Russell Sherwood

News from the Front - May 2018 - Non-National Team Events

Russell Sherwood  Saturday, May 19, 2018

4th British Webserver Team Tournament

1st Division

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=63895

Stand out Welsh performers are Austin Lockwood and Russell Sherwood on 3.5/6

2nd Division

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=63837

A commanding performance from Y Gweilch NiMo, sees them secure promotion to the Top tier, just ahead of long-time rivals BCCA Sovereigns. Stand out performer is Andrew Gibbons on board 4 on 5/6. Gareth Yeo is also worth of mention, scoring 4/5 playing for the Civil Service Team,

3rd Division

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=63838

Despite losing a player to silent withdrawal the Welsh Irregulars managed to avoid relegation. Stand out performer was Paul Scott on 5/6          

4th Division

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=63839

no Welsh teams here but Marc Wakeham, playing for Natcor B scored an excellent 6.5/7, although not enough to get his team promoted!

 

States & Regions CCC

1st Division

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=72584

Early days yet with only 40/72 games completed.  US West 1 have taken an early lead, although being gifted two points by silent withdrawal has helped. West Wales remain well placed in second place, although the event is still wide open! 

This event has been a baptism of fire for a number of Welsh player’s; giving them their first opportunity to play in team events much stronger than others available in the UK.

 

2nd Division

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=72585

Celtic Warriors sit in mid-table, although with much work to do if they wish to look for a promotion place.

 

3rd Division

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=72586

No Welsh Teams here! A Mexican select team is doing very well on 6.5/7 and looking a likely contender to top the division

Counties & Districts

1st Division – Ward Higgs

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=71174

With 19 games remaining a close finish is likely with defending champions West Wales A currently in 3rd place. East Wales A are in 4th place a point behind but with two games in hand. It is sad that defaults may have a negative say in the deciding the outcome of the event

2nd Division – Sinclair

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=71215

A tight finished ensues with 4 teams still in with a realistic shout of promotion. Again a real shame with so many defaults taking place. Time perhaps for team captains to vet candidates closer

West Wales B are hovering above the relegation zone, relying on other results to continue their stay in the 2nd Tier.

3rd Division – Butler Thomas

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=71262

East Wales B has completed their campaign with a much improved 7.5/16, ending up in a Mid Table position.

British Correspondence Team Tournament

https://www.iccf.com/event?id=71741

Y Dreigiau Cymreig sits in 4th place 1.5 points behind leaders BCCA Alekhine but with 3 games in hand. A fairly tight event with only CS Administrators struggling, despite the best efforts of rising Welsh talent Gareth Yeo! Luckily for them, rule changes prevent their relegation.

Well done to Fred Clough in picking up 100% in his games to get YDC off to a flying start.

I was elected to Lead, not to read!

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, May 13, 2018

I've written many Chess book reviews over the years but have often felt that the method used to score them has been rather weak - a typical 1 to 5 rating system. So I sat down and considered what I look for in a Book (or Video or podcast or blog....)  and then asked a few others for input. From this came the list below

  1. Value for Money – If I am going to have to pay £25 for a book, I will expect much more than something I get for £5
  2. Spelling/Grammar/Readability – Speaks for itself!
  3. Originality – Do we really need another book of type X?
  4. Content – How useful/interesting is the stuff in the book (or video)?  I could write an opening treatise in an evening using ChessBase and a few basic tools but it would only be a dump of games/lines with very little explanation.
  5. Credibility – Why should I take notice of this author? A little subjective this but would you rather read a book on the Najdorf by Kasparov, Davies or Sherwood?
  6. Durability – How well will the book stand the test of time? Some do very well indeed, whilst others (say most Opening books older than a few years, date very quickly).
  7. Would I buy it (again)?
  8. Relevance to CC - As a CC player how relevant is this book? (Thanks to Neil Limbert for this one)

Answering and scoring these criteria should give a much more objective measure of the value of a book to the CC player.  I've written a number of new reviews and reworked some older ones and will start to publish these over the coming weeks.

In addition, in the spirit of a certain popular TV Car Show, I will set up a leaderboard.

If you wish to review a book let me know and I will let you have more detail on the scoring system!

 

So for a really good book, we are looking for one which is good VFM, which is readable (Good spelling and Grammar should be a given), with Original Great content. The Author must be credible and the content must stand the test of time (which means if it’s an opening treatise it needs to be fairly new, whereas Game collections can be much older)

Poka Yoke

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Poka-yoke [poka joke] is a Japanese term that means "mistake-proofing" or "inadvertent error prevention". The key word in the second translation, often omitted, is "inadvertent".

Many a Correspondence Chess Player has lost a game by an administrative blunder, either making a one move howler or not entering the move intended.

Following some discussion, it is worth sharing that a piece of software exists which can almost eliminate this issue.

The Software in question is Correspondence Play software which comes as part of the Aquarium software package. Once set up the software downloads your games from the ICCF server. You then can analyse the game (either in place or in the Aquarium package) and then make your move via the interface. This is where the clever bit comes in: An engine can be set up to run for a short period before the move is transmitted to ICCF.com. 

If the move drops the engine's evaluation of the position more than a specified threshold, the engine will not transmit the move without an additional "Are you sure" type override.

This will not stop you making deep positional mistakes or errors the engine does not recognise but it will eliminate almost all simple blunders!

 

Zero to Hero?

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, April 22, 2018

There is a most interesting Chess experiment taking place at the moment LCZero. This is the development of a Chess Engine based on Deep Learning, utilising the methods purported to have been used by Google's AlphaGo Project.

So where is it up to now - well the latest version of the engine is now operating at around 2500 Elo (there is some debate about the actual rating). Compared to top of the line Chess Engines this is weak but consider, it was operating at below 2000 elo less than a month ago!

You can get involved (with almost no effort)! Details are at https://github.com/glinscott/leela-chess/wiki 

Well worth keeping an eye on!

Making a HASH of it!

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, April 22, 2018

Note: It's amazing the pictures you get searching for Hash!

I've been asked this question by a number of people recently so an explanation of Hash files and their interactions with Engines is probably overdue.

Hash Files (Also known as Transposition Tables) are a tool utilised by Engines to facilitate the use of multiple processors. In very simple terms when we run an engine with multiple cores, rather than all the cores working on one position, there are actually single cores working on multiple nodes. These nodes start to make up a map of all of the moves which emanate from the start position.

In practice, the larger these tables are the better and a "rule of thumb" is to set them to around 50% of the RAM on the computer.

An advanced use is the saving of Hashtables. If deep searching is your thing then this allows you to save your analysis and reload it at a later date and return very quickly to the same depth.

Almost all major engines allow this use of HashTables. Stockfish 9 is the exception, although almost every Stockfish variant does have this functionality! So how do we do this?

(I'm using Houdini and Chessbase as an example, the method is more or less the same for all others)

1) Create a Folder where you are going to store the Hash File. Remeber that each of these files will be probably be Gigabytes in size so you need plenty of spare space on your drive.

2) Decide on the naming format you will use for these files. It could be the ICCF Game Number or whatever you want.

3) Double Click on the Engine Name in the Engine Window

4) Click "Advanced" in the Load Engine Window

5) Click "Engine Parameters" 

6) Enter the File and Location for the Hash file in the "Hash file" Window - For example it could be C:\Hash\Test1

7) Select "Never Clear Hash"

8) Click OK

9) Run your Analysis and then click the Stop Icon

10) When you want to save Follow Steps 3-4-5 then Click  "Save Hash to File"

11) When it has saved you will be able to Click OK, OK, OK to return to the front screen.

12) When you want to reload this file you simply  follow steps 3-4-5, change the file to the name you want to load and click " Load Hash From File"

13) When the Load is finished, click OK, OK, OK and you are good to go.

When you have made your move you do not need to automatically create a new file but if you either (a) Don't follow the principle variation or (b) Move further away from the original position the effectiveness of the process reduces dramatically!

 

Happy Hunting!

SICALM #2

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mayjaz Pirs Site http://www.schachschule-pirs.com/

For those of you who do not know Matjaz is a Correspondence GM and has been the German’s Chess Federation’s Performance Development Director, help numerous players towards achieving individual and team success. His own website has been around for a while but when a significant upgrade at the start of 2018. Lots of little nuggets of information here!

Niko Sarakenidis Site.  http://chessnewsgr.blogspot.co.uk/

I had been aware of Niko for some time – he contributed to the Engine section of GM Aagaard's book “Thinking outside the box”. This is his personal blog and has a lot of interesting content for the CC player. Niko has also been active recently in defending CC against the always provocative, usually ill-informed and misjudged Nigel Short’s rather unpleasant comments about CC  (who, for his sake, I hope never meets a radical, religious, female CC player “down a dark alley”!)

There is some gold for the aspiring player but you need to go back through his posts and use a translator at times!

ICCF World Zone Site https://iccfworldzone.com/

The New ICCF World Zone came into being in January 2018 via the Merger of the NAPZ and South American zones. It has a snazzy new website well worth a look, although some of its claims (The best place in ICCF to practice correspondence chess) are clearly incorrect!

 

SICALM #2

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, March 22, 2018

Mayjaz Pirs Site http://www.schachschule-pirs.com/

For those of you who do not know Matjaz is a Correspondence GM and has been the German’s Chess Federation’s Performance Development Director, help numerous players towards achieving individual and team success. His own website has been around for a while but when a significant upgrade at the start of 2018. Lots of little nuggets of information here!

Niko Sarakenidis Site.  http://chessnewsgr.blogspot.co.uk/

I had been aware of Niko for some time – he contributed to the Engine section of GM Aagaard's book “Thinking outside the box”. This is his personal blog and has a lot of interesting content for the CC player. Niko has also been active recently in defending CC against the always provocative, usually ill-informed and misjudged Nigel Short’s rather unpleasant comments about CC  (who, for his sake, I hope never meets a radical, religious, female CC player “down a dark alley”!)

There is some gold for the aspiring player but you need to go back through his posts and use a translator at times!

ICCF World Zone Site https://iccfworldzone.com/

The New ICCF World Zone came into being in January 2018 via the Merger of the NAPZ and South American zones. It has a snazzy new website well worth a look, although some of its claims (The best place in ICCF to practice correspondence chess) are clearly incorrect!

 

Bragging Rights

Russell Sherwood  Friday, March 9, 2018

For a bit of fun, I extracted the games of the Top 25 rated Welsh players - played against each other. The results of this make some interesting reading......

On a more (semi) serious note, some interesting stats come out - who is the most common opponent against the Top Welsh players? SIM Ian Pheby with 32 games, with a +3 score for the Welsh!

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing a Chess Engine

Russell Sherwood  Monday, March 5, 2018

So what should you look for in choosing (a) Chess Engine(s)? Much depends on what you want to do with it but a few factors to consider are:

Cost – How much are you willing to pay? If the answer is nothing then there are still plenty of choices!

Advanced Parameters – Does the engine have features useful to Correspondence Chess, such as LMR, Wide Search…….

Saveable Hash File – Are you able to save the Hash file to be able to resume later?

Learning – Does the engine has a learning function implemented?

Speed – Is the engine fast enough for your analysis style? (Whilst some engines appear to be going deeper than others, in general, this means that the engine is being much more selective in the lines it is examining, which does mean it goes deeper but could also mean that it misses something!)

Frequency – How often is the engine updated? Some engines are only updated on almost a yearly basis, whilst others are updated almost weekly. How much difference this has to the strength of the engine is debatable but psychologically this can be an issue for some.

Family – Is the engine part of the same family as the other engines you use? If using a multiple engine strategy then different families of engines are a must!

Maximum Cores/Hash – Is your hardware and the engine compatible so that you will get the most out of it?

Correct Version – is there a version for your hardware or better still one you can compile yourself?

Tactical Mode – Does the engine have one?

Tablebases – Which (if any) tablebases will the engine interface with?

As easy as XY but not Z

Russell Sherwood  Friday, March 2, 2018

The majority of modern CC players realise after a while that simply allowing a Chess Engine to analyse to depth is not the most effective strategy. There are numerous reasons for this, all of which boil down to the fact that all of the mainstream engines are not designed for the needs of CC players. To be competitive they adopt a number of strategies to find a good (great?) move quickly rather than trying to find the absolute best move.

There are many “workarounds” to this but three of the most basic are:

Next Move (Y)

Here we encourage the Engine to look at the next best move (and then the next best and so on). The purpose of this is to look at a number of moves which the Engine may consider to be inferior.

Pass (Ctrl Alt 0 aka Null Move)

A fairly simple idea – “pass – Don’t make a move”. The purpose of this option is to determine the threats your opponent has.  Under normal circumstances t, e evaluation will swing massively, especially if you are playing black and any threats in the position become obvious but what is more interesting is that if the evaluation does not move much. These positions are ones where the premium on planning and creative play cannot be underestimated as we are no longer in a position where we are simply responding to the opponent’s moves.

 

Show Threat (X)

Here we show the threat in the position if our opponent did not have a move.

 

These three basic ideas allow the bedrock of starting to dissect a position and if you don’t know how there are implemented in your GUI perhaps its time to find out!

Welsh Correspondence Chess FederationBritish Correspondence Chess AssociationSchemingMind Internet Correspondence Chess ClubSocial Correspondence Chess AssociationWelsh Chess UnionInternational Correspondence Chess Association