25 November 2017

The Seeds of Disaster

In a recent post, The Seeds of Defeat (October 2017), I presented 'two games with Black that I lost without a fight'. In this post, I'll compare the corresponding games with the same start positions where I played White. In both games I'll start with the position where I castled; in both games this occurred before my opponent castled.

The point where one of the players castles (or otherwise forfeits the castling option) is often a good place to study the game. The previous moves have been pure chess960 (whatever that means), the following moves (up to the point where the other player castles) are a mixture of ideas from chess960 and from traditional chess, and the rest of the game will be equivalent to traditional chess. A chess960 opening can thus be logically divided into three phases.

The top diagram contrasts dramatically with the corresponding position in 'Seeds of Defeat'. Neither player has an advantage (which can be considered a moral victory for Black), although there is plenty of play in the position. The game continued 7...f6 8.Nc4 Nxc4 9.Bxc4 b5 10.Be2 O-O, where both players have castled; the position is still balanced, and there is still plenty of play. At this point I looked at three moves with different objectives -- a4, Nc5, c4 -- eventually choosing 11.Nc5. The game continued 11...f5 12.a4 b4 13.Bc4+ Kh8 14.Qh5 Ng6 15.b3 a5, and I was gradually outplayed.

Note that the start position SP230 is almost the same as SP518. The Rook on the a-file and the Knight on the b-file have been switched. This might have played a role in my thinking.

The bottom diagram also contrasts dramatically with the position in 'Seeds of Defeat'. Black's Queen and Bishops are more active than White's corresponding pieces, already giving Black the upper hand. Black played the natural move 10...O-O, and the game continued 11.Rc1 Nd5 12.Bb2 a5 13.a3 Bf6 14.Nd2 Bg6 15.Bf3 a4 16.b4 c5. Here Black has a space advantage and Black's pieces are better coordinated than White's. White must have played poorly and continued to be outplayed for the rest of the game, which lasted another 20 moves.

During all four games using the two SPs, I had trouble formulating a plan and was convinced that my opponents understood the evolving positions better than I did. The results -- four losses for me -- confirm this.

18 November 2017

Chess960 Showdown

If I had been maintaining this blog for the 18 months between July 2015 and December 2016, one of the events I certainly would have covered was the 2015 Showdown in St.Louis: Day 1: Nakamura - Caruana, Hou Yifan - Negi (chess-news.ru). It took place exactly two years ago:-
Two friendly matches started in St. Louis today. Hikaru Nakamura is competing against Fabiano Caruana, while Hou Yifan's rival is Parimarjan Negi. The GMs will play four different types of chess:

November 12 - Basque system (two games simultaneously, time control 90'+30");
November 13 - Fischer chess (four games, 20'+10");
November 14 - Rapid (four games, 15'+10");
November 15 - Blitz (eight games, 3'+2").

I once discussed a possible aspect of the Basque system (Day 1) on this blog in The More the Better (March 2012), 'seems like a natural way to conduct a chess960 tournament'. Regarding 'Fischer Chess' (Day 2), it's fitting that the word 'Random' was dropped from the Chess-news.ru report.

Kasparov Chooses Chess Positions for Showdown in Saint Louis (5:13) • 'Published on Nov 12, 2015'

The description for the clip said,

The Chess Club is running a poll on Twitter where followers may vote for the starting positions, selected by Garry Kasparov, of all four games of Fischer Random Chess during Showdown in St. Louis. These games will be played on Friday, November 13 at 1pm.

As for the chess960 games themselves, the Saint Louis Chess Club has an album on Flickr.com. Here is a composite image showing six of the photos:-

2015 Showdown in Saint Louis: Day 2

Chess.com's Mike Klein wrote a report about day 2 of the event in Big Swings As Nakamura, Hou Yifan Channel Inner Fischer (chess.com).

After day one's Basque Chess, the players shifted to four games of Fischer Random, also known as Chess960, played at the rapid time control of G/20+10. Nakamura dropped game one but took 2.5 of the next three against GM Fabiano Caruana, while the former women's world champion won three straight against GM Parimarjan Negi and missed a chance to possibly make it clean sweep, drawing game four.

Unfortunately, a technical glitch prevented automatic recording of the game scores: 'There are no PGNs for Fischer Random, due to the fact that the notation system cannot understand the castling rules.' That explanation doesn't make sense, but a comment to the post does: 'From what I understand about DGT, they can easily detect that a piece is on a square, but it would be much more difficult to detect which piece it is. So you'd have to enter the initial 960 formation somehow else.' Can DGT chessboards not track random start positions for chess960 games or were the boards not prepared properly? The blog Chess960 Jungle managed to record at least two of the games:-

The Basque and chess960 experiments were only used in the 2015 Showdown. The 2016 and 2017 editions of the event reverted to traditional rapid and blitz formats using SP518 (RNBQKBNR).