Russell Sherwood

Advice for Rookie Team Captains

Russell Sherwood  Monday, February 27, 2017

So your looking to put together a team for the Champion's League or any other team event? A few things to consider.......

  • How are you going to decide on your team - Rating? Titles Form?  All of these have a part to play in good team selection and a very important skill is know which players to select.
  • Do you know the rules of the event. I mean really know the rules. For example the rules for promotion relegation? The rules on Board orders? On Tiebreaks? If you dont know these you can be putting your team at a massive disadvantage.
  • Do you know the strength of opposition your are likely to be facing and the format of the event?
  • What preperation are you are your team going to do. Although you must select your moves independently in games, preperation prior to the start of the Tournament  ( and before any moves are made) can be done together. Some of your team may have access to resources that others dont or may be specialists in this area.
  • Are your players committed to playing as a team or playing as individuals? Will Title asperations be put aside for the good of the team?
  • Do you have an idea of the score necessary to advance in th event? Will you be able to indentify the target games to reach this score?
  • Will your players keep you up to date so no result comes as a surprise?

These areas may seem a excessive but if you want your team to overperform they and many others are necessary!  Good Luck!


Resources for Modern Correspondence Chess

Russell Sherwood  Monday, February 27, 2017

If you search for advice on how to improve at Correspondence Chess you tend to find resources that are at least 10 yers out of date. Indeed probably the best book " Modern Chess Analysis" was pubished in 2004. 

So as I looked to improve I found you either end up talking to stronger players to gain their "secrets" or using trial and error.  

There is useful info out there but you have to know where to look. below are a list of links to some of the useful stuff I have come accross. A few warnings:

  • Much of the material is from forums - so pages disappear often
  • Some of the material is in Russian and German - Chrome has a decent translator built in which can cope 
  • Ignore the comments sections - there are trolls galore and many cannot get past the "All CC players are cheats cos they use engines" (If the rules allow it we dont!!!)


Leonardo  Ljubcic- Chessbase Interview **
Leonardo Ljubcic - Immortal Q&A ****
Chess Improver *
Immortal Chess - Mostly in Russian - but Auto-tranlate works well enough! ***
Bdf (German Chess Federation)
Murat Akdag *
Loki *
Wolff Morrow *****
Modern CC
Opening Prep **
Tartajubow *
Chess Brabo
Databases **
Openings **
Fortresses *
Engine Analysis **    In Flemish but readable after Google Translate
Rybka Forum *
GM Rafeal Leitao *
Comparison of Stockfish and Komodo
AL Alpert *
Chessbase *
Remote Chess Academy *
How do Modern Chess Engines Work ** **
Carl Bicknell - IDEA *
Chess Book Reviews

Size does matter (When it comes to Elo!)

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, February 23, 2017

’ve been asked by a number of players, especially newcomers to Correspondence Chess as to how they can get their ratings higher quickly.

Going beyond the obvious “Win all your games quickly” sarcastic response there are a number of ideas to consider which can accelerate you development.

Let’s assume you dont hve a FIDE rating then the only options available to you are:

To accelerate you development you want to be winning or drawing against the highest rated players possible – as , in simple terms, the ratings of your opponents pegs your rating.

  • National Events

    • Here you need to examine what’s on offer – you may be able to play in a National Championships – check the previous years events to look for average ratings but beware there may be a 2nd Tier for newcomers.

  • Extra National Events

    • These are events such as the British Championships – look at these in the same light as National Events

  • International Team Events

    • Although eligible you will almost certainly not be in the frame as you will need to have an established rating to be selected.

  • Invitationals

    • The same story as Team Events – you are unlikely to be selected

  • World Promotional Events – Open Class (and Aspirer)

    • The events generally will slow your development as the average rating will be around 1800 (or even less in an Aspirer)

  • Zonal Events

    • Event such as the European Webserver Champs – same story as the World Promotional Events


So not a lot of date but there are two types of event which do offer us hope

  • International Opens

    • These events come in two flavours – Accelerated and Non Accelerated. The Acceleration is a description of what happens to the highest rated players – do they have to play in all rounds or get a bye? We are interested in the events where they have to play in the first round. An example of this is the WebChess Opens – in the 7th edition the average rating in the first round was slightly under 2100 – a good target area for the aspiring player to target.

  • Champions League

    • Here we have the best option for gaining rating points. The downside is that you need a team of 4 but on the plus side the average ratings per board range from 2150 up to 2300+.


So if you want to accelerate your rating development then you need access to higher rated opposition and the best way to achieve this is to keep a eye out for the Champions League and Non Accelerated International Opens.



50 Shades of Stockfish

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Stockfish Chess Engine is undoubtedly one of the strongest available at the moment. Its ongoing open-source communal development continues to make it stronger. A side effect of this development is that a number of different versions, clones and copies exist some of which may be of interest to the aspiring correspondence chess player.

One word of caution, there are a number of rating lists which rate these versions; almost all have a common failing - the test games are run at very short time controls. You would not compare 10,000m runners by looking at their 100m times and the same is true here - be very wary of rating lists.


Stockfish 8

This is the "vanilla"  version of Stockfish, of the shelf with releases every 6-9 months. This is a solid place to start and all other versions should be compared to this.

Stockfish Development Versions

These are small improvements which are released every few days. Each ones undergoes rigerous self testing where the Develop version plays potentially tens of throusands of games against the current version - to have been released it needs to have shown statistically better results. Typically each improvement results in a tiny elo gain but when added together these become significant. Common opinion is that we should wait a week or two until after release as very occasionally new versions are rolled back.


Most of the Clones/Copies of Stockfish fall into two areas - either ones which try and increase its speed or ones which change either its evaluation or search functions.


This is a rewrite of  Stockish in Assembler, rather than the C++ Stockfish is coded in. (If this is gobbledygook to you dont worry!) The outcome of this is that AsmFish runs around 20-30% faster than Stockfish or Stockfish Development Versions. This does not mean that the engine searches 20-30% deeper but conducts the same search 20-30% faster which is very useful in analysis! Asmfish gives the same result a Stockfish in 99% of situations due to slight coding differences. For those who want a 100% congruence with Stockfish a Pedantfish version exists.


is a very similar idea to AsmFish, except the C language is utilised. What is interesting is that some users find CFish to be faster than AsmFish whilst others find AsmFish to be faster. Personally I have found the engines to work better in different positions.  A version called Goby has been coded for the Mac -although versions of this also work on Windows!

Different Compilations

A number of helpful people compile their own versions of Stockfish Development versions. These can be around 10% faster than the basic versions.

Stockfish BYO or Stockfish Rockwood

This is an utility which will complie a copy of the lastest Stockfish development versions on your machine. This means the engine should be optimised for your hardware and environment.


So moving onto versions which do more than speed up Stockfish.....



A very interesting project. The engine itself is a copy of the latest Development Build with one important modification: the addition of the Cerebellum opening book. This book is engine generated and fully consistent. How is this different from any other opening book? In a typical opening book we mat have a position that appears to be scoring 75% and have an engine evaluation of +0.9. A number of move later, due for example to transpositions this may now be 55% and the evaluation has dropped to +0.3. In the Cerebellum book the earlier position would have the +0.3 evaluation rather than the +0.9. At the moment the book is only utilised in Engine v Engine matches rather than analysis but the Full Cerebellum book is due to come available March 2017 at which point it will become a very interesting tool.


Stockfish is optimised for fast time controls. CorChess is an attempt to optimise it for slower time controls (such as those used in CC). In its earlier in its development but is already showing promising results.


A cross between Stockfish and the authors own engine. More options (including piece values) but does not appear to offer much to CC players.

Stockfish Matefinder

Think you may have a knockout move in a position? Then SF Matefinder may be for you. This version search for tactical killer moves and when used in right way can be devastating.


An offshoot which has been in on-off development for quite some time. Current direction is to develop certain Komodo style features.


An offshoot of CFish with a number of interesting options drawn from other engines. Worth examination.


A new kid on the block but with some interesting features including a study mode (giving a shallower but wider search)


A highly tactical version of Stockfish designed for fast time contols, where it perfoms much better than Stockfish.


A close cousin of Shark. Again more of a Fast Time control optimiser.


One of the first deviations from Stockfish. Interesting play but appears to have fallen behind in terms of playing strength.


A modified Stockfish which targets searching at greater depths. This of course comes at a cost - the potential to miss things!



Ive not mentioned a number of other variants: Don, Matrix, Ultron, the list is almost endless. I would recommend that an aspiring player takes a look at all the engines listed but my advice is the either AsmFish or CFish, Matefinder and CorChess should be part of your stable of engines. Of course knowing how and when to utilise them is something or another day!

Why no links? These change often so Google is a better starting point.:

Welsh Correspondence Chess FederationClergy Correspondence Chess ClubSchemingMind Internet Correspondence Chess ClubSocial Correspondence Chess AssociationNational Correspondence Chess ClubWelsh Chess UnionInternational Correspondence Chess Association