What future for correspondence chess


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Thibault de Vassal    (2006-07-22)
What future for correspondence chess ?

You may have noticed this "grave" question on the home page... :)


Are draws and chess engines killing chess game, are the level and play simply standardized by Deep Fritz and Rybka... Is the extraordinary performance by Christophe Léotard at XIX th. ICCF correspondence chess world championship 'chancy', a statistical happening, or is there a place yet for human play in modern correspondence chess ?

"I really believe that Go is destined to take the place of Chess as the leading intellectual game of the Occident, just as it has reigned supreme in the Orient for some four thousand years." (Edward Lasker, international chess master)

"... {it is} something unearthly... if there are sentient beings on other planets, then they play go." (Emanuel Lasker, chess world champion)

It had been said that Chess 960 would replace Chess too. I don't think so...

Any predictions ?

Glen D. Shields    (2006-07-22 19:50:51)
Interesting Discussion Topic

Thibault - this is a interesting discussion topic. Of course, no one knows the future with certainty, but we can all offer an opinion :)

I'm nearing my 40th year of correspondence play. Sometime later this year I will complete my 1000th tournament game. All my games were played by postcard until the mid 90's. E-mail dominated my CC schedule from about 1998 until 2002. Now I only play server chess. I've played on the FICGS, IECG, GameKnot, ChessFriend, Schemingmind and ICCF servers.

Contrary to many people who've played as long as I have, I do NOT see chess engines as a threat to the game. I think they've changed the game, but not hurt the game. I believe they've increasd CC's popularity and game quality. The same is true for opening and ending databases.

Some of the changes that will occur in CC the next ten years:

- Servers will improve functionality and ease of use.

- Due to engine use we will grow to accept 2200 as an "average" rating rather than "Master."

- Tournaments will be re-structured to include fewer players per section and shorter tournament durations. This particularly applies to ICCF where 15 player sections and slow time rules to simulate postal chess are used.

- New server functionality will be added to allow players the option to SLOW down the game. It's too easy to get caught in a mindless "server flurry."

- New chess software will be developed to analyze games. This analysis tool will give proability estimates on what engine one's opponent is using. That information will allow one to counter and plan against one's opponent.

- There will be more anti-computer books written and theories developed. We will use these techniques to beat our opponent and and improve our chess planning skills.

Bottomline ... I am excited by the new technology. I see continued advances in the way we manage our gameload, the way we send moves, the way we play, plan and analyze our moves. The way we play in the future will be different and will still be fun for those who embrace new technology. My disappointment is I am an old man and unlikely to enjoy all the advantages the future brings. I hope those who follow me enjoy what I will miss :)

Steven DuCharme    (2006-07-23 14:55:10)

I think computers should only be used to store games.

Dinesh De Silva    (2006-07-24 11:13:10)
Re: Future of correspondence chess......

I foresee that in the future there'll be teleconferencing & chatting live with the opponent/multiple opponents while making one's moves, analysing, drinking coffee etc. Well, players may be making faces at each other trying to scare off each other and/or rattling off bizarre variations to make it seem that the opponent has no option but to resign the game/s. Haha!!!!!

Thibault de Vassal    (2006-07-24 13:03:25)
Future of correspondence chess......

That's a fine analysis, Glen.

However, it's legitimate to consider that chess at a higher level is becoming much harder so that some of the very best players may stop their career, thinking that it's no worth the energy anymore, for results more influenced by 'chance' in statistics...

How many "super-grandmasters" (2700+) said that each point over this mark represents more and more work ?

It's probably the same (and more) in correspondence chess. I do think that it's still possible to improve a lot ! .. but there's a lack of a higher class of players. That's a pity the very best correspondence chess players (ie. former ICCF world champions : Joop van Oosterom, Gert Jan Timmerman...) retire or at least don't defend their title since they achieved it. Of course it's a lot of time, but result is the top class appear to be bigger and there's no clear champion. That's not good IMO to popularize correspondence chess.

All games need champions. I read recently on a Go forum that the success of Chess nowadays was due to his champions (Go is not popular yet in the west because there's noone to represent it, except a manga [Hikaru No Go]..), Garry Kasparov, Bobby Fischer... That's true IMO, and that's what particularly misses to correspondence chess. Maybe things won't change in ICCF (maybe I should pretend to the board :)), but anyway that's why I chose the knockout system for the FICGS world chess championship, and the possibility for the winner to play a final against a challenger. We'll see...

Glen D. Shields    (2006-07-24 17:04:52)
Thanks Thibault

Thanks Thibault for the response.

I definitely concur that today's correspondence chess is different than 40 years ago. The two biggest things I miss about today's CC are the 1) blunders and 2) open tournaments. I remember the excitement of getting a postcard and rushing to check my opponent's move. Blunders weren't common, but they occured. Now they're non-existant. Blunders made for great lore!

Why no more open tournaments? Took me 40 years to get my rating where it's at. I'm not a top player, but what I've earned, I've earned mostly the "old fashioned" way. I avoid open tournaments to avoid losing to low rated players who just learned the moves, but because they have a a high powered muti-processor running Deep Fritz they can knock me down a hundred points. I miss chatting with beginners, teaching them the ins and outs of CC. Oh well :)

You mentioned the top CC players winning and then not sticking with the game because winning is too hard due to chess engines. Is the drop out rate at the WC level any different than it was in the past? Berliner won and dropped out 40 years ago. Palciauskas won 30 years ago and then he dropped out. Chess engines were not a factor when they won. I don't think top players drop out because of engines, but because it is too hard to keep a competitive edge to play at a top level for any length of time. Good results are a combination of talent, hard work and good fortune. Keeping all three together for any length of time is a HUGE endeavor.

Personally I think a bigger threat to CC burn-out is not chess engines, but chess servers. Servers make CC too easy. Today's CC today is like Bill Murray in "Ground Hog Day." You wake up to an inbox full of chess moves. You work all day/night replying. Then you wake up the following day to moves from the same people and do it all again. There are no week long breaks breaks between games like in the postcard days. Server chess is burning out everyone, not just the top players. The progressive server owners will need to address this issue someday.

Sooooo ... what's the bottomline for me? I liked the old days better, but the old days are gone. Chess engines are here to stay. Progress is part of life. I embrace progress and am determined to enjoy it. I get my thrills by learning about chess engines and their weaknesses. That gives me an edge and keeps the game fresh. But then that's me :)

Glen D. Shields    (2006-07-24 17:11:03)
LOL Dinesh

Dinesh - definitely think you're on to something :) If we ever play, you can send still pictures as attachments until the live chatting technology is commonly used to play!

Glen D. Shields    (2006-07-24 17:18:17)
LOL Dinesh

Dinesh - definitely think you're on to something :) If we ever play, you can send still pictures as attachments until the live chatting technology is commonly used to play!

Thibault de Vassal    (2006-07-24 17:36:05)
Thanks Glen

Thanks for these sharp remarks and this piece of correspondence chess story. That's very interesting discussing...

I make good notes of what you said about correspondence chess servers !

About what Dinesh said... he just invented Chess Cyber Sex :))))

Dinesh De Silva    (2006-07-25 09:26:14)
Re: what Glen D. Shields said.....

Glen, I think correspondence chess keeps on evolving. Seriously speaking it's hard to guess what the next biggest addition to it will be that will be of any benefit to the correspondence chess community.

Wayne Lowrance    (2006-07-26 00:32:35)
I'm feeling guilty

I just read The touching story of Glen and frankly I feel guilty. I complained here of basically, having to play a 1400 player. Reason obvious he has a 2800 rated program, but so do I. Glen earned his stature. the old fashon way, brain power, intuition, chess knowledge and a strong memory, putting all these tools to work for many, many years. My CC rating elsewhere is 2200+, sorry to admit my programs got me there. In the fairness vain, I didnt earn such a rating. I sorta like to kid my self that all the players I play use comps too. So I tell my self I earned this rating. I earned it playing on servers against people, just like me doing the same as I, getting help/advise from a program. I do not believe this is right, it is not fair for a player such as Glen. I do not have an answer. I am all in favour of Artificial intelligence and hardware advances applied to chess. I am a EE so it is natural for me to be deeply involved.

Glen D. Shields    (2006-07-26 03:52:31)
Thanks Wayne, but ...

Wayne - you have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to feel guilty about. You're playing by todays rules. One of life's great pleasures is to embrace change and enjoy the fun and diversity that comes from it :)

I look forward to even more change. I'd love to see new analysis tools, new ways to analyze endings, openings, and counter-attack the engines. So much to be accomplished. So many great things still be developed :)

Thibault de Vassal    (2006-07-29 13:04:12)
Chess analysis tools

I hope that analysis tools won't improve too much. The obvious problem will be (already is) draws. Not at the highest level, but ... if all games are draw at a high level, the interest will decrease for many players.

Mladen Jankovic    (2006-08-12 20:11:51)
Advanced Chess

Computers have their advantage in the field of tactics, while humans have their advantage as strategists. A combination should be better than either on their own. A player capable of combining the advantages of both well should be the best.