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Rec.games.chess.play-by-email Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Old January 22nd 11, 01:34 PM posted to rec.games.chess.play-by-email
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Default Rec.games.chess.play-by-email Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Summary: This posting contains a list of Frequently Asked
Questions (and their answers) about email chess. It
should be read by anyone who wishes to post to the
rec.games.chess.play-by-email newsgroup.

(This FAQ is maintained by "Paul Morphy,"
mailto URL:http://chess.kearman.com/html/pbefaq.htm .)


Welcome to the rec.games.chess.play-by-email FAQ. Many of your questions
about chess will be answered by the rec.games.chess.misc FAQ:
http://www.faqs.org/faqs/by-newsgrou...hess.misc.html This
FAQ seeks to answer questions specifically related to correspondence
chess via email.

This newsgroup is used as a "dating service," for chessplayers to find
opponents, and to discuss the subject of correspondence chess by email.
Some email chess-program authors post here, as well as sponsors of
web-based email chess sites. General chess-related postings are probably
better posted to one or more of the other chess newsgroups:


You should also visit these websites, which are dedicated to
correspondence chess:

Andy Harris:

Correspondence Chess.com:

Correspondence Chess Message Board:

Correspondence Chess News:

Dedicated to Email Chess:

1. Brief History

Email chess is a descendant of correspondence chess, where players use
postal mail to send moves. While it follows the rules of chess,
correspondence chess proceeds at a much slower pace, and encourages deep
and detailed analysis before each move. Many of the sharp lines in chess
openings were first discovered by correspondence players.

You can try out lines on a board, search the books and databases, and
give a great deal of consideration to your move before you commit to it.
If you're a beginner, you don't have much analytical experience, but it
comes with time. You'll have the chance to try a move,then turn the
board around and try to figure out how your opponent will reply. You do
this in any game, of course, but in correspondence chess (cc) you aren't
under the same pressure and you can consult published works for ideas.
(See below for information about the use of chess-playing programs.)

In fact, the pace of cc lends itself to having several games going at
once. Some postal cc players have hundreds of games going; the record is
more than 1000 games at one time (held by Stan Vaughn). Most email chess
players play 10-15 games at once.

2. What's So Great About Email Chess?

Like postal correspondence chess, email chess takes place at a much
slower rate than over-the-board chess, and certainly more slowly than
online games. All you need is an email account; no postage required, and
you don't have to wait months for the next move to arrive. The rate of
play is up to the individuals. If you become involved in one of the
email-chess organizations, they stipulate a certain number of moves in a
period of time, but even then the pace is comfortable for most people.
If you make two moves a week you can keep up.

3. Why Join A Group When I Can Pick Up Games Here?

This newsgroup is a good place for beginning chess players to find
games, but not many advanced players seem to show up here.
Unfortunately, many people accept a game and simply disappear, or post
looking for a game and never acknowledge replies. Someone who takes the
trouble to get into an organization is probably more likely to see the
game through. Each of the organizations listed below does a little
training with you to make sure you understand algebraic notation,
portable game notation, and the time controls. Like membership, the
training is free and fun. You play a game with someone from the
organization, and they coach you on the notations and time controls, but
not on your play itself (unless you make an illegal move, I suppose). In
no time at all you'll be welcomed to full membership, and they'll fix
you up with other players of similar ability in tournaments. You can
play as few as two games at a time (against a single opponent) or as
many as you think you can comfortably handle.

Below are the URLs of the major International email chess organizations.
There are many national organizations that sponsor email chess
tournaments and matches as well.Except as noted, all organizations are
free to join and participate in.

International Correspondence Chess Federation
http://www.iccf.com (Usually requires membership in a national society)

International Email Chess Club (IECC)

International Email Chess Group (IECG)

World Correspondence Chess Federation (WCCF)

4. I don't want to use email. What are some websites I can use to record
and send moves instead of using chess-related software on my computer?

Casual Correspondence Chess Server

Chess Mail


http://deepfrozen.tripod.com (a Java applet that also can be downloaded
and used offline)

Gold Token

It's Your Turn

Jim's Chess Club



Postcard Chess


5. What is PGN?
PGN stands for "Portable Game Notation," and is the most popular method
on the Internet of representing the moves of a chess game. Most computer
chess games and databases will read and write this format. PGN files can
include any number of games, or only one.

The header contains the players' names and other information about the
game, such as the name of a tournament, location, and date, as well as
the outcome. Most of this information is self explanatory. The game
result is either * (in progress); 1-0 (White won); 0-1 (Black won); or
1/2-1/2 (draw). Here's an example of a PGN header:

[Event "Dallas Cup"]
[Site "Dallas, Texas
[Date "1991.09.22"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Smith John"]
[Black "Jones Robert"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "D17"]

("ECO" stands for "Encylopedia of Chess Openings," in which various
opening lines are catalogued. "D17" is the Queen's Gambit-Declined, Slav
variation.) Unknown data is replaced with "?."

Here is the move list ("score") from a game, in PGN:
1. g3 e5 2. Bg2 d5 3. c3 Nf6 4. d4 exd4 5. cxd4 Bd6 6. Nc3 c6 7. Qc2 O-O
8. Bf4 Bxf4 9. gxf4 g6 10. e3 Bf5 11. Qd2 Nbd7 12. Nge2 Nb6 13. b3 Qd7
14. h4 a5
15. a4 Rfe8 16. Ng3 Bg4 17. Kf1 Qe7 18. Kg1 Nc8 19. Re1 Nd6 20. f3 Bf5
21. Nxf5 Nxf5
22. e4 dxe4 23. fxe4 Rad8 24. Kh2 Ng4+ 0-1

The moves are given in English algebraic notation.

6. What is Algebraic Notation?

I knew you were going to ask that. Algebraic notation is one way of
textually representing the moves in a chess game. From White's side of
the board the rows are numbered 1-8 and the columns a-h. So White's
Queen Rook sits on a1, and his King Rook is on h1. White's pawns are on
a2-h2. When you move a piece from one square to another, you write it
thus: Nd5, meaning you are moving a Knight to the square d5. If more
than one of your knights can move to d5, you write it Ncd5 or N3d5, so
as to remove the ambiguity. You don't use "P" for pawns. If a piece
captures, it is written as Nxd5, Ncxd5, N3xd5 as necessary (pawn
captures are sometimes abbreviated like this: "cd," but "cxd5" is
preferred). It is not necessary to indicate en passant captures (I'm not
telling you about en passant; get a beginner's chess book or search the
Web) as they should be obvious if the proper information is given. Some
programs will put the enpassant information in the form of a comment,
which is enclosed in curly brackets: "10. exf6 {ep}." O-O is a castle to
the king side; O-O-O is a castle to the queen side. Use O (oh) not 0
(zero, zed).

In English, the pieces are identified as: K=King; Q=Queen; R=Rook;
B=Bishop; N=Knight.

When you send a move to an opponent it's a good idea to include the
entire game score each time. Many people play several games at once and
this can prevent confusion. Keep a separate record of your moves, too.
Computers and programs have been known to self destruct, taking only
important files with them when they go. I keep the game files on my hard
drive, on a floppy disk, and in a paper notebook.

7. What are good programs to use to record moves, etc.

These are Windows programs. Some versions will run on Win 3.x, others
require Win9x or NT. Linux/Unix and Macintosh programs are available,
but not as many. A future version of this FAQ will contain information
on obtaining them.

ChessTool Pocket (free)

ECTool Lite (free)

MailChess (free)

Shareware versions of these programs are also available, have more
features, and are recommended. People aren't going to keep writing
software if they don't make some money at it.

Another good program to have is WinBoard, which is also free. It is a
PGN viewer and also comes with the GNU chess engine, a pretty good chess
program considering it's free. You can also use WinBoard as an interface
to Crafty, another good chess program that also analyzes chess positions.

WinBoard is available from http://www.tim-mann.org/chess.html You
probably want the Windows version (WinBoard), not the Unix version
(XBoard). Crafty is available from ftp://ftp.cis.uab.edu/pub/hyatt/ Read
the notes on the WinBoard page before you install Crafty. (Linux users
can download Xboard instead.)

8. May I Use A Computer To Help Me Select My Moves?

The real question is, do you want to win or do you want your computer to
win? Regardless of the rules, no one but you will truly know. Having
said that, it is quite possible for a good correspondence chess player
to beat a computer. Computer chess programs think in terms of tactics:
winning as many pawns and pieces as possible. They don't do well at
sorting out complicated positions and some of them perform poorly in
endgames. Correspondence chess is really the art form of chess, and the
time you have between moves allows you to do deep analysis of positions
and perhaps discover new lines that will give you an advantage. Why
deprive yourself of the pleasure and satisfaction?

Using a computer to search a database for similar positions is
acceptable. You are presented with several options from past games, and
it's up to you to determine the best plan. You can play out games from
the past and see which positions you prefer, or look for lines you might
not have thought of. In this case it you who is making the move
decision, not the computer.

9. What Are "Ratings"?

Chess players are rated on a scale ranging from about 700 to about 2900
as this is written. The higher your rating the better your play. You
want to compete against players rated slightly better than you, so you
have a challenge. As you collect wins your own rating will increase,
although a loss will diminish your rating. Right now, just get started
playing and worry about the ratings later.

10. Okay, I'm Ready To Go. How Do I Request A Game on

Well, you can simply post a request, giving your correct email address,
or answer someone else's request (by email, not by posting). If you want
to play White, post your first move, and let people know your level of play:


I'm looking for a game. I'm a new player [or, I am rated 1000 on
ICC, etc].

1. e4

If you reply to a post, make sure you're sending it as email and not
back to the newsgroup! Most people who post want to start out as White,
so if you don't want to play the Black pieces you'll have to stick your
neck out and give your email address! Suggestion: Play two games against
each opponent; one as White and one as Black.

It's a good idea to include all the moves in the game in each reply, in
case an email goes astray somewhere. If you use an email chess program
it will do this for you. If you don't use an email chess program and
your mail client supports HTML format, make sure you set the format to
"Text," as not all email programs support HTML and it will be difficult
for your opponent to decipher your move.


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