Interview: CCM Glyn Sinnett (WLS)

Ian Jones  Wednesday, May 13, 2020




CCM Glyn Sinnett (WLS)


Glyn has  been The  Welsh Correspondence Chess Champion, he has also  played for Wales in many events over the years. He is one of the few  player to have won the Ward-Higgs and the Sinclair. Glyn`s success in over the board chess with his Nidums team, has been going on for decades. This Year he celebrates his 60th Birthday.



Briefly tell us about yourself?

After finishing school where I attended Neath Grammar School, Llangatwg Comp and Dwr y Felin Comp, I started working for British Coal in a Laboratory for 11 years and was transferred to British Coal Opencast where I was pn the staff for a further 10 years. I had to finish work at 38 years of age through ill health and been a carer for my sister ever since. I will be reaching another landmark this summer when I will be 60!


How did you get involved in Chess?

I started playing when I was 10 years of age - self taught. I also played for my local YMCA for a few years but never took it seriously until I went to sixth form when I was 16. I then played Neath for 4 years, Castell Nedd for 11 years and then Nidum for the past 28 seasons. This is my 43rd consecutive season in which I have captained my last 2 clubs for 39 years. Also run many things in that period in West Wales in which i did the rating site for 11 years and also 5 years for the WCU doing the Home Director. I have also been on many European Club Cups with Nidum - 14 in total and also three twin town events in the same period. I have also captained Wales in a non playing capacity in the European Team in 2009 in Serbia and also in 2010 and 2012 in the Olympiad in Khanty Mansiysk in Russia and in Istanbul. 

A full diary !! 


Glyn, Its been noted that you used to play proper postal chess ?

I started playing correspondence in 1982 at Castell Nedd when the club had a friendly vs Tito Velenje of Yugoslavia. It was a very slow event as only 9 moves were played on almost a year! I then started playing in the Welsh Championship for three years in the early 1990s in which I finished 3rd 2nd and then 1st. This is when correspondence chess was proper CC. No engines. 

I then played for Wales in the Olympiad and NATT tourneys in which I had mixed fortunes but my rating was a decent 2230. 


When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

I did stop playing CC in the early 2000s - but was tempted back by my club mate Ian Jones to play on the county scene. This however was when engines were rife but I have adjusted.

What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

OTB I usually stick to a handful of tried and tested openings and defences. However with CC I do try and vary all aspects of my game.

What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

I have achieved getting both my CCE and CCM titles in the past few years. It would be nice to step over the 2300 mark - perhaps its my goal.

What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?

Over the board players must put the work in to improve. Every player hits a "wall" and to get past it need to put in solid work. 

In CC the same applies. But you need to be enjoying your game so that you can benefit. 


Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or tournament?

No real strategy. Check out your opponents to what they normally play with white or black. It does get tougher as each player these days like to experiment. I do prefer to play in a team tournament however than in a tourney when you are alone - otb and cc. 


How do you select your moves, what is your general method?

Select your openings and defences to which you enjoy playing and also in which you think you can maximise your final score. At a certain point you will probably have three or four moves at one point where they will seem to be ok to play. This is when the hard work starts and you will have to go deep in your analysis to find out which variation gives you the best chance of a more positive result.

With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you do to try and generate wins?

It depends on how many chances are you prepared to take. I did have one game about two years ago in which I had a very small plus. To generate any winning chances I had to imbalance the position with a two pieces for rook and pawn swap. This gave me the only chance of winning as the passed pawn on the queenside became strong and in the end won me the game vs a strong 2300 player. 


 So Glyn, what are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

Reaching 2300 and perhaps having a go for some IM norms.

What are your favourite Openings and why?

OTB I always like to play both e4 and d4. My style I suppose suits d4 better. I have played the French for a number of years but in CC I do like to mix it with other players depending on past games and results.

If you could ask a Legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?

This is a toughie. I suppose I would like to ask Garry Kasparov why did he stop playing when he did? Surely playing the game he loved over going into politics makes more sense.

Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?

Queens Gambit Declined by Matthew Sadler.

Reason - it makes chess easier by answering questions in the book that you would probably ponder over.

 My Best Games by Victor Korchnoi. 

Another nice well written favourite book of mine.


Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

Professionally - Magnus Carlsen - makes it seem so simple by playing sensible chess instead of going down lines which have been analysed to death.

Amateur - both my club mates who are IMs. Leighton Williams who suffers from cystic fibrosis - his game is superb. Without this dilapidating disease I'm sure he would have reached GM standard.

Richard Jones who now lives in Australia. Another wonderful player who changed his openings and defences on the advice of Leighton and got his title on the back of this.


Interview: SIM Gareth Yeo

Ian Jones  Friday, May 1, 2020



What correspondence chess player has never heard of Gareth Yeo ?

Gareth does not need an introduction.

Gareth is Wales first  SIM and Wales highest ever rated correspondence player.

In Wales we just call him Gareth.


Briefly tell us about yourself?

I turn 40 this summer, which is wonderfully illustrated by my grey hair and baldness. I am married to Alison and have two young children Willow and Felix who I hope one day will be interested in the game. Outside of the chess world, I've been a Civil Servant for almost 20 years and enjoy a bit of Texas Hold'em Poker when I want to let my non-existent hair down. 

How did you get involved in Chess?

My father started playing with me when I was 10. He wasn't very good, but still, the game interested me enough to start playing with my school friends during lunch breaks. It wasn't until I went to University and found myself with plenty of time on my hands did I start really taking an interest. Trying to outsmart players from all over the world in blitz/bullet games became a bit of an obsession. I then decided to join my local club back home who were bottom of the league in the lowest division, and I still managed to lose every game to my fellow members. I'd go back to Uni., try and figure out where I went wrong and then try again at my club until one by one I beat them all. It was around that time that the Kramnik-Kasparov World Championship was held. I surprised myself by being able to predict 80-85% of the moves despite being a very low rated player. I guess, in a way, it gave me the false self-confidence I needed push on and beat others. 

When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

My first experience of Correspondence Chess was on an American site called, which looks to still be live now. I joined in order to refine my opening repertoire for Over The Board games, in the belief that if it held up in CC it would hold up in OTB. Once I got the top spot on the site I'd lost interest and decided to go back to playing in clubs. 

What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

I joined the ICCF in 2014 out of curiosity more than anything. A few posts on the Welsh Chess Union site were advertising the WCCF and I failed to see the point as IMHO it was engine vs. engine matches so what would I get out of it? I still hold that belief as if you don't use an engine you won't do well on the site, but once you've accepted that then you can enjoy teaming up with your engine against another team. I enjoy punishing those who do not look at positions long enough or play poor openings, not suited to this type of play. For me, it's about proving, almost scientifically, which openings hold up and which ones fail. It's this testing/analysis which has kept me going. 

What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?
 Probably becoming the first Senior International Master in Wales and holding the number 1 spot on the rating list. If we don't count the provisional ratings given to players decades ago then I might well be the highest rated Welshman we've had too.


What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?

 I have no idea what I do that others don't in all honesty. We all have access to the same databases and software, so I guess it must come down to decision making. I'd like to know why some experienced players with much better hardware than myself struggle to get over a certain rating range. It feels like they can draw with anyone, but not spot flaws/mistakes and exploit them to turn those draws into wins. I coach a guy in America, which is just me sharing how I play. He's flying up the ratings but without knowing how others play I can't suggest what they should do differently. 

Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or tournament?

 I have the same strategy for every game, whether it's a tournament or other. I look up my opponent's games, decide if I think they play any dubious openings, which I might like to exploit or check if they play stale/drawish lines against certain lines and actively avoid them where I can. The aim is simple, keep it as imbalanced as possible, try to win and hope my opponent has the same objective. If they are risk-averse and want a draw from move 1 I'll tend to offer it early on as, yes, I might outplay them in the endgame, but I'd rather spend what time I have left on this earth looking at interesting positions. 

How do you select your moves, what is your general method?

 The opening is generally me looking for ideas in recently played games by opponents of a certain standard, which I hope to jump on the back of before it becomes common theory. Once that's over it's over to the engine really. I point it in the right direction if I think it's going astray, other than that I trust it to do its work. 

With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you do to try and generate wins?

 Unfortunately, you need two to tango. As I mentioned above, If I can see somebody plays say a Berlin against 1.e4 and the KID against 1.d4 they'll get 1.d4 every time. But, if they play a French against 1.e4 and the Slav/Nimzo-Indian against 1.d4, they'll be getting 1.e4 from me. If my opponent plays, shall we say 'conservatively' against every opening then I tend to just give out a heavy sigh and distract myself with other games until the draw is agreed.

 What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

 It would be nice to get the Grand Master title however this is unlikely as I'm facing highly tuned players and machines at the level I currently play. The GMs I see on the rating tables tend to have got their titles in the pre-engine era. It's almost impossible now unless you're lucky enough to be in a norm tournament where several players default.

What are your favourite Openings and why?

 For CC I don't really have favourite openings. I have ones I like to play against and like to avoid as previously stated, but I don't like being a one-trick pony with a narrow repertoire so I'll play something different in every game if it means it will be more interesting. With databases and engines, you can play pretty much any opening without understanding too much about the theory/history behind the moves, but I'm sure it helps to know a bit for the middle games. 

For OTB, I've played 1.d4 all my life. I have a line against pretty much every reply that I really enjoy. For black I've been enjoying various Sicilians over the past decade and I've just finished reading The Modernized Delayed Benoni by Ivan Ivanisevic, which I've now adopted as my main reply to 1.d4. The type of openings I enjoy is when I have a large pawn centre, I'm not a hyper-modern player at all, which might lead you to ask why the Benoni then? The way I play it normally leads to an e5 and f5 pawn push so it's a KID without having to learn the millions of KID lines out there.

If you could ask a Legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?

There's no one question I can think of that I'd ask. Id certainly liked to have been trained by a legend, or anyone decent for that matter. 

Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?

 I'm not a big reader of chess books. The book that helped me go from a terrible 1400 rated player to a slightly less terrible 2000 rated player was 'The Amateur's Mind' by Jeremy Silman. It's a pretty old book now but the principles and concepts stayed with me.

Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

During the 2000s it was Levon Aronian as he was the only real Super GM who favoured 1.d4. So I'd be looking at his games for inspiration. Sadly, for me anyway, he's moved away from it in recent years, which has seen my interest move to a fantastic young Russian player in Daniil Dubov. I really enjoy his tactics and hope he breaks through to the 2700 club one day. Another player who's games inspire me is the Ukrainian GM Illya Nyzhnyk.

Interview: SIM John Rhodes (ENG)

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, April 21, 2020


John has been a stalwart of the British CC scene for many years and is well known to many of us through his column (mentioned below) in the Chess Improver (Although I didn't know until now we shared a teacher!).  In addition to that John will be familiar to many through the many teams he is involved in!


Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

I am married with two grown-up daughters. I am now retired after a long career in international banking and a short career in the driver training industry.

My wife and I were beekeepers, and I am involved in training beekeepers in microscopy, which is checking for bee diseases and looking at their anatomy.


How did you get involved in Chess?

More or less taught myself from a young age and played in the senior school team. After leaving school at sixteen I did not play until after I got married in my mid-twenties, when I saw an article about the Hitchin Congress in the local newspaper in about 1976. The organiser, the late Glynne Jones, happened to travel on the same train as myself to London every day and we usually played chess on the way down….or rather I would concentrate on the board all the way while he read his paper and made the occasional move and he would always beat me. I joined Stevenage Chess Club and was Secretary for two years. In the late seventies I organised two simuls, one with IM Mike Basman at the Pin Green Club and another with Soviet GM Alexander Kotov at Stevenage. We took Kotov out to dinner and I remember him saying how Fischer used to stare at his opponents to put them off. I drove him to his friend’s house in North London afterwards and, this being before satnavs, had to ask him to map read on the way, which he kindly did!


When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

In the late seventies we moved to Bedfordshire and I was working later at my job in London, so was unable to get home in time to play in OTB chess matches. I did try the Barbican Chess Club, which was close to where I worked, but preferred to get home earlier to see my family. I was asked by a senior Stevenage club member if I had ever thought of correspondence chess, so I started to play for Hertfordshire, even though I now lived in Bedfordshire.

I also had many lessons from GM Nigel Davies by telephone and then email analysing my finished CC games and now write a blog on his Chess Improver site about CC in the UK.


What do you like about Correspondence Chess?


You do not have to leave your house to play, you can move the pieces about, you can use databases, you have plenty of time for moves, and you can, in most cases, use program assistance. Of course, when I started CC you had to use the postal system, then email which improved things, then the server which is wonderful.


What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

I started near the bottom of the Hertfordshire Chess Association Correspondence Team and slowly, over the years, worked my way up to the top board. I took over running the five teams last year and have now given other players the chance for the top board.

Probably my best tournament result was around 2005/7 winning the ICCF Olympiad 16 Preliminaries Section 2 Board 3, a Category 5 postal event, with 7.5 / 9 where I over scored by a point for an SIM norm.


What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?


Try to play openings that suit your style of play. Beware of using opening databases without checking the variation yourself. Try to learn by your losses.


Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or tournament?


I used to look up my opponent’s games, but not as much nowadays, as most players have databases and vary their openings.



How do you select your moves, what is your general method?


In the opening I choose a theoretical variation that is either popular or that I like and try to steer into a middle game that suits my style. That rarely works of course.


In the middle game I will look at some candidate moves and see what various programs think. Some opening variations can go well into the middle game, so you often need to look as far as the endgame to choose the right one.


In the endgame you have to be aware that 7-piece endgame tablebases exist and that you can claim a result based on 6-piece endgame tablebases. This means that endgames are never played out as far as they used to be.


With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you do to try and generate wins?


With the widespread use of computer chess programs, which many top players use, draws are inevitable as players make less mistakes. If you analyse over-the-board chess games with a program, even from world class players, you will often see mistakes by both sides. Programs can still miss a deep win and you should always try to find one yourself.


What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?


I am now doing more on the administration side, becoming the EFCC General Secretary this year.


What are your favourite Openings and why?


I have a passion for unusual openings, although in tournaments I normally play standard ones as it is safer when most players have good databases. I rarely play over-the-board chess nowadays, but unusual openings could be useful in gaining time on your clock.


If you could ask a legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?


I would like to have asked Bobby Fischer why he preferred 1e4 to 1d4.


Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?


I have far too many chess books, so a favourite is difficult to choose! A book I am quite fond of is ‘Chess Traps and Stratagems’ by Rev. E.E. Cunningham, one of my first books. A DVD I enjoy is ‘Game Over – Kasparov and the Machine’, I also like the two ‘Master Game’ DVDs.


Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?


Yes, Paul Morphy. He beat a certain John Rhodes in a Blindfold Simul in Birmingham in 1858. I have to say that it was not me that he played!



InterviewJohn Rhodes

Interview: CCM Dennis M Doren (USA)

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, April 9, 2020


The majority of CC players are probably not aware of Dennis Doren but will be aware of his fruits of his labours, as ICCF Rules Commissioner (along with those others with the Rules commission), a significant shift within ICCF rules towards clarity, allowing for fair and consistent application.  


Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

I'm 66 years old, married to a wonderful woman, with one daughter, her husband, and a 2-year-old grandson.  I was a forensic psychologist during my career, but am pleased to say I am now retired.  Chess is now my main fun activity (including organizational work for the ICCF and the ICCF-US), besides travelling with my wife, and spending time with our grandson.  


How did you get involved in Chess?

Someone in my family taught me, after I saw them playing the game.  Who exactly it was who taught me is debated in my family, as each of my brothers and my father claimed he was the one.  I don't remember, as I was only 4 at the time.  I did not get interested in tournament chess until I was 13 or 14, when the older brother of a friend of mine started teaching me what the game was really about, told me he went to tournaments, and invited me to join him.


When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

I played only OTB tournaments until I was in graduate school.  At that point, however, I could no longer afford to spend an entire weekend at an OTB tournament due to the pressure of my school studies.  Chess had been a love of mine for about decade by then, so I did not want to give it up.  I decided to try CC because it allowed better control over when I gave time to the game.   


What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

I find interest in what I consider the 3 types of chess:  blitz (speed), regular OTB, and CC.  Each has its unique characteristics that make chess enjoyable.  CC in particular allows a player to work on really "solving the puzzle" of the game - to figure out subtle details of the game that would otherwise escape most of us even in OTB play.  I both learn about the game, and feel like I have a chance to play "beautifully" in CC, whereas that is never even a goal, no less a reality in speed or OTB chess.  


What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

(1) When I obtained what was then called a master's rating (2200) within the US Chess Federation CC, which at the time allowed me to start playing internationally.

(2) The first time I won against an ICCF IM.

(3) Serving as the tournament organizer for some category 12 and 13 events.

(4) Serving as the writer of a quarterly newsletter dedicated to friendly match news within the ICCF-US.

(5) Serving as the ICCF Rules Commissioner, in particular reorganizing and clarifying the ICCF rules and procedures.

(6) Developing the ICCF adjudication system involving about 80 GMs and SIMs.


What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?

Spend time.  I found that as I improved in my play and I played higher rated players, it took me longer and longer to decide on my moves.  And as I took more time to decide on my moves, the better I played.  Most of the time I lost a game, I could trace it to having moved quickly once too often.  Second to that, building a library related to one's openings and a resource for endings can be very useful; though the ICCF archive database and an endgame tablebase can serve well in those regards without spending any money.. 


Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

I used to, but can's say I do any more.  I used to stick to a very small set of openings and defences, with the rationale that I would understand those lines better than my opponents.  That worked for a while, but not once I reached a certain level of opponent.  I am now far more likely to mix things up a bit, becoming less predictable for my opponents, but simultaneously requiring more study on my part.


How do you select your moves, what is your general method?

The answer depends on the stage of the game.  Opening moves are selected as members of chosen lines, either as common lines or something more obscure.  Endgame moves are selected based on the requirements of winning versus drawing (or avoidance of losing) possibilities.  The selection of middlegame moves is the most interesting.  I generally start a couple of engines analysing a position, but while waiting study the position for the principles involved, for determining where pieces should be headed, for avoiding creating weaknesses in my position while creating weaknesses in my opponent's position, etc.  Later, I compare the lines the engines suggest with my own ideas to see if they mesh.   I also see if the engines offer any idea I completely missed.  Resolving any such differences is the heart of top play, at least at my level.   


With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, What do you try to do to generate wins?

I look for the unexpected idea.  Sometimes this occurs early in an opening line, but more often there is something in the middlegame where the engines all suggest a certain move or set of moves, but there is another idea that offers better outcomes in the long run despite showing a relative weakness in the short run.  These are often the type of moves my opponents miss, quite specifically because the engines don't suggest them.  The other place I look for wins is in very late middlegames, as the games approach the endgame.  I am regularly surprised how poorly the chess engines will play some late middlegames.


What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

I have hoped to earn the IM title since 1991.  Maybe soon...  


What are your favourite Openings and why?

As mentioned above, I used to have a small list that I would gladly tell you, as the ICCF archive database would tell you anyway.  Nowadays, I don't believe I have an answer to this question.


If you could ask a legendary player, alive or historical, once question about Chess, what would it be?.

I would ask Wolfgang Uhlmann why he kept castling (king side) in the black side of the French Defence (FD) when it regularly cost him games.  That may be an esoteric question to your readers, but since I played the FD as black from my teenage years until a couple of years ago, and studied how the "greats" played it, I never came to understand why one of the best FD players of all time kept making what, in my humble opinion, the same losing move.


Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?

My favourite chess book is whatever is teaching me what I need to know at the moment.   Chess books, except for the most basic, all get dated over time.  My favourite when first playing OTB was one of the earliest editions of Modern Chess Openings, but I find such an approach to openings too general to be valuable for me at this point in my chess career.


Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

Awonder Liang.  He is a 16-year old FIDE Grandmaster from Madison Wisconsin, USA where I lived until very recently.  He is a very pleasant young man who also broke many records for being the youngest to achieve various chess related things, like beating an IM, beating a GM, earning the IM title, earning the GM title (at age 14!), etc.  He is the current US Junior Champion, and this for the 3rd year in a row despite the fact that US Junior covers anyone under age 20.  With multiple games against each, he also has a positive score against the top 3 USA FIDE players (Caruana, Nakamura, & So).  Back when he was 9 years old, I used to meet with him both to study the game and play blitz; that is, until I was no longer even a sparring partner of worth.  I now find it very exciting to follow his progress.  I would not be surprised if some day he becomes the USA Champion, and even World Champion.   


Interview: LGM Dawn Williamson (ENG)

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Hi Guys,

I hope I don’t bore you, personally I’ve never really considered myself interview material but here goes!

I am a member of that rare species, the female correspondence chess player, soon to be even rarer after the latest ICCF cull, sorry what was I thinking, of course I meant rule change.

I have been playing chess since I was around five; I am self-taught with a bit of basic guidance from my mum at the start.

I have always loved the game and played over the board for my schools and at a local chess club. It didn’t enter my head until I was much older that this was unusual for a girl, I honestly don’t think it entered the heads of the boys I played with either, we all just wanted to play the game and win!

When my family moved to Snowdonia I pretty much stopped playing chess, logistics was an issue. I did flirt briefly with postal chess, but found it a bit slow and increasingly expensive for a student’s pocket.

With academia and professional qualifications behind me, I found I had more spare time and this reignited my passion for the game. I very quickly realised how things had moved on in the intervening time. I joined a couple of internet clubs and started my CC career. I had a very steep learning curve; brain and book are no match for computer programs and databases. My ego became, slightly dented, but I decided to stick with it and learn how to survive in this modern arena, and as they say, the rest is history.     

I find my relationship with my chessboard has changed and like so many others, the draws drive me crazy, but I think to play our game well you need a lot of skill. It is not enough to follow the computer blindly as everyone has at least one; it`s the players who combine their own flare with that of the programs and hardware that seem to get the best results.

The highlight of my CC career to date is being awarded the Lady Grandmaster title, every chess player dreams of being a grandmaster and even though I would one day like to drop the Lady from the front, I will be happy with this if I go no further.

In my humble opinion aspiring players need to do there research; ask themselves why certain players can still produce better than average results. What Openings are they using? Where did that unexpected move come from and why was it unexpected? They also need to invest in a reasonable computer and keep their software up to date. Time and tide wait for no man or woman!

When starting a tournament, I usually get a buzz of excitement. It’s a clean start an opportunity to show what you can do. My strategy depends on the event, if I’m playing for a team securing at least a draw is the priority, you don’t want to let your team mates hard work come to nothing because of your dropped points. In norm events the strategy is tailored to the required score for the sort after norm, there is little point in playing solid draws when you need at least two or three wins. That said you must always keep an eye on the rating after all that is what gets us in a position to try for the norms in the first place. 

When selecting moves I usually, if possible pick three I think are promising and then work with them to see where they take me. I’m still trying to perfect this!

The draws in CC are a problem but it is still possible to get results if you work hard, but I don’t think there is a magic formula. My current strategy is to cut my game load and work harder on the games I play, it will take a while and has meant saying no this season to a number of events.

My future aspirations are to achieve the IM title and be the last Ladies world Champion (if I make it to the final, it’s in the lap of the gods)

My favourite opening is a tricky question to answer; it is more a question of which openings work in CC. I do enjoy the KID but with mixed results!

If I could ask a question of a legendary player, it would go to Bobby Fisher.

Did you realise when Donald Byrne played  11, Bg5 in the game of the century that you had the game, were you that good so young?

As you can see from the answer to your previous question, I am a Fisher fan so I have read and re read until the pages fell out:  Fisher v Spassky Reykjavik 1972.

My favourite living player is Vladimir Kramnik but posthumously it’s Mr Fisher the flawed genius, if you can have one without the other!      



Dawn WilliamsonInterview

Interview: LGM Toni Halliwell (ENG)

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, September 14, 2019


Toni is one of the stalwarts of Britich CC in recent years and a regular player in Yorkshire Team events. Ranked #5 Female CC player in the world on the latest rating list iand one of a trio of strong British CC players Toni has help redefine the British CC Landscape.

Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

Retired IT College Tutor and freelance business adviser.  Interests also include music (most genres), playing piano and guitar (badly!), geology and landscape photography.

How did you get involved in Chess?

Rather embarrassing this one!  Older brother taught me the moves while I was at primary school.  Didn’t really take it up then, but moved up to Grammar School where, as a 13 year old girl, with an almighty crush on the History master who started a chess club, so where he was, I had to be … lol!

Is this the most original answer yet?! 😊  [Editors Note: Yes!!]


When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

Can’t really remember but must have seen an ad for the Postal Chess Club run by Chess, Sutton Coldfield, back in the day.  Played in their all-play-all tournaments, from being about 15 I think.

What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

‘Meeting’ people from all over the world; used to like collecting the stamps when it was all postal.

Having more time to ponder your moves than otb allows and to really learn openings without having to be able to remember the lines. 

Also it’s available when you don’t feel like trailing out to a club on a winter’s evening!

Being an IA/TD.


What don’t you like about Correspondence Chess?


Engines!  These prevent you knowing how good or bad you really are compared to your opponents.  I know they prevent games being spoiled through blunders, but you are not really matching your own skill against the other person, and sometimes it seems that you can ‘buy’ you way through if you can afford better computers.  Also find it difficult to vary games and can end up playing the same opening/variation so many times, unless you are prepared to try out new openings.

Players who don’t exchange a greeting at the start of a game.  Would they refuse to shake hands otb? 

Language is no barrier these days with online translation tools, so no excuse – just use your own language if you don’t share a common one.

Players who use DMD when the going gets tough!


What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

Three spring to mind:

  • Returning to chess after a 20 year gap and winning the British Ladies Championship in the first season back.
  • Beating the Open British Champion in less than 30 moves, while being the reigning British Ladies Champion!
  • Getting a draw with our own GM Robson, rated 2600, in a team competition.  Where but in correspondence chess would you even get the chance to play such a player if you are at my level?!


The first two of these pleased me because in both cases the win came from a move/plan that was not showing on a computer engine at the time!


What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?

Play against the strongest opposition available.  Study everything, but don’t get bogged down on mainly openings.  Don’t neglect endgames.  Learn solid principles rather than trying to memorise lines.  Study structures, patterns etc. to help your middlegame.  Find out where you went wrong in lost games, or where you think a win went astray. Find a very strong player whose style you like and look at their games.


Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?


Not particularly.  Of course I start out wanting to win every game, but know realistically this is not likely to happen.  If it is a team tournament, I plan to be more careful so as to play for the team and not let them down.  I try to look at the opponent, have I played them before etc.  Mainly remind myself not to rush the opening and try not to get transposed into an opening I don’t like.



How do you select your moves?  What is your general method?


Firstly I look at the position without any assistance and choose some possibilities that suit my style.  I look at books and databases in the opening stages and use the NIC Yearbooks for updates.  I tend to look more at the ICCF database to see what the top correspondence players do, and there are a number of these players who I like to follow who play the same openings as me.  If out of book, then the engine unfortunately has to come into play too, but I try not to play an engine move just for the sake of it.  If I don’t understand the reason for the move, I won’t play it until I do.


With so many draws in Correspondence Chess.  What do you try to do to generate wins?

This is very difficult obviously because of engines.  Trying to learn which openings are harder for a computer to deal with and why and what other types of position might not suit engine analysis so well. This information seems to be hard to find and only picked up in snippets here and there.

Other than that, when I feel forced to resort to the engine, leave it running … forever … just to make sure that the move you are about to settle on doesn’t get superseded so many plies later on!  Also use several different engines for comparison.

What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

Firstly to secure my second IM norm to get the title.  Beyond that to see if I can get SIM norms. Then of course to win the world championship, lol!!

What are your favourite Openings and why?

For white, I’m a lifelong Queen’s pawn player.  I find these easier to understand than King’s pawn openings, and for the same reason that as black I don’t play the Sicilian against 1. e4, neither will I put myself at risk of facing the Sicilian either.  Not because I am scared to, but because I have never studied it and others advise that there is so much work to do to keep up with this opening in particular, so I concentrate my efforts elsewhere.  For black I tend to prefer openings with a King’s side fianchetto, again just because I’ve always played them, but I am trying to adopt others now and bring more variety to stop me from being predictable!


If you could ask a legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?

If I dared (!), I think I might ask Bobby Fischer why on earth he thought he could play 29. … BxKRP against Spassky in the first game in Reykjavik 1972.


Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?

This varies all the time.  Currently, as he has recently passed, I am looking at the, enormous book ‘Pal Benko – My Life, Games and Compositions’ by Benko and Silman.  It really is a nicely produced volume.  I am a member of the online Chess Book Collectors group on Facebook, though not really an avid collector as such, but their recommendations or otherwise have saved me wasting money or drawn my attention to a book I might not otherwise have known about.

Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

No special favourite. I like the 2 Ks and as a woman of course I like Judit Polgar, especially when she has put one of our own opinionated GMs in his place!  Did study Botvinnik for a while.  Basically just like the whole bunch, past masters, present and likely future!





Russell Sherwood, Player Interview

Austin Lockwood  Sunday, June 24, 2018

This week I am standing in as guest editor of the regular interview column... because the interviewee is the regular editor! - AL

Russell Sherwood is a rising star in CC organisation; an active national delegate for the Welsh Correspondence Chess Federation, editor of the excellent BCCA magazine and regular contributor to the popular WCCF website, a member of the ICCF Executive Board as newly elected Marketing Director (having formerly been Non-Title Tournament Commissioner and Promotion Tournament Organiser), among many, many other roles.

Russell currently holds the Correspondence Chess Master and International Arbiter titles.

1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

48 years old, married with two children (19 and 12) living in South Wales with the lovely Helen Sherwood. My career is in Continuous Improvement having been involved in a number of roles over the years. Beyond CC my hobbies include reading, writing, programming and spending time with the family. I used to be involved in Football (Soccer to the heathens!) both in Organisational, coaching and refereeing functions until a heart attack forced me to cut back on activities! I am still involved in Charitable organisations – mainly related to the distribution of lottery money to good sporting causes these days!

2. How did you get involved in Chess?

I started playing at school, progressing to junior tournaments and the school team. I then played OTB at my wife’s (LGM Helen Sherwood) fathers club.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

During the mid 90’s I dabbled with Postal Chess, which I found difficult as my career had blossomed and I was working long and unpredictable hours, often away from home.

I then returned to CC, when I discovered email and later server chess, which did fit in with my lifestyle, which has always made regular commitments difficult. Around this time I started to get involved in Chess organisation in different organisations, although not with ICCF and WCCF until only a few years ago.

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

It’s flexibility is the main thing but also the wide variety of friends I have made in many countries both through playing and organising. I know some of my wider family find it strange that my Facebook friend list has so many genuine overseas friends!

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

I don’t really think I have that many! I’ve won as high as Category 6 events, although suppose my claim to fame is more about volume – in almost any CC database I will be in the top 10 of players in terms of total numbers of games played (not all on ICCF) and am probably the highest rated of that list.

I suppose another highlight has been the opportunity to write that CC has given me – I am now completed around 200 articles for one publication of another. 6. What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game? That is a big question! Analyzing your results is a good start to figure out why you got the result you did. From this determine your improvement plan and then implement it , reviewing it regularly to correct course as necessary!

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

Don’t lose – although this regularly does not work! My strategy is driven by my aims in the event – qualifying for the next round, achieving a norm, avoiding defeat. Once I have decided on this I will examine my opponents – both as a individual and through their games to come up with, what I think will be the best strategy.

In practice this might mean something like (as white) – They score much worse against d4 than e4 but they like to play opening x which I don’t want to do, so I might then look at a transposition approach to get to the line I want and not the one they want.

8. How do you select your moves, what is your general method?

Much depends on the phase of the game but it is a combination of differential analysis by a combination of engines and engine settings, Human strategic input and numerous Opening books and sources.

Depending on the game I may also use a elimination approach – starting with the weakest move, eliminating it and the moving to the next one until I find something interesting.

9. With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you try to do to generate wins?

I think I have covered this in many an article but the key is to be different to the crowd. If you simply follow the latest opening book and standard engine suggestions then the draw is an almost certain outcome. From this the aim is to find suitable deviations – generally driven by deeper strategic ideas

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

I still have quite a few. On a playing front I want my S(IM) Titles. These are in distance if I start to implement what I tell others to do!

I have aspiration’s to add the Welsh and British Titles to our Trophy Cabinet (There are ones already in there but they are not mine!)

On the writing front I have a Chess book to complete on Engine Analysis techniques, as for some reason I seem to know more about this than most of the others I meet! In addition to this I am looking to improve the quality and outlets of my publishing on all subjects!

I love the organisational side of CC and am proud to take on the mantle of Marketing Director for ICCF. I have strong (and I believe actionable!) views on how CC should develop for the 21st Century.

Finally I have been coding seriously for the first time in years and am enjoying working on both a CC – Analysis focused engine and one utilising Monte Carlo Tree Search. As you might guess finding time for all these things can be difficult at times!

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

A quick look through my games shows I have played almost everything over the years, with one omission – the French Defence due to an aversion to it from my OTB days, as I had a club captain who played it in the stodgiest manner possible! I have started to move towards, what are currently deemed “Anti Openings” and have started to look at the game in a far more strategic way.

I have also been experimenting with other more romantic openings , including a couple of King’s Gambits (which turned out OK!)

12. If you could ask a legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?

To Kasparov it would be: "How would you approach CC (if you were to play CC!)?" To Short it would be “Why do you feel the need to upset people?” (One of these questions is, of course, sarcastic!)

13. Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?

It is so hard to pick one! My choice tends to change quite often as I acquire new materials. I enjoy most of the Axel Smith materials and the Quality Chess books in general I believe are of a very high standard.

14. Do you have a Favorite player? If so who?

It might surprise some of my opponents but my favorite player was the Magician from Riga, Mikhail Tal. I am also fond of Kasparov, who I consider to be the first of the modern generation of Chess players.

SIM Joop Jansen (NED)

Russell Sherwood  Friday, June 22, 2018


Introduction (Russell Sherwood)

Joop is a member of a new generation of organisers within ICCF and a driving force behind a resurgent Netherlands Federation.  Always receptive and willing to work with others he is a great servant to CC!

1-Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

I am 59 years, young. working in a Psychiatric hospital. I am married, with Marian, have two children, 17 and 18 years old.

Of course in the first 25 years always it works with the postcards. Fabulous. Many chess friends from that time are my friends till now! 

2. How did you get involved in Chess?

I play chess since my 14, learning from a schoolteacher.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

I started Correspondence Chess at 17 so more as 40 years in the game! I like to do all things with chess. Play over the board, correspondence chess, organization, collect etc.….

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

Collecting! I have collected everything from chess. Chess books, chess cards, chess stamps.....And some of you may know that I was a great collector of all chess items. A few years ago I had 11.000 different chess books. Still, I have a huge collection but I have sold several items…..

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

In 2004, 2005 and 2006 I get IM and SIM results. In 3 different tournaments. Oa. Joel Adler and Chessfriends from Rochade. Of these results I am proud

6. What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?

Play games! More and more! It is the best way to learn. Of course also to study chess books, opening, middle game but don’t forget the endgame! In this years it is of course also possible with the computer.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

In recent years I don’t play as much as before. Having become more of an Organiser including being a member of the Dutch board, ICCF delegate and similar activities. Sometimes a friendly match and possibly next year the Rochade tournament again (I have warm memories of this tournament)

8. How do you select your moves, what is your general method?

Study the position, one or two moves…and let the computer also run!

9. With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you try to do to generate wins?

Be creative. Not always the best engine move. That is not interesting!

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

I am delegate and member of the Board of the Dutch Federation. I like this work. But of course, my members must vote for me.

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

French. I play it all my life. Winawer variation with Qxg7. I think my score (with black is 80%)

12. If you could ask a legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?

To Bobby Fischer: Would you like to play one speed-chess game with me?!

13. Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?

Books with tactical positions to solve.

14. Do you have a Favorite player? If so who?

Of course, Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov are great players.

There is a “top-5-10”, who always should be mentioned, Alekhine, Botvinnik, Capablanca, Fischer, Karpov, Kasparov, Lasker, Morphy, Steinitz and Tal!



GM Matjaž Pirš

Russell Sherwood  Friday, June 1, 2018


Today we are joined by GM Matjaž  Pirš. of Germany. He is little known in the UK but should be, having until recently been responsible for the development of promising German CC players and captaining a number of successful teams. Matjaz is highly regarded by those “in the know” and his website and coaching programmes are well worth checking out at

Some of his methods will be familiar to Welsh players, having been shamelessly copied in our works!


1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself?

born in Slovenia. For the last 20 years, I have lived as a chess trainer and chess player in Germany. I run my chess school based in Roedermark, which specialises in the training of correspondence chess players. My training takes place via Team Viewer and a video is created for the customer for each training unit.

2. How did you get involved in Chess?

I hurt myself in another sport and spent 6 months in bed, my grandfather kept me company and chess away the time.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?

As a chess trainer, I realized in 2008 that correspondence chess is the best training method to systematically learn close chess.

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?

correspondence chess enables scientific research and systematic learning of all chess topics. You have enough time to look at everything systematically and also to prepare. I also communicate this to the members of my chess school.

5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?

as a player, I am the fastest player who has needed the least time from the first game for standards until the GM title.
As a coach and TC, it was important for me to win with the German women's team at the 10th Olympiad.

6. What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?

the following factors are important for a player's development:

6.1. databases on games and theory updated monthly.
6.2. the possibility to learn the basics of chess.

6.3. access to good engines and try to understand and learn the way they play.

6.4. a solid PC with fast SSD M.2 hard disk and hash minimum 64 GB.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?

each correspondence chess player must have a clear goal and strategy at the beginning of the game and tournament.


8. How do you select your moves, what is your general method?

For me, the decisive criterion for B-method train selection.(Basic method after chess school Pirs.)

9. With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you try to do to generate wins?

It is important to select the openings that have a profit potential after 15-20 moves and which the engines do not understand

10. What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?

My goal for the future is the development of perfect correspondence chess openings and the training of correspondence chess players.

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?

with white and black, I play aggressive openings that allow me the transition to a promising final. Basically, I strive for the Botwinik farmer structure. 

12. If you could ask a Legendary player, alive or historical, once question about Chess, what would it be?

 I was lucky to ask my favourite player personally why he likes to buy new men's suits?.( James Robert Fischer)

13. Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?

My book is by Dvoretsky-Jussupov attack and defence.(1999 OLMS edition)

14. Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?

James Robert Fischer because he fought alone against the whole world and turned chess into a well-paid sport.


SIM Gino Figlio (PER)

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, May 12, 2018


Today we are joined by Gino Figlio of Peru. For those who do not know of Gino he has been a stalwart of CC for many years, holding positions and being a driving force behind Peruvian CC, the South American Zone (and now the World Zone) and with ICCF itself. Gino gained his IM Title in 2001, his SIM in 2006. In 2017 he completed his IA and most impressive of all was awarded the Bertl von Massow Medals (Silver in 2012 and Gold in 2017) for long-time service to ICCF and CC.

1. Briefly Tell us about Yourself?.

I am 57 years old, married, 5 grown children, 4 grandchildren, 3 dogs. Born in Perú, live in Lamar, rural Colorado USA. Work as a paediatrician.

2. How did you get involved in Chess?.

When I was 5 someone organized a simul in our elementary school. I think I learned the moves shortly before that and even though I lost, I remember the master pointing me out to the school coach. After that, it all evolved naturally.

3. When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?.

Great way to continue practising chess while working in a rural area.

4. What do you like about Correspondence Chess?.


5. What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?.

I am just as happy about it as the day I started.

6. What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?.

It takes a lot of reading and practice. I think you learn more playing.

7. Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?.

I steer the game toward opening lines that I believe to know better than most.

8. How do you select your moves, what is your general method?.

After opening stage is over,  I use many sources for candidate moves: NIC yearbook, chess databases, customized opening trees. I use infinite analysis, IDeA and Deep analysis. I make the final decision using intuition in unclear positions

9. With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, what do you try to do to generate wins?.

Analyzing all good candidate moves, not just the top three.


10. What are your future aspiration in Correspondence Chess?.

Never retire :)

11. What are your favourite Openings and why?.

The one that I know better than my opponent because it will likely bring me a win.

12. If you could ask a Legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?.

How do you balance your life outside chess?

13. Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?.

NIC yearbook.

14. Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?.

Tansel Turgut (TUR).



Welsh Correspondence Chess FederationBritish Correspondence Chess AssociationSchemingMind Internet Correspondence Chess ClubSocial Correspondence Chess AssociationNational Correspondence Chess ClubWelsh Chess UnionInternational Correspondence Chess Association