Phil Morgan


Russell Sherwood  Sunday, September 18, 2022

It's happened again. I've been nursing a small advantage from the opening. It's settled at around + 0.7, and I'm reconciling myself to the fact that a draw seems the likeliest outcome. I receive my opponent's move and set up the current position. The evaluation is now -8.

My first reaction is disbelief. Surely this has to be a mistake. I check the position, replay the game but am forced to accept the changed reality. How can this happen? I didn't rush my last move. I gave the engine time and entered its choice of move. The explanation can only be that the position I presented for my engine to analyse was incorrect.

I feel sick in the pit of my stomach. My disbelief turns to self-recrimination. My feelings are like players' immediate reactions to over the board reverses. I saw Ian Nepomniachtchi interviewed recently after failing to beat Hans Niemann from a promising position. He was asked why he had not captured a pawn. "Because I am a moron" declared Ian with force and feeling.

Clangers should not occur in correspondence chess. I'm now currently playing two games in which I have committed single move losing blunders.  It's not just me who does this. I've also been the beneficiary. My win in the USA Friendly was courtesy of a dropped piece, and I'm sitting on an imminent win in which a strong opponent has gifted me a rook.

Clangers may even out over time, but right now the last cut is the deepest. These seem harder to bear in team events. Apologies to colleagues in the current Horst Ritter team event. 



Engine Failure

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, August 28, 2022

Until a few days ago, all was well in my ordered world of correspondence chess. I was active, flying and content with my range of navigational aids. My computer, which is not old, suddenly elected not to fire up. I took it in for repair, but also quickly decided to buy a new computer. This has Windows 11, but it does not have a DVD drive. This enabled me to resume e-mail activity and check my correspondence games.

Although I couldn't use my Komodo 14 disc , or linked access to Chess-base, I started to resume play in my cc games. I was still able to access other databases and discovered I could use the 365Chess.Com Stockfish Analysis Board.

My old computer cannot be repaired. I'm working through the loss issues, including loss of e-mail addresses, and turning my thoughts to acquiring a new chess playing programme. I'm finding that while I can get by without one, I miss the high-level advanced readings and evaluations of theoretical positions which these give. 

Chess games are often decided by very fine margins. I feel blooded, but unbowed. I need to restore and improve my navigational aids to stay competitive. 


Footnote. 3 days on. If you find yourself in my position, don't despair. Losing your engine can be challenging, and may make you feel like packing it in. Don't do this. Don't be afraid to ask for help. There are many ways of restoring chess software to your computer. Failing this, you can also buy an external hard drive to reinstall your DVD. For now, my engine and I are back and restored.


CorrespondenceChessEngine RoomICCFWCCF

Games and Ratings

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, May 4, 2022

The Start List for the Sweden- Wales alerts me to a newly revised ratings list. Congratulations to two Welsh players who have made rapid ascents up the ratings. Josh Robinson has reached the 2300 landmark from 119 games. Michael Bowley has achieved his 2299 rating from just 33 games. My own rating is rising stealthily towards the 2200 barrier, despite not yet having shaken off my habit of “bombing” the odd game.

The full list of games and ratings can be seen on the Member's List on our website.

1 Can you name the 3 Welsh players listed who have played more than a 1,000 games?

2 Can  you name the 4  players listed who have played more than 500 games ?


One family is nearing the landmark of 3,500 games. This feat is unlikely to be emulated. How many of us will go on to join the 500 or 1,000 Club?

Winning the Exchange

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, March 20, 2022


Winning a Rook for a minor piece can set one on a path to victory in  chess games. In correspondence games, against the best defensive play, this seems true less often. In 3 recent cc games, despite being the exchange up, I have had to settle for the draw. In the latest of these, as White, I have King on g4, a pawn on g5 and Rook on b3. Black to move has King on g8, Bishop on e7 and pawn on g6. My material and space advantages count for nothing. Black has an accurate, saving resource.

I usually play my engine’s top choice move. In a current game, in which I am the exchange up, I have decided against this. The top line was forcing, but led to exchanging off Queens and a pair of rooks. Playing down this line appeared to lead to a Rook v Bishop ending with minimal winning chances. I played a waiting move, which kept pieces on the board. This has worked out pleasantly for me. The pieces on the board are asserting their power. 

I’ve learnt that if I am the exchange up, hastening to an ending may not be the smartest of plans. In future, too, I might even be less likely to jump at a chance to win the exchange. I’ve just viewed an Alpha-Zero v Stockfish 8 game in which Alpha-Zero passes on an offer of winning an exchange. It had deeper, winning plans.


Secret Weapon No. 1. A22 English, Bremen, Smyslov System.

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Beware of Dark Horses

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, March 20, 2022

You don’t need to have previous experience to be competitive in correspondence chess. 

Players new to correspondence are often given an 1800P, Provisional Rating. They may quickly show they are capable of playing at a higher level , as current competitors in the WCCF New Year tournament. This can even be demonstrated in team events. In Division 2 of the recently started County Correspondence event, Surrey B are the weakest team based on ratings. Their team has an average rating of 1850. In fact, 7 of the team play off Provisional ratings of 1800. They field only one rated player, with a rating of, 2196. Tellingly, this player appears on Board 7. Their Board 1 appears well set to hold his 2427 SIM Nottinghamshire opponent. They appear to be a team of serious intent.

I used to feel daunted when playing a 2350+ titled opponent. Now I’m almost starting to feel some sympathy for them. To defend their ratings, they need to keep delivering wins against developing players who can access the same range of rapidly improving forms of engine supports. This seems a tall order. These supports are narrowing the gaps between correspondence players and enabling new players to much more quickly progress their level of play.   

Phil Morgan

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