08 November 2014

SP864 BBQRKRNN - Other Opinions

In my previous post, SP864 BBQRKRNN - Two Trials, I discussed a particularly difficult start position (SP), which seems to present Black with an immediate problem. Although the 'Two Trials' showed that Black has defensive chances, the test was not particularly convincing.


On Chess.com I found a post, Do you find chess960 challenging or fun?, with a challenge that sums up the position perfectly. I'm leaving it in CAPS, because it deserves to be shouted.


True chess960 fans have a deep rooted belief that none of the 960 start positions are unfair. After some discussion back-and-forth, SaharanKnight came up with a new line.

  • 1...d5 2.c4 Qg4 3.Nf5 O-O-O (or perhaps 3...d4; 3...Qxg2 is bad because of 4.Nf3)

Given the premature Queen development, I'm not convinced that the line is sound, but it deserves to be tested. He also came up the same line that was tested in 'Two Trials'.

  • 1...Nf6 2.Nf5 Rg8

This led to a discussion about castling.

SK: At this point, White shouldn't claim credit for spoiling castle since Black may still castle with the other Rook.

MW: Castling O-O-O is suicide in this SP. Black will have to move two Pawns to develop the Bishops. Meanwhile White will castle O-O and launch a Pawn attack on the other flank. Once the White Pawns open a few lines, the Black King will be a sitting duck for White's pieces.

There's no reason to take my word for it, so the O-O-O idea deserves a test. I'll leave that for someone else to do. After the Chess.com discussion I contacted GM Andrey Deviatkin, seen on this blog earlier this year in More from Moscow 2014, where he was one of the participants. I gave him the position and asked him, 'White opens 1.Ng3, threatening 2.Nf5. What would you play if you were Black?' He came back with two lines.

  • Most likely I'd play 1...g6, and if 2.b4 then 2...f6. Maybe it's not as bad as it seems, for example, 3.c4 b6 4.Nf3 c5.

  • I'd also consider 1...Nf6 2.Nf5 Rg8 and then castling Queenside. 1...Nh6 is another option but I don't like it.

When I explained my doubts about the second line and castling O-O-O, he replied,

I agree about the long side castling, that's why I'd probably prefer 1...g6 and 2...f6. But I have a feeling that Black's position after g6, f6 is better than it seems at first glance, although White is of course more comfortable. But isn't the same true for some Taimanov, Rauzer, Hedgehog, Pirc and so on?

I'm sure there are no "already lost" initial setups because both armies are present at full, in absolute symmetry and far from each other. Many people would argue that some initial positions are already "lost", but I think it's just because of their habit.

I liked the point about the armies being 'in absolute symmetry and far from each other', but wasn't convinced about the comparison to traditional chess.

I'm not so sure about the Taimanov, Rauzer, Hedgehog argument. Those are choices that Black has in traditional chess. A confirmed 1.e4 e5 player might not be comfortable playing a Taimanov and isn't forced to do that. In BBQRKRNN 1.Ng3, Black is defending against a powerful threat already on the first move and is forced to make some concession -- losing the castle O-O option or playing a cramped game with a lag in development. White, on the other hand, hasn't given up anything. What is Black's compensation?

The GM replied,

First, I have some suspicion that the black knight developed to f7 might feel a little more comfortable than the g3-knight (restricted by the g6-pawn), and maybe this will provide Black some compensation for the crampedness? I mean, maybe we don't know Fischer chess openings laws too well yet to judge if something is really awkward or only seems so? Even Berlin was considered awkward till Kramnik analysed it through and played vs Kasparov.

Second, if we talk of normal chess, a confirmed e5-player might face King's gambit, Evans, Scotch gambit and so on -- which were considered dangerous for decades. (Let alone that Fischer chess is exactly about knowing how to play every type of positions).

I think that only practice (and definitely with time limits no shorter than 25 minites per game) can provide real answers if any positions should really be excluded or not, and my opinion so far is that it won't be necessary, maybe except for the classical position.

After some more back-and-forth on traditional openings, I had to admit, 'It's a big mystery why the Sicilian works as well as it does. The Hedgehog systems are another mystery.'

I've spent three posts discussing BBQRKRNN. When all has been said, there remains only one way to find the truth: to play the position objectively from both sides. Chess has its mysteries and they are many, but chess960 promises many more.


GeneM said...

In my comments here on Mark's excellent chess960-FRC blog, I have often exclaimed - "Discard the Random from Fischer Random Chess!". Each time that there has been a reaction to my exclamation it has been negative.

Yet in this blog post I see extended attention and effort being directed at precisely FRC minus the random. Actions speak louder than words ;-)

GeneM , 2014/Nov/15

Mark Weeks said...

GeneM - HarryO and I were examining one start position (SP) at a time to determine whether the SP was fair or not. When we were satisifed that there is no inherent flaw in one SP, we turned our attention to another SP and examined that in depth.

You have always advocated choosing one SP and playing it until the end of time, to the exclusion of all other SPs. What you advocate and what we have been doing are not at all the same. I'm surprised that you don't understand the diference.

There is nothing to stop you from playing a single SP for the rest of your life. If you choose SP518 RNBQKBNR you will find plenty of company. The rest of us *real* chess960 fans will continue to enjoy playing the full gamut of 960 SPs. - Mark