I have always had a keen interest in computer chess from the very beginning and, although I would not consider myself as a collector, I was surprised to find that I own over twenty different dedicated chess computers from the past thirty years or so! I started with the Chess Challenger 10 in the late nineteen seventies and found that my model would rarely castle and would rather just move its king. It also did not fully understand about attacked squares when castling, so I returned in person to the shop where I had purchased it complaining that it did not keep to the rules of chess and persuaded them to swap it for an upgraded model. I moved on to the Sargon 2.5 by Dan and Kathe Spracklen which was so much stronger and could be upgraded more easily.
In the early nineteen nineties the Mephisto Milano and Berlin machines came out which were even stronger and played a reasonable game. In 1994 Mephisto brought out the Berlin Professional costing £595. This filled a gap in the market between machines costing between £400 and over £1,300, like the Tasc R30 and Genius 68030. The Berlin Pro, as it is normally known, had a 68020 processor, rather than the 68000 of the Berlin, which worked at 24.5Mhz over twice as fast. ROM and hash table size were doubled from 128k to 256k and from 512k to 1024k respectively. Richard Lang was the programmer. I believe the price rose to around £649 when I was lucky enough to be able to part exchange my already second hand Berlin for a brand new Berlin Pro from Countrywide Computers in Wilburton. This is still the strongest dedicated chess computer that I have owned and is rated at 2232 elo by Selective Search Magazine.
The question is how will a Berlin Pro stand up to one of today’s programmes running on an Apple iPod Touch with 8gb? I chose one of my Apps which happened to be HIARCS, programmed by Mark Uniacke, but could have been several others. Obviously, hardware has improved rather a lot since 1994, so I gave the Berlin Pro 30 minutes for the whole game and HIARCS just 2 minutes. I thought that was a bit unfair on HIARCS, so I was prepared to give it more time in future games if needed. I was little prepared for the results and ended up having to increase Berlin Pro’s time instead! So in the game below Berlin Pro has 60 minutes for the whole game and HIARCS 2 minutes. HIARCS won the 6 game match with 6 wins and in the game below had only used up 54 seconds!! Perhaps I should reduce HIARCS time….
The second British Webserver Tournament has been won by the ‘ICCF Warriers’ Team, consisting of GM Nigel Robson, GM Raymond Boger, GM Mark Noble and SIM Ian Pheby by the narrowest of margins on a tie break with 16 / 24, beating their nearest rivals and last year’s winners, ‘Pawn Stars’, consisting of SIM Gino Figlio, SIM Dr Michael Millstone, SIM John Rhodes (myself) and Austin Lockwood who also scored 16 / 24! The third placed team were ‘Scheming Mind A’ who scored 14 / 24. In this tournament teams are allowed to have two British and two International players.
When you consider that my team had an average ICCF grade of 2408 and the winners had an average of 2519, I think we did rather well! The last two games were adjudicated as draws at the end of 2014, so we have been eagerly awaiting the results. The top scorer for ‘ICCF Warriers’ was GM Nigel Robson with 4.5 / 6 and for ‘Pawn Stars’ was Austin Lockwood with a great score of 5 / 6.
Here is one of the crucial games that had to be adjudicated. It shows Michael Millstone holding Raymond Boger to a Sicilian Sveshnikov draw.
During the years that I have been playing in the Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championship our team from Hertfordshire has slowly climbed into Division One (Ward-Higgs) with me eventually reaching Board One. I have played many good players over the years, including drawing with the top two UK GMs.
This year I am playing an IM who is some 150 rating points above me, although the games are only in their early stages. Last year I drew and lost a game, also against an IM, Alan Borwell, who was some 170 rating points below me at the time and playing for Yorkshire. Alan is also a strong over-the-board player and is a past President of the ICCF. It seems an appropriate time to show you Alan’s win of a very complex game where I failed to find a safe haven for my King. Alan is currently just recovering from surgery and we all wish him a speedy recovery.
After nearly a year the games in the Adrian Hollis Memorial are now over halfway completed with the current leader being GM Nigel Robson with a score of 5 / 7 with three games to finish. Of course, it is quite possible that other players will catch him when their games are finished. This is probably the strongest ever British Correspondence Chess Tournament with all British players.
Most of the games have been really hard fought, especially as there is a small monetary inducement for any wins, although personally, I am sure most players, including myself, just play for the glory! Unfortunately, only completed games are viewable on the following link to the crosstable page on the ICCF server : – https://www.iccf.com/event?id=41391
I was pleased to draw the following game against ICCF GM John Pugh, especially with the Black pieces. Remember that from this year ICCF games are subject to the six piece tablebase rule so, even with the possibility of being a knight up, I knew that a draw was almost inevitable! I played as far as I could until my opponent could have forced a ‘tablebase draw’.
Yorkshire ‘A’ are the winners with 11.5 / 16 with Warwickshire ‘A’ and Yorkshire ‘B’ joint second and third with 10 / 16. I am afraid to say that my own team, Hertfordshire ‘A’, did not do so well this year with only 6 / 16 and ended up in a quadruple tie for last place with Sussex, Essex ‘B’ and Nottinghamshire ‘A’. I did not help matters by losing and drawing!
Our player on Board 2 is the FIDE International Master, Lorin D’Costa, who is currently in the top thirty English list of over-the-board players and here is his excellent and instructive game as Black against his Nottinghamshire opponent. I especially like the ending!
I am currently playing in the ICCF Adrian Hollis Memorial Correspondence Chess Tournament. Adrian Hollis was a strong over-the-board and correspondence player and a world renowned academic. The tournament started this year and is one of the strongest purely British tournaments ever held with an average rating of 2504 ICCF, which is the equivalent of category XI. All the eleven British players are either Grandmasters or Senior International Masters and two are currently qualified for the ICCF World Championship Final. One being GM Nigel Robson, who was also an IECG World Champion in 2006, and the other being GM Richard Hall, a Silver Medallist in the ICCF 25th World Championship in 2013.
Being the lowest rated player, I expected a very tough tournament, which it certainly is proving to be! After a really poor start, which included a loss due to a ‘clerical’ error, I have, at least, drawn a couple of games and feel relatively safe in my remaining ones. I thought I was safe playing White against GM Nigel Robson, with my bishop pair and extra pawn, but suddenly his pieces just seemed to be better placed and in control and I was struggling to defend! Nigel is a formidable player and we wish him luck in the World Championship.
You can view this game and other finished games on the ICCF website HERE
With just half a dozen games to finish in the 2nd British Webserver Team Tournament, the race is on between last year’s Champions, the “Pawn Stars” Team with 15/22, the “ICCF Warriors” Team with 14/21 and the “Scheming Mind A” Team with 13/22. The “Pawn Stars” Team consists of SIM Gino Figlio (PER); SIM Dr Michael Millstone (USA); myself SIM John Rhodes (ENG) and Austin Lockwood, Team Captain (WLS) with an average ICCF rating of 2408. The “ICCF Warriors” Team consists of GM Nigel Robson (ENG); GM Raymond Boger (NOR); GM Mark Noble (NZL); SIM Ian Pheby and SIM Andrew Dearnley as non-playing Team Captain with an average ICCF rating of 2519. The “Scheming Mind A” Team consist of SIM Olli Ylönen (FIN); IM Janos Suto (ENG); SIM John Vivante-Sowter (ENG); César Jesús Reyes Maldonado (VEN) with an average ICCF rating of 2332. The Tournament Director and organizer is IA Neil Limbert.
You will find the latest results and games here on the ICCF website: –
It is looking like the mighty “ICCF Warriors” Team, formed by Andrew Dearnley, will eventually overtake us but, whatever happens, we will have given them a good run for their money! Andrew has certainly put a strong team together and deserves success, he is also an International Arbiter and this year has qualified for both the International Master and Senior International Master Titles. Unfortunately, Andrew has been ill recently and we all wish him well again soon. Here is one of Andrew’s wins with Bird’s Opening which went towards his latest title: –
GM Aleksandr Dronov of Russia has won the latest ICCF World Title scoring 9.5/16 in the World Championship 27 Final (Category 14 event) which started in 2011. This is his second World Title having won his previous one in the World Championship 22 Final (Category 13 event) which started in 2007. In second position was GM Dr. Matthias Kribben and in third position was SIM Thomas Mahling both from Germany and both scoring 9/16.
Dronov was undefeated and here is his best game from the 27 Final. In the final position Black can mate in 13 moves with best play, according to the Lomonosov Tablebases for 7 piece endgames: –
My study at home is so full of magazines and books, and not just about chess, that I can hardly move in there! I have been going through the piles of magazines to save any interesting articles and recycling the rest.
One interesting snippet I found, in the April 1995 edition of “Chess”, is a simultaneous game played by Mikhail Tal in Liverpool in 1974. The author and annotator of the game is Larry Holmes from the Oakfield Chess Club in Liverpool and he writes about the late Wally Chandler’s game against Tal. I can just imagine the game in progress and Tal stealing a cigarette as he calculates his grand finish!
Apparently, after the conclusion of the simultaneous Tal asked for a copy of the game. Wally commented “What a finish. What a player” and still enjoyed demonstrating the game even after twenty years.
I cannot help wondering whether Tal, or anyone else, ever studied the final position of this game, but, to me, it looks like Black is OK or even winning here……..!
I know that some players have recently been dismayed to learn that their opponents had been using computer analysis in their correspondence chess (CC) games and at least one player has given up playing CC altogether. Well, I am sorry to shock you, but this has actually been the case for a number of years, especially since free chess programs have been available for download on the internet and fast computers have got cheaper! Nowadays, I actually expect my opponents to be using some form of computer program.
I can see why many over-the-board (OTB) players are against this as they consider it to be a form of cheating. I am not condoning this, but is it really so much of a problem? If you only use computer analysis for your own moves you will never make a good CC player at the top level and will only be fooling yourself. In my opinion computers still suffer from the horizon effect and their endgames are far from perfect. They are not very good at closed positions nor positions with too many pieces on the board. They are very good at open positions and tactics and rarely make blunders as they never get tired. In other words, it is up to YOU alone to make the right choice of move at all stages of the game.
In a top level OTB game, the advantage can go back and forth between players until the player who makes the final mistake loses. In a typical top level CC game, the player who makes the first mistake usually loses. I believe that CC is much more precise and mistakes made in the opening or middle game can often dictate the final outcome. What I am trying to say is that in CC you sometimes need to look dozens of moves ahead (over the horizon level of a computer) before deciding on a move, which you could not do in an OTB game.
I started playing correspondence chess in 1979, before personal computers were commonplace, mainly because I had moved away from my club and had started working long hours in London. I enjoyed playing humans rather than my Chess Challenger or Sargon 2.5 chess computers. On the subject of cheating, how many OTB and CC players have ever used printed opening books, opening databases or DVDs? How many CC players consult endgame databases? From 2014 you can claim a win or draw in an ICCF server game if the position is shown in a 6 piece endgame database! Several years ago I had an opponent who kindly informed me that my position was actually lost and referred me to an endgame database. There now exists a 7 piece endgame database which runs on the Lomonosov supercomputer based in the Moscow State University as it is too large for a personal computer. Where will this end? How many of the world’s best players use computer analysis for their own future games?
I do believe that computers will eventually solve chess, but not, perhaps, in our lifetime. If this happens then all forms of chess will be extinct. Meanwhile, enjoyment and satisfaction from CC games is what you yourself put into them.