31 January 2015

Chess.com, More Comments on Chess960

In the previous post Chess.com, Comments on Chess960, I linked to a post dating the introduction of chess960 on Chess.com to mid-2009. Since that time, tens of thousands of players have experimented with Fischer's invention and have left hundreds of comments on the site's various forums. Here are a few comments from the last year (or so) which highlight different areas of practical concern.

The question of how to start the clocks equitably is more complicated than for traditional chess.

I propose that if/when chess960 is added to Live Chess, white's clock should not begin immediately. There should be an extra time bank for the players to examine the position. I propose that the amount of time in the extra time bank should be 1/30th of the time control for the game, proportionally. Thus, for a 5 minute game, there would be 10 seconds to study the position; for a 30 minute game there would be a minute. • Live 960 extra clock at start

Everyone who gets hooked on the game wonders whether all 960 positions are fair to Black.

I was looking into chess960 starting positions and came across QNRBKNBR After 1.b3 doesn't white already have a clear advantage? black is basically forced between 1...Ne6?! which must be bad since it blocks the e pawn and makes developing both black bishops very difficult. 1...f6 which is probably best but still weakens blacks king side and takes away a diagonal from the DSB which may have been quite useful. • Unfair starting position in chess960

Selecting specific start positions for all rounds of a tournament is not as obvious as one might think.

Round one of a chess960 tournament and everyone plays the same random board, as white and black against opponents. All good, but when/if you progress to Round two, what do you get? The SAME BOARD AGAIN!?? This now actually makes it a thematic tournament rather than chess960. If you've ever encountered this you'll know the disappointment at seeing the same board again that everyone's played to death in multiple games the first Round. • Time for Chess.com to sort out 960 Tournaments!

What about overall strategy? How does chess960 compare to traditional chess?

Most of the same fundamentals apply. Why I say most because one can take a risk a try an early mate threat that may lead to mate or win material. What they have in common: Develop your pieces and rapidly and effectively (people forget this part). By this place them where they are the most active. [Long...] • How to play chess 960

Selecting a start position manually is another area of concern. The following method is wrong! The Bishops must always be placed first.

In chess960, the board is arranged randomly. So when playing without using computers, you should think of a way to arrange pieces randomly. Well I will explain here... • How to arrange board for a Chess960 game in your home (Without using any electronic device) - Explained

What about software and engines?

I am looking for a database or just plain chess program that can handle the nuances of chess960 castling. [...] Is there a decent chess960 software out there? • Chess 960 Software and Database

Once players realize that there is more to chess than the traditional start position, the ideas start flowing.

Chess1920 is a variant of Western Chess much like Chess960. The initial position for a game of Chess1920 is first created according to the rules of Chess960. Then, a coin is tossed. If the coin shows heads, then the set-up process is done. If the coin shows tails, then the black pieces are taken off the board and repositioned to be the left/right reversal of the white pieces. It's simple, fair, and has twice the variety as does Chess960. • BRC/Chess1920

Ditto for the idea of randomizing.

I was thinking, why not let us choose our own army setup? For me at least, it's infinitely more interesting than getting a random position and playing that. People could master their own setups, theory would still be almost as useless. You would see traditional setups (R-N-B-Q-K-B-N-R) against hybrids, totally bonkers stuff too! • New idea for chess960

Because Chess.com doesn't offer live chess960, there is occasionally a discussion of other servers where it is offered.

Passion is probably what made the creators of Lichess create the server. It is a chess site with a very clean interface, a lot of options, even a REST API (that's a programming thing, don't worry about it). Most of all, the site is completely free, no ads, no nags and a mission statement that ensures that the game will remain thus forever. • LiChess, a very interesting chess server; (see also my recent post Lichess, Third Look)

I have a bigger collection of Chess.com comments from even further back, but I'll save those for a rainy day.

24 January 2015

Chess.com, Comments on Chess960

The previous post, FICS / ICC / Lichess, Comments on Chess960, discussed the last of the Crossboard (Live) Chess960 servers listed on the right. With this post I'll tackle the Correspondence (Turnbased) Chess960 servers.

I'm sure that nearly everyone is familiar with Chess.com, a site that has been discussed many times on this blog; earlier posts can be found under Label Chess.com, also listed to the right of every page. Along with correspondence play, the site has the most active chess960 forum on the web: Chess960 and Other Variants. The only function missing from the site is live chess960 play, an anomaly mentioned frequently in the forum.

[There is another chess960 forum on Chessgames.com which was active during the early days of chess960, a time when the topic was more controversial, but the frequency of posts has declined steadily over the last few years. I once used it as the subject of another post, Chess960 FAQ (June 2009).]

The most important chess960 forum post on Chess.com is undoubtedly Chess960 101. Along with pointers on aspects of chess960 that might be useful to the newcomer, it has links to Erik (aka Mr. Chess.com) Allebest's introduction to the new chess960 function (June 2009?) and to IM David Pruess's followup essay on tips to play successfully.

I have many other links to the Chess.com forum that are worth referencing. Unfortunately, as mentioned in a recent post on my main blog -- Blog Maintenance -- I'm currently overhauling my bookmarks. A discussion of those resources will have to wait for another day.

17 January 2015

FICS / ICC / Lichess, Comments on Chess960

After ChessCube, Comments on Chess960, let's take a look at comments about chess960 on FICS. First, here are the FICS rules on how to play (first written in 1996!):-

FICS doesn't have a forum and I couldn't find much discussion on other forums. The recurring theme seems to be how problematic it is to find a game there. For example:-

As for the last two servers listed after ICS under my 'Crossboard (Live) Chess960' links, I've already discussed them on this blog. Here is the final post for each server; follow the link to find earlier posts:-

In my next post I'll start looking at servers listed under 'Correspondence (Turnbased) Chess960'.

10 January 2015

ChessCube, Comments on Chess960

While working on Lichess, Second Look, I thought it might be a good idea to look at comments about chess960 from each of the ten online play sites listed on the right. That would give me some insight into practical issues involving the implementation of chess960. First on the list is ChessCube.com, where I found two good comments about when the clocks should be started.

Chess960 clock change (Feb 2011):-

At the moment the clock timer only starts once White has made his first move. White gets too much advantage! White is free to think for as long as they like while Black cannot predict what White will play with any degree of confidence and thus cannot properly prepare a reply during the time the clock is still. Once White has moved, Black's time is then the first to suffer!

The situation is made worse because White automatically get's one free tempo simply because they are White. Statistically speaking, this tends to put Black on the defensive from the game start. If White's time counts down immediately, this tends to balance out Black's chances to attack and play aggressively because at least there is some compensation to Black for being a tempo down.

Chess960 clock change (Aug 2013):-

White's countdown clock should start immediately on White's first turn. Black is already at a disadvantage and so when it comes to their first turn, all of the thinking they were doing on White's first turn might well come to nothing because White plays a different first move.

They almost sound as if they had been written by the same person. Whoever the author is, I agree with the reasons given.

While I was working on ChessCube, I deleted its label, which had also been listed on the right. When I set it up, I thought I would be playing frequently on the site, but it hasn't worked out the way I expected.

03 January 2015

Lichess, Third Look

After Lichess, First Look and Lichess, Second Look, is there any more to say? Yes, there is. That 'First Look' post only introduced the site's chess960 play against an engine, while 'Second Look' was a review of all my links to online play sites.

The site appears to be managed from ornicar/lila · GitHub, which bills itself as 'Best chess web application, ever'. Wikipedia, on its GitHub page, tells us,

GitHub is a web-based Git repository hosting service, which offers all of the distributed revision control and source code management (SCM) functionality of Git as well as adding its own features. Unlike Git, which is strictly a command-line tool, GitHub provides a web-based graphical interface and desktop as well as mobile integration.

The ornicar/lila page adds,

It's a free online chess game focused on realtime and ease of use. It has a search engine, computer analysis, tournaments, forums, teams, puzzles, a weird monitoring console, and a world map. The UI is available in 80 languages thanks to the community.

Since my interest in the site is mainly for chess960, I searched both the web and the Lichess forum for material relevant to Fischer's greatest invention. One forum post from the past month, Forum > General Chess Discussion > Chess 960, asked, 'How popular is this variant here?', and led me to the site's search page.

There I learned that of the 50.000.000+ games recorded on the site, almost 600.000 are chess960. As a percentage that might seem small, but it's hardly discouraging; chess960 adoption is still in its very early days. I also learned that 32 games have been played where the average rating of the two players was more than 2400. That could be a good starting point for a future post on this blog.

Another starting point might be the on the site's GitHub page.

If you want to add a live chess section to your website, you are welcome to embed lichess. It's very easy. [...] Just embed lichess using an iframe.

I'm looking at those tabs at the top of every page on this blog -- 'Home' ... 'Chess960 1-2-3' -- and telling myself, 'Let's give it a try!'