Author Archives: JohnR

British Correspondence Championships 2016-18 Update

The British Correspondence Championship 2016-18 now has 77 finished games out of the 105 which started. It is still too soon to have a clear leader, as some players have finished all or most of their games while others have hardly started!  The players with the most points, so far, are Welsh IM Tony Balshaw with 7.5 / 12 and English SIM Alan Rawlings with 7 / 14. My own performance has been disappointing with 5.5 / 12 which includes two losses and a win by default.

The standard of play has been very high and, with correspondence chess, if you make a weaker move in the opening you can often never recover. Of course, the majority of players use databases, either their own or a commercial ‘off the shelf’ one. Here is my game against Tony Balshaw where I played an inferior move which almost certainly cost me the game. Well played Tony! With Black to play in the diagram, before you read the moves, what move would you play here?


John Rhodes

1st English Correspondence Chess Championship

The 1st English Correspondence Chess Championship (ECCC) starts on 1st April 2017. It will be a bi-annual event and, as the name suggests, will only contain players registered under the England flag. There will be a Championship Final with between 11 and 15 competitors, two Semi-Finals with between 9 and 13 competitors and some preliminary sections with, if possible, between 7 and 11 competitors. The organiser is SIM Ian M. Pheby.

For the first ECCC the Championship Committee has asigned competitors to each section based on their ICCF rating to which a bonus of points is added, I.E. GM 75 points; SIM 50 points; IM 25 points; CCM 15 points; CCE 5 points. One game is played against each of the other competitors in your section on the ICCF webserver. The competition will run for about 21 months with a time limit of 40 days for 10 moves. Unfinished games will be adjudicated.

The Championship winner will receive an engraved trophy and £150, the runner up £75 and third place £25. There are further prizes and opportunities for all sections. Details can be found here: –efcchess.org.uk/eccc.html

Even though I already had plenty of games in progress I could not ignore this important new event in the calendar and have duly entered! I am lucky enough to have been included in the Championship section with the following top English players, ten of which I have played before: – GM John G. Brookes (2467), CCM John Brasier (2423), SIM Jerry E.C. Asquith (2410), Ken J. Owen (2403), IM Bill F. Lumley (2388), CCE Stan J. Grayland (2383), CCE Mark Eldridge (2382), Peter Catt (2377), Trevor Carr (2375), SIM Alan J.C. Rawlings (2367), David Evans (2352), LIM Dawn L. Williamson (2348), SIM Ian M. Pheby (2312).

The Championship Final cross table can be viewed here: –www.iccf.com/event?id=65892

Games can only be viewed when finished and when at least 10 have been finished. Anyway, here is a game I played against one of my ECCC opponents who I played in the British Championship 2016-18 and who happens to be the British Champion for 2015.

John Rhodes

4th British Webserver Tournament – Division 1

The 4th British Webserver Tournament Division 1 recently started on 1st January 2017 with seven teams of four players. You may remember that each team consists of two British players and two international players. The winner of the first event were ‘Pawn Stars’ who narrowly beat ‘ICCF Warriors’, however, ‘ICCF Warriors’ went on to beat ‘Pawn Stars’ by the smallest of margins in the second event and also beat them in the third event. Over the four events, my team, ‘Pawn Stars’ has remained with the same players, although our board order changes depending on starting grade! This year we are the highest rated team with an average grade of 2408, against 2343 for ‘ICCF Warriors’, 2334 for ‘SchemingMind A’, 2297 for ‘SchemingMind B’, 2287 for ‘BCCA Kings’, 2249 for ‘BCCA Knights and 2177 for ‘Social CCA A’.

The ‘Pawn Stars’ team consists of Board 1 SIM Gino Figlio 2457 from Peru, 2 SIM John Rhodes 2396 from England, 3 SIM Michael Millstone 2400 from the USA and 4 Austin Lockwood (Captain) 2381 from Wales. The ‘ICCF Warriors’ team consists of Board 1 SIM Olli Ylonen 2451 from Finland, 2 LGM Toni Halliwell 2315 from England, 3 LGM Natalia Litvinenko 2294 from Kazakhstan and SIM Ian Pheby 2312 from England.

The tournament can be viewed from the ICCF website at www.iccf.com/event?id=63895

This year the teams seem fairly evenly matched, so I expect the result to be very close with, very likely, a new winner. It is too early to show any games, as at least ten need to be finished, but I can show you one of my wins from the last tournament against my old adversary A.N. Other! Here I have a long endgame with queen and three pawns against rook, knight and five pawns.

John Rhodes

Two Wins Against The Winawer

I do not have too many wins these days in correspondence chess, so my two wins against the French Defence in 2016 for my Hertfordshire County team in England were very welcome.

The first game was played in the BCCL Championship Division against a member of the Mensa Team. My opponent is an experienced French Defence player, so I was really pleased with the result. In fairness to my opponent, we did draw our second game.

My other game, which has recently finished, was in the Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championship, Division 1, Ward-Higgs. My different opponent is also a strong over-the-board player for Surrey, England. Again, in fairness to my opponent, he did win our second game, although not a French Defence!

John Rhodes

British CC Championship 2016/8

The British Correspondence Chess Championship 2016/8 was underway on 1st October 2016 on the ICCF Server. There are fifteen players, including two SIMs, three IMs and one CCE. This is the first time I have played in a British Championship and this year is the first time that title qualifications are available. The three highest rated players are Clive Murden (2435), Scotland, Tony Balshaw (2432), Wales, myself (2403), England. The average grade is 2354. Three games have already been drawn, including one of mine. As the players and public can only view the games once ten have been finished, I am not able to show you any here yet. In a bid to reduce the number of drawn games, we are essentially restricted to one offer per player per game. The continued growth of computer tablebases means that endgames are rarely played out with six pieces or less on the board as claims can be made. You can view the championship here: – www.iccf.com/event?id=61304

The winner of last year’s British Championship was Mark Eldridge with 9/15 and here is one of his four wins: –

John Rhodes

Finish of English Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championships Division Two

Last season my Hertfordshire team were relegated from Division One, the Ward-Higgs Trophy, to Division Two, the Sinclair Trophy in the English Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championships. I am very pleased to announce that we are nearing the end of this season’s play and now stand second, with a score of 10.5 / 15 to West Wales ‘A’ team 13 /15. The Surrey ‘B’ team have a score of 10.5 / 16 but our team will win on board count whatever happens in the final game. So we will finish in the top two and should be promoted back to Division One!

Our non-playing captain, Dr Graham Williams, has done a great job inspiring our team and our final push to grab second spot from Surrey ‘B’ was well worth the effort. It just shows that you should never give up in chess! The organizer of the event was Neil Limbert who worked extremely hard throughout.

I scored 1.5  / 2 on top board and here is my win with White in an interesting Scandinavian Defence: –

John Rhodes

England v Croatia Server Match in Close Finish

With the reigning ICCF World Champion, GM Ing Leonardo Ljubicic, on Board 1 for Croatia it looks like a close finish for the England v Croatia Match on the ICCF Server. The current score is England 22.5 and Croatia 20.5 with 3 games still to finish, 2 of which are on Board 1.

It is not for me to comment on unfinished games, but England can still afford to lose one game if they draw two, which would win the match. The World Champion is playing England’s IM Edgar Flacker on Board 1. I managed to draw both my games for England against Zdravko Tesic on Board 4. You can view finished and unfinished games here https://www.iccf.com/event?id=51755

Here is my symmetrical English game as Black.

Here is a short game by Neil Limbert for England on Board 8 taking advantage of his opponent’s early blunder.

John Rhodes

Adrian Hollis – Classics Don and Correspondence Chess Grandmaster

Adrian Hollis was one of Britain’s leading chess players both at correspondence and over-the-board chess in the 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s. There were many good obituaries in the newspapers when he died a few years ago and I am not intending to match any here, just to show how good he was at chess. I will say that his father served as Director-General of MI5 from 1956 to 1965 and that Adrian’s distinguished academic career at Oxford University focused mainly on Hellanistic and Roman poetry in which he was a world renowned expert.

He played for Oxford University Chess Club in four Varsity matches between 1959 and 1962, being on top board in 1961 and 1962. He played in some British Chess Championships (over-the-board) in the 1960s and was 7th equal in 1961. He was British Correspondence Chess Champion in 1966 (jointly), 1967 and 1971. He represented Great Britain in the famous Potter Memorial Correspondence Chess Tournament of 1973 and was awarded the Grandmaster Title for first place in 1976 with a score of 9 / 12. During the 1980’s he advised Victor Korchnoi on certain openings of which he was considered an expert. He was a regular member of the British Olympiad Team.

Here is a game from the Potter Memorial Tournament against Dr Fritz Bambach who later became World Champion. Remember that this game was played before chess computer programs were widely available. Ken Messere, another participant, wrote an excellent book about the tournament from which this game and notes were taken. The book is still available from the BFCC website for only £5.00 plus postage if overseas (bfcc-online.org.uk).

John Rhodes

3rd British Webserver Team Tournament nearing close finish

With just five games to finish, the 3rd British Webserver Team Tournament is heading for another really close finish and possibly a tie break. BCCA Kings are currently leading with a final score of 13.5 points with both BCCA Knights and Pawn Stars on 13 points, although BCCA Knights and Pawn Stars both have one game to finish. Also in the running is ICCF Warriors with 12.5 points and still two games to finish, so can they catch up?

This year the teams have been more evenly matched with ICCF Warriors (Board 1 GM Mark Noble 2492; 2 SIM Olli Ylonen 2472; 3 SIM Andrew Dearnley (Captain) 2368 and 4 SIM Ian Pheby 2356) weighing in with an average rating of ICCF 2422; Pawn Stars (1 SIM Gino Figlio 2476; 2 SIM Michael Millstone 2439; 3 SIM John Rhodes 2389 and 4 Austin Lockwood (Captain) 2372) with 2419; BCCA KIngs (1 David Evans 2363; 2 SIM Alan Rawlings 2367; 3 Les Ellis 2289 and 4 Ian Mason 2199) with 2304; Scheming Mind A with 2283; BCCA Knights with 2233; BCCA Griffins with 2184 and Sussex Servers with 2173.

It is not really for me to predict the outcome of the remaining games, but you can view them at www.iccf.com/event?id=53439   Meanwhile, here is one of my own games in this tournament in which I found myself in a Modern Benoni in what looks like a very precarious position!

John Rhodes

Finish of Adrian Hollis Memorial CC Tournament

As I predicted in June 2015 and confirmed in September the clear winner of the Adrian Hollis Memorial CC Tournament was ICCF GM Nigel Robson (ENG) with a remarkable score of 8/10 (+6, =4, -0). The final game of the tournament finished in a draw at the end of April 2016 between GM John G. Brookes (ENG) and SIM Nigel Burne (ENG). GM Richard Hall (ENG) and SIM Richard Beecham (SCO) were joint second both with 5.5/10 (+2, =7, -1). Fourth, with the same score but lower Baumbach tie break was SIM Nigel Burne who, of course, would have been second if he had won this last game.

The late Adrian Hollis was a very distinguished classical scholar, with a career mainly focused on Hellenistic and Roman poetry. He was also a strong over the board player who played in several British Championships finishing seventh equal in 1961.

We were given a small incentive to win games and it is interesting to note that nearly 31% of the games were decisive. Despite my disastrous start in 2014 by throwing away a game with a clerical error and an early loss to SIM Harvey Williamson (ENG), who was fifth with 5/10 (+2, =6, -2), I was content with my 4/10 (+1, =6, -3) and ninth place being the lowest rated player. My main ambition was not to be last and this I managed to avoid! This was possibly the strongest ever British CC tournament excluding overseas players, with an average rating of 2504 which included a World Championship silver medalist and candidate.

A cross table of the tournament can be found here: – https://www.iccf.com/event?id=41391

Here is the final game. Note that the six piece Tablebase rules apply: –

John Rhodes