29 August 2020

'Chess960 Castling First Move'

Don't you hate it when you search for some topic on the web and the results point back to your own thoughts? That happened to me while I was trying to follow-up the previous post Three Sad Stories (August 2020). I wrote,
SP242 (CAI): In this game, 1.O-O-O is possible on the first move, which is what White played. I don't often do this because I like to keep my choice of castling open for as long as possible. The second diagram shows that I eventually castled ...O-O. This is called 'castling into an attack', after which I got crushed. [...] A deeper look at castling on the first move might be a good angle.

Below is a screen capture of the results that Google returned.


Google search on 'chess960 castling first move'

That first text box is from my 'Chess960 1-2-3' page Chess960 Castling Patterns Explained. It says,

An unusual aspect of chess960 is that castling is sometimes legal already on the first move of the game. This happens when the King and Rook are initially positioned on their target files, but with the King on the Rook's square and the Rook on the King's square.

In fact, that particular 'Chess960 1-2-3' page is the *only* '1-2-3' page, a project I started in 2014, then abandoned because I couldn't get a grip on it. Maybe I should give it another shot.

After that statement of fact -- 'castling is sometimes legal already on the first move' -- more interesting are the consequences of first move castling. The second link in my screen capture leads to Castling on move 1 in Chess960 (chess.com; April 2011). The questions posed there are:-

There exist various Chess960 positions where it is possible to castle right on the first move. Will you do so? Is it good or bad? Is it a waste of tempo or will it help you protect the King and make your position good.

Some of the comments are worth repeating. My own remarks are after the separators ('•'):-

'In this position [SP439 RNBNQKRB], I wouldn't castle because after castling, a first few moves need to be done to have some kind of protection near the King. thus it's a waste of tempo.' • Instead of 'a waste of tempo', more accurate might be a 'a misuse of tempo'. The move accomplishes something, but other moves might accomplish more.

'You're essentially conceding your opponent first move, and removing your own ability to castle. The opponent will now know exactly where to aim his forces. Always a bad idea.'

'I would do it for style.' • I've seen this stated elsewhere as: 'Castling on the first move is cool! I do it every chance I get.'

'There should be no situation where castling would be the best first move, because there is no situation where this couldn't be done on the second move, regardless of what Black does.' • A good point that I've never considered. Why use the first serve to deliver a lob?

'I think a Pawn move staking out the center should be preferred to castling. Having said that, White can probably get by with castling on the first move. But if White does not start by castling, Black should definitely not do so as this would put him two tempi behind in staking out a claim in the center.' • Another good point.

So the reasons for not castling outweigh the single reason in favor of it ('It's cool!'). The question 'Where will I castle?' is one of the main considerations in evaluating any chess960 start position and in choosing a first move. Many of the previous posts on this blog, all of them in the category 'Posts with label Castling', deal with first move castling. It might be useful to identify them.

[For another example of me struggling with my own public thoughts, see A Quotable Quote (July 2019). For more on snippets, see How Google’s featured snippets work (support.google.com).]

22 August 2020

Three Sad Stories

I used last month's post, Taking Inventory of Games Played (July 2020), to select some of my own games for further analysis. In that post I wrote,
My third tournament was the preliminary stage of a three stage cup tournament where I finished +6-0=2. In the semifinal stage I finished +1-3=4. Since those three losses were the first on LSS, I'll start with them.

The following chart shows the start position for each game ('SP') and the position at which the King positions have been established, usually after castling. That's the point where a chess960 game starts to resemble a game using the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR). The code in parentheses (e.g. 'CAI') identifies my opponent (I'm not going to give their names). I had Black in all three games.


(Can be expanded to WIDTH=800)

SP242 (CAI): In this game, 1.O-O-O is possible on the first move, which is what White played. I don't often do this because I like to keep my choice of castling open for as long as possible. The second diagram shows that I eventually castled ...O-O. This is called 'castling into an attack', after which I got crushed.

SP388 (NOV): In this game, both my opponent and I castled at the same time. The Bishop on the b-file is more dangerous than the Bishop on the c-file. White has managed to exchange the dark-squared Bishops, leaving himself with the more dangerous Bishop. The game lasted 40 moves, but White eventually overwhelmed the Black King and Black had no counterplay.

SP953 (KOE): Note the 'RKR' formation on the abc-files. In this game, neither player castled and the second diagram shows the position just after Black has escaped a check by moving the King; White's King didn't move until the endgame. In the diagram, both players have a Knight en prise and the game became tactical. I was outplayed in the complications.

Three games tell three sad stories about my play. In each game I apparently went wrong before 20 moves had been played. Is there anything I can learn here?

***

Later: After I wrote the post, I discovered a couple of old posts where I had already discussed two of the games:-

That leaves SP242 (CAI) as the main candidate for any further analysis. A deeper look at castling on the first move might be a good angle.

***

Even later: Re 'That leaves SP242 (CAI) as the main candidate for any further analysis', it looks like I've been there, done that as well:-

There really is nothing new under the sun -- at least for this blog.

15 August 2020

2020 Vision in Biel

What was the biggest chess960 news in July? We saw three reports from three top chess news sources, all dealing with the start of the 2020 Biel tournament, all dated 19 July 2020. I took one excerpt from each report, illustrating three different aspects of the event.

Chess24.com (Colin McGourty) • Harikrishna wins Chess960 as over-the-board chess is back in Biel

Harikrishna won the Chess960 warm-up at the Biel Chess Festival, but the big news is that the 53rd edition of the festival is happening at all. It’s the first top-level international event to take place since the Candidates Tournament was halted midway while Europe went into lock-down. The world is far from back to normal – as Salem Saleh being unable to travel and replaced by Arkadiy Naiditsch testifies – but with plexiglass screens between the players and other measures in place there’s rapid, classical and blitz chess ahead.

Chessbase.com (Carlos Alberto Colodro) • Biel: Naiditsch to replace Salem, Harikrishna wins Chess960 event

Many times it has been suggested for the World Championship matches to play the rapid tiebreakers before the start of the event. The idea is for players to know in advance whether they need to go all-in under given circumstances during the classical games. In Biel, this idea has been implemented, with the added bonus of using a format that has gained a second wind lately -- Chess960.'

Chess.com (Peter Doggers) • Harikrishna Wins Biel Chess960 As Plexiglass Separates Players

Did you notice that all three reports used the name chess960? I wonder why that is.

25 July 2020

Taking Inventory of Games Played

In last month's post, No Quitting Here!, I decided,
According to my records, I played 92 games on Schemingmind, most recently in 2016. I played another 136 games on LSS, where I currently have a half-dozen games underway. With more than 200 games under my belt, I have plenty of examples to choose from -- wins, losses, and draws -- most of which were analyzed fairly deeply while they were being played. All of the LSS games were played with the help of an engine, so I'll start with those. After 12 years of playing chess960, I still don't understand much about its opening theory, making it a logical area to focus on.

So here's the plan: I'll continue to post twice a month. One post will be to keep up with any news; one post will be to learn something about opening theory. Maybe I'll eventually discover how to avoid running into a lost position.

I gathered together all of my LSS games and loaded the PGN header tags into a database. Of the 136 games, four are still in progress. Of the other 132, all were played using a specified start position -- one game as White, one as Black -- against the opponent. My record as White was +36-10=18, as Black, +36-17=11. Those counts don't add up to 66 games, because two opponents defaulted both games before playing a move.

In my first tournament, I finished +8-0=0; in the second, my score was +6-0=2. My third tournament was the preliminary stage of a three stage cup tournament where I finished +6-0=2. In the semifinal stage I finished +1-3=4. Since those three losses were the first on LSS, I'll start with them.

Note that I'm not focusing on losses because of excessive modesty. I generally understand why I won a game. I often don't understand why I lost. Since the objective here is to increase my understanding of chess960, I'll concentrate on the losses. As for the draws, I always play my games until the result is crystal clear. My draws can continue for many moves until the game goes from a probable draw to a theoretical draw like a tablebase position. That makes them less interesting for analysis, but I might recall a few exceptions.

18 July 2020

Posts with Label 'FIDE'

It's always problematic to resume blogging after a vacation and I could have skipped this post using that vacation as an excuse. I'll use it instead to create a new category:-

Many of the most recent posts in the category, like FWFRCC Wrapup (December 2019), were on the subject 'FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship'. The oldest posts, like Who Needs FIDE? (February 2014), were distinctly anti-FIDE. The first post in the category points to a resource on my main blog, Chess960 Rules Formalized by FIDE? (March 2009). Are there other relevant posts on that blog? Maybe I'll save that research for another vacation.

27 June 2020

No Quitting Here!

In last week's post, Chess960 on Playchess.com, I responded to a quote from IM Sagar Shah with:-
Sagar Shah says, 'That's the thing in chess960. If you're not careful you can quickly run into a lost position.'

Since I'm something of a specialist for running into lost chess960 positions, I should document some of my most painful experiences. But which games should I choose? There are so many of them.

If I had any common sense I would stop this chess960 blog here and now. It's been five years to the day since I signalled my first attempt to quit in Whispering a Fond Adieu! (June 2015; 'Bye for now! - Mark'). I managed to stay away for 18 months, then came roaring back with 'Everyone I Know Plays Chess960' (January 2017). The title of that post was a quote from GM Peter Svidler where the complete thought was, 'Everyone I know plays chess960 with great pleasure.' Copy that!

Yes, chess960 continues to be a great pleasure for me. I started playing on correspondence servers in 2008 -- Chess960? I'm Hooked! (September 2008) -- and am still hooked. According to my records, I played 92 games on Schemingmind, most recently in 2016. I played another 136 games on LSS, where I currently have a half-dozen games underway.

With more than 200 games under my belt, I have plenty of examples to choose from -- wins, losses, and draws -- most of which were analyzed fairly deeply while they were being played. All of the LSS games were played with the help of an engine, so I'll start with those. After 12 years of playing chess960, I still don't understand much about its opening theory, making it a logical area to focus on.

So here's the plan: I'll continue to post twice a month. One post will be to keep up with any news; one post will be to learn something about opening theory. Maybe I'll eventually discover how to avoid running into a lost position.

20 June 2020

Chess960 on Playchess.com

After three straight months looking at chess960 videos for the month's kickoff post...

...I was happy to find another streamed video based on commentating an event, this one from ChessBase India.


Big Chess960 event | Live Commentary by IM Sagar Shah | Sponsored by Buddhibal Kreeda Trust (2:17:59) • 'Streamed live on May 23, 2020'

More about the tournament can be found in Fischer Random tournament on 23rd May 2020 on Playchess (chessbase.com; May 2020):-

After the successful online event on Playchess in April the Buddhibal Kreeda Trust (BKT) is back with another tournament. The tournament has a prize fund of 35000 [Indian Rupees] and is a Fischer Random (Chess960) tournament. [...] It will take place [...] in the "Thematic Chess" room on Playchess.com. Entry is FREE for GMs, IMs, WGMs and WIMs.

I was surprised to see this event for a number of reasons. First, the Playchess.com site has been conspicuously absent from the sites holding online chess tournaments during the coronavirus lockdowns. I've been following this development on my main blog, e.g. The Switch to Online Chess, posted a few weeks ago.

Second, I hadn't been aware that Playchess.com offered chess960 games. The online play service is supported by ChessBase, which two years ago came out strongly against chess960. I documented their objections in Purported Problems with Chess960 (April 2018). If their change of heart happened later, I suppose it's another example of 'money talks and nobody walks - they run'. The video description repeated some of the info in the Chessbase.com article and added,

A big Chess960 event [...] has the participation of some of the biggest names in Indian chess - Adhiban, Sethuraman, Karthikeyan, Aravindh Chithambaram, S.L. Narayanan, Praggnanandhaa and many others. IM Sagar Shah will be providing you with live commentary for the event.

At about 13:40 into the clip, Sagar Shah says,

That's the thing in chess960. If you're not careful you can quickly run into a lost position.

Since I'm something of a specialist for running into lost chess960 positions, I should document some of my most painful experiences. But which games should I choose? There are so many of them.