I think I am getting better. Perhaps not at blitz games but at correspondence games. I am midway through a webserver based correspondence ICCF game and I have 2 wins and a draw with three games remaining – this included a win over someone rated 1800+ that I wrote about in my post ‘A Coffee House Win’. I also joined a chess.com 3 day per move tournament for players rated under 1650 and in my group of 5 I have won 5 games, lost 1 and drawn 2 games – my loss was after 64 moves. At this stage I’m leading in a field of 30 players and my rating has gone from 1478 to 1577, it’s now the highest its ever been. What has been surprising for me is the amount of draws I’ve been getting. I always see draws at high level competitions and to me it suggests that both players are playing careful enough games that no-one makes a bad error. I never used to draw games and I see this new development as something positive – unfortunately there’s a few errors in these. Here are my recent drawn games.
This next game is interesting for the concept of ‘opposition’
I’m playing my second ICCF webserver engine-less tournament and so far I have 2 wins and a draw from six games – so I’m pleased. I played a very uncautious ‘coffeehouse type’ game but ended up sneaking a tactical win with my sly 15. Nh4 move.
My first foray into correpondence chess was a webserver tournament run by the ICCF. It has recently finished and I thought I’d post my games here as a record. There were 2 wins and 4 losses – I’ve already posted analysis of games two and five. I look back on these games and I am reasonably happy other than late blunders in games 1 and 4.
I am in three postal ICCF correspondence chess matches. Two matches are with four players where we each play each other as black and as white. This means 6 games per match (12 games). I am also on the Australian team playing against Sweden. I was matched with an opponent and we play each other as black and as white (2 games). Finally I am playing a casual game with someone from Texas who offered to play me via chess.com, again as black and as white (2 games). I also have 2 games on a webserver but when that is over I will concentrate on postal matches.
I have seen a few people saying that correspondence chess is dead, it has been replaced by webserver chess; it is too slow, it costs too much, it’s confusing and it’s open to cheats. I can see all these points as being valid but I still like postal chess. I like the coded postcards, I like remembering what personal snail mail is like, I like the walks to the post box, the setting up of a real board, the detailed recording of written information and the stamps.
Two of the players I am playing against, a German and a Swede, collect stamps and they have sent me beautiful stamps. In return I have gone to the post office and bought nice stamps for them. This weekend I suggested to my son that we collect the stamps that we are being sent and he liked the idea. We moistened the stamps so they’d peel off, we let them dry and pressed them, my son then divided them up into two piles, one for me and one for him, so that we could trade. It took about an hour and it was a great way to spend time with my son. The stamps teach geography, history (subject matter of some stamps) and currency. The image above shows a Czech stamp we received which shows an oil painting by the French painter L.F. Lejeune from 1808. It captures the atmosphere on the eve of the Battle of Austerlitz when Napoleon and his generals interrogate Moravian farmers. The picture is displayed at the chateau in Versailles.
(Click on notation for board to appear and to play through moves)
I have just resigned a game, as black, in my ICCF webserver tournament. The game included a long endgame in which I had a king, a rook and four pawns to his king, rook and five pawns. My gut feeling is that it should have been drawn but I just wasn’t able to achieve this. I have jumped to move 29 which follows 28. …bxc5 so that I can focus on the endgame. I have put some notes into my game without using a computer. Then, at the base of this post, I have analysed the ending using a computer to play itself to see what could have happened.
I’ve looked at many different variations from move 28.bxc5 but if white plays well then I think my initial gut feeling is wrong and a draw is impossible to achieve.
I set up the move 29 position on SCID vs. PC software and allowed the stockfish 4 engine run for about 30 seconds before pressing enter and forcing the move. The result was this:
Maybe there was a draw but it seems very hard to achieve.
And eerily enough this puzzle popped up on chess.com
This evening I played lazy chess (as per photo), less lazy chess and good chess. The good chess was with one of my postal games. I had set aside time to work on the move on my latest postcard. I sat down, wrote down their move, moved it on my cardboard game recorder and set up the chess board and played all the moves to date so I could reacquaint myself with the flow of the game. I looked for candidate moves but could only really find one so I played it and followed up with several different response for a few moves. When I was comfortable that the candidate move I had chosen was the only one and it was safe I looked it up on game explorer on chess.com. My work tied in with the game explorer result so I wrote my move and went to the post box and posted my move. A good move. Later I logged on to my ICCF webserver games and a move had been played by one of my opponents. I saw an intuitive move but I sought other lines. None of the alternative led me anywhere good so I moved my piece based on my original intuition and confirmed the move. Only then did I realise that I had done no analysis of that move – it just seemed good. I realise I do this a lot, it is my typical modus-operandus. Fairly lazy. Finally I checked in to chess.com to see my online games, again a move had been made by one of my opponents and so I responded based on ‘that looks fine’ with no double checking and no search for alternatives. Lazy and something I do if I’m tired, so off to bed I go.
I am currently playing a number of correpondence games. Five on Chess.com, six on the International Correspondence Chess Federation’s webserver, five on a webserver called Scheming Minds and, my favourites, six postal ICCF games that I previously mentioned. This is, in my opinion, too much. I have however nearly stopped playing blitz games so that has freed up some chess headspace.
Chess.com is not affiliated with FIDE as far as I know and the games, though they are mini tournaments, are casual. I am treating my games here lightly and will often move on intuition. I do sometimes take the time to use their ‘game explorer’ facility to check my thoughts on openings. My rating here, after 21 games (10w, 3d, 8l), is 1515 and my average opponent is rated 1520. Two games were against a player rated 1707 who aborted his games so my rating is inflated but it is encouraging to see that deeper thought has yielded better results.
My ICCF webserver games are only part way through. My first game was very encouraging and I felt very much in control and won. My next two were losses and I have three more that are ongoing. I don’t have a rating yet for this but I have googled my opponents and they have reasonable chess net presences so I think they are quite good.
While looking at the ICCF website to choose games I noticed a team called Scheming Minds. I googled them and discovered that they are a webserver based correspondence club and a member of the British Federation for Correspondence Chess. It is hard to resist a club called ‘Scheming Minds’ so I have joined as a trial member. The name comes from The Adventure of the Retired Colourman By Conan Doyle in which Sherlock Holmes notes that “Amberley excelled at chess – one mark, Watson, of a scheming mind.”, there website is here: http://www.schemingmind.com/default.aspx . It has been good and I have chatted with a few players there and it seems like a friendly place. I started playing fairly seriously but that level of thought is slipping.
My plan is to wind down to 12 postal games through the ICCF and six webserver games through Scheming Minds – which is still probably too much. I will use Chess.com for their huge amount of information and to blitz games occassionally.