24 October 2020

Lost in Lichess Links

Last week's post, Chess960 Opening Meta-theory, featured a video from NM Caleb Denby. The post mentioned,
Three links in the video's description (right-click the embedded video for its Youtube address) point to the games on Lichess.org.

While I was working on that post, I couldn't determine how those three links led to more information about the event in which they were played, the 2020 Champions Showdown. I still can't find a path, but I did find more info about the event itself and the games that were played. From Lichess.org (lichess.org/broadcast):-

It turns out that all three games explained by NM Denby were played on Day 3, the 'Final Day'. The Nakamura - Svidler game on that page has a tag that points to NM Denby's link, plus a couple of tools that point to other paths (lichess.org/study) for the same game.

What I'm missing now is a higher level page that points to days 1 through 3, although the 'Day 3' page does link to the first two days. While I was working on this current post I noticed that many of the chat comments were about finding games, e.g.:-

Why is the interface so bad that you need some random guy to post a link so you can find the games?

Why indeed? Anyway, I started to note similar lichess.org/broadcast links for the two previous editions of the Champions Showdown -- 2018 & 2019 -- and will post them when I think they're ready. Lichess is a-maze-ing!

17 October 2020

Chess960 Opening Meta-theory

After the videos featured in last month's post, 2020 Champions Showdown Live (September 2020), another video is worth special attention.

Openings in Fischer Random?! | Chess Openings Explained - NM Caleb Denby (59:58) • 'Streamed live on 14 Sep 2020'

The description said,

National Master Caleb Denby looks [at] the biggest opening successes and disasters from 2020 Champions Showdown -- Chess 9LX, a Fischer Random Chess (also known as Chess960) event. Learn to identify weaknesses in the opening position.

Thirty seconds into the clip, NM Denby (current FIDE standard rating 2110) explains,

There are two main opening topics that I'm going to focus on tonight, that are accentuated in chess960. First, you'll oftentimes find a lot of very early pressure or attacks on a specific weak point in the position. Players will identify a starting weakness in the initial position that they're given and will base their opening play around it.

Topic number two that I want to focus on is the idea of being left with one bad piece. This is something that often happens in chess960. Players are able to develop almost all of their pieces, but then there seems to be one piece that gets left behind. That can be detrimental to the entire chess position.

That first topic should be automatic for the initial assessment of any chess960 start position (SP). The second topic seems obvious enough, although I don't remember having explored it in any previous posts on this blog. I thought immediately of the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR with its weakness on f2/f7) and of something GM Karpov once wrote -- and I'm paraphrasing -- 'In every opening (most openings?), Black has to accept a weakness in the development of one of his pieces'.

In the first half of the video, Denby looks at three games from the 2020 Champions Showdown, two of them using the same SP. His examples show how vigilant both players must be during the first few moves. Three links in the video's description (right-click the embedded video for its Youtube address) point to the games on Lichess.org. Around 32:00 into the clip, Denby continues,

I want to switch gears now and go from these wonderful chess960 games to looking at some regular chess openings and how these ideas manifest from the real initial position in chess.

Did he say '*real* initial position'? The examples are from well-known SP518 opening variations and at this point I lost interest.

The first comment to the video was from HarryO of the Chess960 Jungle blog (see the link in the right sidebar): 'As far as I know this could be the first ever lecture on chess960 openings. Thanks.' HarryO ought to know! The first reply to his comment was: 'Lets hope it's the last. Chess960 was introduced to bring skill not preparation back to the games. Sadly chess has degenerated into a memory test.' I can't agree with that sentiment. Chess960 opening theory is meta-theory : how to tackle the analysis of a new, previously unseen SP. There is no memorization required and any analysis of a specific position is to discover that meta-theory.

On top of the sudden switch from chess960 to SP518, there were a few other aspects of the video that were mildly annoying. The first was the Youtube announcement that 'Live chat replay is not available for this video.' I've seen it on other videos, so why is it missing here? The second was Denby's frequent knuckle cracking. These are minor complaints and I have to agree with HarryO's overall assessment: 'Thanks!' I hope it is the first of many such videos, if not by NM Denby, then by other competent players.

26 September 2020

2020 Champions Showdown Live

Last year we had 2019 Champions Showdown, St. Louis (September 2019), followed by 2019 Champions Showdown Live (October 2019; video). This year let's follow 2020 Champions Showdown, Lichess (September 2020) with a video.

2020 Champions Showdown | Chess 9LX: Day 1 (4:26:23) • 'Streamed live on 11 Sep 2020'

The description of the clip, brought to you by the Saint Louis Chess Club, starts,

The world’s top grandmasters battle online from September 11-13 in Fischer random chess. World Champion Magnus Carlsen, Garry Kasparov, World #2 Fabiano Caruana, and more, compete in five separate Chess960 matches. Join GMs Yasser Seirawan, Maurice Ashley, and WGM Jennifer Shahade for the move-by-move.

For days two and three, see

on saintlouischessclub.org/blog. As usual with embedded videos, right click the video to find the original page on Youtube.

19 September 2020

2020 Champions Showdown, Lichess

For nearly a decade, the Saint Louis Chess Club has been a leading supporter of chess960. Last year we had the 2019 Champions Showdown, St. Louis (September 2019), the fifth St.Louis chess960 event covered on this blog. This year we had the 2020 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX (uschesschamps.com; August 2020). That press release started,
The top international chess superstars are set to battle online from September 11-13 in Championships Showdown: Chess 9LX hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club. Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX will feature the world’s top grandmasters including legendary World Champion Garry Kasparov, the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen, and World Number 2 Fabiano Caruana. The matches will be played in Chess 960 style, also known as Fischer Random, with a $150,000 prize fund.

Because of the difficult travel conditions during the worldvide coronavirus pandemic, the event was held online using Lichess: Carlsen, Kasparov, Nakamura, Firouzja and more battle it out on Lichess (lichess.org/blog; September 2020). That Lichess blog post started,

A pair of amazing tournaments will be taking place in the next week on Lichess with a combined $400,000 prize fund. Featuring World Champion Magnus Carlsen, former World Champion Garry Kasparov, and many other Super GMs: Vachier-Lagrave, Caruana, Nakamura, Aronian, Svidler, Firouzja, and more. We will get to see Carlsen and Kasparov play their first competitive game since Magnus was 13 years old.

The anonymous post went on to describe the first 'amazing' tournament as 'what is *uninspiringly* called "Chess 960" on Lichess', and the second as 'the *archaic* form of chess that includes the same starting position in every game'. The asterisks ('*') are mine. Does someone have an axe to grind?

For more objective reporting, I could have turned to any of the major chess news services, which reported on all three days of the chess960 event. I'll go with Chess.com, because it has also supported chess960 since the early days and because the reports were by Peter Doggers, one of the top chess journalists in the world.

That last report included a final crosstable, which is reproduced here.

I'll come back to this event in another post to look at games and videos. For the second year, the format was called Chess 9LX and tagged with a 'TM' symbol, as if it didn't have enough names. Another top chess journalist, Leonard Barden of The Guardian, has some trouble keeping the many names straight:-

I added '9LX' to the list of names on the header of this blog, but will hold off on '9XL'. I might have to list it anyway if the misnomer ever catches on with a wider audience. Maybe I should 'TM' it.

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.