Interviews

Interview: LGM Dawn Williamson (ENG)

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Hi Guys,

I hope I don’t bore you, personally I’ve never really considered myself interview material but here goes!

I am a member of that rare species, the female correspondence chess player, soon to be even rarer after the latest ICCF cull, sorry what was I thinking, of course I meant rule change.

I have been playing chess since I was around five; I am self-taught with a bit of basic guidance from my mum at the start.

I have always loved the game and played over the board for my schools and at a local chess club. It didn’t enter my head until I was much older that this was unusual for a girl, I honestly don’t think it entered the heads of the boys I played with either, we all just wanted to play the game and win!

When my family moved to Snowdonia I pretty much stopped playing chess, logistics was an issue. I did flirt briefly with postal chess, but found it a bit slow and increasingly expensive for a student’s pocket.

With academia and professional qualifications behind me, I found I had more spare time and this reignited my passion for the game. I very quickly realised how things had moved on in the intervening time. I joined a couple of internet clubs and started my CC career. I had a very steep learning curve; brain and book are no match for computer programs and databases. My ego became, slightly dented, but I decided to stick with it and learn how to survive in this modern arena, and as they say, the rest is history.     

I find my relationship with my chessboard has changed and like so many others, the draws drive me crazy, but I think to play our game well you need a lot of skill. It is not enough to follow the computer blindly as everyone has at least one; it`s the players who combine their own flare with that of the programs and hardware that seem to get the best results.

The highlight of my CC career to date is being awarded the Lady Grandmaster title, every chess player dreams of being a grandmaster and even though I would one day like to drop the Lady from the front, I will be happy with this if I go no further.

In my humble opinion aspiring players need to do there research; ask themselves why certain players can still produce better than average results. What Openings are they using? Where did that unexpected move come from and why was it unexpected? They also need to invest in a reasonable computer and keep their software up to date. Time and tide wait for no man or woman!

When starting a tournament, I usually get a buzz of excitement. It’s a clean start an opportunity to show what you can do. My strategy depends on the event, if I’m playing for a team securing at least a draw is the priority, you don’t want to let your team mates hard work come to nothing because of your dropped points. In norm events the strategy is tailored to the required score for the sort after norm, there is little point in playing solid draws when you need at least two or three wins. That said you must always keep an eye on the rating after all that is what gets us in a position to try for the norms in the first place. 

When selecting moves I usually, if possible pick three I think are promising and then work with them to see where they take me. I’m still trying to perfect this!

The draws in CC are a problem but it is still possible to get results if you work hard, but I don’t think there is a magic formula. My current strategy is to cut my game load and work harder on the games I play, it will take a while and has meant saying no this season to a number of events.

My future aspirations are to achieve the IM title and be the last Ladies world Champion (if I make it to the final, it’s in the lap of the gods)

My favourite opening is a tricky question to answer; it is more a question of which openings work in CC. I do enjoy the KID but with mixed results!

If I could ask a question of a legendary player, it would go to Bobby Fisher.

Did you realise when Donald Byrne played  11, Bg5 in the game of the century that you had the game, were you that good so young?

As you can see from the answer to your previous question, I am a Fisher fan so I have read and re read until the pages fell out:  Fisher v Spassky Reykjavik 1972.

My favourite living player is Vladimir Kramnik but posthumously it’s Mr Fisher the flawed genius, if you can have one without the other!      

 

 

Dawn WilliamsonInterview

Interview: LGM Toni Halliwell (ENG)

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, September 14, 2019

Introduction 

Toni is one of the stalwarts of Britich CC in recent years and a regular player in Yorkshire Team events. Ranked #5 Female CC player in the world on the latest rating list iand one of a trio of strong British CC players Toni has help redefine the British CC Landscape.

Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

Retired IT College Tutor and freelance business adviser.  Interests also include music (most genres), playing piano and guitar (badly!), geology and landscape photography.

How did you get involved in Chess?

Rather embarrassing this one!  Older brother taught me the moves while I was at primary school.  Didn’t really take it up then, but moved up to Grammar School where, as a 13 year old girl, with an almighty crush on the History master who started a chess club, so where he was, I had to be … lol!

Is this the most original answer yet?! 😊  [Editors Note: Yes!!]

 

When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

Can’t really remember but must have seen an ad for the Postal Chess Club run by Chess, Sutton Coldfield, back in the day.  Played in their all-play-all tournaments, from being about 15 I think.

What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

‘Meeting’ people from all over the world; used to like collecting the stamps when it was all postal.

Having more time to ponder your moves than otb allows and to really learn openings without having to be able to remember the lines. 

Also it’s available when you don’t feel like trailing out to a club on a winter’s evening!

Being an IA/TD.

 

What don’t you like about Correspondence Chess?

 

Engines!  These prevent you knowing how good or bad you really are compared to your opponents.  I know they prevent games being spoiled through blunders, but you are not really matching your own skill against the other person, and sometimes it seems that you can ‘buy’ you way through if you can afford better computers.  Also find it difficult to vary games and can end up playing the same opening/variation so many times, unless you are prepared to try out new openings.

Players who don’t exchange a greeting at the start of a game.  Would they refuse to shake hands otb? 

Language is no barrier these days with online translation tools, so no excuse – just use your own language if you don’t share a common one.

Players who use DMD when the going gets tough!

 

What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

Three spring to mind:

  • Returning to chess after a 20 year gap and winning the British Ladies Championship in the first season back.
  • Beating the Open British Champion in less than 30 moves, while being the reigning British Ladies Champion!
  • Getting a draw with our own GM Robson, rated 2600, in a team competition.  Where but in correspondence chess would you even get the chance to play such a player if you are at my level?!

 

The first two of these pleased me because in both cases the win came from a move/plan that was not showing on a computer engine at the time!

 

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

Play against the strongest opposition available.  Study everything, but don’t get bogged down on mainly openings.  Don’t neglect endgames.  Learn solid principles rather than trying to memorise lines.  Study structures, patterns etc. to help your middlegame.  Find out where you went wrong in lost games, or where you think a win went astray. Find a very strong player whose style you like and look at their games.

 

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

 

Not particularly.  Of course I start out wanting to win every game, but know realistically this is not likely to happen.  If it is a team tournament, I plan to be more careful so as to play for the team and not let them down.  I try to look at the opponent, have I played them before etc.  Mainly remind myself not to rush the opening and try not to get transposed into an opening I don’t like.

 

 

How do you select your moves?  What is your general method?

 

Firstly I look at the position without any assistance and choose some possibilities that suit my style.  I look at books and databases in the opening stages and use the NIC Yearbooks for updates.  I tend to look more at the ICCF database to see what the top correspondence players do, and there are a number of these players who I like to follow who play the same openings as me.  If out of book, then the engine unfortunately has to come into play too, but I try not to play an engine move just for the sake of it.  If I don’t understand the reason for the move, I won’t play it until I do.

 

With so many draws in Correspondence Chess.  What do you try to do to generate wins?

This is very difficult obviously because of engines.  Trying to learn which openings are harder for a computer to deal with and why and what other types of position might not suit engine analysis so well. This information seems to be hard to find and only picked up in snippets here and there.

Other than that, when I feel forced to resort to the engine, leave it running … forever … just to make sure that the move you are about to settle on doesn’t get superseded so many plies later on!  Also use several different engines for comparison.

What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

Firstly to secure my second IM norm to get the title.  Beyond that to see if I can get SIM norms. Then of course to win the world championship, lol!!

What are your favourite Openings and why?

For white, I’m a lifelong Queen’s pawn player.  I find these easier to understand than King’s pawn openings, and for the same reason that as black I don’t play the Sicilian against 1. e4, neither will I put myself at risk of facing the Sicilian either.  Not because I am scared to, but because I have never studied it and others advise that there is so much work to do to keep up with this opening in particular, so I concentrate my efforts elsewhere.  For black I tend to prefer openings with a King’s side fianchetto, again just because I’ve always played them, but I am trying to adopt others now and bring more variety to stop me from being predictable!

 

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

If I dared (!), I think I might ask Bobby Fischer why on earth he thought he could play 29. … BxKRP against Spassky in the first game in Reykjavik 1972.

 

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

This varies all the time.  Currently, as he has recently passed, I am looking at the, enormous book ‘Pal Benko – My Life, Games and Compositions’ by Benko and Silman.  It really is a nicely produced volume.  I am a member of the online Chess Book Collectors group on Facebook, though not really an avid collector as such, but their recommendations or otherwise have saved me wasting money or drawn my attention to a book I might not otherwise have known about.

Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

No special favourite. I like the 2 Ks and as a woman of course I like Judit Polgar, especially when she has put one of our own opinionated GMs in his place!  Did study Botvinnik for a while.  Basically just like the whole bunch, past masters, present and likely future!

 

 

 

 

Russell Sherwood, Player Interview

Austin Lockwood  Sunday, June 24, 2018

This week I am standing in as guest editor of the regular interview column... because the interviewee is the regular editor! - AL

Russell Sherwood is a rising star in CC organisation; an active national delegate for the Welsh Correspondence Chess Federation, editor of the excellent BCCA magazine and regular contributor to the popular WCCF website, a member of the ICCF Executive Board as newly elected Marketing Director (having formerly been Non-Title Tournament Commissioner and Promotion Tournament Organiser), among many, many other roles.

Russell currently holds the Correspondence Chess Master and International Arbiter titles.

1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

48 years old, married with two children (19 and 12) living in South Wales with the lovely Helen Sherwood. My career is in Continuous Improvement having been involved in a number of roles over the years. Beyond CC my hobbies include reading, writing, programming and spending time with the family. I used to be involved in Football (Soccer to the heathens!) both in Organisational, coaching and refereeing functions until a heart attack forced me to cut back on activities! I am still involved in Charitable organisations – mainly related to the distribution of lottery money to good sporting causes these days!

2. How did you get involved in Chess?

I started playing at school, progressing to junior tournaments and the school team. I then played OTB at my wife’s (LGM Helen Sherwood) fathers club.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

During the mid 90’s I dabbled with Postal Chess, which I found difficult as my career had blossomed and I was working long and unpredictable hours, often away from home.

I then returned to CC, when I discovered email and later server chess, which did fit in with my lifestyle, which has always made regular commitments difficult. Around this time I started to get involved in Chess organisation in different organisations, although not with ICCF and WCCF until only a few years ago.

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

It’s flexibility is the main thing but also the wide variety of friends I have made in many countries both through playing and organising. I know some of my wider family find it strange that my Facebook friend list has so many genuine overseas friends!

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

I don’t really think I have that many! I’ve won as high as Category 6 events, although suppose my claim to fame is more about volume – in almost any CC database I will be in the top 10 of players in terms of total numbers of games played (not all on ICCF) and am probably the highest rated of that list.

I suppose another highlight has been the opportunity to write that CC has given me – I am now completed around 200 articles for one publication of another. 6. What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game? That is a big question! Analyzing your results is a good start to figure out why you got the result you did. From this determine your improvement plan and then implement it , reviewing it regularly to correct course as necessary!

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

Don’t lose – although this regularly does not work! My strategy is driven by my aims in the event – qualifying for the next round, achieving a norm, avoiding defeat. Once I have decided on this I will examine my opponents – both as a individual and through their games to come up with, what I think will be the best strategy.

In practice this might mean something like (as white) – They score much worse against d4 than e4 but they like to play opening x which I don’t want to do, so I might then look at a transposition approach to get to the line I want and not the one they want.

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

Much depends on the phase of the game but it is a combination of differential analysis by a combination of engines and engine settings, Human strategic input and numerous Opening books and sources.

Depending on the game I may also use a elimination approach – starting with the weakest move, eliminating it and the moving to the next one until I find something interesting.

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

I think I have covered this in many an article but the key is to be different to the crowd. If you simply follow the latest opening book and standard engine suggestions then the draw is an almost certain outcome. From this the aim is to find suitable deviations – generally driven by deeper strategic ideas

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

I still have quite a few. On a playing front I want my S(IM) Titles. These are in distance if I start to implement what I tell others to do!

I have aspiration’s to add the Welsh and British Titles to our Trophy Cabinet (There are ones already in there but they are not mine!)

On the writing front I have a Chess book to complete on Engine Analysis techniques, as for some reason I seem to know more about this than most of the others I meet! In addition to this I am looking to improve the quality and outlets of my publishing on all subjects!

I love the organisational side of CC and am proud to take on the mantle of Marketing Director for ICCF. I have strong (and I believe actionable!) views on how CC should develop for the 21st Century.

Finally I have been coding seriously for the first time in years and am enjoying working on both a CC – Analysis focused engine and one utilising Monte Carlo Tree Search. As you might guess finding time for all these things can be difficult at times!

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

A quick look through my games shows I have played almost everything over the years, with one omission – the French Defence due to an aversion to it from my OTB days, as I had a club captain who played it in the stodgiest manner possible! I have started to move towards, what are currently deemed “Anti Openings” and have started to look at the game in a far more strategic way.

I have also been experimenting with other more romantic openings , including a couple of King’s Gambits (which turned out OK!)

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

To Kasparov it would be: "How would you approach CC (if you were to play CC!)?" To Short it would be “Why do you feel the need to upset people?” (One of these questions is, of course, sarcastic!)

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

It is so hard to pick one! My choice tends to change quite often as I acquire new materials. I enjoy most of the Axel Smith materials and the Quality Chess books in general I believe are of a very high standard.

14. Do you have a Favorite player? If so who?

It might surprise some of my opponents but my favorite player was the Magician from Riga, Mikhail Tal. I am also fond of Kasparov, who I consider to be the first of the modern generation of Chess players.

SIM Joop Jansen (NED)

Russell Sherwood  Friday, June 22, 2018

 

Introduction (Russell Sherwood)

Joop is a member of a new generation of organisers within ICCF and a driving force behind a resurgent Netherlands Federation.  Always receptive and willing to work with others he is a great servant to CC!

1-Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

I am 59 years, young. working in a Psychiatric hospital. I am married, with Marian, have two children, 17 and 18 years old.

Of course in the first 25 years always it works with the postcards. Fabulous. Many chess friends from that time are my friends till now! 

2. How did you get involved in Chess?

I play chess since my 14, learning from a schoolteacher.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

I started Correspondence Chess at 17 so more as 40 years in the game! I like to do all things with chess. Play over the board, correspondence chess, organization, collect etc.….

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

Collecting! I have collected everything from chess. Chess books, chess cards, chess stamps.....And some of you may know that I was a great collector of all chess items. A few years ago I had 11.000 different chess books. Still, I have a huge collection but I have sold several items…..

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

In 2004, 2005 and 2006 I get IM and SIM results. In 3 different tournaments. Oa. Joel Adler and Chessfriends from Rochade. Of these results I am proud

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

Play games! More and more! It is the best way to learn. Of course also to study chess books, opening, middle game but don’t forget the endgame! In this years it is of course also possible with the computer.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

In recent years I don’t play as much as before. Having become more of an Organiser including being a member of the Dutch board, ICCF delegate and similar activities. Sometimes a friendly match and possibly next year the Rochade tournament again (I have warm memories of this tournament)

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

Study the position, one or two moves…and let the computer also run!

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

Be creative. Not always the best engine move. That is not interesting!

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

I am delegate and member of the Board of the Dutch Federation. I like this work. But of course, my members must vote for me.

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

French. I play it all my life. Winawer variation with Qxg7. I think my score (with black is 80%)

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

To Bobby Fischer: Would you like to play one speed-chess game with me?!

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

Books with tactical positions to solve.

14. Do you have a Favorite player? If so who?

Of course, Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov are great players.

There is a “top-5-10”, who always should be mentioned, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Lasker, Morphy, Steinitz and Tal!

 

 

GM Matjaž Pirš

Russell Sherwood  Friday, June 1, 2018

Introduction

Today we are joined by GM Matjaž  Pirš. of Germany. He is little known in the UK but should be, having until recently been responsible for the development of promising German CC players and captaining a number of successful teams. Matjaz is highly regarded by those “in the know” and his website and coaching programmes are well worth checking out at http://www.schachschule-pirs.com/

Some of his methods will be familiar to Welsh players, having been shamelessly copied in our works!

 

1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

born in Slovenia. For the last 20 years, I have lived as a chess trainer and chess player in Germany. I run my chess school based in Roedermark, which specialises in the training of correspondence chess players. My training takes place via Team Viewer and a video is created for the customer for each training unit.

2. How did you get involved in Chess?

I hurt myself in another sport and spent 6 months in bed, my grandfather kept me company and chess away the time.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?


As a chess trainer, I realized in 2008 that correspondence chess is the best training method to systematically learn close chess.

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

correspondence chess enables scientific research and systematic learning of all chess topics. You have enough time to look at everything systematically and also to prepare. I also communicate this to the members of my chess school.

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?


as a player, I am the fastest player who has needed the least time from the first game for standards until the GM title.
As a coach and TC, it was important for me to win with the German women's team at the 10th Olympiad.

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


the following factors are important for a player's development:

6.1. databases on games and theory updated monthly.
6.2. the possibility to learn the basics of chess.

6.3. access to good engines and try to understand and learn the way they play.

6.4. a solid PC with fast SSD M.2 hard disk and hash minimum 64 GB.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

each correspondence chess player must have a clear goal and strategy at the beginning of the game and tournament.

 

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

For me, the decisive criterion for B-method train selection.(Basic method after chess school Pirs.)

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

It is important to select the openings that have a profit potential after 15-20 moves and which the engines do not understand

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

My goal for the future is the development of perfect correspondence chess openings and the training of correspondence chess players.

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

with white and black, I play aggressive openings that allow me the transition to a promising final. Basically, I strive for the Botwinik farmer structure. 

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

 I was lucky to ask my favourite player personally why he likes to buy new men's suits?.( James Robert Fischer)

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


My book is by Dvoretsky-Jussupov attack and defence.(1999 OLMS edition)

14. Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

James Robert Fischer because he fought alone against the whole world and turned chess into a well-paid sport.

 

SIM Gino Figlio (PER)

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, May 12, 2018

Introduction

Today we are joined by Gino Figlio of Peru. For those who do not know of Gino he has been a stalwart of CC for many years, holding positions and being a driving force behind Peruvian CC, the South American Zone (and now the World Zone) and with ICCF itself. Gino gained his IM Title in 2001, his SIM in 2006. In 2017 he completed his IA and most impressive of all was awarded the Bertl von Massow Medals (Silver in 2012 and Gold in 2017) for long-time service to ICCF and CC.

1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself?.

I am 57 years old, married, 5 grown children, 4 grandchildren, 3 dogs. Born in Perú, live in Lamar, rural Colorado USA. Work as a paediatrician.

2. How did you get involved in Chess?.

When I was 5 someone organized a simul in our elementary school. I think I learned the moves shortly before that and even though I lost, I remember the master pointing me out to the school coach. After that, it all evolved naturally.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?.

Great way to continue practising chess while working in a rural area.

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?.

Everything?

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?.

I am just as happy about it as the day I started.

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

It takes a lot of reading and practice. I think you learn more playing.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?.

I steer the game toward opening lines that I believe to know better than most.

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

After opening stage is over,  I use many sources for candidate moves: NIC yearbook, chess databases, customized opening trees. I use infinite analysis, IDeA and Deep analysis. I make the final decision using intuition in unclear positions

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

Analyzing all good candidate moves, not just the top three.

 

10. What are your future aspiration in Correspondence Chess?.

Never retire :)

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?.

The one that I know better than my opponent because it will likely bring me a win.

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

How do you balance your life outside chess?

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

NIC yearbook.

14. Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?.

Tansel Turgut (TUR).

 

 

CCE Paul Keevil (WLS)

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, April 22, 2018

Introduction (Russell Sherwood)

I first became aware of Paul on the LSS server, one of the handful of Welsh players playing there. Paul had a fairly decent set of results and I was happy to see him start to play on ICCF. Paul is a dedicated player who is a man after my own heart in terms of playing and improving his own approach to CC. He will break the 2300 barrier on the next rating list and I am sure will continue to climb and break into the Welsh Team!

Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

Paul Keevil. Personal Injury Fee Earner for a firm of Solicitors in Haydock near Wigan where he lives. Paul is also a Professional Photographer who photographs Premier League and Champions League Football. He is a regular photographer at Liverpool, Everton, Man Utd and Man City and his images regularly are seen in both National and International Newspapers.

Married to Tracy

Live Grade 2284 although hoping to get above 2300 on the April list

How did you get involved in Chess?

I was taught by my dad when I was 3 years old and then by my uncle. I joined Cardiff Chess Club when I was 12 and captained the successful Cardiff High School Chess team to many successes.

When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

I stopped playing OTB chess due to work commitments when I lived in Cardiff, but I always played online. After I moved to Wigan I briefly attended the Bolton Chess Club - A club that produced GMs Nigel Short and David Norwood - but other commitments proved too much.

It was at that point that I joined the LSS Server and won a few tournaments whilst playing online. However, I felt there was something lacking and joined the ICCF last year.

I have really enjoyed the ICCF and, in addition to the guidance provided to me by Austin and Russell, I have seen my rating increase by nearly 100 points in the last year.

What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

There are those who suggest that correspondence chess is just another name for cheating.

I strongly disagree

 

Having really got involved over the last year I have come to realise that being a good correspondence player is more than just letting an engine play your game. It is much deeper than that.

You have to know about the engines. What are there strengths and weaknesses? And more importantly are they recommending the best moves?

I presently play with 4 engines and, on each move, these engines provide me with what I call “Candidate Moves”.

An interesting concept here is that these candidate moves can suggest an advantage of:

  • 0.27
  • 0.19
  • 0.24
  • 0.23

So the question is which one is the best?

This may appear an unusual question as 0.27 is clearly better than the rest. However, consideration also needs to be given to the opponents style of play and results in certain positions. Particularly those in the opening.

These candidate moves I assess. Analyse quite deeply and make my choice.

It is more than letting the computer play for you. It is about making sure you have the right reference database. It is about making sure you have the right strength opening tree. It is about preparation. 

What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

There are many. My first norm at the Esko Nuutilainen Memorial was special and to achieve my second (and possibly the full title) at my home event WCCF 5th Invitational was special.

In the WCCF 5th, I also had the pleasure of playing Pete Bevan.

I have known of Pete for a long time. If memory serves me correct the first time I played against him was for Cardiff High School –v- Bishop Vaughan. I may be incorrect but that sticks in my mind.

Anyway, whilst playing on the South Wales circuit Pete was always a person of good humour and well liked.

I played well and won but, and the result was a nice step towards what I hope will be my title, but the highlight was the way in which the game was played.

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

In simple read the articles of Russell Sherwood.

For me the online suggestions, suggested by Russell, are the reason why I am nearly at 2300 and have achieve the norms that I have.

I first met Russell on the LSS Server and instantly became intrigued by his preparation which appeared to be over and above anyone else I had played.

Russell then moved to the ICCF a few years ago and I moved last year.

Realistically I am probably two years behind him but I am hopeful of catching him up at some point. 

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

Yes. Two – in this order

  1. To achieve a “norm”
  2. To improve my rating

In respect to the second point – that is only possible through continually improving your preparation.

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

My process is as follows:

  1. I have four engines
  2. These engines give me 3 or 4 Candidate Moves – sometimes I will add my own moves
  3. I analyse these moves and make a decision as to which I consider the most appropriate for the game and the opponent I am playing.

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

Again this is preparation.

In my opinion, you have to have a good Opening Tree. From a database of some 30 million games, I have put together an opening tree that lists only games played by players 2200+ -v- 2200+

There is no point including games that are 2300-v-1600 because the results in the database will often be skewed – no offence intended here to aspiring players.

This opening book helped me get to around 2300, however, I do feel that it may not be sufficient to give me that vital edge to take me towards 2400.

What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

In Order:

  1. To achieve the title of CCE
  2. To achieve the title of CCM
  3. To obtain at least one IM norm
  4. To beat Russell Sherwood at least once haha!
  5. To someday be Welsh Correspondence Chess Champion

What are your favourite Openings and why?

When I played OTB I regularly used to play the Catalan.

At the same time, Charles Summers (Cardiff Chess Club) was reviving the Blackmar Diemer Gambit and with some success.

Also, an old friend from school, Mansel Davies, used to play the Evans Gambit.

Each of these is fun, however, and this is solely my opinion, to achieve a certain level you have to concentrate less on what openings you like but more on looking at your opponent's weaknesses and picking openings that expose those weaknesses.

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

Anatoly Karpov was my hero.

When “Tolya” was growing up he once replied, “If you do not believe you can win there is no point taking part”.

I have used these words throughout my life as a chess player and also in the professional world.

Sometimes it has caused me problems. But it has done me more good than bad.

In 1986 I had the good fortune to go to both Moscow and Voroshilovgrad (Now Luhansk) which is Cardiff’s twin city. I was fortunate to visit the famous Moscow Chess Club and, whilst in Voroshilovgrad, I was lucky enough to meet and play against GM Gennady Kuzmin at their Palace of Sport. Gennady ultimately became a trainer to Ruslan Ponomariov when he became the youngest World Champion in history.

Russian chess has changed since the collapse of communism. 

So to Anatoly Karpov I would ask the following question:

“You were supported quite substantially by the Soviet Government. Whilst it was nice to have that backing and support – do you believe that you would have been equally as successful were you having your career now?”

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

No.

I hate reading.

Use the internet. That’s what its there for!

Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

All-time favourite player has to be Anatoly Karpov.

But I agree with Ian Jones that Leighton Williams was a class act

SIM Ivan Panitevsky (RUS)

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Introduction (Russell Sherwood)

Today we are joined by an up and coming star of CC, Ivan Panitevesky, both in playing and organising terms. 

Introduction (Ivan)

I'm 27, single, live at the Sakhalin island, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk town. I love chess, especially by correspondence. I've been playing chess for 15 years (corr chess from 2009 started from play with my friend and then at bestlogic.ru). I have a technical secondary education, currently working computer technician in a geological surveys company. I live in a private home with my family (my parents and brother). We have own fruit and vegetable garden, 5 cats and one dog.

What I like in chess (and sports in general) is fairplay and friendly games.

In chess, I learned to play with my grandfather. In 2003, I started buying chess books and solving problems. Quite quickly my hobby was the examination of the progress of the games of the great chess players of earlier eras.

Then I went to the chess club, where for a few months I approached the candidate's standard for a master of sports (but could not get it). Entering the technical school, after classes I stayed in a circle of chess players and played with a teacher in mathematics, as well as with students.

Since I did not have enough time to play over the board chess, I started playing on the Internet. Started with the bestlogic.ru site. I found several chess Internet resources and forums, I learned about the possibilities of the game by correspondence. Six years i played at the Bestlogic, then began a career in the ICCF.


I want to note that my main method of choosing the move is manual work. Before I make a move, I carefully check all nuances on the computer and even if it advises me on an idea that I do not like - I will not do it. Often you have to choose between several solutions with approximately the same eval. The most important thing here is what move and variation I like personally.
 

1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself? 

I'm 27 years old, I love chess by correspondence and play for fun.

2. How did you get involved in Chess?

 With the help of my grandfather, who instilled a love for chess.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess? 

It happened in the early 2000s. I knew about this on the Internet.

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

I like that you can communicate with players from all over the world. That you can make a move at any time, very convenient time controls. You can achieve a lot without leaving home.

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

 I was able to qualify for WCCC Candidates, get a rating of 2500+ and the SIM title It means a lot to me.

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

it seems to me, you first need to love chess, and then make every effort to improve. Everything will turn out. Also to improve - it is important to play with a stronger opponent.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

My main strategy is not to rush anywhere. This is basic. And, of course, to a particular tournament, I put a specific goal (for example, play sharply or calmly). And I prepare for each opponent separately.

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

The main thing is not to make a move, based only on the engine's opinion. My main method is for every move made to make me trust. To do this, we have to consider many options and possible responses of the opponent.

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

Of course, for this, you need to play sharp openings! For example, the King's Indian Defence. This is the best way to achieve results! It is also very important to put small traps in which the opponent can get caught. It can be a subtle strategic trap, based on nuances that are inaccessible to the engine.

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

 I plan to reach the WCCC final and also become a grandmaster and ICCF International arbiter.

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

it is King's Indian Defence. Because in this opening there is a very lively game. Engines do not understand how to act, and there is a lot of room for human creativity. Even with black pieces against very strong opponents, I have a chance to seize the initiative!

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

If this is a player of the past era, I would ask if he believes that there will be a computer in future that human cannot beat? And if this person live is our age, I will ask if he believes that there may be a person who can beat a modern computer?

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

Chess encyclopedia (Vladimir Linder, Isaak Linder).

14. Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

My favourite chess players are Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Tal. Their books, their games helped in my becoming a chess player.

Marc Wakeham (WLS)

Russell Sherwood  Monday, April 2, 2018

Introduction (Russell Sherwood)

Marc is a prime example of why Welsh CC is in such a good position, always first to volunteer for team events and representing the backbone of players in CC. For his pains he is also Chairman of NATCOR!

1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

57 going on 58 year old male Rugby referee, Rugby club treasurer and retired Driving instructor. Married. Wood pusher who is going through a bit of a purple patch in chess. It must end soon.

2.How did you get involved in Chess?

Fischer Vs Spassky captured me way back in the 1970s. The cold war battle of the Titans.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

After getting slaughtered in my first tournament (0/4) I decided I needed practice and playing for a club was not possible at the time.

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

You can fit it around your life. You can also make such great friends the world over.

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

I’ve won a few tournaments and this year I’ve broken the 2000 barrier. That was a proud moment. Even if (when) it starts to go back down, I got there. But more important is the friendship.

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

Study the middlegame and the endgame. That should tell you what you want from the opening.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when starting a Tournament?

Try not to make stupid moves. If you are going to lose be outplayed rather than blunder.

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

I generally play by feel. I tend to get lost in deep calculations. An area I need to work on If I want to improve more.

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

I like gambit lines they tend to provide imbalance and thereby chances.

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

Keep playing at my current level and maybe improve a little bit more.

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

With Black the Pirc. I tried it many years ago and I like to minimize learning new openings. With White Goring Gambit Reason? It’s fun and I’ve had a fair success rate with it.

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

Fischer. Why did you blow it?

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

“My System”. I have it in English notation. I don’t understand most of it.

14. Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

Viktor Korchnoi for his sheer bloody mindedness.

Craig Evans (WLS)

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, March 10, 2018

Introduction (Ian Jones & Glyn Sinnett)

It’s very difficult finding a chess player who can be compared with Craig. He is widely regarded as a creative genius and one of the best-attacking players in Wales. In recent years strong OTB players even Grandmasters have struggled to hold him even to a draw. He has also added to his chess an almost impenetrable defensive playing style, making him rather difficult to beat. He is also a world authority on unusual openings before the rebirth of correspondence chess in Wales; I played numerous friendly correspondence chess games with Craig, and never quite managed to win one.

Craig is already near 2350 in a short space of time, and it would be a surprise if he is not over 2500 in the very near future. His wit and wisdom in his writing brings colour to our Correspondence web site. I remember a few years ago and Craig was our OTB County captain and we did the Gwent wash beating Gwent 12-0. We were having a celebratory drink in the bar downstairs, and realised we had lost Craig?

When we found him, he was tidying up the chess room and sweeping the floor.

He is a genuine Mr Nice guy.

Craig is also a massive Nolan Sisters fan; he has all their recordings in CDs and Vinyl format. He is also a big Eurovision concert fan

Big fan of gambit style OTB chess, but he has realised with computer engines most of these don't work and you will get egg on face trying them out!

 

1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

I'm 34 years old, a mathematics teacher from Llanelli in South Wales, married with one child. Besides chess, interests focus mainly on music (I'm borderline competent on piano and guitar, and could get a tune out of most things), sport, and going to comedy gigs.

2. How did you get involved in Chess?

I'm not entirely sure! I learnt how the pieces moved from my brother when I was around 11. I went down the local chess club in Llanelli when I was around 13, stumbled upon a book of Morphy's games being sold off by my local library for 20p at around the same time, and somehow became hooked. I've been playing OTB chess for over 20 years now, and despite repeatedly saying it was time to give it up, I don't seem to be able to break the habit!

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

I played on the IECC when I was a 'youngster' (just after I'd finished university), but never really found it to my taste. I'll be honest, I only took it up again after being 'hassled' by a certain Ian Jones, who told me how much I would love it. I think I gave it a go just to keep him quiet (which those who know him will understand to be a futile task!), but, again, seem to have become stuck in the habit!

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess? 

Partly, I suppose, the time aspect - OTB I've always been notorious for bad clock management, so having a few days or more per move helps! Secondly, my memory in recent years has not been what it used to be, so CC means I do not have to try and remember all of my opening theory 20-odd moves deep, and can spend more time thinking about the position instead of frantically trying to search my memory banks. Finally, whilst I understand some people take it very seriously, I find it far more relaxing (and less stressful) than OTB competition - I'm mainly out to enjoy myself, and am less often needing to try my hardest with a team's result on the line!

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

Retirement (though I haven't gotten there yet...)!? More seriously, the 4th Welsh Correspondence Chess Federation Invitational has been an enjoyable event, I've met some fantastic people who I've remained in touch with, and I've scored very well to secure the CCE title and a CCM norm. I should secure the CCM norm in the next few months, which I suppose will be another highlight, but I'm still very much in my CC infancy at the moment!

One other thing I have enjoyed is becoming the resident analyser of games for the WCCF - a duty I tend to take less than seriously. It's nice poking gentle fun at chess games and their protagonists, and I hope so far I've not caused too much offence!

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

In CC, openings are critical - unlike OTB, if you drift into a poor position you are unlikely to be able to trick or bamboozle the opponent. So selecting openings wisely is important, both to avoid lost positions and to avoid completely stale ones (unless the tournament dictates this would suit you!). Engine use is also part of the game and, whilst some people prefer to play without them, the reality is that they handicap themselves greatly. Learning to understand and use engine evaluations wisely is critical beyond the 2200 level.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

Make some moves! I'm not one for studying my opponents in detail (I'll occasionally check what they've played in the past, and if I see something they play that I like I'll head for it, or avoid if I don't), and just tend to trust that I will make reasonable choices in the opening against each player. It's probably why I won't get much further than I've made it now!

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

Depends on the position entirely. If I'm in some sort of sharp tactical position, then the majority of the work is guiding the computer, giving it time to consider the possibilities, occasionally suggesting moves which do not appear on it's radar (as much for my own chess education as to why they are bad - though I've occasionally stumbled upon some good ideas) and checking that the engine evaluation seems consistent. In more closed, positional games - well then the engine tends to be far less use, as 0.00 doesn't tell you much! Then you have to think about the plans (which are usually connected to the opening systems you've played), and again guide the engine carefully when using it. In the openings, obviously databases are a huge help - I look at the main Chessbase Live database (mainly for new ideas played at super-GM level I may have missed watching tournaments), and keep a few separate CC-only openings databases.

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

A difficult question. I've not beaten many players over 2200 yet as a relative newbie, so it is still something I'm working on - but the choice of openings is vital. Playing the Poisoned Pawn Najdorf might seem fun, but you're going to draw almost 100% of these games. In a current tournament, I'm trying some riskier openings (Dutch Defences, Modern Defences etc) as black, in a few tournaments I've risked rare gambit lines, but all of these are very risky at high-level CC. It mostly seems to be a combination of playing openings that give long-term potential and knowing your theory well enough to know when the opponent may have made a mistake (that the engine doesn't recognise!). 

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

I'm not sure I have any! I'll keep playing, and if I stumble upon success much the better, but I find that setting myself arbitrary targets tends to lead to failure! I'd like to test myself in some super-strong tournament someday, but first I have to somehow qualify for one!

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

Most of my favourite openings are ones I couldn't play in CC! OTB I've always loved playing things like the Morra Gambit, Blackmar-Diemer Gambit, Belgrade Gambit etc... but I've learnt quickly and painfully that these do not hold up well in CC. 

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

Probably Carlsen, and if he could teach me everything he knows. That would probably help a bit!

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

In my youth, my Morphy Chess Masterpieces book was my absolute fave! Probably Tony Miles' autobiography, It's Only Me, has had the most effect on me as a chess player however. 

14. Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

I've always had a thing for crazy openings. As such, certainly in recent times, I've always tried to watch out for Jonny Hector. Also, an obscure Latvian player called Alvis Vitolins - played some very unorthodox sharp lines and scored some crushing wins against the strongest players of his time back in the 70s and 80s. Anyone who plays interesting chess is someone I am happy to watch!

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