Russell Sherwood

Tip of the Week #8

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 19, 2021

Have you ever lost rating points in a draw to a higher rated player?  For those with even a rudimentary knowledge of elo based rating systems this seems a ludicrous suggestion but highlights a situation that an aspiring player should be aware of.

When you see a draw offer, the rating you see on the screen for your opponent (and yourself) is that from the start of the event.  

This can be very different to the current reality, so always ensure you check the current player ratings and consider this information in your evaluation of the draw offer, not the start tournament ratings!

In essence, consider why the opponent has made a draw offer "now" (in calendar terms) - Is there an advantage/disadvantage for either player due to the timing

It is worth stating that this tip is really for those players who are concerned over the loss/gain of a fairly small number of elo!


Tip of the Week #7

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 12, 2021

Understand the Time Control of the event you are entering!

ICCF operate two official and a number of unofficial time controls - the official ones are the traditional x moves in y days method and the Triple Block system, x days for the entire game - either with or without guaranteed time. The unofficial ones are championed by specific federations.

The pro's and con's of each system are not really relevant to the discussion here, but what is important is that the player understands:

(a) What time control will be used with in an event, 

(b) The nuances of that time control,

(c) Their own plans over the duration of the event,

(d) Their attitude to time management. 

It is a fact that the majority of ICCF games finish within 12 months, although this is not the case in the highest level events. With this in mind, we should consider (c) and  (d) first:

Let's say your plans involve taking a month off chess in the summer. Are you happy with your clock running for 30 days - if the answer to this is no, then Triple block is not for you - although you can also budget for this in your time management!

Understanding (a) is vital - a Triple block event with guaranteed time and one without are very different beasts and whilst the number of actual time-outs in the latter is tiny it still casts fear into the hearts of players who like to play certain time management "tactics".

The key is to make sure you understand the time control in use and manage your time and tempo accordingly!




Tip of the Week #6

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 5, 2021

Keep up your engines up to date!

More often than you would think,  players continue to use obsolete engines to support their analysis.

Whilst these engines are still very strong compared to the human player (>3000 ELO) they often lag hundreds of ELO behind their contemporaries.

With this in mind, Stockfish 14 was released this week.  Stockfish - Open Source Chess Engine (



Tip of the Week #5

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 20, 2021

Many years ago there was a track from the Shamen "Ebeneezer Goode" with the immortal line "Backwards and then forwards, forwards and then backwards" which brings us to this week's tip.

In a position with a low evaluation, a different perspective can be achieved by letting an engine run for a while, moving down the line a move and then immediately moving back to the original position. 

You would think the engine would go back to it's first choice, but occasionally it does not.  Why this is the case is complicated, but it is related to their being a number of near equivalent moves that the engine has to choose between in its search.


CorredpondenceChessTipoftheWeekWCCF 6

British Solving Championship

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 20, 2021

Sometimes a change of pace is nice......

Chess: National solving championship opens for entries from Britain | Chess | The Guardian


Tip of the week #4

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A setting seen on most chess engines is "Contempt".

This is a slightly misnamed parameter used by the engine to improve its winning chances against weaker engines. 

What this does is to assume that the opposing engine is slightly less likely to find the "best move".

The majority of engines come with a setting of around 20. 

The consensus is that this should be set to zero for Correspondence Chess, although there are some scenarios where different settings can be advantageous! 


Tip of the week #3B

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 6, 2021

Correspondence Chess players all have  tendency to take on too many games - just one more tournament.....

In an ideal world you would be able to dedicate as much time as you wanted to each game but the afore mentioned tendency means this is rarely the case, so it is important to know the importance of each and every game and how they impact tournament outcomes.

Therefore, I recommend reviewing either regularly or on a live basis, each game and/or event. From this we can determine our chances for a Norm/Prize/Advancement to the next round or which games are "dead rubbers". Undertaking this will allow us to determine the games which deserve a greater share of our attention.



Tip of the Week#3A

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 6, 2021

The default settings of most chess engines are generally sub-optimal for Correspondence Chess.

An important one to set is that the Hash table size. Either too small or too large and the engine will be running below its best. Details on how to do this are in the article below

Goldilocks and the Hash Table (


Tip of the Week #2

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, May 30, 2021

Tip #2

Canyons and Open Plains

When analysing with an Engine, learn the difference between "Canyons" and "Open Plains"!

Canyons are positions where, whilst the moves are not forced and can take place in multiple orders, do tend to lead to the same position - so you may play ABC or BAC or CBA but will still end up in the same position a few moves down the line. Here, after any nuances over move order have been explored, analysis should be undertaken at the end of the canyon.

Open plains are positions where many near equivalent moves are possible in a position. Here width of search should be considered almost as important as depth to increase the chances of finding the best move.

CorrespondenceChessTipoftheWeekWCCF 7

Tip of the Week #1

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, May 25, 2021

This is the first in a series of postings. I almost called them daily tips but thought can I give 365 tips?

Tip #1

Ensure that in your engine settings you have "Syzygy 50 Move Rule" is not enabled. If it is enabled, potential wins may be overlooked


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