Russell Sherwood Saturday, February 10, 2018
Until fairly recently (the mid-1990’s) the only option for Correspondence Chess was via the Post. Various matches had been played utilising radio, Telephone and Telegraph services but these all tended to be for international team matches rather than events for the individual player.
Correspondence Chess then morphed at a fairly rapid rate in the last twenty years – first through email, then onto the Server chess and with Mobile device based chess being at the cutting edge. Unlike email based CC, which is more or less defunct (A tiny number of events exist) Postal Chess still maintains a small dedicated following.
Why is this?
There are a few obvious reasons – the most important one, which is often overlooked, is that Postal does not require a computer of any sort to play, which franchises a group of players to take part who could not otherwise. Also, these players’ value receiving and sending physical moves – often accompanied by, sometimes extensive, personal notes. This personal touch should not be underestimated in terms of the attraction to the adherents.
So what are the downsides? The vagaries of the postal service are a major one and the potential for lost moves. These in many ways are small compared to the potential cost issue. Let’s imagine I am playing a game against an opponent and the game goes on for 50 moves. So if I send each move one at a time this would be a cost of £32.50 for the game. Let’s scale this up to six opponents with all the games being doubleheaders, our total has risen to £195! Thinking positively let assume we have a lot of conditional moves and reduce this by 50%, giving us a total of £97.50 for an event!
This is for a UK based event, an International one would be significantly more. Now, this has to be compared to the cost of playing a server event (Entry fees can be ignored as they would be the same for both). This becomes a little tricky. If you already have an electronic device and data (Be it a Phone, Laptop or Tablet and Mobile data/Broadband/Fibre) then the cost can be considered zero (as they are sunk costs to use a financial term) but if you did not then there would be a bare set up cost of around £100 and a minimum of £10 a month – so potentially another £120 a year.
So as a summary of sorts – if you are not on the net at all, the postal chess is probably a slightly cheaper option but if you are connected it is not. Why all this discussion on Postal Chess? I was musing about entering the BCCA Postal Champs next season – to attempt to add it to my Trophy cabinet. Having gone through the costs (which amount to the entry fees for 2 Grandmaster Norm events) I think perhaps it’s not worth the cost of adding to my collection after all!