30 June 2012

Kasparov's Modern Chess

Vacation reading this year is the series 'Kasparov on Modern Chess'. While volumes two through four are more appropriate for a post on my World Championship Blog, the first volume, Revolution in the 70s, is surprisingly appropriate for this chess960 blog. If you're not familiar with the book, see Jeremy Silman's review, Kasparov on Modern Chess Volume One, for an outline of the material.

The last chapter in the book, 'The Opinions of 28 World Experts', is a 60-page look at the major issues -- 'problems', if you prefer more direct language -- facing modern opening theory. For someone like me, already hooked on chess960, the chapter is a long essay on Fischer's famous statement that 'The *Old* Chess Is Dead'. A few of the 28 experts even mentioned Fischer's invention.

  • Nikitin: So that players should think with their own brains, the rules can also be changed slightly. Apart from the invention of his wonderful clock with the automatic addition of time, Fischer also suggested a new, arbitrary arrangrment of the pieces before the start of the game. But this is perhaps too radical. I think that it would be interesting to abolish castling or at least make it different: simply exchange the places of the King and the Rook, or move the King to the Rook's square and the Rook to the adjacent one (b1 or g1).

    Or, say in the initial position both Kings and Queens should exchange places with the Bishops. Old theory will immediately be shelved, and the creation of a new theory will be done by future generations. It is also important that in this case it will be possible to learn from the games of the classics: the basic laws of play in the middlegame and the endgame, and the method of combat with different Pawn structures will remain the same. (p.356)

  • Sosonko: The excessive development of theory significantly reduces the purely playing component of chess -- that for which we so love this ancient game. How to avoid theory? Regarding this there have been many suggestions. My only comment is that Fischer or Bronstein chess is some different kind of game, and here I must 'pass', as I simply know nothing about it. (p.367)

  • Sveshnikov: To return to something like the chess that we once played, the possibility of preparation must be minimised. But in what way? I do not like Fischer chess, for the reason that in it the evaluation of the initial position depends on a random draw. [...] Far more sensible is Bronstein chess, when everything is in the hands of the players themselves: with their initial moves they themselves lay out the pieces. But even so, this is already another game. (p.391)

Re Nikitin's suggestion that 'both Kings and Queens should exchange places with the Bishops', this is none other than SP521 RNQBBKNR. I would like to research what, if anything, is already known about this position.

Re Sosonko's 'here I must "pass", as I simply know nothing about it', I wish that all players of whatever strength were so objective before passing judgement on an evolution of the traditional game. The odds are that anyone in favor of chess960 has actually played it, while anyone against chess960 is speaking without experience.

Re Sveshnikov's 'more sensible is Bronstein chess', I believe that he is referring to the variant of shuffle chess where the two players take turns placing the pieces on the back rank. I've never investigated this idea and it would make a good start point for a followup post.


Vasile Andreica said...

The chess960 tournament in Romania had 29 players competing in 7 rounds. Very spirited fights, and well received premiere. Value showed itself, the one IM participating won it.

Vasile Andreica said...

Stats for the chess960 tournament in Romania

7 rounds, 29 players, Swiss style.

No games were written down (too many players, cramped space)

R1, SP 756 - 6 wins white, 1 draw, 7 wins black
R2, SP 714 - 7 wins white, no draws, 7 wins black
R3, SP 229 - 6 wins white, 2 draws, 5 wins black
R4, SP 12 - 3 wins white, 1 draw, 9 wins black
R5, SP 514 - 3 wins white, no draws, 10 wins black
R6, SP 777 - 9 wins white,, 1 draw, 3 wins black
R7, SP 100 - 6 wins white, 3 draws, 4 wins black

HarryO said...

Hope you are enjoy holidays Mark. It is actually an interesting idea to allow Chess960 to evolve by allowing the players to put alternative pieces down one by one according to Chess960 rules at the start of the game and then play Chess960 from there....

I for one would love to try it. The question is where would you start? What piece would you put down first?

Toss a coin for who puts the king down first.

Then the pieces are placed after the king as:
0. King (1st player)
1. Queen (2nd player)
2. Rook 1 (1st player)
3. Rook 2 etc
4. Bishop 1
5. Bishop 2
6. Knight 1
7. Knight 2

Just one way of doing it. That move order encourages position structure, with the knights down last, because they are most flexible.

Point is it is still Chess960! The beauty of the idea is that players can choose how far they want to deviate from what they are familiar with....

Bravo! I can see one problem however, you could get angry at your opponent even before the game has started! (Why did you put the queen there you @#$#@!)

This is probably why Bobby preferred a random approach because it is more peaceful before the war actually starts, and both players use an adaptive mindset, adapting to whatever is presented over the board when they arrive there.

I'm probably in the 2nd camp.

GeneM said...

TO: Vasile Andreica

Your rounds 5 & 6 had the largest differences between the win ratio of White/Black.
So I checked the 5 & 6 start setups against the stats on ComputerChess.org (link is on Mark.W's blog right-side bar). I am frustrated to find no correlation between the ratios from your tournament and the CC .org stats. Frustrated, but not surprised, as many factors are different and not controlled, and the sample size of 5 & 6 are of course small.
For what it's worth, the tournament and website stats are compared below:

R5, SP 514 - 3 wins white, no draws, 10 wins black
27.3% == Draw rate
48.9% == White win percent

R6, SP 777 - 9 wins white, 1 draw, 3 wins black
16.1% == Draw rate
49.1% == White win percent



GeneM said...

From Mark's blog post:
The excessive development of theory significantly reduces the purely playing component of chess -- that for which we so love this ancient game. How to avoid theory?

Sosonko half contradicts himself. First he says that "excessive" opening theory (variation memorization) is the problem; but then he asks how we can entirely "avoid theory".
Which is it?

I believe the problem is the "excessive" study of the one traditional start back rank setup.
'No opening theory' --- that is a nonGoal, despite the fact it was Fischer's intended goal.


GeneM said...

Mark's post wrote:
"I think that it would be interesting to abolish castling or at least make it different"

GeneM says:
Give more king destination options to the second player who castles, but only if he castles to the wing opposite from the wing the first player castled to.
(The two wings are the a-wing and h-wing.)

For opposite wing castling, Black's destination square options for his king are any back rank square that does not move toward the same wing that the first player castled to.

For example, after White castles first with Ke1-g1(Rh1-f1), Black can castle Ke8-a8(Ra8-b8). Also valid for Black would be Ke8-e8(Ra8-f8).

My goal is to reduce the draw rate.
My goal applies equally well to traditional chess1 as it does to any implementation of chess960-FRC.


Morphy said...

Whose goal is to reduce the draw rate?
I am confused here by GeneM's comment.
Should not the GM's who are drawing against each other decide whether they want to play chess960 or some random middle game position?

If I were to organize a tournament with strong GMs. I would suggest playing Fischer Random with colors switched - on the same day one after the day so no possibility of "researching" and to reduce the possible variance due to increased white advantage in some positions.

I think the goal is to avoid "opening theory" for its very possible for one GM to work out a novelty over the computer to spring upon an unsuspecting opponent and win even if the opponent is more "naturally gifted"

So its not just draws but even decisive games that are not OTB but home prepared.
Chess960 elegantly solves this problem. Though technically you can cook up novelties for each of the 960 positions.
Another alternative game, is to come up with about a 1000 balanced middle game positions and randomly assign it as a game to be played out.
All of this measures the true OTB skill of a player.

HarryO said...

Morphy you are spot on so no need to be confused. Chess960 was not invented to deal with draws and I honestly do not think that Bobby Fischer was concerned about draws. If there are less draws in Chess960, this is merely a side effect.

I wish Bobby were still alive so that he could explain it for himself.

In Chess960 the goal is white to move first and white tries to win using concepts that they learn. Black tries to win using concepts that they have learned. If that is not possible, then black tries to draw. Always both sides try not to loose.

It is a test of ideas and imagination.

Can I say it any more simply?