Houdini Aquarium 2017 & Houdini PRO Aquarium 2017
Houdini Aquarium 2017 is a new powerful analysis, database and chess publishing tool, powered by the world's strongest chess engine Houdini 5 and 7-piece Lomonosov Tablebases.

Houdini Aquarium 2017 — $59.95 / €47.96
Houdini PRO Aquarium 2017, up to 128 cores and 128 GB of hash — $99.95 / €79.96

ChessOK.com » WBCCC: Victorious With Aquarium
WBCCC: Victorious With Aquarium 01 December 2011

The WBCCC (World Blitz Correspondence Chess Championship) started out as an idea to make correspondence chess tournaments more interesting:

  • The games are broadcast on the Rybka Forum. When a move is made it is automatically posted on the forum along with a diagram of the current position.
  • The forum users, both the players themselves and others, can discuss the games freely, but of course the observers are not allowed to suggest moves or make comments that may directly influence the move choice of the players.
  • The games are played at a fast pace compared to traditional correspondence games.
  • Now that the first tournament has come to an end, it is clear it was a success. Many strong players participated, some of them using very impressive hardware and opening books. The games were hard-fought and the forum discussions were lively. After ten grueling rounds, José Sanz emerged as the clear winner, scoring 7½ points and finishing 1½ points ahead of his closest rivals.

    In this column we hear from some of the individuals that made the WBCCC a unique event. First, we hear from Jimmy Huggins, the creator of WBCCC, who spent months preparing and running the tournament, and made sure that all issues were dealt with quickly and efficiently. Nelson Hernandez was one of the tournament observers who followed it from start to finish. He was convinced by Jimmy and the players to comment on the opening phase of the games, but, as you will see, it was not the type of commentary that can be found in chess books and magazines. He was also very helpful in preparing this column. Finally, the WBCCC champion, José Sanz, tells us about himself, his impression of the tournament, the analysis methods that brought him an impressive victory, and some memorable moments from his games. It should be noted for regular readers that he is an Aquarium user, so you can see how the methods that I have described in previous columns are applied in practice.

    About WBCCC (Jimmy Huggins)

    WBCCC came to be for several reasons. First of all, I enjoy many different types of chess. Besides playing OTB chess myself, I’m interested in computer chess, which branches out to freestyle chess, opening book tournaments, correspondence chess, etc. In other words, almost any combination of human and computer chess is of interest to me. Secondly, I have always enjoyed visiting the Rybka Forum, where I have watched many correspondence chess games. Normally, there are no strict time limits in those games, but most of them are played fairly quickly, certainly much faster than traditional correspondence chess.

    Although individual games and even team matches are frequently played on the forum, I noticed that a Blitz tournament had never been played . When I brought up the idea of such a tournament the response from the players was very positive. I wanted to preserve the relaxed atmosphere that characterizes play on the forum, but there were both technical and organizational issues that had to be solved.

    The main issue was that the methods that had been used for playing matches on the forum would not work for a tournament with many players. I approached Dadi Jonsson, the administrator of Rybka Forum, and he agreed to find a technical solution that would allow us to hold a tournament on the forum. After looking into and subsequently rejecting a couple of different solutions, he contacted Victor Zakharov at ChessOK. Victor was willing to help. He agreed to provide the players with a simple program, which would allow them to play the games on their ChessPlanet server and post them automatically on the forum. Victor’s main problem was that he only had two weeks to pull this off. Still, his people came up with a very user-friendly solution based on using ChessPlanet and the correspondence chess module of Aquarium, called XfccPlay.

    chessok62a Another major issue was that I had no experience as a tournament director. Fortunately, Garvin Gray, an experienced tournament director agreed to take on the job. Although the relaxed rules about discussing the games take some getting used to, he quickly adapted and was a key person in making this tournament a success.

    I am amazed by the progress we made in a very short time and how smoothly the first WBCCC ran. Before the tournament began, I never expected that we could get everything we got in the first year and in particular the ChessOK solution really went far beyond my expectations. I feel that several elements of our tournament are truly great. We display all the moves and positions on the forum and we let viewers comment on the games as they proceed. At first some of the experienced correspondence players found it hard to adjust to seeing the lively discussions of the games. However, it seems that in the end everyone had adjusted and many of the players took active part in the discussions.

    I feel that with WBCCC I have managed to create an environment for a friendly, competitive tournament. It’s always nice to see players wish each other good luck at the beginning of the game and to watch the battle unfold and at the end see them shake hands so to speak. There are so many important moments hidden away in traditional correspondence chess. I feel that the relaxed atmosphere with plenty of discussions is the one thing that makes the WBCCC so great.

    The final standings of the top players in the tournament were as follows:

    1. ppipper (José Sanz) 
    2.-6. Fulcrum2000, Weirwindle, Sebastian Boehme, Rubén Cómes, National12 6
    7.-12. Jitan, David Evans, Donkasand, Stephanie, Balabachi, Parmetd 

    A total of twenty-eight players participated. All the games from the tournament can be downloaded here.

    The Opening Kibitzer (Nelson Hernandez)

    A highly irregular but fun element of the WBCCC tournament was intermittent kibitzing from a person who was considered to be an oracle by some participants and “the foremost exponent of charlatanism” by one notable skeptic. That kibitzer, of course, was me.

    For those not aware, I was persuasively invited to serve as kibitzer by the tournament organizer. My chess qualifications were awfully slim: without exaggeration my computer-unassisted playing strength would be painfully exposed were I to compete in an Under-8 tournament.

    My kibitzing qualifications entirely rest on the properties of my opening book. I am sworn to secrecy regarding the quantitative specifications of this masterwork, but I can relate that I have been working on the database from which the book is derived every single day for over seven years. I have kibitzed, traded, begged, bought, and stolen every human game, correspondence game, engine game, server game I could get my hands on, discarded plenty of junk and duplicates, adjudicated the games, and whipped the lot into something useful over the course of many thousands of man-hours.

    I don’t know that it is the largest opening book in the world; maybe it isn’t. I certainly cannot compete with entities such as Chessbase or Chess.com. But I have no doubt that no private individual has spent more time collecting and massaging chess games than I have. If I am wrong about that, then I must preemptively declare with absolute certainty that anyone who has surpassed me is certifiably insane.

    The terms of my involvement in the WBCCC were as follows. I was to intermittently offer statistical observations on the current position of each game in progress and provide novelty information and color commentary, so long as it did not influence the course of the live game. Typically, I would offer the historic success rate of the color whose move it was and the percent of games that had drawn. “Black with 57.4% and 44.9% draws” might be my statement in a given position. In almost all cases I did not reveal how many games I had left in book until the number got down to the teens or single digits, at which point I would reveal how many white/black wins and draws had taken place. Sometimes, at the player’s request, I might offer more details on my preferred move in a previous position, or let a player know whether a seemingly unique move he had made was really a novelty or not.

    Given my aforementioned incompetence at chess, it stands to reason that my perspective on the game is highly idiosyncratic. To me, it is all a statistical exercise completely divorced from the calculation combined with intuition a skilled human player employs, or the iterative analysis a computer-aided correspondence player uses. I don’t critique the other methods: competitors could hardly function without them. Moreover, my insight into the game runs out at the leaf node of the move-tree, and obviously statistics are not determinative of outcomes.

    But statistics do matter. Picking one game completely at random, let me offer my insights in CumnorChessClub - Sebastian Boehme, which ended in a black win.

    [Event "WBCCC I 2011"]
    [Site "Rybka Forum"]
    [Date "2011.09.10"]
    [Round "5"]
    [White "CumnorChessClub"]
    [Black "Sebastian_Boehme"]
    [Result "0-1"]

    1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e5 7.Nb3 Be6 8.f3 Be7 9.Qd2 O-O 10.O-O-O Nbd7 11.g4 b5 12.g5 Nh5 13.Nd5 Bxd5 14.exd5 f6 15.h4 fxg5 16.hxg5 Rxf3 17.Rxh5 Rxe3 18.Qxe3 g6 19.Nd4 exd4 20.Qe6+ Kg7 21.Rh1 Bxg5+ 22.Kb1 Qe7 23.Qxe7+ Bxe7 24.Rxd4 Bf6 25.Re4 Nc5 26.Re3 b4 27.a3 a5 28.Be2 h5 29.Reh3 bxa3 30.Rxa3 h4 31.c3 a4 32.Bg4 Re8 33.Rg1 Be5 34.Ra1 Bh2 35.Rh1 Bg3 36.Kc2 Re4 37.Bf3 Re3 38.Bd1 g5 39.Bg4 Re4 40.Bf3 Rf4 41.Raf1 Kg6 42.Be2 Kf5 43.Kd1 Ke4 44.Rxf4+ Bxf4 45.Rf1 Nd3 46.Kc2 Ne5 47.Rh1 Ke3 48.Ba6 Kf3 49.Bc8 Kg2 50.Re1 g4 0-1

    Picking up after Black’s thirteenth move, we see the following position:

    chessok62b The players have gone into the most heavily-played ECO-line in my opening book, the Sicilian Najdorf [B90]. The above position has been seen a stupendous number of times in my book (and yours too, if you collect Playchess games). In the tournament, I commented here

    “White with 49.3% and 44.2% draws. So devilishly difficult to avoid a draw when this line is so heavily booked 20 moves ahead.”

    My message is plain: the players are on the path to a draw unless somebody deviates from the main theory in a purposeful way. Easier said than done when a position has been analyzed to near-death like this one!

    As the game developed, White played 15.h4, a solid move that is much less common than 15.gxf6 or 15.g6, but historically has done best with 52.0% and 48.7% draws. Black responds with 15…fxg5, itself less common than 15…Ng3 but also the best-performer. At this point I interjected

    “White with 49.3% (as noted previously) but now with 55.1% draws.”

    I might note in passing that since I wrote those words the latest games I’ve added to book have pushed the numbers to 49.5% and 55.3%, respectively. So the game looks slightly more drawish than it did previously.

    The players follow main theory through Black’s sixteenth, at which point I notice something unusual.

    “White with 49.3% and 55.3% draws. This position was first seen in Intagrand, Rybka 2.3.2a-Wolkenlos, Rybka 2.3.2a, 1/2-1/2, 2007.12.16, so this is a rare instance where my team developed theory.”

    Indeed, this was the only instance during the entire tournament that one of our Playchess nicks popped up as the novelty game. The players now entered a move-channel through move eighteen, and I offer

    “Following a near-irresistible main line. White 49.4% and 55.3%, almost no change from last time.”

    White plays the main-line move 19.Nd4, but my book indicates he might have considered 19.Kb1, with an expected continuation of 19…gxh5 20.Qh3 Nf8 21.Qxh5 Bxg5 22.Bd3. Cursory analysis of this alternative suggests to this uninformed observer that the game might continue on to a quiet draw, or at any rate seems to offer Black limited prospects. There is much to be said for quiet draws when your opponent is Sebi Boehme, veteran computer chess aficionado!

    The game follows a well-trod and practically forced path until Black’s twenty-second move. I offered no comment here because it was a critical moment in the game.

    chessok62c Sebi opts for 22…Qe7, which may seem unremarkable to those of you who are analyzing this game with your chess engine. However, historically 22…Nc5 has been seen more than twice as often with a much-lower success rate (46.8% vs. 59.6%). The trade-off is that Sebi’s move upped the draw-rate to 65.6%, which is usually beyond the point of no return when strong and roughly equal players are engaged. Yet, what has just happened in this position is that the initiative has shifted over to Black. Now it is up to Sebi to thread his way through the many ways to draw this game and find the path to victory. White, it seems to me, is now trying to hang on.

    White responds as though he had my book, going with 23.Qxe7+ instead of the more-common and Houdini-approved 23.Rxd4. How do the top moves compare in book?

    23.Qxe7+ 46.0% 80.0% draws
    23.Rxd4 40.9% 67.3% draws
    23.Re1 36.8% 53.8% draws.

    While all of these moves have been played many times the statistics aren’t wholly reliable because as the game-count thins anyone can play a novelty or rarely-tried move that leads directly into the unknown. Here, White plays the statistically best book move available, which in the past has practically cinched a draw.

    The bolt from the blue comes on Black’s twenty-fourth move. At this point most engines recommend 24…Nc5, which has been played 86% of the time in this position. The problem with this conventional move is that it has drawn 83.7% of the time and if Black is going to generate any kind of counterplay he needs to break out of theory and find a winning novelty. So Sebi played a move seen only four times before, 24…Bf6. There can be but little doubt that he had worked out the permutations far ahead and saw it offered the best chance of victory.

    My laconic comment in response hardly captures the drama.

    “Still in book. Two draws, one win apiece. First seen in 2009.”

    What else could I say? When you only have four games left in book the statistics are meaningless. All we’re waiting for now is the official novelty move, which comes with 26…b4. My work is done:

    “Novelty move. Were following Thamover, Rybka 4-Fx7_01, Stockfish 1.9, ½-½, 2010.11.04.

    I would stress that my approach to the game does not easily lend itself to emulation and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone on account of it requiring grave and questionable lifestyle adjustments. But it is a different perspective, as you can surely see. Whether it is charlatanism or not I will leave up to you to decide!

    The Winner’s Report (José Sanz)

    Overall impressions

    First of all, I would like to thank the organizers of WBCCC, Jimmy Huggins and Garvin Gray. Their efforts in bringing about this highly entertaining and unique tournament were superb. Of course there is still room for improvement in future tournaments, but in general if they keep at it and are able to maintain the high playing level seen in this contest, then future editions will be a complete success. I should also mention with appreciation the statistical commentaries of Nelson Hernandez, whose periodic remarks during the opening moves of each game added a really different dimension to the tournament. When Nelson’s statistics were not in my favor, I worked extra hard trying to demonstrate that his database must be missing something important and the novelty move will be the definitive refutation of all known theory in that line. I guess other players felt the same, but I don’t know if any of us achieved this goal. Nevertheless, I’m sure that database collectors will find valuable material in our games.

    Having won the tournament, I have to say that it was a great tournament for me personally, of course; not only did I manage an excellent 75% performance, but I also greatly enjoyed being able to kibitz the other games in progress, which allowed me to gain ongoing insights from other high-caliber contestants and study their opening lines. Although I started this tournament thinking that the thirty days per game time control was going to be a challenge since I had never competed this way before, by the end of the tournament I was persuaded that it is the best format to sustain interest and tension, avoiding the pitfalls of very long tournaments that go on for years. On the other hand, this tournament’s time control can really put you on the spot if you suddenly find yourself in an unknown or unexpected position!

    There can be no doubt that I was an underdog in this event. The roster of players contained some well-known and formidable names in computer chess, some known for their high-end hardware. Although computer chess isn’t totally new to me, I think being a relative unknown turned into an advantage in that some opponents may have been apt to take risks they otherwise would not have, were they playing someone with a bigger reputation.

    I enjoy analyzing chess positions with my computer. Usually it is extremely hard to find the “truth” of a position, but I have tried to improve my understanding of the evaluation of different chess engines. The first step in using chess engines effectively is to understand that number, how it changes and, in particular, how it varies between different chess engines. When you have reached that stage of understanding, you can interact with the engines much more effectively. There are many different interaction techniques which are well known to analysts. All of those are more effective than having the computer analyze the same position for long periods of time. In the end, the key factor is always the human element of analysis.

    I knew from the beginning that this tournament was going to be the toughest one I have played in, both due to the time control and the strength of many of my opponents. It was a tough fight from the first round to the last and the Swiss System gave me strong opponents in every round once I got to the top of the table. I must confess that I felt pressure from the better known players breathing down my neck. Fortunately, I had the chance to play against some of them, as that is the only way to start believing in your own chances in such a tournament.

    Opening choices

    Perhaps one of the disadvantages of not being an experienced correspondence player is that I have not absorbed much of the conventional wisdom about openings. I think many openings commonly thought to be drawish are really quite playable in correspondence chess. I am also convinced that Sicilian Najdorf variations (particularly ECO B90 and B92) are actually among the most drawish because of their popularity in chess engine games on Playchess and other servers. I cannot understand why most people stick to Najdorf variations again and again. Caro Kann, French, Spanish, Queen Pawns opening just to mention a few are totally playable for both sides. There is plenty of unexplored territory outside of the Sicilian realm!

    In this tournament I had decided to play at least three different openings in the first two rounds (four games). I had also planned to use two more different openings in the third round, depending on my pairings, and then to play the rest of the tournament with the repertoire previously established. One of my goals here was to demonstrate that my prior argument about opening choices was valid.

    Although I do not consider myself an opening book maker, I have always enjoyed creating my own thematic opening books. I started doing that many years ago. I used to have a dual core computer and forced Fritz 7 to play against itself hundreds of blitz games. After examining the results, I tried to correct some of the mistakes in the book, based on overnight infinite analysis sessions. Soon, I realized that this was a waste of time and didn’t contribute to my chess learning. I am not claiming that you cannot learn chess openings this way, but other methods suit my own concept of chess learning much better.

    I bought some printed opening books and started tuning my database opening books by following ideas and plans suggested. I soon realized that this was the fastest way to create powerful books. I spent a lot of time on this work, covering many different openings and gambits. I would say I worked (and still work) in almost all the main ECO codes.

    Although I have a reasonable understanding and knowledge of the main openings, as well as positional chess, my OTB Elo is far from master strength. I used to play in the Madrid League and I was rated somewhere in the 1900 range some years ago. Nowadays, I believe my chess knowledge is much better, and I have discovered that sometimes I am able to understand and successfully follow very good plans and ideas although strong masters would certainly need less time than I do. One of the things I have always liked in chess is a deep study of a critical position. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a few years ago I realized that correspondence chess could become my favorite form of chess. Still, I try to study “real” chess every week; actually, I take lessons once a week from an excellent teacher, mostly focused on strategy and positional chess. I know I have improved quite a bit in recent years and I have plans to return to OTB chess as soon as I have enough time on weekends. You all know that chess is very time consuming, and currently all my weekends are devoted to my family.

    My opening repertoire is simply built around openings that I am able to understand, openings I like to play OTB and, finally, openings where I think there is room for improvements and personal analysis. We all have our personal style of playing and our favorite chess players. Karpov is my favorite player and I have always thought that no one could have beaten him in correspondence chess. His games have inspired me and I have learned much from studying them.

    Analysis and tools

    In general, I like working with computers and software. I usually invest a fair amount of time trying to discover the most useful tools for chess learning and, in particular, for my chess analysis and investigations. Since Fritz 7 times, I had been using classical chess interfaces for my analysis. Nevertheless, I had always felt the need for better analysis support, not the least for keeping all my analysis well organized.

    Since Aquarium became available three years ago, I have felt that it is the best option for my analysis and in general the closest match to my requirements for chess software. I started developing my own analysis method based on the tools that Aquarium put at my disposal. Furthermore, I can find some of my own suggestions implemented in Aquarium, as the development team is very proactive and responsive.

    In my view, evaluations that most engines provide in the opening stage are nearly useless unless you can explore sidelines. The Aquarium GUI is essential for this task; it is the only GUI that allows a player to efficiently perform every conceivable operation in a correspondence game. There may be other tools and methods that will get the job done equally well, but the time savings offered by Aquarium constitute a major competitive advantage. It is also a personal advantage if you have a wife and family, and you are playing several correspondence games at the same time. Among Aquarium’s many unique features, the one I use most is interactive analysis in all the stages of the games. Of course I run automatic analysis when I am sleeping, but the purpose of the overnight sessions is to give me more material for manual analysis. In this regard Aquarium is unparalleled and I can hardly say enough about it.

    Many words have been written comparing traditional Infinite Analysis to Aquarium’s unique IDeA feature. It is clear to me that the best approach is to use both techniques, as is normally recommended. In any given position you will need one more than the other, but only experience will tell you which you need most.

    I use traditional chess books during the opening stage of a game. I read about plans in main-line positions of my games. Generally, I try to avoid playing lines that I cannot understand from a human point of view, regardless of engine evaluations. (Of course, it is no secret that traditional books contain plenty of errors and outdated evaluations; this is true for chess theory in general.)

    Once the game has progressed a bit and I start to approach the limit of my opening preparation, I use Aquarium to analyze sidelines or extend main lines (although if I am playing main lines, I normally follow only written books rather than engine suggestions). First, I search my database for all games matching the current position and filter them down to a manageable number using my own criteria. I then queue positions from the remaining games for analysis and run IDeA overnight. For the first pass I use a shallow evaluation setting, maybe depth=13 per position. Once all these positions have been evaluated, I start the interaction process, marking moves whose lines I would like to extend. Then I start another IDeA session, this time perhaps at depth=17, in order to evaluate the positions more reliably.

    In critical positions, if I have enough time, I will set several engines to analyze the position for a number of hours, typically overnight. The result of this analysis is automatically sent to IDeA without my intervention. After that I again manually interact with the tree, coloring moves and setting root nodes from which to start further analysis. Things get very interesting indeed when you run IDeA with creative and aggressive top engines and then cross-check with more conservative and stable engines.

    People ask me about my IDeA settings, but I do not have a simple answer. It mainly depends on my subjective feeling about the position; for example, if it seems more positional or tactical. But also a lot depends on the amount of time available to analyze and especially the time available to interact. If I have enough time to manually work with my tree, I don’t mind creating wider trees and then manually selecting the best ways to play the position.

    IDeA has many settings and mastering them requires learning, as well as practice and observation. Simply using the default settings can bypass much of the learning curve, but you should bear in mind that the key thing in getting a qualitative advantage from Aquarium is human interaction. If interaction isn’t your thing, I would suggest you stick to Aquarium’s IA rather than IDeA. At least that way you will be able to store all your infinite analysis into a tree, which is always very useful. It is not merely a question of having easy access to already-analyzed positions many moves ahead; you can also benefit from the minimax feature and its backward-propagation of all your evaluations.

    I would like to mention some additional features that make my analysis job much easier:

    • Aquarium’s ability to easily create different tree configurations is critical during opening stage. In one tree configuration you can have full access to your database statistics. I further elaborate this by categorizing games by year and adding the corresponding statistics to the tree configuration. This reveals if certain moves have recently become popular, which is sometimes very useful information. This is just one example of how to use tree configurations, but in general you can have quick access to various statistics drawn from your databases.
    • Aquarium’s ability to see multiple engine evaluations side by side. How did we get along for so long without this feature? It has been said, and I certainly agree, that using several engines is better than sticking to a single engine. Deciding which engines are most useful in a given position is a difficult task, but it can also be rewarding and lead to much faster results.
    • In your notation panel, you can see at what point you started to analyze certain position. This is really helpful in order to know how reliable your evaluation is, and the only reasonable way to remember what positions you have already analyzed deeply.
    • The recent addition of “tree shapes” to IDeA now makes it easier than ever to guide IDeA using the approach you sense is correct or is most agreeable with your chess-playing style.
    • As an active correspondence chess player, I need a tool that synchronizes all my games and moves with my analysis databases and allows me to make a last minute check before sending my move. Otherwise it is easy to play the wrong move, as I have experienced a couple of times! Aquarium combined with XfccPlay goes a long way towards eliminating such mistakes.

    Winning a correspondence game is always challenging, but one thing is sure: to find a winning move against a serious opponent alwaysrequires human intervention. This may require forcing moves and setting IA and IDeA to analyze discovered lines; it may require changing IDeA parameters for a position (to get broader or deeper trees); it may even require trying sacrifice moves utilizing brute force techniques. The only way to defeat a strong opponent is to see something he does not many moves ahead, and of course it’s not an easy task. But once more, I would like to point out that human guidance is far more relevant than opening move choice based only on statistical performance. Otherwise, there would be no chance of beating Nelson’s statistics! Nevertheless, I think a lot of players are still making such mistakes in correspondence chess.

    Finally, if I may be permitted to be a bit romantic here, having some human chess comprehension may be the most important component of all analysis techniques.

    Below I discuss some interesting moments from my games. Note that two games were played in each round. My handle in the tournament was ppipper. You can download my games here to make it easier to follow my comments. Note that the PGN file contains the games given below, as well as my other five games from the tournament with light comments.

    Round 1: TheHug (Jimmy Huggins) - ppipper, 0-1

    I decided to play the French Defense in case Jimmy started with 1.e4, which he did. I didn’t know anything about my opponent, except for his incredible dedication in organizing WBCCC. The opening was quite balanced although I was not well prepared for some of the moves. We were playing typical themes in these openings, with play on both flanks.

    One of the key moments of the game occurred when Jimmy sacrificed his bishop with 17.Bxh6. I think this position would have been very difficult to play for Black if we were playing OTB. I knew that I had to play actively on the other flank, as otherwise my opponent would have had good winning chances with his knights and queen against my undefended king side.

    On move eighteen, I played 18…a3, which is the best chance to create weaknesses in White’s camp on that flank.

    chessok62d After 22.Rac1, I played 22…Nd8, one of my favorite maneuvers, knight returning to the first rank, in order to overprotect f7, prepare for opening the c-file and give more space to my bishop. This move was followed by 23.d4?, which leads to a favorable position for Black. A move such as 23.Ng4 would have been better.

    From that moment I started accumulating small advantages, but after my 34…Bg4 the position was very difficult to hold for Jimmy. In fact, I already had an almost won endgame because of my material advantage and having White’s pawns under control as can bee seen in the next diagram.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    chessok62e At the end of this round, I was really happy with 1½ points, but at the same time a little worried about the next round.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Round 2: Moz - ppipper, 0-1

    I knew a little bit about my opponent in this game, including that he is a great master of IDeA and I believe that he had an advantage in that area. I was tempted to meet 1.e4 with an opening consistently used by one of the better known players, but finally I decided to stick to the French Defense. At this point some people on the forum started discussing the dangers of playing the French Defense in correspondence games. Maybe they are correct although that doesn’t stop people from playing this opening.

    My opponent opted for the Classical variation, which I consider the best line for White. However, Black can fully equalize in a dozen moves or so, after which the game turns into an intensive positional battle.

    This game was decided when Moz played the thematic and human classical sacrifice Bxh7, which simply doesn’t work here. Black needs to be alert, but once he manages to repulse White’s attack, he has a pleasant and winning endgame. The bishop sacrifice was the fifth option in my IDeA tree, so White had better moves here.

    The rest of the game was mostly forced for Black, until we reached this critical position where the game is decided.

    chessok62f Some engines prefer 25…Bd7 here, although IDeA clearly guides you to the correct move 25…Bc6! allowing the check, but entering forced lines where Black succeeds.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Round 3: ppipper - CumnorChessClub, 1-0

    Now that I expected my opponent to have seen me playing 1.d4 and 1.e4, it was time to switch to 1.d4 again. I didn’t know anything about my opponent except for some information I found from Google.

    We played the Catalan system and I followed known theory until 13.Nf1 (once more, a knight landing on the first rank).

    chessok62g At this point my opponent played 13…b5?, which is a decisive positional mistake, since after 14.b4! Black’s light-squared bishop has an unclear role in the game. This allowed me to enjoy a comfortable game.

    Of course, it is not easy to play without making serious mistakes, but this is one of the games where my human insight sometimes was of great help in understanding the position.

    Perhaps the most difficult decision for me came on move twenty.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    chessok62h Here I played 20.Rxa3 which is the best move, hands down. For a human, 20.Ne3 may look more natural, but this is what my tree looked like:

    chessok62i In the second game of this round my opponent had to withdraw from the tournament and I got the full point, according to the rules. It is a pity since we played one of my favorite opening variations in OTB play, with plenty of chances for both sides. Although I was the clear leader at the end of this round, I was under additional pressure due to this game. I was a disappointed by some comments that were posted on the forum following the withdrawal. Of course I could not agree at all with them, since there were still four more games to be played, and I had no doubt that I would have to win against the best players in order to secure first place in the tournament. On the other hand, those comments helped me fight even harder in the remaining games. Also, I decided to play 1…e6 again at the first opportunity as I had done in the forfeited game.

    Round 4. Sebastian Boheme - ppipper ½-½

    I decided to expand my repertoire again, with another “unsound” defense for correspondence chess.

    chessok62j Benoni Defense. I really like this opening in OTB play, and there are many improvements waiting to be discovered. However, I must admit that at the time when this game was played, my preparations were lacking. Needless to say, this is especially dangerous when you face a player of my opponent’s strength.

    This was the game I had to work on hardest during the tournament. I was afraid of losing it many times during the game. We reached the following critical position.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    chessok62k I managed to find the only move that holds the draw, 19…Ng7! This is what my IDeA tree looked like at this stage:

    chessok62l

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Round 5. David Evans - ppipper, 0-1

    This game was very important for both of us. I wanted to secure first place in the tournament, but I also wanted be at least 1½ points ahead of my nearest rivals, since one of my opponents had withdrawn from the tournament in equal position. Therefore, some might see it as an unfair advantage, although I don’t agree with that. Finally, I was really hoping that David played 1.e4 in order to prove once more that the French is not such a bad defense in spite of some players’ doubts!

    David might also be forced to take some risks since drawing the game meant that he had no chance of winning the tournament.

    There were several critical moments in this game, including the following one which occurred on move fifteen.

    chessok62m Quite a few moves had similar scores in this position as the following screen-shot of the IDeA tree shows.

    chessok62n

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    15…a4! is the right move here, even if the engines may prefer others. They do not seem to understand what is happening, since the alternatives lead to positions with plenty of traps for Black. I am not saying Black is lost, but I would have suffered a lot against such a strong opponent if I had not played 15…a4!. After a few more moves, we reached this position.

    chessok62o In this position chess engines are of little help. They seem to prefer 23…g6? but the move I played, 23…Bc8!, is much stronger. The bishop has finished its work on the queenside and now it is getting ready for future tasks on the other flank.

    After a few more moves, I managed to see one of my favorite maneuvers in the tournament, Nd7-Nb6-Na8-Nc5-Nb5. This is a long and winding road for the knight!

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    chessok62p Of course, passing once more through the first rank!

    At this point I knew I was not going to lose, although it was not clear if I could win the game. I should also mention that David offered me a draw which I refused, although it would almost have secured the tournament victory. I still wanted to win with a 1½ point margin.

    I must add that David was a gentleman and didn’t hesitate to praise some of my moves in this game.

    As a last note, please allow me to add a disclaimer in case anyone has been offended by my notes to these games. It was not my intention at all. They are just a viewpoint that can, of course, be debated.

     

     

     

     

     

    The future of WBCCC (Jimmy Huggins)

    With such a great first year of WBCCC it will be hard to top it, but I think we can look forward to plenty of improvements, as well as high level chess in the next tournament. Last year I limited invitations to the Rybka Forum and FICGS players. Next year it’s time to extend the invitations to other players. The concept and technology have been shown to work well. Additionally, we are about to get a conditional move system that will greatly benefit a correspondence tournament played at such a fast pace.

    Time increments were a hot topic among the players. Some wanted a “dead zone time” others wanted a fixed time increment after each move and some would have neither. I try to have everyone’s best interest in mind whenever I may make a tough decision. I have watched every game in the tournament and I believe that the best option is using a one hour fixed increment per move.

    Besides prize money, I am going to offer a best game prize in each round. The winners will get analysis of their games by the experts on Chesspublishing.com and at the end of the tournament we will offer a prize for best game of the tournament. The winner will get a free membership at Chesspublishing.com.

    We will expand the WBCCC concept to a second tournament with a different time control. Currently, I’m considering thirty days for forty moves and thirty days for the rest of the game. Most players can successfully play games at those time controls, since we only play two games in each round, using a unique double Swiss pairing format. I always recommend that new players play a practice game with the easy to use client and in a week or two they will know if they can handle the time control. We will also have better rules for dealing with withdrawals from the tournament.

    If you are interested in playing in the next tournament, you can email me (Jimmy Huggins) at bigpurplehawks@yahoo.com. If you want to test the time control, I can arrange a test match. I hope to see you in WBCCC 2 in the battle vs. the current champion and hope you will enjoy the tournament experience.

    Conclusion

    The first WBCCC was a success. Although the popularity of traditional correspondence chess will no doubt continue for years to come, the viability of this new type of tournament has been demonstrated.

    Study chess online on Chess King Learn! Time-proven training courses, thousands of examples and exercises.

    Start playing right now in your web browser on Chess King Playing Zone! Teams, tournaments, training, analysis and much more!

    7-man Lomonosov Tablebases provide deeper-than-ever insight into chess endgame.

    Download weekly chess database updates (containing 2000+ games) with latest tournaments and games in PGN and Chess Assistant format.

    More »