Category Archives: News

Amatuer Versus Master: Game Six

My opponent in this game is from Russia (I think Siberia) and is the second highest rated player in this section. At the time that I am writing this, Norchenko has one win and four draws, including the one with me, and is in second place in this section. I am in third place with five draws and one loss. So far, there are only four wins and thus four losses in this section. The remaining 13 concluded games are all draws.  I do believe that the ultimate winner of this section will be whoever gets a plus score. The top two places in this section advance to the next round.

When this game started I decided to play the White side of the Sicilian Defense because I wanted to try the Smith-Morra Gambit on him. I almost never play the White side of the Sicilian Defense in a rated game, but I did this time. I messed up the move order and decided not to play the gambit because the move order that I played favored Black. After I made this decision updates to my database showed that I could have played the Smith-Morra Gambit and been OK.

Black’s fourth move surprised me a little, as did many of his moves afterwards. I had never seen this line or variation in any other game that I have played before or after this one. Fortunately, most of what he played was in my database. When he varied from my database I was able to figure out good enough moves to hold the draw.

From move number 19 on we were out of my database. On move number 26 I played what the chess engines considered to be a second-best move. The “better” line would still have been even and thus I would still end up with a draw. I played what I thought was the more impressive or cuter line.

I believe that this is the highest rated player that I have drawn on ICCF.

Mike Serovey


Sometimes it is Better to be Lucky Than Good

This game was my last game in this section to finish. My opponent is from England. My opponent kept declining my draw offers because he thought that he had a better pawn structure.

I was, once again, mislead by the chess engines into playing an inferior line and could have lost the endgame if my opponent found the winning idea on move number 41. Instead, he moved his King in the wrong direction and then agreed to a draw.

I ended up with an even score in this section which netted me third place. Although I have won several Walter Muir sections, and these are played on the ICCF server, this third place finish is my best result so far in an international section. The Walter Muir sections are for players in the USA only and I am not allowed to use chess engines in those events.

On move number 6 White captures on c6. This gets me out of what I wanted to play, but I usually do OK with it as Black.

Although White grabs some space in the Center with his pawns on e5 and f4, he leaves his King a bit naked. I was never able to take advantage of that, though.

On move number 15 both players still have their kings in the Center and neither one can castle. I never did get to castle my King.

On move number 27 I pinned White’s Bishop to his King. After some fancy moves we traded off some minor pieces and rooks, but I never got an advantage out of it. On move number 28 I got convinced by Houdini 3 that the line that I played was better than the one that I wanted to play. I now think that the other line that I rejected was better.

On move  number 36 I was up a doubled pawn. I also had two passed pawns. Even so, I was unable to win.

Mike Serovey


Amateur Versus Master – Game Five

This game is from the final round of the 2011 Golden Knights Correspondence Chess Championship. Because John and I agreed to email our moves to each other instead of using snail mail, this game finished well ahead of the other ones in this section. The rest of my games in this section are still in the openings or are transitioning to the middle games.

John is the lowest rated opponent that I have in this section. I lost playing the Black side of the Benko Gambit. This loss, combined with a few other ones, has convinced me to stop playing the Benko Gambit in correspondence chess. I used to win whenever my opponent fully accepted my gambit. Lately, I have been losing whenever White shoves that passed pawn down my a file!

I am the only non master in this section. Therefore, I have no delusions of grandeur about winning this section. I am simply trying to get an even score and this loss will not help me any.

On move number 6 I decided to change up my usual move order because I was hoping to confuse my opponent and thus gain a psychological advantage. This almost worked. John did get confused a little, but I lost anyway.

Whenever White allows Black to capture the Bishop that is on f1 White gives up the right to castle. This is where Black gets his compensation for the sacrificed pawn. I am no longer able to keep my advantage in this variation.

Black completes his basic development on move number 11 and then White begins his assault by moving that passed a pawn down my throat. I still need to find Black’s best reply to that.

By move  number 14 Black is  bringing his rooks and knights over to the Queenside to launch his counter attack. White is going to break open the Center.

On move  number 15 White anchors a Knight on b5 and this Knight creates problems for me for quite a while afterwards.

Looking back at move number 16, I now doubt that trading my fianchettoed Bishop on c3 was the best move for Black. Allowing White to get a pawn on c4 created many problems for me. From move number 21 on Black is losing.

Mike Serovey


Candidates Review

Unusually for me I’ve been taking a look at some of the games from the Candidates Tournament with the official web site being here. There’s certainly been plenty of fighting and original chess, the following game quickly leaving the beaten track early on (11.f4 looks like over the board inspiration). Shakhriyar Mamedyarov must have missed 14.Nde4 as that wins his queen for inadequate compensation:

In the following Youtube video Magnus Carlsen offers some nice insights and seemed to be enjoying watching the scrap to get to face him.

Nigel Davies


‘ICCF Warriers’ ahead in 2nd British Webserver Team Tournament

The second season of Division One of the British ICCF Webserver Team Tournaments is now about three quarters finished with the leading team, ‘ICCF Warriors’, on 66% with their nearest rivals and last year’s winner, ‘Pawn Stars’, close behind on 65% with the next team, ‘Scheming Mind ‘A”, on 55%. ‘ICCF Warriors’ consists of GM Nigel Robson (ENG), an ICCF World Finalist, GM Raymond Boger (NOR), GM Mark Noble (NZL) and SIM Ian Pheby (ENG), ICCF Aspirer Tournaments Officer. ‘Pawn Stars’ consists of SIM Gino Figlio (PER), ICCF Webmaster, SIM Dr Michael Millstone (USA), ICCF General Secretary, myself (ENG) and Austin Lockwood (WLS), ICCF Services Director. The average grades of the leading team are about 100 points above ours, so it is no real surprise that they are still in the lead. I have had a quick look through the remaining games and it looks like they will be unbeatable.

Here is a win by the highest rated player in the competition, GM Raymond Boger : -

John Rhodes


Hertfordshire Still Leading Division 3 Of ICCF Webserver Tournament

In my last post I mention the terrific start (94%) that “Herts and Minds” had made in Division 3 of the new ICCF Webserver Tournament. They continue to do well although their percentage score has now dropped slightly to 92% or 19.5/21! In fact, they have only conceded three draws and the rest were wins! I think they well deserve one of their games to be shown here. So we have Arthur Reed playing Black against a member of the Welsh “Dragons” team in a lively miniature.

In Division 1 the reigning champions, “Pawn Stars”, have a score of 58% or 7/12 and are chasing hard after last year’s runners up, “ICCF Warriors”, who have 68% or 5.5/8.

John Rhodes


How to Watch the Anand-Carlsen World Chess Championship to Improve Your Own Game

The 2013 FIDE World Chess Championship match between Anand and Carlsen is about to begin.

Chess as spectator sport?

You may have already waded through articles and blog posts all over the world speculating about who is favored to win, etc. It’s certainly good for chess that there is excitement over this match. Furthermore, chess really is a sport, in addition to being a science and an art. In fact, in past world chess championships I have tended to adopt a spectator “fan” mentality, including favoring one player or the other, and watching and reading commentary, trying to catch bits of games live (usually difficult because of time zone differences and work and other schedules), turning on the chess engines, and talking trash with other chess players: typical sports spectator behavior, of course.

An opportunity to get more serious

As I’ve said, although there is nothing wrong with having fun and sometimes engaging in our beloved game of chess as a sports fan, I got to thinking, for this Anand-Carlsen match, whether I can get more serious about it, as an active improver. Here are some ideas. I will use some of them myself.

Delaying consultation of commentary

Since the games start at what will be 4:30 AM EST (my time zone), I will not anyway be up to watch the games live.

Of course, there will be copious commentary on many sites and many blogs on the games, both while in progress and afterwards.

This time, I’m going to skip the commentary for a game until I’ve had a chance to look at the game myself first. It will be hard to avoid learning of the result of a game, of course, but we all know that the result does not tell the whole story, so I’m not concerned about downloading an unannotated PGN score of a game while knowing the final result.

Analyzing a game first without a chess engine

Although chess engines are fantastic aids for getting to the “truth” of a position, looking at them first before forming one’s own hypotheses is like reading a textbook’s questions while also reading the answer key. It may be resulting in a lot of pleasant nodding, “Yes, that makes sense”, but there is value in doing at least a quick and rough analysis based on one’s own mind. After that, one can check one’s hypotheses with the computer.

In fact, even more demanding than simply analyzing a completed game is to guess what someone will do. You can do this the time-honored way with a printout to cover up moves, or if you have the game loaded in a computer program, just don’t look at the score, and hit the “next move” button after writing down your guess. (It is actually optimal to write down your guesses or thoughts, rather than only think them, if possible, to morally commit to them and own them.)

Comparative commentary

To get a broader view of different kinds of evaluations, human oversights, and the psychology of both the players themselves and the commentators, it is possible to examine a couple of different sources of commentary (especially archives of unscripted, unpolished live commentary during a game). This sort of research task is clearly very intensive and not practical to do for every game, but might be instructive for everyone to do at least once during the match.

Match-level themes

Going beyond the level of a single game, we expect patterns to emerge during intense match play in a world championship match. Both sides will have prepared massively to generate new ideas and surprises whose full expression may be revealed through multiple games. So there is an opportunity to compare deviations from the same theme and achieve a deeper understanding than from a single game. For example, in past world championship matches we have seen repeated use of the Catalan or of the Rossolimo Sicilian, during a single match.

Exploring the themes in your own games

Maybe you learn some opening and middle game ideas while following the match. While your friends are also following and excited, how about playing some friendly games with them exploring the ideas you see? It’s a good excuse as any to experiment in a shared context.


I’ve mentioned a few ways in which one can use the world championship as a learning experience. Many of them can apply to any tournament or match, but I think the excitement and intensity of a world championship provide extra incentive to make the most of following the sport that we not only watch but play ourselves.

Franklin Chen


2nd British ICCF Webserver Team Tournaments well underway

The second season of British Webserver Team Tournaments in four divisions is well underway and our winning team in Division 1, “Pawn Stars”, is battling against “ICCF Warriors” and five other teams, “Scheming Mind A”, “Scheming Mind B”, “BCCA Kings”, “BCCA Griffins” and “White Rose A”. It is always difficult to tell who is leading until the later stages, although “Scheming Mind A” have finished the most games with a percentage score of 53%. “Pawn Stars” have 61% and “ICCF Warriors” have 68%, so it already looks like “ICCF Warriors” are pulling ahead. They have an even stronger team than last year with no less than three GMs Nigel Robson (ENG), Raymond Boger (NOR) and Mark Noble (NZL), and SIM Ian Pheby (ENG). “Pawn Stars” have the same team as last year, in a different order, with SIMs Gino Figlio (PER), Dr Michael Millstone (USA), and myself (ENG), together with Austin Lockwood (WLS). Remember that each team must have at least two players from the UK. Almost 75% of the games in Division 1 have, so far, been drawn and I am finding it increasingly difficult to win games nowadays, although I am finding it easier to lose games!

I am pleased to report that our Hertfordshire team, “Herts and Minds”, in Division 3 have made a terrific start with a percentage score of 94%! The team consists of SIM Keith Kitson with final score of 6/6, Peter Rice on 4.5/5, Steve Law on 2.5/3 and Arthur Reed on 4/4. They are all members from clubs in the English county of Hertfordshire.

This month I have chosen one of my (rare) wins from this tournament. I had already had to draw another rook and pawn ending, so I was determined to make more of this game. It has a very interesting ending which I need to further investigate. There were so many lines which ended in a draw, even if I had a two pawn advantage. I had to devise a plan which kept his king occupied and out of the way, but I needed my rook to be active attacking his pawns and my king to have some shelter from his checking rook. I think I found the key to this with 48 Re7 and I believe his position now crumbles. They say that rook and pawn endings are always drawn, well not if I can help it.

John Rhodes


Guess Some Moves

You can watch live games at the current FIDE Grand Prix here.

An interesting training exercise is to guess what the next move will be in the game you are watching. Maybe write down some candidate moves first and select one, and see what gets played.

Angus James