28 August 2010

Updated Database of SPs

After a few months without updating my index to posts that discuss a specific start position, I finally brought them up to date. I discovered one position that had been discussed in an earlier post: SP535 - RNBKQNRB. For easier comparison, here are the specific positions I discussed in the two posts.

Mainz 2007, Final Match, Game 4
Aronian, Levon

Anand, Viswanathan
(After 2...d7-d5)


8th FiNet Open, Mainz 2009
Mamedyarov, S.

Grischuk, A.
(After 4...c7-c6)

While there are some similarities, the first game steers immediately after the diagram into troubled waters. How useful is my index? It's too early to tell.

22 August 2010

Random Associations

As long as I'm on the subject of random associations with chess960 (random associations with Fischer random?), as proposed in my post The Bernanke Positions, I might as well mention another topic inspired by the Chess.com forums. The source was The Position of the Beast, which now gives the error message 'Sorry - this has been removed'. In that post SP666 (RNKRBBNQ) was proposed as the position of the beast, a reference to a well known number from the Book of Revelation in the Bible's New Testament. Did someone find the idea offensive?

Ignoring the SP666 aspect, there are other candidates as familiar names for chess960 positions. For example, SP007 : The James Bond; SP286 : The Intel 6 MHz; SP320(++) : The Airbus Narrow Body; SP366 : The Leap Year; and SP747 : The Boeing Jumbo. Any other candidates? First come, first served...

21 August 2010

The Bernanke Positions

When a few of the chess960 fans at Chess.com were discussing how to convert the character representation of a random start position to its chess960 numeric identifier -- e.g. BRNQNKRB to no. 419 (see forum post Chess960 Starting Position ID) -- I pointed out that search engines can do this.
You can use Google to translate start positions into the corresponding ID. For example, if you search on 'BBQNNRKR' you'll see without even clicking through the results that it's position 0. On top of returning pages that are lists of all start positions, the search will turn up various odds and ends on chess960.

It's a useful tip, which is why I'm repeating it here. By 'odds and ends', I mean the two sites I mentioned at the end of my first post on the subject, Searching for BNRKNBRQ, where I left off with the time honored phrase 'I'll look at those sites in another post'.

One of those sites, 64squar.es, is currently returning the message 'Down for maintenence. Sorry the site's been getting too slow, we're working on a new version', so I may have waited too long. The other site, Wildchess.org, is currently saying 'Games in database: Fischer Random 11338' for its Fischer Random database, up from 9028 on the BNRKNBRQ post. I was wrong to pigeonhole it as 'a database site', because the FRC page also lists recent live games.

What other chess960 odds and ends are available on the web? I repeated the search on two start positions recently discussed on this blog. The first, BNNRKBRQ, returned about a half-dozen pages that list all 960 start positions, including my own SPs & Twins, linked in the sidebar. Following other links to their primary chess960 pages, I found MySchach.de, along with a handful of sites that I had already seen, most of which haven't been updated in years. The second, BRNQNKRB, led me to the usual lists of 960 positions plus MyChess.de, an alias for the MySchach.de domain.

More interesting on the BRNQNKRB search was Google's question, 'Did you mean: BERNANKE', the current Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve. My first response was, 'Huh? What's that got to do with chess960?'. My second was, 'Now I get it. Removing the vowels in BERNANKE gives BRNNK, which are five of the pieces in BRNQNKRB and in the correct order.' Google, you're trying too hard!

Given the first five letters BRNNK, the missing pieces are QRB. Since the missing Bishop must be on a light square, there are exactly four chess960 positions that start with BRNNK. I nominate these as the Bernanke Positions. What other English words match nontrivial sequences of legitimate chess960 positions?

15 August 2010

Gambling Moves

After looking at a game by Chess.com's highest rated chess960 player (see Mystery Moves), I turned my attention to the second highest: alfloran, currently rated 2233. His 'Best Win' was as Black against an opponent rated 2179: Steinar vs alfloran (SP717 RKQBNNBR). After the moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 the players reached the following position.

I'm not sure what I would play here, but I doubt that I would think of playing Black's move, 4...c5, leaving a backward Pawn on the d-file. On top of attacking the Knight, this interesting move prepares to bring the Queen out on the c-file and opens a more promising diagonal for the Bishop on e8.

The Knight on d4 has a number of retreat squares, but White chose 5.Ne2. The point appears to be that after 5...Qc6, the Knight defends the e-Pawn by 6.Nc3. After the further attack on the Pawn by 6...Nd6, White switched to an indirect defense with 7.h3, taking advantage of the open diagonal to Black's King. Black achieved a satisfactory game in the ensuing complications, when White decided to sacrifice the e-Pawn for an attack. The attack eventually fizzled, leaving White a piece down. For the complete game, see the PGN from Chess.com.

[Event "Let's Play!"]
[Site "Chess.com"]
[Date "2010.01.03"]
[White "Steinar"]
[Black "alfloran"]
[Result "0-1"]
[WhiteElo "2179"]
[BlackElo "2221"]
[TimeControl "1 in 7 days"]
[Termination "alfloran won by resignation"]
[Variant "Chess 960"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rkqbnnbr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RKQBNNBR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f6 3.d4 exd4 4.Nxd4 c5 5.Ne2 Qc6 6.Nc3 Nd6 7.h3 Ng6 8.Bh2 Ba5 9.Nb5 Qxb5 10.Bxd6+ Bc7 11.Qd2 Qc6 12.Bxc7+ Kxc7 13.Ne3 Qxe4 14.Bf3 Qb4 15.c3 Qb6 16.O-O Rc8 17.b4 Ne5 18.Nd5+ Bxd5 19.Bxd5 Kb8 20.bxc5 Rxc5 21.Rfb1 Qd6 22.Rxb7+ Kc8 23.Qd4 Qxd5 24.Rxa7 Nc6 25.Ra8+ Nb8 0-1

How many players would think of a gambling move like 4...c5?

14 August 2010

Mystery Moves

Q: How can I study chess960 opening theory without using example games? • A: Only with great difficulty. • Q: Where do I find example games? • A: By following the method in the post Finding Games by Good Chess960 Players.

The current top rated chess960 player at Chess.com goes by the nickname posporov051560 and is rated 2253. His profile says that his 'Best Win' was against DavidKhachatryan, rated 2171. I found the game here: posporov051560 vs DavidKhachatryan (SP949 RKBBRNNQ). After the moves 1.Nf3 e5 2.d3 d6 3.e4 the players reached the position in the diagram.

In this position I would probably have been thinking about where to castle. It's not clear which side is more appropriate. To castle to either side, the two Bishops must move, and to castle O-O, the two Knights must also move.

Instead of moving any of the minor pieces, Black had something completely different in mind. He played 3...a5. White countered with 4.a4, a move that stops Black's further expansion on the Queenside. At first I thought this move was forced, but then wasn't so sure. Perhaps White can castle O-O, allow Black to advance Pawns on the Queenside, and use them as objects of attack.

After fixing the a-Pawns on a4/a5, both players followed up with the Rook lift (Ra3 & ...Ra6), then blocked further movement of that Rook with the b-Pawn (b3 & ...b6). It would be interesting to have the idea explained by one of the players, because I don't understand it at all. Whatever the reason, here's the complete game score, courtesy Chess.com. Note that neither player castled.

[Event "Let's Play!"]
[Site "Chess.com"]
[Date "2010.05.04"]
[White "posporov051560"]
[Black "DavidKhachatryan"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2210"]
[BlackElo "2171"]
[TimeControl "1 in 3 days"]
[Termination "posporov051560 won by checkmate"]
[Variant "Chess 960"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rkbbrnnq/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RKBBRNNQ w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.Nf3 e5 2.d3 d6 3.e4 a5 4.a4 Ne6 5.Ne3 Ra6 6.Be2 Nf6 7.Bd2 h6 8.Ra3 Bd7 9.Bc3 Nc5 10.b3 Be7 11.g3 Qf8 12.Ra1 g6 13.Nd2 Ne6 14.Ndc4 b6 15.Qf1 h5 16.f4 exf4 17.gxf4 Qh6 18.e5 dxe5 19.fxe5 Nh7 20.d4 Ra7 21.d5 Nc5 22.Bd4 Qf8 23.Qg2 Bc8 24.d6 cxd6 25.Qc6 Bd7 26.Qxb6+ Rb7 27.Qxa5 Bd8 28.Qc3 Ne4 29.Qb2 dxe5 30.Nxe5 Ba5 31.Rd1 f6 32.N5c4 Bc7 33.a5 Bc6 34.a6 Rb5 35.a7+ Ka8 36.Ra6 Bb7 37.Na3 Rb4 38.Nb5 Bxh2 39.Rb6 Rd8 40.Nc4 Qe8 41.Na5 Neg5 42.Rxb7 Qxe2 43.Qc3 Qxd1+ 44.Ka2 Rxb5 45.Rb8+ Rdxb8 46.Qc6+ R8b7 47.Qc8+ Rb8 48.axb8=Q+ Bxb8 49.Qc6+ Rb7 50.Qxb7# 1-0

The game appears to be one half of a mini-match. I found another game by the same players with the same start position, colors reversed: DavidKhachatryan vs posporov051560. The same a4 & ...a5 idea was used in this game.

08 August 2010

Rare Bird Tracking

After posting Rare Bird Sightings, with its mention of three recent chess960 events, I set off looking for game scores. Although I came up empty handed, I found a few relevant blog posts on those same events.

The USCF's USchess.org has a post by GM Larry Kaufman, co-winner of the U.S. Open chess960 side event, GM Kaufman on Fischer Random & The Irvine Grind, where he described the method of selecting the start positions.

In this event the method used was to have the youngest child present point to one square after another while the TD drew pieces (other than Rooks and King) at random from a bag. It's not a purely random method as the child could in theory use strategy to try to get positions he liked, but it wasn't a problem in practice.

Since this method could easily end with two Bishops starting on the same color square, I assume a tweak is needed. The Kaufman post links to a long USchess forum response by Gene_M (Gene Milener, author of 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960'): USCF Forums > Chess Life Articles > GM Kaufman on Fischer Random. He writes,

For masters a completely unfamiliar setup is too complex for them to play strong chess during the opening phase. Chess960 must be narrowed to exactly one non-traditional setup, for at least a decade. From studying the annual FRC-chess960 Rapid tournaments in Mainz... We have learned that we have already learned all we are ever going to learn from Fischer's version of chess960. A change is needed. Schmidt and the ChessTigers.de organization should announce one non-traditional setup that shall be the only setup to be used in cooperative chess960 tournaments for the next decade (until at least 2020).

It escapes me why Milener undermines the main reason to buy his book, but he is in good company. Garry Kasparov is on record for having said similar; see Kasparov's Chess960 Proposal. Worth noting is that the two co-winners at the U.S. Open event were the two top players. Is the statement that masters can't play unfamiliar positions perhaps not accurate?

GM Alexandra Kosteniuk posted a piece about the Mainz simul on her Chessqueen.com blog: Kosteniuk Chess960 Simul. One of the photos is a screen shot of the final results. The last two columns identify the start positions for each of the 20 games (translating from the German): SP222 NQRKNRBB, SP444 RBNNQKBR, SP666 RNKNBQRB, & SP888 RBQKBRNN. For some reason, this list doesn't match my records for the same SPs, which are 223, 444, 555, & 888, respectively. The fifth and sixth columns on the same chart show some kind of rating, where we see that many of GM Kosteniuk's opponents were rated above 2000. Whatever start positions were really used, the final result of +16-0=4 again contradicts Milener's hypothesis about unfamiliar positions.

07 August 2010

Rare Bird Sightings

Continuing with Chess960 Tournaments Are Rare Birds, the results from the side event at the 111th United States Open Chess Championship are here: 2010 US Open Championship 'Fisher Random' (oops!). The 14-player event was won by GM Lawrence Kaufman and William Duckworth. Kaufman earned the GM title by winning the 2008 World Senior Championship.

A rare bird I overlooked was CZECH OPEN 2010 "eBRANA OPEN" - turnaj M (= Fischerandom chess event). The 40-player event was won by GM Sergei Movsesian of Slovakia. Official site: Open Championship of the Czech Republic of Fischerandom chess.

Yesterday, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk played a 20-board simul in a much reduced Chess Classic Mainz; see (Almost) No Chess960 @ CCM10 for the first announcement. At the opening ceremony, Chess Classic Mainz 2010, she said,

I am happy that I can play the Chess960 simul and I have to say that I love Chess960! I like to be creative and I really enjoy the Chess960 events in Mainz. For me, Mainz has always been a good starting point: in 2008 I won the Chess960 world championship and after “Mainz” I won the chess world championship and I scored other good results. I hope that the 2010 edition will become a new starting point for a successful chess year again.

In Chess Classic Mainz 2010 Day 1 - Press Conference,
Chessdom.com reported,

Alexandra Kosteniuk played a Chess960 simul on 20 boards. Just 20? Yes, but with 20 different starting positions! Her final score was 18-2: +16=4-0. She needed 3 hours and 13 minutes to complete her simul.

A PDF on the Chess Tigers chess960 site, Simultan mit Alexandra Kosteniuk, reports that she played four different positions, each on five boards. If I discover PGN game scores for any of these events, I'll pass them along.

01 August 2010

Central vs. Flank Expansion

After studying the two Nakamura vs. Movsesian games in Banska Stiavnica 2010 I decided that the second game, with Movsesian playing White, was more instructive. The first diagram, showing the position after four moves, reveals the start position: SP954 RKRNBBNQ. Movsesian has chosen to start playing immediately on the Kingside (h-side for the purists), while Nakamura has paid more attention to the center. I discussed this choice some time ago in a post titled Attention to the Chess960 Center.

The second diagram shows the position some moves later. Both players have continued to follow their initial opening strategy, expanding in different parts of the board. Now they decided it was the right time to castle -- 14.O-O-O Bd7 15.Kb1 O-O-O -- and the resulting position could have easily arisen from the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR). After a few more moves, Nakamura grabbed the h-Pawn with ...gxh5, used it as a decoy to draw White's pieces, then launched a winning attack on the White King. For the full game score, see the link above to Banska Stiavnica 2010.