29 August 2020

'Chess960 Castling First Move'

Don't you hate it when you search for some topic on the web and the results point back to your own thoughts? That happened to me while I was trying to follow-up the previous post Three Sad Stories (August 2020). I wrote,
SP242 (CAI): In this game, 1.O-O-O is possible on the first move, which is what White played. I don't often do this because I like to keep my choice of castling open for as long as possible. The second diagram shows that I eventually castled ...O-O. This is called 'castling into an attack', after which I got crushed. [...] A deeper look at castling on the first move might be a good angle.

Below is a screen capture of the results that Google returned.

Google search on 'chess960 castling first move'

That first text box is from my 'Chess960 1-2-3' page Chess960 Castling Patterns Explained. It says,

An unusual aspect of chess960 is that castling is sometimes legal already on the first move of the game. This happens when the King and Rook are initially positioned on their target files, but with the King on the Rook's square and the Rook on the King's square.

In fact, that particular 'Chess960 1-2-3' page is the *only* '1-2-3' page, a project I started in 2014, then abandoned because I couldn't get a grip on it. Maybe I should give it another shot.

After that statement of fact -- 'castling is sometimes legal already on the first move' -- more interesting are the consequences of first move castling. The second link in my screen capture leads to Castling on move 1 in Chess960 (chess.com; April 2011). The questions posed there are:-

There exist various Chess960 positions where it is possible to castle right on the first move. Will you do so? Is it good or bad? Is it a waste of tempo or will it help you protect the King and make your position good.

Some of the comments are worth repeating. My own remarks are after the separators ('•'):-

'In this position [SP439 RNBNQKRB], I wouldn't castle because after castling, a first few moves need to be done to have some kind of protection near the King. thus it's a waste of tempo.' • Instead of 'a waste of tempo', more accurate might be a 'a misuse of tempo'. The move accomplishes something, but other moves might accomplish more.

'You're essentially conceding your opponent first move, and removing your own ability to castle. The opponent will now know exactly where to aim his forces. Always a bad idea.'

'I would do it for style.' • I've seen this stated elsewhere as: 'Castling on the first move is cool! I do it every chance I get.'

'There should be no situation where castling would be the best first move, because there is no situation where this couldn't be done on the second move, regardless of what Black does.' • A good point that I've never considered. Why use the first serve to deliver a lob?

'I think a Pawn move staking out the center should be preferred to castling. Having said that, White can probably get by with castling on the first move. But if White does not start by castling, Black should definitely not do so as this would put him two tempi behind in staking out a claim in the center.' • Another good point.

So the reasons for not castling outweigh the single reason in favor of it ('It's cool!'). The question 'Where will I castle?' is one of the main considerations in evaluating any chess960 start position and in choosing a first move. Many of the previous posts on this blog, all of them in the category 'Posts with label Castling', deal with first move castling. It might be useful to identify them.

[For another example of me struggling with my own public thoughts, see A Quotable Quote (July 2019). For more on snippets, see How Google’s featured snippets work (support.google.com).]

22 August 2020

Three Sad Stories

I used last month's post, Taking Inventory of Games Played (July 2020), to select some of my own games for further analysis. In that post I wrote,
My third tournament was the preliminary stage of a three stage cup tournament where I finished +6-0=2. In the semifinal stage I finished +1-3=4. Since those three losses were the first on LSS, I'll start with them.

The following chart shows the start position for each game ('SP') and the position at which the King positions have been established, usually after castling. That's the point where a chess960 game starts to resemble a game using the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR). The code in parentheses (e.g. 'CAI') identifies my opponent (I'm not going to give their names). I had Black in all three games.

(Can be expanded to WIDTH=800)

SP242 (CAI): In this game, 1.O-O-O is possible on the first move, which is what White played. I don't often do this because I like to keep my choice of castling open for as long as possible. The second diagram shows that I eventually castled ...O-O. This is called 'castling into an attack', after which I got crushed.

SP388 (NOV): In this game, both my opponent and I castled at the same time. The Bishop on the b-file is more dangerous than the Bishop on the c-file. White has managed to exchange the dark-squared Bishops, leaving himself with the more dangerous Bishop. The game lasted 40 moves, but White eventually overwhelmed the Black King and Black had no counterplay.

SP953 (KOE): Note the 'RKR' formation on the abc-files. In this game, neither player castled and the second diagram shows the position just after Black has escaped a check by moving the King; White's King didn't move until the endgame. In the diagram, both players have a Knight en prise and the game became tactical. I was outplayed in the complications.

Three games tell three sad stories about my play. In each game I apparently went wrong before 20 moves had been played. Is there anything I can learn here?


Later: After I wrote the post, I discovered a couple of old posts where I had already discussed two of the games:-

That leaves SP242 (CAI) as the main candidate for any further analysis. A deeper look at castling on the first move might be a good angle.


Even later: Re 'That leaves SP242 (CAI) as the main candidate for any further analysis', it looks like I've been there, done that as well:-

There really is nothing new under the sun -- at least for this blog.

15 August 2020

2020 Vision in Biel

What was the biggest chess960 news in July? We saw three reports from three top chess news sources, all dealing with the start of the 2020 Biel tournament, all dated 19 July 2020. I took one excerpt from each report, illustrating three different aspects of the event.

Chess24.com (Colin McGourty) • Harikrishna wins Chess960 as over-the-board chess is back in Biel

Harikrishna won the Chess960 warm-up at the Biel Chess Festival, but the big news is that the 53rd edition of the festival is happening at all. It’s the first top-level international event to take place since the Candidates Tournament was halted midway while Europe went into lock-down. The world is far from back to normal – as Salem Saleh being unable to travel and replaced by Arkadiy Naiditsch testifies – but with plexiglass screens between the players and other measures in place there’s rapid, classical and blitz chess ahead.

Chessbase.com (Carlos Alberto Colodro) • Biel: Naiditsch to replace Salem, Harikrishna wins Chess960 event

Many times it has been suggested for the World Championship matches to play the rapid tiebreakers before the start of the event. The idea is for players to know in advance whether they need to go all-in under given circumstances during the classical games. In Biel, this idea has been implemented, with the added bonus of using a format that has gained a second wind lately -- Chess960.'

Chess.com (Peter Doggers) • Harikrishna Wins Biel Chess960 As Plexiglass Separates Players

Did you notice that all three reports used the name chess960? I wonder why that is.