02 June 2012

Ducking Chess960

Just like two years ago, as documented in Searching for Amand - Topalon, page views on my World Championship site spiked during the recent Anand - Gelfand match. While I was analyzing the log file for the month of May 2012, I thought it might be interesting to look at referrers to my page about Chess960 Start Positions.

That page doesn't receive many visits -- about three per day on average -- and 90% of those are referred by Google. It is far down the list I developed for Google Likes Me Why Exactly. Of the other referrers, the only resource that was new to me came from another search engine: chess960 at DuckDuckGo.

I looked at the first few DuckDuckGo search results, realized there was some new material, and decided to go a little deeper. The first page that caught my eye was on Chess.com: Chess960: The Opening Makes a Comeback! Written by IM David Pruess, it presents a bit about the introduction of chess960 on the world's most popular chess site followed by a few tips on the chess960 opening.

Next was a page from Chess960.nl: Chess960 Tournament Calendar. Unfortunately, the last tournament entry is dated May 2009, so the calendar isn't much use now, but it might be interesting to look at few of the events listed to determine if there has been any sort of followup.

Next on the list, a review of Gene Milener's Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess 960 wasn't new to me. I had already mentioned it a couple of years ago in Chess960 @ Chessville.com. It did, however, remind me of a comment that GeneM (same Gene) made to my recent post Top 10 Myths About Chess960, 'Chess960 will not help you play better chess any more than traditional chess will help you play better chess', which seems to contradict the title of his own book?! [MarkW to GeneM: 'Does not compute!']

I was also pleased to see another domain name incorporating one of the many names of Fischer's invention: Fischerrandom.com Although the site doesn't have much content, it does reference a Twitter feed of the same name. I checked whether the name Fischerandom.com (one 'r') was also taken, and it's still available.

Many years ago I played in an open section of the Biel festival and discovered that it was a great tournament. If I were playing there this year, I would definitely play in the Biel International Chess Festival: Chess960 Tournament, aka the 'Swiss Chess960 Championship'. Add this event to the list of Rare Birds 2012.

Maintaining lists of related links was popular in the early days of the web, but since then has gone completely out of fashion. A relatively recent effort ('Updated : October 2008') is Random Chess Links, meaning 'Fischer Random Chess', not 'Chess Links Selected at Random'. The first paragraph on the page mentions Capablanca Random Chess, Stanley Random Chess, and Transcendental Chess, all of which are new to me.

If you're interested in chess960 engines, the CCRL Discussion Board has a thread on Houdini 2.0 x64 chess960 testing, where Houdini whips all comers. The engine is included in the 'Chess King' package, so it's fitting that my final link is to Chess-king.com: Stopa – Kosteniuk Chess960, a game played at last year's Chess960 Kings and Queens event in St.Louis.

The DuckDuckGo search results scroll endlessly and would likely return dozens of other chess960 resources worth investigating. The handful I've given above are enough for this post, so I'll sign off with 'Happy Duck Hunting with Chess960'.


GeneM said...

Mark, as you noted, my judgments about chess960-FRC have evolved since 2005 when I wrote my book.

I still believe that chess has a lot more to offer us once we decide that the one traditional start position (or setup) is not the only interesting start position.

But I now understand that *stability* on a second setup is essential for the juciest type of progress and entertainment.

It is nonempirical to say....
"The goal of FRC is to eliminate at-home preparation."
....because the goal is in the heart of the player. The goal is a matter of taste or opinion.

Another chess960 player might feel the goal is to shift to another setup that is not so massively studied, or that is different enough to teach us new principles of openings (no one setup can emphasize them all).

Stable adoption of a second setup would enable us all to:
(A) Witness the growth of opening MCO/theory from scratch, with contributions and debates by grandmasters plus class amateurs armed with Fritz and LetsCheck. We need a naming scheme planned in advance, btw.

(B) Learn whether elite chess must necessarily be so drearily draw-prone. Is the high draw rate the fault of these pieces on this board, or are the people who currently control the particular abitrary rules of chess partly to blame? In the first years of a stable reused second setup, rich opportunities for early opening novelties would abound. And players would not yet have the deep familiarity with the setup and its common positions that currently make it relatively easier to solve new problems over the board while the clock ticks. I believe the draw rate would be lower for the first several years with the second setup, which would be very nice.

Discard the "Random" from Fischer Random Chess!

Thanks, GeneM.

HarryO said...

No one is saying that the goal of FRC is to eliminate home preparation. That is another myth. There is so much home preparation in Chess960 already.

Conduct this thought experiment.

Let's say we cloned two identical Nakamura's. One Nakamura only played Chess960 over the board and did no opening analysis at home, while the other Nakamura did as much home preparation on Chess960 openings as he did for traditional chess.

Who would tend to win more often? Pretty obvious answer to me!

How memory intensive do you want to chess to be? If FIDE creates Chess2 as an interim step towards Chess960 here is what will happen:

1) People will be forced to memorize not only the traditional start position but a second huge book of computer analyzed opening lines for what will be an arbitrarily chosen second start position. Why would FIDE want to inflict that on us?

2) Chess is not a science, it is a game. Memorizing huge lists of opening lines is wasted energy for no joy. Games are about learning concepts and being creative and having fun as you play an opponent over-the-board. It should be no different for Grandmasters. This is what Chess960 does.

3) Chess was not supposed to be about memorizing huge lists of opening moves. Chess was always about understanding concepts. Chess2 does not help restore this balance to chess.