21 May 2011

The Clock Is/Isn't Ticking

In last week's post on Naming Things, I issued a rain check because I was too busy researching the Sicilian Defense for a gaggle of correspondence games. This weekend I have to issue another rain check for the same reason. The games have all advanced to the range of 8-10 moves played and are all still in theory. That means the variations have been played many times before, even if it happens to be the first time I'm playing one in a correspondence game.

I use Chesslab.com as a database for opening research. It's well maintained and reliable, and serves my purposes very well. I know many players like to maintain their own databases of master level games, but I've never had much interest in doing so. It's not that I can't -- my professional background is in database management -- it's that I know how much effort database maintenance requires and I have other ways I like to spend my time.

As for my ongoing Sicilians, the game with the least theory on the current position has about 40 examples on Chesslab. The games with the most theory still have many thousands of examples, including hundreds of games played at the super grandmaster level (>2700). I'll probably reach move 15-20 in those games before I have to start relying on my own chess sense.

In contrast to those Sicilian games, I started two new chess960 correspondence games this past week. Neither game has reached the third move and both are already demanding deep analysis of candidate moves and their consequences. The event is the fifth round of a knockout tournament, so my opponents are both experienced chess960 players. One slip at an early stage will likely mean a lost game.

A few years ago I wrote a post about Differences Between Chess and Chess960, where everything I said still rings true. I might add that traditional chess covers only a tiny portion of the universe of interesting chess positions. The difference between chess and chess960 is like the difference between a small hobbyist telescope in your back yard and the Hubble space telescope.

I'll close this post with another plug for Chess960 Jungle. HarryO wrote this week about The chess clock - when it should start ticking. It's an important subject that's given short shrift in the implementation of online chess960. I imagine that most chess960 software developers are building on an existing implementation of traditional chess and reuse the same clock specifications that have been developed for the traditional game. The considerations for chess and chess960 are, however, a world apart in the opening phase.

In traditional chess you're basically on autopilot for the first few moves because you've seen the start position thousands of times. In chess960, you're on your own from the very first move. It is fundamentally unfair to let White consider the first move without using clock time, then start the clock for Black as soon as White has moved. You could say that the unfairness applies to all players 50% of the time, but if you're playing a chess960 game for an important prize and you happen to have Black, that 50% argument doesn't help you. I could say a lot more about this last topic, but the Sicilians beckon. Maybe next week...


biffmeatstick said...

Alexander Grischuk is now advocating Fischer Random.


“Boris and I have an excellent relationship, but on that point our opinions differ. He thinks my statement about “the burial of classical chess” is complete nonsense, while I still think that classical chess doesn’t have long to go. Why did I mention it while I was still winning matches? Because when someone’s losing people put it down to that – the man lost so that’s why he’s talking like that. But I said it when I’d won a match, and then another. And now I still don’t see any prospects for classical chess.

You think we need to switch to rapid chess?

It doesn’t have to be rapid. Fischer Chess is very promising. It’s also named Chess-960, after all, as there are 960 starting position. Well, some of those positions are a little absurd i.e. the pieces stand in absurd positions… Perhaps you don’t need to use all the 960 starting positions but, let’s say, 200 or 300? I don’t know the exact number. I think that really would get rid of all the forced draws, because it’s impossible to analyse 100 starting positions, never mind 900. I think the most promising option is Fischer Chess.”

HarryO said...

Thanks Biffmeatstick that is interesting news. I notice that he and Svidler are playing together and maybe they are discussing Chess960.

One comment then to Grischuk is that he should keep in mind that "absurd" is a subjective definition that may simply be a product of habitually comparing a position to SP518....The definition that I would prefer is to ask "how many of the 960 positions destroy a genuine competitiveness" from black's perspective. "Competitiveness" means that black has a reasonable chance to draw and to exploit a counter-attack" situation.

He may be correct but we need to be very careful about making assessments on the Chess960 positions in terms of subjective qualities.