Russell Sherwood

Build your own Workflow #2

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, October 3, 2021

Last time we left of with our Version 3 Workflow. 


1. Get move to be played

2. Consult Opening Materials

3. Analyse move

    3.1 Analyse move with Engine

4. Blunder Check

5. Make Move

Now let's look to start to improve this! The first improvement we can make is based on wanting to not repeat all the analysis, every time we come to a position. To do this we now add two new steps: Consult Our Game Notes & Add to our Game Notes. The purpose of this is to keep records of what we notice in a position, our plans, and any general thoughts we have about the position.

This gives us our V4


1. Get move to be played

2. Consult Opening Materials

3. Consult our Notes

4. Analyse move

    4.1 Analyse move with Engine

5. Blunder Check

6. Make Move

7. Update our Notes

Not too bad but plenty still left to do.  One advantage that OTB players have is that when playing a game in “real time” they retain a memory of how a position came about, which has many benefits but the one of most interest for us, is that we can have a clue of what the other players’ plans are. We can mimic this effect by playing a some of  the last few moves of the game.

Our next improvement to consider is related to our opponent. When we play a game of chess it is not in isolation but in a partnership with our opponent. Therefore, we should consider our opponent's move, not just our own – what it what we expected, if it is not what is trying to achieve.

Adding these two steps in, we reach our V5


1. Get move to be played

2. Consult Opening Materials

3. Consult our Notes

4. Play through last few moves

5. Analyse Opponents Move

            5.1 Move as expected

            5.2 Move not as expected

6. Analyse move

            6.1 Analyse move with Engine

7. Blunder Check

8. Make Move

9. Update our Notes


We are now reaching a point where we will start of refine and subdivide our steps. We will add one more refinement this time, though. Different analysis approaches are necessary at different stages of the game: What works well in one phase may not in another. Traditionally this would be thought of in 3 phases: Opening, Middle game and Endgame, but we can break this down a little more into Early Middle game and Late Middle game. 

We can also consider the twin concept of Pivotal Moves and transitions. These moves are the ones which make major decisions about the direction of the game and are often pivotal to its outcome. These moves need additional thought and effort. The transition factor is if these moves move us from one of our phases to another.

Adding these in, we now have our V6 Workflow


1. Get move to be played

2. Consult Opening Materials

3. Consult our Notes

4. Play through last few moves

5. Analyse Opponents Move

            5.1 Move as expected

            5.2 Move not as expected

6. Pivotal/Transitional Move?

7. Analyse move

            7.1 Opening

                   7.1.1 Analyse move with Engine

            7.2 Early Middle game

                   7.2.1 Analyse move with Engine

            7.3 Late Middle game

                   7.3.1 Analyse move with Engine

            7.4 Endgame

                    7.4.1 Analyse move with Engine

8. Blunder Check

9. Make Move

10. Update our Notes


Till the next time! Again, if you have ideas on what should be in a work flow, reach out and let me know





Tip of the Week #16

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, October 3, 2021

This time we come to a basic but often overlooked area - keeping your tools up to date. 

I just spent an hour or so updating engines and databases - why do this? 

Two reasons 

  • In terms of engine development , new versions are released on regular basis. Each of these only add the odd Elo to the strength of the engine, but these add up over time, so that if you do not update on a regular basis, then you set yourself at a reasonable disadvantage.  This was seen when a number of players continued to use the pre-NNUE version of Stockfish for and suffered strings of losses against those who had updated.
  • New Games are published all the time and keeping your database up to date is essential to not fall into "new" opening traps.

How often should you update? For Engines monthly is adequate but for databases it is mainly a case of determining how often your game sources are updated. 



Tip of the Week#15

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, September 26, 2021

A tip, "hot of the press" this week from a support interaction with another player.

Know how to access your engine's settings and how to change them, otherwise you might be missing out!

How do you change them - for most Chessbase products, simple click on the engine when it's analysing , select advanced, and then engine parameters



Tip of the Week#14

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, September 12, 2021

Engine rating lists 

It is difficult to compare the relative strength of chess engines, there are many rating lists around, but most of these suffer from a very similar flaw which is the time control that is used in the games used to generate the rating list. It s far too short compared to that used by most correspondence players. 

To use an analogy if you wanted to know who the best middle-distance runner was,would you look at their 100 or 200 m times? No you wouldn't, you'd  look at the middle distance times. So how do we compare engines?

Firstly we know Stockfish is super strong, to gain the best appreciation we have to look at  the results of games played at longer time controls and the longer, the better but this doesn't always give us a true indication either because this is a measure of the engine playing on autopilot, which whilst an indication of how strong the engine can be, is subtly different to that when human input and direction is added on top. 

The general advice that can then be given is to use the rating lists but look at a number of factors:

  1. How the moves of the engine "feel" to you?
  2. How does the engine do in competition against other engines, some are closer to the top as they have a dominance over a specific opponent.
  3. Consider the results of Engines against test sets - this is a much older method of engine testing but one that, for our purposes, is much reliable.


Correspondence ChessTipoftheWeek

Tip of the Week #13

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, September 4, 2021

Double-Dip. This is not just a well known dinner time crime, but is also a useful engine analysis method.

Here we have let the engine run for a time, we move back a move and then back to the position we were analysing.  This has two benefits....

if you are using an online resource with a fixed analysis time it will cause the engine to go a little deeper and for those using a local engine it will (if the engine has a learning function) review the analysis used before. It still surprises me how often the engine will choose a different line is positions with multiple candidate moves with similar evaluations.

So here it is ok to Double-Dip!


Build your own Workflow #1

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, September 4, 2021

In Tip of the Week #12 , I touched upon standard methods and was surprised when several (actually quite a lot) of players contacted me asking for details in general and of mine specifically. Rather than do that, this  will be the first of a series of articles about building your own workflow.

So why used a standard workflow? The simple reason is that is gives two main benefits:

(a) You don't missing anything out 

(b) You have a basis to improve your methods.

Without knowing it, the majority of us already use standardized methods. A simple example of this is related to anyone who has to get up in a morning against a fixed deadline (Starting Work, getting to school and so on). We all tend to do the same things in the same order , from the moment we wake up. These actions fitting together to get us to our destination on time (or not, in some cases).


So let's start to develop our model - we will start very simply. I did this one lunchtime and got to V14 in fairly short order, and then thought of other items I'd missed after that!

Why not tell you the finished item? People learn best when they need to think rather than being spoon-fed!

So let's start with our Version 1 Model - one matter to realize is that we are only looking at one move in one game - once we reach a certain point in development we will change that!

So V1

  1. Get game with move to be played
  2. Analyse move
  3. Make Move

Simple at this point - you will notice no mention of Hardware/Software/Databases.......that is because early in development it is what that matters, not the How.

That's but somewhat lacking...let's move to V2


1. Get move to be played

2. Analyse move 

2.1 Analyse move with Engine

3. Make Move

That's more realistic and shows us a convention - the step 2.1 is done at simultaneously with step 2.  A sad reality is that this is very similar (with probably one other step we will come to later) to what numerous modern CC players do - run SF14 for a while and then play its first choice. This is a major contributor to the increasing draw rates we all see.   If this step this is the case then the power of a player's hardware directly determines their rating.

This brings us to a side-discussion on how we improve our method - firstly we use critical thinking and secondly feedback from our games. If I were to look at V2 method, I can see two obvious improvements - the first sits between steps 2 and 3 and is a blunder check method. We can put all the effort in the world into the previous steps, but if we mess it up, then It's for nothing. The second improvement is that we are relying on our own and the engines' knowledge in Openings, so we move to V3


1. Get move to be played

2. Consult Opening Materials

3. Analyse move

3.1 Analyse move with Engine

4. Blunder Check

5. Make Move

Now we are starting to make progress, although this process is still unlikely to generate "winning" moves at this point. Next time  we will continue this journey.

Just so I know I am not just simply screaming into the void, get in touch - let me know what you think is missing (and plenty of stuff is).

Till the next time


CCMethodsCorrespondence ChessWCCF

ICCF - Finance Director - Call for Elections

Russell Sherwood  Monday, August 30, 2021

Should any Welsh player be interested in the announcement below, please get in touch





General Secretary: Michael Millstone



August 30, 2021


Dear ICCF Delegates and Officials,


According to ICCF Statute 22(1), and the ICCF Voting Regulations and Electoral Procedures, paragraph 5, the following procedures and timescale will apply for mid-term appointments to the ICCF Executive Board.


Nominations are invited from respective member federations for the following position:


Finance Director


It is the right of each member federation to nominate candidates for the above position, providing that:


1. The nominee is a current member of their federation (which must be a full ICCF member federation), and

2. The nominee has confirmed his or her willingness to be nominated.


Nominations from Member Federations should be sent to the General Secretary, Michael Millstone ([email protected]), to reach him no later than September 30, 2021.


Each nomination should include a written declaration from the candidate indicating his or her willingness to be nominated, along with a personal statement (optional) providing information in support of his or her candidacy.


When all nominations have been received, the information will be issued to all member federations at once thereafter the nomination windows close to enable them to consider all the candidates and decide upon voting preferences.




The election will begin October 3, 2021, and continue until October 17, 2021, 23:59 GMT.


If a second election is required, the election will begin October 19, 2021, and continue until October 31, 2021, at 23:59 GMT.


A candidate receiving more than 50% of the votes cast will automatically be declared elected.


The announcement of the winner will take place at once after the election, and because the position is vacant, the winner will assume the position immediately.


If no nomination is received from the member federations for any executive board position, the executive board will be empowered to appoint an official.


Personal statements of candidates should not be published in commercial magazines/internet sites, etc. until after they have all been circulated by ICCF to the official delegates of member federations (as below).


Election campaigning/asking for votes, etc. should not take place until after the complete list of candidates, accompanied by their personal statements, have been officially released by ICCF, as is indicated above.



Michael Millstone

ICCF General Secretary




Tip of the Week #12

Russell Sherwood  Monday, August 30, 2021

Sharpening the Saw

Correspondence Chess players spend an awful lot of time analysing positions but in many cases, very little time analysing their analysis methods. 

Consider these questions:

Do you have a standard method you follow every time you make a move/prepare for a game/do a post-mortem of a game?

Are these methods documented?

How often do you review these methods and make improvements?

When was the last time you sought to improve your methods, either through critical review or seeking new information? 

That’s enough question for now! 

Unless you are answering positively to most of the questions above, you are missing one of the main “secrets” of CC. How often should these methods be reviewed?  I can give two answers to that – firstly every time you use them! Lose a game – why did it happen – was it related to your method – what improvement can I make to prevent this in future? And secondly occasionally by sitting down and looking at every single step in the process.

It is worth noting that, in my opinion, one reason for climbing draw rates is that many players do not seek to improve their methods……

We will talk more about standard methods next time….


Tip of the Week #11

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, August 8, 2021

This week's tip is fairly simple - know your limits. 

If you ask CC players how many games you can effectively play concurrently, answers tend to range from the cryptic "One!" through ta consensus from stronger players of around 20-30 games. 

Now I play a lot more than this, probably related to FOMO and have written on several methods by which this can be achieved in the past, but I was surprised to find a player with over 300 concurrent ICCF games!

The Tip this week is to consider how many games you can manage AND put decent effort into them - it is worth noting that in the example about the player's rating is yo-yoing all over the place as he is triggering the 80 game rating rule.




Tip of the Week #10

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, August 5, 2021

Keep your Cool!

Emotion plays a surprising large part in chess and also in Correspondence Chess, despite the remoteness of play!

This week’s tip is fairly simple – always be in the right state of mind when you analyse and make your moves.

Whilst the vast majority of correspondence players are perfectly reasonable and decent in their approach to the game, there are a majority who are not, evidenced by behaviours such as:

  • Dead Man’s Defence
  • Making Draw offers in lost positions
  • Dragging games on f o r e v e r…..
  • Making comments about how a game is a draw (when it's not)
  • The list goes on

It is also worth remembering that there are other behaviours which can annoy you, but you don’t know your opponents' motivation. For example, you have a player who players quickly for a month, then slowly for a month, then quickly for a month – I had this and it turned out my opponent worked away from home and had very limited access to IT during that time!

The key here is to always be “in your zone” before you start to work on a position and put aside any negative feelings you may have!

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