HOME --> TIPS --> Should you join an email chess organization?
When this page was first posted, most email chess players started by requesting or responding to requests for games on Usenet's rec.games.chess.play-by-email forum or at the ECTool Website. Usenet is hard to access and ECTool no longer has a forum.
While it is possible to find all your games that way, there are many advantages to joining an email chess organization. The number of email-chess organizations has dropped as well. But you only need one!
Of the 17 opponents I began "friendly" games with, seven opponents didn't finish their games! Players who take the trouble to join an organization, go through its training program and sign up for games, are usually serious enough to finish.
If you drop out of an organization's game with no excuse, you are penalized and may be prevented from playing with them in the future. So far, none of the opponents I've played through organizations has dropped out.
Chances are you know how to play chess! But do you understand algebraic notation? Can you unambiguously record each move? Each organization conducts a short orientation session with new members. You play a game against one of their volunteers. The purpose is not to teach you how to play chess. It is only to familiarize you with the use of algebraic notation, time controls (how much time you and your opponent spent on each move, called "reflection time") and the record-keeping system used by that organization.
These training games take about a week at a move per day. You won't have to finish that game. When the volunteer thinks you're ready he or she will recommend you for full membership and you can begin to play rated games with the organization. It's that simple.
Correspondence chess organizations, email or postal, will match you with opponents of about the same ability. If you already have a rating through your national chess organization, they will calculate a rating based on that (different organizations use different rating formulae). If you are unrated, you start at the bottom, unless you protest otherwise.
You'll be paired with others of similar rating, usually within 100-200 points. For IECG it's 800. As you progress your rating increases and you're matched with stronger and stronger opponents.
The free-to-join IECC offers many different types of competition. You can play a simple two-game match against one opponent. In this match, you each play one game as Black and one as White. Trio and Quad tournaments are also popular. Now you have two or three opponents and lots of email! When you are a stronger player, sign up for tournaments. Tournaments consist of a series of elimination matches just like over-the-board chess tournaments, until there is only one winner. Tournaments are organized by rating, so you compete with others of similar ability with equal chances to win.
I've excerpted the IECC Guidelines elsewhere on this site. It should answer most of your questions. There are links to the two email chess organizations I play with at the top of this page. Just click on their logos.
If you're only starting out as a chessplayer, try a couple of "friendly" games. You may find you don't like email chess. If the bug bites, though, by all means join an organization. You'll find links to the ones I know of in the rec.games.chess.play-by-email FAQ, elsewhere on this site. Membership is free and there is no charge to enter competitions. You can't beat the price. My favorite, IECC (IECG closed down in 2010) is so well run you'd never know the staff was made up entirely of volunteers scattered all over the world. Isn't email wonderful?
Even though you belong to an organization, there is no reason you can't continue to play "friendly" games. I have a few going on myself. But there is nothing like playing for a rating to concentrate your mind on every move. Good luck!
Visit My Favorite Chess Sites for links to the most-popular email chess organizations.