As you are already aware, SchemingMind is a correspondence chess club & server, where you can indulge in a relaxed game of correspondence chess against another member.
We do realise that getting used to a new service takes some time and a little effort. In order to ease this process, we prepared some documents that might be helpful to you. You may find that the best method for you is just to look around and figure out how everything works for yourself. Nevertheless, we invite you to read at least this page. As opposed to our help pages, this one doesn't explain how to use our server, but rather it provides a description of some of the possibilities you will have as a member. We find that a lot of our members, even those that have been playing at SchemingMind for some time, are unaware of some excellent functionalities of the server. That's why we prepared this overview. Should you choose to register your trial account (you can do it here), you will have access to the help files explaining in detail how to use the options here described.
The idea of correspondence chess is very old. In the pre-Internet era, moves were mailed by post and a game between distant opponents could go on for years. Nowadays using an Internet server significantly speeds up the games, as moves are transmitted instantly. Nevertheless, the thinking time alone can still add up to months. The games (as always in competitive chess, be it over-the-board or correspondence) are timed, i.e. players have to move fast enough not to overstep their time limit, or else they lose the game. SchemingMind uses Fischer Clocks, the most popular type of chess clock: a player is allotted a certain amount of time at the beginning of the game, and a small bonus (called the increment) is added to their clock after each move. Theoretically speaking then, you can have more time on your clock at the end of the game than you had at the beginning, but this is unlikely: why rush when you have days to move?
There are four clock settings available to choose from; both the initial time and the increment given after each move differ between them, so you can choose one that you feel most comfortable with. The standard pace is 30 days per player for the entire game, with an increment of one day. At first, you're most likely to feel this is a lot, but you will discover for yourself that it's not necessarily the case. First of all, while you can just log in and make your move instantly every time you receive a move by one of your opponents, most players prefer to set up a board (or use our built-in on-screen analysis board) and analyse the position for some time. If that happens to be your preference too, you'll need to have some free time in order to do it. Your daily activities may not give you the luxury of having such a possibility every day. Secondly, chess is a game and thus the pleasure factor plays an important role. You may not be in a right frame of mind to play, you may not feel like it, you may want to take a walk instead. The relaxed time controls give you enough flexibility to take a week or two off and not lose your games due to a time-out. And if you plan not to play for several weeks, you can take up to four weeks of holidays: your games will be paused for the time.
If you still believe 30 days is too much, no problem: you can play a fast game of 10 days with 1 day increment, or even a blitz game, where you will have only five days to complete your moves, with 12 hours bonus per move.
If you are a busy person, or simply feel more comfortable the more time you have, there is a leisure clock available: you get a standard 30 days at the beginning, but the increment is three days instead of just one. Additionally, in friendly (non-tournament) games it is possible for a player whose opponent overstepped the time to allow them to continue the game instead of claiming a win on time. (If you are an ICCF player, you're likely to feel that even the leisure time control is a bit faster than the standard ICCF 10 moves in 50 days.)
In order to start a game, you need to challenge another player to a match, but that's not the only way. Apart from issuing an individual challenge, you can participate in tournaments. Currently there are two types of normal tournaments available: double round-robin and knock-out, and two special types: constantly running pyramid tournaments and the annual drop-out tournaments. All tournaments but the drop-out can be played using all four time controls settings.
In a double round-robin tournament, you play every opponent twice: once witch each colour. As opposed to over-the-board chess, in correspondence chess tournaments all games are played simultaneously, so if you join a six-player double round-robin tournament, you'll start 10 new games. Games are scored as one point for a win and half a point for a draw. When all the games are finished, the player who scored the most points is declared the winner of the tournament. If you want, you can participate in class tournaments. Those are regular round-robin tournaments, divided into rating groups, but the winner is allowed to play in a stronger tournament next time.
In a knock-out tournament, you have one opponent and play two games (again, once with each colour) against them. The winner of such two-game match (in case of a 1-1 tie, the winner of the so-called Primary Game) advances to the next round and plays another player who won their match in the previous round. The loser of a two-game match leaves the tournament. When only two players remain, a final two-game match is played, the winner of which wins the whole tournament.
If you enjoy playing a particular variation, or wish to study one, you can join a thematic tournament. All games will start from a particular position, e.g. in a Queen's Gambit thematic tournament all games will begin with the moves 1.d4 d5 2.c4. Double round-robin and knock-out tournaments may have rating requirements, restricting who can join the tournament to players of a certain rating range. They can be started by any member at any time, so if there currently is no running tournament to your liking, you can start one and set up all parameters (type, number of players, time controls, rating requirements, theme) yourself.
A pyramid tournament is a constantly running competition. When you join one, you are placed at the first level of the pyramid and can challenge players at the same level, or one level above you, to a game. You'll be playing with the white pieces in this game and if you win, you'll advance to the next level. The goal is to reach the top of the pyramid and defend this spot for as long as you can, by winning or drawing against players from the next-to-top level who challenge you.
A drop-out tournament is an annual event which serves as the Club Championship. It is a more relaxed form of a knock-out tournament, as one loss doesn't eliminate you from the competition. Games are scored negatively: three points for a loss, one point for a draw and no points for a win. After each round, players who have accumulated six points are eliminated from the tournament. The last player to remain in the draw wins the event.
The Club has an internal rating list, using the Glicko rating system. A new rating list is published every month. After you finish your first game, you'll get a rating depending on the rating of your opponent and of course the result of the game. At first, your rating changes will be very big, but when you finish several games, your rating will be more reliable and will not change much after games.
The rating system serves two purposes. The main one is to provide you with information on your own level of skill as compared to other players, so that you'll be able to choose opponents suitable for you. You may want to only play people of a similar rating in order for the games to be very competitive, or you may find that you benefit from the experience of playing higher rated players. Whatever your preference, your rating will serve you as a very good measuring tool.
Secondly, good players can be awarded a title of Master or Senior Master. Those titles are our internal affair only and are not recognised outside the club, but many players find it fun to compete for them and view obtaining a title at a rewarding experience, confirming one's chess skills progress.
Our members have exclusive access to the Game Explorer. It's an excellent chess theory tool aimed at beginners and advanced players alike, which explains in detail the ideas behind popular opening variations. It also allows you to move pieces on a virtual chess board and find out what games have used that move sequence. It is developed by an active correspondence chess tournament player, International Master of Correspondence Chess Hansjürgen Baum of Germany.
The aim of the Game Explorer is to provide members not only with theoretical variations and their assessment, but also, and more importantly, with insight to ideas behind them. That's why it's generally viewed as an invaluable learning tool by our members.
Not only regular chess
At SchemingMind, apart from normal chess, you can play some chess-like games called Chess Variants. The most important and popular one is Chess960, also called Fischer Random Chess, developed by the late Bobby Fischer, the eleventh World Chess Champion and one of the greatest chess players in history. He thought of this game because he felt that chess was more and more about learning theory and less about creativity. In Chess960, everything works like in normal chess, except that the starting position is different: instead of fixed starting squares, the pieces are randomly placed at the first rank before each game, according to some rules aimed at making the game as chess-like as possible: the King is always between the Rooks, and the Bishops are always at squares of a different colour. There are 960 possible starting positions in this game (hence the name), including the standard chess starting position. Opening theory is practically non-existent, so the players are forced to think for themselves since move-one!
However, Fischer Random Chess is not the only chess variant available. In fact, there are over 40 chess-like games available to our members. While they're nowhere near as popular as regular chess and Chess960, they have some devoted fans and most of all, can provide a lot of enjoyment.
Plus, you can discover what chess was like in historical times, thanks to the availability of variants like Shatranj (the medieval predecessor of chess) or Makruk (Thai chess).
Teams and leagues
As a member of the club, you can participate in teams that compete in our internal leagues. Team competition can be quite different than individual play, as it provides an additional aspect of the game: socialising. Many team players don't limit themselves to playing for the team, they also participate in discussions with their team-mates held at a discussion board each team has. In no case is limiting those discussions to chess expected or encouraged, and in fact many players start new friendships with other club members thanks to the spirit and social possibilities of team play.
Some teams are purely social. Members have the privilege of creating a new team for whatever purpose suits them.
Speaking of socialising, there is one more great difference between over-the-board and correspondence play: talking. While talking to your opponent during a real-time chess game is widely considered rude at the very least, and in formal games can result in a forfeit, correspondence chess is the exact opposite of that. It is a very common and nice practice to exchange messages with your opponent, and in fact some go as far as to consider the game secondary to this wonderful social occasion. When you play a game at SchemingMind, you can attach to any move you like a message to your opponent. While you have no obligation to talk to your opponent at all if you don't wish to, it is widely accepted that a courtesy of saying something like "Hello, nice to meet you. Have a nice game!" and thanking for the game after it's finished is an integral part of the spirit of correspondence chess.
If you like meeting new people, you'll like the Forums: a big discussion board open to all members of the Club, divided into thematic parts where you can discuss any chess and non-chess topic you want. The Forums also serve as an important support tool; our established members tend to be very friendly towards new players and willing to explain and help with any problem they might experience.
Representing the club in official events
SchemingMind is an officially recognised correspondence chess club. We are a member of the British Federation for Correspondence Chess, which in turn is a member of the ICCF (International Correspondence Chess Federation), the governing body of correspondence chess worldwide. While the Club is British, we welcome members from all countries of the world.
Being a recognised correspondence chess club means participating in various club matches and international events. Every member of the club, regardless of their skill level and nationality, is warmly welcome to compete for SchemingMind in the official events. We play friendly matches against other correspondence chess clubs and against national federations. Several SchemingMind teams participate in the ICCF Champions League, which is the world team championship of correspondence chess. Each year several such events are being started, and if you feel like playing, nothing could be simpler: just say so when the time comes and you'll be included in the team.
Other methods of accessing SchemingMind
The primary method of playing at SchemingMind is through the web browser. Every major web browser should work flawlessly. However, that's not the only way.
SchemingMind has a built-in support of the XFCC protocol. That means you can access your games with correspondence chess functions of your chess database program, like Scid or ChessBase. (By the way, if you are an ICCF player, this also means you can access your ICCF games from SchemingMind, without the need to go to the ICCF Webchess server.)
You can even play from your phone when on the road!
You can sign up for your free trial account of 50 games by clicking here. It has full functionality, apart from creating teams and tournaments. You are in no way obliged to sign up for a full membership after your trial period.
If you want to read even more, here are some useful links:
- here you can read why exactly a full account is not free, how much it costs and where the money goes,
- here you can read some Frequently Asked Questions and answers to them,
- here is our complete knowledgebase, built by our members, the SchemingMind Wiki.