In the 1600s, Venetian and Croatian merchants played correspondence chess.
The earliest known postal game was between a Dutch army officer named Freidrich Wilhelm von Mauvillon (1774-1851) stationed at Breda, Netherlands, and one of his friends stationed at The Hague (Den Haag), Netherlands in 1804. Mauvillon’s three correspondence chess games (winning two and drawing one) were published in his chess book in 1827.
In late 1823, Le Cercle du Philidor chess club in Paris challenged the London Chess Club (located at Tom’s Coffee House on Cornhill) in a correspondence match of two chess games, but the match did not get played as the London team was too slow to accept.
The first well known correspondence challenge was the Edinburgh - London chess club match, from April 24, 1824 to July 31, 1828. The match was scheduled to continue until two decisive games were completed. Draws did not count (there were 2 draws – games 1 and 3). Edinburgh made the first move on 4 of the 5 games. Edinburgh won, 2-1.
Soon after the Edinburgh-London correspondence match, a correspondence chess match was played between the chess clubs of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
In 1825, the next British correspondence match after Edinburgh-London took place. This was a match between the chess clubs of Liverpool and Leeds. Leeds won.
In 1825-1826, the Manchester Guardian sponsored a correspondence match between the Manchester Chess Club and the Liverpool Chess Club. This was the first time that a newspaper sponsored a correspondence match. Manchester won.
In 1828, the first correspondence match outside Europe took place in India. The Madras Chess Club beat the Hderabad Chess Club 2-0.
In 1828-1829, the first known private correspondence match occurred between E. Houlston, Jr. (London) and his father, H. Houlston (Wellington). H. Houlston won.
In 1838, the first American correspondence chess match was played between players in Washington, D.C. and players at the Bassford’s Chess Room in New York. Play was interrupted in 1839 and there was no official result.
On November 14, 1844, chess was played over the telegraph for the first time between Baltimore and Washington, DC. Baltimore won.
In 1847-48, the first known correspondence chess match between universities occurred. It was a match between the Hermes Club at Oxford University and Trinity College Cambridge. Oxford won.
In 1852, “Sybil” became the first known woman to play correspondence chess. She played a postal game against George Fraser as part of the Home Circle magazine challenge. She won her game.
In 1853, two ships, the Barham and the Wellesley, played a correspondence game while sailing from Calcutta to London. They used optical signaling systems between them to make their moves.
In April 1853, the first postal chess tournament was organized by Henry Mott (1818-1875) and the Home Circle newspaper. The newspaper was later discontinued, but the games continued to be published in Cassell’s Illustrated Family Paper. The tournament was won by C.F. Smith after three years of play.
On July 19, 1858, the first Australian telegraph match was played, between the Hobart Town chess club and George Town chess club.
On October 26, 1861, the first telegraph match played by submarine cable took place between Liverpool and Dublin. The final result of the match is unknown.
In 1863, Henry Mott organized a correspondence chess tournament with 128 players. This was the largest postal tournament until the 1940s. The tournament continued until mid-1867, but was never completed.
In 1870 the first correspondence chess club, the Caissa Correspondence Club, was founded. The club sponsored correspondence tournaments and matches. It initially had only 12 members, rising to 14 members in 1875. The club lasted four years.
In the 1870s, the Chess Players’ Quarterly Chronicle was the first chess magazine to organize postal chess tournaments.
In December 1875, the first international correspondence match began between the USA and Canada. It lasted until 1877. The USA won 26 to 11.
In 1875, the first correspondence match in Italy took place between the chess clubs of Ferrara and Livorno.
In 1876, the first correspondence all-play-all tournament was organized by Rev. T. Archdall. There were 17 entries. The winner was John Crum.
In July 1877, the first intercontinental correspondence chess match, the International Postal Card Match, began between the USA and the UK. The match lasted until 1881. There was no official result after 112 games. The USA team had 32 wins and the UK team had 30 wins.
In 1877, chess was first played using the telephone. The first documented telephone chess game is from Dr. White and Mr. Treadwell of New York. Treadwell won.
In 1883-84, the Cambridge University Chess Club played a postal game with patients at the Bethlehem (Bedlam) Hospital and lost.
In 1884, the French chess magazine La Strategie organized an international chess tournament, open to subscribers in Europe and Algeria. There were 11 players from France, Belgium, England, Greece, and Hungary. The winner was Laquiere, a Frenchman living in Algeria.
In 1887, an international correspondence tournament was held, sponsored by the French weekly Le Monde Illustre.
On May 31, 1897, the House of Commons played the House of Representatives in a cable match.
In 1900, the first ladies’ correspondence chess tournament was organized by Hobbies weekly magazine. There were 7 ladies that played. Mrs. F. Sterling Berry and Mrs. Bowles tied for first.
In August 1902, a game was played by wireless radio between the S.S. Philadelphia and the S.S. Campania in the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1906, the British Correspondence Chess Association was formed. Its original name was The Capital and Counties Correspondence Chess Association. It was the first successful British correspondence organization, and it still exists.
In 1915, chess was being played between French and German soldiers in their trenches. The moves were announced by megaphone.
In 1932, Janos Balogh won an international correspondence tournament.
Most correspondence games played at once is 1,124 by Stan Vaughan in 1988 (I was one of his opponents).
In 1948, Robert Wyller played 1,001 correspondence games.
In 1883 Cambridge University played a correspondence match with the Bedlam insane asylum. Bedlam won.
The highest rated USCF correspondence player was Penquite at 2933 (won 58 games straight, no losses, and no draws).
During World War II, no postal chess play was allowed between civilians and servicemen in the United States and Canada. Soldiers overseas were not allowed to play postal chess due to censorship restrictions.
Walter Muir (1905-1999) played correspondence chess for 75 years.
Dr. Reinhart Straszacker and Dr. Hendrick van Huyssteen, both of South Africa, played their first game of correspondence chess in 1946. They played for over 53 years, until Straszacker died in 1999. The played 112 games, with both men winning 56 games each.
Jared Moore (1893-1995) was a chess player who lived to the age of 101. He was the oldest player to play correspondence chess. He was active in postal chess until he was 100 years old.
Joop J. van Oosterom of the Netherlands is a billionaire and perhaps the richest correspondence player. He was the 18th and 21st World Correspondence Chess Champion.
In 1939, H. Jarvis of England was playing a correspondence game with Eberhardt Wilhelm of Germany. When World War II started, it was Mr. Jarvis’s move. After the war, it took two years before normal postal services were resumed between England and Germany. Wilhelm wrote that he was still waiting for the next move. Mr. Jarvis replied with a move. So one move took eight years to play.
Over-the-board (OTB) Grandmasters that are also Correspondence Grandmasters include Ulf Andersson, Igor Bondarevsky, Aivrars Gipslis, Curt Hansen, Jonny Hector, Janis Klovans, Jonathan Penrose, Lothar Schmid, and Duncan Suttles.
The first world correspondence championship was delayed by the outbreak of World War II. In 1947, the preliminaries for the world corr. Championship started. There were 78 participants from 22 countries. The tournament ended on March 31, 1953. The winner was Cecil John Seddon Purdy of Australia.
There have been 26 world correspondence champions.
In 1909, the Correspondence Chess League of Greater New York was formed. The Correspondence Chess League of America (CCLA) was founded in 1917 with the merger of other correspondence leagues.
In 1968, Hans Berliner became the first American grandmaster in correspondence chess. It took 15 years before the USA had another GM in correspondence chess. In 1983, Palciauskas became a GM in correspondence chess. The USA now has 11 GMs of correspondence chess.