The International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF)

The International Correspondence Chess Federation or ICCF was established in 1951 as the incarnation of the International Correspondence Chess Association or ICCA. The ICCA was itself formed in 1945, as the successor of the Internationaler Fernschachbund IFSB, which in turn was formed in 1928.

The federation is one of the main proponents of correspondence chess, which is simply a form of chess that is played between different towns, chess clubs or individuals. These games are played in situations wherein the opponents cannot play together in person. As you can imagine, this gives rise to a set of unique challenges and difficulties, not the least of which is how to communicate the various moves of the game. To address these concerns, a number of methods have been used, among them runners or even homing pigeons that serve as couriers, coaches, postal transmissions such as trains and airplanes, and later on, electronic transmission methods like e-mail and web servers or chess servers.

One of the most attractive aspects of correspondence chess is that even players who have not attained a national level are allowed to play regularly in international events. This is in contrasts to most “regular” chess tournaments, and is the main reason why the form has gained popularity among first time correspondence chess players.

According to a few accounts, correspondence chess was already played as far back as the 12th century, long before the International Correspondence Chess Federation was formed. Although many chess historians have cast doubt on these claims, what is known for sure is that by the 19th century, numerous chess clubs and magazines had begun to organize regular national and international correspondence chess tournaments. It wasn’t until 1928 however when the first international correspondence chess league which was the IFSB mentioned earlier was formed. Some of the most admired chess players in the world have been avid correspondence chess players at various times throughout their careers, including Keres, Alekhine, and Euwe.

The current form of the ICCF is actually a federation that is made up of several national organizations. There are at present more than 60 ICCF national member federations worldwide, and well over 100,000 individual correspondence chess players. Many of these players regularly play several games at the same time, with some even playing as many as 100 games simultaneously. Most experts agree however that 15 email games should be the upper limit that correspondence chess players should aim for.

The ICCF actually has its own chess notation that can be understood by players of any language. This notation is used in all of the federation’s tournaments including individual and team games, title norm events, and promotional chess tournaments that include Open Class up to the Master Class.

In the period between 1951 until 2008, no less than 21 World Championship finals have been organized and as of 2008, there have been almost 20 World Championships that have been completed. The current correspondence chess Champion of the world is Christophe Léotard from France.