29 December 2018

'Hitting the Mainstream!'

Seen in Chess Life Kids, December 2018 (p.12): '960 Bugs on My Chessboard?' by FM Mike "FunMaster" Klein. The article started,
Chess is fun. You could play it for days on end (don’t forget to eat!). But using those same 32 pieces, chess players have invented dozens of other variations of chess to make sure the game never gets stale. Two of the most popular "variants" are Bughouse and Chess960. Yes, they are a bit silly, but they also allow for a different kind of creativity. Even the world’s most elite grandmasters play and compete in both!

No one will argue that bughouse isn't a variant -- the four players' strategies have little to do with traditional chess -- but I'll raise my hand once more to question the word when used with chess960. It is, after all, one of the first bullets in Top 10 Myths About Chess960 (May 2012)...

No.2: 'It's a variant of traditional chess'

...and I've given the better part of at least one post to the subject, Chess960 Encounters, Past & Future (October 2011), where I said, 'The classification of chess960 as more than a variant is not a simple difference of opinion on semantics.'

Let's get back to the rest of the Chess Life Kids article. The magazine appears six times per year, is 24 pages long, and is the 'Official Scholastic Publication of US Chess'. FM Klein's article was featured on the December 2018 cover, and was introduced on the contents page with 'Chess variants are hitting the mainstream!'

The three page article gave a page to bughouse and a page to chess960. A page was enough to explain the basics of chess960, i.e. the meaning of the name, the setup of the pieces, the 'funny' castling rules, and examples of castling ('Weird!'). It also gave the main reason for playing it.

So why did Bobby Fischer propose this game? Simple -- studying openings is useless. You know how masters can play 20 or 30 moves of "book"? Well, there’s no such thing in Chess960. Pretty much every game is an unexplored kingdom of newness and some grandmasters think more creativity is possible.

That paragraph gives me plenty of justification to overlook negative words like 'silly', 'funny', and 'weird'. Instead I'll concentrate on the positive : explaining chess960 to a new generation.

The introduction of bughouse to the U.S. chess scene preceded the introduction of chess960 by almost 25 years, a full generation. In Fischer Random Bughouse (July 2011), I once showed that the two chess offshoots can even be merged. That would make yet another 'unexplored kingdom of newness'.

22 December 2018

Knight Opposition

Last month I looked at two books by Gene Milener, one entirely on the subject of chess960, the other a coda to the first work:-
  • 2018-11-17: Chess960 Phase Zero • 'Gene Milener's groundbreaking book "Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960"' (2006)

  • 2018-11-24: Milener's Month • 'Milener's epilogue' in his more recent book (2018)

My focus on the two books at the same time was rewarded by an insight that had eluded me for years. In 'Play Stronger Chess', Milener wrote (p.130):-

Due to the particulars of the chess1 setup and to the fact it never varies, we do not think of knights as having a light v. dark shade aspect anything like bishops have. But again, it is healthy to consider the possibility that our chess experiences have been harmfully limited by our exclusive adherence to chess1.

For analyzing chess960 setups it is useful to gently apply the idea that each knight is either a light or dark knight, though only for the first portion of the game. These square shadings are central to a setup feature we can call "knight opposition". Some chess960 setups have knight opposition, strongly or weakly, while others have no knight opposition.

My reaction to this was, 'So what?' What difference does it make whether the Knights start on the same color square? The explanation on the following three pages did nothing to alleviate my lack of understanding. In the second book, in 'Milener's epilogue', the author wrote (p.373):-

A non-traditional start setup would offer welcome relief from: [...] The maximization of Knight opposition created by the one traditional setup. Knight opposition is seen in common cases such as when Nb8-c6 follows Ngl-f3, leaving both Knights in a tilt shape with each other. The two Knights oppose each other's pressures on the same center squares of d4,e5. Setups where the two White Knights start on squares of the same shade provide welcome variety from the traditional setup.

That was my 'Aha!' moment. The start positions of the Knights determine how they will engage each other in the opening moves of the game. In the traditional start position, the Knights enter the game during the earliest moves and then proceed to spar for control of the center squares. The same sequence happens in nearly every traditional opening (like the Ruy Lopez and the Queen's Gambit) : first the Pawns enter the play, then the Knights, then the other pieces. The Knights enter the battle with regard to the position of the Pawns, and the other pieces follow their lead.

Several years ago, the 'Chess960 Jungle' blog made a similar observation in a post Chess960: Naming the Knight Pairs (May 2011; 'Military Knights', 'Chivalry Knights', etc.), then went on to discuss the different combinations in subsequent posts. Since I failed to grasp the importance of the concept than, it would be worth my while to review all of those relevant posts.

24 November 2018

Milener's Month

In the first post this month, Chess960 Phase Zero, I explored an important concept from Gene Milener's first book 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960'. In the second post for this month, I'll return to New Book by Gene Milener (September 2018), where I wrote,
Since there is no way I can ignore the mention of my name in a printed book, I'll come back to the subject in another post. [...] I have at least two posts to write: a continuation of 'Promise of Chess960' and a reaction to Milener's epilogue.

In a section of his epilogue titled 'Mark Weeks and GeneM Disagree', Milener summarized our disagreement in two bullets:-

1. Disagree about Corner Bishops
2. Disagree about 'Random'

I have nothing particularly new to say about either of these topics. About the first, I've posted several times:-

About the second, which Milener covers in a section of his epilogue titled 'Changed My Mind: "Random" Is Bad' I've posted even more, usually in passing. See, for example:-

Moving on to more interesting topics, in one of the end notes to his epilogue Milener mentions the 2016 Carlsen - Karjakin match:-

A World Chess Championship match was held between M. Carlsen - S. Karjakin in 2016/November. After the first seven games were drawn, Karjakin won game 8 when Carlsen recklessly pressed in a draw-ish endgame. Even though a third of the match remained, everyone knew that there might not be enough games left for Carlsen to generate a win and tie the match. That rigid reality sucks excitement from these chess matches. For comparison, imagine that only one of the first eight games ended in a draw, as in nearly every other sport.

While I'm writing this post, the 2018 Carlsen - Caruana World Championship match has reached game 11 out of 12 regulation games. The first ten games were all drawn. This apparent bloodlessness has led to the usual handwringing that something has to be done to improve professional chess. It doesn't matter how artistic or creative the individual games might be, an event is judged by its final score. Spotted on Facebook: Karjakin, during the live commentary..., from the challenger in the 2016 match:-

Karjakin, during the live commentary of #CarlsenCaruana, game 6, on a Russian "Match TV" channel: "Indeed, the classical chess has already been... no, of course by no means has it been exhausted or become boring... but... there is some sort of tiredness, so to speak. We have just seen this today – Black can equalise very rapidly. And at times, indeed, one would like to play for fun. And the fun is... talking of the classic rules, it's the rapid and blitz; while talking about experimenting, #FischerChess is an extremely interesting game which has not been researched yet -- the players have to think from the very first moves. Maybe, in the long term – let's say in the coming 20 years – I think there might be a massive transition to #FischerChess. In some time, when it's entirely... when the theory and powerful engines simply force this transition."

That Facebook post was created by Andrey Deviatkin, also seen on this blog in 'The Essence and the Rules of Chess' (June 2017). Instead of a 'massive transition', perhaps some sort of an evolution is possible. How do we get from here to there?

17 November 2018

Chess960 Phase Zero

In Chess960 at the Open Library (July 2018), I located a digital copy of Gene Milener's groundbreaking book 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960', and in The Promise of Chess960 in 2006 (August 2018), I looked at part one of the book. In this post I'll start to look at part two.

The first four chapters of part two deal with the four phases of a chess game. 'Four phases?', I can hear you ask. In Milener's own words (p.108),

There are four phases to any chess game. Phases two through four are well known as the opening, the middle game, and the endgame. We have never before called it by a name, but I call the first phase the setup phase.

He goes on to explain,

In the chess1 realm the setup phase has not been recognized as a phase at all. This is because the chess1 setup never varies the way it does in chess960. In chess1 we instead talk about opening "theory", referring to the accumulation of at-home pre-game calculation and analysis of the chess1 setup position.

As part of the chess1 setup phase we also have the devised opening principles given by Aron Nimzovich in his My System, which was also written at home. The setup phase is different in chess960. Yes, there can be at-home thought and preparations as part of the chess960 setup phase (as this book should demonstrate). But in chess960 the setup phase comes alive and requires original thought in real time, in the several minutes after the pieces are set but before the clocks are started. This chapter is devoted to the topic of handling those pre-game minutes.

Where Milener writes 'chess1', I prefer to use the notation 'SP518' (meaning start position 'RNBQKBNR'). It's not a terribly important distinction, but it does reinforce the idea that traditional chess is a subset of chess960. What is important is the recognition that there is a distinct phase to a chess game called the 'setup phase'. Until now, the setup phase was usually something like this:-

Exercise: Place all 32 chess pieces into a bag or a box. Shake thoroughly. Dump all of the pieces on to the board. How fast can you place them on their traditional SP518 squares?

The title of the first chapter in Milener's part two is 'Strategies for the Modified Setup Phase'. In other words, how do we go from a random chess960 start position to playing the first move for White in that position? Milener starts with a question: 'Do the Chess1 Opening Principles of Nimzovich Remain True for Chess960?' Instead of analyzing Nimzovich, he quickly switches to Reuben Fine, an author I've also referenced at various times in the past. Milener's answer to 'Do the Opening Principles Remain True?' is a solid yes-and-no.

The next section is 'Rationalization of Setups: How?' By 'rationalization', I understand 'classification' or 'categorization' of the 960 setups into a smaller number of positions having common characteristics. I discussed this recently with an email correspondent, where I wrote,

The problem is that given an obvious similarity -- Bishops in the four corners (to use a well known example) -- the tactics++ depend on how the other pieces are initially placed. Then you start to analyze each position individually, which defeats the purpose of the exercise.

Milener apparently agrees and his suggestions boil down to something like my post, A Framework for Chess960 Opening Theory (April 2009). It appears to be the only sensible direction to make further progress.

After the initial discovery of the setup phase, the most important section of the setup chapter is probably 'List of Setup Attributes'. I've copied the section's central table (p.119-120) into the following image.

While I don't necessarily agree with these six choices -- 'Is there Knight opposition?' is far less important than 'King fort' -- they nevertheless provide a basis for further discussion. I particularly like the inclusion of 'Corner piece mobilization'. In SP518, the corners are conveniently occupied by the piece which is best suited for that square, the Rook. The other three pieces face challenges to their development from the corner which are not present in their development from other start squares.

Coming back to the world of traditional chess as we know it, the 2018 World Championship is currently underway. Before any moves were played in the match, the two players, GMs Carlsen and Caruana, spent many months working on the setup phase, although no one called it that. It is called instead 'opening preparation'. In traditional chess, it's a phase where psychology plays the dominant role.

The next chapter in Milener's book, 'From Setup Attributes to Opening Moves', covers what happens after White's first move is played. Gene Milener deserves credit for being the first chess960 adherent to work through the most important difference between traditional chess and chess960 : a previously unknown phase.

27 October 2018

A Googly Gadget

I usually reserve discussions of web anomalies for my main blog Chess for All Ages (see link under 'Resources' in the sidebar), but this time the occurrence was so specific to chess960 that I'd like to discuss it on this blog. The image below is a screen capture that I took the last time I searched on my favorite topic (after 'chess'). That big dot near the left is a small version of my head that appears on this blog's sidebar and the text to the right of it says 'Your Site on Google'. That sits above the URL:-

The rest of the box says,

See how your site has been showing for this query for the past 90 days and compare to the previous 90 days:
- Clicks 0
- Impressions 100
- Average position 25,2

Each of those metrics is currently subtitled 'No prior data'. I suppose that after 90 days, some prior data will be displayed.

Google search on 'chess960'

I saw the box this week for the first time while recording my weekly look at web statistics. It's something I do to make sure that my various web resources are performing normally. If I detect an anomaly, I can act on it before it becomes a bigger problem.

The bottom of the box says, 'See ways to improve', which expands to show two pieces of advice. The first is a link to the same 'Performance' page I displayed in a blog post last month, Google Search Console; the second is to a Google page, Help people find your site on Google (support.google.com).

I don't know how many days the three metrics cover. All I know is that they weren't there a week earlier. The reason I look at chess960 search results is to track the position of this blog and of a couple of reference pages:-

I look at the first five pages of Google results and record the position of the resource. One curiosity I've noticed is that those two reference pages (both on mark-weeks.com) rarely show up in the search results at the same time. Sometimes one appears in the first five pages and the other does not appear at all; sometimes the other appears. There is no pattern to predict which one will show up. I occasionally scroll down more than five pages to see if the other one is buried deeper, but it's never there. Google search results often defy explanation.

Don't think I'm ungrateful. Thanks, Google! I'm sure the data will be useful in a Googly sort of way.

20 October 2018

Kasparov Discusses the Showdown

Last month I posted about the Champions Showdown, St. Louis:-
The event was played 11-14 September, and is documented on the official site, Champions Showdown: Chess 960 (uschesschamps.com).

Here's a video from the Saint Louis Chess Club.

2018 Champions Showdown: Kasparov’s Interview - Day 4 (7:40) • 'Published on Sep 16, 2018'

The description says simply,

Grandmaster Garry Kasparov shares his thoughts after his games on Day 4. He has lost to Topalov. • 2018-09-14: USChessChamps.com

The date pegs the video to the last day of the Showdown. Before the games the players had time to analyze the start position selected for the game. GM Kasparov said,

What happened today, I still can't find the explanation. We spent 29 minutes with Peter [Svidler] analyzing a different position. [...] I don't want to spread blame, but actually Peter looked at the position. It's my fault; you just have to look at it yourself. [...] One shift and everything's different. Absolutely everything. It's not that you can reuse the patterns. Absolutely everything changes - the geometry, the structures, the way of developing the pieces. If I hadn't looked at the position at all, that would have been better.

The former World Champion donated his $20.000 prize to chess in Africa.

29 September 2018

New Book by Gene Milener

This post should have been a continuation of last month's The Promise of Chess960 (in 2006), which looked at Gene Milener's book 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960', written in 2006. In the meantime I received a copy of Milener's new book 'Kinetic Patterns in Reactive Chess'. Although the book isn't about chess960, it does include a 16 page appendix, shown below.

After a two page summary of the earlier chess960 book, the appendix / epilogue discusses the following topics:-

• Chess960 Piece per Square Probabilities
• Numeric Names for Start Setups
• Changed My Mind: 'Random' Is Bad
• Mark Weeks and GeneM Disagree
• Status as Seen by Mark
• End Notes

Since there is no way I can ignore the mention of my name in a printed book, I'll come back to the subject in another post. In the meantime, the section 'Status as Seen by Mark' is essentially a copy of an article I wrote more than three years ago and which I mentioned in Whispering a Fond Adieu! (June 2015), my last post before taking an 18 month leave of absence from chess960 blogging.

There will be no more leaves of absence anytime soon. I have at least two posts to write: a continuation of 'Promise of Chess960' and a reaction to Milener's epilogue. • P.S. I'll tackle the main subject of 'Kinetic Patterns' on my main blog, Chess for All Ages.

22 September 2018

Champions Showdown, St. Louis

In the previous post, 10th Anniversary! (August 2018), I mentioned 'the Champions Showdown in St. Louis next month':-
Twenty games times five matches means 100 games of chess960 played by some of the best chess players in the world, including a few veterans of the Mainz chess960 tournaments. What will we learn from those games?

The event was played 11-14 September, and is documented on the official site, Champions Showdown: Chess 960 (uschesschamps.com). From the 'Regulations':-

In the Champions Showdown, each round will begin with the same starting position on all boards, and new positions will be drawn after every fourth game according to the Schedule of Events. If the standard starting position is randomly selected, it shall be discarded and a new position shall be drawn.

Positions will be drawn in the playing hall. Once drawn, players will have time to prepare, but must remain in the playing hall. Players may have a second to assist, but may not use electronic devices such as computers or phones.

From the 'Standings' on the same site:-

Topalov - Kasparov, Nakamura - Svidler, Wesley So - Giri,
Vachier-Lagrave - Shankland, Aronian - Dominguez

Although all of the major chess news sites had significant reports, Chess24.com produced the most comprehensive reporting. Their reports on the four rounds were by Colin McGourty:-

The first report in that list explained,

The first three days, the participants will play two rapid games followed by two blitz games -- all four games will be played with the same starting position. On Friday, they will play the remaining eight blitz games -- the starting positions will be drawn twice, once at the beginning and once before the final four games.

I noticed one anomaly that I don't understand. The official site's 'Results' page noted the start positions and their numbers for each round, but the numbers don't correspond to the system that I'm familiar with. For example, it gives the first day using 'Position 598: NQBBRKRN'. I prepared the following table for this post, where the first column is the round number and the second column is the numeric start position:-


That mystery aside, I loaded the PGN file for all 100 games to a ZIP file in a directory on my own site: m-w.com/c960/blog/. In the past, I've loaded the PGN file without compression, but I discovered that my domain host now restricts uploads to a 'List of Supported File Types' that doesn't include PGN.

I'd like to come back to the games in a future post. There are also many comments from fans (and non-fans) scattered across different resources that could be surveyed.

25 August 2018

10th Anniversary!

This week I passed the tenth year blogging about chess960. The first post was on my main blog: Shall We Play Fischerandom Chess? (19 August 2008). Almost as if on cue, I received an unexpected anniversary present in the announcement that Kasparov To Make Chess960 Debut (chess.com; Peter Doggers):-
This year, we'll again see Garry Kasparov at the chessboard. The 13th world champion is among the players in the Champions Showdown in St. Louis next month, where the format will be matches of Chess960 -- which Kasparov never tried before.

The announcement went on to give details, which I'll present as an image, because of the list of match opponents.

Peter Doggers might not be aware, but Kasparov is reported to have played chess960 before. I posted about the occasion in Kasparov *Did* Play Chess960 (September 2012), where I quoted GM Sergey Shipov saying,

In 1998 [...] we played six games of Fischerandom chess, and there was no battle there at all! In completely unfamiliar positions, Kasparov's advantage over me was far greater than in normal chess. In the absence of the usual pathfinders his flights of fancy, his sense of dynamics, and his ability to instantly separate the important from the secondary became particularly salient.
For more posts about GM Kasparov on this blog, see It's Not About Short Draws, Garry (February 2014):-
When the 13th World Champion talks, people listen. When he talks about chess960, I listen very carefully. Here are some of the things he's said, or that have been said about him, that I've noted in past posts on this blog.

Twenty games times five matches means 100 games of chess960 played by some of the best chess players in the world, including a few veterans of the Mainz chess960 tournaments. What will we learn from those games?

18 August 2018

The Promise of Chess960 (in 2006)

In one of last month's posts, Chess960 at the Open Library, I discovered a digital copy of 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960' by Gene Milener. Since then, I've been slowly making my way through the book. As I wrote in the 'Open Library' post,
The book is not an easy read. It introduces new terminology, new notation, and many new ideas that challenge traditional chess thinking.

Having spent more time with it, I'm now more comfortable with the new terminology and new notation (although I still hesitate when I encounter the word 'plair'). I won't pretend to review the book. I've corresponded with Gene Milener on several occasions and he has left numerous comments on this blog as 'GeneM'. There are a few details concerning chess960 where we don't agree. Since these might easily intrude into any review, I'll just say that further comments are my opinion in 2018 versus GeneM's opinion in 2006.

The book is divided into two main parts:-

PART 1: Beyond the Board
PART 2: New Chess Principles Discovered

The 'Open Library' post separated these parts into chapters and for this current post I concentrated on the chapters in part 1. Five of the six chapters in that part discuss technical aspects of chess960, like the numbering system and PGN/FEN, but chapter two examines the relationship with traditional chess. The chapter opens with an anecdote. It had already made an impression on me when I read it at some time in the past, although I had forgotten its source.

I was reviewing a chess game from the pages of John Nunn's superb book Understanding Chess Move By Move. I feel like a spectator when I review or replay a chess game, in the same way I feel like a spectator when I watch football. It was the Jan Timman - Judit Polgar game (Sigeman & Co., at Malmo 2000) in which Polgar carried an initiative through most of the opening even though Timman's moves all seemed solid and safe, even conservative (*). I felt like Polgar's aggressive moves were more than interesting, they were aesthetically pleasing and even inspiring. Chess is indeed a melding of war and beauty.

Then I peeked inside my one modest and aging CD of chess games, which contains about 800,000 games. This led to a feeling of deflation and almost betrayal. For I saw that the exact moves Polgar played through the opening have been played in numerous other games too. Suddenly I felt like Polgar's play had a diminished value, like that of a Picasso print as compared to a Picasso original. At that moment chess960 popped back into my head. Starting from that day I spent my evenings researching chess960, though at first I had no inkling this would lead me to write a book.

That is exactly what Bobby Fischer was talking about in remarks I quoted in Fischer: 'The *Old* Chess Is Dead' (February 2010). Fischer was speaking in January 2002:-

Q: Do you follow chess at all? A: I follow the old chess, I follow all the pre-arranged matches, like the last Kramnik - Kasparov match [October 2000]. At the highest level it is all pre-arranged, move by move. You have very interesting, beautiful pre-arranged games being created by very intelligent players, working with computers, working in teams. I have no objections to people creating such games, but they must say these are pre-arranged games, but they must not claim that they are finding the moves over the board. I have learned so much from these pre-arranged matches and all these cooked-up notes, they're wonderful. But they are fake, they are flawed.

The rest of Milener's chapter two goes on to discuss aspects of chess960 that are just as relevant today as they were in 2006. Here is a list of the chapter's section titles, where comments in brackets ('[]') are mine:-

2. The Tyranny of Tradition
- Opening Repetition Data
- The Greatest Spectator Sport on Earth?
- Bobby Fischer's Perspective on FRC/Chess960
- Learning from the Checkers Example
- Impedance to Rejoining the USCF
- Befuddled by Time Data
- An Optimistic Perspective on Chess960
- Center of the Universe for FRC/Chess960 [Mainz]
- What are Chess, Chess1, and Chess960
- First In Wins ['First-In']
- Opening Theme Tournaments

The section titled 'Optimistic Perspective' is particularly relevant. Bobby Fischer was alive at the time the book was published. I wonder what he thought about it. Was he also optimistic about the adoption of his invention?

(*) Jan Timman vs Judit Polgar; Sigeman & Co (2000), Malmo SWE (chessgames.com).

28 July 2018

GM Hort and Chess960

This post is a carryover from my main blog -- A Chess Board Is a Stage -- first, because a heat wave has reduced my capacity for any sort of real effort, and second, because it builds on a small ongoing project:-
Last month, in 'An NN for Chess Images' (June 2018), I started to analyze my archive of chess images. One of the by-products of that analysis was to catalog series of related images.

I found the following image in a series of Russian post cards. It shows GM Vlastimil Hort playing RQKNBNRB (SP699).

The timestamp on the image file is January 2004, which means the game must have been played in 2003 or earlier. The badge on GM Hort's jacket is not clear enough to read, but it might have been issued for one of the Mainz tournaments. My post on the demise of the Mainz tournaments, No Place for Chess960 (February 2011), mentions,

Chess960 Senior Rapid Chess World Championship: 2006 Vlastimil Hort

I found on file 13 games by GM Hort, the first of which was played in the 2003 Chess Classic Mainz (CCM) Chess960 Open. That game, against Igor Glek, is the only game on file for Hort in 2003; the other games are from CCMs 2005, 2006, and 2008. Hort appears to have been a keen chess960 player.

Earlier this year, in Vlastimil Hort: Memories of Bobby Fischer - Part 3 (chessbase.com; April 2018), the one time candidate for the World Championship in traditional chess (1977) recalled meeting Fischer in 1993.

I believe I am one of the first to whom Bobby showed his invention -- the new form of chess he had created! On the first rank, the pieces were placed randomly -- but with identical set-ups for Black and White. The pawns on the second or seventh rank stayed as they are -- just as in traditional chess.

This would have been the same time that Fischer was working out his castling rules. The last time I touched on this topic was Early Chess960 in Hungary (April 2018). It's ironic that more people seem to have played this early form of random chess with Fischer than to have played with the chess960 rules announced in 1996.

21 July 2018

Chess960 at the Open Library

While preparing a recent post on my main blog Chess-books and Chess-players, which described how to embed links to the Open Library, I found a book which I've always wanted to read.

Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess960
by Gene Milener

I've known about the book for years and the title has popped up in several posts, e.g. Ducking Chess960 (June 2012):-

Next on the list, a review of Gene Milener's 'Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess 960' wasn't new to me. I had already mentioned it a couple of years ago in 'Chess960 @ Chessville.com'.

That post pointed to a review that has long since disappeared from the web, but which is still available through the magic of the Wayback Machine: Chessville Reviews - Play Stronger Chess by Examining Chess 960 - Reviewed by Michael Jeffreys (archive.org -> chessville.com). That review is itself reviewed by Milener on his own page about the book, 960 CLP.com (castlelong.com), from which I copied the book's table of contents.

The book is not an easy read. It introduces new terminology, new notation, and many new ideas that challenge traditional chess thinking. It is testimony to the depth of chess960 that a book written in 2006 -- only ten years after Fischer introduced his version of random chess -- contains many ideas that remain to be explored. I'll cover some of them in future posts on this blog.

23 June 2018

Another Purported Problem with Castling

I ended the previous post, A Purported Problem with Castling, with the observation:-
Another general rule is that castling considerations are more complicated in chess960 than in traditional chess, even if specific start positions might be less complicated.

It turns out that the observation also applies to the rules for castling. The 'Purported Problem' post was based on hundreds of comments to a Chessbase article, of which the last half might be called the Petrarlsen - Celeje debate. For more than a month the two parties discussed the pros and cons of various castling rules, all of them alternatives to Fischer's chess960 rules. I won't enter into that debate -- this is a chess960 blog -- but there were a number of thought-provoking points that are worth discussing. For example:-

In certain [chess960] positions, the [castling] King moves toward the center.

A little thought is enough to determine that these are positions where the King starts on the b-file and castles O-O-O. This brought me once again to an old post on my main blog, Introduction to Chess960 Geometry (March 2009), where I developed the following table. Pardon me for taking a snapshot of the table and its discussion, which is easier than copying everything separately.

From that table we learn that there are exactly 108 positions where the Kings start on the b-file. When one of those Kings castles O-O-O, it starts on the b-file and ends on the c-file. While that might be a (small) disadvantage, it is counter-balanced by the simultaneous activation of the Rook that started on the a-file. Since all start positions with a King on the b-file imply a Rook on the a-file, there is another important consideration for the opening plan: How to activate that Rook? There are four ways to do this:-

  • Castle O-O-O [moving the King toward the center]
  • Castle O-O [switching the King from the b- to the g-file]
  • Moving the King to the second rank
  • Moving the Rook along the a-file

The strategy that a player chooses -- remember that both White and Black have the same options -- depends on the overall strategy for developing all eight pieces. Each one of those four choices for King/Rook activation has an impact on the choices for the other six pieces and vice versa.

That last observation might seem obvious, but a second observation might be less obvious. Of the six files where a King can start the game, the simultaneous considerations for castling (King safety and Rook activation) present six different scenarios. For example, in those positions where a King starts on the d-/e-files, the choice of moving the King to the second rank is less attractive than when the King starts on the b-file. On the d-/e-files, the King is more exposed to attack than on the b-file, and moving to the second rank doesn't really change this.

The special considerations for castling arise because a single move alters the position of two pieces of the same color. In the Petrarlsen - Celeje debate, Petrarlsen (a chess960 antagonist) argued that the chess960 castling rules must respect the exact same goals of King safety and Rook activation found in the traditional setup (SP518 RNBQKBNR). Celeje (a chess960 protagonist) was more flexible. What would Petrarlsen say about the start positions When Castling Undevelops a Rook (September 2010)?

It's curious that even in SP518, the consequences of castling to the two sides are not completely equivalent. Castling O-O-O moves the King one square off-center and develops the Rook to the center. Castling O-O moves the King closer to the corner, but doesn't bring the Rook to the center. Both scenarios often require a second move to correct the deficiency of the castling move. Castling O-O-O is often followed by Kc1-b1, while castling O-O is usually followed by a further Rook move.

Similar considerations apply to all of the other 959 start positions. If we want all chess960 positions to mimic the traditional position, we might as well just play only that position.

16 June 2018

A Purported Problem with Castling

My previous post, Comments on Purported Problems (May 2018), continued a mini-series on a Chessbase article, 'The problem with Chess960'. After commenting on the article itself (follow the 'Purported Problems' link to find my original post and comments), I selected some thought-provoking discussion points from the more than 200 comments made against the Chessbase article. One in particular is worth a discussion on its own:-
Petrarlsen 3/2/2018 03:31 • In one of the Carlsen - Nakamura game, the two players castled on move one, and I rather think that every game played with this position between top GMs would follow the same course; this feels more like a farce than like the beginning of a serious game.

The game reference is to the recent match, 2018 Carlsen - Nakamura (February 2018). The commenter continued,

What can be the meaning of castling if the players castle on the first move and wouldn't even consider playing any other move?

Ignoring the arrogant assumption about knowing what the players considered or didn't consider, let's look at the position. The PGN is available via my '2018 Carlsen - Nakamura' post. It turns out that the position was used in games 11 and 12 of the match, when both games were drawn.


In game 11, with Nakamura as White, the players continued 1.O-O O-O. With Carlsen as White, the first moves were 1.c4 O-O 2.O-O. Carlsen at least tried 1.c4, but then castled on his next move.

Looking at the position more carefully, what are the logistics behind castling O-O-O? Taking White as the example, we have to move the dark-squared Bishop and the Queen to enable O-O-O. Both moves can be prepared by d2-d4 (or d2-d3), after which there is a further question of where to place the Bishop or Queen when it moves. Neither piece has an obvious developing square, and the Bc1 is perhaps better on the long diagonal. So it takes at least four moves to play O-O-O, after which there is no particular advantage in the resulting position. The move O-O, on the other hand, looks natural -- the King is a little safer and the Rooks are connected. Isn't that what castling is supposed to achieve?

Rather than being 'more like a farce than like the beginning of a serious game', the move O-O is the first idea in what promises to be a long, tight struggle. It also adheres to the principle of playing the obvious moves first. As for the other start positions where O-O is possible on the first move, I once counted these positions in Introduction to Chess960 Geometry (March 2009, on my main blog):-

There are 90 start positions where the players can castle O-O on the first move. [...] There are 72 positions where the players can castle O-O-O on the first move.

I am sure that not all of these 90 positions are as straightforward as SP324. As a final thought, in a post titled On a Losing Streak (May 2015), I wrote,

After the game, my opponent said, 'I have found from past personal experience, castling on the first move makes for a very difficult game!' I could hardly disagree with him, especially when it is followed by a dubious gambit.

While that opponent might have exaggerated his personal experience, it is a more useful general rule than to claim that a player should always castle on the first move whenever possible. Another general rule is that castling considerations are more complicated in chess960 than in traditional chess, even if specific start positions might be less complicated.

19 May 2018

Comments on Purported Problems

I ended my previous post, Purported Problems with Chess960, with:-
The [Chessbase] article also attracted more than 200 comments, many of them with ideas worth further exploration. Perhaps I'll tackle these in a future post.

Here are the first 20 or so comments that, in my opinion, made a particularly good point worth exploring.

Ken Neat 2/28/2018 09:35 • I am surprised that David Bronstein's version of random chess is never mentioned. Here the back rank is empty at the start, and the first eight moves for each player are to place their eight pieces on the board, with certain restrictions (e.g.the bishops). To me this seems far more interesting than the Fischer version.

John Upper 2/28/2018 10:00 • Rather than say FRC does away with "preparation" you should say it does away with "opening preparation". Preparing by working on tactics and learning endgames is still very beneficial to playing FRC.

Petrarlsen 3/1/2018 04:24 • I find the idea of games entirely decided over the board interesting, but I find also extremely interesting the "fight of opening ideas" that can be seen in top-GMs games.

peterfrost 3/1/2018 06:46 • An obvious attempt to address this which is rarely tried is to randomise the pairings (rather than the pieces!) so that players don't know who they will be playing on a given day. This will at least make preparation considerably harder, as I think a big part of the problem is "cramming" the night before a game to get ready for a known opponent.

BeFreeBusy 3/1/2018 07:59 • Why abandon the game of chess and, for too large part, the beauty and history of it?

celeje 3/1/2018 08:14 • One of the main points of chess960 is that it can exist alongside the game with the traditional starting position, played by the same people, with the same skills rewarded. There's no replacement going on.

lajosarpad 3/1/2018 09:16 • A year playing a single position seems to be quite long. An improvement on that might be to randomize a single position for each tournament of FRC and let the players and commentators know the randomized position in advance. This way the random variant will stay random, but we will see some basic openings and the commentators will have ample time to prepare for their job.

fons3 3/1/2018 12:46 • [Bronstein's version] Not mentioned in this article but I think that putting a piece on the board should count as a move so the clock would be running.

Petrarlsen 3/1/2018 02:19 • In chess960 (obviously, in my opinion, it can be mastered in less than 5 minutes. by any experienced chess player, even a complete amateur), only that, in several chess960 starting positions, castling is very weird and quite inharmonious.

svr 3/1/2018 03:33 • Before the start of the game, both players will look at the starting position for a few minutes. Then one of them will set the clocks (with their total adding to 30 minutes, if it is a rapid game, for example). Then the other player will choose on which side to play.

boorchess 3/1/2018 06:11 •

KWRegan 3/1/2018 09:15 • Link to what is really just combining Bronstein's and Fischer's ideas:

Mawin 3/2/2018 06:55 • I have suggested that players randomize the pieces themselves. The players may, before play begins, swap places of the king + queen and another piece except the rooks. The castling rules are the same as in chess960. [...] "Relocation variants - rearranging the initial array"

elmerdssngalang 3/2/2018 09:04 • Place the big money on chess960 and soon it will gain popularity among the best traditional chess players. One great advantage to be gained is that more players from lower ranks can be allowed to compete with the best ones on a more level playing field.

geraldsky 3/2/2018 02:08 • If Paul Morphy and Harry Philsbury [were] still alive they would play equally against modern players in chess960

koko48 3/2/2018 03:15 • In traditional chess, no matter how many theoretical or previously analyzed moves you play, you (almost always) eventually reach a unique position. The only difference is that with chess960, you get the 'unique' position earlier. But as the game progresses well into the middlegame, the chess960 positions start to look like positions from a traditional game. [...] So in essence chess theory will go back to the way it was in the late 1800s or early 1900s in traditional chess, when modern opening theory was in its infancy, and there as much more creativity in the early stages of the game

Petrarlsen 3/2/2018 03:31 • In one of the Carlsen - Nakamura game, the two players castled on move one, and I rather think that every game played with this position between top GMs would follow the same course; this feels more like a farce than like the beginning of a serious game.

Jacob woge 3/4/2018 02:27 • As for the Carlsen - Nakamura match, the main interest lies in the result. The sporting element is emphasized. The games are, with the exception of a few endings, to forget.

Petrarlsen 3/4/2018 03:50 • In traditional chess, in a very large majority of positions, it is possible to explain castling by the two ideas of the safety of the King and the development of one of the Rooks. I don't think that in chess960 it is possible to find such clear and general ideas who could be applied more or less everywhere, for castling.

That last comment -- 'clear and general ideas for castling' -- is worthy of a separate post, perhaps an article, perhaps even a book. The discussion circled around the topic for a long time. The remark by the same commenter (see above at 3/2/2018 03:31) on first move castling belongs to the same discussion.

Also worth a separate investigation is the thread on Bronstein's version of shuffle chess. I've never played it, so I can't comment directly. A big advantage of Fischer's version is that the castling rules ensure that a game eventually looks and feels like a traditional chess game. Is the same true of Bronstein's version?

28 April 2018

Purported Problems with Chess960

That title is taken from a recent article by Frederic Friedel of Chessbase: The problem with Chess960 (chessbase.com; February 2018). Let's cut to the chase. The problem with chess960 is that there is no problem with chess960. Chessbase has a problem with chess960 in that it eliminates the need for their flagship product. I read Friedel's remarks with the same understanding that I would read the remarks of any corporate CEO faced with an existential threat. Let's look at his main points.

'The game has some fairly complex castling rules.' • This is a bullet straight out of Top 10 Myths About Chess960 (May 2012). Friedel points to a Wikipedia article that states the rule in 17 words: 'After castling, the final positions of King and Rook are exactly the same as in standard chess'. Wikipedia then goes on to repeat the same restrictions that are found in the rules of traditional chess: King and Rook must not have moved etc. etc. What's so complicated about that?

'Slowly the game gained popularity, though it did not take off the way its devotees hoped.' • The game is doing fine, thanks very much. There are plenty of places to play (How about Chessbase's Playchess.com?) and plenty of people to play it with. There is no money in it, but I'm not convinced that's a problem.

'A chess960 rapid game has a weird position the players [are] still pondering on move four.' • This 'grave disadvantage' (Friedel's phrase) is in fact one of the attractions of chess960. The thinking starts on the first move (not after 15 moves of theory).

'Commenting on a [chess960] game [is like] conducting a guided tour of an art gallery that you are visiting for the first time.' • One of these days I must watch the commentating by GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Anna Rudolf on the recent 2018 Carlsen - Nakamura Match (February 2018). How did they manage to cope?

'The chess960 positions, regarding their winning probabilities, are often asymmetric.' • I don't understand what this means. What are 'asymmetric winning probabilities'? That White often has a small advantage over Black? That the 960 positions offer different winning percentages to the two players? Something else?

'Traditional chess offers continuity [...] That is impossible in chess960. • This is referring to the opening. Traditional chess has three phases: opening, middlegame, and endgame; chess960 has the same three phases. In the chess960 opening, there are undiscovered principles that are awaiting the intrepid explorer. Ditto the chess960 middlegame, which is richer than in traditional chess. The chess960 endgame is the same as traditional chess.

'Some [chess960 start positions] give White substantial advantage, some are simply bizarre, causing players to cringe, and some invite blunders and result in very short games. But many are interesting and exciting.' • All are 'interesting and exciting'. None are cringeworthy. I speak from experience.

'Chess960 tournaments should have two games with swapped colors per encounter.' • Is this necessary? The Mainz events did not use this system. Perhaps it is a psychological crutch for players who lack confidence in the fairness of chess960 or in their ability to tackle its challenges. The Carlsen - Nakamura match used 'swapped colors' and provoked a conversation about unintended consequences. Other solutions are possible, like a change in the scoring system (e.g. as in duplicate bridge).

'The main problem of chess960 is that you start with absolutely no prior information or practice.' • Absolutely none at all? Starting with this sentence, the rest of Friedel's article breaks down into some silly assertions (sorry, Frederic!) and a call to consider Kasparov's Chess960 Proposal (October 2009). I've discussed the idea several times on this blog, for example, It's Not About Short Draws, Garry (February 2014). Short answer: There is nothing to stop any group of players from limiting the number of chess960 positions; likewise, there is nothing to stop the rest of the world from playing all 960 positions. Long answer: Same as the short answer.

Don't misunderstand me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Friedel's thoughts. Remember the 'corporate CEO faced with an existential threat'? There were other points worth examining. Friedel's relationship with Bobby Fischer was news to me. The article also attracted more than 200 comments, many of them with ideas worth further exploration. Perhaps I'll tackle these in a future post.

21 April 2018

Early Chess960 in Hungary

Thanks to two recent, well publicized chess960 events...

...I learned a bit more about the early days of chess960. First, here's a blog post by GM Susan Polgar, I will attend 2018 European Fischer Random Cup in Reykjavik, which might have been better titled 'My Memories of Fischer Random'. After answering the question 'How did you meet Bobby Fischer?' [NB: after the 1992 Fischer - Spassky Rematch], the former Women's World Champion answered the followup question, 'Did you play chess with Fischer while he was in Hungary?'

I played many Fischer Random blitz games with him. In fact, if you Google "Fischer Random", the only published photos of Bobby playing Fischer Random [were] with me. When he arrived in Hungary, he was still torn about the final rules of Fischer Random. Therefore, he and I spent countless hours discussing the pros and cons of various rules. Then we worked on finalizing the rules, which includes castling. I probably ended up playing more Fischer Random games with Bobby than anyone alive today.

This adds some additional info to one of my early posts on this blog, Pictures of a Fischer Random Precursor (March 2010). Except for a couple of exhibition games with Anatoly Karpov, which I documented in Chess960 Fever in Little Sweden, GM Polgar has never shown much interest in promoting the fruit of her work with Fischer.

Peter Leko, another Hungarian GM who met Fischer in Hungary at about the same time (see the recent Youtube video Peter Leko talks about Bobby Fischer staying at his home), competed in some of the earliest Mainz events. See, for example, No Place for Chess960 (February 2011) on this blog along with other posts that can be found via search. He talked about his experience in Leko: "A milestone for Fischer Random Chess"; Interview with Peter Leko about a unique match (chessvariants.com; June 2001).

31 March 2018

2018 Fischer Random Cup PGN

The 'Blog Archive' on the right shows that my normal schedule is two posts per month, usually on the third and fourth Saturday of the month. Since this month has five Saturdays, I used the extra day to collect games from the recent Fischer Random Cup in Reykjavik.

For an overview of data about the event available from Chess-results.com, see the first post from this month, Lenderman, Rapport Take Reykjavik. For an overview of data available from Chessbomb.com, see More on the Fischer Random Cup. In that post I wrote,

How about some games? Since 100 players participated, 50 games were played per round -- nine rounds should give 450 games for the tournament. The page Fischer Random Cup (reykjavikopen.com) has results for 20 games per round, presumably for games which were recorded automatically while they were in progress. [...] A similar interface producing the same information is on GAMMA Reykjavík Fischer Random Chess Memorial 2018 (chessbomb.com).

I used Chess-results.com to identify the top five boards per round, then used Chessbomb.com to create a PGN file of those games. That makes 45 games from the event (in fact, 46 games, because one game from round one defaulted after the first move). The following table shows the start position used in each round. The start position for round five was not recorded correctly at Chessbomb.com, so those games are effectively missing.

Rd Start Position (SP)
05 SP???

The PGN file can be found at m-w.com/c960/blog/c96-ic31.pgn. If you find a problem with the file, please flag it using the comment section for this post.

24 March 2018

More on the Fischer Random Cup

After last week's post Lenderman, Rapport Take Reykjavík, what more can be said about the event, aka the 'European Fischer Random Cup'. How about some games? Since 100 players participated, 50 games were played per round -- nine rounds should give 450 games for the tournament.

The page Fischer Random Cup (reykjavikopen.com) has results for 20 games per round, presumably for games which were recorded automatically while they were in progress. Clicking on a game opens a viewer to play through and download the game. Clicking on the PGN download button gives only the message 'Not logged in'. Logging in to Chessbomb.com gives the message 'Only Premium accounts can download PGN'. A similar interface producing the same information is on GAMMA Reykjavík Fischer Random Chess Memorial 2018 (chessbomb.com).

Back to Reykjavikopen.com, a number of side events were held in conjunction with the Fischer Random Cup (GAMMA Reykjavík Open 2018 – Bobby Fischer Memorial):-

The page announcing the Fischer Memorial Tour I, 'a trip to the Fischer Center in Selfoss and Fischer’s Grave nearby', included a map of Selfoss:-

For more about the Fischer Center, see Welcome to the Bobby Fischer Center (fischersetur.is).

17 March 2018

Lenderman, Rapport Take Reykjavik

Ever since posting about the special Fischer Random Chess960 event as part of the 2018 Fischer Memorial (December 2017), I've been counting down the days, eagerly awaiting the results. The following table shows the top-20 of the 100 players who participated.

Reykjavik Fischer Random 2018 - European Fischer Random Cup

An undated report from the official site, Lenderman wins the Bobby Fischer Cup - Rapport European Champion (reykjavikopen.com; 'GAMMA Reykjavik Open 2018 - Bobby Fischer Memorial'), started,

The first official European Championship in Fischer Random was played on the 9th of March, on Bobby Fischer’s [75th] birthday ... fittingly! The tournament was held by the GAMMA Reykjavik Open organisers in co-ordination with the ECU and with great support from Susan Polgar. The atmosphere in the playing hall was tremendous and many players claimed it was the most fun they had in a while playing chess! Before every round the starting position was randomly drawn so before the game instead of being relaxed you usually saw the players already pondering the starting position and possible plans.

I'll have more about the event in my next post.

24 February 2018

2018 Carlsen - Nakamura : Resources

In my previous post, 2018 Carlsen - Nakamura, I wrote,
The match generated considerable interest about 'Fischer Random Chess960' (as someone called it during the match and which is a good compromise to avoid the confusion surrounding the two names) and I'll have more to say about that in a follow-up post.

For consistent, top-level reporting on the match, you can't beat the resources shown in the following table. The first column leads to a record of the live commentary. The other two columns are for leading chess news sources that put considerable effort into covering the match. All three resources also allowed comments, which are an important part of the record.

(Peter Doggers)
(Macauley Peterson)
Pre-match 2018-02-06:
Chess.com To Cover Carlsen - Nakamura Match
Carlsen, Nakamura in high-stakes C960 match
Day 1
Part 1
Part 2
Nakamura - Carlsen FRC Tied After Day 1 C960: Nakamura and Carlsen start with two draws
Day 2
Part 1
Part 2
FRC Day 2: Nakamura Blunders Queen C960: Carlsen grabs a point from Nakamura
Day 3
'Black Sunday' Delivers Exciting FRC C960: Two wins on day three
Day 4
Carlsen Wins, Then Flags vs Nakamura In FRC Day 4 C960: Nakamura flags Carlsen to keep match close

Final Day
Carlsen Wins FRC Championship Carlsen adds a new title: C960 champion
Post-match C960 revisited: Grandmaster analysis

I collected dozens of other references -- many well informed, some not-so-well -- but I'll leave those for another day. The table in this post gives me more than enough material to fill my chess960 time.

17 February 2018

2018 Carlsen - Nakamura

In what was billed as 'The Unofficial World Championship in Fischer Random Chess', the official World Chess Champion, GM Magnus Carlsen, beat the unofficial World Rapid Chess960 Champion, GM Hikaru Nakamura (*). Details about the match can be found on the official site Fischer Random Chess (frchess.com). GM Carlsen won the first set of eight 'slow rapid chess' games with
+3-2=3 >> 9.0-7.0 (2 points per game);

then reached the required score of 12.5 in the 'fast rapid chess' games with

+2-0=3 >> 3.5-1.5 (1 point per game);

then finished the 'fast rapid' portion of the match with

+1-1=1 >> 1.5-1.5;

to achieve an overall score of 14.0-10.0. A summary of the match regulations can be found in my previous post, A World Class Match and Some Top-level Games (January 2018).

The match generated considerable interest about 'Fischer Random Chess960' (as someone called it during the match and which is a good compromise to avoid the confusion surrounding the two names) and I'll have more to say about that in a follow-up post. In the meantime, here is a copy of the PGN game scores for the match, and here are some statistics from this blog.

The top half of the chart, 'Views', shows page views per day over the period mid-January to mid-February 2018, where a typical day is mid-two-digits. The bottom half, 'Audience' shows the origins of the visitors; (let's have a round of applause for Brazil and France!). On my main blog, I wrote a post about the atypical setting for the match: Bobby Speaks from the Grave.


(*) See No Place for Chess960 (February 2011), for an overview of 'Chess960 Classic Mainz' and its various World Championships, where GM Nakamura was the last winner of the main event.

27 January 2018

A World Class Match and Some Top-level Games

Before continuing the previous post, Two Important Chess.com Events, let's go back to Three Chess960 Developments to Watch (October 2017), where I noted,
In February 2018, there may be an unusual exhibition match held between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, playing chess960 (also known as Fischer Random).

The web site for the match can be found at Fischer Random Chess – The Unofficial World Championship in Fischer Random Chess (frchess.com), where the Regulations page says,

The match will be played in Henie Onstad kunstsenter, at Høvikodden outside Oslo in Norway, from February 9 to February 13 2018. The match will include a total of 16 games. The first eight games are played like slow rapid chess with 45 minutes for the first 40 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game, no increment. The last eight games are played as fast rapid chess with 10 minutes and 5 seconds incremental for each move. All 16 games will be played even if the match is decided. Games will not be rated.
Start positions will be chosen just before a pair of games, for example:-

For the slow rapid games, set up of the pieces will be decided by a drawing made by computer with both players present 15 minutes before the start of the game. This set up then will be used for both games of that evening.

I've already noted Friday, 9 February, 5 PM CET (aka 1700 Central European Time) in my calendar, because live streaming is promised.


Back to 'Two Chess.com Events', I located the games for the 'Speed Chess Championship' using the technique documented in GM Blitz Battle PGN (March 2017), and created a PGN file that is available here:-

Speed Chess Championship PGN : 45 games (15 matches with three chess960 games per match)

I had a number of unexpected problems to create and upload the file, but hope that it is usable. The PGN header tags are not the same as they were for the March 2017 upload and I'm not sure whether the Chess.com format changed or my manipulations created differences.

As for the Chess.com 'Chess960 Championship', a preliminary analysis counted 372 games in the PGN file provided by Chess.com. I wanted to look at the file in more depth, but ran out of time.


Looking again at the upcoming Carlsen - Nakamura 'Unofficial World Championship', the two players met in the final match for both the 2016 GM Blitz Battle and the 2017 Speed Chess Championship. Although Carlsen won both matches, Nakamura won the chess960 minimatches with identical scores: +2-0=1. Nakamura appears to be the stronger player at chess960.

20 January 2018

Two Important Chess.com Events

At the end of 2017, chess960 fans were in a holding pattern, waiting for a couple of Chess.com events to terminate:-
  • 2017-10-17: Three Chess960 Developments to Watch • Chess.com's 2017 Speed Chess Championship ('One chess960 game will be played in each time control at the end of each time period')
  • 2017-12-23: 2018 Fischer Memorial • 1st Chess.com Chess960 Championship ('you can win a ticket to the Bobby Fischer Memorial in March in Reykjavik')

Both events finished within a few days of each other. Here are Chess.com's final reports:-

Congratulations to both GM Carlsen and GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Now that the events are over, where can we find the games?

Last year, when I discussed the precursor of the 'Speed Chess Championship' in GM Blitz Battle PGN (March 2017), I noted, 'To search on games, you need to know the players' names on Chess.com.' The full results of the event, including all preliminary matches, are detailed in 2017 Speed Chess Championship Schedule, Results, Information (chess.com), from which I copied the following chart.

The results of the each match include links to a full report. Here is a summary of the first round matches.

Nakamura 20.5 (Hikaru), Grigoriants 7.5 (sergiochess83)
Karjakin 19.0 (SergeyKarjakin), Meier 7.0 (GeorgMeier)
So 15.5 (gmwesley_so), Giri 14.5 (AnishGiri)
Grischuk 17.5 (Grischuk), Rapport 9.5 (Lordillidan)
Nepomniachtchi 15 (lachesisQ), Aronian 13 (LevonAronian)
Caruana 19 (FabianoCaruana), Hou 8 (yifan0227)
MVL 19 (LyonBeast), Xiong 12 (jefferyx)
Carlsen 20.5 (MagnusCarlsen), Guseinov 5.5 (GGuseinov)

In my next post, I'll try to gather all of the chess960 games from those matches. As for the chess960 championship, the 'MVL Wins' report provides the possibility to 'Download Tournament PGN'. In the next post, I'll also look at that file.