22 October 2011

Chess960 Encounters, Past & Future

My most recent post, Capablanca and Chess960, pulled in more comments than I usually get on a chess960 post. Two comments that really got me thinking were both on the subject of chess variants and evolution. HarryO pointed to an old thread on Chess.com, Could we please stop calling Chess960 a variant?, to which I'm drawing attention here because it was the same discussion I had in mind when I wrote the Capablanca post.

For me, the classification of chess960 as more than a variant is not a simple difference of opinion on semantics. It's critical to the eventual adoption of Fischer's creation. Many chess players dismiss chess960 as 'just another chess variant', like Capablanca chess or Seirawan chess, because they don't realize how close chess960 is to traditional chess. One of these days I'd like to construct a quiz featuring middlegame positions taken from real games of both chess and chess960. The object of the quiz will be to decide which positions are which. I mention the middlegame because the opening is too easy to distinguish and the endgame is almost always impossible. It should be fairly easy to find dozens of middlegame positions where the obvious answer is the wrong answer.

Another comment on the Capablanca post was from GeneM, the author of one of the few chess960 books ever published. At the same time he left a few other comments on other posts, one of which was Pawn Power in Chess960, where he mentioned 'Reuben Fine's famous list of nine opening principles'. I'm only familar with the 'ten practical rules' that I listed in Fine's 'General Principles' of Opening Theory, and wonder if we are talking about the same thing. GeneM left even more comments on the Chess960 Jungle blog, which HarryO pulled together into a new post, Play Stronger Chess By Examining Chess960.


An email from a regular reader of this Chess960 (FRC) blog alerted me to a 'Chess960 Almanac' (see Chess960 II) on the Zen Quaker blog, a resource that was new to me. One of the concepts in the Almanac is 'Displacement', defined as 'how far each piece is displaced from it's starting position'. This reminded me of some investigation I once did on a concept I called 'Distance', and which I documented in a pair of posts Randomness in Chess960 Start Positions and More on the Concept of Distance. In a future post I'll combine zenquaker's tables with my own unpublished data to see if we are indeed talking about the same thing.

The first of zenquaker's chess960 posts, appropriately titled Chess960 I, looked at the choice of start positions in the recent St.Louis event. I also covered this topic in The Chess960 Wheel of Fortune. It appears that the St.Louis organizers used a faulty procedure for determining the start positions in their tournament.


Another recent chess960 article, Non-random Fischer Random, appeared on that staunch supporter of traditional chess, Chessvibes.com, a site sponsored by New in Chess (see Review: NIC Yearbook 100 for a discussion of the relationship). That 'non-random' post raises so many discussion points that it deserves special treatment. I'll return to its points in a future post.


Also worth noting is a page Chess Quotes (aka Rotten Tomatoes) mentioned in an earlier post of mine, Stats and More Stats. The page has evolved since I first mentioned it and I should include it in a series I last discussed on my main blog in World Championship Opening Preparation in 2010.


Finally, I updated the list of 'Correspondence (Turnbased) Chess960' sites in the sidebar to add E-chess960.com. I haven't spent much time on the site and it deserves a closer look.


HarryO said...

Wonderful post Mark. Just a bit of information on E-Chess960.com. Work on the site was primarily by a single developer who was working on it for nothing, and put a lot of energy into it (1000+ hours). The site has now lost that developer and so progress is slower. I ask that people be patient with the site and enjoy it as it gradually improves. The ethos of the site is friendliness, enjoyment and fair play.

Enjoy 960!

Ichabod said...

I read the Non-random Fisher Random and I don't think any of his points deserve special treatment. Why? Check out the comments. In the comments, he owns up to the fact that what he's looking for is Fisher Random with opening theory. Which makes no sense. It's like two people arguing what to get on a pizza and one of them saying "Fine. We can have a pepperoni pizza, just as long as there's no pepperoni on it."

GeneM said...

Marks Weeks wrote:
One of these days I'd like to construct a quiz featuring middlegame positions taken from real games of both chess and chess960. The object of the quiz will be to decide which positions are which.
On a small scale, a quiz exactly like this is in chapter 9 "Is the Middle Game Really the Same?" in "Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960".
The answer two-fold:
1. Yes you can still figure out which mid-game positions came from chess960 vs traditional chess1; however...
2. The chess960 mid-game positions still "feel" entirely like normal chess.
Overall the realization is that chess1 continues to hide a lot of legitimate chess from us.


GeneM said...

TO Ichabod:
I believe chess960 without the 'Random' aspect make lots of sense.

Opening theory is not the evil.

Rather the evil the absurd DEPTH of it in modern chess with endless reuse of just the one traditional chess1 setup.

The creation of new opening theory would be facinating in the early and middle going. Clever moves that creatively implement robust opening principles are a great part of chess.

Restarting opening theory from RNBBKNQR (S#549), or from its more interesting reciprocal RQNKBBNR (S#506), would give us great opening theory, without it trashing the spirit of chess as today theory depth does.

New opening theory would also give aggressive players like V.Topalov a rich avenue for playing for a win (important given the enormously high 60% draw rate among elite grandmasters).