It may be months until checkmate

Port Hadlock man plays chess by snail mail

Posted 10/9/19

In a hyperconnected instant-gratification society, Stephen Chase gets his thrills by taking his time.

Chase, 70, of Port Hadlock, is an amateur chess player and member of Knight Riders, which took the Division Two title in the 2017-2019 Correspondence Chess League of America’s (CCLA) Postal Chess Team Championship.

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It may be months until checkmate

Port Hadlock man plays chess by snail mail

Posted

In a hyperconnected instant-gratification society, Stephen Chase gets his thrills by taking his time.

Chase, 70, of Port Hadlock, is an amateur chess player and member of Knight Riders, which took the Division Two title in the 2017-2019 Correspondence Chess League of America’s (CCLA) Postal Chess Team Championship.

“I just finished and for a long time we were in second place,” Chase said. “We didn’t even realize. I was hoping we would win, but it was very uncertain. Just as the tournament ended, the announcement was made over the internet the Knight Riders had won.”

The team is already working on the next championship season, said Chase, of Port Hadlock.

There is another one that is starting now. I just got my assignment. We are in just a few moves.”

Chase said he usually has about 20 games, each with a separate opponent, going on at a time.

“There are some players that have about 60 or 70 games going at a time. I find that is a little bit too stressful, so I try to keep it at a more manageable number.”

All the games are set up with contacts through CCLA. Once two players are connected, they can exchange moves through snail mail or email.

Chase prefers waiting for his opponent’s next move to arrive via the postal carrier.

“It can take about 10 days per move and at least a year for a game.”

Some games can last up to 18 months, he added.

“I understand there are a lot of people, especially today in our society, who want to be able to finish something quickly, and play chess over the internet,” Chase said. “But, I like having the time to be able to research my moves.”

Chase keep about 60 chess books in his home he consults during especially difficult matches, he said.

“That is a nice advantage of playing correspondence chess. You can do that. You cannot use a computer to search the moves for you. That is illegal and would ban somebody from being able to play correspondence.”

To keep track of the many games he plays, Chase keeps a special portfolio he calls a “post-a-log.”

“Each person has their own particular method,” Chase said. “Some will play over the entire game until they reach the given position and then decide what to play. Others will keep it on a little magnetic chess board.”

Playing chess via correspondence is possible as long as a universal coordinate system is used, Chase said.

“One of the great mysteries for a lot of people is, how do you play chess through the mail? All you need is a coordinate system so each square has a letter and a number. Queen rook for white is on A1. It goes from A1 to H1 and we have the corresponding ranks, one through eight. As long as I know that system and my opponent does, it is very easy to play.”

Playing through CCLA also ensures Chase always has eager opponents to challenge, he said.

“It is hard to find a place in the area to play and this way I can keep things current.”

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While the game of chess itself is fun, Chase said it is the interaction with his opponents from which he derives the most satisfaction.

“The most pleasure I get from it is writing to my opponents and explaining what is happening with me. I also learn what is happening with them, their illnesses, their trials their successes. I used to play a guy in Texas, and we played about 24 games before he had a stroke and was unable to continue. I called them the ‘alphabet games.’”

At the age of 70, the game helps keep his mind sharp, Chase said.

“I worry about my age. Dementia is always a problem.”

Chase has been playing chess since he was in high school in the mid-1960s, he said.

“I played a lot of over-the-board chess, but it was about 1980 that I started playing correspondence seriously. I just fell entirely in love with it.”

He said he prefers chess on a board to any digital entertainment such as video games.

“When you compare it to Nintendo, they have (virtual) fields you have to navigate. I don’t like that. It is hard for me to perceive that. Chess is a very logical game confined to the 64 squares. There is always a challenge, something to learn from it.”

For more about CCLA, visit www.chessbymail.com.

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