Category Archives: 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

ICCF Olympiad 16 Postal Final

The ICCF Olympiad 16 Postal Final, which started in 2010, has just finished. The overall winners are the Czech Republic with a high score of 69% and 33.5/48 with an average start rating of 2619. Germany are second with 59%, 28.5/48 and 2572 and France are third with 55%, 26.5/48 and 2554.  Other teams finished in the order of Poland, Brazil, Israel, Slovakia, Sweden, Italy, USA, Ukraine, England and finally Finland. The winning Czech Republic team consisted of GM Roman Chytilek (2693) on Board 1, IM Jiri Dufek (2579) on Board 2, GM David Vrkoc (2607) on Board 3 and GM Jiri Vosahlik (2600) on Board 4.

England, with myself on Board 2, scored 42% and 20.5/48 which was the same as the USA and Ukraine. Considering we had the lowest average start rating it was a good result and we avoided last place. Our team consisted of SIM Russell Pegg (2440) on Board 1, myself on Board 2, IM Julian Corfield (2395) on Board 3 and SIM Ian Pheby (2248) on Board 4 with non-playing Captain Neil Limbert. This was the strongest tournament I have played with Category 13 on Board 1, Category 12 on Board 2, Category 11 on Board 3 and Category 9 on Board 4. We are all grateful for Captain Neil Limbert’s help and guidance throughout this marathon event which could well be the last time England play in a Postal Olympiad.

Of course postal chess can be very slow when compared to server chess and the final game, between our own SIM Russell Pegg and Dr Fritz Baumbach, has only just finished after 116 moves and almost six years of play!  Congratulations must go to Russell for drawing this game and securing third place on Board 1. This game and all other games can be viewed on the ICCF website at: – https://www.iccf.com/event?id=21733

I have to admit that I found the going tough and, although I had some good games, I never won any. My team mates, however, all won a game each against higher rated opposition and I will show Russell’s game against IM Livio Olivotto below.

 

John Rhodes

Correspondence Chess Advice From ICCF World Champion

It is good to see articles about correspondence chess published on a well known chess news website. The 28th and latest World Champion, Leonardo Ljubicic from Omis, a small village near Split, has reportedly spent about two or three hours a day, and twice as long at weekends, analysing his correspondence chess games. He has revealed what he thinks about correspondence chess and how he decides his moves.

Leonardo thinks it is impossible to achieve any significant result without engines and databases and that the player, not the engine, should choose a suitable opening and steer the engine toward or away from certain types of position. He thinks you should only play a certain set of openings because you dare not make one weak move. He says that today’s engines are very strong, but do make mistakes when judging positions, and that you should feed the computer with more good ideas than your opponent. He goes on to say that you should not let the engine do all the work and blindly make its move without you too watching the thinking process. He says that the “next best” function is the “main tool for correspondence play”. He uses a standard GUI and several databases. He also uses the ICCF archive database, MegaDatabase and the Playchess games database, but only for getting new ideas as he thinks human games are too unreliable. He forms opening trees in these databases, but does not rely on statistics, and all variations are analysed for all worst case scenarios. He has used all the major chess engines and works out their weaknesses. I show one of Leonardo’s win’s below.

So to do well at the top level of correspondence chess you obviously have to play better than any engine and have to have done more analysis work than your opponent. I know that many over-the-board players are prejudiced against modern day correspondence chess when strong engines and powerful hardware are easily available. I sympathise with them and can only say that correspondence chess is now really only analysing chess rather than playing it live on a board sitting in front of your opponent, which we all know is the real challenge. I know that there are correspondence chess players who do not use engines and dislike playing against them, but it seems that to beat them you have to join them!

John Rhodes

Black to Play and Win!

The position below was reached after Anish Giri’s 70th move against Yifan Hou in the final round of the Masters Group in the recent Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk-aan-Zee. Up until this point Yifan had maintained a winning position with seven pieces on the board. Her next move Ke3 made the position drawn. Without looking at the answer below, can you do better?

Congratulations if you found the correct move! You are either a genius, a supercomputer or just lucky! There are other moves which still maintain the winning position, but take longer to checkmate. How do I know the correct move myself? Well, I have access to the supercomputer at Moscow State University which has solved any chess position with seven or less pieces!

Zakharov and Mackhnichev were programmers who wrote the algorithm to produce the 7-piece tablebase using the Lomonosov Supercomputer. I had a shock introduction to a 6-piece tablebase about six years ago, when one of my opponents in a correspondence game suddenly announced that he had a winning position based on a tablebase and suggested I resign!

Since 2014 the ICCF have allowed claims based on the 6-piece tablebase and have also made clear that you can get access to a 7-piece tablebase if you buy certain chess software. This, unfortunately, means that correspondence players no longer can play endgames fairly like over-the-board players! This is not the fault of the ICCF, who really have no choice but to keep up with the latest developments. When chess is solved, and I do think it will be, then correspondence chess will surely cease.

John Rhodes

New Correspondence Chess World Champion!

With just five results to come there is a new correspondence chess world champion from the 17 player World Championship 28 Final.  GM Ing. Leonardo Ljubicic (ICCF 2604) from Croatia leads with an unassailable 10 / 17 (4 wins, 12 draws and 0 losses).

The average ICCF rating of the 17 players was 2582. Second and third places are likely to be between GM Horácio Neto (2617) of Portugal, SIM Petr Boukal (2473) of the Czech Republic and Dr Hans-Dieter Wunderlich (2629) of Germany depending on final results.

You can view the finished games at www.iccf.com/event?id=37632 .  He is one of his shorter wins with attacks on opposite wings: –

John Rhodes

Update on 3rd British Webserver Team Tournament Division One

I was beginning to think that every game was going to be drawn in Division 1 of the 3rd British Webserver Team Tournament. I suppose that, because there can be quite a difference in gradings between the players on each board, E.G. 200 to 300 points or more, then the stronger players play carefully and the weaker players are only too happy to draw against a higher rated player. Fortunately, someone had a win at last, which happened to be me on Board 3 for the ‘Pawn Star’ Team, who had won the 1st Tournament and came runners up in the 2nd! A few others have followed my example and have also won their games, although the percentage of draws is still about 81% as I write which includes 2 games which were lost on time. How can you lose on time in a CC game? Well it does happen.

It is difficult to see the leaders at this stage, even with 75% of the games completed, as some teams have finished more games than others. Probably the best indicator is to quote the percentage scores of each team. Last year’s winners, ‘ICCF Warriors’, have 60%, ‘Pawn Stars’ have 58% and ‘BCCA Kings’ have 53% but there is still a lot to play for. The latest news can be found here www.iccf.com/event?id=53439

Here is my first win, hopefully, not my last: –

John Rhodes

New Season for the Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championship

The 2015/16 season for the Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championship (C&DCCC) here in England has recently started with the usual three divisions, namely Ward-Higgs, Sinclair and Butler-Thomas. When I was informed that the Ward-Higgs was about to start I eagerly looked down the game list to see who my opponent would be, but could not find my name! Then it dawned on me that the Hertfordshire Team that I play for had been demoted to the Sinclair the previous season, by finishing second to last. I think we were just unlucky with much tougher opponents than usual, well that is the excuse I prefer to stick with! I am sure that we will do better this season. The full crosstable and games for the new season can be found here: – www.iccf.com/event?id=55936

This year’s winners were Essex in the Ward-Higgs, Essex ‘C’ in the Sinclair and Surrey ‘B’ in the Butler-Thomas. Here is a game which helped Essex to win the Ward-Higgs: –

John Rhodes

Clear Winner in Adrian Hollis Memorial Tournament

As predicted in my June 2015 blog it has just been announced that GM Nigel Robson has won the Adrian Hollis Memorial Tournament with a remarkable score of 8/10 (+6, =4, -0). Despite there being four games still in progress he cannot be caught. The tournament has an average ICCF rating of 2504, equivalent to category XI, with eleven competitors from myself to GM Richard Hall. I am pleased to say that my final score of 4/10 (+1, =6, -3) will not end up as the lowest score, despite my ‘clerical blunder’ and having the lowest rating at the start!

GM Adrian Hollis was a distinguished classical scholar and his career focused mainly on Hellenistic and Roman poetry. He was also a strong over the board player and played several times in the British Chess Championships finishing seventh equal in 1961.

Second and third places have still to be decided and it is still too early to predict them with possibly seven players in with chances. To check the latest positions here is a link to the crosstable www.iccf.com/event?id=41391

Here is my game against GM Nigel Robson which illustrates just how good a player he is. I was hoping to hold a draw, but towards the end his pieces just seemed to float into the best positions!

John Rhodes