Category Archives: 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: -


How to Get International Experience at Correspondence Chess

This article is aimed at someone who has been playing correspondence chess for, perhaps, a number of years, but who just plays for a local county or district team in their own country. They may well be a strong over-the-board (OTB) player, but one thing they may not have experienced is playing for their country in an international team.

Well, the ICCF organise International Friendly Matches with teams of between 10 to 50 players, where you would play a webserver or postal game with each colour against an opponent of roughly a similar grading. If you do not have an ICCF grade you will get a provisional grade until you have played enough games to get a fixed grade. You would start on a lower board and can work your way up as you get more experience and a higher grade. You can play in as many matches as you want and in Britain there are no entry fees and no stamps to buy. This is a very good way to introduce yourself to international play without having to face a tournament with a dozen or more games, which can be very daunting for anyone not used to it. You may think how can a chess match be ‘friendly’, well that refers to the spirit in which you play, rather than the moves themselves!  I have ‘met’ some very interesting players over the years from many different countries. When you make your move on the webserver you get a box where you can enter a personal message if you so wish. Time limits are generous on the webserver and if you move within 24 hours of your opponent’s move you do not lose any time. On the webserver all the time is recorded automatically, so there are no disputes about postmarks or lost moves. The games can be faster moving than postal chess games, but you can take your time if you want to.

How do you join up? In Britain you should contact the BFCC at in other countries you should contact your national correspondence chess association or have a look at the ICCF website at

So, as you can see, it is a good way to get started. You will soon get an ICCF grade, which will probably be higher than your OTB grade equivalent. You can then even try for a title in a tournament with norms. You will ‘meet’ new players from around the world. Your confidence will improve and, hopefully, your enjoyment of chess!

John Rhodes


How can you test your openings?

One of my opponents at correspondence chess (CC) recently apologised for taking longer than usual to make move six in a Caro-Kann Defence as White, saying that he used CC games to “investigate lines for use over the board (OTB)”. My opponent is a strong county player whose OTB grading is the equivalent of around 2100 FIDE and I know that he has faced OTB GM opposition in the past.  I was very pleased to hear this, as often OTB players dismiss CC altogether.

So how can this help?  Well, for a start, your OTB grading will not suffer, only, perhaps, your CC grading assuming the games are actually graded. Your opponents will not know what you are analysing until you have it all prepared. A CC game is a good test for a new move, as you and your opponent can look much deeper into the position than in an OTB game. I also know that there are some strong OTB players who consult computer programs for analysing games and future lines that they will play. However, even the best programs can make mistakes in difficult endgames, so you really need to check out every move yourself to be sure.

There is another way as well.  You can enter a CC thematic tournament where the opening is already chosen and you start the game from a certain position. Often you will play two games from the same position with each colour against the same opponent. The games are not usually graded so there is no fear about losing points. Of course, it needs to be an opening you have an interest in!  Typical openings are the Dutch Defence 1d4 f5; Larsen Opening 1b3; Benko Gambit 1d4 Nf6 2c4 c5 3d5 b5 4cxb5 a6 5bxa6; Sicilian Portsmouth Gambit 1e4 c5 2Nf3 Nc6 3b4. I once played in a Latvian Gambit tournament, but seem to have mislaid the games…

So, if you are purely an over-the-board player, why not try correspondence chess or, better still, the modern version called webserver chess to explore your openings!


First British Webserver Team Tournament near to finish.

The First British ICCF Webserver Team Tournament which started on 4th November 2011 officially finishes on 4th March 2013. There are 4 players in each of 22 teams with 7 teams in Division 1, 7 in Division 2 and 8 in Division 3. At least 2 team members must be British, but the rest can come from anywhere. There will be 2 teams promoted and 2 demoted each season with medals for the winners. The idea is to get all levels of player to sample webserver play and be part of a team. Some teams were put together by the organisers, others members of associations or just friends.

Divisions 2 and 3 have already finished with Plastic Bishops scoring 20 points (83%, average grades 1954 ICCF) and Grantham Kings scoring 20.5 (73%, average grades 1882 ICCF) winning respectively. There are 5 games still in progress in Division 1 and the leading teams are Pawn Stars with 15.5 points (73%, average grades 2407 ICCF) with 3 games to finish and ICCF Warriors with 14.5 points (65%, average grades 2427 ICCF) with 2 games to finish.

I am pleased to say that I have been fortunate enough to be part of the leading team in Division 1, although I cannot say that I have contributed greatly to their current score, including the choice of name(!?), as my only win was when my opponent blundered! Of course, we are hoping that we might have a chance of winning, we will have to wait and see!

My team consists of SIM Dr Michael Millstone (USA) on Board 1, myself (ENG) on Board 2, SIM Gino Figlio (PER) on Board 3 and Austin Lockwood (ENG, Captain) on Board 4. ICCF Warriors consists of GM Mark Noble (NZL) on Board 1, SIM Ian Pheby (ENG) on Board 2, IM Dr Uwe Staroske (GER) on Board 3 and Andrew Dearnley (ENG) on Board 4.

Up to date scores and games can be found from these links: -

Division 1

Division 2

Division 3

Here is one of Austin’s games: -


Another Correspondence Chess World Champion!

Normally, at this time of year, I like to write a blog which is not as serious as usual, but I could hardly ignore another correspondence chess World Champion, so you will have to wait for my lighthearted blog!

GM Fabio Finocchiaro from Italy is the latest ICCF correspondence chess World Champion after scoring 10/15 in the 25th World Championship Final Category 14 tournament which started in 2009.  Yes, there was another World Champion only a few weeks ago, I know you are thinking, who might be feeling a little disappointed in having such a short reign.  That is because it is difficult to know exactly when each tournament will end when they are played by post.

The crosstable of the tournament can be viewed here: -

There is still one game outstanding between England’s top GM Richard Hall, currently on 8.5/14, and Germany’s GM Frank Schroder, currently on 8/14. The result of this game will not affect the final outcome, although if GM Hall can win, he will come second. England’s GM Dr Ian Brooks has finished with 7.5/15.

The World Championship games have not been released yet, so here is one recent game from the Italy v Germany Match: -