The Campbell Report
Correspondence Chess
"On the Square" Article

John P. McCumiskey

John P. McCumiskey is a 38 year old Network Computer Specialist with the US Army Corps of Engineers. He's a USCF Member (1977-present, a Life Member) and an APCT member since 1977. He's also a USCF Tournament Director (currently certified as a Senior Level Director, working on Assistant National TD certification) and serves as the Sacramento Chess Club President and Tournament Organizer. He is also webmaster for Sacramento Chess Club and has been a CalChess Board Member since 1998.

This is John's third On the Square article, the last being The Lure of Correspondence Chess (11-May-99). I hope you find this new article as entertaining as I did. You can reach John at: jmc-lmc@pacbell.net.

Now, the Postcard
By John P. McCumiskey

You’ve completed the analysis of your complicated correspondence game. Essential information from your opponent and about the game has been posted in your notebook. You are now ready to enter the “postcard zone”. It is a zone that gives you the opportunity to simply send information to opponents in a very plain way or impress them with your taste in pictures, graphics, or other items you may wish to add.

In international play, a player may choose the standard, but effective ICCF postcard. The preprinted card provides you room to include all the required information for your opponent, including transmission times, postmarks, and moves. Additionally, the card provides messages in three languages that you can circle to pass information to your opponent (for example, an offer of a draw). Other than a fancy stamp, this seems to be a pretty dull postcard to use. In my limited international correspondence experience, I have enjoyed using and receiving picture postcards. These cards give an opportunity for a player to show opponents something about the city they live in, nearby landmarks, and local flora and fauna. Of course, you lose the ability to use the ICCF card messages, but players in these events always seem to know enough English to communicate.

Play within North America gives the postalite some other alternatives. Correspondence between the United States and Canada is efficient enough that it may seem like a game between players in Utah and Ohio (or Ontario and British Columbia), with the only difference being the postage rate between countries.

In these events, the ICCF postcard can still be used, but seems to be awkward. Picture postcards can be used, but don’t seem to quite as appropriate as in international play. This leaves, as I see it, two options available: using the US Postal Service (USPS) prepaid postcard or purchasing unlined index cards and postcard stamps. I have used both in correspondence play.

For the most part, index cards and USPS postcards have the same advantages. Since my handwriting leaves much to be desired when my opponents attempt to read it, I print my cards using Corel 8 and a color inkjet printer. In addition to having repetitive information saved (return address, opponent’s address, etc.), I am able to keep an electronic copy of the last card I sent for all of my opponents. Occasionally, I will add color to jazz things up some. However, some of my competitors take printed postcards a step further. One player uses color and graphics that fit the season. For example, he had firecrackers and fireworks on his cards for July 4th. Another opponent includes a “picture of the day” that is personal, of general interest, or about current events.

My preference of index cards and stamps over the USPS postcard is two-fold: A) If I make a mistake on an index card, I can tear it up and start again without wasting the 20 cents (or the current going rate for postcards) of a USPS postcard; B) I can use index cards as large as 4 inches by 6 inches, which is larger that the USPS postcard. When I am having a “chat” with an opponent, the larger card gives me more room to “talk” without having to pay any additional postage costs. On occasion, I will include a diagram of the current position of a game for my opponent to confirm. One additional benefit of using index cards is that I can choose the colors of the cards…no more plain white unless that’s what I want to use! Just think of the fun (yes, chess is supposed to be fun) you can have with a colored index card, using color print!

Correspondence players may think their postcard options are limited, but imagination provides unlimited options. The next time you are ready to send a move to your opponent, be prepared to enter your “postcard

If you have any comments about this article, I can be reached via e-mail at: jmc-lmc@pacbell.net. All comments are appreciated.

Copyright © 1999 John P. McCumiskey, all rights reserved.

Editorial Comments: John McCumiskey certainly struck close to home for me with his above comments. As attractive as e-mail play may be, there is still a lot to be said for the lowly postcard. Like him I have attempted to create special postcards for my competitions. I've gone through a series of printers during my cc career from the most basic dot-matrix to my current HP LaserJet 5L. It's all been black and white so far, though I can now see the attraction of color. I also gave up on the smaller, more restrictive USPS postcard and opted for the 4x6 inch card, first index cards and finally special card stock cut to my specifications by a local print shop (somewhat heavier weight than the more flimsey index cards). I find in John a "kindred spirit" who delights not only in the game but in the many small details surrounding our glorious competition. I hope many of the readers of this article find inspiration to explore their own possibilities for additional ways to enjoy this fascinating and rich art/sport/science. -- J. Franklin Campbell

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