Posted by: Steve | May 25, 2012

What to wear for… correspondence chess?

Comfortable shoes – with laces

In case anyone has any doubt, I’d just like to confirm that I am a grumpy old curmudgeon. OK, I admit it – I make Victor Meldrew sound like a cheerful optimist. In my defence I’d suggest that there’s a lot to be said for everything that’s reassuringly old-fashioned.

Comfortable shoes – with laces, watches with winders, Callard & Bowser liquorice toffees, correspondence chess…

Ah, correspondence chess, what a joy… the ‘slow game’. Sealing your move in a crisp envelope, marching briskly to the local post office, affixing a stamp for one-and-sixpence. Then off it goes, by night-train and ferry, steaming its way to some tweedy, European opponent in Hamburg or Vienna.

Then the wait for a reply. Days, weeks, months go by before you can puff the dust off your analysis board and ponder the response to your 1.E4.

Correspondence chess is back!

Memories of a bygone era? Well, no! Correspondence chess is back!

In the form of an ‘app’ for the iPhone or Android it’s all a little too modern for my taste, but it’s still a great way to play the ‘slow game’ with opponents from Kelso to Kyrgiztan.

I learned to play chess when I was about ten years old. Through my teens, on and off, I picked up all the basic moves and tactics; forks, pins, skewers. Now, in my fifties, I find that correspondence chess by phone allows me to explore the game in a little more depth. It’s currently one of the few leisure activities that I can slot into my busy, late-middle-age schedule.

With the 2012 olympics looming (if you’re reading this in the distant future you’ll know them as the ‘austerity games’) there’s hardly a mention of the 2012 World Chess Championship currently being played out in Moscow between ‘Vishy’ Anand and Boris Gelfand. With eight draws, and one win each out of the ten games played so far, it’s not exactly ablaze with thrills and spills. But this is a game of brains, not brawn. Even correspondence chess, played from the familiar comfort of a favourite armchair, demands that certain standards of fair-play and good manners are maintained.

Dress for chess…

Never play correspondence chess barefoot: particularly between the months October and May. Reliable brogues, waxed and polished, are the ideal footwear for chess, either at home or travelling by train. Never risk any form of slip-on shoe. Trust your laces to see you through to a sound ‘check mate’ at the close of the most taxing of endgames.

Freedom of movement and good air circulation are imperative, particularly for those with ratings rising into the 1800 range. Shorts, tracksuits, synthetic fibres in any form, are just inviting trouble, probably with an accompanying plunge back into the 1500’s. For success choose plus-fours… and good woollen socks – the best you can afford.

Upper body mobility is essential for accurate play. I follow the ‘layering’ method of the modern climber or alpine walker. Base layer in the summer months is a medium weight, cotton shirt with a conservative check, in muted brown or green.

Middle layer is my chess waistcoat. I picked it up in a charity shop for just a few pounds, but most of the stains are barely visible now. It’s a plummy sort of blue. Maybe a little flamboyant, but not distractingly so. If I had a few more pounds I’d probably choose a waistcoat with an extra inch or two around the midriff, this one seems to have shrunk.

Top layer is my trusty shooting jacket. I only ever wear this for playing chess or drinking single malt. Oh, I also wear it Sundays for my beef dinner down at the Tankerville… and I usually wear it if there’s a ‘do’ on at the playhouse. Come to think of it, it’s the only jacket I’ve got, so I wear it for everything. It’s still ideal for chess though – you can pop all the major chess-pieces into the shotgun cartridge loops. Unfortunately it doesn’t work with pawns – they just fall straight through onto the floor.

This is not John Douthwaite!

The ideal outfit for correspondence chess

Once you’re kitted out in the correct attire you’ll be eager to play your first game. Currently I’m playing France and the USA. My oponent in the States only has five days and nine hours left to make his next move. The Frenchman is making about three moves a day. I suppose that’s classed as a frantic pace in correspondence chess.

If you’ve got the footwear, socks, an Android phone or tablet, and the patience for correspondence chess, look for the ‘Chesspresso’ app in the Google Play store. Here’s a link to the Chesspresso website for a more serious description of the game.


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