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: –
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!
The Third British Webserver Team Tournament Division One started in June 2015. The team who I play for, “Pawn Stars”, won the very first tournament and only lost the second on a tie breaking rule to “ICCF Warriors”. It consists of seven teams, each with four players playing six games each and two players can be from overseas. Fortunately, our Welsh based team has stayed together for each tournament, although the board order changes according to current grade, and consists of SIM Gino Figlio (Peru); SIM Dr Michael Millstone (USA); Myself (England) and Austin Lockwood (Captain, Wales). This year we have an average rating of 2419, only beaten by “ICCF Warriors” who, this year, have an average rating of 2422 and consist of GM Mark Noble (New Zealand); SIM Olli Ylönen (Finland); SIM Andrew Dearnley (Captain, England) and SIM Ian Pheby (England).
This is a very popular tournament and gives British players a chance to play high ranked players from around the world without taking on too many games. Many teams and players will have a chance to meet up in Cardiff, Wales, this year for the ICCF Congress. I only wish I could be there myself! This is something that correspondence chess players rarely have a chance to do!
My games, so far, have been very hard fought and any wins will be difficult indeed. It is rather too early to show any games yet, but there promises to be some exciting battles to come.
My final game in the Adrian Hollis Memorial Tournament on the ICCF Webserver finished as a draw with Black against ICCF GM Richard Hall, the World Silver Medalist in the 25th ICCF World Championship Final. My final score being 4 / 10 (+1, =6, -3), which included loss of a level game due to my ‘clerical error’ which should never have happened! I did manage a win and, considering that I was the lowest rated player, I hope not to finish in last place! This was reputed to be one of the strongest ever UK correspondence chess tournaments with all UK players. This was also one of the first tournaments to include the six piece endgame tablebase rule in which you are able to claim a win or draw when only six pieces remain on the board. I managed at the end of my game to ensure a draw with 77…Ra5+. The current state of play can be viewed here www.iccf.com/event?id=41391 .
There are only 8 remaining games in play, but it looks increasingly likely that GM Nigel Robson, who is currently leading with 6 / 8 (+4, =4, -0) will not be caught, even by GM Richard Hall with 3 / 5 (+1, =4, -0), unless Richard can win all of his 5 remaining games. In theory, SIM Russell Pegg and SIM Nigel Burne also have a chance of a shared or unshared first place. Unfortunately, it is not possible to view games in progress.
GM Nigel Robson has just started play in the ICCF 29th World Championship Final. His opponents include two former World Champions, GM Fabio Finnocchario of Italy and GM Aleksadr Dronov of Russia. Nigel is already the IECG World Champion, can he do the double? We wish him the very best of luck!
With eleven games out of fifty five still in progress in the Adrian Hollis Memorial you might think that the winner was certain in this prestige event which is, quite possibly, the strongest ever correspondence chess tournament with players solely from the United Kingdom. At the moment the winner is very likely to be either the player with the highest or lowest number of points so far! GM Nigel Robson has, so far, scored a magnificent 6 / 8 or 75%, but can he be caught by GM Richard Hall, a World Championship Silver Medallist, who has, so far, scored 2.5 / 4 or 62.5%? It is, of course, quite possible and will be fascinating to follow. Another player who has done well so far is SIM Richard Beecham with 5.5 / 10, which includes two wins, although he could easily be overtaken too. Unfortunately, the games cannot be followed live even by the players, although you can view them when finished.
You can view the cross table here: – www.iccf.com/event?id=41391
I am fortunate to be also playing in this event, although I let myself down by losing a level game with a ‘clerical error’ earlier on. I am pleased to say that I have, however, managed one win which I show below. My opponent, SIM Paul Timson is a strong OTB player who I have only managed to draw with on a previous occasion. My queen and bishop gained space on the queen side and I was able to win a pawn. He put up a stubborn defence and at times I wondered if I had enough to win.
Having already drawn the first of our two games against my lower rated opponent with Black, I was keen to do better with the White pieces. My Hertfordshire team, ‘Eight of Hearts’, needed the points as did my own rating! Since the widespread use of computer assistance it has been increasingly difficult to get any wins in Correspondence Chess!
As far as move eighteen I thought the game was reasonably level, although my opponent now gives me a passed e-pawn for nothing. I suppose he thought that I would now have three isolated pawns against his one. The diagram position shows that after thirty moves my position is looking quite good, although I need some kind of breakthrough to make progress. See if you can find the best continuation.
Yes, White’s 31st move is not so difficult to see, although not so clear to some computer programs who would prefer Re2 or Rb4. Of course, Black would have been better to play 33…Rexe6 to give back the exchange, although I doubt if that would have affected the result. I did enjoy my move 41.Qe8, leaving my queen en prise for the remainder of the game.
I have just finished, with some relief, both my games in the English Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championships for 2014/15 which started in November 2014. I am relieved not to have lost either and to have held my own against a strong IM graded 152 points above me on Board One. My two games were played in Division One (Ward-Higgs) on the ICCF server. The top few boards in Division One attract some strong players from both CC and OTB. Essex B are currently leading with 8/13, with Warwickshire A on 6/11 and Yorkshire B on 5/9. My own team, Hertfordshire A, have 4/9. It is interesting that some of B teams are leading their A teams at the moment, but it is early days yet!
My own games were a matching pair of Sicilian Najdorfs as far as move 7 and follow theory for some distance. Of course, these games were played simultaneously rather than one after the other. You can watch all the games in progress from the following link www.iccf.com/event?id=45571
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.