27 June 2015

Whispering a Fond Adieu!

They say, 'a watched pot never boils'. It seems the chess960 pot is in a constant simmer, but its boiling point remains as elusive as ever. My first blog post on the subject was Shall We Play Fischerandom Chess? (August 2008), and this post will be my last, at least for the foreseeable future. It's time to turn my attention elsewhere.

Google image search on 'chess960'

Heartfelt thanks to the many visitors to this blog for taking an interest in chess960. Special thanks to the two serial commentators -- GeneM and HarryO (in alphabetical order) -- who kept me honest because I knew each new blog post would get at least two hits.

A few months ago I received an email from GeneM, aka Gene Milener, aka the author of 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960'. He wrote,

In January 2006 I published a book about chess960. This year I will publish another chess book. Even though this new book is not about chess960, I am adding a section in its appendix to discuss or update the state of chess960 now that a decade has passed. Inasmuch as you have become the preeminent voice about chess960, I wondered whether you might be interested in contributing an essay for your own attributed subsection -- on your thoughts about the current state of chess960?

I first thought of this appendix chapter as an 'Epilogue' about chess960, but that sounded too final, like chess960 did not make it and died. I rather think that changes on this scale take time as measured by generations. So instead the chapter will be presented as something like the 'Current State of Chess960 in 2015'.

For years in your blog you have put spotlight and microscope on a broad variety of specific topics within the chess960 realm. Having read your chess960 blog every weekend now for years, I am curious to see what your assessment will be when you step back to consider how the overall picture has evolved, where it stands in 2015, and where it might be headed a generation or two from now.

My essay can be found at Fischer Chess in the Year 2015. I also told Gene,

If I were writing this for the web, I would link to my post debunking certain myths: Top 10 Myths About Chess960. I consider it my top contribution to understanding chess960.

When Gene's book eventually hits the web, I'll mention it on my main blog 'Chess for All Ages' (see the link in the right navigation bar), the same place where I'll post any new reports related to chess960. I agree with Gene that the acceptance of chess960 will 'take time as measured by generations' and I will continue to play for as long as there are opponents interested in Fischer's greatest invention.

Bye for now! - Mark


GeneM said...

Mark, 2008-2015 is a long time, and the sum total of your posts here is better than any other collection of thoughts about chess960-FRC. Don't let these web postings fade into the bit bucket :-)


darrinfunk said...

I've only recently discovered Chess960 and it has eliminated the one truly confounding reason why I haven't played chess much in the last 20 years, my poor memory. I love tactics and chess960 has opened up a new way of playing the game that doesn't penalize me for my shortcoming. I hope it catches on and am very glad I now have a way to play chess that doesn't make me feel like I'm hopelessly inept.

Mark Weeks said...

Since writing my final post nearly six months ago, I've noticed that the number of visitors to the blog has kept a steady pace. To help them find material of interest and to keep tabs on where they are landing, I just added 'Popular Posts' to the blog template : 'Last 7 Days' at the top of each page and 'Last 30 Days' at the bottom. The functions could turn out to be self-perpetuating, but that's not necessarily a drawback. - Mark

PHO said...

I am happy that I came across your site. I have enjoyed reading your logical arguments in favor of Chess960. I won't go into why I think Chess960 offers a better way to enjoy the fullness of chess; instead, I will offer my one dislike of Chess960—the castling rules. It's not complicated at all; that's not my issue. My issue is that the Chess960 castling rules make it seem a little like there is something magical about the C-file and the G-file; no matter where the King is, if he castles to the A-side, he winds up on the C-file; if he castles to the H-side, he winds up on the G-file. That's just too "magical" for me. Of course Bobby Fischer decided to do it that way so that castling would keep its connection to Standard Chess. I understand that. Nevertheless, it seems a little illogical and whimsical that the King, for no real reason, should end up on the second file from the edge of the board if he castles on one side, yet on the third file if he castles on the other side; regardless of the file he starts from. Anyway, it would be more logical to slightly amend the chess960 castling rules in terms of short-side castling and long-side castling. Simplicity itself. If the King castles on the short-side (the edge of the board he is closer to) he would be placed (if not already there) on the second file from the edge of the board (B-file or G-file); if he castles to the long-side (the edge he is farther from), he goes to the third-file from the edge (C-file or F-file). In this case if the Standard Chess position happens to be generated for the start of a Chess960 game, then the castled positions would be the same as Standard Chess because the King on e1 would short-castle on the H-side, placing him on the G-file; and he would long castle to the A-side, placing him on C-file. No magic involved. The only difference would be that in Chess960 it would be possible to have a castled position with the King on the B-file and one with the King on the F-file. It simply depends on whether the castling is a short-side castle or a long-side castle. That is the only thing I would like to see changed about Chess960.

Mark Weeks said...

PHO - Your suggestion essentially knocks out half of the 960 possible start positions. Take SP518 (the traditional start position) and SP534 (the traditional position with King and Queen switched). Using Fischer's rules, The castling choices in SP534 result in positions that are not mirrors of SP518. Using your rules, the castling choices in SP534 are mirrors of SP518. All of the existing opening theory for SP518 would apply equally to SP534, with the board flipped across the vertical axis. The beauty of Fischer's rules is that mirrored positions (I call them twins) offer different strategies for castling. Your suggestion is equivalent to what some people call chess480. - Mark

PHO said...

I see your point, Mark. The castling rules that I explained in the previous post would indeed lead to a switch-a-roo of left hand to right hand of the same theory, so to speak. Nevertheless, it still seems rather “fluky” that the only reason that the Kings end up on either the C-file or G-file after castling in Chess960 is because those are the files where the King stands after castling in Standard Chess. But in Standard Chess there is a logical reason why the King stands on either of those files after castling; but in Chess960, there is no logical reason for it; only that they have been arbitrarily designated as the castling files. Okay, maybe it’s not such a bad thing. Fischer’s rules do offer different castling strategies to twin positions, as you said. I guess it is one of those things that just isn’t concrete enough to me as to the reasoning of why the C-file and the G-file should occupy a special place among the other files. There has to be some way of formulating the castling rules so that if the traditional Standard Chess starting position should be chosen for a Chess960 game, then A-side castling would leave the King on the C-file, and H-side castling would leave the King on the G-file. For other starting positions it isn’t relevant that the King should necessarily be left on those particular files after castling; only that a castled position would have the King off of the center files in some way that doesn’t create the “twin” castling strategies that you mentioned. . . . Well, well, well . . . As I was writing this the thought of simplicity (the K.I.S.S. rule: Keep it simple, stupid) kept occurring to me. Fischer’s rules do pucker up nicely for the kiss rule—they are simple and straightforward. Anyway, I noted something interesting (at least to me) as I was thinking about this subject: If I visualize the chessboard in horizontal halves and I count the files, starting from the A-side, I see something interesting about the C-file. It is the last file before the first center file. The end result of a castling move should not leave our King on a center file, and so the C-file is the first available file (from the center) that can allow the King after castling. I also note that it is file number 3 in my count. Now I count the files of the other horizontal half of the board, counting in the same direction from the E-file, and I note that the G-file is also the number 3 file. So I could say that the C and G file correspond. Just a little something I found interesting, and enough to satisfy me for now that the C and G files can correspond in harmony as designated “castling partners.”

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