28 July 2012

Never Move a Pawn Twice in the Opening?

Q: What's almost as rare as chess960 tournaments? A: Published chess960 OTB games, where OTB is 'Over-The-Board', i.e. face-to-face, in contrast to online or correspondence games. In my previous post, Recent Comments, I was pleased to find a few games along with the results of the 2012 Schachclub Waldbronn - Chess960 Open. The seven round rapidplay event attracted 36 players and saw FM Josef Gheng and GM Klaus Bischoff emerge as co-winners with 6.0 points each, a full point ahead of third place.

The winners met in the fifth round with GM Bischoff playing White in a game that started with SP888 RBQKBRNN. After a few fairly routine moves, White played 5.d3, reaching the position shown in the top diagram; the start position is still discernible. Black replied 5...Nf7, when White pushed the d-Pawn once more, 6.d4.

Why not play the Pawn to d4 on the fifth move? I'm really not sure. Perhaps White was concerned about 5...Bf7, when the square c4 is available to the Bishop. After ...Nf7, the Bishop move is no longer an option. Whatever the reason, after 6.d4, the game took a tactical turn with 6...d6 7.c4 e5 8.Bc3 e4 9.d5 Ng4 10.Nd4 Bd7 11.h3 Ngh6, reaching the position shown in the bottom diagram.

The next few moves saw both players castle to the same side: 12.O-O c5 13.Nde2 O-O. Now White owned the long a1-h8 diagonal, where he built a Queen / Bishop battery. Black had no effective counterplay and was lost after 30 moves. To play through the complete game, here is the PGN as provided by schachclub-waldbronn.de.

[Event "Waldbronner Chess960 Open Deutsche Meisterschaft 2012 20'+5''/Zug"]
[Site "Waldbronn"]
[Date "2012.06.17"]
[Round "5"]
[White "Bischoff,Klaus"]
[Black "Gheng,Josef"]
[Result "1-0"]
[WhiteElo "2503"]
[BlackElo "2397"]
[WhiteTitle "GM"]
[BlackTitle "FM"]
[WhiteType "human"]
[BlackType "human"]
[Variant "Chess 960"]
[Variation "Chess 960"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rbqkbrnn/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RBQKBRNN w KQkq - 0 1"]
[Opening "960 Stellung 888"]
[Termination "normal"]
[PlyCount "59"]
[EventDate "2012.06.17"]
[EventSponsor "Sparkasse Karlsruhe-Ettlingen"]
[EventType "swiss (rapid)"]
[EventRounds "7"]
[Section "Open"]
[TimeControl "1200+5"]
[Mode "OTB"]
[ECO "Chess 960"]
[Annotator "Schachclub Waldbronn"]
[Editor "Clemens Linowski"]

{Runde 5: Chess960-Start-Position 888} 1.f4 f5 2.Nf3 c6 3.e3 Nf6 4.Ng3 g6 5.d3 Nf7 6.d4 d6 7.c4 e5 8.Bc3 e4 9.d5 Ng4 (9...exf3 10.Bxf6+) 10.Nd4 Bd7 11.h3 Ngh6 12.O-O c5 13.Nde2 O-O 14.b3 Bc7 15.a4 Bd8 16. Ra2 Re8 17.Ba1 Be7 18.Bxe4 {W steht positionell besser, sodass er hier einschlagen kann} Bf8 {S nimmt nicht:} (18...fxe4 19.Nxe4 Nf5 20.Qc3 Qd8 21.N2g3 Bf8 22.Nxf5 Rxe4 23.Nxd6 Rxe3 24.Qxe3 (24.Nxf7 Rxc3 25.Nxd8 Rxb3 26.Ne6 Bxe6 27.dxe6 Re3 28.Be5) 24...Bxd6 25.Qc3 Bf8 26.Re2 Qh4) 19.Bd3 Bg7 20.Bxg7 Kxg7 21.e4 Qd8 22.exf5 Bxf5 23.Bxf5 Nxf5 24. Nxf5+ gxf5 25.Ng3 Kg6 26.Re1 Rxe1+ 27.Qxe1 Qf6 28.Kh2 h6 29.Re2 Qd4 30.Re7 {S gibt auf - Black abandoned} (30.Re7 Rf8 31.Qe6+ Qf6 32.Qe2) 1-0

That must set some kind of a record for most tags in a single PGN game score.

21 July 2012

Recent Comments

While I was on vacation this blog received more than the usual number of comments, among which were a few deserving special notice. First I'll list a few posts leading up to vacation that received multiple comments.

The 'Iceberg' post had a particularly noteworthy comment related to the Anand - Gelfand title match. I had intended to highlight it myself, but the comment pre-empted me. From Steve Giddins, The Levellers (stevegiddinschessblog.blogspot.com), file this under 'you can lead a horse to water etc. etc.':-

The result is a whole series of effectively contentless games, where the players are just checking each other's computer-aided preparation. Once in a while, they will hit on a gap, and get some advantage, but most of the time, there will just be what we have already seen in Moscow - 15-20 moves of preparation, 4-5 more accurate moves, a dead position, and a draw.

So, what is the solution? Sadly, I don't think there is one, at least not without abandoning traditional chess, in favour of Fischer Random, and I hardly know anyone in the chess world who wants to see that (I certainly don't). It grieves me to say it, but I think classical chess is in its last days.

The remark was repeated twice on Chessbase.com. First there was a reprint of the post: World Championship G4 reflections – it's the computers!; followed by a reaction: Giddin's reflection on draws, readers' feedback. Many of the readers' remarks mentioned the Fischer Random idea, some for it, some against. At least people are discussing the idea rather than dismissing it without due consideration.

Back to this present blog, other recent comments were made against the following posts.

Of particular note here were a number of comments by Vasile Andreica against the first two posts.

The first Chess960 tournament ever organized in Romania will take place on July 7th in the northern city of Satu Mare. It will be an open tourney with 7 rounds, Swiss style, each round featuring a separate start position.

Our Romanian correspondent also provided a pair of links: Cupa Informatia Zilei la sah 960 si blitz and Inedita premiera! La Satu Mare se va organiza primul turneu de sah 960 din România. The event was won by 'the one IM participating', showing once again that skill in traditional chess carries over to chess960. Unfortunately, the games were not recorded. On that line of thought, and going back a few months to April -- Rare Birds 2012 -- a link to the Waldbronn tournament now leads to several games by titled players; see 'Partien'.

Another comment against my 'Modern Chess' post brought up the objective of reducing the draw rate. The problem of draws, especially short draws, is raised so often during discussions about chess960, that it is worth adding it as a new bullet to 'Top 10 Myths'. Fischer's greatest invention is not a panacea for all the ills that beset traditional chess. It is, in a word, about excessive *memorization* which has been exaggerated by computer preparation.

14 July 2012

Non-random Fischer Random

In Kasparov's Modern Chess, I touched on the idea of Bronstein chess.
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.

This is confirmed in the Telegraph's 2006 obituary of David Bronstein.

He was one of the originators of Rapid Chess played at a faster time limit, with 30 minutes or less for the game, and developed a form of Random Chess well before Bobby Fischer claimed ownership of the concept. In Bronstein Random Chess the pawns are set out and the first eight moves involve placing the pieces on the vacant back rank.

HarryO pursued this idea in a comment to the Modern Chess post, where he proposed that the players alternate placing the King, Queen, etc. until all pieces have been placed. While this is certainly an easy method to follow, it has the drawback that it can favor certain of the 960 possible positions. We have already seen this problem in the method used to select start positions during last year's 'Kings and Queens' event in St.Louis; see the comment to The Chess960 Wheel of Fortune.

Since the only method to ensure an even chance of choosing all positions is to start by placing the Bishops, and since the position of the King and Rooks is determined by the start squares of the other five pieces, I propose a different method.

  • Player A places a Bishop, which the other player echoes.

  • Player B places a Bishop on a different color square than used in the previous step, also echoed.

This leaves the Queen and Knights to be placed. I propose that the two Knights be placed on the same step by the same player, and that this should be considered a single step.

  • Player A places either the Queen or the two Knights, which the other player echoes. The choice of placing either the Queen or the Knights is Player A's decision, as is the choice of square(s) for the piece(s).

  • Player B places the remaining piece(s) -- either the Queen or the two Knights -- also echoed.

  • The King and Rooks are placed on the three remaining empty squares according to the rules of chess960, the King between the Rooks.

This method ensures that all 960 positions have an equal chance of being selected. It also allows for the development of a new kind of opening theory. As for the question of which player gets to go first as Player A, that can be decided using the same sort of method that we already use to determine who plays White.

[To be consistent with the standards of this blog, I should have titled this post 'Non-random Chess960', but the play on words was too cute to ignore.]