Russell Sherwood

Tip of the Week #26

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, September 4, 2022

One of the most commonly misunderstood things, in CC, is engine ply depth.

When an engine indicates, it has searched to up to a specific depth (say D70) - this does not mean it has checked every move up to that depth, it means that the mainline has gone this deep.

This means that the result given is probably a good line, but not necessarily the best, as the result is achieved by pruning the search tree - a process where more promising lines are search and less promising ones pruned from the search.

What is interesting here is that all the Engine spin-offs that are interesting for CC, are ones which modify the search function of Stockfish as these days the non trivial wins tend to be from the side-lines!





Insurance Policy

Russell Sherwood  Monday, August 29, 2022

An area which tends to split Correspondence Chess players is that of vacation time: Some believe it essential, others something that a player has more than enough time to play the game!

Both of these views are accurate at times, but I came across a different interpretation of the use of this time or its built-in equivalent in Tripe block – that of an insurance policy.

This alternative view came to surface due to the discussions held around the removal of the withdrawal system. A behaviour seen more often than you might expect is that a player will have to go into hospital and immediately wants to make an accepted withdrawal.

Let's consider this for a moment – players tend to either use or not use leave time (you will notice the change in naming!) and for many, most, if not all of this time is unused at the end of an event.

Taking this into account – if we have 45 days available – why not simply take this time out instead of withdrawing. This means we now consider this time as a kind of insurance policy or insurance time.

Widening this idea out a little bit more, if we keep a health balance of time in Triple block, the same concept can be used.

In all cases – consider keeping your time balance as an insurance policy – not simply for vacations! With the removal of Withdrawals in Jan 2023 this almost becomes essential!

CorrespondenceChessICCFICCF RulesWCCF

Congress Proposal outcomes

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, August 28, 2022

A significant number of proposals were presented to the ICCF Congress, and below is a voting summary. 

Review (Note these represent the author's interpretation)

Passed Proposals

2022-006 Recommendation to Congress - Cape Verde to be Dismissed from ICCF 

This federation has been dismissed for non-payment of fees and general inactivity. Any players they have are still able to play under an isolated status.

2022-007 Continuation of EC 2022-003 Proposal / 2022-008 Continuation of EC 2022-004 Proposal

The suspension of Russian and Belarussian federations will continue. Players from these counties will still be able to enter events, if they can fund entries.

2022-022 New Election Scheme [Statute Change - 2/3 Vote]

This proposal is aimed at tidying up the changes to the way ICCF Directors are elected. 

2022-009 Approve Services Committee Budget for 2023

Quite a lot of discussion on this, although mainly around financial issues

2022-037 Tournament Fee Structure 

A number of changes were made to pricing structure, aimed at simplifying the pricing of events. From a Welsh perspective, it does mean we can consider an expanded programme of events.

2022-038 Tournament Fees (Developing Nations)

This is a change to the financial regulations with regard to developing nations and not relevant to Wales

2022-039 Tournament Fees (Developing Nations) -Free Entries

The purpose of this proposal is to recognize the poverty and hardship exists in all counties and to give all Federations a limited number of free entries to utilize for such situations.

2022-033B Recording Cancelled Games in Silli Events - Part B

In Silli events , if a player withdraws, all games are listed as wins. In future, they will go to adjudication, but only if due to an allocation error. See 2022-30

2022-030 Eliminate the ICCF Withdrawal System

This is one of the big changes of this year's Congress. In future, the following will apply:

(a) for any ETL where there was not a previous one by the player within the past 30 day, there will be an automated penalty of not being allowed to register for any new event on the server, and (b) for an ETL occurring during that 30-day period, there will be a new 90-day period during which the player will not be allowed to register for any new event on the server.

What this means in practice is:

  1. If a player flags on Time they will be prevented from registering from any new event for 30 days, and if during those 30 days any further games are lost on time this will start a new 90 period of being prevented from entering.
  2. If a player wishes to withdraw from an event , they will in effect be defaulting their games. 

From this two implications are obvious

A) Flagging can have serious impacts on your ability to enter new events......

B) Players who take quick draws are putting themselves at a serious disadvantage , as if a player stops playing at a later point of the event , any other live games will be recorded as wins.

There was a longer discussion on this matter than the vote would suggest, much of it related to "fairness", as this approach fixes many issues but creates a new ones for a tiny minority of players.

2022-040 Contribution from ICCF to Congress Organizers

To recognize the withdrawal of support from the Eurozone and also inflation, the support to Congress organizers was increased


2022-041 Provision of Financial Information from Zones

A financial proposal related to Zonal accounts.

2022-050A Implementation of a Bespoke Rating System for ICCF

ICCF will have a new rating system. A working group has paired with an academic, regarded by some as the leading expect in this field, to develop a new rating system, which takes into account the realities of modern correspondence chess. Interested players are recommended to read the proposal in detail, although I will publish an article on the new system closer to its implementation for those without a statistical background.

2022-050C Player Guide for New Ratings Procedure

The new rating system, for those without an extensive statistics background, can be quite difficult to understand. A shorter document is to be produced by the academic mentioned previously to address this matter.

2022-002 Protection of ICCF Services

The proposal aims to ensure that all ICCF Services are available to all players, regardless of Nationality. 

2022-043 Establish Super-Regional Tournaments Commission (SRTC) and Commissioner Position

Following on from 2022-002 a new kind of ICCF Tournament and position have been created. Initially, it means the events from the former European Zone can continue under this format, although with extensive rules review to be presented to Congress in 2023.  This does also open up the ability for other events to be created - For example a Commonwealth championship

2022-010 Offer to Host the 2023 ICCF Congress in Amsterdam. The Netherlands (Void if 2022-040 is Defeated)

Congress will be in Amsterdam in 2023

2022-026 To Remove Automatically the Deceased Players from the Suspension List

All suspensions will be removed from deceased players

2022-028 Maintaining Active International Arbiter Status

Now all Tournament Directors will be required to take an annual test.

2022-029 Allow MF Entries to Open Events

This proposal clears up an oversight in a rule change in 2021 - so that for Open events , entries can be accepted by both National Federation and Direct Entry routes

2022-032 Revision of the IA Title Application Process

This process aims to tidy up the current application process, although it is highly inappropriate  to require submission in commercial rather than open source format.

2022-034 Clarification -- Best Result on Board 1 in the Final of the CC Olympiad

A technical proposal requiring a positive score for 1st place to be obtained.

All rules changes will come into play from Jan 1st 2023, unless communicated otherwise (The rating system change is expected to take place later in 2023)



Entropy in the Opening in Correspondence Chess

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Not so long ago I read an article on Entropy in the Opening. It covered a different concept to that I intend to examine, but I loved the expression and the concept on which it is based.

There are several scientific definitions of Entropy but fundamentally it is the tendency of a system to move from order to disorder. Taking this concept and applying it to Correspondence Chess, it can be the tendency to move from an Opening position where the true result of a game of chess is possible (Win for White or drawn – that is another discussion!) towards the draw. Another way of thinking about this is that we start the game with the maximum theoretical change of winning with White and at the point of a draw being agreed or forced the energy of that system is at a minimum,

From a practical point of view, therefore, it suggests that our aims should be those which maintain the maximum energy or opportunity in a position.

Consider this. I am examining a position without an obvious winning move. What is the best path forward? Considering the logic above we should look at our options and our opponents’ responses to maintain the maximum number of viable paths possible.

This is another way of stating a common concept: Keeping the tension in a position. In this engine driven age, the advantage of this is that the wider the search tree is at the base, the more opportunities for engines to act in a suboptimal way.

The other advantage of this approach is tending to avoid one of the strangest behaviours of modern correspondence chess – that of the two players who charge down a known opening line to a draw in 20-30 moves. 

When musing this concept, I wondered where I read it before (very few ideas are new, most are simply repackaged!) and it came to me – Hans Berliner’s much lampooned “The System.” Some ideas seen there are, to put it nicely, odd, but the entropy concept is a combination of four of Berliner’s concepts! I’d always recommend the book to read for a CC player, although as food for thought rather than concrete advice!


Infinite Monkey theorem

Russell Sherwood  Wednesday, July 27, 2022

I am currently putting the finishing touches to three long form essays-cum-research projects:

How not to draw every game you play!

A rebooted Norms system!

Musings on a competitive path forward for Correspondence Chess.

But for now, enjoy Entropy in the Opening…….


Performance Stats in WCCF Friendlies

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 12, 2022

A while ago, I posed a few questions on performance stats. Below is the full table

There are many interesting ideas that can be drawn from this , which I will cover another day but the one I would draw most players attention to is the Level - this is an related to the number of games played - Can you reach the next level?

Friendly matches are useful for players:

  1. They are part of the selection criteria used for Invitational and Team selection
  2. Generally, opponents will be closely rated, so rating points tend not to be at risk
  3. The win rate in Friendly matches is slightly higher than in other formats, so it can be a way to climb the ratings tree (There are quite a few reasons for this but I tend to think that (a) Players often dont give the games the attention they deserve and (b) More players who are transitioning on the rating ladder take part in Friendly matches.

As special shout out to....

Unbeaten players with Active games

John Claridge

Jon Coles

Paul Scott

Gareth Jones

Michael Bowley

Peter Grayson

Gerald Jenkins 

Tom Gunn


Is there such a thing as a Friendly match?

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, May 22, 2022

Recently I have been preparing quite a bit of data with regard to friendly matches, and it has thrown up a lot of interesting and unexpected statistics. So in advance of that article, here is a quiz....all questions are in reference to completed friendly games since 2010

  1. It will come as no surprise that I top the list for friendly appearances but who are No 3 and 4 on the list? (and they don't have the surname Sherwood!)
  2. Which players have more than 20 wins in friendly matches?
  3. Which 6 players have rating performance of more than 2400 (according to Chessbase)?
  4. Which 5 players (having completed 10 games or more) have scored more than 80%?
  5. Which 5 players (having completed 10 games or more) have score more than 70%, as black?
  6. Which 9 players (having completed 10 games ore more) are undefeated?
  7. How many players have played for Wales in Friendly matches?


CorrespondenceChessFriendlymatchesWCCF 7

WCCF Players Rating Progression 2010-2022

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, May 8, 2022

Hi All,

I've been playing with data...enjoy!


Revised Link



Don't suffer in silence

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, March 20, 2022

Most ICCF players are nice and respectful almost all the time but on occasion comments can be made in game commentary which whilst made either deliberately or accidentally can be found offensive.

If you have this situation, there is no need to suffer in silence. You are able to report inappropriate comments on the game screen under “Game” for individual games, or via your team captain for team events.

This complaint will go to the Tournament Director, who will review the complaint and can (a) Set the game to silent mode and (b) Issue a warning to your opponent. 

Should this not resolve the situation, other avenues are available, but these are rarely required.


Installing Engines

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, March 20, 2022

Every so often I get emails asking how to install engines in Chessbase, especially from those wishing to update from the engines that came with it.

Bob Hurn kindly mentioned this article, which covers most of the required activities.

It is a little old now - we are on Chessbase 16, but the method is, more or less the same, in Chessbase and Fritz

Getting the most out of ChessBase 15: a step-by-step guide #6 – UCI Engines | ChessBase

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