Category Archives: News

3rd British Webserver Team Tournament nearing close finish

With just five games to finish, the 3rd British Webserver Team Tournament is heading for another really close finish and possibly a tie break. BCCA Kings are currently leading with a final score of 13.5 points with both BCCA Knights and Pawn Stars on 13 points, although BCCA Knights and Pawn Stars both have one game to finish. Also in the running is ICCF Warriors with 12.5 points and still two games to finish, so can they catch up?

This year the teams have been more evenly matched with ICCF Warriors (Board 1 GM Mark Noble 2492; 2 SIM Olli Ylonen 2472; 3 SIM Andrew Dearnley (Captain) 2368 and 4 SIM Ian Pheby 2356) weighing in with an average rating of ICCF 2422; Pawn Stars (1 SIM Gino Figlio 2476; 2 SIM Michael Millstone 2439; 3 SIM John Rhodes 2389 and 4 Austin Lockwood (Captain) 2372) with 2419; BCCA KIngs (1 David Evans 2363; 2 SIM Alan Rawlings 2367; 3 Les Ellis 2289 and 4 Ian Mason 2199) with 2304; Scheming Mind A with 2283; BCCA Knights with 2233; BCCA Griffins with 2184 and Sussex Servers with 2173.

It is not really for me to predict the outcome of the remaining games, but you can view them at   Meanwhile, here is one of my own games in this tournament in which I found myself in a Modern Benoni in what looks like a very precarious position!

John Rhodes

Amateur Versus Master: Game Twenty Two

My opponent in this very short correspondence chess game is an ICCF master from Sweden. When White offered a draw on move number 11, I was surprised and then checked my database of games that had that position in them. I found that White won one game and the other three ended in draws. So, I accepted the draw.

This correspondence chess game started off as the Ruy Lopez and transposed into the Four Knights. I was trying to get the Berlin Defense because it is solid and drawish. This Four Knights gave me the draw that I wanted, only sooner than I expected it!

I had third place in this section before this draw and I remained in third place after accepting the draw. My annotations show the games in my database without any real comments.

Mike Serovey

I Had a Five-Way…

tie for first place in this section

My opponent is lower rated than I am and he is from Turkey. He had White and he was playing for a win in positions that were rather even. I offered a draw after making my 37th move. He declined my offer and then offered a draw of his own 27 moves later.

While analyzing the endgame I discovered that one line of play would often transpose into another one. While trying to win the endgame, my opponent went into and out of nearly evey line of play that I analyzed! When he finally realized that there was no win for him, then he agreed to a draw! Although I do admire persistance, I found his annoying!

I castled on the Kingside and White castled on the Queenside. Some chess coaches have commented that when players castle on opposite wings, then it is a race to see who can checkmate the opposing King first. I have found that I stand a better chance of winning that race if I also take care to protect my own King first!

All of the pawns stayed on the chess board until I played my 27th move. I call that a closed position and chess engines are weak in closed positions. I used my chess engines mainly to blunder check my analysis and to explore various ideas. White was basically following my analysis that was posted in the engine room on and then looking to see if he could find a win that I missed.

When White offered me a chance to open up the b file I took it because that gave me an open file to use to attack the White King. White never left that file unprotected long enough for any of my remaining pieces to penetrate his pawn structure using that file. So, nothing came of that file being open.

Both sides took turns attacking and defending various pieces, pawns and squares. In the end, nothing came from all of that attacking, defending and counter attacking. This was a hard-fought draw!

This draw put the both of us into a five-way tie for first place in this section. All five of us drew the other four players in the tie and we beat the same patzer who now is in last place. There is no way to break that kind of tie.

Mike Serovey

Amateur Versus Master: Game Eighteen

Although I have been able to draw masters in both Over the Board (OTB) chess and correspondence chess (CC), this correspondence chess game is the very first time that I have been able to draw an International Master (IM) in any variation of chess! I chose a rather boring (solid) chess opening and used both my databases and my chess engines to avoid any outright blunders. That combination worked in this correspondence chess game.

Although I was not sure of where the opening was going when this correspondence chess game started, we ended up transposing into the Vienna Game. This is the very first time that I have played either side of that chess opening.

After 15 moves I, Black, had the better pawn structure against someone who was rated 310 points above me. I was willing to accept the draw, but I was playing for a win because of that better pawn structure. However, I failed to find a way to capitalize on that slight positional advantage. When White offered the draw I accepted.

Mike Serovey

Finish of Adrian Hollis Memorial CC Tournament

As I predicted in June 2015 and confirmed in September the clear winner of the Adrian Hollis Memorial CC Tournament was ICCF GM Nigel Robson (ENG) with a remarkable score of 8/10 (+6, =4, -0). The final game of the tournament finished in a draw at the end of April 2016 between GM John G. Brookes (ENG) and SIM Nigel Burne (ENG). GM Richard Hall (ENG) and SIM Richard Beecham (SCO) were joint second both with 5.5/10 (+2, =7, -1). Fourth, with the same score but lower Baumbach tie break was SIM Nigel Burne who, of course, would have been second if he had won this last game.

The late Adrian Hollis was a very distinguished classical scholar, with a career mainly focused on Hellenistic and Roman poetry. He was also a strong over the board player who played in several British Championships finishing seventh equal in 1961.

We were given a small incentive to win games and it is interesting to note that nearly 31% of the games were decisive. Despite my disastrous start in 2014 by throwing away a game with a clerical error and an early loss to SIM Harvey Williamson (ENG), who was fifth with 5/10 (+2, =6, -2), I was content with my 4/10 (+1, =6, -3) and ninth place being the lowest rated player. My main ambition was not to be last and this I managed to avoid! This was possibly the strongest ever British CC tournament excluding overseas players, with an average rating of 2504 which included a World Championship silver medalist and candidate.

A cross table of the tournament can be found here: –

Here is the final game. Note that the six piece Tablebase rules apply: –

John Rhodes

ICCF Olympiad 16 Postal Final

The ICCF Olympiad 16 Postal Final, which started in 2010, has just finished. The overall winners are the Czech Republic with a high score of 69% and 33.5/48 with an average start rating of 2619. Germany are second with 59%, 28.5/48 and 2572 and France are third with 55%, 26.5/48 and 2554.  Other teams finished in the order of Poland, Brazil, Israel, Slovakia, Sweden, Italy, USA, Ukraine, England and finally Finland. The winning Czech Republic team consisted of GM Roman Chytilek (2693) on Board 1, IM Jiri Dufek (2579) on Board 2, GM David Vrkoc (2607) on Board 3 and GM Jiri Vosahlik (2600) on Board 4.

England, with myself on Board 2, scored 42% and 20.5/48 which was the same as the USA and Ukraine. Considering we had the lowest average start rating it was a good result and we avoided last place. Our team consisted of SIM Russell Pegg (2440) on Board 1, myself on Board 2, IM Julian Corfield (2395) on Board 3 and SIM Ian Pheby (2248) on Board 4 with non-playing Captain Neil Limbert. This was the strongest tournament I have played with Category 13 on Board 1, Category 12 on Board 2, Category 11 on Board 3 and Category 9 on Board 4. We are all grateful for Captain Neil Limbert’s help and guidance throughout this marathon event which could well be the last time England play in a Postal Olympiad.

Of course postal chess can be very slow when compared to server chess and the final game, between our own SIM Russell Pegg and Dr Fritz Baumbach, has only just finished after 116 moves and almost six years of play!  Congratulations must go to Russell for drawing this game and securing third place on Board 1. This game and all other games can be viewed on the ICCF website at: –

I have to admit that I found the going tough and, although I had some good games, I never won any. My team mates, however, all won a game each against higher rated opposition and I will show Russell’s game against IM Livio Olivotto below.


John Rhodes

No Berlin!

It was nice to see that after two games in the Women’s World Championship there have been two open games (1.e4 e5) but no Berlin endgame (2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Nxe4 5.d4 Nd6 6.Bxc6 dxc6 7.dxe5 Nf5 8.Qxd8+ Kxd8). This makes a thoroughly refreshing change as the top males are forever wheeling this line out in top level encounters.

What do I have against the Berlin? For the specialist there are a number of interesting strategic issues, especially in how White tries to advance his kingside pawns without a light square bishop and with his pawn on e5 (rather than e4). But for the general public it’s like watching paint dry.

Anyway, he’s a video of the second game which was won in fine style by Hou Yifan:

Nigel Davies

Correspondence Chess Advice From ICCF World Champion

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!

John Rhodes

Zurich Chess Challenge

Although I’m not a big fan of blitz for those who want to improve because the clock is so much more important than the moves. On the other hand Grandmaster blitz tournaments can be entertaining and instructive.

The recent Zurich Chess Challenge adopted a superior incremental time limit of 4 minutes plus 2 seconds per move which means that there’s always a couple of seconds to make a move. It means that the clock has a marginally reduced influence.

Nigel Davies

Kids and Chess, Part One

A few years ago one of the chess coaches in the Tampa area had an annoying habit of telling his students that I hated little kids. Because I got tired of that, I decided to make a sarcastic reply if I heard him say that again. He did during one of his group lessons, so I replied with, “Actually, they taste quite good with a little peanut oil and basil”! I got a laugh from that. So, now I am including a few quotes by W. C. Fields about kids.

W. C. Fields quotes about kids

I do not actually hate or eat kids, but I may want them to think that I do! Considering that I have been playing rated chess off and on for 41 years, I really do dislike losing to someone who has been alive less than 20 years! In this case, I lost to someone who has been alive about one third as long as I have been playing chess!

My opponent is this Wednesday night tournament round is a thirteen-year-old girl. Her mother was the TD for this event. I lost the previous round to a gentleman that is older than I am. I told both Sara and her mother, Shirley, that I had a lousy tack record in OTB chess against human females regardless of age or rating. That is true, but I need to correct a few things. Prior to this loss, my last loss in an OTB chess game to a human female was to a 17-year-old Dutch girl who later became the under 21 female champion of the Netherlands. She was not exactly a patzer! Sara, my opponent is this loss, is the number five ranked female of any age in the state of Colorado. Again, not exactly a patzer!

The correction is that I beat and drew Sara’s sister, Rebecca, and I beat some female beginners in Tampa prior to moving to Colorado. However, Sara is one of three teenage girls that I have lost to in OTB chess in the past 20 years or so. Prior to getting out of the US Army in 1986, I never lost an OTB chess game to a human female! Now, that record is shattered.

Also, prior to my discharge from the Army, I rarely lost to a kid that was lower rated than I was. Since then, I have had only one loss to a lower rated kid that I can remember. However, that rating difference was over 800 points! I have also barely escaped losses to lower rated kids on at least two occasions in the past five years.

Across the range of ratings that my opponents have had and the time that I have been playing chess, my losses to kids after I graduated from high school have numbered less than the number of wins against them. However, I do not know the exact numbers.

Mike Serovey