Correspondence Chess Advice From ICCF World Champion

It is good to see articles about correspondence chess published on a well known chess news website. The 28th and latest World Champion, Leonardo Ljubicic from Omis, a small village near Split, has reportedly spent about two or three hours a day, and twice as long at weekends, analysing his correspondence chess games. He has revealed what he thinks about correspondence chess and how he decides his moves.

Leonardo thinks it is impossible to achieve any significant result without engines and databases and that the player, not the engine, should choose a suitable opening and steer the engine toward or away from certain types of position. He thinks you should only play a certain set of openings because you dare not make one weak move. He says that today’s engines are very strong, but do make mistakes when judging positions, and that you should feed the computer with more good ideas than your opponent. He goes on to say that you should not let the engine do all the work and blindly make its move without you too watching the thinking process. He says that the “next best” function is the “main tool for correspondence play”. He uses a standard GUI and several databases. He also uses the ICCF archive database, MegaDatabase and the Playchess games database, but only for getting new ideas as he thinks human games are too unreliable. He forms opening trees in these databases, but does not rely on statistics, and all variations are analysed for all worst case scenarios. He has used all the major chess engines and works out their weaknesses. I show one of Leonardo’s win’s below.

So to do well at the top level of correspondence chess you obviously have to play better than any engine and have to have done more analysis work than your opponent. I know that many over-the-board players are prejudiced against modern day correspondence chess when strong engines and powerful hardware are easily available. I sympathise with them and can only say that correspondence chess is now really only analysing chess rather than playing it live on a board sitting in front of your opponent, which we all know is the real challenge. I know that there are correspondence chess players who do not use engines and dislike playing against them, but it seems that to beat them you have to join them!

John Rhodes