Russell Sherwood

Entropy in the Opening in Correspondence Chess

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Not so long ago I read an article on Entropy in the Opening. It covered a different concept to that I intend to examine, but I loved the expression and the concept on which it is based.

There are several scientific definitions of Entropy but fundamentally it is the tendency of a system to move from order to disorder. Taking this concept and applying it to Correspondence Chess, it can be the tendency to move from an Opening position where the true result of a game of chess is possible (Win for White or drawn – that is another discussion!) towards the draw. Another way of thinking about this is that we start the game with the maximum theoretical change of winning with White and at the point of a draw being agreed or forced the energy of that system is at a minimum,

From a practical point of view, therefore, it suggests that our aims should be those which maintain the maximum energy or opportunity in a position.

Consider this. I am examining a position without an obvious winning move. What is the best path forward? Considering the logic above we should look at our options and our opponents’ responses to maintain the maximum number of viable paths possible.

This is another way of stating a common concept: Keeping the tension in a position. In this engine driven age, the advantage of this is that the wider the search tree is at the base, the more opportunities for engines to act in a suboptimal way.

The other advantage of this approach is tending to avoid one of the strangest behaviours of modern correspondence chess – that of the two players who charge down a known opening line to a draw in 20-30 moves. 

When musing this concept, I wondered where I read it before (very few ideas are new, most are simply repackaged!) and it came to me – Hans Berliner’s much lampooned “The System.” Some ideas seen there are, to put it nicely, odd, but the entropy concept is a combination of four of Berliner’s concepts! I’d always recommend the book to read for a CC player, although as food for thought rather than concrete advice!


Infinite Monkey theorem

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, July 27, 2022

I am currently putting the finishing touches to three long form essays-cum-research projects:

How not to draw every game you play!

A rebooted Norms system!

Musings on a competitive path forward for Correspondence Chess.

But for now, enjoy Entropy in the Opening…….


Performance Stats in WCCF Friendlies

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 12, 2022

A while ago, I posed a few questions on performance stats. Below is the full table

There are many interesting ideas that can be drawn from this , which I will cover another day but the one I would draw most players attention to is the Level - this is an related to the number of games played - Can you reach the next level?

Friendly matches are useful for players:

  1. They are part of the selection criteria used for Invitational and Team selection
  2. Generally, opponents will be closely rated, so rating points tend not to be at risk
  3. The win rate in Friendly matches is slightly higher than in other formats, so it can be a way to climb the ratings tree (There are quite a few reasons for this but I tend to think that (a) Players often dont give the games the attention they deserve and (b) More players who are transitioning on the rating ladder take part in Friendly matches.

As special shout out to....

Unbeaten players with Active games

John Claridge

Jon Coles

Paul Scott

Gareth Jones

Michael Bowley

Peter Grayson

Gerald Jenkins 

Tom Gunn


Is there such a thing as a Friendly match?

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, May 22, 2022

Recently I have been preparing quite a bit of data with regard to friendly matches, and it has thrown up a lot of interesting and unexpected statistics. So in advance of that article, here is a quiz....all questions are in reference to completed friendly games since 2010

  1. It will come as no surprise that I top the list for friendly appearances but who are No 3 and 4 on the list? (and they don't have the surname Sherwood!)
  2. Which players have more than 20 wins in friendly matches?
  3. Which 6 players have rating performance of more than 2400 (according to Chessbase)?
  4. Which 5 players (having completed 10 games or more) have scored more than 80%?
  5. Which 5 players (having completed 10 games or more) have score more than 70%, as black?
  6. Which 9 players (having completed 10 games ore more) are undefeated?
  7. How many players have played for Wales in Friendly matches?


CorrespondenceChessFriendlymatchesWCCF 7

WCCF Players Rating Progression 2010-2022

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, May 8, 2022

Hi All,

I've been playing with data...enjoy!


Revised Link



Don't suffer in silence

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, March 20, 2022

Most ICCF players are nice and respectful almost all the time but on occasion comments can be made in game commentary which whilst made either deliberately or accidentally can be found offensive.

If you have this situation, there is no need to suffer in silence. You are able to report inappropriate comments on the game screen under “Game” for individual games, or via your team captain for team events.

This complaint will go to the Tournament Director, who will review the complaint and can (a) Set the game to silent mode and (b) Issue a warning to your opponent. 

Should this not resolve the situation, other avenues are available, but these are rarely required.


Installing Engines

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, March 20, 2022

Every so often I get emails asking how to install engines in Chessbase, especially from those wishing to update from the engines that came with it.

Bob Hurn kindly mentioned this article, which covers most of the required activities.

It is a little old now - we are on Chessbase 16, but the method is, more or less the same, in Chessbase and Fritz

Getting the most out of ChessBase 15: a step-by-step guide #6 – UCI Engines | ChessBase


and now for something completely different....

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, March 19, 2022

I read an interesting comment on Facebook today about the allocation of black and white pieces. 

It was a lovely change to see a return to an “argument” about correspondence chess, rather than other matters!

The issue itself is not how many games the players were getting, but distribution of opposition ratings. In some cases, players were getting almost all the lowest rated opposition as white, in others as black.

The method used in most ICCF Tournament set up is random allocation, which by its very nature means that most players will get a reasonable distribution, whilst a few will get more extreme allocations such as above. That is the nature of randomness.

The alternative is to allocate the draw based on the order that the players are on the table [Here, table refers simply to the order that the organizer has loaded the players into the event creator]. This can be either random or by some organized method, the most common being rating.

If we order by rating, games could be allocated to give a slight edge by rating. This could be to higher rated players or lower rated players.

Whilst this approach can seem better, it has a basic structural problem – it is unfair to one group of players, whilst the random approach simply serves up the luck of the draw, which is fair to all.

It is an interesting question but one where, fundamentally, any approach different to randomness, gives an unfair advantage/disadvantage to players.


ICCF KO Tournament Strategy and Tactics

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, March 6, 2022

The ICCF KO Tournament is almost upon us. This is something a little different and a different approach will be required to succeed in the event.

Looking at the detail – the first round will be made of:

  • Groups of 11
  • Each group to have the same average rating
  • A score of >50% required to advance
  • The relative performance in the first round will determine the group for the 2nd (In simple terms a list of percentage performance will be created, the Top 13 players make up the first group, the 14-26 players the second and so on.

Pondering this for a while determines that our strategy and tactics in the event should determine our approach.

The first and most obvious objective is to score more than 50%, but beyond this there are two paths. Do we want to succeed in the event or meet other objectives? By other objectives, I can detail out possible desired outcomes:

  • The desire to boost our rating
  • The desire to target Title Norms

The average rating (as it is for all these kinds of events), for the first round, will be around 2150. 

If we want to do well in the event, then a strategy in the first round is to score above 50% but not massively so. This should lead to a weaker 2nd group, which whilst probably a lower Category Norm should be easier to score higher in.

In we want to gain the highest ELO benefit, then our aim should be to score as highly in the first round as possible, which should give us access to a group with a much higher rating than ours in the second round.

If Titles Norms are our aim, probably the best option is to aim for a “middling” score in the first round – which should get us a slightly easier Category group in the 2nd round.

Agree/Disagree? Either way, have a good think about your strategy for this event!



Developing an Opening Book – Part #2 Database Objectives

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