Proposal for new forms of correspondence chess

by ChessBase
3/18/2016 – The increasing strength of computer engines is a challenge for correspondence chess. And challenges can provoke productive and creative responses. Arno Nickel, chess book editor and International Grandmaster of Correspondence Chess, has a lot of ideas to react to the challenging computers. He wants to introduce elements of classical chess into correspondence chess.

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Introducing Elements of Classical Chess into Correspondence Chess

Plea for a New Revolutionary Format of Correspondence Chess World Championships

By Arno Nickel (ICCF GM)

Arno Nickel, International Grandmaster of Correspondence Chess

Berlin, 18th March 2016

Today there are three major problems in Correspondence Chess:

1. Dominating influence by computers
2. Increasing rate of draws
3. Exodus of over-the-board chess players.

All these points are closely linked with each other. As restrictions like banning computers don't really work for serious competitions, there is no use to think about such measures, apart from whether we would like the idea or not. But what really could be done, is to strengthen the 'human factor' by adding elements of over-the-board (otb) chess to CC competitions (and in the long run may be also to CC title norms).  

A major step to start with, would be a new CC World Championship format as a mix of:

  • 50 % Correspondence Chess
  • 25 % Classical Chess
  • 25 % Advanced Chess.

For example:

  • 1st stage: 15 players round robin CC tournament (14 games per player, duration 2 years),
  • 2nd stage: the 8 best players of 1st stage qualify for two further round robin tournaments:
    a) Classical Chess (7 games per player, playable in about 8 days),
    b) Advanced Chess (7 games per player, playable in about 8 days),
    (change of colour vs. same opponent: if White in Classical Chess, then Black in Adv. Chess).

The scoring system could be like this:

a) Correspondence Chess tournament:
1st place 16 points, 2nd/14p, 3rd/13p, 4th/12p, 5th/11p, 6th/10p, 7th/9p and 8th/8p.

b) Classical Chess tournament:
1st place 8 points, 2nd/7p, 3rd/6p, 4th/5p, 5th/4p, 6th/3p, 7th/2p and 8th/1p.

c) Advanced Chess tournament:
1st place 8 points, 2nd/7p, 3rd/6p, 4th/5p, 5th/4p, 6th/3p, 7th/2p and 8th/1p.

Maximum number of points: 32.

As computers are a powerful tool in Advanced Chess and in Correspondence Chess, the format as a whole does still favour players who are well experienced with using chess engines, but there will also be a significant influence by human chess skills. I guess, 25-35 %, notably as  in Advanced Chess in contrast to CC time is rather limited.

The idea for the AC tournament as a third type of competition is not providing players with heavy machines, but with ordinary laptops, rather for blunder checks than for strategical planning, as some CC players who don’t regularly play otb chess might dreadfully miss training in tactics.

All players would have to use the same standard of equipment (hardware and software). May be, by the way, providing the equipment might be of special interest for a computer company joining as sponsor.

It goes without saying that at present such a format is not realisable with official chess organisations, but only as a privately sponsored pilot project. If a sponsor would be ready to invest about 100 000 - 200 000 Euro, I’m sure, it would certainly attract the public and might change a lot in the long run.

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Correspondence chess database

Corr Database 2013 is an extensive collection of correspondence games, featuring classical correspondence games played by mail as well as email games. The CD contains 1,041,845 games from 1804 until 2012 including all games of the correspondence chess world championships 1-23, correspondence chess olympics 1-17, correspondence chess european championships, national chamionships (AUS, CSR, DEN, GER, NED, USA).

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