Use of chess engines in Correspondence Chess

For a current occasion we had touched the topic of computer use in correspondence chess, especially at CCI, in the last circular (No. 48 in June 2022). The discussion about this of course goes far beyond CCI and concerns all correspondence chess organizations. Since the first chess computers appeared in the 1990s, the power of the machines (English: engines) has continuously increased, and every correspondence chess friend has to deal with it somehow.

How does everyone deal with it individually? The spectrum is very broad. Some people have consequently turned away from the whole FS business, others buy and install the newest programs all the time. The reactions of the CCI members also move between these two extremes. We had called to send us opinions and statements. Several have been received and are published below:

Heinz Hoßdorf:
“Chess computers in correspondence chess?! Nowadays almost everybody should have a chess program in his PC. With two equally strong programs a draw is preprogrammed. But is it still fun to let computers play against computers? It should be so that own thoughts help to win (or not). I only use the computer occasionally to analyze games I’ve lost.”

Alfred Stummerer:
“On the subject of using chess computer programs, I largely share the opinion of the board.
The fact is, nobody likes to lose. So he or she will use permitted, but unfortunately also unpermitted aids. Who can blame them, we are all human beings with more or less established moral principles. So the use of aids in correspondence chess is not necessarily forbidden or even reprehensible. If you look at the results of international and national championships, you will notice that it is only possible to survive with these aids. The number of draw games is enormous, and only those who have a good, fast machine and appropriate software can keep up. This is similar to Formula 1 car racing. There, too, the only winner is the one who has the most powerful engine and can invest a lot of money in cutting-edge technology. The driver behind the wheel has become secondary.
Do we “simple” correspondence chess players really want that? When playing correspondence chess with friends, one can do without the computer. There is something else in the foreground than winning. The nice correspondence, the exchange of opinions, the mutual information, the common interest and maybe even the personal acquaintance let a victory on the chess board fade into the background. SoCU and nostalgia tournaments are wonderful for this. Let’s participate and enjoy chess and correspondence.
The board should set the direction. There is little it can do to influence whether individual members adhere to it. It is up to us members how and where CCI develops.”

Volker Heintze:
“It’s just the case that you can’t control it or control it badly, and it’s not forbidden in that sense, after all (except in the tournaments that are specially advertised for it), so you can use it and have to expect that your correspondence chess partner will also use it. But I don’t have a problem with that and I think that correspondence chess games should be played on a higher level, because the time factor is omitted. So in tricky positions the computer is consulted from time to time. In the opening phase anyway, the database search is so much faster before I dig through all my literature. For me the result is rather secondary, the exchange (that something is told) is the more important component. On the subject of “correspondence chess in the 21st century” there was recently an article in SCHACH (issue 2/2022).” Translated with (free version)