23 April 2011

The Path of Bliss?

The site ChessInTranslation.com appeared in the first half of last year and immediately became a big hit with fans of top level chess. I mentioned it on my main blog in July 2010 (see ChessInTranslation.com) and have been following it ever since. A recent post translating GM Shipov's comments on a game from the 2011 European Championship at Aix-les-Bains, France, sounded like a promotion for chess960: The massacre of the innocents.
Kids and Hulking Brutes: To catch your opponent out in an opening line, to arrive for a game and, without making even a single move of your own at the board, to get a won position – that's the dream of any chess player. And if, in former times, such victories were won through the blood, sweat and tears of long home analysis – moreover, without complete confidence in the quality of the analysis, and knowing that your opponent would sometimes find strong refutations at the board – the situation has now changed.

Nowadays you need to choose the sharpest of lines, where you've looked at the complications with a computer, while your opponent hasn't. And the game's in the bag!

It's as if there's a fight between young school pupils, but from behind the back of one of the kids an older hulking brute towers up and lands crushing blows against his defenceless young opponent.

According to Shipov's notes, Black(!) unleashed a novelty on move 9, followed preparation for a few moves ('14…Be6!; This was the first move in the game on which [Black] spent even a little time thinking'), and accepted his opponent's resignation on the 19th move. I could comment on the notion that 'the dream of any chess player' is 'to get a won position without making even a single move of your own at the board', but I'll leave that to scholastic chess coaches and other proponents of chess in the schools. Instead, I'll just point out that when Shipov asks,

What is there for us, kids, to do in the current traumatic situation? There are only two options.
1. Prepare hard with a computer around the whole perimeter of the opening repertoire.
2. Avoid topical and sharp lines, taking Svidler's approach.

then answers,

There's also a third, purely hypothetical, possibility: to reach the level of Kasparov and Kramnik, i.e. to become a hulking brute yourself! To learn to play an unfamiliar position at the same strength as a decent computer program.

he is overlooking another possibility that isn't hypothetical and doesn't require becoming a 'hulking brute'. Readers of this blog will know exactly what I mean.

A reference at the bottom of that post points to another Chess In Translation post that had appeared a few days earlier and that I had also selected for mention on this chess960 blog: The future belongs to 1.g3!. Here's Shipov, again on a game from Aix-les-Bains:-

I've just returned to the hotel after watching the start of the fourth round. I'm in a state of shock. At the tables I said hello to the five-time Russian Champion Peter Svidler, then I had a look at his game – and was dumbfounded. The move 1.g3 had been made on the board, and his opponent – the Greek grandmaster Mastrovasilis – was spending a long time studying the position and, it seems, couldn't believe his own eyes. No doubt he'd been preparing from yesterday evening to lunch today for the normal 1.e4, had unearthed a couple of deep saving resources – and then he gets an incredible surprise like that at the board. He sat there, trying hard to think, and simply wasn't able to find a decent reply.

Here's the game on Chessgames.com: Peter Svidler vs Athanasios Mastrovasilis; 12th European Individual Championship 2011. Later Shipov added,

[Svidler] had the urge to simply play chess – to leave the beaten paths and recall his youth. After all, in our childhood all of us, out of ignorance, played mischievous setups in which you had to start thinking from the very first move. And everyone will confirm that was the happiest period of their life. So why not try to recover at least a fraction of that carefree past?

That truly is happiness – not to have to cram up on a ton of variations in the morning before the next round, not to have to study new games, not to have to sit at the computer expecting miracles from chess engines.

If that 'truly is happiness', then chess960 is bliss.

1 comment:

HarryO said...

Eh Mark
Great thoughts and that game that Peter Svidler played is really entertaining and looks to me exactly how you could play SP518 if you would have come from a Chess960 background.

I've got some thoughts about enjoying chess over at my own blog if you want to take a look: