Interview with GM Rafael Leitao

Friday, September 5, 2008: his thoughts about cc

This interview was gratiously granted by GM Rafael Leitao on February 2008 after starting his first few ICCF games.

Rafael Leitao was born in Sao Luis, Brazil in 1979. Learned chess at the age of 6 and became an OTB GM at the age of 18. Member of the brazilian Olympic Chess Team in 2006 that played in Turin where he won the silver medal for best third board (see picture below).

GM Leitao is currently playing in our Champions League and also a Candidates event in our World Championship Cycle.


Gino Figlio Hello Rafael, thank you very much for the interview. I have been following your chess career for a long time since you are a top player in South America and the World. How does a successful over-the-board (OTB) chess player get interested in correspondence chess?

Rafael Leitao: Hi Gino, first of all I love chess very much. I am not interested only in the competitive nature of the game, but I mostly appreciate the search for hidden and deep ideas and I think I can express this creative part fully on correspondence games, without the usual tension of OTB games.

GF Most people that criticize correspondence chess after the advent of chess engines suggest that understanding of the game may not improve for the average player by simply using the powerful calculation abilities of a chess engine. How do chess engines help OTB players and do you see any negative influence in their use?

Rafael Leitao: Certainly most people do not know how to use the chess engines in a correct way. Its use can surely be very harmful for chessplayers in general. I think it is very important that you create your own ideas and form opinions about the character of the position, only using the computer to check for obvious calculation mistakes. Also, most engines do not understand positions with material imbalance. Even with computers, one can never be lazy. Properly used, the engines can improve one´s play.

GF What are the main reasons why most top OTB players do not play correspondence chess?

Rafael Leitao: I believe most professional players do not have time to play correspondence chess. Sometimes the search for the best move can take days (and even then there is no guarantee you will find a proper answer). And I know many players who enjoy the sportive and psychological aspects of the game,  that are most obvious on OTB fights. But I believe that correspondence chess can have a serious impact on improving the game of an OTB player.

GF The International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) does not prohibit the use of chess engines. Are you planning or perhaps already using them to help you with your correspondence chess games?

Rafael Leitao: Yes, I use all chess engines available. The search for the best move, which is what I try when playing correspondence chess, should meet no boundaries, in my opinion. As I said, blindly following the computer suggestions will usually lead to disaster. In the end, the best players will win anyway. I should add, complementing my last answer, that one of the main positive points of correspondence chess nowadays is that it teaches you (sometimes in the hard way) how to use computers to improve your analysis.

GF How do you like the ICCF Webserver? What do you dislike the most?

Rafael Leitao: Actually I did not play with it so much yet. I only use it to make my moves and sometimes watch some live games. Overall I think the server is very good, it´s very easy to operate it. I used to play by email and I should say that I find webserver chess much better.

GF Life outside chess for a professional player, does it exist? How do you find the balance?. Do you ever wish you had spent more time outside chess?

Rafael Leitao: I really don´t work so hard as to not have a life outside chess.I manage to have plenty of free time and have many other interests, like music, reading, movies and poker. In my childhood I worked a lot on my chess, but it more or less paid out. If possible, please refer a link to the website of my chess academy . I would like to stress that I also work as an online coach, providing lessons in portuguese, english and spanish.

posted by Gino Figlio

Log in

Forgot password

New Player