New Tournament Starting

How time flies! This morning I received my new pairings for the Veterans World Cup 10 tournament. I entered this because I played in the VWC 9 and found it a good event and the start date was later in the year and I planned to make it my first event with a new process. It was quite a surprise to receive the pairings today but it is the right time, I just hadn’t realised how fast the year was passing by.

I have 10 new pairings with players rated between 1720 and 2437, a good mix of playing strengths and nationalities with representation from Croatia, Switzerland, USA, Germany, England, Romania, Latvia, Russia, Poland, Sweden and Austria.

Thinking of my target it is important for me to score well in these games, draws will be costly against the aim of securing the 2300 rating which is the key marker for getting into those tournaments offering IM norms.

Is it time to have a strategy for starting new tournaments? previously I have tried researching opponents in order to plan the lines I would play, often that just confused me so I have usually stuck to playing what I wanted to play rather than aiming to unsettle my opponent. Time for a change perhaps?

Quick Look at June 2016

I have downloaded the latest ICCF Server database of games ending in June 2016, the database contains 4,374 games played on their server by players of all standard. The database can be used without further work for research though I have found in the past that it pays to check for errors in matters such as tournament dates and player names. The issue of player names is a legacy from the days of postal and email play whereas todays games are mainly played on the web-server which automatically ensures the names of players is consistent.

Anyway, let’s take a quick dive into the database and see what we have. Of the 4,374 games we have a White win rate of 27.5%, Black win rate of 17.4% and a draw rate of 55.1%. That seems a little depressing but I suspect there is not much difference with a top level tournament these days. Interestingly there was a fairly even split of games starting in 2016 & 2017 but not so long ago it would have been unusual to find correspondence games ending within the first 6 months of play.

The most popular lines were:

  • 1.e4 played in 2,283 games,
  • 1. d4 played in 1,538 games,
  • 1. c4 played in 238 games,
  • Sicilian Defence 1,012 games,
  • Ruy Lopez/Spanish Defence 375 games,
  • Tarrasch Defence 343 games.

Quite interesting than 1.d4 scored better 56.1%) than 1. e4 which managed 54.7%. However, e4 scored 28% wins whilst d4 scored 27% wins whilst e4 suffered a slightly higher loss rate than d4. All very interesting but perhaps the best way forward is to decide on a rating cut-off and analyse the results of opening choices for perhaps +2500 elo players?

If you have access to ICCF then you can find the games archive at https://www.iccf.com/message?message=454

 

 

Joop van Oosterom Memorial

Joop van Oosterom was the Correspondence Chess World Champion in 2005 and 2008. He sadly passed away in October 2016 and amongst his many achievements he leaves behind a remarkable chess legacy. In addition to winning two world chess champion titles, he also founded the famous Melody Amber chess tournaments where the worlds top grandmasters compete in rapid and blindfold chess tournaments. Previous winners include Grandmasters Magnus Carlsen, Vassily Ivanchuk, Viswanathan Anand, Alexei Shirov and Veselin Topalov.

Joop vanOosteromWe can expect tough fighting chess from the players due to the players themselves and in respect of van Oosteroom, but also because the Dutch Federation have added an innovative win bonus to the games! The prize fund for this tournament is 100 euros for every player plus 300 euro for every win. Additionally, 1st place wins 1200 euro, 2nd place 600 euro and 3rd place 300 euro alongside trophies awarded by the organisers.

In memory of van Oosteroom, the Dutch CC Federation have organised this Category 16 tournament featuring 9 players that include the top-6 rated ICCF players. Competing are,

  • GM Matthias Kribben (Germany),
  • GM Arno Nickel (Germany),
  • GM Roman Chytilek (Czechoslovakia),
  • GM Aleksandr Surenovich Dronov (Russia),
  • GM David Lafarga Santorromán (Spain),
  • GM Richard V.M. Hall (England),
  • GM David A. van der Hoeven (Holland),
  • GM Ron A. H. Langeveld (Holland),
  • GM Marjan Šemrl (Slovenia)

The tournament may be followed at https://www.iccf.com/event?id=68635

Thirty Eight is Better

I looked at my list of ongoing games on the ICCF webserver and to my surprise I saw that the list was actually looking quite manageable with not a single game waiting for me to move. A further look showed that the game total was now just 38 games in-play, this is much better when compared to a few months ago when the number was around 85.

I had to take a couple of quick draws due to passive positions on both sides but this does not worry me too much as both games were against higher rated players who had the white pieces, hence a draw is a  decent result.

A New Database from Germany

I have purchased a new database of correspondence chess games, this is part of my plan for assisting my research in my aim of improving my results. The database contains 1.13 million correspondence games with I am told some 8,000 annotated by top players.

The database features games from the tournaments of various cc organisations such as ICCF, LSS, BDF, REMOTESCHACH, FREECHESS and DESC. I will need to go through the games and discover how many of these I already have but even with those it may be that the new games are annotated. A quick look at the database shows me that it has over 500 of my own games whilst my own file shows just over 800 games, so this new file is a little incomplete but then it never said it contained every game ever played.

Having a good database of correspondence games is I think a vital tool if you are to be successful in the game, it helps you prepare for opponents, learn their style and what they may play against you.

I will write more on this new database at another time, today I am out at a Country Fair so am pushed for time. If you would like to obtain this database then send me a message for details of how it may be purchased for 15 Euros.

We Need a Plan B

Reading through my first posts it is clear that I am not making the progress that I wanted to at the start, perhaps that is harsh but that is how I feel. My aim is to attain the IM title from ICCF and to do that I need to make positive changes to my play. Perhaps that is my choice of openings or defences, perhaps it is simply a need to reduce the number of games that I play, or perhaps it is a host of other things or a combination thereof.

Who said this was going to be easy? Not me for sure! Hence I am starting to realise there is more to do than simply cut the number of games and thereby play to a higher standard. Correspondence Chess is a tough game unless you are exceptionally talented, I am sure Magnus Carlsen would do very well but would he become World Champion against the very strong correspondence players armed with the latest technology and software? I actually think he would be then perhaps I am naïve.

Plan A was to get the IM title by cutting the number of games so that I could spend more time on each move. I realise now that is too simplistic so I need a Plan B. I still have the same aims but my previous post about being SMART brought home to me that to achieve my goal I need to be clever. I need a proper plan and that’s where I am at now.

For the mere mortals amongst us wanting to be successful at correspondence chess, I would suggest we need to be armed with a few tools. These would include:

  • A love for chess,
  • A decent database of games,
  • A good repertoire for correspondence chess,

There is probably a lot more some of us need but my short list is a start to be going on with. I have number 1 but do I have numbers 2 & 3? Well I will take a look at my databases and make a judgement on that one, as for a repertoire that is a different story and I will speak about that is a post shortly as it is a big subject.

Not So SMART

Thinking about my aim of attaining the IM title has been in my thoughts for a while but perhaps I am not being very smart about it. I often enter tournaments because I enjoy them rather than thinking how will this help me achieve my goal. At work we often used the SMART process to set out plans with goals, milestones and other such stuff as how will we know where we are with it.

The SMART process is quite simple and is often a good process to think about:

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measureable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Realistic
  • T – Timeliness

There are plenty of websites explaining the SMART process but it is quite self explanatory. So, taking a look at this I can see that my own plan fails before it has started:

  • S – Clear aim to achieve the CC IM title from ICCF.
  • M – Yes, by qualifying for the title. However there are other titles along the way and perhaps it would be an idea to start with having those as markers for my plan.
  • A – Maybe but I do first need to get a chess rating of 2300.
  • R – Based on previous performance I would say my aim is not realistic, but perhaps I can make it so.
  • T – No time limit set.

So, with my tail firmly between my legs it is time to think about my goal a little more deeply, set myself some interim targets to make this measureable and be honest with myself. I need to work harder!

2300 Opens Doors

If like myself you have a thought that the ratings of your opponents influences your own rating, then you may agree that 2300 elo is a pivotal point for correspondence chess players. Some examples of this would include 2300 rating being necessary for entry to the  Preliminaries of the World Correspondence Chess Championship,  the right to participate in a Master Norm tournament and the right to enter the European Individual Server Championship – Semi-Finals.

My own rating has never reached the dizzy heights of 2300, the highest has been 2264 in the 2016/4 ICCF Rating List. The task has to be getting over that 2300 line and entering stronger tournaments, of course that may see me swiftly thrashed and finding myself back in the sub-2300 pool quickly but you have to try.

I am drifting a little at the moment whilst trying hard to reduce the demands on my time by cutting as many games s I can. You have to be careful not to concede the draw too soon but it is only by cutting the number of current games that I will be able to concentrate harder on my games and then perhaps win a few more of them.

Early Reflection Yields Little

The blog has been running for about a week and I am starting to get a better insight into where I am with my own correspondence games. Sometimes we think we know, but in reality perhaps we do not know the right things. Anyway, I have started to take a look at my games from the past, I do not have a complete record but it is quite extensive with around 865 games in my database. The database goes back to 1997 but I actually started to play in 1984, I imagine most of those early postal games have been lost forever, as have my over-the-board games.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, databases are only as good as the information put into them, however in this case I am more interested in recent years than the early days so this is less of a problem for me this time. It is the recent years that I think will help me on the path to scoring better than I am today.

Let’s make a quick start and get a base for my future thoughts on where I can improve. Of the 865 games there is roughly a 50/50 split as Black or White:

  • As White
    Wins 35%, Draws 47%, Losses 18%
  • As Black
    Wins 26%, Draws 44%, Losses 30%

In more recent times, 2015- mid 2017 there are 174 completed games:

  • As White
    Wins 38%, Draws 57%, Losses 5%
  • As Black
    Wins 25%, Draws 66%, Losses 9%

As a start of my analysis does this tell me anything? Well I think it shows that my losses have reduced in favour of draws and that’s about all. I suspect that is a theme within correspondence chess as a whole so I need to look further for answers as to where I may seek improvement.

Rubbish In Rubbish Out

Correspondence Chess is a difficult game and unless you are exceptional you will need a decent database to play competitively. I would go so far as to suggest that even a strong player will need that decent database.  Having a collection of your opponents games and those of high rated players, will give you an opportunity to research your opponents games and to discover what lines are working and which are not.

Unfortunately databases are only as good as the information put into them, a term used for poor databases is ‘Rubbish in Rubbish Out, or Garbage in Garbage Out. Rubbish as defined by ‘Chambers‘ as waste matter, litter, trash, rubble, trumpery, nonsense etc so perhaps it is a bit harsh to think of this term when I refer to Correspondence Chess databases but often they do contain errors such as player names, event dates and in some caes the moves played!

There are however some very good ones out there, for example Ultracorr (no longer available) from Tim Harding and perhaps the ChessBase CC Database though I do not have that one. Perhaps the best way to ensure you have a decent database of correspondence games is to maintain your own by importing from others and refining your data as and when you can.

To do that you need reliable sources and I mainly use the ICCF Game Archives (ICCF players only) alongside the ChessPublishing (membership fee) analysis. You could add The Week in Chess or another reliable source of free games. The alternative is to purchase quality databases from a reputable supplier such as Chessbase. An alternative free option is the ChessBase Online database where free membership secures access.