Category Archives: News

Amateur Versus Master: Game Thirteen

This is my second cc game with Harold Boege. The first game was in the previous round of the 2011 Golden Knights Postal Championship. This game is
from the final round and it may be my only win from this round. I am the only NON master in this section and I expect to finish it with an even score.
Although I am not 100% certain, I believe that Harold is the highest rated opponent that I have defeated in correspondence chess.

I started off playing something resembling the Bremen System and ended up with something that I have never seen before or since this game, except in my analysis.

Mike Serovey


2015 Colorado Closed Championship and Scholastic Championship

The 2015 Colorado Closed Championship and Scholastic Championship took place the second weekend in April. There were five six-person sections:

  • Championship
  • Challenger
  • Booster
  • Scholastic Championship
  • Scholastic Challenger

The Championship featured three “zombies”, as we in Colorado call strong players who have disappeared from competition for a long period of time: the event winner Lior Lapid (2290), Philipp Ponomarev (2340) and Josh Bloomer (2255).

7-time Colorado Champion Brian D. Wall beat the championship winner, but otherwise got a shellacking, losing three of his five games, including one from a drawn position.

In this position from Wall vs. Bloomer, White should shift his rook back and forth on the rank to keep the Black king out. If the Black rook harries the White king, it should head for the Black g5 pawn, not fearing the capture of the White f2 pawn even if the Black pawn has reached f3: there’s time to get back for a drawn K+R+RP vs K+R ending, since the Black rook will be in front of its own f-pawn and will require a move to vacate the file. Instead, Wall began checks from the side and rear which drove the Black king forcefully to the assistance of its own rook and pawns.

Here’s Wall driven to the wall by Ponomarev. 41 … Rc2! is a piquant move, forcing the White bishop to capture and trapping the White knight.

I’ll have some more games from the Colorado Closed next week.

Jacques Delaguerre


From Russia with Love

Well, not quite. However, my opponent in this chess game is a Russian woman. I did win and I love winning! My opponent’s last name sounds like that of another woman from Russia, Anna Kournikova.

In this section I ended up with 5 draws and 1 win. This game was my only win in this section. As a result of my failing to win an earlier game, the best that I can do in this section is third place.

I started this chess game off wanting to play the Max Lange Attack and I ended up with a Giuoco Piano instead. This line tends to be drawish, but my opponent gave my some chances for play and I took them.

I had the position after move number 9 in another correspondence chess game that I lost. This time, I played more accurately and my opponent is the one who was inaccurate.

On move number 11 I could have played the sharp Bxf7+, but I decided against that for some reason that I no longer remember. Perhaps the line that In played is safer for White.

On move number 12 I decided that it was best to get my King off the same diagonal as the Black Queen was on. Discovered checks can be a pain! Once Black castled queenside it was a race to see who could checkmate the other one first. However, I was not positioned for a queenside attack and thus I had to reposition some of my pieces.

On move number 14 I got my sacrificed pawn back. By move number 17 I had all of my White pieces in this game, but I still was not clear on where to attack first.

Move number 19 finally started some queenside play. Move number 21 started a combination that favored White (me). Starting at move number 23 both sides were aggressively attacking the other side and Lidiya never let up her attempts to trick or trap me until she was clearly lost.

Starting at move number 28 White was putting pressure on both the Black Rook and the backwards Black pawn at  f6. At move number 31 I won the Black pawn at h4 and then the Black pawn on f6 ten moves later. I was up two pawns at that point but Lidiya continued to fight.

On move number 42 Lidiya sacrificed her Bishop by taking the White pawn that was on h3, but I was not dumb enough to fall into her trap and I moved my King instead. She recovered one of her lost pawns but she was still losing.

On move number 44 I played the only move that wins for White and Lidiya had no chance from there. Still, she lasted for another 15 moves before she finally resigned.

Mike Serovey


Sometimes You Win and Sometimes You Don’t

I am posting two different games from the same section here. In the first game my opponent dropped a Bishop on the thirteenth move of the game and he resigned when I took it. My opponent in this first game is from the Netherlands. My opponent in the second game is from Canada.

In the second game we played much longer and agreed to a draw. These results put me in temporary first place in this section. I also got a draw against the other player who is higher rated than I am in this section. With 4 draws and a win I am alone in first place in this section and I am winning my last game in this section. However, that may not be enough to keep first place if one of the players that I drew wins more than 2 games in this section.

My notes in this second game, plus what I have stated above, pretty much cover what happened in this game.

Mike Serovey


Chess with Chris and Kenny

Back to the Ruy Lopez next week unless anything else happens. Today there’s something different I have to share with you.

I returned from Richmond Junior Club last Saturday to see the sad news that one of my oldest chess friends and most regular opponents, Chris Clegg, had died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 66.

I’d known Chris for more than 40 years and saw him regularly at matches in the Thames Valley League between my club, Richmond, and his club, Kingston. We played six times in a decade between 1978 and 1987, and then, strangely a 22 year hiatus before four more recent encounters.

Chris started playing chess at his secondary school, taking part in junior tournaments and soon joining his local chess club where he remained for the rest of his life. Every time we played Kingston we knew he’d be there, captaining the team. If we were playing at Kingston he’d be the first to arrive to set up the furniture and equipment, and the last to leave, having put everything away. He’d even arrive early for away matches and help set everything up without asking or being asked. Chris would be at almost every tournament in the London area, arriving on his own and leaving on his own.

By profession he was a solicitor, but he retired very early. He had no family, living with his mother until she died some years ago. His other interest was bird watching. Chris was one of those highly intelligent, rather introverted people who tend very often to be drawn to chess. As his Kingston Chess Club colleague John Foley wrote in his obituary on the English Chess Forum, chess kept Chris going and Chris kept Kingston Chess Club going.

The chess world has always needed, and will continue to need, the likes of Chris Clegg. At his best he was a county standard player, a bit short of master strength. But, more importantly, he was an organiser who worked at a local level, never seeking fame or recognition. Chess isn’t just about producing grandmasters. Without dedicated organisers there would be no grandmasters and no chess.

Here’s an exciting game from a Thames Valley League match a few years ago in which both players missed wins.

But there was also good news recently: news that, as Bruce Mubayiwa reported on this site, Kenny Solomon has become South Africa’s first grandmaster. A great achievement in itself, but notable also for Kenny’s background, growing up in a township notorious for drug abuse and gang violence.

From his website:

“Kenny was exposed to gang culture from an early age. Kenny realised that if he didn’t create his own future, he would merely become a pawn in this scene, trapped in the violent, oppressive cycle of gangsterism. Strong family values and his early interest in chess kept him away from these influences and compelled him to make choices about his fate.

“After getting into chess at the age of 13, he would play blitz games with his older brother and a friend in the Solomons’ backyard, amidst lines of dripping washing.”

Note that he taught himself to play chess in his teens. Not starting young is no barrier to becoming a grandmaster.

Chris Clegg and Kenny Solomon, two very different people and two very different players, but united by their passion for chess. I’m not sure whether chess made either of them smarter but it had an enormous social impact on both of them. It enabled Kenny to escape from the gangs and drugs of a South African township, taking him to Europe where he married an Italian girl, and to grandmasterdom. It gave Chris a purpose in life and a means of connecting with an increasingly alien world (he never used the internet or even owned a mobile phone).

There’s something else they have in common as well. I don’t know when Chris learnt the moves: probabbly round about the age of 11, as we all did in those days. There’s a loss to Ray Keene from the 1961-62 London Under 14 Championship, possibly his first tournament, on I would guess that they both started their obsession with chess at about the age of 13 or 14. Not at 7 or 8 as children do today.

Regular readers will know that I consider the social benefits of chess at least as important as the academic benefits, and that these benefits really kick in for older rather than younger children. I’ll leave you with a quote from a recent interview with the comedian Stewart Lee.

“But also the things that get you when you’re 13 or 14, that’s when you’re most susceptible and if you’re lucky enough to encounter a good thing when you’re 13 or 14, it will stay with you for your life.”

Chris and Kenny were both lucky enough to encounter a good thing when they were 13 or 14.

Richard James


Second British Webserver Team Tournament Division One won by ICCF Warriers

The second British Webserver Tournament has been won by the ‘ICCF Warriers’ Team, consisting of GM Nigel Robson, GM Raymond Boger, GM Mark Noble and SIM Ian Pheby by the narrowest of margins on a tie break with 16 / 24, beating their nearest rivals and last year’s winners, ‘Pawn Stars’, consisting of SIM Gino Figlio, SIM Dr Michael Millstone, SIM John Rhodes (myself) and Austin Lockwood who also scored 16 / 24! The third placed team were ‘Scheming Mind A’ who scored 14 / 24. In this tournament teams are allowed to have two British and two International players.

When you consider that my team had an average ICCF grade of 2408 and the winners had an average of 2519, I think we did rather well! The last two games were adjudicated as draws at the end of 2014, so we have been eagerly awaiting the results. The top scorer for ‘ICCF Warriers’ was GM Nigel Robson with 4.5 / 6 and for ‘Pawn Stars’ was Austin Lockwood with a great score of 5 / 6.

Here is one of the crucial games that had to be adjudicated. It shows Michael Millstone holding Raymond Boger to a Sicilian Sveshnikov draw.

John Rhodes


Finally Another Grandmaster for Africa, Kenny Solomon!

There was very good reason to celebrate in African Chess recently when Kenny Solomon of South Africa, the winner of the recent 2014 African Individual Chess Championship (AICC) held in Windhoek, Namibia was conferred with the title of Grandmaster. Solomon joined a very select group of individuals who have managed to get this title in Africa. He went through the entire tournament without losing a single game, featuring at least one grandmaster and several international masters (IMs) undefeated. His wins included a win against the top seed GM Adly Ahmed from Egypt.

The current grandmasters include One Moroccan,  One Tunisian (Slim Belkhodja), Two Algerians (Mohamed Haddouche, Aimen Rizouk), 4 Egyptians (Samy Shoker, Essam El Gindy, Bassem Amin, Ahmed Adly), one Zambian (Amon Simutowe) and now a South African (Kenny Solomon)!.

We have around 10 Grandmasters on a continent with more than a 1 billion people. How is that possible? We still have a very long way to go in Africa. By way of comparison, we have less Grandmasters in the whole of Africa than Italy. Italy has at least 12 Grandmasters, from a population of at least 60 million people according to Wikipedia. At this stage I won’t even try to compare the number of Grandmasters in Africa with the whole of Europe. In terms of Chess development we are just not at the same level.

Is it so difficult to become a Grandmaster that even after Robert Gwaze from Zimbabwe won a Gold medal at the 2002 Chess Olympiad ahead of luminaries such as Garry Kasparov, he is still not a Grandmaster?

Amon Simutowe from Zambia was the first Grandmaster from sub-Saharan Africa and the third black chess Grandmaster in history of the game, after Maurice Ashley and Pontus Carlsson. However, Grandmasters Ashley and Carlsson are based in the US and Sweden respectively and not from Africa.  It has been 7 years since Simutowe became a grandmaster in 2007 and the awarding of another GM in Sub-Saharan Africa was long overdue. There have been many false starts in this regard as a few players have managed to get the Grandmaster Norms but still need to achieve the rating of 2500 to get the converted title.

Now 35 years old, Solomon started playing chess at the ripe old age of 13 years, when most strong players nowadays are Grandmaster or are at least International Masters. Magnus Carlsen, the World Chess Champion from Norway who successfully defended his title against Vishwanathan Anand in Sochi Russia is 24 years old.

Many would have given up by now but Kenny Solomon just kept pushing the chess pieces until he achieved his life dream. Who knows what lies ahead now that he is a Grand Master. One thing for sure is there’s a lot more inspiration for African Chess players who also dream of become Grandmasters.

Bruce Mubayiwa


My Gripes About Correspondence Chess

Because Nigel has a “no offense” policy for this blog I will not use the names of the people that are involved in my stories. However, the guilty parties know who they are!

On ICC (the Internet Chess Club) I had numerous occasions in which my opponents exceeded the time controls and got off with warnings! Repeat offenders got off with warnings and were given extra time to play while I was NOT given any extra time to play my moves! That is why I quit playing correspondence chess on ICC.

I have had similar problems playing correspondence chess under the rules of the US Chess Federation (USCF). As I see it, the USCF rules for correspondence chess are not only inconsistent, but they are also inconsistently enforced. In an Over the Board (OTB) game, if my opponent takes too long to move and runs out of time he or she loses. The only out for my opponent would be if the clock was defective or not set properly. If my opponent had a heart attack, got food poisoning or was arrested in the middle of the game he or she would still lose if the clock ran out! This is not the case with cc!

I have played people who were already in prisons when the chess games with them started. These prisons sometimes have their own rules for how mail to inmates is handled. Now, I have an opponent who was free when our games started and he ended up in the county jail where he lives while our two games were in progress. It took two months for me to realize that I had not heard from this particular opponent and I sent him repeat moves. It took two more weeks to get replies from him. The TD for these games stated that I am supposed to charge this opponent for the amount of reflection time that he is actually thinking about his moves and not for “transition time”. If my opponent can’t get his mail while he is in jail, does that really count as “transition time”? I would say, “No”! By my calculations, this opponent ran out of time and I should win on time forfeit! However, I am being told otherwise!

The following was copied from the USCF website:

transmission time: The time a move is in the custody of the
Postal Service, that is, from the postmark date to date of delivery
at the recipient’s address.

This makes it clear that the time that my moves are sitting in someone’s mailbox is not transmission time!

The game below is from my most recent draw in correspondence chess that was played on the ICCF server. This draw leaves me in fifth place out of seven in this section. In my only remaining game from this section I am winning, but my opponent in that game has yet to finish any of her games in that section. I need to win this last game and then have her win a few of her other games if I am going to finish any better than tied third place in this section.

Although the move order can vary depending on what my opponent plays and what mood I am in, I played the Botvinnik System in this chess game. My opponent played the Kings Indian Defense. On move number 8, he started a maneuver with his King’s Knight that I rarely see in OTB chess. On move number 9 he put his Knight on d4, which has annoyed me on a few occasions.

For some reason that I no longer remember, I rejected 12.e5. At first glance it looks like it should win material, but the chess engines are saying otherwise. My move number 10 gets my Queen’s rook off the long diagonal that Black’s dark-squared Bishop is on and supports b4 on my next move. Black continued with his Knight maneuver. I continued with my kingside expansion. I then locked up the Kingside and we exchanged light-squared bishops. Further exchanges led to a position in which neither one of us had any advantage.

Then, we both centralized our rooks and tried to get some play on the Queenside. After a few more exchanges my opponent was left with a backward pawn on the b file and I had a backward pawn on the d file. A few moves later I found a good outpost square for my Knight on b5, but it failed to amount to anything.

On move number 30 , I put my remaining Rook on the open a file and I also had my Knight on b5. Again, these slight positional advantages were not enough to win. Further exchanges across the board lead to my having a passed pawn on the d file, but it still was not enough to win, so I settled for a draw against a provisionally lower rated opponent. These draws against provisional 1800 rated players has hurt my rating some. If I can’t consistently beat 1800 and 1900 rated players  then I will not likely ever get my ICCF rating over 2200 points!

Mike Serovey


The UK Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championships Division One

During the years that I have been playing in the Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championship our team from Hertfordshire has slowly climbed into Division One (Ward-Higgs) with me eventually reaching Board One. I have played many good players over the years, including drawing with the top two UK GMs.

This year I am playing an IM who is some 150 rating points above me, although the games are only in their early stages. Last year I drew and lost a game, also against an IM, Alan Borwell, who was some 170 rating points below me at the time and playing for Yorkshire. Alan is also a strong over-the-board player and is a past President of the ICCF. It seems an appropriate time to show you Alan’s win of a very complex game where I failed to find a safe haven for my King. Alan is currently just recovering from surgery and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

John Rhodes


London Chess Classic Blitz

Here’s an interesting video of the London Chess Classic blitz qualifier, won by England’s Michael Adams. I hasten to add that players of this level can play meaningful blitz games, but as you go down the rating scale it becomes ever more destructive to players’ thinking habits:

This great event finishes on Sunday, the official tournament site is here.

Nigel Davies