Category Archives: John Rhodes

The Olympic Torch and an Encounter with Paul Morphy

About thirteen months ago I decided I needed a car to match our eco house and lifestyle. The petrol guzzling, super fast, sports estate car would have to stay locked in the garage and a small petrol electric hybrid would be our main means of transport. Like chess, I prefer extremes rather than average! Little did we know that the test drive coincided with the Olympic Torch tour, so we crawled silently around town, on electric power, in slow moving traffic but, unfortunately, missed seeing the Olympic Torch!

Last month I returned the car for it’s first service, which they did while I waited. To kill time I went into one of my favourite bookshops and could not resist buying an 1886 copy of ‘Morphy’s Games of Chess’ by J. Lowenthal. It has an introduction from Morphy and a nice Stevenson print from a photograph, which appears to be signed, although I know Morphy had died two years before publication of this edition.

I was surprised to find a game he played against John Rhodes, my namesake, who was born in Leeds in 1814, a member of Leeds Chess Club from 1834 until his death in 1898 and was acquainted with Buckle, G. Walker, Staunton, and St. Amant. As far as I know he is no relation! It was one of eight simultaneous games that Morphy played blindfolded and without sight of a board. It was the anniversary Meeting of the British Chess Association in 1858 in Birmingham, England. Morphy won six games, drew one and lost one, a remarkable score even with a very rare defeat.

Here is his game played blindfolded against my namesake with the original annotations by Lowenthal, although in algebraic notation: –

John Rhodes


Essex Near To Victory In Ward-Higgs Counties and District CC Championship

With just 9 games to finish it is looking increasingly like a victory for Essex in the Ward-Higgs Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championship for 2012/13 in England. Essex have 2 games to finish with 15/18 and their nearest rivals, Hertfordshire, having now been caught by Yorkshire, are now on 12/18 and 12/16 respectively. Warwickshire are also doing well with 11.5/18 and will surely overtake Hertfordshire. Northumberland have 10/18 and could well catch Hertfordshire.

There is no promotion or relegation and the Ward-Higgs is reserved for the 1st Teams of each English county. If you are an English CC player and are not playing in these teams then please contact your county association who will be only too pleased to get you in a team!

The lowest scoring teams so far are Somerset with 4.5/19 and Worcestershire with 3/19. Here is the latest win by Worcestershire’s Board 2 who won both his games: –

John Rhodes


Secrets of the Correspondence Chess World Champion!

In these days of ever increasing technology and computer power what does the current correspondence chess world champion do to beat the other guys?  Fabio Finocchiaro of Italy has recently given an interview to the International Correspondence Chess Federation in which he outlines his winning strategy.

Asked how he prepares for an important tournament like the world championship, Fabio reveals that he studies the games of his opponents. Well, I suppose we all do that, …..don’t we?

Asked when he studies those games, whether he uses any opening databases or chess engines for analysis, Fabio replies that he uses a well known database program, a mega database for 2012 and a correspondence database for 2012. This is something we all do, ….surely?  Well, maybe not, as to keep up with the very latest super databases can be quite costly and does that guarantee success? I very much doubt it. I do not know whether Fabio uses any chess engines in conjuction with these databases, nor what his opponents use when playing him. Fabio won five games and drew fifteen, without loss, to win the world championship, so he does play very well, but I think his secrets remain with him!

Fabio has annotated one of his most challenging games in the 25th World Championship: –

John Rhodes


Entries now being taken for 2013/14 British Correspondence Chess Championships

The 2013/14 season is about to begin for the British Correspondence Chess Championship, the British Veterans Championship and the British Ladies Championship. The championships are only open to full members of the British Federation for Correspondence Chess (BFCC) and its member organisations who were born or are currently residing in the United Kingdom, a Crown Dependency or a British Overseas Territory. There are Championship, Candidiates and Reserves Sections.

This has been held annually since 1921 and is now played exclusively as a webserver event. Titled players above certain ratings can get into the Championship Section. Please see the BFCC website for further details which are too numerous to list here : - 

Here is a game won by Mark Eldridge, who is the British Team Captain for International Friendly Matches, against Arthur Reed in last years Championship. I would be eligible for both the Individual and Veterans, but perhaps I should not enter to give them all a chance……..!

John Rhodes


Season Two of the British WS Team Tournament Begins!

The second season of the very popular British Webserver Team Tournament has recently begun on the ICCF server. There are 25 teams of 4 players per team in 4 Divisions with 7 teams in the first 3 Divisions, and 4 teams in Division 4. Each player has 6 games, although in Division 4 it is 2 games against each opponent.

Division 1 has 3 ICCF Grandmasters, 5 Senior International Masters, 1 International Master and 1 Lady International Master. The average ratings for each board are Board 1: – 2372; Board 2: – 2336; Board 3: – 2285; Board 4: – 2212. The reigning Champions, “Pawn Stars”, with 3 SIMs, Gino Figlio, Dr. Michael Millstone and myself and Austin Lockwood (Captain) are up against “ICCF Warriors”, the likely favourites, with a team containing 3 GMs, Nigel Robson, Raymond Boger and Mark Noble and 1 SIM, Ian Pheby. Other teams are “BCCA Griffins”, “Scheming Mind A”, “Scheming Mind B” and “White Rose A”. We are outgraded by over 100 points this year, so we will need to play very carefully if we are to retain our title and receive another trophy…..!

Here is a game from GM Raymond Boger, the highest rated player, from the ICCF Olympiad 17 Final: –

John Rhodes


Hertfordshire Chasing Leaders in the Counties and District CC Championships

I am very pleased to report that my team, Hertfordshire, are now only two points behind leaders Essex in the Counties & District CC Championship for 2012/13. Current scores stand at Essex 13/15 (86%) and Hertfordshire 11/16 (68%). Obviously, there are still games in progress, but the only other team with a higher percentage score is currently Yorkshire with 9.5/13 (73%) who I originally tipped to do well. Other teams with a close score are Hampshire 9.5/14 (67%); Warwickshire 9/15 (60%) and Northumberland 9/15 (60%) so there is much to play for in the last few games!

The encouraging trend in this tournament is the number of strong over-the-board players that have been attracted to webserver chess, something that postal chess never really achieved!

Here is our latest win by Arthur Reed on Board 10. The game was lost on time, but the result is never in doubt: –

John Rhodes


English GM Richard Hall Silver Medallist at ICCF 25th World CC Final

The English GM Richard Hall has finished one point behind GM Fabio Finocchiraro from Italy, who scored 10 / 16, to finish in Silver Medal position in the 25th World Correspondence Chess Final. This is the best performance of any English player at the World Championships. He has also qualified for another Final so has another chance of becoming World Champion. He will receive his medal at the  ICCF Congress in Poland in July 2013.

Another English player, GM Dr Ian Brookes, scored a credible 9th position in the same Final.

You can view all the games and the tournament crosstable here: –

Here is one of the games: –

John Rhodes


Has Webserver Chess Eliminated ‘Clerical’ Errors?

Playing correspondence chess by webserver is a very convenient way to play. It eliminates some of the clerical work compared to postal or email chess, it speeds up the game and there are no postal costs. Obviously, some players do not have access to a computer and still prefer to play by post, often as the games are played at a much slower pace. The question is, have the mistakes that plague postal and email chess been eliminated by webserver?

Almost every player, myself included, have made mistakes which have cost them extra time or even lost them the game. Clerical mistakes include, misreading your opponent’s last move, missing out a conditional move, making an illegal move, moving the wrong piece, writing down the wrong move for your opponent, writing down a different move than the one made by you. If you keep track of a game using a computer database program you still have to be very careful. There are what are called ‘mouse’ errors where a square is clicked and a different piece than the one you wanted moves there automatically. You can also forget to save a new position and be a move behind. If you are playing many games, say over 20 at once, then mistakes are even more likely to happen. Some players recommend playing through every move of a game from the start, but you can imagine that once the game has gone to 20 or more moves this is rather a lengthy process.

I try to stick to a set routine. I keep my games on a well known computer database program. When a new move from an opponent is received, I make that move on my copy of the game on the database and analyse my reply, usually on a small portable set. Obviously you should make sure that you have set up the pieces correctly. When I have decided on my move I will go to the webserver game and check that the position is the same as mine before I commit to the move. I also check that the move numbers correspond, and the last two moves also correspond, with my records. This has saved me a few times! If you are playing by post or email, you usually do not have a position to check against, but you can still check the move number and last few moves. Do not make conditional moves yourself, unless you are really sure about what you are doing in postal or email games. In webserver games this is not as dangerous, as your opponent only sees your conditional move if he makes it and it is made automatically, but you must, of course, update your position accordingly, so it is vital to keep comparing board positions. Mistakes are often made where conditional moves are involved, but they can save time if you know what you are doing.

Senior International Master Tim Harding, former editor of Chess Mail, advocates never to make a same day reply in an email game, so that you can take time preparing your reply, even to an obvious move. This makes good sense, never rush a reply.

So have ‘clerical’ errors finally been eliminated….. well no, but they have been reduced!  I have seen a very recent game in a webserver tournament where an British International Master left a queen en prise, but then was that a ‘clerical’ error or just a blunder, I would love to know!

John Rhodes


‘Pawn Stars’ win first British Webserver Team Tournament Championship!

As hoped in a January post, I am delighted to report that the ‘Pawn Stars’ team has won Division 1 of the first British Webserver Team Tournament with 16.5 points. The team consisted of SIM Dr Michael Millstone (USA) on Board 1, myself (ENG) on Board 2, SIM Gino Figlio (PER) on Board 3 and Austin Lockwood (WLS, Captain) on Board 4. Second is ‘ICCF Warriors’ with 15 points and third is ‘BCCA Kings’ with 13 points.

Congratulations must go to Neil Limbert of the British Federation for Correspondence Chess who conceived, organised and ran the event. Neil writes “The concept of allowing 2 non-British players in each team has worked well increasing the strength and interest in the tournament”. Season 2 begins on 20th May 2013 with last day for entries on 10th May 2013. Entry details can be found at the BFCC website at . If you are not able to get a team together you can contact Neil and he will try to get you into a team. Players who like the Champions League, but would prefer to play only 6 games rather than 12, should certainly think about entering this tournament!

Here is a win by our top board, Dr Michael Millstone: –

John Rhodes


Essex streak ahead in English Counties Correspondence Championship 2012/13 Ward – Higgs Division! Can they be caught?

The top division of the Counties & District Correspondence Chess Championship has almost reached the halfway stage with Essex streaking ahead with a score of 10.5 / 12, followed by Northumberland on 7 / 10, Warwickshire on 7 / 11, Hertfordshire (who I play for) on 6 /10, Yorkshire on 4 / 5, Hampshire on 3.5 / 4, Somerset on 2.5 / 9, Nottinghamshire on 2 / 8, Middlesex on 1.5 / 12 and Worcestershire on 0 / 7.

Of course, there is a long way to go and, on paper, Yorkshire have the strongest team with an average ICCF grade of 2366 and every player being experienced at correspondence play, so I expect them to continue their good percentage start. They also have the highest rated British player, GM Richard Hall, on their top board. Essex have some good over the board players such as Jonathan Rogers and Gary Kenworthy on their team.

Further information and games can be found at for the Ward – Higgs, Sinclair and Butler – Thomas competitions.

Here is one of my games in the Ward – Higgs: –