Openings for Correspondence Chess

James Drake, an occasional correspondent and freelance websoot prifreader, writes:
"I note your recommendation to play open openings when starting out to get more experience with tactics. I wonder if this applies to correspondence games. I've been playing them over the Internet the last few years and am at the stage where I get creamed by opponents who know long lines of the Sicilian or Ruy Lopez. Given that I've been somewhat influence by Purdy's recommended openings in Action Chess , which run counter to yours, e.g., The Colle system as White. "
I replied:

That's depressing. Although if you are following long lines of theory, does that mean you know the theory too? What books are you using to support the play of the opening in these correspondence games? I've not played a lot of postal chess but I do know having some pretty meaty opening books at your elbow is a requirement.

The Colle still aims at an open game, and I'm happy to recommend it. http://exeterchessclub.org.uk/content/colle-system

I regard the Sicilian and Lopez as openings for life in a way I don't think the Colle is; there are some short lines against the Colle which equalise but there is very little theory to learn for either side, which is appealing.

The Sicilian and Lopez have so much territory between them, it's likely that a player of any style can find lines to play as White that suit them. Yes, there's a bunch of theory to learn, but as long as you get a playable position where you understand the ideas, I think it's possible to play the White side of 1.e4 without spending all your time studying long variations.

James added:

"Do you think I'd improve more quickly playing more OTB, live chess over the Internet, or against a chess engine set down to my level? "
I replied:

I think if you don't know,  I don't know! Personally, I don't like playing against chess engines but they don't half make sure you have your buttons done up. I also think correspondence play is an excellent proving ground, and that any mix of that and other approaches you find appealing is fine.

The most important thing I think is what you do about games you lose. It's a familiar reaction among amateurs to blame your openings (which I've been doing all my life). Is it that you need to dig a bit deeper into the theory, or into the handling of the middle game? What was your most depressing loss, and what was your interpretation of why you lost?

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