26 May 2012

Chess960 on the iPhone

I recently received the following email message:-
Subject: Chess960 (FRC) iPhone utility
Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2012 12:19 AM

I've written a Chess960 (Fischer Random) board generator and editor for the iPhone, which may be of interest to readers of your Chess960 (FRC) blog. It's called ChessWheel960 because it has a thumb wheel that allows you to scroll through the 960 valid starting positions (SP). Additionally, it will:
  • generate a random SP
  • display the SP for a given number
  • display the number for a given SP

I'm interested in any feedback you may have. Here's the iTunes link: Chess Wheel 960 [itunes.apple.com]

Thanks very much, W.L.

If you have used the app, let us know what you think. If you know of similar chess960 apps for the iPhone or equivalent technologies, I would like to hear your thoughts on that as well. It's a subject I've wanted to look into for some time now, but haven't.


Later: In response to this post, I received info about another, similar product.

Subject: Re: Chess960 on the iPhone
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 4:33 PM

I am a chess960 convert and have followed your blog on the subject for some time now. I actually submitted last week to the Apple App Store a very similar app (initially, at least, it will be free) to the one you mention, which I didn't even know existed until your post. It's named "Morphy" (after Paul Morphy), and I'll drop you another email if/when it's approved and available.

I've been working for quite some time on a multiplayer chess960 app for iOS, correspondence-style. This position generator was just a way to get my feet wet, back into the development mindset.


Subject: Re: Chess960 on the iPhone
Sent: Thursday, June 7, 2012 4:37 PM

The 1.0 version is now available on the App Store:
Morphy By MCG Enterprises

It's free, and I'd certainly be happy to get a mention from you. I should also provide a link to my page with some more detail as well:

Thanks, JS

More apps to come?

19 May 2012

Top 10 Myths About Chess960

Over on my About.com material for traditional chess, one of the pages that gets a lot of views is Top 10 Myths About Chess, subtitled 'People say the darnedest things about chess'. I've been playing chess960 for long enough, plus following its subculture, that I can easily write a similar article about Bobby Fischer's greatest invention.

Chess960 hasn't been around long enough to speak of myths, so it would perhaps be better to use the word 'misconceptions', but I like my titles short. The following list isn't really in any particular order, although the first few statements are probably more frequent than the last few. I'm not going to embellish the list with explanations. I've already discussed most of the items in posts that can be found via my blog category Posts with label Pros and Cons. One aspect they all have in common is that they are invariably repeated by chess players who know little if anything about chess960. So here they are, my 'Top 10 Myths About Chess960':-

  • It isn't real chess
  • It's a variant of traditional chess
  • It wasn't invented by Fischer
  • The rules for castling are complicated
  • You need special equipment to choose the start position
  • Some start positions are forced wins for White
  • It's only for very strong chess players
  • It erases the stronger player's natural advantage
  • Some start positions are too bizarre or illogical for serious play
  • It's mainly for people who are too lazy to work on traditional chess openings
  • It will kill the chess publishing industry
  • It won't help you play traditional chess

Yes, I can count and I realize that the list has more than ten items. I could have easily added a few more, e.g. about the name or the numbering system, and I'll probably think of a few others after I post this. Let's just call this a first cut that gives me an anchor for further discussions. One more item I will add immediately was prompted by HarryO's second comment to Steering into an Iceberg:-

  • It will never catch on

Although it's too early to pass judgement on that last one, I am confident that it will one day -- very soon -- prove to be the biggest chess960 myth of them all.


Another myth that arises frequently -- chess960 is designed to address the problem of short draws.

To repeat what I wrote in Recent Comments, 'Fischer's greatest invention is not a panacea for all the ills that beset traditional chess. It is, in a word, about excessive *memorization* which has been exaggerated by computer preparation.'

12 May 2012

Steering into an Iceberg

In a recent post from my main blog, Time Enough for Taimanov, I quoted from the introduction to GM Taimanov's 'Winning with the Sicilian'. The excerpt ended, 'the opening is the seed, the shoots of which grow on every part of the chessboard and yield the harvest in complete dependence on the original groundwork'. Although the former World Championship candidate was writing about traditional chess, he could easily have been writing about chess960, where the character of the early game is determined by the characteristics of the random start position.

Later in his introduction, Taimanov discussed the general evolution of a player's approach to the opening, again within the context of traditional chess.

At the outset of a player's career the first moves of the opening generally bear an accidental character -- the taste of the amateur is omnivorous and special opening attachments have not yet been developed -- he plays any position with equal interest. But once a basic grasp of the game is acquired, its strategic rules and tactical possibilities, every chessplayer gradually conceives his own subjective criteria of factors in the war of chess and in accordance with his character and temperament develops his own style.

An inclination arises either towards peaceful play of the 'positional' type, or towards dashing combinational attacks, to strategical or tactical methods of creative self-expression, this individual approach leading to a preference towards positions of a closed, semi-closed or open character, according to taste. There is now a period of formation of individual ideology, style of play, in short, of a creative credo of a chessplayer, and he purposefully tries to dictate the choice of opening scheme and construction.

Moreover, the necessity arises to formulate a solid and not too broad repertoire, which will allow him to develop his own individual creative traits to the maximum — 'A chessplayer cannot and must not play all the openings known to theory,' advises Mikhail Botvinnik, for 3-4 opening systems are quite sufficient for White in one match and the same number for Black. But these systems must be well prepared.' This means that the chessplayer, having set himself serious goals, should pay some attention to research work. And this work is capacious, diverse and ... endless, for it fasts through one's entire creative life. Max Euwe once described it as 'Titanic'.

It is much too early in the development of chess960 to discuss any sort of a general evolution in approach to the openings. The phrase in the first paragraph -- 'accidental character' -- sums up the current theory of chess960, assuming it even makes sense to talk about theory. Even so, there is already the faint outline of the next step, where a players seeks opening positions 'in accordance with his temperament'. I touched on this in an earlier post titled Attention to the Chess960 Center, where there is a brief discussion of three approaches to chess960: the g4/b4 players, the f4/c4 players, and the e4/d4 players.

Another way of saying the same thing is to split chess960 players into two camps: those who steer the game into positions that resemble traditional chess and those who steer away. I'm firmly in the first camp, largely because I don't understand the second. A casual look at GM Nakamura's games (see the search box on the right to find examples) should be enough to convince that he is in the second camp. I can only assume that he is guided by some chess960 logic that escapes me completely.

Taimanov's third paragraph, on the development of an opening repertoire that suits one's style, is most likely beyond the capabilities of chess960 players. If it's a hard task for a single start position, it's an impossible task for 960 such positions. The term 'Titanic' is appropriate indeed.

05 May 2012

More Online Correspondence Play

In my previous post, Chess960 Enthusiasm, I mentioned ChessRex.com, and noted,
I couldn't tell whether the site is a live play or a correspondence site, nor whether chess960 is on offer as an option; I'll find out as soon as I can.

HarryO replied in a comment,

The site used to be called E-Chess960.com. The new site ChessRex still supports Chess960 it's a name change plus a revamp. [...] I think you were already a member of E-Chess960.com and so you should still be a member of ChessRex.

I tried my username for E-Chess960 and discovered that indeed it worked on ChessRex. Right on all counts, Harry, thanks very much!

While I was updating the sidebar ('Correspondence Chess960') to note the change, I added another site that came to my attention recently: RemoteSchach.de, 'Fernschach vom Feinsten im Internet bei RemoteSchach' ('Correspondence Chess on the Internet at its best with RemoteSchach'). The site calls the game 'Schach960'. A few years ago I did a web search on that term and noted that there were less than 2.000 hits. Now I get more than 50.000. Looks like I need to investigate that resource as well as other language variants of 'chess960'.