07 March 2015

The Kramnik Formation

In my previous post, Lechenicher, RemoteSchach, SchemingMind, I quoted GM Kramnik speaking about chess960 in 2004...
It is hard to explain but when in the initial position the Bishop stands on h8, the Knight is on g8, and the Rook on f8, the artistic beauty of chess disappears. By the way, I asked my colleagues about it and many of them share my feelings -- something is dubious and unaesthetic.

...and decided to call his example the 'Kramnik formation'. How many of the 960 start positions (SPs) use this formation? Taking the Queenside (a-side) formation 'BNR*****', there are three squares where the other Bishop can be placed, then four where the Queen can be placed, then three for the other Knight. The King and Rook drop into the last two squares with the King between the Rooks. Multiplying 3*4*3 gives 36, which must be the number of Kramnik formations on that side of the board.

Using the same logic on the Kingside (h-side) formation '*****RNB', there must also be 36 positions. This gives us 72 Kramnik positions, right? No, wrong, because two of the positions have the formation on both the Queenside and Kingside: SP323 BNRQKRNB and SP339 BNRKQRNB. I'll call these double Kramnik formations.

SP323 is the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR) with the Rooks and Bishops switched. SP339 is the twin of SP323, with the King and Queen switched. It's worth noting that in SP339, castling O-O-O is possible on the first move. It's also worth noting that both SPs fall into the category of positions with four corner Bishops.

SP323 is shown on the left. As for Kramnik's assertion that 'the artistic beauty of chess disappears', what can I say? That 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'? That beauty is also found in the unfamiliar?

The beauty of chess is so much more than the all-too-familiar positions that arise from the traditional SP. Chess960 opens an entirely new, unexplored world of chess beauty.


GeneM said...

Kramnik's legitimate concern is that bishops are reduced to only one way to develop when they start on a corner square: and this too restrictive.

Approximately 56% of all chess960 start setups have at least two (of the four) bishops start on corner squares.

Especially awful are start setups wherein all four bishops start on corner squares. Exchanges occur too early.

All chess960-FRC positions that have any bishop start on any corner square should by demoted and bypassed; IMHO.

Mark Weeks said...

GeneM - Your objections are typical of an inexperienced chess960 player. The upside of the corner Bishop is that it gets into the game faster, doesn't interfere with castling, and attacks the opponent's position without moving. As for four corner Bishops, good players know how to avoid the early exchanges. The tactical ramifications of which player gets which diagonal can be profound. IYHO it is. - Mark

HarryO said...

Gene, you really need to come up with examples to prove your point. Both Mark and I have provided examples of great games with bishops in the corner on our respective blogs.

Mark, thanks.

Chess960 is beautiful.

It just depends on what people value. If you value the journey, you will love Chess960. People are reluctant to change in the Chess community and that is all it is. They are narrow minded.

Kramnik embarrassed himself with that comment because it shows how unnuanced he was in his thinking back then (don't know about now). Any educated person in the humanities would laugh at Kramnik's argument, it is so childish and lacking in foundation.

Basically, Kramnik's argument about Chess960 can be reduced down to this.

Mum gives small boy an ice-cream. Boy cries "Mummy I don't like this and my friends think the same".

That is his argument.

GeneM said...

Just adding some related links, about bishops that start on corner squares:
"Chess960 Piece per Square % Probabilities" table, on page 65

HarryO said...

Kasparov has just picked 2 out of 8 start positions with bishops in the corner as his suggestions for the Nakamura-Caruana showdown 2015:


Since he is one of the greatest players of all time, surely there must be something worthwhile about bishops in the corner.

Every Chess960 position has merits that is why Fischer randomized it to eliminate subjective choices.

Mark Weeks said...

Thanks, Harry - I watched the Video yesterday...

Kasparov Chooses Chess Positions for Showdown in Saint Louis

...Kasparov looked uncomfortable. The first position he chose is the same one I highlighted in...

Dog-Tired from Memorizing Openings

...Garry can't seem to break away from his deep-rooted ideas about how chess should be played. - Mark