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!
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.
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: –
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: –
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.