The Campbell Report

The following article was published in the September-October 1995 issue of King's Korner magazine.
King's Korner is the official publication of the ASPCC (All Services Postal Chess Club).

Printing Chess Postcards

By J. Franklin Campbell

I've always enjoyed sending nice looking chess postcards to my postal opponents. You can buy attractive pre-printed cards with diagrams and use rubber stamps or chess transfers to show chess positions. But I've graduated to a much nicer method of preparing nice looking postcards. If you have a good word processor and a printer that will print on index cards you can dazzle your opponents with your impressive cards!

A well done postal chess postcard should contain all the essential information, such as the tournament section, postmark date, dates received and sent, time used (if pertinent in your tournament), moves and any personal note you care to add. I particularly enjoy using postcards that I personally designed. It's all part of my enjoyment of playing postal chess. No special chess software is required, though you'll probably want a chess font to allow you to easily print diagrams.

Even if you don't have the following equipment you may be able to develop your own methods using the equipment you do have. The requirements for the method described below are a Windows personal computer, a printer capable of printing on standard postcards or index cards, one of the True-Type chess fonts (if you want to print diagrams) and a good word processor. I personally use an Epson LQ dot-matrix printer, the Linares TrueType chess font (available from Alpine Electronics, 526 West 7th Street, Powell, WY 82435 for $29) and the Microsoft Word word processor. I print my cards on regular white 4x6 unlined index cards. Using index cards has two advantages: the 4x6 size allows more room for printing and, if you spoil a copy, you just throw it away and print another without losing 20 cents. Note that this is the maximum size allowed by the post office for postcards. Most printer devices will require you to have a margin around the printed area, so don't plan to print on the entire 4x6 inch area.

For each opponent I save two documents, one for printing the front of the card and one for the back of the card. The front of the card contains the return address and my opponent's name and address. Sometimes I also print an extra diagram on the front to show my opponent another game position or Game B of a two-game match. This document will seldom require any modification, except for the diagram (if used). The second document is the back of the card with tournament ID, opponent's postmark, dates received and sent and time used by both players. These are arranged across the top of the card (see the sample card). The rest of the card I've divided into two columns. In the left column I place a diagram of the current position. If you don't have a chess font you can leave out the diagram. On the right side of the card I record the moves and my personal message, making use of bold characters to highlight the moves.

The next time I prepare a postcard for an opponent I just call up these two documents. The front of the card is ready to print (unless there's been a change of address or a diagram requires updating). The back of the card contains all the information from my previous card, which I update at this time. I update the diagram to the current position by "making the moves" on the diagram since the last postcard.

I also keep a 3-ring binder with all my game scores. Following each score sheet are records of all the correspondence I send that opponent. When you print chess postcards in the above fashion it is easy to position a blank sheet of paper in your printer and print a duplicate of the back of the postcard. I usually get three postcard images on each notebook sheet. By printing on front and back I can save six messages on one sheet. It makes a great historical document showing all the correspondence sent to an opponent. If you print diagrams, it also provides a quick way to review a complete game without setting up a board. Furthermore, if there is any question about the moves or comments you sent an opponent, you have an exact copy of what you sent. That can be quite useful!

There is a lot of room for error in this approach. Without intelligent chess software involved to insure correct chess notation, etc. it is easy to be careless and send date errors, notation errors and/or bad diagrams (just as in any hand-written method). So care must still be taken to insure that every item on the card is updated correctly. I always double-check everything after printing. There are a couple of ways to insure greater accuracy. I use ChessBase to record my games. I can have ChessBase generate an accurate diagram, which I can cut and paste into my postcard document. The chess moves could also be cut and pasted, but I consider that a bit too much work. The Linares font has a version that works with ChessBase and Chess Assistant output. After clipping the diagram out of the database and pasting it into your postcard, just change the font to LinaresCBWIN or whichever is appropriate in your case (there are other chess fonts available). I prefer to use the LinaresDiagram font, though, so I can easily modify diagrams using the keyboard. I wrote a Word macro to convert ChessBase output to characters used by the LinaresDiagram font.

If you have a simple word processor that doesn't allow multiple columns, you can either leave off the diagram, print the diagram in a separate pass through the printer, or come up with your own clever solution (such as using a table). If you are planning to buy a printer, you may want to keep this application in mind and purchase a printer that will allow printing on postcards and index cards, such as a Brother laser printer.

There's a lot of scope for a clever chess player who wants to print professional-looking postcards. The appearance of your postal chess postcards can be as unique as you care to make them. For some this effort may represent wasted time. For me it is just one more way to enjoy the game and to experience the variety that chess has to offer!

copyright © 1998 by J. Franklin Campbell

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