Russell Sherwood

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Friendlies Update: WLS v ENG 960

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, March 10, 2021

This is the first of several articles reviewing our progress in Friendly and International Events. 

First Up with have the Wales v England 960 Training match. This event was organised to give a number of English players who did not make their National squad a game and the Welsh 960 team (with others) some 960 practice.

It was always likely to be a one-sided match due the difference in playing strength, with a target score-line of around 70% for Wales. The results are turning out to be even better than that with the current score being 22-1 in Wales favour and an expected final score of around 26-2!

I would use the PGN viewer to share a game, but it tends to not get on with 960 games!


Engine Room : Special Fat Edition

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Disclaimer: Any opinions given are my own and not necessarily representative of any group or body I am associated with.

I had intended to give a run down on the latest in Engine development but instead, based on the number of contacts I have had over the weekend, will focus on one – Fat Fritz 2

Fat Fritz 2 was recently released in a swathe of advertising by Chessbase. They claimed this engine was the new number 1 and so on……

Without going into detail, this release caused great consternation within the Stockfish and wider engine development community, over copyleft (yes left – look it up!), naming, charges and claims.

I will not go into much depth on the Copyleft issue but in simple terms, under the Stockfish GPL License the full code, including the network if embedded, has to be published. Initially the engine was published without the network, then with a different network to that being sold. 

Whilst this may or may not be still breaking the rules, it is still causing some major arguments.  In the defence of Chessbase  there are several other Stockfish variants which refuse to publish source code – Eman, Zeus, AI and Killifish come to mind, although the key difference is that none of these engines are Commerical

The reality is that the original part of Fat Fritz 2 is a larger network and (less originally) that this network is based on Neural Net Evaluations rather than Stockfish. From this, the issue caused is that the engine should be really called Stockfish + Fat Fritz 2 Network.


Putting all this aside (We are here to play Correspondence Chess after all) – how strong is Fat Fritz 2 and is it worth buying?

Chessbase claim this is the new number 1 – having beaten Stockfish 12 is a match. There are a number of issues with this claim……

  1. The match size was tiny – to prove actual decisive superiority requires a much larger match with hundreds or preferably thousands of games involved.
  2. Stockfish 12 was used , whereas FF2 is based on a Stockfish Dev(1). This would mean that the engine, ignoring the network, would be around 30 elo stronger. In practice, we are comparing apples with oranges!

This means that the results of the match are inconclusive and not really indicative of a clear new number 1.  Independent testing has shown that FF2 is around the same strength as Stockfish rather than being any stronger. For example

To complicate matters there are two versions of Fat Fritz – The Commercial Version and the Stockfish Github Version. The network released with the Free version is around 45 elo weaker than the commercial one.

Practically the Correspondence player is not really interested in the results of those matches as they are played at, for us, very rapid time controls. I undertook some soft testing of the Free version over the weekend – running it on a few threads alongside my main engine. Most of the time it suggested the same moves but on occasion it did provide some interesting alternatives. 

It is worth commenting that the similar results are  seen if Stockfish and LC0 are run in parallel.

Looking from a wider perspective: Is this engine likely to be stronger for Correspondence Chess. I suspect the answer is yes, as the more knowledge embedded in the network, the better the overall moves should be. The same is true for LC0 networks – a well-trained large network should give better suggestions than a smaller well-trained network, if time is not a factor.

Is it worth the money – my gut feel is if, you want an edge for 1-2 month and consider 80 euros a reasonable price then yes, otherwise use the Free version (WCCF members get in touch if you want a copy) to generate ideas and alternative lines.

Over the next few months, I would expect that:

  1. Unless Chessbase release regular updates, FF2 will become weaker than Stockfish.
  2. New networks, based on either the CB Network, Free Network or developed from scratch will appear., which will be stronger than the FF2 Commercial network.
  3. Other network structures for NNUE will be developed which may eclipse the current standard or FF2 structures.

Of course Ceres may also upset this apple cart but more on that next time.

(1)As a reminder Stockfish do a major release every so often – For example Stockfish 11 and Stockfish 12. In between these major releases minor improvements are released, almost daily. These minor releases (Stockfish Dev) tend to add an elo or two to Stockfish at a time. When enough of an overall gain is made, a new Major release is made





Engine RoomEnginesFat Fritz2

Winning #1 – Increasing Computing Resource

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, January 7, 2021

Here we will get an obvious one out the way. I initially thought of this as hardware but, on reflection, it is not as simple as that.

Chess Engines dominate modern cc, and it is assumed that the player with the bigger hardware will prevail and upgrading hardware is a path to success. However, it is not as simple as this.

Any computer has a given level of processing power, so upgrading hardware will increase processing power. However, what really matters is overall computing resource. In its most simple sense this is processing power x analysis time. Sin theory improved analysis can be achieved by increased processing power or increase analysis time. 

In practice this equation would have a number of other inputs, including effectiveness of analysis and creativity of analysis, but we will look at these at a later point.

So, we can increase our processing power as a path to winning but what tends to happen is that is can become an “arms race” with other players with diminishing returns. 

For players, unable or unwilling, to increase their computing resource the option of increasing their Analysis time is an option but this comes with its own set of issues, primarily the significant reduction in the number of games which can be played concurrently. 

So what hardware should the player look to obtain. This is a surprisingly difficult question to answer and much depends on your choice of supporting engine and analysis methods. For a period of time High-end graphics cards were a must as LC0 achieved a level of dominance. Then when Stockfish NNUE came on the scene, CPUs became more relevant again. Now Ceres is coming the needs to change again.

For the aspiring player there are a few key choices

Intel or Ryzen (as a general rule Intel chips will have fewer but more powerful threads) – which of these is most useful depends on your approach to analysis – which will be covered in a future article.

As far as a high-end Graphics card goes – much depends on your view of the value of MCTS engines. Personally I believe they are worth having, if you can afford them. In not then alternatives such as Fat Fritz and online LC0 offering exist.

Correspondence ChessHardwareImprovementWinning


Russell Sherwood  Thursday, January 7, 2021

This is the first of a series of articles around winning in correspondence chess. It will almost certainly contradict itself and meander at times!

As you climb the ratings ladder in correspondence chess, winning becomes much harder, relatively speaking that “over the board” chess. Some of these reasons are related to the increasing strength of chess engines but many other reasons are also relevant.

 It is the intention of these articles to provide “food for thought” rather than a blueprint!

Correspondence ChessImprovementWinning

Rating based Oppotunities

Russell Sherwood  Friday, January 1, 2021

I've been asked by a few players about what events they can enter - below is a list of standard events, with entry based solely on rating. Other qualifications for these events based on a combination of rating & Title can and do exist but are not shown here.






LC0: Technical Set Up

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, November 22, 2020

A quick tip here. If you use these engines consider the following:

  • Make sure you have the latest GeForce drivers and GeForce Experience utility. Within  this is a performance tuning tool. When used this has generated reporting performance increases from 10-20% Nodes per second.



  • The second are more important tip is to ensure that you set the RAMLimitmb,. If not set, then LCZero can however up all your available RAM and slow the system down (and it will be using much more than the amount it shows you on the taskmaster!). What should it be set to? Experimentation will be the key here. They key below shown in default install in Aquarium is set to 1000mb (1 Gb) as a starting point. From here I would increase upwards to the point the system started to slow down.




Skunkworks: Project Experiance

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The Skunkworks

Russell Sherwood  Monday, November 16, 2020

As time goes on and as your rating increases Victories and rating increases become harder to achieve as the opportunities and margin for victory become fewer.

Over the last year I have worked and continue to work on a number of these kinds of projects and following some introspection have decided to open up some to others. Included in the list are:

Engine Experience

Many years ago there was a CAP project that sort to build a fully analysed engine tree. In more recent times the Cerebellum project has sought a similar, if more advanced outcome as the tree would be optimized. The issue with these approaches is that the outcome Is static as far as the user goes.  Another approach is to build a tree , where the analysis is used as an input to new analysis rather than an end result and if better, deeper analysis occurs for the same position it becomes the new standard.  So far work on this has reached a little over 7million analysed positions.

Dragon Opening Books

An issue with modern CC is that many players used the same small source of opening books and databases, which reduces the amount of diversity in moves played.  I have been working on developing a number of books and continue to work on others.  The first of these – “White Dragon” will be released to WCCF Premium/International members soon.


I got tired of searching, so created a number of my own which will be available to WCCF Premium/International members.

SHEAR Chess Engine

Whenever I go through a review of engines it becomes obvious the different engines have different useful features – so the aim is to bring them all together in one engine – a Swiss army knife or sorts. SHEAR is this engine. Of course, some of my own ideas are also being added on top of this!

Analysis Techniques

As part of a long-time project I have started recording a number of videos on Engine Analysis techniques

Lesser known Software and Functions

There are plenty of lesser known functions of chess software and indeed lesser known chess Software. Some of these are “game changers” for your specific approach. Again some videos are planned to explain some of these!


With the new NNEU enhancement to Chess engines it makes it relatively simple for anyone to develop their own analysis network. A first run on this developed a network as strong as the standard stockfish ones of the time. Now with lessons many lessons learned it will soon be time for another run for a network developed for CC!

This is just a taster of what is happening in the background – more details will be released in coming weeks but as a general rule if people want to be involved, they need to contribute to those projects and of course the more people who get involved the faster projects move!

EnginesPlayer developmentSkunkworks

Article Index

Russell Sherwood  Friday, November 13, 2020

It always surprises me how many articles and documents I have published.

Below is an Index of articles published on this site with links, group loosely under a number of headings with links

Analysis Infinite Variety12
Analysis A Peek behind the Curtain!11
Book ReviewThe Chess Player's Alice154
Book ReviewBlast from the Past151
Book ReviewBook Review: Chess for Life134
Book ReviewChess for Life - Matthew Sadler & Natasha Regan132
Book ReviewBook Review: The Chess Toolbox125
Book ReviewBetter Thinking, Better Chess: How a Grandmaster Finds his Moves - GM Joel Benjamin123
Book ReviewCorrespondence Chess in Britain and Ireland, 1824-1987 - SIM Tim Harding122
Book Reviewe3 Poison : A 21st Century Opening Repotiore95
Book ReviewApplying Logic in Chess - Erick Kislik91
Book ReviewChess Structures87
Book ReviewWorld Champion at the Third Attempt82
Book ReviewMy 120 Selected Correspondence Games by SIM Mike Read81
Book ReviewBook Review Scoring System79
Book ReviewI was elected to Lead, not to read!78
Book ReviewChess on the Fringe43
CongressCongress Photos105
CongressICCF Congress Report - Day 3102
CongressICCF Congress Report - Day 2101
CongressICCF Congress Report - Day 1100
CongressICCF Congress Report - Day 0!99
CongressBlast from the Past10
DatabasesCovering all the (Data) bases!21
Engine DevelopmentA Correspondence Engine39
EnginesGoldilocks and the Hash Table170
EnginesStockfish: Make the best choice!169
EnginesSetting up Stockfish NNEU in Fritz/Chessbase168
EnginesReturn to the Engine Room167
EnginesNeural Nets on the cheap164
EnginesNew Directions143
EnginesDrinking you under the Tablebases137
EnginesChanging Horizons131
EnginesEngine Analysis Research Group130
EnginesStockfish 10 Contempt127
EnginesBack in the Engine Room121
EnginesKeep an Eye110
EnginesFive a Day98
EnginesFinal Gen97
EnginesCutting Edge93
EnginesUnder the Table(bases)92
EnginesTurning the Table(base)s88
EnginesZero to Hero?75
EnginesMaking a HASH of it!74
EnginesChoosing a Chess Engine68
EnginesAs easy as XY but not Z66
EnginesIn contempt58
EnginesThe Specialist31
EnginesSpot the Difference!30
EnginesMore Miles to the Gallon?17
EnginesLost in the Endgame15
EnginesLifting the Hood13
EnginesOptimising your Engine Set Up for Newbies5
Engines50 Shades of Stockfish1
General InterestInteresting Annotated Games163
General InterestGerman Bundeslegia157
General InterestDoes Size Matter?152
General InterestRule Clarification141
General InterestOld School139
General InterestSomething for nothing 2?136
General InterestSomething for nothing?135
General InterestChess Songs - The Answers129
General InterestChess Songs128
General InterestNew Title Tournaments120
General InterestAGM Resource114
General InterestWCCF Template113
General InterestSlayers109
General InterestWCCF Hall of Fame108
General Interestand now for something completely different.....86
General InterestBragging Rights69
General InterestWho's been doing what, with who?65
General InterestHold the Front Page59
General InterestBack to the Future50
General InterestRating Blues49
General InterestSize Matters?40
General InterestAlpha Go a GoGo36
General InterestKasparov in Wales!23
General InterestSimple Guide to Annotation18
General InterestAdvice for Rookie Team Captains4
ICCF TitllesThe Golden Snitch51
InterviewsInterview with IM Andrzej Szerlak (POL)166
InterviewsInterview: CCM Glyn Sinnett (WLS)161
InterviewsInterview: SIM Gareth Yeo159
InterviewsInterview: SIM John Rhodes (ENG)158
InterviewsInterview: CCM Dennis M Doren (USA)156
InterviewsInterview: LGM Dawn Williamson (ENG)153
InterviewsInterview: LGM Toni Halliwell (ENG)149
InterviewsRussell Sherwood, Player Interview90
InterviewsSIM Joop Jansen (NED)89
InterviewsGM Matjaž Pirš84
InterviewsSIM Gino Figlio (PER)77
InterviewsSIM Ivan Panitevsky (RUS)73
InterviewsMarc Wakeham (WLS)72
InterviewsCraig Evans (WLS)70
InterviewsGordon Anderson (SCO)67
InterviewsPhillip J. Beckett (ENG)64
InterviewsIan Jones (WLS)60
OpeningsEvans Gambit155
OpeningsBe careful out there!29
Player DevelopmentRating Differences165
Player DevelopmentAB & NN - a perfect match?160
Player DevelopmentGaslighting147
Player DevelopmentCopycat144
Player DevelopmentSome light reading140
Player DevelopmentConditional Weapon138
Player DevelopmentGoals, Goals and Goals133
Player DevelopmentPick your battlefield! IM Norms126
Player DevelopmentAll that glitters.......117
Player DevelopmentTime Machine115
Player DevelopmentMilestones103
Player DevelopmentNew Season: A New Hope?94
Player DevelopmentMoving on up!85
Player DevelopmentPoka Yoke76
Player DevelopmentYou have been weighed, you have been measured and you have absolutely found wanting!61
Player DevelopmentThe Blueprint57
Player DevelopmentThe Curse of Zero56
Player DevelopmentThe New Normal55
Player DevelopmentIn the War-room54
Player DevelopmentHow to train your Dragon!53
Player DevelopmentDo not go gentle into that Good Night. Rage Rage against the Dying of the Light.48
Player DevelopmentTri-Bi Thinking47
Player DevelopmentTo Draw or not to Draw?46
Player DevelopmentWhat’s your UWP?45
Player DevelopmentLean Chess44
Player DevelopmentPushing the Limit!42
Player DevelopmentIndustrial Chess41
Player DevelopmentDead Man's Attack38
Player DevelopmentHorses for Courses37
Player DevelopmentWhere there’s a way there’s a will!35
Player DevelopmentHumanity's last Stand?34
Player DevelopmentThe Time Machine33
Player DevelopmentThe Universal Soldier?32
Player DevelopmentThe Great Escape28
Player DevelopmentSeason Planning27
Player DevelopmentNo Bragging please, We're British!26
Player DevelopmentForm is Temporary, Class in Permanent.25
Player DevelopmentIntelligence Reports24
Player DevelopmentStop! You’re doing it wrong!22
Player DevelopmentStanding on the Shoulders of Giants20
Player DevelopmentJumping through Hoops!19
Player DevelopmentCan you have too much of a good thing?!16
Player DevelopmentGetting those Title Norms you know you deserve!?14
Player DevelopmentIt's all just a matter of time!9
Player DevelopmentWhat's in a Norm?8
Player DevelopmentSo you want to be a Correspondence Chess Expert?7
Player DevelopmentResources for Modern Correspondence Chess3
Player DevelopmentSize does matter (When it comes to Elo!)2
PostalPostal Glory96
PostalGoing Postal!62
Rating ListsWelsh Provisional 2020/3 Rating List162
Rating ListsProvisional Rating List142
Rating Lists2019/1 Rating List Review119
Rating ListsProvisional Welsh 2018/4 Rating List104
Rating ListsAnother door closes!83
Resource FolderResource Folder Updated148
Resource FolderResource Folder146
SICALMSICALM - December124
Social MediaWCCF Mailing List150
Social MediaFollow WCCF on Twitter145
Social MediaBeing Sociable80
Social MediaWCCF Facebook Page6
Video LinkHow I became an ICCF GM172
Video LinkWCCF AGM Technical session recording171
WebsitesRead All About it!52
WelshbaseWelshbase update118
WelshbaseWelshbase Update116
WelshbaseWelshbase October Update112


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