25 May 2013

Organizer's Hat

I've reported on SchemingMind's chess960 league in several previous posts:-

The league format is a great way to meet other keen players and I joined a team for Season Five. I played eight games against good players and reported on two of the mini-matches without identifying the event:-

Season Six ran aground when the organizer disappeared just before the start of round one, so I volunteered to take over the job. He left big shoes to fill and I hope I'm up to the task. In any case, it might give me new perspectives on chess960 plus some good material for this blog.

18 May 2013

SP518 Status

Since I'm still Wading in Opening Theory, I thought it would be appropriate to give a status report on how deep that theory is in practice. To be clear, I'm talking about correspondence games using the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR).

The seven games that started two weeks ago have all advanced to around moves 8-12. All of them are still in theory, meaning that I can find games on Chesslab.com with the same position I'm playing. Of the seven games, three are still in basic theory, where hundreds of games have already been played to the position in my game. In one of those three games, my opponent is taking a 'long think' to decide between two theoretical moves of equal importance that branch into completely different paths.

Of the other four games, three are in positions where I find 10-20 previously played games. In all three of those games, one variation has been played more than any other, and the effort required on my part is to understand why that variation is so popular and where it will eventually lead. Previous experience tells me that all of those games will eventually reach a position where several different moves have been tried, each move having a handful (less than five) of representative games. That's the point where I have to start thinking for myself.

The last of the seven games has already reached the 'handful' stage. That, of course, is where the chess starts to become interesting because I'm really on my own.

In contrast to those seven SP518 games, I just started two chess960 correspondence games, one with White and one with Black. Both games are on the first move and I'm already on my own. I know from experience that the CCRL database (see the link in the right sidebar) is unreliable for opening ideas, since engines just don't understand the opening. I also know that I won't find more than a few dozen games elsewhere using the same start position, many of those between players who have a different idea about opening objectives than I have.

I know that preparing for correspondence chess is not the same as preparing for crossboard chess. In fact, preparing openings for crossboard chess is even more time consuming and the work is never finished. In a world where time is a limited quantity for all of us, that pretty much sums up why I prefer playing chess960.

11 May 2013

Chess960 Strategy

Since I'm still Wading in Opening Theory, desperately short of time, I took the lead from that post and decided to follow one of Google's search suggestions. The first suggestion, 'chess960 castling', is undoubtedly top-of-the-list because it's essential knowledge and looks mysterious for all chess960 newcomers who are already familiar with traditional chess. Once they've played a few games and have castled a few times, the mystery transmigrates into the second suggestion, 'chess960 strategy'.

Unfortunately, chess960 strategy is a topic too big for a post where the primary objective is to get it finished as quickly as possible. After looking at several pages of search results for 'chess960 strategy', the most I can offer is a summary. The phrase is subject to at least four different interpretations.

  • Not too surprisingly, 'chess960 strategy' is often understood to mean the same as 'chess960 opening strategy'. This is partly because the main difference between traditional chess and chess960 is in the opening phase, and partly because 'opening strategy' is also a mystery for novice players of traditional chess. Here we find lists of well known opening objectives like piece development, attention to the center, and so on.

  • After lists of the components of opening strategy, the next step is to treat each component as a separate topic. What does 'piece development' mean when the pieces start on different squares? How does 'attention to the center' apply to specific start positions? And so on.

  • After considering 'chess960 strategy' applied only to the opening, the concept blossoms into principles that are valid into the middlegame and endgame. These can be extensions of the lists of opening objectives -- because they also apply throughout the game -- supplemented by lists of generic strategies that spring into action after the pieces have been developed. One example would be attacks against the castled King. Another would be maneuvers around a blocked center. And so on.

  • After lists of typical, generic strategies, the next step is to examine specific strategies using concrete examples. Here we find detailed examples from real games showing 'attacks against the castled King' or 'maneuvers around a blocked center', and so on.

It looks like I've stumbled into the wrong topic for someone who is desperately short of time. It also looks like I have several ideas for future posts. Before I tackle those, I have to return to traditional chess and wade through more opening theory.

04 May 2013

Wading in Opening Theory

Every once in a while I get overwhelmed when a new SP518 online tournament starts and I have little time for blogging. Two years ago I mentioned this for a post titled The Clock Is/Isn't Ticking, and now, for similar reasons, I plead Cup Play.

What to do? How about a quick post on the terms Google suggests for a chess960 search. I found a good explanation of the mechanism at How Google Instant’s Autocomplete Suggestions Work, written by Danny Sullivan, aka Dr. Search Engine. Here are the terms suggested when you start typing 'chess960':-

  • chess960 castling
  • chess960 strategy
  • chess960 openings
  • chess960 chess.com
  • chess960 tips
  • chess960 computer
  • chess960 play online
  • chess960 tournament
  • chess960 games
  • chess960 software

Ditto for 'fischer random':-

  • fischer random chess
  • fischer random chess online
  • fischer random generator
  • fischer random chess castling
  • fischer random chess960
  • fischer random castling

The term 'fischerrandom' (two 'r's) automatically corrects to 'fischer random', while 'fischerandom' (one 'r') returns only three suggestions:-

  • fischerandom chess
  • fischerandom chess computerized shuffler
  • fischerandom wiki

There are some interesting terms in these lists and I might come back to them for my next post if I'm still wading in opening theory.