Category Archives: News

British Correspondence Chess Championships 2016-18 Results

The British Correspondence Chess Championships 2016-18 have finally finished with Tony Balshaw the winner. Here are the main results: –

1st IM Anthony Balshaw (WLS) 8.5 / 14 (Winner by Tie Break)

2nd John Brasier (ENG) 8.5 / 14

3rd Brian Thompson (ENG) 8 / 14

It was a very hard fought contest with about 10% of games being decisive and 90% draws ignoring defaulted games. This was the first British Championship event with title qualifications and many players received norms for CCE (Experts) and/or CCM(Masters). My own performance was rather disappointing with 6.5 / 14 including 2 losses and 1 win by default. I have already shown you my loss against the winner, so here is my other loss against the third placed player, Brian Thompson. I think it is vital to learn from your own losses and this game shows my weakness for locked positions and probing for weaknesses which Brian exploited well.

You can see the completed cross table at https://www.iccf.com/event?id=61304.

The British Championship 2017-19 officially starts on 1st October 2017 which I am pleased to say I have qualified for and will be reporting its progress in the coming months.

John Rhodes

Return of the Dead Eyes

Fans of this blog may have noticed that I have not posted a new article in a year. Around 20 July 2016 I had a brain stroke, A blood clot hit the right side of my brain and that did quite a bit of damage. A year later I still can barely see or feel a keyboard! That has made writing articles very difficult! Luckily, I found a doctor that will perform the cataract surgery that I have needed for the past year. I will still need glasses for reading and I will still have a huge blind spot on my left side.

I was in Penrose hospital for 3 days before I was transferred to the VA hospital that is in Denver, Colorado.

While I was in these hospitals I could not log into the ICCF server to take a time out or play a move. That, in turn, caused me to lose several cc games on time forfeit. My ICCF rating took a big hit!

Luckily, I was able to enter new events and I have had some decent results in them.

The game below is one of my recent draws with an expert on ICCF.

After my eye surgeries are completed and I can finally see again, I will write regular articles again. I will “see” you all then!

Mike Serovey

English Correspondence Chess Championships 2017

The very first English Correspondence Chess Championships started on 31/03/2017 with a Final, two Semi-Finals and three Preliminary sections.

Curiously, the results for each section have been quite wide ranging so far, with the Final having 31/105 games finish with 30 draws and only 1 decisive game. The Semi-Final A has 19/55 games finish with 15 draws and only 1 decisive game plus 3 defaulted games. The Semi-Final B has 19/55 games finish with 10 draws and 9 decisive games. The Preliminary A has 27/55 games finish with only 4 draws and 22 decisive games plus 1 defaulted game. The Preliminary B has 27/55 games finish with 8 draws and 18 decisive games plus 1 defaulted game. The Preliminary C has 30/55 games finish with only 5 draws and 25 decisive games.

So, what does this all mean? Well, in order to try and reduce the high number of draws, players are now only allowed to make one draw offer throughout each game. This does not appear to have made any difference to the highest level games which, so far, come out at 97% drawn with the lower level games at only 15% drawn. I suppose the Finalists are better prepared and play more cautiously than the lower sections. My theory is that all the games which are level going into the endgame are finished off quickly, so players can concentrate on the games where they have a clear advantage or disadvantage, or does it just mean that they are all using the same computer assistance!?

Anyway, here is my game which was the first decisive game in the Final: –

John Rhodes

British CC Championships Update

As always with correspondence chess tournaments it is hard to predict the winner, as some players have more games still in progress than others. One thing I do know for certain is that in the British Championship 2016-18 it will not be me! I finished all my games with 6.5 / 14 (+1 =11 -2). There are still 14 games in play with the current ‘leader’, IM Anthony Balshaw, with 8 points (+3 =10 -0) and 1 game in play. Other possible contenders are Brian Thompson, IM Bill Lumley, and CCM Ian Jones all with 7 points and 2 in play. The reigning British Champion, Mark Eldridge, is also well in contention with 6.5 and 3 in play. It is also possible for other players who have up to 5 remaining games in play to catch up. Hopefully, my next report will give us more idea of the winner. You can view the tournament cross table at ICCF.com.  Meanwhile, here is my final game against IM Clive Murden: –

John Rhodes

Updates on British and English Correspondence Chess Championships

The British Correspondence Chess Championship Final has now been running since 1st October 2016. As with all correspondence tournaments it is not always easy to gauge the winner until most of the games have finished, as some players like to play slower than others. With 88 games finished and 17 still in play, the player with the most points is IM Tony Balshaw from Wales with 7.5 / 12 (+3 =9 -0), next is Brian Thompson from England with 7 / 12 (+3 =8 -1) and IM Bill Lumley from England with 7 / 12 (+2 =10 -0). I have finished my tournament with a rather disappointing score of 6.5 / 14 (+1 =11 -2). My last game, where I thought I had a good position, ended in yet another draw! You can view the crosstable here.

The 1st English Correspondence Chess Championship Final started on 31st March 2017 and, so far, 13 games have finished as draws with 92 games ongoing. No player really wants to be the first loser in a tournament, so often the decisive games take longer. The player with the most points is David Evans with 3 / 6, then SIM Alan Rawlings with 2.5 / 5 and myself with 2 / 4. These results only reflect the faster moving players and it could change completely by the end! You can view the crosstable here.

Meanwhile, here is my final British Championship game: –

John Rhodes

ChessJournal App

“Record, analyse and store your competitive ‘over-the-board’ games”

This week I am happy for the opportunity to present another app useful for the club player, app called ChessJournal. It is created by Jon Fischer and Matt Lawson both from Bristol, England and it can be downloaded for free at the iTunes and Google Play stores. Jon was kind enough to help me write this article by answering to a few questions. Hope you like it and will decide to give this app a try!

Eugen: A short introduction about you and your team
Jon: ChessJournal App is a passion project started by a chess addicted designer and a chess intrigued developer! Me and Matt both work in the digital design sector and are passionate about product design best practice. Also we are both young fathers and are thus very short on time! When you combine our first two passions with a shortage of time to study, ChessJournal App is the logical outcome! We sat down together and asked ourselves, could we use an app to help club and tournament players study more, learning about their own games in the process?

Eugen: What is your chess story?
Jon: I have been playing chess since I was five years old and hover around the 1800 ELO (145 – 150 ECF). Matt knows the moves and would like to improve but probably needs a better coach than me!

I’ve been an avid club and tournament player in the Bristol and District chess league (in the UK) since 2004. Like a lot of adults I have noticed minimal change in my chess performances over the last decade. Every year the grades come out, every year I’m 145 ECF. Last year I decided to put down my openings books and started seriously studying my own games and nothing else.

  • No openings
  • No ending study or puzzles
  • No tactics trainers
  • Just me and my games

This year (using ChessJournal App) I have achieved my highest ever rating performance of 159 ECF (1892 ELO). An improvement of 98 ELO. Anecdotally I have had feedback from ChessJournal users that they have seen improvements between 65 and 110 ELO points. Obviously I don’t have any hard data on these numbers yet, but the anecdotal feedback is encouraging!

Eugen: Why this app? How did the idea for it come about?
Jon: The concept of ChessJournal started from a love of club and tournament chess and a feeling that the majority of apps didn’t really help amateur players improve. As I browsed through the app store, I felt the majority of apps fell into one of four camps:

  • Play other humans at blitz
  • Tactics trainers
  • A chess database of master games on your phone
  • All of the above!

My problem with a lot of the apps on the market was they either focused on openings, puzzles, master games or five minute blitz. But the majority of chess coaches and masters agree that one of the best ways to improve is through studying your own games and learning where you personally make mistakes. Whilst I love a cracking game of online blitz as much as the next player, it isn’t really helping me make better decisions, learn from my mistakes or understand how my games are won or lost.

Funnily enough, around the same time I happened to read an article on the chess improver blog on the benefit of keeping a journal for the ambitious amateur. As I was reading the article I also happened to be staring at a shoebox of paper scoresheets from my regular attendance at local tournaments.

Thus me and Matt settled on the idea of a “chess players diary” that would enable amateur players to carry and study their own games wherever they go.

We started work on ChessJournal in January 2016 and launched version 1.0 in May last year. We run a lean iterative design and development approach meaning we are always looking for feedback from chess players and factoring in their thoughts as we push to develop the best chess players diary and scorebook available. We learnt an awful lot about what players need from a chess diary in v1.0 that we decided to go back to the drawing board late last year and rebuild the app from scratch.

We officially relaunched ChessJournal v2.0 on April 19th 2017 on both Apple and Android featuring a host of new powerful features such as cloud storage and the ability to set and track personal improvement goals across your competitive chess season.

So far the feedback has been fantastic! We are averaging 4 star reviews and above and we are receiving a lot of lovely emails (and new feature requests) from club and tournament chess players around the world. We have already planned and scheduled the next update for ChessJournal 2.1 and there are more exciting plans in the future.

Eugen: Can it compete with the big and popular guys such as Chessbase, Monroi, etc?
Jon: My initial response is that we don’t want to, or feel we need to, compete with the big and popular guys such as Chessbase. We genuinely take it as a compliment that ChessJournal is regularly used in the same breath as Chessbase!

There are similarities such as the storage and analysis of your own games but after that our focus on self study and goal tracking hopefully helps club and tournament players see the angle and approach that we are taking. ChessJournal is categorically not a database app. If you want to understand the 18th line of a sub variation of the Berlin defence then ChessJournal is not for you. We will never add a five million game database to ChessJournal.

However, if you are a sub 2100 player and serious about cutting out the mistakes, having easy access to your games anytime and easily sharing your annotated thoughts with your club mates and coaches then we feel you will get real value from ChessJournal. ChessJournal is all about your game and no one elses!

I grow tired of hearing 1650 rated players (and I include my former chess playing self in this category) debate the merits of opening lines and their theoretical soundness. The large software players in the market dominate at the elite and very strong club player level where, I agree, that you need to understand theoretical novelties and what different people have played.

I guess what me and Matt are saying is that we believe real chess improvement for the amateur player can come from a focus on your own games and therefore a piece of giant database software is perhaps overkill for a lot of players. But then thats just our opinion…

Eugen: What’s it competitive advantage?
Jon: Its free! Ha ha, seriously I genuinely feel that ChessJournal is excellent value! The app is free to download but to unlock all features (such as annotations and sharing of annotated games) we charge a modest annual subscription fee of £5 / $6 / €6 a year.

A second major advantage is that it is available on both major platforms, Apple and Google Android. We get a lot of positive comments from iPhone carrying club players grateful for the ability to store their games. Because it is cloud based your games can be accessed anywhere on any device. One of my best friends has an Android smart phone and an iPad but his personal ChessJournal is always the same, wherever he is.

The third major advantage is simply mobility. Because it is an app you can leave your laptop at home next time you attend that weekend tournament. We have built in full import and export features for PGN so that a player can input their games when they are at matches or tournaments and still export them to other well known popular chess database software.

Eugen: The app’s best feature is?
Jon: Personally I would say either the goals section of the app or the annotation timelines.

Goals allows a player to create unique targets and goals for their desired improvement across the chess season. They can literally make a goal anything they want but once created they can link important games to them as they move through the season.

The annotation timeline is a feature unlocked with premium membership where a player can create and save variations in the game and annotate key positions. I suppose I am just really pleased with the design of this area in the app and we are in the process of rolling out some even better user interface updates.

We have a solid roadmap of new features coming and are regularly receiving new ideas from the chess community. To finish I would say that in the long term we are aiming to create the ultimate companion app for amateur club and tournament players. This is just the start!

Thank you for giving us this opportunity to talk to you about ChessJournal. More information can be found on chessjournalapp.com

Valer Eugen Demian

British Correspondence Championships 2016-18 Update

The British Correspondence Championship 2016-18 now has 77 finished games out of the 105 which started. It is still too soon to have a clear leader, as some players have finished all or most of their games while others have hardly started!  The players with the most points, so far, are Welsh IM Tony Balshaw with 7.5 / 12 and English SIM Alan Rawlings with 7 / 14. My own performance has been disappointing with 5.5 / 12 which includes two losses and a win by default.

The standard of play has been very high and, with correspondence chess, if you make a weaker move in the opening you can often never recover. Of course, the majority of players use databases, either their own or a commercial ‘off the shelf’ one. Here is my game against Tony Balshaw where I played an inferior move which almost certainly cost me the game. Well played Tony! With Black to play in the diagram, before you read the moves, what move would you play here?


John Rhodes

1st English Correspondence Chess Championship

The 1st English Correspondence Chess Championship (ECCC) starts on 1st April 2017. It will be a bi-annual event and, as the name suggests, will only contain players registered under the England flag. There will be a Championship Final with between 11 and 15 competitors, two Semi-Finals with between 9 and 13 competitors and some preliminary sections with, if possible, between 7 and 11 competitors. The organiser is SIM Ian M. Pheby.

For the first ECCC the Championship Committee has asigned competitors to each section based on their ICCF rating to which a bonus of points is added, I.E. GM 75 points; SIM 50 points; IM 25 points; CCM 15 points; CCE 5 points. One game is played against each of the other competitors in your section on the ICCF webserver. The competition will run for about 21 months with a time limit of 40 days for 10 moves. Unfinished games will be adjudicated.

The Championship winner will receive an engraved trophy and £150, the runner up £75 and third place £25. There are further prizes and opportunities for all sections. Details can be found here: –efcchess.org.uk/eccc.html

Even though I already had plenty of games in progress I could not ignore this important new event in the calendar and have duly entered! I am lucky enough to have been included in the Championship section with the following top English players, ten of which I have played before: – GM John G. Brookes (2467), CCM John Brasier (2423), SIM Jerry E.C. Asquith (2410), Ken J. Owen (2403), IM Bill F. Lumley (2388), CCE Stan J. Grayland (2383), CCE Mark Eldridge (2382), Peter Catt (2377), Trevor Carr (2375), SIM Alan J.C. Rawlings (2367), David Evans (2352), LIM Dawn L. Williamson (2348), SIM Ian M. Pheby (2312).

The Championship Final cross table can be viewed here: –www.iccf.com/event?id=65892

Games can only be viewed when finished and when at least 10 have been finished. Anyway, here is a game I played against one of my ECCC opponents who I played in the British Championship 2016-18 and who happens to be the British Champion for 2015.

John Rhodes

4th British Webserver Tournament – Division 1

The 4th British Webserver Tournament Division 1 recently started on 1st January 2017 with seven teams of four players. You may remember that each team consists of two British players and two international players. The winner of the first event were ‘Pawn Stars’ who narrowly beat ‘ICCF Warriors’, however, ‘ICCF Warriors’ went on to beat ‘Pawn Stars’ by the smallest of margins in the second event and also beat them in the third event. Over the four events, my team, ‘Pawn Stars’ has remained with the same players, although our board order changes depending on starting grade! This year we are the highest rated team with an average grade of 2408, against 2343 for ‘ICCF Warriors’, 2334 for ‘SchemingMind A’, 2297 for ‘SchemingMind B’, 2287 for ‘BCCA Kings’, 2249 for ‘BCCA Knights and 2177 for ‘Social CCA A’.

The ‘Pawn Stars’ team consists of Board 1 SIM Gino Figlio 2457 from Peru, 2 SIM John Rhodes 2396 from England, 3 SIM Michael Millstone 2400 from the USA and 4 Austin Lockwood (Captain) 2381 from Wales. The ‘ICCF Warriors’ team consists of Board 1 SIM Olli Ylonen 2451 from Finland, 2 LGM Toni Halliwell 2315 from England, 3 LGM Natalia Litvinenko 2294 from Kazakhstan and SIM Ian Pheby 2312 from England.

The tournament can be viewed from the ICCF website at www.iccf.com/event?id=63895

This year the teams seem fairly evenly matched, so I expect the result to be very close with, very likely, a new winner. It is too early to show any games, as at least ten need to be finished, but I can show you one of my wins from the last tournament against my old adversary A.N. Other! Here I have a long endgame with queen and three pawns against rook, knight and five pawns.

John Rhodes

British CC Championship 2016/8

The British Correspondence Chess Championship 2016/8 was underway on 1st October 2016 on the ICCF Server. There are fifteen players, including two SIMs, three IMs and one CCE. This is the first time I have played in a British Championship and this year is the first time that title qualifications are available. The three highest rated players are Clive Murden (2435), Scotland, Tony Balshaw (2432), Wales, myself (2403), England. The average grade is 2354. Three games have already been drawn, including one of mine. As the players and public can only view the games once ten have been finished, I am not able to show you any here yet. In a bid to reduce the number of drawn games, we are essentially restricted to one offer per player per game. The continued growth of computer tablebases means that endgames are rarely played out with six pieces or less on the board as claims can be made. You can view the championship here: – www.iccf.com/event?id=61304

The winner of last year’s British Championship was Mark Eldridge with 9/15 and here is one of his four wins: –

John Rhodes