02 November 2013

Chess960 Better than Traditional Chess?

Last week's post about Chess960 Interest on Chess.com reminded me of the time I spent on the site a few years ago. I summarized the exploration in a post titled Chess960 Point and Counterpoint. Here's the gist of it.
Advocates of traditional chess love to invent arguments against chess960. I mentioned several in 'Some Arguments Against Chess960' and 'More Arguments Against Chess960'. While following the pros and cons about 'Advanced Chess960 @ Chess.com', I had the opportunity to encounter a few more arguments.

With nearly 69.000 chess960 players currently registered on Chess.com -- plus another 400 in the week since I wrote the 'Chess960 Interest' post -- I am happy to report that the discussion has moved up a level or two since then. For example, following are excerpts from a thread started six months ago, Chess 960. Love it? Or not really?. The initial question was straightforward.

varelse1: So what do you think of chess960? Is it better than standard chess? As good? Or worse?

This was followed by the questionner's own viewpoint.

varelse1: I thought 960 would time-warp me back to the days of Greco and Lopez. Challenging me to invent opening theory, the way they did. But now that I've tried 960 for a while, I'm not so sure. Okay, I'm shakey in the opening part, that much I expected. But I never realized how uncomfortable I would be in the middlegame as well. The middlegames I reach are completely unfamiliar. There is no sense of "been there, done that." The positions are almost an alien landscape. Only as the endgame approaches, do things start to look familiar again. I still intend to keep trying 960. But so far, I am disappointed.

It's easy to overlook that not only were Greco and Lopez trailblazers in the opening, they were on equally unfamiliar ground in the middlegame and endgame. Anyone looking for 'been there, done that' in chess960 middlegames is bound to be disappointed. Here's an opinion on the opening phase.

SaharanKnight: If you thoroughly follow the principles of opening play, which is the same in chess960 except for a few added considerations, then you as a lower rated player can indeed compete against a chess master, especialy if he is new at chess960. Of course, if he/she is an old pro at chess960, it will be harder, but strict following of opening principles should allow one to remain competitive. But who thoroughly follows the opening principles, or who has mastered them? Conclusion: Mastery of opening principles = enjoyment of chess960.

And another on the middlegame phase.

morgondag: Chess960 in my experience (which isn't that great) often enter relatively quickly into sharp and even chaotic positions. According to the "Chess for Tigers" [by Simon Webb] book, this is the kind of positions in which a much lower ranking player has the greatest possibility of beating a much stronger player.

A common sentiment is that chess960 offers a bigger intellectual challenge than does traditional chess.

FM marljivi: I give no credit to the victory of the game, which lasts, let's say, 40 moves,and the first 20 moves had been prepared with computer, then the moves 21-30 had been a part of prepared general plan, which had probably also been merely worked out by computer, and then the last 10 moves were just conversion of the big advantage into a full point. I would really like to hear someone to explain to me the drawbacks of the chess960. Please, I am all ears.

This requires a bigger investment in thinking time.

Patscher: Chess 960 can't be played live. You have to spend lots of time since the opening, so blitz 960 isn't good.

In traditional chess, a player who knows opening theory can steer a game into his strengths. This is more difficult in chess960.

AngeloPardi: The problem with playing competitive chess960 is that this introduces an element of luck : some starting positions will favor tactics, other will probably be very positional. Some might even be lost for one side from the start!

That last remark brought a favorable mention of Chess960 Jungle (see the sidebar for a link) and investigations into diffcult SPs.

morgondag: The blog Chess960 Jungle has made some more serious attempts to clasify and analyze chess960 openings. They have also tried to find SPs that are lost for black but so far not found any, although there are some SPs that are more dificult than others and black can quickly get in serious disadvantage if he does not play accurately.

Over the past few months I've noted other Chess.com forum threads that offer new angles for looking at chess960. I'll consider highlighting them in a future post on this blog.

1 comment:

GeneM said...

varelse1 wrote:
The middlegames I reach are completely unfamiliar. There is no sense of "been there, done that." The positions are almost an alien landscape. ... so far, I am disappointed

The above comment seems backwards to me. It says the person does not want to explore or experience the majority of sensible middlegame positions.
Instead the person wants only to re-experience the same subset of position types that arise from just the one traditional start setup.

I can understand an aversion to experiencing lots of unfamiliar opening position types; but I presume most chess enthusiasts would be more than interested to see lots of sensible middlegame positions that really bring something new to the chess experience.

GeneM , 2013-Dec-05