Category Archives: John Rhodes

CC v OTB Practical Thoughts

As many of you know I captain several Hertfordshire Chess Association teams and a game from Board 7 of our ‘A’ Team playing in the C&DCCC Division 2 Sinclair attracted my attention by the insightful notes that our player, Ross Brennan, made after claiming a draw by threefold repetition. Ross, as well as being a correspondence chess player, is also a strong over-the-board club player and has kindly allowed me to show you his thinking in one of his two games against Trevor Bates playing for Surrey ‘B’ Team.

Ross (playing Black) states: – “Basically my opponent played a sound game as White – very solid Torre Attack, which presumably followed someone’s book for about the first 17 or 18 moves. The position reached around then is evaluated as about +0.3 or += in old money, so White supposedly has a small but stable advantage. Until recently this line seems to have been regarded as dead equal, but – presumably a fairly recent discovery – it is actually a bit awkward to play as Black and White has a slight initiative. (OTB I would certainly lose this position against any reasonably strong player.)

Certainly it meant coming up with some decent moves to hold the position, and allowing White ideas like Nd6 then Qxf7+ is just not something you would consider OTB, because it looks too scary – “my king position must be too compromised after that”. However, the point of the defence was that White needed to give up two pieces for rook and a couple of pawns if he wanted to keep playing to win. In correspondence play it was then possible to work out that the uncoordinated minor pieces could eventually be coordinated and compromise the White king position. At most points if Black exchanges queens then White just wins with the Q-side passed pawns…but with queens on his king is too exposed.

At the end, counter-intuitively, the way for Black to play for a win is, finally, to exchange queens and gamble that he might have a winning endgame. But I chickened out instead!”

I am grateful to Ross for his comments and the computer says that the game finished with an equal position. Incidentally, Ross did win his other game as White against the same opponent!

John Rhodes

1st English Correspondence Championship Final Update

The 2017 1st English Correspondence Championship Final is nearing completion with just 9 games still ongoing and 96 games completed since it started about a year ago on 31/03/2017. I (current ICCF rating 2387) have recently lost the lead to CCM Mark Eldridge (current rating 2401) who has beaten GM John Brookes (current rating 2427). Mark has a final score of 8.5 / 14 (+3, =11, -0), I have a final score of 8 / 14 (+2, =12, -0) with SIM Alan Rawlings (current rating 2367) also on 8 /14 (+2, =12, -0) but I have a slightly higher Sonneborn-Berger-System score than Alan at the moment.

In theory the highest rated player at the start, GM John Brookes, could still win the tournament with 9 / 14 if he wins all his remaining games. CCM David Evans (current rating 2359) could reach 8.5 points if he wins his final game. CCM John Brasier (current rating 2435) could also reach 8.5 if he wins his final two games. LGM Dawn Williamson (current rating 2365) could reach 8 if she wins her final two games.

So there are still various possible scenarios for the final results, which does bring a bit of excitement to the otherwise 83% draw rate! Here is the very hard fought Berlin Defence game that gave CCM Mark Eldridge the lead: –

John Rhodes

Updates on 2017 British and English Correspondence Championships

At the time of writing I am leading both championships!

I do not expect this to last, especially in the British, as every game has, so far, been drawn. So, in reality, everyone is equal, with myself on 5 / 10 and CCM Gareth Yeo (WLS) also on 5 / 10 and  CCM David Cumming (SCO) on 4.5 / 9 etc.  This is typical of many correspondence tournaments nowadays with most of the draws occurring in the first half, then the decisive results later on.

In the English I have now finished all my games with 8 / 14 (+2, =12, -0) and I am just waiting for everyone else to catch or overtake me! My nearest rival, CCE Mark Eldridge has 7 / 12 (+2, =10, -0) so has every chance with SIM Stan Grayland on 7 / 14 (+2, =10, -2) but mathematically any of nine others could still catch us!

Whatever the final results I am pleased enough about my performances and here is my second win in the English Championship against the only GM and highest rated entrant: –

John Rhodes

Update on 1st English Correspondence Chess Championship 2017

The 1st English Correspondence Chess Championship Final 2017, which started on 31/03/17, has now had 60 of the 105 games completed. The leading scores so far are myself with 6.5 / 12 (+1 =11 -0), CCE Stan Grayland with 5.5 / 11 (+1 =9 -1) and SIM Alan Rawlings with 5.5 / 11 (+0 =11 -0). Out of the 60 finished games only two have, so far, been decisive. I have a habit of playing quickly as, fortunately, I am retired and have plenty of time available at the moment. However some players go at a calmer pace , for whatever reason, and complete their games much later. This means that it is difficult to know who is going to win until much later if most players are around the same score. So I do expect the lead to change many times!

Players have been discouraged from offering draws more than once in their games. I think one reason for the huge increase in draws in correspondence chess is the availability of endgame tables bases which often finish a game as drawn well before it would have been finished before their use. Also, the widespread use of powerful engines means fewer mistakes, so more draws. I suppose you can say that the quality of games has improved, but can you also say that the players themselves have also improved, I think not!

Here is Stan Grayland’s recent win: –

John Rhodes

British Correspondence Chess Championships 2016-18 Results

The British Correspondence Chess Championships 2016-18 have finally finished with Tony Balshaw the winner. Here are the main results: –

1st IM Anthony Balshaw (WLS) 8.5 / 14 (Winner by Tie Break)

2nd John Brasier (ENG) 8.5 / 14

3rd Brian Thompson (ENG) 8 / 14

It was a very hard fought contest with about 10% of games being decisive and 90% draws ignoring defaulted games. This was the first British Championship event with title qualifications and many players received norms for CCE (Experts) and/or CCM(Masters). My own performance was rather disappointing with 6.5 / 14 including 2 losses and 1 win by default. I have already shown you my loss against the winner, so here is my other loss against the third placed player, Brian Thompson. I think it is vital to learn from your own losses and this game shows my weakness for locked positions and probing for weaknesses which Brian exploited well.

You can see the completed cross table at

The British Championship 2017-19 officially starts on 1st October 2017 which I am pleased to say I have qualified for and will be reporting its progress in the coming months.

John Rhodes

English Correspondence Chess Championships 2017

The very first English Correspondence Chess Championships started on 31/03/2017 with a Final, two Semi-Finals and three Preliminary sections.

Curiously, the results for each section have been quite wide ranging so far, with the Final having 31/105 games finish with 30 draws and only 1 decisive game. The Semi-Final A has 19/55 games finish with 15 draws and only 1 decisive game plus 3 defaulted games. The Semi-Final B has 19/55 games finish with 10 draws and 9 decisive games. The Preliminary A has 27/55 games finish with only 4 draws and 22 decisive games plus 1 defaulted game. The Preliminary B has 27/55 games finish with 8 draws and 18 decisive games plus 1 defaulted game. The Preliminary C has 30/55 games finish with only 5 draws and 25 decisive games.

So, what does this all mean? Well, in order to try and reduce the high number of draws, players are now only allowed to make one draw offer throughout each game. This does not appear to have made any difference to the highest level games which, so far, come out at 97% drawn with the lower level games at only 15% drawn. I suppose the Finalists are better prepared and play more cautiously than the lower sections. My theory is that all the games which are level going into the endgame are finished off quickly, so players can concentrate on the games where they have a clear advantage or disadvantage, or does it just mean that they are all using the same computer assistance!?

Anyway, here is my game which was the first decisive game in the Final: –

John Rhodes

British CC Championships Update

As always with correspondence chess tournaments it is hard to predict the winner, as some players have more games still in progress than others. One thing I do know for certain is that in the British Championship 2016-18 it will not be me! I finished all my games with 6.5 / 14 (+1 =11 -2). There are still 14 games in play with the current ‘leader’, IM Anthony Balshaw, with 8 points (+3 =10 -0) and 1 game in play. Other possible contenders are Brian Thompson, IM Bill Lumley, and CCM Ian Jones all with 7 points and 2 in play. The reigning British Champion, Mark Eldridge, is also well in contention with 6.5 and 3 in play. It is also possible for other players who have up to 5 remaining games in play to catch up. Hopefully, my next report will give us more idea of the winner. You can view the tournament cross table at  Meanwhile, here is my final game against IM Clive Murden: –

John Rhodes

Updates on British and English Correspondence Chess Championships

The British Correspondence Chess Championship Final has now been running since 1st October 2016. As with all correspondence tournaments it is not always easy to gauge the winner until most of the games have finished, as some players like to play slower than others. With 88 games finished and 17 still in play, the player with the most points is IM Tony Balshaw from Wales with 7.5 / 12 (+3 =9 -0), next is Brian Thompson from England with 7 / 12 (+3 =8 -1) and IM Bill Lumley from England with 7 / 12 (+2 =10 -0). I have finished my tournament with a rather disappointing score of 6.5 / 14 (+1 =11 -2). My last game, where I thought I had a good position, ended in yet another draw! You can view the crosstable here.

The 1st English Correspondence Chess Championship Final started on 31st March 2017 and, so far, 13 games have finished as draws with 92 games ongoing. No player really wants to be the first loser in a tournament, so often the decisive games take longer. The player with the most points is David Evans with 3 / 6, then SIM Alan Rawlings with 2.5 / 5 and myself with 2 / 4. These results only reflect the faster moving players and it could change completely by the end! You can view the crosstable here.

Meanwhile, here is my final British Championship game: –

John Rhodes

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: –

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: –

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