25 December 2021

The CCRL Is Unreliable (Not!)

I currently have 21 posts in the category Showing posts with label CCRL. One of those posts lists six early posts from my main blog making a total of 26 posts (21-1+6) for that label. Only one of those posts was written in the five years since I restarted this chess960 blog, indicating that the CCRL (see the right navigation bar for a link) has declined in importance for me. In recent years I rarely consulted it for opening advice.

This month I started a new eight-game (four different start positions) event and decided to take another look at the CCRL data. One of the games, SP777 QRKBBNRN, is pictured below.


For the game where I had white, I chose 1.Nhg3 as the first move, and the game continued...

1.Nhg3 [x89] b5 [x2] 2.e4 [x12]

...reaching the position in the diagram. The numbers in brackets ('[]') are the number of games in the CCRL file for SP777, out of 378 games total. After Black's first move, only two CCRL games remained, but the number increased after White's second move, thanks to a simple transposition of White's first and second moves.

The first block of text in the image, statistics calculated by SCID, shows Black's moves after 2.e4. The numbers are terrible for White -- in the 12 games, White scored only 25%. When I first saw the stats, I told myself, 'This line is unplayable!', but couldn't see any other reason why it shouldn't be played. It's the most logical move in the position.

The second block of text shows some basic info about the 12 games, listed in chronological order. The last two columns are the most interesting. The WLD scores total +2-8=2 (25%), but the last column shows the 'Length' (number of moves) for each game. Of the 12 games, only four lasted longer than 15 moves.

The first game, Hiarcs - Movei (played 2006), ended '1-0' after Black's 6th move, when the opponent's are still developing their forces. The last game, Stockfish - Dragon (played this year), ended after White's 15th move with the comment 'Black wins by adjudication', although the position is at best unclear.

My conclusion? The CCRL statistics are completely misleading and can't be relied on. My own SP777 game hasn't yet reached the 10th move, so I can't say anything else, because it's still in progress.


Later: Re 'Of the 12 games, only four lasted longer than 15 moves', after I wrote the post, I realized I had made a serious error. SCID doesn't know anything about chess960. When it encounters an illegal move, it stops processing the game. For chess960 games, most castling moves look like errors, so SCID stops. Thus the low move counts.

For the first three games in my list, the real plycounts were 99, 511, and 122, where the number of 'moves' in the game (more accurately called 'move pairs', i.e. a move for White plus a move for Black) would be half that. This reminded me of an equally serious error I made on my main blog in the first few months of chess960 blogging, when I miscalculated CCRL statistics:-

My conclusion now? (1) I'm the one that's unreliable, not the CCRL; (2) I shouldn't blog on Christmas day, the date of this post; (3) I should be careful when I find a simple answer to a complicated question.

Re the original observation, 'The numbers are terrible for White -- in the 12 games, White scored only 25%', I'll have to look at it again. The game that provoked the analysis has reached the 17th move, so it is still too early to comment.

18 December 2021

Chess940 in 'Chess Life'

Chess960 finally makes the cover (sort of) of a major chess magazine and what happens? They spell it wrong!

I knew this was going to happen. It was just a question of time. Not everyone is comfortable with Roman numerals, and of those who are, not everyone knows what 'L' stands for.

I already flagged one example in 2020 Champions Showdown, Lichess (September 2020), from the well-respected Leonard Barden of The Guardian. If the dean of chess journalism can blunder like this, anyone can.

What am I talking about? The built-in confusion between 9LX and 9XL, of course. The image above is from the table of contents (TOC) of the December 2021 Chess Life (CL). The small print says,

[Page 36] COVER STORY • MY AMERICAN TOUR • GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave [MVL] on his victory at the 2021 Sinquefield Cup and his tie for second place at the 9XL Showdown.

That text was repeated in the introduction to the ten page article, making it a double blunder. To make matters worse, '9XL' sounds like a fast food menu item -- 'I'll have one no.9, Xtra Large, hold the mayo.'

I suppose I should stop waving my arms around and just be happy that chess960, aka FRC, aka 9LX, etc. etc., featured in two full pages of the MVL article. Earlier this year I covered the '9XL Showdown' event in two posts:-

There was one encouraging development in the MVL article. In that second post, 'Live', I noted,

Just as they did for past events, the 9LX organizers used a non-standard numbering system to identify the start positions (SPs).

This was fixed in the MVL article, where he discussed three of his chess960 games, vs. GMs Mamedyarov, Caruana, and Nakamura. MVL wrote,

At the Showdown, the players were given 15 minutes before the rounds to analyze the new starting positions with each other. I often looked at variations with Levon Aronian and Fabiano Caruana. To be completely honest, this kind of preparation is often just blindly groping around, but sometimes you find one or two ideas that work.

The Frenchman, currently rated world no.12, once posted a piece on his blog My Chess960 Debut (mvlchess.com), which was at the 2018 Champions Showdown at St.Louis. I covered the event on this blog in Champions Showdown, St.Louis (September 2018). In his blog post, MVL observed,

The idea of "confining" players, without computer access, one hour before the games, was very interesting. In this friendly atmosphere, allowing the players to get acquainted with the position and analyse together, generally by pairs, was worthwhile. [...] Analysis of a brand new position was clearly adding some spice to our daily routine. First of all, by depriving us of the morning prep burden... But also because we rediscovered the pure analytic work, as it was done by the Ancients, before the computer era!

It's been alomost two years since I last mentioned a CL article on this blog; see An Alternative to a 'Boring, Mind-Draining Process' (January 2020). Let's hope the next opportunity won't take another two years.