03 August 2013

Queen Safety in the Center

'Do not bring your Queen out too early', as I once quoted in a post on Fine's 'General Principles' of Opening Theory. There are at least two reasons for this: (1) the best square for the Queen is usually not apparent until some other pieces and a few Pawns have moved, and (2) the opponent can develop more pieces harrassing the Queen at the same time.

While this is a tried-and-true principle of traditional chess, some chess960 positions leave room for more specific considerations. One such position that I encountered, SP679 QRBKNNRB, is shown in the top diagram. I played it as White in a pyramid game on Schemingmind.com (see Pyramids and Dropouts for an explanation of the event format). I had been playing chess960 for less than a year, my opponent, a top-10 player on Schemingmind.com, was the highest rated player in the pyramid, and I was curious to see if I could hold my own against him.

The initial moves were cautious, 1.b3 b6 2.Nf3 Ne6 3.Bb2 Nd6 4.d3 Bb7, as is often the case when the Queen starts in the corner. After the first contact between the forces, both players decided to castle O-O-O: 5.e4 f5 6.exf5 Nxf5 7.N1d2 O-O-O 8.O-O-O. This led to the position in the bottom diagram.

The game continued 8...g6 9.Bxh8 Rxh8, exchanging the dark squared Bishops. Now I wondered what to do with my Queen. I finally hit on the idea of 10.Qe5, placing it in the center. This might seem paradoxical, given that all of the pieces, except the Bishops that were just exchanged, are still on the board. Black, however, doesn't have many possibilities to harrass the Queen. The move ...d6 leaves the Knight en prise. If the Knight first moves away, or if Black moves the other Knight followed by a Rook lift to f5, White can retreat the Queen down the e-file.

The game continued 10...Rhf8 11.g3 a5 12.a4 Rf7 13.e4 h6 14.h4 Rdf8 15.Rde1 Nfg7 16.Nh2 d6, finally attacking the Queen, which retreated 17.Qc3. I eventually lost in the endgame, after declining my opponent's draw offer, but was happy with the course of the opening. I learned that there are chess960 positions where the Queen is quite safe in the center.

1 comment:

GeneM said...

I have been arguing for years that - some of Reuben Fine's nine opening "principles" of chess are Not actually principles on closer inspection.

Instead, some are merely esoteric tactical details of one particular position, namely the traditional start setup.

Fine's principle about delaying development of the queen is a glaring example of one that is not a principle after all.

And, Fine perhaps missed an opening principle, about rooks. Understandably Fine never thought about a rook starting say on a center column.
What general advice might begin to partly apply for how openings should adapt to having rooks start on e1 and e8?

All this is one reason why chess960-FRC is the last vast untapped area where abstract knowledge of chess remains waiting to be discovered. Only a growing body of chess960-FRC games between masters who annotate their games can develop and reveal this knowledge.