Russell Sherwood Saturday, March 3, 2018
Introduction (Iain Mackintosh)
Gordon hails from Glasgow and is now based in Nottingham. He’s had a long career in financial services which gives SCCA great experience on which to draw – he’s been an excellent treasurer for us since 2008. Gordon has been a CC player since the late 1990s, and has held a 2300+ grade since 2009. He was awarded the Scottish Master title in 2012 after achieving three rating norms, and also picked up ICCF CCE and CCM norms in 2017. He’s an active organiser, both in SCCA domestic events and internationally, and was awarded the IA title in 2014 after acting as TD throughout Veterans’ World Cups 2-4 (these were sponsored by the SCCA). After the untimely death of George Pyrich in December 2017, Gordon stepped forward to take on the mantle of international secretary as well as treasurer. He’ll make a first-rate ambassador for Scotland across the ICCF federations.
1. Briefly tell us about yourself?
Born in Glasgow. Married to Margaret with 2 adult children and 4 grandchildren. Work took me to London in 1987 and we moved with work to Nottingham in 1999. First career was in banking until 2002 and second was as a Business Consultant. Hobbies, chess, rugby, classical music and drinking good wine. Following the recent death of George Pyrich, I have become the Scottish National Delegate to ICCF.
Mentioned to Russell Sherwood recently that I refereed rugby at International level and managed to referee at all of the home countries’ International grounds. Pleased to say that I retired from that activity a good number of years ago. The game has changed significantly since my days with a whistle. The pace is so fast and the collisions are massive.
2. How did you get involved in Chess?
Learned to play when I attended secondary school. Allan Glen’s School in Glasgow had a strong side and a History master who was keen to encourage boys to play chess. I got hooked and my studies suffered!
3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?
There was a schoolmaster at Glasgow High School, Bernard Partridge who was keen on CC and it was through him and Allan Glen’s that I first played CC at the age of 14.
4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?
I used to like the exchange of messages and making friendships. I had a Finnish opponent who supplied coloured postcards with every move and educated me about Finland. His postcards helped my children complete a school project. Sadly, today very few players engage in exchanging regular messages, indeed any messages, and I often wonder why they bother to play CC. Courtesy encourages me to write a short message with my first move and depending on the response I try to keep the communication going. I have been quite fortunate in both the last Olympiad and the European Team tournament, where I represented Scotland, I had a number of my opponents who have communicated with reasonably regular messages.
5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?
Playing for Scotland, made very special when I manage to win some games!
6. What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?
Possess a good database, play through annotated games and read books they think will help them. The latter is a difficult task. Recently I have been reading Jacob Aagaard’s ‘Positional Play’, Herman Grooten’s ‘Chess Strategy for Club Players’ and Boris Gelfand’s Positional Decision Making in Chess. I found all of them really helpful, for different reasons but they won’t suit everyone.
7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?
I always research my opponents and try to find out what they play. I try to play through all of these games but don’t always succeed-sometimes I can’t find any games they have played. That just tells you my database is not as comprehensive as it needs to be!
8. How do you select your moves, what is your general method?
I will not deal with the opening since much of that is personal to each player and each will have their own approach. Out of the opening, I try to follow Aagaard’s recommendation and ask myself 3 questions. Firstly, where are the weaknesses? Secondly, which is the worst placed piece? And thirdly, what is my opponent’s idea? Having asked these questions, I look at my previous notes on the game in question to help me remember my plan (and previous analysis) and assess whether it is still fit for purpose or has my opponent created a need to change plans. I then look for what Kotov called ‘candidate moves’ all with the aim of finding 3 or 4 possible moves. Obviously, my silicon friend plays a part at that stage, but so does my brain and instincts. In recent years I have slowed down my response time and take more time to consider moves. As a TD I do find it amazing that some players finish their games before the start date arrives in a tournament and have played about 30 moves before agreeing on a draw.
9. With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you try to do to generate wins?
I try to create positions that are not particularly helpful to the engines but I also attempt to play openings which can lead to weak squares in my opponent’s camp. Not easy but I did win a game a year or so back where my opponent had a weak P on c7 with a half-open file. It took time but was very enjoyable from my perspective.
10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?
Would like to gain IM title. Have missed two norm opportunities by half a point in each case. Frustrating but keeps me trying, although winning a game is a real challenge due to the influence of computers.
11. What are your favourite Openings and why?
I have played the French, Winawer poison pawn variation as black for over 50 years and have had great results apart from a setback now and again, but not recently. Not too sure I will continue to play in future since some recent games I have reviewed have led to spectacular wins for white. As White, I have for years played either a QP or the English.
12. If you could ask a Legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?
Could you spend some time with me to help me become a Grand Master?
13. Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?
My System by Aron Nimzowitsch
14. Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?
Yes. M. M. Botvinnik. I played him in a simultaneous display when I was 16. I lost but was second last to finish. I had a good position for a long period but as the numbers still playing reduced to single figures he just appeared, moved and then seemed to re-appear so quickly that I had no time to think!!