Category Archives: News

County and District Correspondence Chess Championship 2013/14

Yorkshire ‘A’ are the winners with 11.5 / 16 with Warwickshire ‘A’ and Yorkshire ‘B’ joint second and third with 10 / 16. I am afraid to say that my own team, Hertfordshire ‘A’, did not do so well this year with only 6 / 16 and ended up in a quadruple tie for last place with Sussex, Essex ‘B’ and Nottinghamshire ‘A’.  I did not help matters by losing and drawing!

Our player on Board 2 is the FIDE International Master, Lorin D’Costa, who is currently in the top thirty English list of over-the-board players and here is his excellent and instructive game as Black against his Nottinghamshire opponent. I especially like the ending!

John Rhodes


Just When You Think You Are Safe…..

I am currently playing in the ICCF Adrian Hollis Memorial Correspondence Chess Tournament. Adrian Hollis was a strong over-the-board and correspondence player and a world renowned academic. The tournament started this year and is one of the strongest purely British tournaments ever held with an average rating of 2504 ICCF, which is the equivalent of category XI. All the eleven British players are either Grandmasters or Senior International Masters and two are currently qualified for the ICCF World Championship Final. One being GM Nigel Robson, who was also an IECG World Champion in 2006, and the other being GM Richard Hall, a Silver Medallist in the ICCF 25th World Championship in 2013.

Being the lowest rated player, I expected a very tough tournament, which it certainly is proving to be! After a really poor start, which included a loss due to a ‘clerical’ error, I have, at least, drawn a couple of games and feel relatively safe in my remaining ones. I thought I was safe playing White against GM Nigel Robson, with my bishop pair and extra pawn, but suddenly his pieces just seemed to be better placed and in control and I was struggling to defend! Nigel is a formidable player and we wish him luck in the World Championship.

You can view this game and other finished games on the ICCF website HERE

John Rhodes


A Lesson From Judit Polgar: Fear Nobody …

It is such a pity to learn of the retirement of Grandmaster Judit Polgar, who confirmed that she is leaving professional chess at the end of the 41st chess Olympiad in Tromso, Norway. This ended on August 14th; and with it, then, chess lost one of its strongest exponents and finest ambassadors.

The reasons for her retirement, one can only speculate, Judit said in a recent interview with The Times newspaper, that she wanted to focus on her chess foundation which aims to spread chess through schools, and that she also wants to spend more time with her children. Who can blame her? I remember speaking with her Husband at the Corus Chess Tournament a few years ago, and he told me that she found the travelling and separation from her family very hard.

Also mentioned in the article was Polgar’s struggle to be recognized along with the male chess establishment. Sexism is ever-present in most walks of life, and no less in chess. Judit’s tireless resistance and condemnation of this has gained her much admiration from the chess world, from male and female alike.

I think that chess players can learn a lot from Judit Polgar, not only from her games, many of which contain powerful strategic and tactical finesses, but also from the way that she approached her opponents. Namely: all the same. She showed the same respect to amateur and Grandmaster alike, and was afraid of none. Let’s not forget that she was the first female player to defeat Garry Kasparov (who apparently once referred to her as a “circus puppet”) in tournament play. This happened in a rapid game, which took place during the Russia versus the Rest of the World Match, played in the September of 2002.

What strikes me about this game, is that Kasparov is never actually present in it. Judit punishes him for uninspiring play, and asserts herself right from the word go. With precise and aggressive play, she sends out a clear message that she is not to be trifled with, and that no one (not even the strongest player, world number 1, and multiple World Champion) can take liberties with her.

The game is below. As you play through it, notice first Kasparov’s allowing the early exchange of Queens as Black and neglecting his King which remains in the centre of the board, how his position lacks development, and how he allows his opponent far too much space. To me, this game strikes as an under-estimation at best, and a lack of respect at worst.

In her response, Judit Polgar does not stand on ceremonies, but instead takes full advantage and seizes her opportunity. This is a fine example of how to play against any opponent, even more so when you are the underdog. Do not be intimidated, but stay true to yourself, and focus on the board rather than the person. Play the best moves you can find. For at the end of the day, it is that and not reputation which will decide the outcome of the game.

John Lee Shaw


Blind In One Eye And Can’t See Out The Other One

The game below is from the second round of my most recent event that I played in Colorado Springs. This game was a comedy of errors. I lost the first round and I think that my opponent did too, but I am not sure of that. Roger appears to be about ten years older than I am and I think that fatigue may have played a part in the way that he played this game. I took a lunch break between the first round and the second round and thus I arrived about five minutes late for the start of this game. That lost time may have hurt me in the endgame when we had a time scramble.

I was disappointed with a draw in this game because I thought that I was winning the endgame. We were the last game to finish that round and we got only 15 minutes to recover before the start of the third and final round. I ended up drawing my third round as well due to fatigue from this round. However, when I played over this game with a chess engine I became grateful for the draw because it was then that I realized that Roger let me get away with some horrendous blunders!

The first eight moves was pretty much what I wanted to play as White. Black’s ninth move pretty much started to mess up my plans because I had never seen that kind of setup against the Botvinnik System before. I misplayed the next ten moves or so and I ended up in an inferior position that Roger eventually let me out of.

On move number 16 I had achieved equality only to give Black a slight edge on move number 17. I outright blundered on move number 19, but Roger failed to take advantage of that. Judging by his facial expressions at a couple of points in this game Roger was actually impressed by some of my blunders!

I blundered again on move number 21. At move number 23 Black was clearly winning. Black missed a winning move on move number 24. I blundered again on move number 26 and Black let me get away with it. My moves number 27 and 28 were again blunders. Black finally finds a winning idea on move number 28. Black gives back part of his advantage on move number 31. Once again, I blundered on move number 35. Black blunders on move number 36 and allows me to regain equality. Black plays some inferior moves on numbers 44, 45, and 46 inclusive that allow me the opportunity to win, but I failed to take advantage of that. It seems that from this point on, every time that one of us made a weak move the other one matched it. I gave away my passed d pawn in the time scramble and then agreed to a draw.

Mike Serovey


Close finish in ICCF 2nd British Webserver Team Tournament 1st Division!

With just half a dozen games to finish in the 2nd British Webserver Team Tournament, the race is on between last year’s Champions, the “Pawn Stars” Team with 15/22, the “ICCF Warriors” Team with 14/21 and the “Scheming Mind A” Team with 13/22. The “Pawn Stars” Team consists of SIM Gino Figlio (PER); SIM Dr Michael Millstone (USA); myself SIM John Rhodes (ENG) and Austin Lockwood, Team Captain (WLS) with an average ICCF rating of 2408. The “ICCF Warriors” Team consists of GM Nigel Robson (ENG); GM Raymond Boger (NOR); GM Mark Noble (NZL); SIM Ian Pheby and SIM Andrew Dearnley as non-playing Team Captain with an average ICCF rating of 2519. The “Scheming Mind A” Team consist of SIM Olli Ylönen (FIN); IM Janos Suto (ENG); SIM John Vivante-Sowter (ENG); César Jesús Reyes Maldonado (VEN) with an average ICCF rating of 2332. The Tournament Director and organizer is IA Neil Limbert.

You will find the latest results and games here on the ICCF website: –

It is looking like the mighty “ICCF Warriors” Team, formed by Andrew Dearnley, will eventually overtake us but, whatever happens, we will have given them a good run for their money! Andrew has certainly put a strong team together and deserves success, he is also an International Arbiter and this year has qualified for both the International Master and Senior International Master Titles. Unfortunately, Andrew has been ill recently and we all wish him well again soon. Here is one of Andrew’s wins with Bird’s Opening which went towards his latest title: –

John Rhodes


Tiger Chess Is Now Open!

After a lot of hard work I’ve finally opened my Tiger Chess site to the public, rather than just my students. It’s been my goal for quite a while to create a site which integrated my articles, video instruction, book and software recommendations and offers an online booking system to students. I’ve also wanted to create material that is both suitable for the target audience and of genuine benefit.

The first course, Building an Opening Repertoire, is now online and weighs in at over 21 hours of detailed instruction. Not having a offices to rent and staff to pay allows me to price this at just £19.95 to those with Full Membership. Those who’ve bought this course are very happy with it.

I have another four major courses planned as well which will essentially be video versions of an expanded Power Chess Program. This was originally a correspondence course I ran in the 1990s which later got published in a two book cut down form by B. T. Batsford. After much ado I got the publication rights back and am now in the process of revising and expanding the original material.

Besides offering Tiger Chess Full Membership, which is essentially aimed at adults who want to get better, the site has a membership level aimed at young players and their parents, the Annual Tiger Cubs Membership. Since becoming a chess parent myself I’ve seen widespread confusion about how to improve, what one’s goals should be, how to find a coach etc. Those with a Cubs Membership (priced at £12.95 per annum) will find resources that should help them navigate through this morass of confusing information and get more from their foray into the chess World. As with Full Members, anything that’s not up there they can ask me. And this all helps build the growing FAQ section.

Here anyway is a Youtube video explaining more about the site and how to go about joining:

Nigel Davies


Amateur Versus Master: Game Ten

This game is another recently completed draw against a chess master. This game is from the final round of the 2011 Golden Knights Correspondence Chess Championship. The first 18 moves were in my database. I was on my own from move number 19 on. So far, I have no wins, one loss and one draw in this section. However, I do have an advantage against a 2300 rated player that I drew in the previous round. We will have to wait and see how that game works out.

Because both sides played aggressively and made solid developing moves neither one of us got an advantage at any point in this game. My strategy against this higher rated player was to trade down into an even endgame. The point where we agreed to a draw was during the transition from the middle game to the endgame. White had more space in the center and the Bishop versus my Knight, but he couldn’t do anything with these slight advantages.

Mike Serovey



GM Aleksandr Dronov of Russia has won the latest ICCF World Title scoring 9.5/16 in the World Championship 27 Final (Category 14 event) which started in 2011. This is his second World Title having won his previous one in the World Championship 22 Final (Category 13 event) which started in 2007. In second position was GM Dr. Matthias Kribben and in third position was SIM Thomas Mahling both from Germany and both scoring 9/16.

Dronov was undefeated and here is his best game from the 27 Final. In the final position Black can mate in 13 moves with best play, according to the Lomonosov Tablebases for 7 piece endgames: –

John Rhodes


Failing to Win a Won Game, Part 1

This game is from Round 1 of my most recent Over the Board (OTB) chess tournament played in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This game illustrates a number of points that I want to make. First, I am not ready to play chess before noon! Second, this is one of too many games in which I outplayed my opponent in the opening and still lost the endgame! This clearly illustrates that no game is over until it is really over. Third, I don’t play well when I am not properly rested or ill. Fourth, sometimes kids will beat experienced players because the kids are healthy while we older adults often have chronic health problems. And fifth, I really do need to slow down when I am winning so that I don’t blow the win again!

I learned this opening back in 1975 from my younger brother, Steve. He got it from his only chess book, MCO 10. What we both liked about this variation was all of the traps that our young opponents often fell into. Back then it was called the Four Knights variation of the Sicilian Defense. Now, it is called some kind of Taimanov Variation of the Sicilian Defense. I will always call it the Four Knights Variation. Another thing that I like is that most of my OTB opponents do not know the main lines so I usually get an opening advantage.

After falling into an opening trap, I failed to find the best move to play on my tenth turn. Even so, I was still winning. My opponent gave me plenty of chances to either win or draw this game and I missed about half of them. Throughout most of this game I was feeling dizzy and light-headed. This could have been caused by not eating enough breakfast or from my sensitivity to rainy weather. Either way, my USCF standard rating has been at or near its floor of 1500 for about ten years now! These one-day tornados have killed my rating!

When I first started playing rated chess back in November of 1974 the typical first time control was 40 moves in 60 minutes. The second time control was sudden death in 30 minutes with any time that was left over from the first time control being carried over to the second one. That gave me an average of a minute and a half per move and I could pace myself accordingly. Now, I tend to rush my moves if I get more than 10 minutes behind my opponent.

Back around 1976 an expert in Texas named David Wheeler asked for some games in which the Four Knights was played. I sent him some that Steve and I played and he used two of them in his booklet. As a result of using our games David sent me a free copy of his booklet. I am planning to do something similar with my games. Any book on the Taimanov Sicilian or good database will cover the main lines of this opening. My intent is to write a book for the club player and feature lines that will be more likely seen in OTB games against non masters.

All of my notes are included in the game below.

Mike Serovey


Amateur Versus Master: Game Seven

Ricardo Rain is a Senior International Master (SIM) from Brazil and is the only “titled” player in this section. The loss in this game took me out of temporary first place in this section and gave it to Rain. At the time that I am writing this, Rain is in first place with 3 wins and 2 draws while I have dropped to seventh place with 1 loss and 5 draws. I may end up with 1 more loss and 3 wins before this is over. This is my only loss in this section so far and my second loss overall to a master from Brazil.

This game is another one of my losses with the Benko Gambit that convinced my to stop playing this opening in correspondence chess. White allowed me to capture his Bishop on f1, which forfeits the right to castle his King. White has to “castle by hand” as a result of this and that costs him time. Until recently, I won almost every time that this happened! Lately, this has not been giving me enough of an advantage.

On move number 12 Black started a Knight maneuver that was quite common when I learned this opening back in the 1970’s. Now, I would most likely forgo that maneuver and play 12… Qb6.

On move number 16 White starts to cram that a pawn down my throat. Until I can find a better way to handle this I am not likely to play the Benko Gambit again.

On move number 17 all of the chess engines were telling me to play h4 giving away another pawn. That idea never made any sense to me, so I rejected it and played Nd3 because it made more sense to me.

From move number 18 on White had an advantage that I was unable to dissipate or overcome. On moves number 19 and 20 an exchange of pawns moved White’s passed pawn from the a file to the b file giving Black the same kind of problem all over again.

Through a series of Knight and Rook moves Black was able to temporarily block the passed pawn on the b file, but this blockade could not last forever.

With no play left for Black on the Queenside, Black opened up the Kingside on move number 26. This may have been an error. On moves 29 and 30 more pawns are exchanged. Generally speaking, when one is down material one wants to get as many pawns off the board as is possible. So, trading pawns here helps Black some, but not enough.

I spent quite a bit of time analyzing move number 32 and I did not come up with anything better than 32… Nc3 with the idea of putting that Knight back in front of White’s passed pawn.

Move number 33 started a series of exchanges that did not really favor Black but seemed to be the best that I could find in this position. At move number 36 Black has a Rook for a Bishop and a  Knight and is also still down the gambit pawn. With the queens and all of the pawns off the board Black could have held this endgame to a draw. However, this was not the case here.

From move number 37 on White was clearly winning, but I wanted to play this out anyway. It was about this point in the game that I realized that my opponent and I were both analyzing this game on and that we were both seeing the other person’s analysis. I knew what moves he was expecting me to play and he saw my analysis. Part of the reason that I played this endgame out as long as I did was to get as much analysis into both my personal database and also into as I could.

Black could have played this out to move number 69 but instead resigned at move number 46 in order to free up his time and energy for other games that he had a more realistic chance of drawing or winning.

Mike Serovey