27 September 2014

Nakamura - Aronian Video

Here's a short video clip related to the recent Nakamura - Aronian match in St.Louis. Featuring the two match protagonists, it's more about Fischer than about chess960, but who's complaining?

Chess 960 (1:12) • 'Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis'

At one point Aronian says,

The objective of [chess960] is the same as in the game of chess, although it's trickier because, unlike chess, your pieces are not really coming fast into the game. You can't just use your pattern recognition and say, 'Oh, this is good for me', because the pieces are randomly placed.

For more about the match, see Chess960 'Showdown' in St.Louis.

20 September 2014

Nakamura's 1.g4/b4

In Nakamura's Chess960 Openings, I counted the number of times that GM Nakamura opened an ICC chess960 game with different first moves and wrote,
As for the g4/b4 moves, he tried them in only four games. Was there any particular characteristic of the start positions that led him to choose these moves? I'll look at that question in another post.

Here is a list of the four games:-

  • SP452 RBBNNKQR: 2009.06.25, Smallville - Dreev
  • SP931 BRKRNQNB: 2009.07.27, Smallville - OfficeMan
  • SP751 RKNNQRBB: 2010.06.02, Smallville - TheDuns
  • SP121 NQRBBNKR: 2010.06.27, Smallville - Shadeath

The following diagram shows the position after Nakamura's first move in each game. The first characteristic of the four positions is that -- even before the initial Pawn move -- White has already decided to castle to the wing opposite the Pawn move. The second position, SP931 BRKRNQNB, is the least certain. Since the d-Rook interferes with O-O-O and must move out of the way, castles O-O is a good alternative.

The second characteristic of the four positions is that the Pawn move aids development. In the first three positions -- SP452, SP931, and SP751 -- the initial move opens a diagonal for a Bishop. The same objective could be accomplished by advancing the Pawn a single rank. By advancing two ranks, White prepares the advance of the the adjacent c-/f-Pawn with a gain of space on that wing.

The fourth position -- SP121 -- does nothing directly for a Bishop, but it does prepare the development of the Queen on the long diagonal. It also prepares a protected base for the Knight on b3, and after a subsequent c2-c4, prepares to bring out the light-squared Bishop on the a4-d1 diagonal.

In all of these positions, it's easy to find another, more traditional first move -- 1.c4, 1.d4, 1.e4, or 1.f4 -- that respects the principle of center control, but Nakamura's choice is not at all bad. Considering that all of the games were played at bullet speed (three minutes per side plus increment of a second or two per move), the American GM presented his opponents with unfamiliar problems to solve in a short time. He won all four games.

13 September 2014

Chess960 'Showdown' in St.Louis

After a short break from chess960 blogging, it's time to return to my previous post Nakamura's Chess960 Openings, where I mentioned a forthcoming exhibition match between GMs Nakamura and Aronian. A summary of the match -- billed as the 'Ultimate Showdown' -- along with PGN is available on TWIC's coverage of the 2014 Sinquefield Cup; see the bottom of page. Nakamura won the six game match with a score of +3-2=1.

The six games saw three different start positions (SPs) with the players switching colors for the second game in each position. I'm not sure how the SPs were chosen, but here they are in the order they were played:-


Over on Chess960 Jungle, HarryO discussed the first position in Corner bishops stay on the board, so in this post I'll look at the second position, shown below. The most interesting feature of the position must be the two Bishops aimed at the unprotected g- and h-Pawns. Note that the players can castle O-O-O already on the first move.


Aronian had White in the first game and both players started with the same first move, 1.b3. This threatens 2.Bxg7, winning a Pawn and the exchange. White could also have moved the c-Pawn, threatening the h-Pawn. Other reasonable first moves are 1.Ng3 and 1.Nf3, covering White's weak Kingside Pawns and threatening Black's. The move 1.Ng3 could even lead to an unusual Queen swap after 1...Ng6 2.Nf5 Nf4 3.Nxg7 Nxg2 4.Nxe8 Rxe8 5.Nf3 Nxe1 6.Rxe1.

After 1.b3, the game with Nakamura as Black continued 1...f6 2.f4 b6 3.Nf3 c5 4.e3 Ng6 5.Ng3 e5 6.fxe5 Nxe5 7.c4 g6 8.O-O-O O-O-O. The game with Aronian as Black continued 1...Nf6 2.e4 c5 3.e5 Ng4 4.f3 Nh6 5.c4 Ng6 6.Ng3 f6 7.exf6 exf6 8.Qxe8+ Kxe8. After both game continuations, White seems to have the upper hand, although Black went on to win both games.

Besides the responses 1...f6 and 1...Nf6, the move 1...b6 looks to be the only reasonable alternative. The defense 1...e5 runs into 2.f4.

For more commentary from the chess blogosphere, see Nakamura Defeats Aronian 3.5-2.5 in Chess960 Match on TheChessMind.net. A typical debate about the merits of chess960 can be found on Chessgames.com's forum Sinquefield Cup (2014), starting on the page I linked.