CCLA Postal Chess FAQ

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CCLA Postal Play FAQ

How do I send my moves?

While moves can be sent by letter, they are normally sent using a postcard. This can be a stamped US Postal Service card, or some other card (such as a preprinted chess card or a picture card) of about the same size with a 27-cent stamp. The minimum size of a postcard is 3.5" x 5" and the maximum size is 4.25" x 6". A card or letter from the US to Canada is 72 cents. A card or letter from Canada to the US is 96 cents.


What information is required on the card?

The front of the card should show your opponent's correct mailing address including any identification numbers and your correct return address. You should use the full nine-digit ZIP code of your opponents. The back of the card should show the following:

  1. The section number (a letter followed by 5 digits) of the tournament or match
  2. Date you received your opponent's move
  3. Date you mailed your reply
  4. Number of days between receiving the move and mailing your reply
  5. Total number of days your opponent has taken so far during the game
  6. Total number of days you have taken so far during the game
  7. Your opponent's last move, including the move number
  8. Your move in reply, including the move number
  9. Your signature

Write all of this information as legibly as possible so that your opponent won't have to send you a repeat card to find out what you meant. If you have crossed out a move and replaced it by another move on the card, initial the crossed-out move.

Items e and f are often written in the form 2/28 where (in this example) 2 is the number of days taken on the last move and 28 is the new total number of days taken so far.

If your opponent's card is postmarked more than one day later than the date he reports as having mailed it, you may inform your opponent of his actual postmark date and tell him to change the number of days taken for that move and for the game so far. Any challenge to your opponent's number of days must be made with your next move.

Dates should be written month/day/year, so that 4/6/07 for example means April 6, 2007. If you receive a move and reply to it the same day, your number of days for that move is zero.


What notation is used to describe the chess moves?

Standard Algebraic notation must be used unless both players agree to a different notation, such as International Numeric or English Descriptive. Algebraic notation measures ranks 1 through 8 from the White side of the board and files a through h from White's left to right. K is the symbol for king, Q for queen, R for rook, B for bishop and N for knight. There is no symbol for a pawn move. The notation may be either short form showing the square moved to (1. Nf3) or long form (1. Ng1-f3) showing both the original square and the square moved to. For pawn moves, the short form is 1. d4 and the long form is 1. d2 - d4. For pawn captures, the short form is 4. exd5 and the long form is 4. e4xd5. In short-form notation the original square is indicated only when needed to avoid ambiguity: for example, if both 4. Nb1-d2 and 4. Nf3-d2 are possible fourth moves, the short form is either 4 Nbd2 or 4 Nfd2 depending on which knight is being moved. Chess indications such as "check" (ck or +), "captures" (x), "checkmate" (mate or ++) or "en passant" (ep) may be used, but an incorrect omission or addition of these indications does not cause moves to be impossible or illegal.


Should a diagram of the position in the game be sent?

While some preprinted chess cards provide space for chess diagrams, diagrams are not needed and should usually not be used. If you send a diagram your opponent is not required to verify its accuracy. However, if you make a move that isn't reflected on your diagram (for example, you move Ne5 but you don't show a knight on e5 in your diagram) your move can be challenged as being ambiguous.


What happens when an illegal or ambiguous move is sent by me or my opponent?

An illegal or impossible move may be replaced by any legal move. An ambiguous move, which is legal but could be made by either of two pieces, must be clarified via a repeat card as to which piece is making the move before play can be continued. Do not simply assume which piece your opponent intended to move. Five days is added to the player's time the first time in a game he makes an illegal or ambiguous move, and ten days is added for each subsequent offense in that game.


What happens when I can't read my opponent's handwriting?

Sometimes it may not be clear whether a "c" or an "e", or a "1" or a "7", is intended. The way a player writes these letters and numbers can generally be determined by looking back at earlier cards where he was repeating your last move or where it was obvious what move was intended. It is a very good idea to save all of your opponent's cards until the game is over. If you still can't tell what he intended, send him a repeat card.


What is the time limit for a game?

You are allowed to take 30 days for your first ten moves, 60 days for your first twenty moves, 90 days for your first thirty moves, etc. Thus if you take 15 days for your first ten moves, you have 45 days (60 - 15) left to complete your next ten moves. This applies to all CCLA postal events, even if both players have agreed to use email instead. (Sections limited to email or server have different limits.) If you think your opponent has overstepped this time limit (for example, 31 days for ten moves, or 61 days for twenty moves), you should submit a Time Complaint Form to the Tournament Director.


What happens when I don't receive a reply from my opponent?

If you have not received a reply within 16 days of the time you sent your move, you should send a card to your opponent repeating all the information on your prior card with "REPEAT" and the current date written at the top of your card. If you don't receive a reply to this repeat card within 16 days, you should submit a Time Complaint Form to the Tournament Director. These 16 days do not include any days that your opponent has notified you he's taking as vacation or special emergency days.


How many vacation or special emergency days are there?

You get 30 vacation days each calendar year. Your vacation days apply to all the CCLA games you are playing. You should notify your opponents and the Tournament Director in advance when you are taking these days. If you are taking vacation days and your opponent is not, your opponent will be charged with the days he takes on your last move; in other words, only the clock of the player taking vacation days is stopped. Special emergency days require the specific approval of the Tournament Director, who may ask for evidence of the nature of the emergency.


Should I make comments on my cards, or just stick to the moves?

You should not comment about actual moves in the game until the game is over. Other than that you can make comments, though politics and religion are best avoided unless you know your opponent well. If your opponent does not reply to your comments, you should take the hint and stick to the chess moves. If it's your opponent who is making the comments, you can either reply or say nothing. If you find his comments offensive you should first tell him to stick to the chess moves, and if he persists you should complain to the Tournament Director. Postal chess games can be a fine social experience for two compatible players, but if the conversation turns ugly it should be ended immediately.


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