17 November 2012

Ignoring the Positional Handicap

Earlier this year, in No Time for Shelter, I reported on the SchemingMind 2010 Chess960 Dropout Tournament and now I can do the same for the 2011 Chess960 Dropout Tournament. The event finished a round earlier than previous years after the site restricted it to paying members only, which cut the number of entries in half. I wasn't a paid member at the beginning, so I wasn't able to participate.

Two of the strongest players met in the third round and were assigned SP655 RNKRQNBB as their start position. The initial moves were 1.g3 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.gxf4 f5 4.Nc3 d5 5.d4 c6, reaching the position shown in the first diagram.

The first of the talking points in the position is the castling option. Judging by the Pawn structure, it appears that both players have already decided to castle O-O-O. Since the Bishops are on adjacent diagonals aimed at that side of the board, the players have accepted a blocked Pawn center, thereby limiting the scope of the Bishops. Very surprisingly, White has also accepted a backward Pawn on the open e-file. He undoubtedly intends to play a Knight to e5, where Black will be tempted to exchange it, thereby closing the file. White's next move, 6.Nd2, was a step in that direction.

Some moves later the game reached the position shown in the second diagram. The same situation exists on the e-file, giving the impression that Black has been more successful than White in steering the development of the game. Chess positions are not always as simple as they appear and White ignored the positional handicap by playing the tactical 22.e4. Give that move a '!!'. Since both 22...fxe4 23.Bxe4 and 22...dxe4 23.d5 are bad for Black, he played instead 22...f4, trapping the Bishop on g3.

The tactics continued with 23.exd5 cxd5 (if 23...Nxd5, then 24.Bg4), followed by 24.Nxd5 Nxd5 25.Bxd5 Rfe7 26.Bxe6+ Rxe6 27.d5 Rxe1 28.Qc5+, the Queen check untrapping the Bishop for the recapture on e1. I don't often show chess960 middlegame sequences on this blog, especially when, as here, they are indistinguishable from positions that might arise from the traditional start position, but that tactical variation is too impressive to pass up. If you want to check the tactics yourself, here is the PGN, courtesy SchemingMind.

[Event "Chess960: 2011 Chess960 Dropout Tournament, Round 3"]
[Site "SchemingMind.com"]
[Date "2011.07.30"]
[Round "-"]
[White "saxon"]
[Black "Tyler"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Variant "fischerandom"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "rnkrqnbb/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNKRQNBB w KQkq - 0 1"]
[WhiteCountry "GER"]
[BlackCountry "SUI"]
[WhiteElo "2496"]
[BlackElo "2479"]

1.g3 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.gxf4 f5 4.Nc3 d5 5.d4 c6 6.Nd2 Ne6 7.e3 Nd7 8.Nf3 Bf7 9.Bf2 Qe7 10.Bh4 Nf6 11.Bg2 Bh5 12.Rd2 h6 13.a4 Bxf3 14.Bxf3 g5 15.fxg5 hxg5 16.Bg3 Re8 17.O-O-O O-O-O 18.Kb1 Qh7 19.Qf2 Rd7 20.Re1 Bg7 21.Rdd1 Rf7 22.e4 f4 23.exd5 cxd5 24.Nxd5 Nxd5 25.Bxd5 Rfe7 26.Bxe6+ Rxe6 27.d5 Rxe1 28.Qc5+ Kb8 29.Bxe1 Rc8 30.Qf2 Bf6 31.d6 Qf5 32.Rd3 Rc5 33.Qf3 Qd7 34.h4 gxh4 35.Qxf4 Qf5 36.Qh6 Qg5 37.Qf8+ Rc8 38.Qf7 Qc5 39.Qb3 Rd8 40.d7 Qg1 41.Qb4 Ka8 42.Ka2 Qg8+ 43.b3 Qg2 44.Qc5 Rb8 45.Bf2 b6 46.Qd6 Bd8 47.Rc3 a5 48.Bxb6 Rxb6 49.Qf8 Qg5 50.Rc8+ Ka7 51.Rxd8 Qd5 52.Ra8+ Qxa8 53.Qxa8+ Kxa8 54.d8=Q+ 1-0

The player of the White pieces went on to win the event.

1 comment:

GeneM said...

Mark.W wrote:
"... chess960 middlegame sequences ... are indistinguishable from positions that might arise from the traditional start position..."

I slightly distorted what Mark wrote, but in any case I kinda disagree with the spirit of the quoted statement; because-

In the diagram, both kings are castled to the a-wing, which is rare in traditional chess1.
A black knight on e6 is also uncommon in chess1.
These uncommon formational elements are clues that this is chess960.

Collect about five routine middlegame positions diagrams from chess960, and another five from chess1.

Then show both diagram sets to a tournament chess player.
The player will have no difficulty correctly categorizing each set as either chess960 or chess1.

The middlegame phase in chess960-FRC is Not the quite same as in chess1; IMHOpinion.
Thus chess1 is hiding a lot of chess from us, beyond the opening phase.