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.

1 comment:

HarryO said...

Hi. I did not know of some of these links so thanks for your blog!

I understand that people may be reluctant to let go of the past ways of analyzing the great game. It is satisfying to sit down and work through a particular opening scheme and develop some specific theory for that opening. I totally accept that. However to suggest that one position be played for a decade is silly. It would soon become apparent that this specially selected opening scheme is completely arbitrary. The next generation of chess players will simply ask "why do we limit ourselves this way?". One specific chess position that we know in advance, will once again push chess towards memorization, because computing power will quickly analyse this specific position better than we can as it becomes more and more forceful, compelling humans to once again memorize vast trees of moves as we now do in standard chess position 518.

We must avoid making arbitrary decisions on the future of chess. Fischers concept for Chess960 is not arbitrary. It is a well thought out solution to the problem of Chess in the modern computing era.

We have to let go of the past. We can still analyse any and all of the Chess960 starting positions as we have done with standard chess. It is just that the development of expansive opening theory will take longer than we may be patient to wait....

I suspect that what we will find, is that there is many theoretical points in common with many starting positions, and it will be fascinating to put our minds collectively to the task of unifying whole categories of chess960 positions. It will take perhaps decades to do.

We must remember too, that within the next decade, computing power will start to make huge ingress on Chess960 opening theory as it has done in standard chess.

We must swim with the tide of change and play Chess960 as Fischer intended it.