02 October 2010

Questions of Theory

The 800-pound gorilla in chess960 is the question of opening theory: is there or isn't there? I've noticed that many newcomers to chess960 often start by assembling a database of games, gathering every game to be found on the web. Since they are not likely to play the same start position more than once or twice, what's the point? Another common approach is to try and limit the number of different start positions 'authorized' for competition. This is usually stated with an unproven conviction that it will somehow improve the understanding of chess960, thereby accelerating its acceptance.

Other than these flawed approaches, what factors can guide the player who is facing a brand new chess960 start position? Are there hidden principles of chess960 openings waiting to be discovered by some future genius, the Steinitz of chess960? We may never know, but I thought it would be a good idea to collect a few ideas that I've introduced in previous posts on this blog and to take them to the next level.

  • Chess960 Opening Theory • 'A key question for the acceptance of chess960 is knowing whether all chess960 positions are equally fair, and, if not, are they reasonably fair.'

  • Comments on Chess960 Opening Theory • 'Since the only difference between chess960 and traditional chess is the starting position of the pieces, it's natural that discussions on chess960 tend to focus on the opening phase of the game.'

  • Lasker's Table of Opening Values • 'Since chess960 is only an expansion of the start position used in traditional chess, can we consider how Lasker's values -- or any other system that tries to weigh opening variations objectively -- apply to the 959 other start positions?'

  • A Framework for Chess960 Opening Theory • 'Although there are 960 different start positions, there are many similarities across those positions. For example, any start position with a Bishop on the a-file has certain characteristics in common with all other positions having a Bishop on the a-file, and those positions have the same general characteristics as positions with a Bishop starting on the h-file.'

  • First Move Advantage in Chess960 • 'I haven't seen this problem of start positions where "some give White a huge advantage, some are too drawish". Are there any positions that are known to be problematic?'

  • Differences Between Chess and Chess960 [Opening Theory] • 'Chess: Under development since mid-19th century; Chess960: Almost none'

  • A Few Novel Ideas • '"Where's the fun in playing an opponent who spent the last month analyzing some opening sidelines with Fritz/Rybka? Is chess just about rewarding hard work?"'

  • More Arguments Against Chess960 • 'An often noted disconnect in chess terminology is that when chess players talk about 'opening theory', they mean opening variations which are thought to be best play for both sides, i.e. what is known. This is only compatible with a standard definition of 'theory' in the sense that we think these moves are best, because no one has found better.'

  • The Rampant Expansion of Theory • '"[Fischer] was panicking about how theory had developed during his twenty-year absence from chess. That was why he came up with his own version of chess, where the starting position would be determined by the drawing of lots"'

In future posts I'll combine those ideas with known general principles in opening a traditional chess game.

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