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.
The second season of Division One of the British ICCF Webserver Team Tournaments is now about three quarters finished with the leading team, ‘ICCF Warriors’, on 66% with their nearest rivals and last year’s winner, ‘Pawn Stars’, close behind on 65% with the next team, ‘Scheming Mind ‘A”, on 55%. ‘ICCF Warriors’ consists of GM Nigel Robson (ENG), an ICCF World Finalist, GM Raymond Boger (NOR), GM Mark Noble (NZL) and SIM Ian Pheby (ENG), ICCF Aspirer Tournaments Officer. ‘Pawn Stars’ consists of SIM Gino Figlio (PER), ICCF Webmaster, SIM Dr Michael Millstone (USA), ICCF General Secretary, myself (ENG) and Austin Lockwood (WLS), ICCF Services Director. The average grades of the leading team are about 100 points above ours, so it is no real surprise that they are still in the lead. I have had a quick look through the remaining games and it looks like they will be unbeatable.
Here is a win by the highest rated player in the competition, GM Raymond Boger : –
Well, the endgame in correspondence chess on a well known server is anyway! As from 2014 all new tournaments have a rule that you can claim a win or draw if the board position contains six men or less which is confirmed by a tablebase for 6-pieces. I can see why the server have done this, as it is impossible to stop players using tablebases, although now it virtually forces all players to use them and you will certainly be at a great disadvantage if you do not! This also supersedes the 50 move rule for draws.
The question is, will this be the beginning of the end for correspondence chess? You can easily play the opening and halfway into the middle game in correspondence chess by following online databases and the news is that some clever Russian programmers have developed a 7-piece endgame database which runs on the Lomonosov supercomputer at Moscow State University. One particular 7- piece mate runs to 545 moves. There is little room left for human input!
In my last post I mention the terrific start (94%) that “Herts and Minds” had made in Division 3 of the new ICCF Webserver Tournament. They continue to do well although their percentage score has now dropped slightly to 92% or 19.5/21! In fact, they have only conceded three draws and the rest were wins! I think they well deserve one of their games to be shown here. So we have Arthur Reed playing Black against a member of the Welsh “Dragons” team in a lively miniature.
In Division 1 the reigning champions, “Pawn Stars”, have a score of 58% or 7/12 and are chasing hard after last year’s runners up, “ICCF Warriors”, who have 68% or 5.5/8.
The second season of British Webserver Team Tournaments in four divisions is well underway and our winning team in Division 1, “Pawn Stars”, is battling against “ICCF Warriors” and five other teams, “Scheming Mind A”, “Scheming Mind B”, “BCCA Kings”, “BCCA Griffins” and “White Rose A”. It is always difficult to tell who is leading until the later stages, although “Scheming Mind A” have finished the most games with a percentage score of 53%. “Pawn Stars” have 61% and “ICCF Warriors” have 68%, so it already looks like “ICCF Warriors” are pulling ahead. They have an even stronger team than last year with no less than three GMs Nigel Robson (ENG), Raymond Boger (NOR) and Mark Noble (NZL), and SIM Ian Pheby (ENG). “Pawn Stars” have the same team as last year, in a different order, with SIMs Gino Figlio (PER), Dr Michael Millstone (USA), and myself (ENG), together with Austin Lockwood (WLS). Remember that each team must have at least two players from the UK. Almost 75% of the games in Division 1 have, so far, been drawn and I am finding it increasingly difficult to win games nowadays, although I am finding it easier to lose games!
I am pleased to report that our Hertfordshire team, “Herts and Minds”, in Division 3 have made a terrific start with a percentage score of 94%! The team consists of SIM Keith Kitson with final score of 6/6, Peter Rice on 4.5/5, Steve Law on 2.5/3 and Arthur Reed on 4/4. They are all members from clubs in the English county of Hertfordshire.
This month I have chosen one of my (rare) wins from this tournament. I had already had to draw another rook and pawn ending, so I was determined to make more of this game. It has a very interesting ending which I need to further investigate. There were so many lines which ended in a draw, even if I had a two pawn advantage. I had to devise a plan which kept his king occupied and out of the way, but I needed my rook to be active attacking his pawns and my king to have some shelter from his checking rook. I think I found the key to this with 48 Re7 and I believe his position now crumbles. They say that rook and pawn endings are always drawn, well not if I can help it.
As predicted, Essex are the County Champions with an emphatic 16/20 victory in the Ward-Higgs Division well clear of their nearest rivals. Runners up were Yorkshire with 13.5; Third were Warwickshire with 12.5; Fourth equal were Hertfordshire and Northumberland with 12. Unfortunately, my own county, Hertfordshire, who were placed second for quite a while, were eventually overtaken by Yorkshire and Warwickshire. Despite this, it is Hertfordshire’s best ever result in the Championship League, so everyone should be proud! Hertfordshires’s team for next season, which now consists of only 8 boards, will be Board 1 SIM John Rhodes (myself); Board 2 Fide IM Lorin D’Costa; Board 3 SIM Keith Kitson; Board 4 Peter Rice; Board 5 Steve Law; Board 6 Arthur Reed; Board 7 Barrie Saunders; Board 8 Mike Dyer.
Here is a game from Peter Doye, Board 7 of the Essex Team. I have played Peter several times myself and I am sure he will not mind me saying that he is a very solid player and very experienced at the French Defence. He is in his late seventies and once told me that he had beaten the leading contender, Dr Jacok Seitz, at Whitby in 1956 with black, also with a French Defence! Seitz was ranked 47th in the World in 1924 and graded 2514 in 1928. Unfortunately, that game does not survive, but in the Whitby Museum in Pannett Park, is a soapstone chess set given by the late Baruch Wood for a chess tournament held in those premises.