Russell Sherwood Sunday, February 18, 2018
Introduction (Austin Lockwood)
Phill Beckett is one of the “unsung heroes” of British Correspondence Chess; he has been the controller of the British Championship and the tournament director of the British Ladies Championship for many years. The current secretary of EFCC (England), he is a tireless organiser, who promotes CC nationally and in his native Yorkshire, as well as organising ICCF rated team events for members of SchemingMind.com from around the world. Phill represented England at the recent ICCF Congress in Bulgaria.
But Phill is not only a correspondence player and organiser, he is also involved in the OTB English Chess Federation; as a retired school teacher, Phill has an active interest in schools chess, and is also involved in problem-solving.
Briefly Tell us about Yourself?
I am a recently retired Mathematician married with two grown-up children who did play chess to a reasonable level, but work gets in the way. Since retiring I have taken a lead role in the UK Maths Trust (we organise National Maths competitions and select the England teams for the Maths Olympiad ps my brother and both children are Mathematicians). I have written several Mathematical papers and might eventually write up my thesis to get my PhD (obviously I have less spare time now than when I was working)
How did you get involved in Chess?
I wandered into to the chess club when I was at secondary school (as it was raining) and was hooked ever since
When and how did you get interested in Correspondence Chess?
When I went to University I was away from my normal chess club and picked up a copy of the old chess magazine and decided chess by post sounded fun!
What do you like about Correspondence Chess?
The key is the chance to study in great depth, to use the latest opening theory and with computer assistance avoid the terrible blinders associated with chess by post and email!
What are your Correspondence Chess Career Highlights?
I would describe myself as a pretty average player but a few highlights. recently achieving a norm in an event. Most of my real achievements are as a captain, winning the British team with White Rose, winning the Inter-counties.
What do you think an aspiring player should do to improve their game?
The big temptation is to take on too many games and only give them superficial attention (I am guilty of this it!)
Do you have an overall strategy when you start a game or Tournament?
My preparation for team events is different, when you play in a team others expect you to do your best, so I will look, opponents, games and try to find weaknesses or choose the opening they have problems with. In individual events, my preparation is not quite as thorough but if I think I have a realistic chance of achieving something then I will do the same.
How do you select your moves, what is your general method?
Like most players I will set the engine going, however, I will choose the move from the options not always by its evaluation but by looking at the end position and deciding if I feel comfortable in the end position (probably not very scientific or reliable)
With so many draws in Correspondence Chess, What do you do to try and generate wins?
At the level, I play there are not too many, but I feel that sometimes players agree a draw too early eg in one event I am TD about 20 games have been drawn in less than 20 moves. The key is endgame play but too many players do not want to test their skill!
What are your future aspirations in Correspondence Chess?
I have one norm and would hope to achieve a title eventually! (I hope there are no limits on norms)
What are your favourite Openings and why?
I suppose subjecting a player to the Spanish torture gives me some pleasure. Although every so often I will unleash a Kings Gambit when I play over the board and the ensuing swashbuckling positions are rich in possibilities!
If you could ask a legendary player, alive or historical, one question about Chess, what would it be?
I have been lucky enough to meet Miles, Mestel and Nunn and had the opportunity to chat (in some cases briefly to them). I was at University with Miles and asked him why he won so many games from 'bad' positions (one hates to say his win against Karpov with 1...a6 falls into that category). His answer was quite philosophical @It is only a bad position if you lose and in every game, you will get at least half a chance, I am good at spotting those he said with a smile.
Do you have a Favourite Chess Book or DVD? If so what?
A collection of Fischer's games was the source of many hours of research and enjoyment.
Do you have a Favourite player? If so who?
I guess I would have to opt for Miles with his determination to extract everything from a position.