by Steve Lopez

A few weeks ago we discussed some of the many reasons for playing correspondence chess. This week we'll examine how to get started using ChessBase and Fritz.

I'm going to use USCF tournaments in my examples, as I've played postal chess through that organization. The principles we'll look at should apply to other organizations as well.

The first step in preparing to play a correspondence event is to set up a couple of databases for your games and analysis. USCF events usually have a five-digit alpha-numeric code; you might as well use it as the name of your database. For example, if your event is designated "98AB4", just name your database "98AB4.CBH".

In Fritz5, just click the "Database" icon and when the database window opens just click the "New" button. Select the folder in which you want the new database to appear, give the file a name, and you're good to go.

In ChessBase 6, there are a couple of extra steps. Go to the "Database" menu and click "New". Select the folder for your new database and give the file a name. The new database will appear in the Database window. Click the "Info" icon (the letter i inside the blue dot) at the bottom of the Database window. You can give the icon a name (I just use the five-digit tournament designation) and select a pretty picture for the icon's illustration. I just use "correspondence" (no big surprise there) so the illustration appears as a stamped postcard.

I also set up a second database for analysis of my games. Just follow the same steps as above. When it comes time to give the file a name, I use the five-digit tournament designation followed by the letters "an" (short for "analysis").

Next you'll need to prepare the "guts" of your database. The USCF sends postal players a letter giving them the names and addresses of their opponents. I simply set up "blank" games for each of my opponents. For example, one of my opponents is named Joe Bob Patzer. I just select the 98AB4 database from the Database window, click the "fire" icon to highlight it in red (making it the active database to which games will be saved), open up a board window, and immediately click "Save". I fill out the game header info with our names, the five-digit designation in the "Tournament" line, our ratings, and any other info I feel might be important. I then click "OK" and the game is saved into the database. Simply repeat the process for all the games in your postal tournament.

In Fritz5, just go back to the Board screen, make sure there have been no moves made on the board, click on the "Game" icon, and click "Save". Fill out the game header info and click "OK"; the game will be saved to the open database.

ChessBase 6 gives you some extra utilities for managing postal games that aren't included in Fritz5. Once your headers are all filled out, open the game list for the database and double-click on the first game. The board window will appear for that game. See the icon that looks like a diamond (down at the bottom of the game window)? That's what you'll click on to access your correspondence management features.

Click on the diamond icon and then select "Correspondence header". You'll get a new window that looks like this:

Here's where you'll give ChessBase the info it needs to help you manage your postal game. The boxes are pretty self-explanatory. Fill in the tournament's time control, the start date (which will be either the day you mail your first card to your opponent or the day you receive your first card from him, depending upon how the tournament is structured). If you're playing the White pieces, click the "I am White" box. If it's an e-mail event, select that box and fill out the required info. You'll use the "vacation" boxes later if the event allows vacation days and either you or your opponent decide to use them. Clicking on the buttons "Opponent" or "Address" opens new boxes that let you type in addresses for yourself and your opponent. This is crucial if you decide to use the correspondence printing functions of ChessBase (which we'll cover later).

Repeat the process for each game in your tournament, using "Replace game" each time (to make sure the correspondence info is saved). When you've completed the info for all the games, just copy all of them to your analysis database (saving you a heap of work).

Now you're all set to go. All you need is for a postcard to hit your mailbox. We'll look at what to do when that happens next week in Electronic T-Notes. Until then, have fun!

[Disclaimer: I apologize for any typos that appear this week. It's hard to spell correctly when one is listening to ZZ Top and John Fogerty cranked up to maximum volume! I'll be back next week when my ears stop bleeding.]

You can reach me by e-mail with your ideas and suggestions.