Interview: SIM Gareth Yeo

Jones, Ian  Friday, May 1, 2020



What correspondence chess player has never heard of Gareth Yeo ?

Gareth does not need an introduction.

Gareth is Wales first  SIM and Wales highest ever rated correspondence player.

In Wales we just call him Gareth.


Briefly tell us about yourself?

I turn 40 this summer, which is wonderfully illustrated by my grey hair and baldness. I am married to Alison and have two young children Willow and Felix who I hope one day will be interested in the game. Outside of the chess world, I've been a Civil Servant for almost 20 years and enjoy a bit of Texas Hold'em Poker when I want to let my non-existent hair down. 

How did you get involved in Chess?

My father started playing with me when I was 10. He wasn't very good, but still, the game interested me enough to start playing with my school friends during lunch breaks. It wasn't until I went to University and found myself with plenty of time on my hands did I start really taking an interest. Trying to outsmart players from all over the world in blitz/bullet games became a bit of an obsession. I then decided to join my local club back home who were bottom of the league in the lowest division, and I still managed to lose every game to my fellow members. I'd go back to Uni., try and figure out where I went wrong and then try again at my club until one by one I beat them all. It was around that time that the Kramnik-Kasparov World Championship was held. I surprised myself by being able to predict 80-85% of the moves despite being a very low rated player. I guess, in a way, it gave me the false self-confidence I needed push on and beat others. 

When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

My first experience of Correspondence Chess was on an American site called, which looks to still be live now. I joined in order to refine my opening repertoire for Over The Board games, in the belief that if it held up in CC it would hold up in OTB. Once I got the top spot on the site I'd lost interest and decided to go back to playing in clubs. 

What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

I joined the ICCF in 2014 out of curiosity more than anything. A few posts on the Welsh Chess Union site were advertising the WCCF and I failed to see the point as IMHO it was engine vs. engine matches so what would I get out of it? I still hold that belief as if you don't use an engine you won't do well on the site, but once you've accepted that then you can enjoy teaming up with your engine against another team. I enjoy punishing those who do not look at positions long enough or play poor openings, not suited to this type of play. For me, it's about proving, almost scientifically, which openings hold up and which ones fail. It's this testing/analysis which has kept me going. 

What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?
 Probably becoming the first Senior International Master in Wales and holding the number 1 spot on the rating list. If we don't count the provisional ratings given to players decades ago then I might well be the highest rated Welshman we've had too.


What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?

 I have no idea what I do that others don't in all honesty. We all have access to the same databases and software, so I guess it must come down to decision making. I'd like to know why some experienced players with much better hardware than myself struggle to get over a certain rating range. It feels like they can draw with anyone, but not spot flaws/mistakes and exploit them to turn those draws into wins. I coach a guy in America, which is just me sharing how I play. He's flying up the ratings but without knowing how others play I can't suggest what they should do differently. 

Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or tournament?

 I have the same strategy for every game, whether it's a tournament or other. I look up my opponent's games, decide if I think they play any dubious openings, which I might like to exploit or check if they play stale/drawish lines against certain lines and actively avoid them where I can. The aim is simple, keep it as imbalanced as possible, try to win and hope my opponent has the same objective. If they are risk-averse and want a draw from move 1 I'll tend to offer it early on as, yes, I might outplay them in the endgame, but I'd rather spend what time I have left on this earth looking at interesting positions. 

How do you select your moves, what is your general method?

 The opening is generally me looking for ideas in recently played games by opponents of a certain standard, which I hope to jump on the back of before it becomes common theory. Once that's over it's over to the engine really. I point it in the right direction if I think it's going astray, other than that I trust it to do its work. 

With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you do to try and generate wins?

 Unfortunately, you need two to tango. As I mentioned above, If I can see somebody plays say a Berlin against 1.e4 and the KID against 1.d4 they'll get 1.d4 every time. But, if they play a French against 1.e4 and the Slav/Nimzo-Indian against 1.d4, they'll be getting 1.e4 from me. If my opponent plays, shall we say 'conservatively' against every opening then I tend to just give out a heavy sigh and distract myself with other games until the draw is agreed.

 What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

 It would be nice to get the Grand Master title however this is unlikely as I'm facing highly tuned players and machines at the level I currently play. The GMs I see on the rating tables tend to have got their titles in the pre-engine era. It's almost impossible now unless you're lucky enough to be in a norm tournament where several players default.

What are your favourite Openings and why?

 For CC I don't really have favourite openings. I have ones I like to play against and like to avoid as previously stated, but I don't like being a one-trick pony with a narrow repertoire so I'll play something different in every game if it means it will be more interesting. With databases and engines, you can play pretty much any opening without understanding too much about the theory/history behind the moves, but I'm sure it helps to know a bit for the middle games. 

For OTB, I've played 1.d4 all my life. I have a line against pretty much every reply that I really enjoy. For black I've been enjoying various Sicilians over the past decade and I've just finished reading The Modernized Delayed Benoni by Ivan Ivanisevic, which I've now adopted as my main reply to 1.d4. The type of openings I enjoy is when I have a large pawn centre, I'm not a hyper-modern player at all, which might lead you to ask why the Benoni then? The way I play it normally leads to an e5 and f5 pawn push so it's a KID without having to learn the millions of KID lines out there.

If you could ask a Legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?

There's no one question I can think of that I'd ask. Id certainly liked to have been trained by a legend, or anyone decent for that matter. 

Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?

 I'm not a big reader of chess books. The book that helped me go from a terrible 1400 rated player to a slightly less terrible 2000 rated player was 'The Amateur's Mind' by Jeremy Silman. It's a pretty old book now but the principles and concepts stayed with me.

Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

During the 2000s it was Levon Aronian as he was the only real Super GM who favoured 1.d4. So I'd be looking at his games for inspiration. Sadly, for me anyway, he's moved away from it in recent years, which has seen my interest move to a fantastic young Russian player in Daniil Dubov. I really enjoy his tactics and hope he breaks through to the 2700 club one day. Another player who's games inspire me is the Ukrainian GM Illya Nyzhnyk.

Updated Friday, May 1, 2020 by Ian Jones

Welsh Correspondence Chess FederationBritish Correspondence Chess AssociationClergy Correspondence Chess ClubSchemingMind Internet Correspondence Chess ClubSocial Correspondence Chess AssociationNational Correspondence Chess ClubWelsh Chess UnionInternational Correspondence Chess Association