Category Archives: News

Just To Be Clear, I Did Not Bleeping ‘Defect’!

I think I’m going to decline all future interviews with national newspapers after this latest piece by Stephen Moss. And that means for ever!

Below is my email to Mr. Moss when he first asked to interview me, mentioning that he was also interested in improving his chess. Although I was reluctant at first, given other newspaper coverage on this matter, I got talked into it thinking that this time would be different. But when the article appeared it said that his (my!) disaffection with the English Chess Federation was so great that he had switched his allegiance to Wales!

Seriously folks, I’ve really tried to separate my move to Wales with subsequent attempts at constructive criticism of English chess, but somehow the people who’ve interviewed me seem to hear something completely different to what I’ve been saying. This does of course give an indication of how little we can trust the media to report things accurately, perhaps even with matters of genuine importance. It also explains why I haven’t watched the news or read a newspaper for around a decade and feel an ease and cheer I’d never want to be without!

Here anyway is the email which shows very different motives to those ‘described’ in the article:

Dear Stephen,

I’m not sure you picked this post up about why I switched to Wales but it makes clear that the issues with English Chess are not directly linked to my switch. This wasn’t really represented well in the articles that have appeared, perhaps largely due to the fact that it wouldn’t make much of a story. BBC Wales have spoken to me more recently but with the focus being firmly on my being the principality’s first GM.

Probably I can help you more with your attempts to get better as my web site, Tiger Chess prevents a very clear methodology. You’ll need to work on it but people who do get better with me.

Best wishes, Nigel

Nigel Davies


Drawing This Correspondence Chess Game Was No Hassell

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is from England and his last name is Hassell. As some of my readers may have noticed, I like to play with words and the names of my opponents!

Originally, I wanted to trade down into a King and pawn endgame or to use my remaining Bishop to go after my opponent’s pawns that were on dark squares. However, when he offered a draw on move number 27 I accepted the offer because I realized that there just was not enough play left in the position to justify my spending my time and energy on trying to win that rather closed endgame.

This cc game is one of three draws that I have in this section.

Mike Serovey


An American Defeats Henry the Eighth

My opponent in this correspondence chess game is not really Henry VIII of England. However, his name is Henry and he is from Finland. Also, while playing chess with this Henry I kept thinking of an old song from 1965 by Herman’s Hermits called “I’m Henry Vlll I Am”. You can watch and listen to a YouTube video featuring this song here:

I started this correspondence chess game with the Réti Opening and the game transposed into the English Opening, and then something that resembled the Botvinnik System. This Henry decided to play an unusual line against me. Although he was using a combination of chess engines during this chess game, he went against what the engines recommended and played an unsound sacrifice. That was the main reason that he lost this cc game.

This is my second win in this section. After one win and one draw I moved into fourth place out of thirteen in this section. With two wins, three draws and three losses I am still in fourth place at the time that I am writing this.

Mike Serovey


New Season for the Counties and District Correspondence Chess Championship

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: –

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: –

John Rhodes


Why I Switched To Wales

A few months ago I changed my international representation to Wales, which you wouldn’t think is a big deal for a chess teacher who is currently on a long break from playing competitive chess. Amazingly this has now hit the media in a big way with articles in the Telegraph (with different pieces appearing online and in the print version), the Times and being on the news on Radio 4 and BBC Wales (2.48 onwards). As this story has been jazzed up quite a bit (not to mention the fact that the Times interviewed me via mobile phone whilst I was in a coffee bar with noisy Italians on the next table), I thought I should give my own version of events in my own words.

Leaving the English Chess Federation (ECF) was a largely personal decision that came from not feeling relevant despite being an International Grandmaster and well regarded coach. In fact I never heard from them except when it was time to pay my subs.

In an interview with Telegraph correspondent Leon Watson, the Publicity Manager of the ECF, Mark Jordan, confirmed this: “Nigel of course isn’t strong enough at the moment to get into the England team, unless it was a very poor England team, but he would be far and away the best Welsh player.”

However some people have pointed out that I might have been valuable in an England attempt to win Gold in the European and World Seniors Championships as for an over 50 I’m probably not too bad. Vis a vis ‘strength’ it would also be interesting to see a match between Mr. Jordan and one of the Welsh girls, for example Immogen Camp. If someone would like to sponsor this event I’d be happy to pitch in and do the commentary for free.

By changing to Wales I can still play in the European and World Individual 50+ events (albeit under the Welsh flag) and have given them their first Grandmaster. Perhaps this in turn will inspire young people to take up the game and progress. This has been confirmed by the Home Director of Welsh Chess, Kevin Staveley:

It was Nigel who approached us and said he’s got so many close ties with Wales can he play under our banner, and we were delighted. Success breeds success and we have now got someone on the top layer. Hopefully there will be others who will come along and be inspired by him. We have a crop of promising youngsters, particularly girls, coming through who we think will go a long way in chess.

A sponsor was willing to pay my transfer fee to FIDE (the International Chess Federation) but I got nothing out of this myself except the hope that it would do some good for the game. Other English GMs have also departed for what may be very similar reasons; Murray Chandler left for New Zealand, Tony Kosten left for France, David Norwood went to Andorra and Matthew Turner to Scotland.

More recently, inspired by comments by Garry Kasparov, I wrote two blog posts on The English Chess Explosion and How To Raise The Finance to offer an analysis, based on my 40+ years in the chess scene, of why England is in decline as a chess playing nation and what might be done about it. I also decided not to renew my ECF subscription, partly because I am only playing training games against my son at home and partly through disappointment at the infighting going on within the ECF. The time line is important; I didn’t storm out of the ECF and have not been involved in the recent very public and unfortunate spats and scandals.

Of course the possibility of linking these events seems to be what made the story so attractive to the media, which seems to be confirmed by the Telegraph’s print edition piece that appeared on October 25th under the heading A Bold Move:

There was a time when the buzz on the chess circuit was whether or not a Soviet player might defect to the West. Nigel Davies, however, has defected from the English Chess Federation to Wales. The veteran Grandmaster grandly announced that he was tired of what he described as a “rag bag of chess amateurs who think they should be important but lack the knowledge and skill.”

Chess has often involved bitter rows fuelled by big personalities. But even as the contestants put each other down, the spectator still wonders at the sheer brainpower on display. It takes ego to get ahead; it takes humility to regonise that some of us are better made for a game of draughts. As Woody Allen once quipped: “I failed to make the chess team because of my height.”

I read this together with my chess playing son during a day out in Liverpool and we found it hilarious, especially the Woody Allen quote! But defected? This seems rather melodramatic to say the least, but I guess they’ve got papers to sell. They also took my ‘rag bag of amateurs’ remark completely out of context, what I actually said was this:

There are other very capable people around too, such as GM David Norwood, IM Nigel Povah and IM Paul Littlewood, all of whom have had heavy involvement in the corporate and financial Worlds besides their long standing and distinguished involvement with competitive chess. It should be obvious that these are the individuals you want running things rather than a rag bag of chess amateurs who think they should be important but lack the knowledge and skill.

So basically it’s just a storm in a tea cup and nothing for anyone to get excited about. To put any further speculation to rest I have no plans to play tournaments right now as I’m too busy with other things, including running my Tiger Chess training site. In any case I’m not qualified to play for the Welsh team as I don’t currently live in Wales, but when my son Sam is a bit older we’ll probably play in tournaments together. I dare say that he’s the one to watch rather than me, at 13 he’s already giving me a hard time of it in our training games!

Nigel Davies


Clear Winner in Adrian Hollis Memorial Tournament

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

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!

John Rhodes


I Had a Tiger by the Tail

In this article I am posting two correspondence chess games against the same opponent. He uses the handle TIGER68 on Stan’s Net Chess. His first name is Angelo and he is from Richmond, Virginia.

My record at Stan’s Net Chess is 68-12-6.

In the first correspondence chess game, I won quickly because my opponent blundered in the opening.

In this second game, I missed some strong moves early in this correspondence chess game and lost my opening advantage. I eventually was able to capitalize on an endgame error by my opponent and thus regain my advantage and win.

I am still playing the third round of this match and that game may end in a draw. I need to outscore my opponent by four wins in order to win this match and move onto the next round of this tournament. In the previous rounds, I won every match in four games save one. That one match took five games to win because I lost a game in it.

Mike Serovey


Sometimes, An Extra Pawn is Not Enough to Win

This is a recently completed correspondence chess game that was played on the ICCF server. My opponent in this correspondence chess game is an American who lives in Hong Kong with his Japanese wife. Despite my sharp play in the opening and middle game, my extra pawn was not enough to win in the endgame because it was doubled. It seems that the only way that I can beat Barney is to chose a different opening variation the next time that I get White against him.

My draw in this cc game has me temporarily tied for first place. I am also tied for first place in another section on the ICCF server. In both sections, someone who is still playing can knock me out of first place on tie breaks or by outscoring me. I will have to wait and see how things turn out for me in both sections.

I get frustrated when I go into an endgame up material and then I can’t force a win and I have to hope for another blunder by my opponent. The higher rated players seldom make the kinds of endgame blunders that I need to win. Even the weaker players know not to give up the opposition in King and pawn endgames. So, it is going to take some time for me to get my ICCF rating over 2100 points!

Mike Serovey


Third British Webserver Team Tournament Division One

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.

John Rhodes