxe8+ Kxe8 24.Rd4 Bg6 25.g3) A) 21.Ng5 A1) 21...Rc4+ 22.Bc3 Rxc3+ 23.Kd2 Rc4+ 24.Ke2 Re8+ 25.Kf3 Re3+ (25...Nf6 26.Rh4 Be4+ 27.Nxe4 Rexe4 28.Rdh1 Kf8) 26.Kxg4; A2) 21...Rfe8 22.Rh8#; B) 21.Nxf8 21...Kxf8 22.Rh8+ Ke7]

20...Nxf6 21.Qxe4

[21.Bxf6 Qe3+ 22.Rd2 Qxd2#]

21...Rxe4

[21...Bxe4 22.Bxf6 Ba3+ 23.Kd2 Bb4+ 24.Ke2 Bf5+ 25.Kf3 Be4+ 26.Kg4 Bh7 27.Rh5 Re2 28.Rdh1 Rfe8 (28...Rxg2+ 29.Kf3 Re8 30.Rxh7 Kf8 31.Rh8+ Rg8 32.Rxg8+ Kxg8 33.Rh8#) 29.Rxh7 Kf8 30.Rh8#]

22.Bxf6

[22.Rd4 Rfe8 23.Rxe4 Rxe4 24.Bxf6 Rc4+ 25.Bc3 Rxc3+ 26.Kb2]

22...Bh7

[22...Rc4+ 23.Bc3 (23.Kb2 Rc2+ 24.Kb3 Rc3+ 25.Ka4 Re8 26.Rh8#) 23...Rxc3+ 24.Kb2 Rc2+ A) 25.Ka1 Bc3+ 26.Kb1 Rb2+ 27.Kc1 (27.Ka1 Re8 28.Rh3 Rxg2+ 29.Rxc3) 27...Bd2+ (27...Rxa2 28.Rh3 Bb4 29.Rd2 Rxd2) 28.Kxb2; B) 25.Kb3 25...Rc3+ 26.Kb2 Ba3+ 27.Ka1;
22...Bh7 A) 23.Rxh7 Kxh7 (23...Rc4+) 24.Rh1+ Kg6 (24...Kg8 25.Rh8#) 25.Bg5 (25.Bb2 Rxf4 26.g3; 25.g4 Kxf6 26.g5+ Kf5) A1) 25...Kf5; A2) 25...Ba3+ 26.Kb1 (26.Kd1 Rfe8 27.Bh4 Kh5 28.g3 Re1+ 29.Rxe1 Rxe1+) 26...Re1+ 27.Kc2 Rxh1; A3) 25...Rc4+ 26.Kb1 Bd2 27.Kb2 (27.Rh6+ Kf5 28.g4+ Ke4 29.Rh3) 27...Rb4+ 28.Ka3 Bc1+ 29.Rxc1; B) 23.Bb2 Rc4+ 24.Bc3 Rxc3+ 25.Kd2 Rc2+ 26.Ke3 Re8+ 27.Kf3 Be4+ 28.Kg4 Rxg2+ 29.Kh5 Bg6+ 30.Kh4 Re4 31.Rdf1 Bd2; C) 23.Kb2 23...Re2+ 24.Kb3 Re3+ 25.Ka4 Ra3+ 26.Kb5 c6+ 27.Kb6 Bc5+ 28.Kc7]

23.Rxh7 Kxh7 24.Rh1+ Kg6 0-1

Now bear in mind that my purpose in presenting this was not to have you play through this insane amount of analysis (feel free to do so if you like, but please don't take the trouble to send me e-mails about the analysis; I received a couple dozen such missives during the time this game was previously available online), but was instead intended simply to illustrate the sheer volume of correspondence analysis that can be entered and stored using ChessBase. Truth be known, this is actually not all that extensive in comparison with my analysis of some other correspondence games I've played; a few trees from my early correspondence games are truly mind-boggling. I once printed and snail-mailed one of these trees to an opponent after our game had ended and it ran something like twenty or twenty-five printed pages.

So I recommend that you keep your analysis in a separate database from the one containing the ongoing games as they're actually played. There are some practical reasons for this. When I used to keep a single database (with twelve games in it, each game given twice, once for the actual moves and once with my analysis) I'd sometimes get confused and accidentally add my analysis to the ongoing game instead of the "analysis game", requiring me to drag and drop the analysis to the correct game and edit the analysis out of the ongoing (actual) one. As a corollary to this, you don't want to accidentally e-mail your presonal analysis to your opponent. Keeping the analysis in a separate database prevents confusion; it also saves you the trouble of editing out your analysis of possible future developments before sending your move to your opponent.

Your first preparatory step in ChessBase is to create a new empty database to store the ongoing games as they are actually played (as opposed to your own analysis). Fire up the program, go to the File menu, select "New", and "Database" from the submenu. You'll get the Windows File Select dialogue in which you'll select a folder in which to house the database and also name the database file. What you do here basically depends on how organized you want to be (you could create a separate folder for just your correspondence databases, or even create separate folders for each event if you're playing in more than one simultaneously). Naming your databases works the same way. A good rule of thumb is to name your databases after the alpha-numeric tournament code that the organizing federation, league, or website typically assigns to the event. For example, when you receive your confirmation message (letter or e-mail) for the event (a message which will typically also contain the names of your opponents, which we'll return to in a moment), you create two databases named after the event. If the number of the event is, say, "06a0060", you'd create two databases named as follows: "06a0060games.cbh" and "06a0060analysis.cbh". Of course, all of this is ultimately up to you, but organization is a key concept in correspondence chess -- I won't say that the correspondence game is as much about record-keeping as it is about the actual moves, but accurate record-keeping is certainly crucial to being a successful correspondence chessplayer.

After you've created a database you can right-click on it and select "Properties" to change its default "generic" icon to something more significant. You might change the icon's picture to the "corrrespondence" graphic of a postcard and change the text in the "Name" field if you wish (but keep in mind that you'll still need to differentiate between your actual game database and your analysis database). Click "OK" after you've made your selections.

Now you can start creating and saving "blank" games into your database if the tournament organizer has provided you with the names of your opponents. Double-click on the database's icon to open the (blank) game list. Then click on the "chessboard" button on ChessBase's toolbar (or else go to the File menu, select "New", then "Board"). This will open up a new game window.

What you'll do next is to right-click in the Notation pane, select "Special annotation" from the popup menu, then "Correspondence header" from the submenu:

This dialogue allows you to set the correspondence parameters for your game (not the whole database); ergo you'll need to set up this information for each game in the database individually.

Let's examine each of these parameters in just a bit more detail, tab by tab.

Time control tab

Here's where you set the time control parameters for your game. You can set a starting date, and the little "arrow" button on the right of this field will open up a calendar in which you can click on the starting date.

You typically won't click the box next to "Time control 1 up to move" unless the organizer has specified some sort of secondary "sudden death" time control. This is pretty rare; in fact, I've never seen this used in actual correspondence play. We'll come back to this in a moment.

The "Time control 1" section allows you to set the main time control of the event; the default is ten moves in thirty days, which is pretty much the standard for the majority of correspondence events. It's not my purpose in this series of columns to describe correspondence chess rules in detail; I'm assuming that you're already familiar with the basic rules and concepts for the league/federation/website running the event. However I will mention that "ten moves in thirty days" is your total reflection time, not counting the time your opponent spends considering his moves or the "transit time" that a postcard spends in the care of the postal service. Basically, your reflection time is essentially the same as your clock time in an over-the-board event; in the latter, "forty moves in two hours" means that you must complete your fortieth move before your flag falls at the end of two hours on your clock -- ergo there will be a possible combined four hours for both you and your opponent to make time control. In correrspondence chess played at ten moves in thirty days, you and your opponent have a combined two months to make your first ten moves (not counting postal transit time, which can add a few more weeks to that figure). You can infer from this that it'll take you about three months just to develop the opening, assuming that you and your opponent use all of your allotted time. In practice, though, the opening tends to go pretty quickly -- it's fairly uncommon to use all thirty days on just the opening. And bear in mind, too, that in most federations any unused time carries over to the next thirty day "time control"; in the game I'll use later as an example, I made the first time control (move ten) on the thirteenth day -- the remaining seventeen days carried over, meaning that I had a total of forty-seven days to play my next ten moves.

The block for "Time control 2" will be greyed out in half-tone unless you've checked the "Time control 1 up to move" box. When you check this box, the "Time control 2" block becomes active and you can set the secondary "sudden death" time parameter.

Finally you just check the color pieces you're playing in that game.

Game info tab

This acts as your "game clock" and will show the time you've used, the amount of time you have left, and the per-move average amount of time you've spent. It will also display this information for your opponent. There's nothing for you to change or set here; this is purely an informational display that you can refer to during the course of your game.

E-mail tab

Obviously, this allows you to set the parameters for games played via e-mail. You'll check "Maximum days" if your e-mail league or website has set a "cap" on the length of time a game may last; after checking this box, the "Days" dialogue becomes active and you can set the figure accordingly.

"Use time" should be checked if the tournament's organizer stipulates that accumulated time will be judged down to the minute (rather than simply by day); ChessBase will then keep track of accumulated time accordingly. Checking this box will activate the "Use stamp" toggle; the time at which you actually transmit a move (by using the e-mail link in ChessBase) will be logged by the software.

"ICCF" will cause the software to transmit an e-mailed move using international correspondence notation instead of normal algebraic notation. Info on this notation system can be found online or in books on correspondence chess, and your tournament organizer should stipulate whether or not ICCF notation should be used.

"Append PGN" and "Attach diagram" will determine whether or not the PGN notation of the entire game to date and a diagram will be included in your e-mail when you send it from within ChessBase. "Subject" allows you to enter a default "Subject" line for the headers of your e-mails (typically this might be yours and your opponent's names along with the tournament name/designation, just to make things a bit easier for you and your opponent).

Address tab

This is pretty self-explanatory. Here's where you enter the snail-mail addresses for you and your opponent, or your respective e-mail addresses. ChessBase will use this info when sending an e-mail or printing a postal card (or you just might want to save this info even if you're not transmitting or printing moves from within ChessBase).. You can also enter the e-mail address of the tournament director for possible future reference.

Vacation tab

Most correspondence chess federations allow "time off" for vacations, emergencies, etc., during which the "clocks" (or, more accurately, calendars) will be paused to allow for such breaks. If you or your opponent need to pause the game, enter the appropriate information in the fields and ChessBase will stop keeping track of elapsed time for the duration you set.

Notation tab

Checking "Algebraic notation" will select this notation form (as opposed to ICCF notation -- see above) and enable the remainder of the dialogue. You can set either figurine or letter notation as the default for e-mailing or printing, and change the letter characters if necessary. You can also set up "normal" algebraic notation (i.e. 1.d4), "computer" algebraic (i.e. 1.d2-d4, which displays both the starting and ending squares for a move), or even old-style descriptive notation (i.e. 1.P-Q4). The choice may be one required by the sponsoring organization, or it may be a preference agreed upon by you and your opponent.

I will make a strong recommendation here: if you're transmitting moves via e-mail, please use letter notation rather than figurines. Keep in mind that the High ASCII characters used for the figurines will display as such (instead of figurines) to your opponent unless he also owns ChessBase and has the appropriate fonts installed on his computer (and various glitches or misconfigurations on his system may make them display improperly even if he does have the fonts). So do save yourself some potential time delays, arguments, and hassles by using letter notation rather than figurines.

Signature

This is just a neat tweak that lets you add an e-mail signature (quote, joke, song lyric, one-liner, etc. etc. etc.) to the end of your moves when they're transmitted electronically. Just type it in the box and let 'er rip.

After you've set the parameters you desire, click "Apply" to save them and then click "OK" to close the dialogue. You'll definitely need to set the "Time control" tab's parameters, otherwise the whole exercise is moot and ChessBase won't keep track of the game's elapsed time. And if you're transmitting games via e-mail (using the features built into ChessBase), you'll want to set most of the other parameters as well.

After you've closed this dialogue as desribed above, you'll see a "postcard" icon appear in the game's Notation pane; this shows that the correspondence header parameters have been set. Next you'll go to the File menu, select "Save" (the Save command which is followed by the name of your correspondence database) or hit CTRL-S, and see the game header dialogue appear. Enter the player names in the proper "color" boxes and the tournament (once again the designation provided by the sponsoring organization will do nicely); nothing else is really required here. You might enter a year if you're playing an e-mail game (since these cut out the lengthy transit times of snail-mail chess), but I usually don't fool with it until the game is over, at which time I enter the year in which the game ended. You can enter player ratings if these Elo values are known (or even utilized; many "casual" correspondence websites don't even use them). Don't worry about the ECO code, obviously, since no moves have yet been made.

Click "OK" when you're finished and you're all set for that game to begin. Now repeat the process for the rest of the games in your event; for our example of a USCF quad, we'll repeat the process five more times.

Now go to the second database you've established for this tournament, the one into which you'll store your analysis. This process is much easier. Open the database by double-clicking on its icon and click the chessboard button on the toolbar (or else use File/New/Game). This time around, just go to File/Save (or CTRL-S) and fill out the game header info, then click "OK" when you're finished. Don't bother with the "correspondence header" information in this database -- you don't need it. That info will be stored in your other database, the one with the actual ongoing games. There's no point in duplicating the time control, etc., information in your analysis database; that's just extra (and unnecessary) work.

A last note -- in what order should you store the games in the databases? It's not absolutely critical for most events, since we're typically talking about a half-dozen or a dozen games total -- it should be easy enough to visually find the correct game in the game list when you need to do so. However, for the sake of organization in a double round-robin event (in which I play two games with each opponent, one with each color), I like to pair each opponent's games together in the list with my game as White appearing first. The practical reason for this is because I'm typically going to be sending or receiving two games at a time with/from that opponent. Back when I played USCF snail-mail chess, I bought a set of specially printed postcards with predesigned fields (move, date opponent's move was received) for two games on each card; that way I could save on postage by sending the moves for both games at once on the same postcard. Organizing the database so that the games appeared adjacent/sequentially was just a good organizational practice.

This leads us to a shortcut for the process of creating your twin databases for your correspondence event. If you save the "blank" games (with game list headers) into your analysis database first, you can just copy them into your "actual game" database, then open each game in order in that database and enter the correspondence header info, followed by using "Replace game" (instead of "Save game"). This doesn't cut the work quite in half, but does save some labor in typing the game headers for both sets of games.

We'll have more on correspondence chess in the next ChessBase Workshop. Until then, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments on ChessBase Workshop. All responses will be read, and sending an e-mail to this address grants us permission to use it in a future column. No tech support questions, please.



© 2007, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.


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