29 April 2017

Caruana's Discussion Points

I ended my previous post Caruana on Chess960, saying, 'There's much material for further discussion here'. To be more specific, I noted four discussion points, which I numbered. The original question was, 'What about Chess960?'

1) Preparation plays a big role in classical chess, but in blitz and rapid it doesn’t play much of a role at all.

This was new to me. On the surface it makes some sense, but I'm not sure what the underlying reasons are. If it's true, does this mean that the traditional start position (SP518) is best played in fast games, and chess960 is for slow games?

2) Any player in the world -- even the best -- will immediately start making mistakes from the start.

I've discussed this before, in A Highbrow Dismissal of Chess960 (December 2010):-

The start of a game is two players following a known path for 'X' number of moves, after which they follow computer based preparation for 'Y' number of moves, after which they are on their own. At this point there are three possible outcomes: either they agree to a draw, or one of them blunders, or they continue playing as best they can.

In SP518, X+Y can take in 20 or 25 moves. In the other 959 chess960 positions, X+Y is a move or two. The sporting side of chess involves a player confronting the unknown, not repeating memorized moves. Is chess a sport or a rehearsed exhibition?

3) People will have a harder time following it because the position gets so chaotic early on.

People also have a hard time following a game starting with SP518, because they don't know when the players are following a known path and when they are on their own. It's easier to sacrifice a piece if you've analyzed it using an engine. Comparisons with professional wrestling -- which is not what it seems to be -- are appropriate.

4) Commentators have a hard time explaining what’s happening.

This is only true of the opening. Commentators can't use the same approach they use for SP518, because it requires experience with chess960. How many commentators have this experience?

In his recent match with GM Vachier-Lagrave, GM Caruana won the chess960 games +1-0=2, but lost the overall match. How would he have done if the match had been exclusively chess960?


HarryO said...

1) preparation doesn't play a big role in rapid or blitz?...
There is still a lot of memorisation that is subliminal. In Chess960 blitz, you can get some really crazy positions very quickly that just make you and everyone else laugh. It is a game and it is supposed to be fun even for elites.

2) players make mistakes immediately from the start...
May be true but there is no way of knowing that and that ignorance makes Chess960 a lot of fun even for elites.

3) Positions get too chaotic...
While it is true that some 960 positions are very difficult to interpret, if a computer can do it, so can humans, it just means a lot more practice in interpreting unfamiliar positions. Realise that when a computer analyses a position, it is not always considering tactical variations but static things like "piece mobility" etc which are all normal considerations.

4) Commentators have a hard time explaining it...
This is merely because they have not had enough experience with 960. Every move in 960 is principled except perhaps at an extremely high level unknown to humans, where a principled move could be considered a "mistake".

Thanks for blogging on Chess960 again Mark! Great to have some news coming in. Hope you are doing well. If only Bobby were still alive, he would have debunked all these false memes on Chess960 Fischer Random long ago.

Mark Weeks said...

Good to hear from you, Harry. Posting twice a month on chess960 seems to be a reasonable pace for me for the moment. You've also slowed down on your blogging! When was the last time you updated your database? - Take care, Mark

HarryO said...

Haven't touched the database in a long time Mark. I think I've missed that Russian over the board competition a few years ago and the two in St Louis. If you ever want to take over the database and keep it up to date yourself on this site please be my guest! :-)