In regard to rules...I played "postal chess" for many years when I was in college and thereafter. Like everyone else I referred to books such as "Modern Chess Openings" and "Chess Openings, Theory and Practice" to research my moves. I had a great deal of trouble reading these print sources with magnification, but this helped me learn to play chess well - I never had a chess "coach." Computers did not exist back then: your choice was to play with a live body or play "postal", and just as over-the-board chess had its rules, so did postal chess, and the latter rules actually encouraged players to make use of references.
Chess - both kinds - has changed since then. OTB now has faster time limits, rules prohibiting playing solely to win on time, etc. "Postal" chess still exists to a limited extent - that is, playing via snail-mail. But now we have email chess, chess via online server, and even "chat" games.
Since I live in Hawaii, more than 2,000 miles from anywhere else, and I do not know any chess players here' I have given up on postal chess. I don't have enough vision to do battle with the online servers, and since I am deaf the telephone, Skype and chat rooms are not my cup of tea. That leaves email chess.
I gave up playing competitive email chess six months ago. A friendly game now and then or a game to help someone else learn is fine, but that's it for me as of now. I LIKE to play email chess, and I like to use it as a means of learning, even though I have been playing chess for over sixty years. But I don't think I learn much just sitting in front of my chess board and doing my own thinking. I do have 30-40 print chess books, but I do not have the sight to use those. I now have 5-6 braille chess books a friend gave me recently, and I look forward to using those, though they are primarily useful only for playing over games that are very out of date - mostly 100 years old.
So how does one, in practical terms, keep up with "current theory" in chess if referencing books, magazines, games collections and the like are banned? I've always found it fun to research the best approach to take in my games - I am an analyst by training and profession (retired).
My feeling - my personal opinion - is that email chess is not OTB-via-email. To me, Email chess is postal chess via email. If it is not and if I want to make use of my reference sources, then there is nothing left for me in the way of competition. I feel that if someone wants to play "correspondence" chess and bann all references, they should play via chat or other type of "almost-over-the-board" chess. I am perfectly happy to ban any resource that does your thinking for you, such as software like fritz (which I use for my own analysis in writing articles, etc) or online chess-playing sites. I believe one should do one's own thinking - while making use of whatever reference materials are available.
And LOTS of materials are available, online and accessible.In mhy opinion if one is to say, "I don't have the time or interest in doing all that research, so you can't either", it is like telling an over-the-board tournament player, "I haven't played for a year so you can't practice before the tournament."
If a certain position should arize in a chess game, and this exact same position arose previously in several high-level games, is it cheating to look at those games for insight? Suppose Bobby Fischer played "this" move and Garry Kasparov played "that" move: Granted, both did a lot of high-level thinking to make their decision, but they made different moves - which is "best?" That is, to me, up to me to decide, my thinking, OK to do. To me it is part of the fun of "correspondence" chess to investigate the various options in light of how smarter folks than I am handled this int he past.
Also, if I am playing a game with someone and the stated purpose of that game is for me to help the other person learn, I certainly would want to check reference works to make sure my advice or "coaching" is accurate and sound.
OK, just my opinion(s). I hope I have been "reasonable" and clear in expressing them, but they are just my thoughts.
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