Russell Sherwood

Infinite Variety

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, April 5, 2017

I've had an interesting discussion recently in terms of Engine based Analysis techniques. Now to the uninitiated there is only one method - plug in the position rather IA for a rather long time and then mindlessly play the move. Pish!

In a fairly short brainstorm we came up with over 20 different methods that can be used ( a partial list is below) - you would need to know more detail to be able to use these but the point is.....think with creativity about how to perform analysis!

        (i)Infinite Analysis
        (ii) Multi PV Analysis
        (iii) Selective Analysis
        (iv) Forward Sliding
        (v) BackSliding
        (vii)Deep Analysis (Fritz)
        (viii) Deep Analysis (CB)
        (x) Monte Carlo
        (xi) Shootout
        (xii)Lets Check
        (xiii) Comparative Analysis
        (xiv) Brabo Methods
        (xv) Paired Deepening
        (xvi) Saved Tables
        (xvii)2nd Opinion
        (xviii) My Move - Your Move
        (xix) Patched Super Deepening
        (xx) Remote Engines
        (xxi) Subtractive Analysis


A Peek behind the Curtain!

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Often players struggle to understand the evaluation that a Chess Engine gives a position. 

Now its possible to see the breakdown of Stockfish Evaluation function.

Please note two things 

  • Ths is not a replacement for an Engine!
  • The position that is being evaluated is the at end of the line, not the start (or current ) position



Blast from the Past

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cleaning up spme old links.....

came accross the Congress Video from Cardiff 2015!


It's all just a matter of time!

Russell Sherwood  Monday, March 6, 2017

Every so often I get complaints from a player that their opponent is playing incredibly slowly. 

To be able to review this objectivly I created the attached spreadsheet, into which the time stamps from the game can be copied, as can the player's holidays.

(This information can be found under Board =>Show detais in the game itself)

One the data is reviewed a more detailed picture can be formed of the game.

It should be noted that slow play, in itself, does not break any ICCF rule, other factors need to be evident for a claim to be made.

An interested player should look in the TD Manual - Server found on to review the guidelines before looking to make any claims!


What's in a Norm?

Russell Sherwood  Monday, March 6, 2017

As the new CCE/CCM titles came into play I did some research into Norm requirements. This culminated in the attached tables.

The purpose of the tables is twofold:

  • As an organiser it aids in the selection of the optimum category for the purpose of Norm generation (e.g. for CC, Cat I is far better than Cat H)
  • As a player it aids in selecting events most likely to give a Norm (The Green zone!)

It is worth adding that Norm Categories are changing. In simple terms the Category of an event used to be determined by the average rating of all the players, so if the average was 2332 it would be a Category 4 event with the same Scoring requirements for all players.

This system is now changing. The Category of the event is still calculated as above but this is only form communication purposes. The category for the player is the average of the rating of the opposition. Overall this does not make much of a difference, but if we take an extreme example:

12 Players rated 2500 and 1 player of 2100 make up an event. The Category of the event would be 9 with an average rating of 2469. However for the 2100 rated player the average rating of his/her opposition would be 2500 or Category 10 - which has Norm reqruirments generally half a point less. For the 2500 rated players the requirements would not change.

I hope this helps in the selection of Tournaments!


So you want to be a Correspondence Chess Expert?

Russell Sherwood  Monday, March 6, 2017


I have had a few players ask “How to I become a Correspondence Chess Master?” To answer this fully would be a book in itself but a condensed answer to this is given here.


Here we will focus on the ICCF Correspondence Chess Expert Title. The Blueprint for higher titles is similar but with the addition of a few additional steps.


Starting at the end: To achieve the Title we need 24 games with the necessary performance level in International Title Tournament events. Typically this will come from either 2 or 3 events.


To be able to access these events a rating of between 2000 and 2100 is generally required, as an absolute minimum. In addition there you need an invitation to one of these events, which are handled via your National Federation. This can be difficult as places are few.


A few other options do exist:


  • Champions League. This is a very strong team event and if one of the few where Norms are possible in the lowest tier of the event

  • International Opens. Norms tend to become available in the 2nd round, so you will have to battle through the first to get there.

  • Regional Tournaments – events such as the British Championships are starting to offer Norm Opportunities at the lower levels


So get achieve those Norms and/or the rating necessary to gain access to them we need to win games! In the past a different tactic was utilised by some – aiming to draw out games with higher rated opposition. Recently changes have been made to the rating mechanism to make this far less effective method!


So how do we get push up are rating and generate those wins?


  • You will need at least one Chess Engine, even it it is only to blunder check your moves. This is possible regardless of the platform (Phone, Tablet, Laptop/PC). The effective use of engines is a massive topic but to as a minimum the use of two engines are recommended. Stockfish generally should be one of these.

  • A Database program is required to record you games and the analysis and ideas you have. This is very platform dependent with options ranging from Chessbase to open source options such as SCID.

  • Access to a large source of games for preparation. The ICCF database can be downloaded and makes an excellent basic source.

  • An opening book. This is a contentious area in terms of effectiveness but at the very least it can be used to prevent you repeating other peoples mistakes. Some Opening books work within database programmes. Free online options such as are also available.

  • Time – a mistake made by many rookie CC players (and a bias from some misguided OTB players) is that it is simply a case of putting the engine into Infinite analysis and then entering this move. The reality is that this method is not used by the majority of stronger CC players. More effective analysis methods exist and this take a lot of player time to put into use Some of these are described in linked in my Resources for CC article.


So this is a very lose indication of what is necessary to achieve the title. Putting the set up described above and working through the “Resources for CC” will put you on the path to success!

Optimising your Engine Set Up for Newbies

Russell Sherwood  Monday, February 27, 2017

We would all love to have a Monster PC to suppot our analysis efforts but the reality is that the vast majority of players have relativly modest hardware to work with.

So a few areas to consider:

  • Have you shut down all other applications when analysing? If you have other programmes running this can reduce your nps by 50%
  • Is the RAM the maximum your machine can utilise? This is a very cheap way to upgrade performance and simple to install (If you are not confident in doing this local computer shops can do this in a few minutes)
  • Is the Hash setting on your engine correct. Often engines can have different optimal settings but as a rule of thumb its worth setting to half your overall RAM. Some testing is sensible to see which gives the best results.
  • If you are using Tablebases - do you have a SSD drive? This can make 20-30 difference in speed. 
  • How many Cores is your engine set to? Exact settings are a long article in itself but if you want to max out then either all your cores or All minus one gives maximum pwoer. Of course this is not necessarily the best way to do things! Do remember than the more cores you utilise the more stress you are putting on the processor - a bit like I can drive a mini at 100mph all the time but it will wear out quicker.
  • If using Chessbase consider if Smart CPU should be checked. This can make a signifant difference to processor utilisation.

Anyway thats a few ideas for now - more advanced ideas another time!

Advice for Rookie Team Captains

Russell Sherwood  Monday, February 27, 2017

So your looking to put together a team for the Champion's League or any other team event? A few things to consider.......

  • How are you going to decide on your team - Rating? Titles Form?  All of these have a part to play in good team selection and a very important skill is know which players to select.
  • Do you know the rules of the event. I mean really know the rules. For example the rules for promotion relegation? The rules on Board orders? On Tiebreaks? If you dont know these you can be putting your team at a massive disadvantage.
  • Do you know the strength of opposition your are likely to be facing and the format of the event?
  • What preperation are you are your team going to do. Although you must select your moves independently in games, preperation prior to the start of the Tournament  ( and before any moves are made) can be done together. Some of your team may have access to resources that others dont or may be specialists in this area.
  • Are your players committed to playing as a team or playing as individuals? Will Title asperations be put aside for the good of the team?
  • Do you have an idea of the score necessary to advance in th event? Will you be able to indentify the target games to reach this score?
  • Will your players keep you up to date so no result comes as a surprise?

These areas may seem a excessive but if you want your team to overperform they and many others are necessary!  Good Luck!


Resources for Modern Correspondence Chess

Russell Sherwood  Monday, February 27, 2017

If you search for advice on how to improve at Correspondence Chess you tend to find resources that are at least 10 yers out of date. Indeed probably the best book " Modern Chess Analysis" was pubished in 2004. 

So as I looked to improve I found you either end up talking to stronger players to gain their "secrets" or using trial and error.  

There is useful info out there but you have to know where to look. below are a list of links to some of the useful stuff I have come accross. A few warnings:

  • Much of the material is from forums - so pages disappear often
  • Some of the material is in Russian and German - Chrome has a decent translator built in which can cope 
  • Ignore the comments sections - there are trolls galore and many cannot get past the "All CC players are cheats cos they use engines" (If the rules allow it we dont!!!)


Leonardo  Ljubcic- Chessbase Interview **
Leonardo Ljubcic - Immortal Q&A ****
Chess Improver *
Immortal Chess - Mostly in Russian - but Auto-tranlate works well enough! ***
Bdf (German Chess Federation)
Murat Akdag *
Loki *
Wolff Morrow *****
Modern CC
Opening Prep **
Tartajubow *
Chess Brabo
Databases **
Openings **
Fortresses *
Engine Analysis **    In Flemish but readable after Google Translate
Rybka Forum *
GM Rafeal Leitao *
Comparison of Stockfish and Komodo
AL Alpert *
Chessbase *
Remote Chess Academy *
How do Modern Chess Engines Work ** **
Carl Bicknell - IDEA *
Chess Book Reviews

Size does matter (When it comes to Elo!)

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, February 23, 2017

’ve been asked by a number of players, especially newcomers to Correspondence Chess as to how they can get their ratings higher quickly.

Going beyond the obvious “Win all your games quickly” sarcastic response there are a number of ideas to consider which can accelerate you development.

Let’s assume you dont hve a FIDE rating then the only options available to you are:

To accelerate you development you want to be winning or drawing against the highest rated players possible – as , in simple terms, the ratings of your opponents pegs your rating.

  • National Events

    • Here you need to examine what’s on offer – you may be able to play in a National Championships – check the previous years events to look for average ratings but beware there may be a 2nd Tier for newcomers.

  • Extra National Events

    • These are events such as the British Championships – look at these in the same light as National Events

  • International Team Events

    • Although eligible you will almost certainly not be in the frame as you will need to have an established rating to be selected.

  • Invitationals

    • The same story as Team Events – you are unlikely to be selected

  • World Promotional Events – Open Class (and Aspirer)

    • The events generally will slow your development as the average rating will be around 1800 (or even less in an Aspirer)

  • Zonal Events

    • Event such as the European Webserver Champs – same story as the World Promotional Events


So not a lot of date but there are two types of event which do offer us hope

  • International Opens

    • These events come in two flavours – Accelerated and Non Accelerated. The Acceleration is a description of what happens to the highest rated players – do they have to play in all rounds or get a bye? We are interested in the events where they have to play in the first round. An example of this is the WebChess Opens – in the 7th edition the average rating in the first round was slightly under 2100 – a good target area for the aspiring player to target.

  • Champions League

    • Here we have the best option for gaining rating points. The downside is that you need a team of 4 but on the plus side the average ratings per board range from 2150 up to 2300+.


So if you want to accelerate your rating development then you need access to higher rated opposition and the best way to achieve this is to keep a eye out for the Champions League and Non Accelerated International Opens.



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