The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

The subject of time limits in correspondence chess comes up from time to time as there are reasons to be unhappy with whatever time limit we happen to be using. I was present at one debate at the Daytona Beach ICCF Congress in 2000. There have been further discussions at The Correspondence Chess Message Board (TCCMB). I wrote about the problem (as I perceive it) of accumulated time in email games in my APCT News Bulletin column. An opponent may easily save up over 100 days. My ideas for solving this involved rather complicated bookkeeping procedures better suited to a chess server. I recently received a note from a reader with a very practical suggestion that avoids such difficulties.

The author of the following article, who kindly supplied it per my request, has asked to remain anonymous. For practical reasons I have accepted this request. Read it with an open mind and you may find yourself persuaded by the logic presented, as I have been.
-- J. Franklin Campbell

Why I Dislike ICCF's Current 60/10 E-mail Time Rules
by "The Modern Correspondence Chess Player"

The time rule for ICCF e-mail play is currently 10 moves in 60 days. Unused time may be carried forward and used later. Players are additionally allowed a 30 day "time-out period" each calendar year. Why do I dislike this rule?

The answer is very simple. It allows too much reflection time and too much opportunity for abuse. There are basically two groups of thought on this rule. One group wants to play at postcard pace, but avoid paying postage. The other group wants to play at a faster pace, one more consistent with e-mail. I happen to be in the latter group.

I've been playing correspondence chess since the late '60's, so I'm no novice at this. I always liked CC, but I find the faster e-mail pace to be much more suited to my tastes. I keep my game load to about one third to one quarter what it was in the "postcard" days. It takes about 3 months to finish a good game, often less. The games are better played because there is flow and continuity. International play is practical. My plans are more real-time and the execution is more like a chess game, not a series of chess puzzles executed over 2 years. I'm completing more games annually by e-mail than I ever did by postcard, and in the process, I'm improving my game and enjoying correspondence chess more than ever. I consider myself a member of "the modern correspondence chess movement."

I know the 60/10 topic has been thoroughly debated. Long time postcard players insist on keeping 100 active games and want the games to be played at postcard pace. They see e-mail simply as a way to avoid postage. ICCF is trying hard to accommodate these needs, but I believe they are losing participation from players who are part of "the modern correspondence movement."

My first participation in the ICCF was last year's E-Mail Jubilee. I embraced (grudgingly!) the ICCF numeric notation. I politely accepted my "1800 rating" and the fact that result tables are very slowly updated. I can't, however, accept what has happened as a result of the 60/10 carryover ruling. I have two players in my section that have slowed to a snail's pace. Due to carryover and "time-outs" these games could still last quite awhile.

It's been suggested that the Jubilee is an exception, that what I am seeing is an anomaly due to the fact that there are a lot of inexperienced Jubilee e-mail players. That's not true in this case. The "pokies" in my section have established ICCF ratings, one in the high 2300's, the other over 2400.

It wouldn't take much to fix these delays. An elimination of the carryover would be a simple fix. 10 moves/60 days is not a fast pace, especially when one adds timeouts and the fact that in nearly every 10 move block there is very likely to be one or two "obvious" moves. The time keeping for this change is simple, the pace is not too fast, and abuse is kept to a minimum. It's a compromise that makes sense.

I'm sure there will be those who ask, "why does he bother to make this an issue?" If he has a few games that move too slow, "so what, just sign up for another section." That would be simple if the first section results didn't have consequences. The two slow players in my Jubilee section are holding up at least three people. We're in the running for advancement to round two. Some of us have invites to other tournaments. I'm exchanging periodic updates with the others that might advance. No one wants to take on more games and then be in a position that they have too many games to handle.

That's the second element of "the modern correspondence chess movement." The first element is the games move at a faster pace, more consistent with a chess game, not a two-year chess puzzle. The second element is one must more carefully manage one's game load. Those who have embraced the movement understand this element. Those who are still "romancing the postcard" (without paying the postage of course!) probably are oblivious to the extra correspondence they create for those who are managing their game loads.

International clubs that specialize in e-mail chess understand these issues and have addressed them. Some have started "rapid" tournaments where the time limit is 10 moves in 10 days. Want a rush? Try one of those tournaments!

The bottom line is the ICCF needs to recognize that they went too far in accommodating the postcard player. They are losing participation from players who have embraced e-mail chess. 60 days for 10 moves without carryover is a change that should fit any serious postal chess player's schedule. I think the sooner the ICCF makes this change, the better. There is a large group of players in "the modern correspondence chess movement" who in the meantime are finding other very suitable places to play chess.

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