So you want to be a Correspondence Chess Expert?

Sherwood, Russell  Monday, March 6, 2017


I have had a few players ask “How to I become a Correspondence Chess Master?” To answer this fully would be a book in itself but a condensed answer to this is given here.


Here we will focus on the ICCF Correspondence Chess Expert Title. The Blueprint for higher titles is similar but with the addition of a few additional steps.


Starting at the end: To achieve the Title we need 24 games with the necessary performance level in International Title Tournament events. Typically this will come from either 2 or 3 events.


To be able to access these events a rating of between 2000 and 2100 is generally required, as an absolute minimum. In addition there you need an invitation to one of these events, which are handled via your National Federation. This can be difficult as places are few.


A few other options do exist:


  • Champions League. This is a very strong team event and if one of the few where Norms are possible in the lowest tier of the event

  • International Opens. Norms tend to become available in the 2nd round, so you will have to battle through the first to get there.

  • Regional Tournaments – events such as the British Championships are starting to offer Norm Opportunities at the lower levels


So get achieve those Norms and/or the rating necessary to gain access to them we need to win games! In the past a different tactic was utilised by some – aiming to draw out games with higher rated opposition. Recently changes have been made to the rating mechanism to make this far less effective method!


So how do we get push up are rating and generate those wins?


  • You will need at least one Chess Engine, even it it is only to blunder check your moves. This is possible regardless of the platform (Phone, Tablet, Laptop/PC). The effective use of engines is a massive topic but to as a minimum the use of two engines are recommended. Stockfish generally should be one of these.

  • A Database program is required to record you games and the analysis and ideas you have. This is very platform dependent with options ranging from Chessbase to open source options such as SCID.

  • Access to a large source of games for preparation. The ICCF database can be downloaded and makes an excellent basic source.

  • An opening book. This is a contentious area in terms of effectiveness but at the very least it can be used to prevent you repeating other peoples mistakes. Some Opening books work within database programmes. Free online options such as are also available.

  • Time – a mistake made by many rookie CC players (and a bias from some misguided OTB players) is that it is simply a case of putting the engine into Infinite analysis and then entering this move. The reality is that this method is not used by the majority of stronger CC players. More effective analysis methods exist and this take a lot of player time to put into use Some of these are described in linked in my Resources for CC article.


So this is a very lose indication of what is necessary to achieve the title. Putting the set up described above and working through the “Resources for CC” will put you on the path to success!

Updated Monday, March 6, 2017 by Russell Sherwood

Welsh Correspondence Chess FederationBritish Correspondence Chess AssociationClergy Correspondence Chess ClubSchemingMind Internet Correspondence Chess ClubSocial Correspondence Chess AssociationNational Correspondence Chess ClubWelsh Chess UnionInternational Correspondence Chess Association