Russell Sherwood

Tip of the Week #12

Russell Sherwood  Monday, August 30, 2021

Sharpening the Saw

Correspondence Chess players spend an awful lot of time analysing positions but in many cases, very little time analysing their analysis methods. 

Consider these questions:

Do you have a standard method you follow every time you make a move/prepare for a game/do a post-mortem of a game?

Are these methods documented?

How often do you review these methods and make improvements?

When was the last time you sought to improve your methods, either through critical review or seeking new information? 

That’s enough question for now! 

Unless you are answering positively to most of the questions above, you are missing one of the main “secrets” of CC. How often should these methods be reviewed?  I can give two answers to that – firstly every time you use them! Lose a game – why did it happen – was it related to your method – what improvement can I make to prevent this in future? And secondly occasionally by sitting down and looking at every single step in the process.

It is worth noting that, in my opinion, one reason for climbing draw rates is that many players do not seek to improve their methods……

We will talk more about standard methods next time….


Tip of the Week #11

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, August 8, 2021

This week's tip is fairly simple - know your limits. 

If you ask CC players how many games you can effectively play concurrently, answers tend to range from the cryptic "One!" through ta consensus from stronger players of around 20-30 games. 

Now I play a lot more than this, probably related to FOMO and have written on several methods by which this can be achieved in the past, but I was surprised to find a player with over 300 concurrent ICCF games!

The Tip this week is to consider how many games you can manage AND put decent effort into them - it is worth noting that in the example about the player's rating is yo-yoing all over the place as he is triggering the 80 game rating rule.




Tip of the Week #10

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, August 5, 2021

Keep your Cool!

Emotion plays a surprising large part in chess and also in Correspondence Chess, despite the remoteness of play!

This week’s tip is fairly simple – always be in the right state of mind when you analyse and make your moves.

Whilst the vast majority of correspondence players are perfectly reasonable and decent in their approach to the game, there are a majority who are not, evidenced by behaviours such as:

  • Dead Man’s Defence
  • Making Draw offers in lost positions
  • Dragging games on f o r e v e r…..
  • Making comments about how a game is a draw (when it's not)
  • The list goes on

It is also worth remembering that there are other behaviours which can annoy you, but you don’t know your opponents' motivation. For example, you have a player who players quickly for a month, then slowly for a month, then quickly for a month – I had this and it turned out my opponent worked away from home and had very limited access to IT during that time!

The key here is to always be “in your zone” before you start to work on a position and put aside any negative feelings you may have!


Tip of the Week #9

Russell Sherwood  Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Conditional moves are a tool treated with suspicion by many CC players, but used in the right manner they can be a useful resource.

ICCF allows simple linear conditionals in all International events. Simple linear conditionals are of the form:

If I play A and my opening plays B and then if I play C my opening plays D and so on.  This is as opposed to the more complicated branched conditionals seen in postal play.

Should you use them?


Can reduce your workload

Can have a psychological effect on your opponent (Instamoves)

Can improve your available time on the clock

Can allow the game to flow, especially with "forced" moves


The line you enter is fixed, unless your opponent deviates from it

Can prevent the playing of certain temporal strategies by playing the game "too fast"

Can prevent you finding a better line


When these Pros and Cons are taken into account, the overall summary tends to be that their use should be situational:


1) If you have done your opening research and it seems both you and your opponent will be happy playing a certain opening line then using conditionals makes sense. e.g. 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3. d4 cxd 4.Nc3 and so on.   A caveat I would add here is that if you have a novelly to play, then only use a conditional to go to the move before your conditional to give a final opportunity to check before playing.

2) If your opponent's move is "forced" then entering your response makes sense.

3) If you need to "gain" time on the clock, then using Conditional moves can help

The key thing to remember is that you need to take extra care in entering conditional moves, as a blunder can be locked in.


British Correspondence Chess Championship 2021-2023 Entries Update

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 26, 2021


The British Correspondence Chess Championship (BCCC) is the premier tournament on the British CC calendar. Running continuously since 1921 and open to all British players, the BCCC has carried ICCF title norms since 2016.

The BCCC caters for players of all levels and consists of a Championship, one or more candidate’s section and a number of reserves sections.

The BCCC is organized jointly by the English Federation for Correspondence Chess (EFCC), the Scottish Correspondence Chess Association (ScoCCA) and the Welsh Correspondence Chess Federation (WCCF).

There is a first prize of £100 and a second prize of £50

Entries close on August 31 and play is due to commence in September 2021. Entries can be made to directly to Tournament Organizer, Russell Sherwood or via the National Federation. Please note that these are the only entry routes for this event.

The BCCC is a highly competitive event, and we are unable to confirm a player's final allocation at the time of entry.


For more details please contact your National Federation or Russell Sherwood

 Entries and the entry fee of £12 should be received by Russell Sherwood, no later than 31st August 2021. If you have a qualification to a specific division, please state this at the time of entry.

Current Entries (as at 24/7/2021)

England: Coleman, Peter L. ,Ellis, Les ,Maguire, Gary ,Asquith, Jerry E. C. ,Brookes, John G. ,Herman, Tom ,Webster, Richard ,Bailey, Matthew W. ,Kitson, Keith ,Rawlings, Alan J. C. ,Roberts, Anthony Arthur ,Girling, Clive F. ,Grobler, David J. ,Reed, Arthur F. ,Cowan, Alastair ,Ward, Richard ,Marchant, Arnold ,Sutton, Alan B. ,Cole, Steve ,Ackley, Peter J. E. ,Bruce, Robert ,Wood, Ben A. ,Gosling, Brian G. E. ,Raby, Eugene ,Beckett, Phillip J. ,Wright, Ashley ,Mahony, Jon D. ,Ruffle, Alan ,Kent, Chris

Scotland: Buchan, Allan, Dunn John

Wales: Bishop, William ,Sherwood, Russell ,Sherwood, Helen ,Sherwood, Alexander ,Jones, Rhys ,Wakeham, Marc R. ,Jones, Gareth ,Gunn, Tom ,Robinson, Josh

Current Minimum Qualifications (as at 24/7/2021)



Le-Marechal, Gerard   Valid Until 2021



NameValid  to
Cole, Steve2022
Lumley, Bill F.2021
Asquith, Jerry E. C.2021
Lockwood, Austin2021
Pope, Paul2022
Maguire, Gary2021
Marks, Robert2021
Rallabandi, Praveen Kumar2021
Wharam, George2021
Lockett, John2022
Bailey, Matthew W.2022
Beecham, C. Richard2021
Wakeham, Marc R.2022
Bishop, William2021
Jones, Ian2021
Yeo, Gareth2021
Jones, Gareth2022
Suffield, Mel2021
Herman, Tom2021
Shaw, John S.2021


It is worth noting that many players with Candidates Qualification will probably qualify to the Championship on rating.


Useful CC Resource

Russell Sherwood  Thursday, July 22, 2021

I have meant to have recorded a number of videos for YouTube over the last few days, but have been put off by only really the sounds of fans being audible!

In the meantime a useful resource for CC players is on Matjaz Pirs, YouTube channel Correspondence Chess Training Pirs - YouTube

It is in German, but you can enable auto translation of subtitles and it will be still be hard work as the translator does not do a good job of technical terms. That said it is worth the effort to work through a number of the recordings.



Tip of the Week #8

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 19, 2021

Have you ever lost rating points in a draw to a higher rated player?  For those with even a rudimentary knowledge of elo based rating systems this seems a ludicrous suggestion but highlights a situation that an aspiring player should be aware of.

When you see a draw offer, the rating you see on the screen for your opponent (and yourself) is that from the start of the event.  

This can be very different to the current reality, so always ensure you check the current player ratings and consider this information in your evaluation of the draw offer, not the start tournament ratings!

In essence, consider why the opponent has made a draw offer "now" (in calendar terms) - Is there an advantage/disadvantage for either player due to the timing

It is worth stating that this tip is really for those players who are concerned over the loss/gain of a fairly small number of elo!


Tip of the Week #7

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 12, 2021

Understand the Time Control of the event you are entering!

ICCF operate two official and a number of unofficial time controls - the official ones are the traditional x moves in y days method and the Triple Block system, x days for the entire game - either with or without guaranteed time. The unofficial ones are championed by specific federations.

The pro's and con's of each system are not really relevant to the discussion here, but what is important is that the player understands:

(a) What time control will be used with in an event, 

(b) The nuances of that time control,

(c) Their own plans over the duration of the event,

(d) Their attitude to time management. 

It is a fact that the majority of ICCF games finish within 12 months, although this is not the case in the highest level events. With this in mind, we should consider (c) and  (d) first:

Let's say your plans involve taking a month off chess in the summer. Are you happy with your clock running for 30 days - if the answer to this is no, then Triple block is not for you - although you can also budget for this in your time management!

Understanding (a) is vital - a Triple block event with guaranteed time and one without are very different beasts and whilst the number of actual time-outs in the latter is tiny it still casts fear into the hearts of players who like to play certain time management "tactics".

The key is to make sure you understand the time control in use and manage your time and tempo accordingly!




Tip of the Week #6

Russell Sherwood  Monday, July 5, 2021

Keep up your engines up to date!

More often than you would think,  players continue to use obsolete engines to support their analysis.

Whilst these engines are still very strong compared to the human player (>3000 ELO) they often lag hundreds of ELO behind their contemporaries.

With this in mind, Stockfish 14 was released this week.  Stockfish - Open Source Chess Engine (



Tip of the Week #5

Russell Sherwood  Sunday, June 20, 2021

Many years ago there was a track from the Shamen "Ebeneezer Goode" with the immortal line "Backwards and then forwards, forwards and then backwards" which brings us to this week's tip.

In a position with a low evaluation, a different perspective can be achieved by letting an engine run for a while, moving down the line a move and then immediately moving back to the original position. 

You would think the engine would go back to it's first choice, but occasionally it does not.  Why this is the case is complicated, but it is related to their being a number of near equivalent moves that the engine has to choose between in its search.


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