27 October 2012

Chess960 Caveat Emptor

Not long ago I received the following message from a chess960 fan on Chess.com:-
I haven't seen any reviews yet of the book 'Chess960' by Jesse Russell and am wondering if you have read it or heard anything about it? Wondering if it is worth purchasing?

Like many queries I receive, it was new to me, so I started to investigate. My first search led to Chess960 [Paperback] Jesse Russell (Editor), Ronald Cohn (Editor) on Amazon.com, with 'Product Details; Paperback: 180 pages; Publisher: Book on Demand Ltd. (April 14, 2012)'. The front cover mentioned 'Bookvika publishing' and 'High Quality Content by Wikipedia articles!'. The back cover mentioned Pubmix.com and carried the following blurb:-

I didn't have to transcribe the text because it was repeated in Amazon's 'Book Description':-

High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! Chess960 (or Fischer Random Chess) is a chess variant invented and advocated by former World Chess Champion Bobby Fischer, originally announced on June 19, 1996 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It employs the same board and pieces as standard chess, but the starting position of the pieces is randomized along the players' home ranks. The random setup forces players to resort to talent and creativity rather than the possibility of obtaining an advantage through the memorization of opening moves.

That's all very true, but how much of the book is original and how much is taken from Wikipedia? Clicking on the name of the first 'editor' leads to 'Books › "Jesse Russell"', where we find '"Official Scrabble Players Dictionary" by Jesse Russell and Ronald Cohn (May 14, 2012)' and '"Industry Foundation Classes" by Jesse Russell and Ronald Cohn (Jan 16, 2012)', among many other titles. The first title had a single customer review:-

Silly me, I thought this was supposed to be a Scrabble dictionary, with words that can be used for Scrabble. Instead, it talks about the origins of Scrabble and then gives me a history lesson on Israel and Thailand. I can't understand why it's called a Scrabble Dictionary! I'm starting to wonder if the contents was mistakenly put into this book! Not pleased!

Silly me, indeed. I imagine that the chess960 title also has its 180 pages filled with peripheral info. A Bobby Fischer bio, anyone? Not pleased, indeed!


Ziggy, 8 November 2012

20 October 2012

More Chess960 on Chessgames.com

After writing the post about 2001 Leko - Adams on Chessgames.com, I set off looking for more resources on the same site. In addition to the pages already mentioned in relation to 'Leko - Adams', all of the most interesting resources were linked from the end of the index Chess openings: Chess variants (000).

For the record, although the official name used on the site is 'fischerandom', this returned the least number of pages (search on 'site:chessgames.com fischerandom'). The single most used term was 'chess960', which was about 10% more frequent than 'fischer random'. The search on 'fischerrandom' returned the most results, because it combined both 'fischerrandom' & 'fischer random', a useful search technique I hadn't seen used before in this specific instance.

As for the four games linked from the 'Variants (000)' page, all are undoubtedly worth a dedicated post. The two 'Team White vs Team Black' games are especially interesting because they record the comments made by the two teams while discussing the start position and the subsequent game. A small King, either White or Black, to the right of the kibitzers name indicates for which team the comment was made. I assume the (secret?) comments by the two teams were merged after the game to produce the final set of comments.

If you're interested in the team games for traditional chess (SP518), see The Chessgames Challenge. The current game is 'The World vs Varuzhan Akobian'.

13 October 2012

2001 Leko - Adams on Chessgames.com

Some people collect stamps, others collect coins, still others collect chess sets. I collect links to web pages. You might think that my collection has no value, but you would be wrong. It's worth its weight in another intangible resource : time. Whenever I need an idea for a post, I sort through the collection of links and -- voila -- something always catches my attention. I hadn't looked at recently acquired chess960 links for at least six months, so when I started sorting through them for this post, dozens of ideas came to mind.

The link I finally chose was from Chessgames.com (CG.com), Peter Leko vs Michael Adams; Mainz CC Fischer Random 2001. The game is from the first chess960 'World Championship' match, as documented on my page Chess960 @ Chess Classic Mainz. It turns out that CG.com has a number of chess960 games in its database, linked from an index page Chess openings: Chess variants (000). From this page we find another game from the same match on CG.com, Peter Leko vs Michael Adams; Mainz CC Fischer Random 2001.

Fortunately, GM Gligoric's book, which I covered in a post with a similar title, Shall We Play Chess960?, gives the moves from all eight games of that match in an appendix. From this we learn that the first Leko - Adams game linked above was game one of the match, while the second linked game was game five. I don't know why these two games are available on CG.com and the other six games from the match are missing, but that 'Variants 000' page points to a few more chess960 games.

A few years ago I used a CG.com page as the basis for a preliminary post on a Chess960 FAQ. It might prove useful to discover what other chess960 resources are available on the same site.

06 October 2012

Deferring the Castling Option

In my most recent post I discussed the generalities of The KQR Corner Family. The position in the diagram is a specific example from a game I played as Black with HarryO. It started with the position SP468 RBBNNKRQ, and reached the diagram after 1.Nf3 c5 2.c4.

The move that cries out to be played is 2...O-O. Castling O-O-O isn't going to be possible anytime soon, and it is hard to see where the Black King will find shelter elsewhere. The problem of King safety is intertwined with the problems of developing the Queen and g-Rook. It's easy to imagine where the minor pieces will be developed, but not at all easy for the King and major pieces.

I had two problems with 2...O-O. The first problem was the attack 3.g4 and 4.h4. After a single move forward, the Pawns backed by their own Rook and Queen already present a real menace. The second problem was the development 3.b3 and 4.Bb2. The Bishops on the a1-h8 and b1-h7 diagonals, although not presenting any immediate threat, will be raking Black's King position for a long time to come.

I decided that it was better to delay the castling decision for as long as possible, preferably waiting until White has shown his own hand. I finally played 2...b6, a natural move that opposes the light-squared Bishop against the Queen on the a8-h1 diagonal.

One advantage to thinking deeply about castling O-O was not having to revisit the decision over the next few moves. White castled O-O on the 11th move and Black followed suit on the 12th, confident that the King would not be overwhelmed. Castling on the first or second move is always an attractive option in chess960, but that doesn't mean it's a good one.