30 December 2023


My chess960 blogging started on my main blog and lasted for about nine months...

...It continued uninterrupted on this current blog for a little more than six years, when I decided it was time for a pause...

...The pause lasted a year and a half...

  • 2017-01-21: 'Everyone I Know Plays Chess960' • 'After an 18-month absence from chess960 blogging, I'm going to return to the subject with a couple of posts every month.'

...Now I'm going back into hibernation, although I won't rule out an occasional post if I have something to say about a subject. Bye for now!

23 December 2023

A Chess Christmas Carol

Chess of Christmas Past, Present, and Future

Chess of Christmas Past: People read books and study so-called opening 'theory', trying to find new moves to spring on unprepared, unsuspecting opponents.

Chess of Christmas Present: People run powerful chess engines and memorize computer analysis, trying to find new moves to spring on unprepared, unsuspecting opponents.

Chess of Christmas Future: People play chess960 (or whatever they prefer to call it).


Have a Merry Chess960 Christmas! And please drive carefully...
[Images: AI Comic Factory]

16 December 2023

'You Dream of Getting Something Playable'

The description of the following video explained,
Levon Aronian talks to Anastasiya Karlovich before the start of the 2023 Sinquefield Cup. This aired during round 4.

GM Aronian has been seen many times on this blog. Use the search box in the right navigation bar for earlier references.

Aronian: It Has Happened! Neural Networks Have Killed Classical Chess (8:46) • '[Published on] Nov 25, 2023'

At around 3:50 into the video, the discussion turns to this blog's favorite subject.

Q: What is your opinion about all these things which are happening in the chess world right now, on the top especially. With Ding absent, with Magnus who doesn't want to play that much in classical events -- what is your opinion about everything that is happening, let's say with a Candidates tournament...

A: I think the time is slowly coming to a point where it's difficult to play classical chess because of the openings and the fact that neural networks became a part of chess and and made studying chess so much easier. It's very difficult to get a game playing with White. Therefore I think we're almost reaching the time that I've been waiting for my whole career when we switch to chess960. I think Magnus is ready. I think almost everybody is ready for it

Q: Really? This is what you think is happening?

A: Yes, it's not much fun because of the openings. I understand that it might be difficult information for a majority of amateurs, because for them there is still a lot of meat on the bone, but for professionals, just showing that you are a better player than an average Grandmaster, is already very very difficult. You have to hope for -- as they would say in tennis -- an unforced error, because if you play your best and your opponent knows the opening there is just no chance for you to win the game.

Q: Maybe something like this happened at the Isle of Man where you had good chances also. Then you played four draws in the last rounds. Maybe some like this happened there.

A: Yes, generally that's a problem, because the positions that you get from the opening -- I mean you dream of getting something that is playable -- there are actually pieces on the board. It's a bit of a problem. Maybe people will think I'm pessimistic. A lot of my colleagues will think I'm actually optimistic.

Q: So in 10 years we'll have the Sinquefield Cup with chess960?

A: Oh, I hope. I can't wait.

Q: This is where you see yourself in 10 years?

A: I hope I will be fighting. You know it all depends on such factors as health but so far I can't complain. I love to fight. I love to learn from young players and it's just a very interesting thing to do.

For two previous posts referencing the Sinquefield events, see Chess940 in 'Chess Life' (December 2021), and 2023 Champions Showdown, Videos (September 2023).

25 November 2023

Organizing an OTB Chess960 Tournament

A couple of months ago, in What about Biel? (September 2023), I wrote,
Before I discovered this video, my objective in the search was to learn about best practices for organizing and directing an OTB (i.e. not online) chess960 tournament. The year 2023 saw both a round-robin and a Swiss chess960 event in Biel. What can be learned from them?

I posted a few more times about Biel, where the most recent was Live Coverage from Biel (November 2023). I didn't learn much about Biel 'best practices', but I did have the time to create my own list of points to consider.

Note that I've never participated in an OTB chess960 tournament, so I have no direct experience here. I've discussed the main points with a few people, always informally. If you have something to say about the subject, you can leave a comment at the end of this post. Here's my list of considerations (SP = Start Position):-

  • Allow SP518 RNBQKBNR?
  • Play same position on each board?
  • Play two games with each SP?
  • Use what time control?
  • Use what ratings for seeding / pairings?

  • Choose SPs how? [A]
  • Announce chosen SP how?
  • Announce SP how long before game starts? [B]

The first five questions can be decided beforehand. The last three are more operational. The comments in brackets ('[]') have further considerations below.

[A]: There are a number of pitfalls to avoid. The first pitfall involves the SP generator on Chessgames.com, which uses nonstandard numbering. I've posted a few times about this:-

The second pitfall is that there are a number of bad algorithms in use. They are bad because they overlook the requirement that all SPs should have an equal possibility of being chosen. See, for example:-

For some novel selection methods -- not necessarily good -- see:-

[B]: One idea is to distribute a short list of SPs before the event starts, then choose one SP from the list before each round. This allows for some brief home preparation. The short list can be longer than the number of rounds, e.g. twice the number, to satisfy purists who want to keep home preparation to a minimum.

While preparing this post, I found an interesting description for the NZ Fischer-Random Championship 2023 (newzealandchess.nz; New Zealand Chess News). The announcement ('Format') said,

There will be two six-round Swisses. The A-grade is restricted to players familiar with Fischer-Random (Chess 960) rules; the B-grade is open to less experienced players (the Organisers reserve the right to move a player to an appropriate section).

We are using FIDE rapid ratings for seeding, and will apply FIDE rapid chess rules (eg 2nd illegal move loses the game). The time control is 25 minutes for the game with 5 seconds increment per move from move one.

Positions will be drawn at random and displayed. Players will be expected to set up the boards themselves, and there will be 10 minutes between the start of the round and the start of the clocks, for players to study the position (without moving any pieces).

One of the problems in researching 'best practices' is the large number of synonyms for chess960, like 'FRC', etc. Add that to the large choice of relevant keywords and I was never sure if I was overlooking good announcements.

18 November 2023

Live Coverage from Biel

A couple of months ago, in What about Biel? (September 2023), I embedded a video and noted,
It turns out that this video is the first of two parts and that there are previous year streams going back to 2020. Before I go any further with this post, I need to determine exactly what I'm looking at.

The video for the full 2023 event encountered a technical glitch, lost some footage, and was restarted in a second part. Following are links for all live streams from 2020 through 2023.

'Biel Chess Festival 2023: GMT Chess 960' • Commentators: GM Arturs Neiksans and Angelika Valkova

  • 2023-07-15: Part 1 (embedded in 'What about Biel?')
  • 2023-07-15: Part 2

'Biel Chess Festival [2022]: ACCENTUS Chess 960 tournament' • GM Arturs Neiksans and Angelika Valkova

'54th International Biel Chess Festival [2021] - Chess960' • GM Arturs Neiksans

'Biel Chess Festival 2020 - Day 1: Chess960' • GM Ian Rogers

There is much to be discovered here, but I'll leave that for another time.

28 October 2023

2022 FWFRCC Hikaru's Climb

The previous post, 2022 FWFRCC Lichess Swiss Group 2 (October 2023), featured IM Eric Rosen, a popular chess streamer, broadcasting his participation in an intermediate stage of last year's 'FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship', aka FWFRCC. The post quoted IM Rosen saying,
This is a more serious stream than usual. It's a [Chess960] World Championship and this is stage two. [...] To move on beyond this tournament I need to finish top-18.

That post provided enough background to locate online resources that documented the entire FWFRCC event. This current post features GM Hikaru Nakamura, an even more popular streamer, who won the entire event. For more background, see last year's post 2022 FWFRCC Finals - Live (November 2022). The following video covers the end of the last stage of the event.

Dear YouTube, Meet Your New World Champion (44:17) • '[Published on] Oct 31, 2022'

The video's description said,

Hikaru played Ian Nepomniachtchi in the Fischer Random World Chess Championship in Iceland on October 30, 2022, and WON! Here's his recap of the last five games.

The video was the last in a series by Nakamura that captured, from start to finish, his climb to the C960/FRC title. The winner's Youtube channel (GMHikaru) currently boasts '2.15M subscribers'. I found nine videos relevant to the 2022 FWFRCC on the channel:-

The video embedded on this post is the last clip of the series. It currently has over 519K views and over 2200 comments. The first comment says,

The man just won the Fischer 960 World Championship. Does he rest or go out for celebratory drinks or dinner -- nope, he goes back to the hotel, gets back to work, and gives his fans/subscribers a recap and analysis. Hikaru, you’re a true gift to the game of chess. Congratulations and thank you!

You might have a problem with GM Nakamura's brash style -or- you might have a problem with the idea of C960/FRC, but that's your problem. Naka is a legitimate World Champion in a chess discipline of the 21st century.

21 October 2023

2022 FWFRCC Lichess Swiss Group 2

A few months ago, in Talking About Chess960 (July 2023), I discovered an interesting link:-
No.35; 2023-07-30: [Google] Swiss Rapid Fischer Random Championship (bielchessfestival.ch) • The runner-up was popular streamer 'IM Rosen Eric'; possible action: review his resources.

I reviewed IM Rosen's resources and quickly found the following Youtube video.

SERIOUS Chess 960 (3:04:05) • '[Published on] Nov 1, 2022; Originally streamed on Sept. 10, 2022.'

The clip has no description, so what are we watching here? At around 10:00 into the clip, we learn,

This is a more serious stream than usual. It's a [Chess960] World Championship and this is stage two. I believe this is a Swiss stage. I played the the Arena stage last week and because I finished top-500 in Arena -- which wasn't too difficult -- I'm in this tournament now. To move on beyond this tournament I need to finish top-18.

I covered that complicated World Championship tournament last year, where the final post was 2022 FWFRCC Wrapup (December 2022; 'FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship'). The stage of the tournament in the video was covered chronologically by an earlier post, 2022 FWFRCC Qualifiers (October 2022).

The many FWFRCC preliminary events were played in parallel, independently on the two main online chess sites, Chess.com and Lichess.org. IM Rosen participated on the Lichess side. My 'Qualifiers' post had a link to Midway Through The World Fischer Random Championship Qualifiers on Lichess (lichess.org; September 2022), which gave some context:-

With the open and invitational arena stage over, we now move to the first Swiss stages marking the midpoint of the qualifiers on Lichess. At the Swiss stages, eligible players can only take part in the groups they’ve been sorted into. Eligible players and the groups they’ve been sorted into can be >>> found here <<<. [...] The top 18 players of each group go through, where they will meet on 11th September (with the same start times), and be met by 10 wildcards. In total, up to 100 players will compete in the second Swiss stage to determine the final 16 who go through to the KO stages.

The 'found here' anchor leads to FIDE World Fischer Random Championship - Swiss Stages (lichess.org), where we learn that one 'EricRosen' qualified from the 'FIDE CCC & NACCL World Fischer Random Qualifier' into the CCC and NACCL: Swiss Group 2. That is the 11-round event presented in the video.

After that long introduction to set the scene, let's list the games played from the video. The first column shows the video start time, followed by the start position:-

0:00:08 SP422 RNBQNBKR
0:14:32 SP459 RNNKBQRB
0:31:05 SP670 RNKRNBBQ
0:46:13 SP385 BQRBNNKR
1:01:58 SP060 NBNRQKBR
1:18:43 SP901 RKBBQRNN
1:35:35 SP280 NBRKBNRQ
1:51:03 SP099 BQNRNKRB
2:07:21 SP803 BRKQNRNB
2:25:24 SP228 NBBRQKNR
2:39:43 SP466 BRNNKBRQ

The page for 'Swiss Group 2' lists 'No.10 IM EricRosen'. His participation ended in the next step of the event, CCC and NACCL: Swiss Phase 2, where he finished at no.74. Will I find the time to study Rosen's games in more depth?

30 September 2023

What about Biel?

The annual chess960 tournaments at Biel (Switzerland) have been running for some years now and I've never given them a good look. In a recent post, Talking About Chess960 (July 2023), Biel appeared twice with links to the results:-
'ACCENTUS Chess960 (ACC) - Biel International Chess Festival (bielchessfestival.ch; w/ PGN)' *and* 'Swiss Rapid Fischer Random Championship (bielchessfestival.ch) • The runner-up was popular streamer "IM Rosen Eric"; possible action: review his resources.'

That first tournament, 2023 ACCENTUS, was streamed live; the coverage starts at 9:10 in the following video:-

Biel Chess Festival 2023: GMT Chess 960 (2:59:21) • 'Streamed live on Jul 15, 2023'

The description doesn't add much except an error:-

Biel Chess Festival 2022 [?; sic] live from Biel/Bienne, Switzerland.

Before I discovered this video, my objective in the search was to learn about best practices for organizing and directing an OTB (i.e. not online) chess960 tournament. The year 2023 saw both a round-robin and a Swiss chess960 event in Biel. What can be learned from them?

It turns out that this video is the first of two parts and that there are previous year streams going back to 2020. Before I go any further with this post, I need to determine exactly what I'm looking at.

23 September 2023

2023 Champions Showdown, Videos

In the previous post, 2023 Champions Showdown, St. Louis (September 2023), I quoted a press release from the Saint Louis Chess Club which started,
SAINT LOUIS, September 12, 2023 - GM Sam Sevian won the 2023 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX after a brilliant final day [...]

Here's a video from the club's Youtube channel featuring a chat with the winner not long after he won the event.

9LX Champ Sevian: 960 Helps the Imagination (5:09) • '[Published on] Sep 11, 2023'

The description said,

Sam Sevian talks to Cristian Chirila after going [+2-0=1] and winning the event on the third day of the 2023 Chess 9LX.

The three days of action were streamed live on the same channel under the title '2023 Champions Showdown | Chess 9LX':-

The description for the first day said,

Live from the World Chess Hall of Fame, the sixth Chess 9LX event is a 10-player Fischer Random chess (Chess960) round robin rapid tournament (with pairings). Today are the first three rounds. Join GMs Yasser Seirawan, Cristian Chirila, and IM Nazi Paikidze for the move-by-move.

For all of the club's videos for the event, see:-

The playlist includes two more videos featuring GM Sevian.

16 September 2023

2023 Champions Showdown, St. Louis

The top chess960 tournament of the year is undoubtedly the annual event hosted by the St. Louis chess club. The results for this year were announced on the club's blog in Grandmaster Sam Sevian Delivers Brilliant Performance to Win 2023 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX (saintlouischessclub.org). The press release started,
SAINT LOUIS, September 12, 2023 - GM Sam Sevian won the 2023 Champions Showdown: Chess 9LX after a brilliant final day, where he defeated a competitive field including legendary former World Champion Garry Kasparov and World No. 2 Fabiano Caruana to take home the $37,500 first place prize.

The crosstable shows that GM Sevian won the event without a loss, a full point ahead of the next group of players.

2023 Champions Showdown Chess 9LX

I'll have more to say about the event in the next post. For the report on last year's event, see 2022 Champions Showdown, St. Louis (September 2022).

26 August 2023

Chess018 and the CCRL

In last week's post, Chess018 Is a Thing (August 2023), I suggested an idea for a follow-up post:-
One more idea that could be easily tested is to look at the chess018 start positions (SPs) on CCRL. Which SP is statistically best? Which is worst? What are the most popular first moves for each SP? Sounds like another post is taking form.

The following chart lists the 18 SPs in the chess018 family. The first three columns are from my own database of SPs. The last three columns are from the CCRL (see the sidebar for a link).

The column 'Dist' ('Distance') is a metric I whipped up when I first started investigating chess960. It was explained in the following posts:-

Some day I hope to find a use for 'Dist', e.g. a correlation with some other observation. Today is not that day.

The CCRL numbers for chess018 should be compared to the same numbers across all 960 SPs. At first glance, nothing unusual appears. Somewhat curious is the one SP where the score for White is less than 50% -- the traditional start position. I imagine it has something to do with the engines not using a book.

19 August 2023

Chess018 Is a Thing

This month's Chess Life (August 2023) had a three page article relevant to the world of chess960. Titled 'Chess18 : Streamers descend on a giant log cabin to try their hands at an interesting variant' by GM Larry Kaufman, it started,
Recently I had the opportunity to participate, at least for a bit, in a fun chess event at the Timber Moose Lodge in Timber Lakes, Utah, along with some of the most popular chess streamers around. It wasn't a world championship, but it was the first master-level chess18 tournament, and it was watched by chess fans around the globe.

Chess18 is a subset of chess960, or as it more popularly known, "Fischer Random" chess. It uses the 18 positions of chess960 where the Kings and Rooks begin on their normal squares -- the upshot is that no special castling rules are needed.

Later in the article, GM Kaufman admitted,

I have long liked the concept of Chess18, so in 2020 I organized a four-game Chess18 Rapid match between the Komodo chess engine and 2018 Reykjavik Open Chess960 champ GM Alex Lenderman, with Komodo giving knight odds.

This isn't the first time that 'chess018' (as I'll call it for the purpose of searching on this blog) has been discussed here. More than ten years ago I posted 'Bizarre Castling Rules'? (July 2013), which quoted someone else saying,

This variant, which I have dubbed Chess18, has a randomized opening setup just like its "predecessors." The difference is that the Rooks and the King start on the same squares that they do now so that castling remains exactly the same as it is now -- problem solved!

Ten years on I can say with some authority that the 'bizarre castling rules' add an extra dimension to the opening strategy in a game of chess960. Instead of automatically castling O-O as in the majority of games using the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR), the players have to consider which of the three castling options is best -- O-O, O-O-O, or neither -- for themselves and for the opponent in the given start position. This consideration affects the choice of development for the other pieces.

Before that 'bizarre rules' post, I wrote Not Everyone Likes Chess960 (December 2011), where I noted,

There is nothing to stop any circle of players -- be they GMs or club players -- from restricting their chess960 activity to a handful of positions. This is, after all, what traditional chess does in restricting its focus to SP518. The rest of the world should not be obliged to follow their narrow choice.

That thought is still a guiding light for me. 'Let a thousand flowers bloom' becomes 'Let 960 flowers bloom'.


A few other points came to mind while I was writing this post. One of the obvious, although unspoken, advantages of chess018 is that chess engines don't have to be altered to play it. Of course, in 2023 any engine that doesn't understand chess960 castling rules is a contender for the chess engine graveyard.

Re 'automatically castling O-O as in the majority of games using SP518', I'm not sure whether I've already posted on this. How do the other 'chess018' positions compare to SP518?

Re Kaufman's aside -- 'chess960, or as it more popularly known, "Fischer Random" chess' -- I've assumed for a few years now that this was indeed the current trend. Last month, while I was researching material for a post, I searched on both 'chess960' and 'fischer random' plus a keyword/phrase using several different search terms. I had more hits on 'chess960' than on the alternative. This is only anecdotal evidence and should be tested more rigorously. But how?

Re 'chess018', I'm going to try to stick to 'chessnnn' to name subsets of chess960. The leading zero in '018' is a bit geeky, but so what?

Re '18 positions of chess960', did the organizers allow SP518? Some people use 'chess959' to describe the full 960 positions less SP518. It's not a bad convention. Some more conventions: 'chess001' for the SP518 crowd (the chances of that catching on are exactly zero); 'chess002' for SP518 and SP534 only (the King and Queen switched), and 'chess000' for people who hate chess.

One more idea that could be easily tested is to look at the chess018 start positions (SPs) on CCRL. Which SP is statistically best? Which is worst? What are the most popular first moves for each SP? Sounds like another post is taking form.

29 July 2023

Talking About Chess960

Almost every month, when I'm preparing a post for this blog, I check on recent chess960 news. By 'recent', I mean going back no more than a year, and by 'news', I mean a straightforward Google search on all web pages. Since I have no particularly compelling topic for this post, I'll report on the results of this month's search. Many of the results referred to last year's World Championship (FWFRCC), which I will skip, instead referring visitors to my post 2022 FWFRCC Wrapup (December 2022).

The No.01 and No.02 results for 'chess960' were for the Wikipedia and Chessable pages on chess960/FRC. The No.03 result was for:-

In fact, that clip was the lead video in what looks like a blatant promotion for Google's Youtube service. I captured the entire entry in the following screen shot.

No.04 and No.05 were for Digital Game Technology (DGT) and Chess.com. The following entries show other resources that I found interesting. Pages explaining the basics of chess960, for example, are excluded.

I used to classify chess960 tournaments as 'rare birds', because there were so few of them. See, for example, First Post, New Year (January 2019), where I wondered,

Should I retire the 'rare birds' series, last seen in (Not so?) Rare Birds, Summer 2017 (July 2017)? No, I'm a patient person, so I'll give it more time. I haven't seen any relevant announcements and all of the events mentioned above could have been one-offs.

That was indeed the last post in the series, until this current post. Now there are enough chess960 tournaments that there is no danger of imminent extinction. The next entry is one of several local tournaments that I could have flagged.

I stopped the exercise at no.60. After 'chess960', I did the same search on 'chess fischer random'. No.01 and No.02 were for Wikipedia and Youtube videos. No.03 and No.04 were both for Chess.com, while No.05 was for Chessable. Following are a few more, (mostly) not repeating what I discussed above.

I again stopped the exercise at no.60. All in all, there are some good leads for future posts.

22 July 2023


A year ago on this blog I had a pair of related posts...

...where 'FRC' stands for 'Fischer Random Chess'. Last month on my main blog I had a pair of follow-up posts...

...'FRC' is, of course, another name for chess960, where the start positions for the two players are mirrored. 'DFRC' is 'Double FRC', where the two players have different start positions.

In that post 'Stockfish Wins TCEC DFRC2', I noted that future TCEC FRC/DFRC events will use a format they call 'FRD', meaning 'Fischer Random Double'. For an explanation of FRD, see that post. Don't be surprised if this current post is the last mention of FRD on this blog.

24 June 2023

Chess960 in the Cloud

In a recent post, When Chess960 Reduces to Chess (May 2023), I wrote,
The point where castling is no longer an option is exactly where chess960 starts to look and feel like chess starting from the traditional position (SP518 RNBQKBNR). This is the point where a chess service like Chessify becomes fully viable.

A few weeks before writing that post, I had the opportunity to use Chessify on live chess960 positions. I was traveling for two weeks without any of the software tools I normally use for correspondence chess960. Before leaving home, I loaded six games into Chessify by using their 'Import' function to enter the current FEN position for each of the games. Most of the games had already reached the point where castling was no longer an option, but there were a couple of exceptions. A week into my trip I finally had some time to look at the games.

In the diagram's top position White has lost the castling privilege, while Black can still castle to both sides. I was playing Black. Stockfish NNUE on Chessify told me that 14...g5 was by far the best move, leading to a slight advantage for White. I vaguely remembered from my previous analysis that Black had an advantage in the position and decided that it must have something to do with castling. Since ...O-O-O isn't happening any time soon, the correct line must involve ...O-O. The move 14...O-O is a blunder because of 15.Nd7, which suggests 14...Nb6 to protect d7. Using Stockfish to continue the analysis and manipulating the FEN to simulate ...O-O, I decided that 14...Nb6 must be the right move and played it.

When I returned home, I looked at my previous analysis and discovered that 14...g5 was indeed the right move, leading to a significant advantage for Black. With 14...Nb6, I had spoiled my position and gone from a probable win to a struggle for a draw.

In the bottom position White has just castled, while Black can still castle ...O-O-O. I was again playing Black. Still using Stockfish NNUE, I decided that 15...O-O-O was premature and played 15...f6 instead. Back home I was happy with this move and after 16.f4, continued 16...O-O-O.

A few moves later I started to see weirdness from Chessify's Stockfish. I always calculate multiple variations (MPV in chess jargon) and reached a position where around depth 25, a key move disappeared from White's candidate moves and another move appeared twice. With the help of Chessify support (top notch in my opinion) I discovered that the FEN for the position was wrong. It indicated that both White and Black could still castle to the side where they had already castled. I corrected the FEN and the Stockfish analysis appeared normal. I decided that there was a bug in Stockfish triggered by faulty FEN.

In my four other games nothing unusual happened. While traveling I made a move or two in each game and when I returned home confirmed that my play was correct. My conclusions from this exercise? 1) Playing using only cloud tools is feasible; and 2) Playing chess960 with an engine that doesn't understand chess960 castling is possible, but risky. Always double check the chess960 FEN...

17 June 2023

Two PGN Challenges Met

At the end of my previous post, Two PGN Challenges (May 2023), I wrote,
Here are two challenges for a future post: 1) Locate the PGN for both events, and 2) Locate a PGN viewer that understands chess960.

Not long after writing the post, I received an anonymous comment pointing to a number of resources on Lichess; see that post for details. I also discovered that the PGN for the two events is available from TWIC:-

I added the first of the three links to the list because I found it using a search on 'chess960'. The other two links appeared on searches for '9LX' and 'random' (i.e. FRC).

The Lichess comment described a method for embedding games from Lichess. Here's a game from the 2022 FWFRCC.

After I post this, I'll check if the Lichess functionality has survived the Blogger/Blogspot environment.


Later: Re 'I'll check if the Lichess functionality has survived the Blogger/Blogspot environment', the functionality to scroll through the game is there, but the moves have disappeared and there is a useless scrollbar on the right. The embed provided by Lichess had dimensions 600x371. Since I use width=400 for images, I resized to 400x248 to get the results shown above.

Resizing to 400x300 eliminates the scrollbar, but doesn't make the moves appear. I tried width=420, which is close to the maximum for my blog template, but the moves still don't appear. The following uses 400x300, which is the best I can do for now. Note the three vertical dots between the left and right arrows. They open a menu for additional functions including viewing the game on Lichess.

27 May 2023

Two PGN Challenges

A few days ago I was working on a post for my main blog, 2023 CJA Awards Announcement (May 2023; Chess Journalists of America), and took the time to catch up on The Chess Journalist Magazine (chessjournalism.org). The issue for October 2022 carried a couple of small articles by its editor, both shown in the following composite image.

By Mark Capron
Left: 'Caruana Wins Chess 960 in St. Louis'
Right: 'Nakamura Wins World 960 Championship!!'

Since I had no idea that anyone associated with the CJA leadership had any interest in chess960, this caught me by surprise. In his introduction to the St.Louis article, editor Capron explained,

Chess 960 caught my attention a few years ago when I was able to follow along one of the tournaments held in St. Louis. Since that time I have had visions of directing an event, but COVID-19 has pushed back my plans. Maybe I will get one set up in 2023.

That is all very good news indeed and I could end this post here, but the two small articles got me thinking about chess960 reporting in general. Both articles use the same structure: an introduction, a selected game with a diagram, and the final result of the event. [NB: The eight top finishers of the World Championship (aka '2022 FWFRCC', as used below) have been cropped out of my image. The last line says, 'The final standings were:' ...]

Both diagrams have been used to identify the game's start position. This could have also been done with the relevant portion of the FEN string -- RBBNKNRQ and BRKRQNNB, respectively -- leaving the diagram to convey a more interesting position from the game. Of course, we have more powerful tools online ... or do we?

In the nearly 15 years that I've been blogging about chess960, I can't remember ever using a chess960 PGN viewer to present a game online. There were no such tools when I started and I haven't been paying sufficient attention to know if any have been developed since then.

Even that assumes the PGN is available for download in digital format. I wrote blog posts on the two events mentioned in the CJA journal...

...and I can't remember downloading PGN for either event. Here are two challenges for a future post: 1) Locate the PGN for both events, and 2) Locate a PGN viewer that understands chess960. I would hope that both challenges are trivial, but I suspect that I'm dreaming.

20 May 2023

When Chess960 Reduces to Chess

Let's talk turkey. Once in a while I like to document my recent experience playing chess960 online. Earlier this year I posted The Fascinating World of Chess960 (January 2023), where I wrote,
Last month's post was also about switching to a different online service for playing chess960. [...] I continued playing on LSS until last year. I was playing chess960 in a couple of multi-stage events, where success in one stage promotes a player to the next stage. I decided to skip the next stages, essentially taking a year off from serious play. [...] I switched to Chess.com in May 2022, playing one or (maximum) two games of correspondence chess at a time.

A month later I wrote a post about a Chess.com service, Chess.com Reviews a Chess960 Opening (February 2023). Since then I've stopped playing Chess.com for reasons that I won't discuss in this post. I went back to LSS, partly with the intention of evaluating Chessify for chess960.

This is the first time I've mentioned Chessify on this chess960 blog, although I've discussed the service several times on my main blog. In Chessify Resources (March 2023), I wrote,

The main problem with chess960 in a traditional chess environment stems from the castling rules. Since chess960 games tend to become extremely tactical after a few moves have been played, there is nevertheless some value in trying to confirm the tactics with a traditional, non-chess960 engine. [...] I'll continue using Chessify to look at chess960 positions.

There are three phases of a chess960 opening (often overlapping with the early middle game):-

  • Both sides can castle.
  • One side loses the castling privilege.
  • The other side loses the castling privilege.

I say 'loses the castling privilege', because it can arise when castling, when the King moves, or when both Rooks move. The point where castling is no longer an option is exactly where chess960 starts to look and feel like chess starting from the traditional position (SP518 RNBQKBNR). This is the point where a chess service like Chessify becomes fully viable.

22 April 2023

Leela in TCEC FRC Events

My previous post Breaking the 4000 Barrier (April 2023) was about chess960 ratings for engines. I wrote,
The fourth [rating] list was based on chess960 games. Here are the top 25 engines from that list.

I received a question -- @nicbentulan: Is Leela on this list? (twitter.com) -- against the Twitter anchor for the post. A quick look at the list reveals that Leela is on the most recent list at no.42, rated 3008:-

no.42 • Lc0 0.29.0 CPU_744706 • 3008

That rating is nearly 1000 points lower than no.1 'Stockfish 15.1', currently rated 4005. The Lc0 rating looks dubious, given that Leela is currently one of the top three engines in the world. How has it done in TCEC FRC competitions? Following is a list of posts from this blog:-

  • 2022-07-30: TCEC C960 FRC5 • In the 'Final League', Stockfish and LCZero finished in a tie for 1st and 2nd to qualify for the 'Final Match'. [...] In the 'Final Match' Stockfish beat LCZero +17-13=20.'
  • 2022-01-22: TCEC C960 FRC4 • 'Stockfish and LCZero tied for 1st/2nd in the [TCEC] FRC4 'Final League', a point ahead of KomodoDragon. Stockfish beat LCZero +13-9=28 in the Final.'
  • 2021-03-27: TCEC C960 FRC3 • 'In the 'FRC 3' final, KomodoDragon beat Stockfish by a score of +2-1=47.'
  • 2020-12-26: TCEC FRC2 • 'In the FRC2 Final League, LCZero and Stockfish finished first and second to qualify for the 50-game final match. Stockfish beat LCZero +8-0=42.' [...] 'The first of the three posts above linked to Stockfish, the Strong (July 2014) on this blog, plus two other followup posts based on FRC1. FRC1 was held three and a half years before AlphaZero made waves with its revolutionary AI/NN technology, soon to be followed by Leela Chess Zero (aka LCZero / LC0).'
  • 2014-08-02: TCEC Season 6 - Chess960 • 'After posting Stockfish, the Strong, winner of this year's TCEC Season 6 Special Event (chess960), I started looking at the games from the event. I couldn't find a crosstable, so I made one myself, shown below.'

Why is Leela so far down on the CCRL rating list? I'll leave that for the CCRL to answer.

15 April 2023

Breaking the 4000 Barrier

The title comes from a recent post on my main blog Breaking the 3600 Barrier (April 2023), where the '3600 Barrier' refers to a chess rating level. In that post I wrote,
I see that there are four CCRL rating lists. Shown below are the top five engines from three of the lists.

Why didn't I show all four lists? Because the fourth list was based on chess960 games. Here are the top 25 engines from that list.

CCRL 40/2 FRC [C960] - Index

The most striking feature of the list is that the top engine, Stockfish 15.1, is rated over 4000. This is more than 250 points higher than the top rating shown on the '3600 Barrier' chart. In fact the top four engines on the CCRL FRC list are higher then the top engine on the earlier list. I couldn't determine why this is.

[NB: The domain given here (ccrl.chessdom.com) is not the same as the domain in the right sidebar (computerchess.org.uk), although the two sites appear to be identical. The ratings are based on the same database of games used to compute the CCRL 'Opening statistics'.]

25 March 2023

Evolving Evaluations

The previous post Myth No.6 - 'Forced Wins for White' (March 2023) introduced 'the Molas study', a data scientist's effort 'to find if there’s a [chess960] *start position* that's better than the others'. One of the datasets used in the study was:-
Stockfish evaluation at depth ~40 for all the starting positions

This is also known as the 'Sesse' resource and I gave its URL in the post. The Molas study concluded,

Stockfish evaluations don’t predict actual winning rates for each variation

This didn't surprise me. If you consider that each start position (SP) leads to a mega-zillion possible games and that Sesse reduces each SP to a single two-digit number, much more surprising would be to find a meaningful correlation between an SP's W-L-D percentages and its Sesse value.

I discussed the Sesse numbers once before in A Stockfish Experiment (February 2019). That post mentioned another discussion, What's the Most Unbalanced Chess960 Position? (chess.com; Mike Klein; March 2018 / February 2020). Fun Master (FM) Mike observed,

Let's now take the most extreme case the other way -- the position where Sesse claims White enjoys the most sizable advantage. The lineup BBNNRKRQ delivers a whopping +0.57 plus for the first move. The advantaged is so marked that some chess960 events may even jettison this arrangement as a possible option (a total of four positions are +0.50 or better for White, but none are as lopsided as this one).

That position, also known as 'SP080 BBNNRKRQ', has received some notoriety thanks to Sesse, so I decided to investigate further. I downloaded the SP080 file from the CCRL (see link in the right sidebar), loaded it into SCID, and discovered that it contained 554 games. SCID gave me percentages for White's first moves, which I copied into the following chart.

There are 11 first moves for White listed in the top block of the chart. I then expanded the first two of those moves -- 1.g3 (65.7% overall score for White) and 1.Nd3 (59.7%) -- into the second and third blocks of the chart to see how Black has responded to those moves.

You might be wondering why I said there were 554 games in the file, but the SCID extract counts only 519 games. SCID was designed to handle the traditional start position (SP518 RNBQKBNR) and knows nothing about chess960 castling rules. SP080 allows 1.O-O on the first move, which SCID rejects. The 35 missing games (554 minus 519) are games that started 1.O-O. When I'm using SCID for a chess960 correspondence game, I have a technique to account for this anomaly, but I won't go into details here.

Similarly, the charts for 1.g3 and 1.Nd3 show '[end]' as one of the first moves for Black. These are games where Black played 1...O-O on the first move. The corresponding percentage scores are among the worst for Black, showing once again that early castling is a risky strategy.

If I were playing SP080 in a correspondence game, I would analyze both 1.g3 and 1.Nd3. A promising continuation after 1.g3 is 1...c5, which the score '43.9%' says, 'Favors Black'. Of course, I would have to look at White's second moves in this variation, where one move will appear to be superior to the others. And so on and so on.

To be useful, the SCID tool needs to be handled intelligently. I recently blundered into a wrong evaluation that I doumented in The CCRL Is Unreliable (Not!) (December 2021). I'm hopeful that some day a tool will appear that rivals SCID functionality *and* that understands chess960 castling. For now, I make do with the software I have.

For a look at two more SPs where evaluations have shifted with experience, see SP864 - BBQRKRNN and SP868 - QBBRKRNN, which are both attachments to this blog. One lesson I've learned from playing chess960 for almost 15 years : nothing is fixed in stone.

18 March 2023

Myth No.6 - 'Forced Wins for White'

Upon encountering chess960 for the first time, one of the first questions a new player asks is 'Are all 960 positions fair?'. I included a statement of this concern in Top 10 Myths About Chess960 (May 2012), where one bullet said,
Some start positions are forced wins for White

Remembering that I wrote this more than 10 years ago, at a time when I wasn't absolutely 100% sure that such unfair positions didn't exist, my standard response to the statement was, 'Which positions are forced wins? Please provide a specific example'. I never received a single example. Ten years later I can say with more confidence -- although still not 'absolutely 100% sure' -- that while some positions are difficult for Black to play, none of the 960 positions is lost before a single move is made.

In January a new study titled, Analyzing Chess960 Data | Alex Molas | Towards Data Science (towardsdatascience.com), appeared. Its subtitle announced,

Using more than 14 million chess960 games to find if there’s a variation that's better than the others.

There is considerable knowledge presented in the study and I don't pretend to understand all of it. I might well need several posts to unravel its subtleties, so I'll start by summarizing its references; in the following discussion, '>>>' means a direct quote from 'Analyzing Chess960 Data'.

>>> 'The original post was published here...'

[NB: I'll come back to this reference later; see '(A)' below. First I need to point out that there's an important issue with terminology. When chess players use the term 'variation', they mean a sequence of play arising from a specific position; e.g. 'In this position I had two variations and I had to work out which variation was better for me.' • In the Molas study, I'm convinced that the word 'variation' refers to one of the well-defined 960 start positions that are legal for chess960. I read the subtitle of the towardsdatascience.com article as 'to find if there’s a *start position* that’s better than the others' and the title of the amolas.dev post as saying 'Discovering the best chess960 *start position*'. I won't repeat this caveat each time, but it's important and helps to understand the discussion.]

>>> 'Ryan Wiley wrote this blog post where he analyzes some data from lichess..'

>>> 'There’s also this repo with the statistics for 4.5 millions games (~4500 games per variation)...'

[NB: There's an issue with the word 'variant' here, but it's not as important as the previous 'NB'. Chess960 purists will know what I'm talking about.]

>>> 'In this spreadsheet there’s the Stockfish evaluation at depth ~40 for all the starting positions...'

>>> 'There’s also this database with Chess960 games between different computer engines. However, I’m currently only interested in analyzing human games, so I’ll not put a lot of attention to this type of games...'

>>> 'Lichess -- the greatest chess platform out -- maintains a database with all the games that have been played in their platform...'

>>> 'To do the analysis, I downloaded ALL the available Chess960 data (up until 31–12–2022). For all the games played I extracted the variation, the players Elo and the final result...'

>>> 'The scripts and notebooks to donwload [sic] and process the data are available on this repo...'

At this point the article launches into 'Mathematical framework; 'Bayesian A/B testing; [...]'. This, of course, is the essence of the study and I won't go any further in this current post. Let's get back to '(A)', where there's another key reference.

>>> 'This post got some attention in Reddit...'

I could end the post here, but I need to make an admittedly subjective observation. There are two example of bias in the above references.

The first bias is 'I’m currently only interested in analyzing human games'. Huge caveat here. In my not-so-humble opinion, the CCRL is the best source of chess960 opening theory. Period. Full stop. The CCRL engines are rated at least 1000 points higher than most human players on Lichess. The engines don't make simple tactical errors and they calculate deeper into every position than any human can. If there is an unfair chess960 start position, the engines will find it, just like they find errors in most games played between humans.

I can understand ignoring the engines because humans grapple with different challenges in chess960 openings, but the purpose of the study was 'to find if there’s a *start position* that’s better than the others'. Ignoring the experience of the best players on the planet is severely limiting.

The second bias is 'Lichess -- the greatest chess platform out'. The main alternative here is Chess.com. Why ignore games played on the world's largest chess platform? Maybe there's a good reason, but I can't think of one. On a personal note, last year I investigated which of the two sites would be better to continue my own chess960 correspondence play. I determined that Chess.com was more serious about eliminating human players who cheat by using engines in games with other humans. Since my goal was playing no-engine games, I went with Chess.com. How much of the Lichess data involves concealed engine use?

Biases notwithstanding, the Molas study is an important step in evaluating the fairness of all 960 positions in chess960/FRC. I'm looking forward to understanding it in more depth.

25 February 2023

Chess.com Reviews a Chess960 Opening

In last week's post, Chess.com Pinpoints a Tactical Error (February 2023; see the post for a copy of the game's PGN), I used 'Chess.com's Game Review Tools' to find out where I had made the first mistake in losing a chess960 game. This week I'll use the same tools to extract comments on the opening moves.

The following diagram shows the start of the same game featured in the 'Tactical Error' post. There's more I can say about the look and feel of the 'Analysis' tool itself, but I'll save that for a series I'm doing on my main blog. The most recent post in that series was Chess.com's Game Review Tools PGN (February 2023).

Shown on the left is the start position for the game, 'SP350 NRKQRBBN'. On the right is a summary of the overall quality of the players' moves ('Brilliant', 'Great Move', ..., 'Blunder'). For example, the tool considers that both players made one 'Great Move'.

AV vs. bemweeks | Analysis (chess.com)

The following table shows the tool's comments on the first 12 moves of the game (24 ply deep). I stopped the analysis when I reached the move where I committed the 'Tactical Error'.

Move Short
1.e4 is excellent This prepares the bishop for development. This threatens to reveal an attack on a pawn. +0.13
1...e5 is good This prepares your bishop for development. +0.30
2.f4 is excellent This exposes an attack, threatening a pawn. +0.27
2...Nb6 is excellent Your piece jumps in to protect a pawn! +0.41
3.fxe5 is best Right on target. +0.41
3...f6 is an inaccuracy You are threatening to attack a trapped rook. +1.09
4.Nb3 is a mistake This loses a pawn. +0.05
4...fxe5 is best That wins a free pawn! +0.05
5.Ng3 is excellent One of the best moves. -0.02
5...Qf6 is best You activate your queen by moving it off of its starting square. -0.02
6.Be3 is good This moves the bishop to a better location, allowing it to control more squares. -0.30
6...O-O-O is good Your rooks can see each other now, allowing them to provide mutual defense. +0.02
7.d3 is best That's what I would have recommended. +0.02
7...d5 is best You are threatening to kick a bishop. +0.02
8.Qd2 is an inaccuracy This ignores a better way to develop a queen off its starting square. -0.47
8...Qc6 is good You are threatening to kick a bishop. -0.10
9.Bg5 is good This wins a tempo by threatening a rook and forcing it to move away. -0.38
9...Be7 is a mistake You are threatening to win material. +0.56
10.Bxe7 is best After all captures, this is an equal trade. +0.56
10...Rxe7 is best You trade off equal material. +0.56
11.Nf5 is good This attacks a rook, winning a tempo when it moves away. This threatens to fork pieces. +0.27
11...Red7 is good You have now doubled your rooks, allowing them to team up to create threats. +0.62
12.exd5 is best This exposes an attack, threatening a pawn. +0.62
12...Qxd5 is a mistake You overlooked a better way to recapture a piece. +1.63

There's much more I could say about the comments, but it would not be useful at this point. Here are a few comments that jumped off the screen at me.

  • 8...Qc6; 'You are threatening to kick a Bishop.' • The move defends against a nasty x-ray threat.

  • 9.Bg5; 'This wins a tempo by threatening a Rook and forcing it to move away.' • The move doesn't win a tempo, but it might lose a tempo by forcing the Rook to a better square.

  • 9...Be7; 'Is a mistake. You are threatening to win material.' • It's a mistake to win material? Something does not compute here.

And so on. The long comments are generally lame and show little understanding of chess960 opening objectives. What happened in the fight for the center?

The most valuable part of the exercise is to see the change in evaluation from one move to the next. It reaffirms the severity of my mistake on the 12th move.

18 February 2023

Chess.com Pinpoints a Tactical Error

In last month's post, The Fascinating World of Chess960 (January 2023), I discussed a shift in focus for my own chess960 games. In a nutshell, to play chess960 I switched from a site allowing engines to a site forbidding them. I finished the post saying,
That's the background for a series of posts that I plan to write for my games on Chess.com. There are several aspects to be covered, e.g. Game review tools

I introduced those tools on my main blog in Chess.com's Game Review Tools (February 2023), using an example chess960 game. I'll use the same game in this current post. After four wins, it was the first game I lost on Chess.com starting June 2022, when I adopted the no-engine approach.

The 'Game Review Tools' post used numbers to identify the different screen shots and I'll follow the same numbering scheme in this current post. There are three different review tools that I numbered '02', '03a', and '05a'. The '02' tool shows the moves of the game and the times used for each move. It also provides (1) an entry into the '03a' and '03b' tools, and (2) a PGN download of the moves of the game, without variations or comments.

At this point, I don't see much difference between the '03a' and '05a' tools. The differences seem mainly cosmetic, so I'll continue with the '05a' tool. It's accessed via a feature called 'Saved Analysis'. In the game I was outplayed tactically and didn't know where I had gone wrong.

I had Black in a game starting 'SP350 NRKQRBBN'. I was pleased with my position after the first few moves and thought that I had equalized, maybe even gained a slight advantage. Then suddenly I had an inferior game. Why?

The '03a' and '05a' tools offer commentary on each move played in the game. I won't discuss the early comments in this post, because I'm not yet convinced they are helpful. The critical position is shown in the following screenshot, Black to move.

AV vs. bemweeks | Analysis - Chess.com • After 12.e4-d5(xP)

White has just captured a Pawn on d5 with 12.exd5, and Black has four possible recaptures. The move 12...Rxd5 is a '??' blunder, allowing the family fork 13.Ne7+. That leaves three other moves. Since White's last move also discovered an attack on the e5-Pawn, I played 12...Qxd5, protecting that Pawn. That was a mistake, which the tool flags with the remark '(?) Qxd5 is a mistake'.

What's better? The tool suggests 12...Nxd5. Now if 13.Rxe5, Black has 13...Qf6, when White is in trouble. I didn't see that possibility during the game and never recovered. Following is the PGN as provided by the '02' tool.

[Event "Let\\'s Play! - Chess960"]
[Site "Chess.com"]
[Date "2022.07.05"]
[Round "?"]
[White "Andreasvinckier"]
[Black "bemweeks"]
[Result "1-0"]
[Variant "Chess960"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "nrkqrbbn/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/NRKQRBBN w EBeb - 0 1"]
[WhiteElo "1977"]
[BlackElo "1907"]
[TimeControl "1/86400"]
[EndDate "2022.07.23"]
[Termination "Andreasvinckier won by resignation"]
[initialSetup "nrkqrbbn/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/NRKQRBBN w EBeb - 0 1"]

1. e4 e5 2. f4 Nb6 3. fxe5 f6 4. Nb3 fxe5 5. Ng3 Qf6 6. Be3 O-O-O 7. d3 d5 8. Qd2 Qc6 9. Bg5 Be7 10. Bxe7 Rxe7 11. Nf5 Red7 12. exd5 Qxd5 13. Ne3 Qc6 14. g3 Be6 15. Qa5 Bxb3 16. axb3 e4 17. Bh3 exd3 18. O-O-O dxc2 19. Bxd7+ Rxd7 20. Rxd7 Qxd7 21. Qxa7 Nf7 22. Qa5 Nd6 23. Nd5 1-0

The Chess.com tools offer several different PGN downloads. I'll discuss those in another post on my main blog.

28 January 2023

The Unusual World of Chess960

If the previous post was about The Fascinating World of Chess960 (January 2023), then this post is about the other side of the coin. Here are a few topics I've noted in the recent past that don't fit in with any other discussions.

FRC Human Openings

While the most recent TCEC Superfinal ('S23 Sufi') was underway, the TCEC announced upcoming events as:-

!next • Now !Sufi * FRC human openings bonus?, Subfi, ...

I reported the Sufi results in TCEC S23, CCC19 Rapid : Stockfish Wins Both (November 2022), but made no mention of the subsequent FRC bonus. Curious what the title 'human openings' meant and finding no explanation in the usual places, I followed my standard procedure on the event's PGN: I downloaded it to my PC, loaded the headers into a database, and ran some simple queries.

I discovered that 48 games were played and that they included only the following six start positions (SPs). The numbers in parentheses show how many times each SP was played.:-

  • BRKRQNNB (x2)
  • NQRBKRBN (x6)
  • NRKQBRNB (x12)
  • NRNKBRQB (x12)
  • QRBNKBRN (x10)
  • RNBBKQRN (x6)

A year ago I ran a similar analysis and recorded my findings in TCEC FRC4 Unbalanced Books (January 2022; 'Is there a correlation between 'unbalanced books' and the degree of scrambling?'). The same question could be asked again, but first I checked whether there was any overlap between the 'unbalanced books' SPs and the 'human openings' SPs.

I found one position on both lists: SP317 NQRBKRBN. Four games from a year ago plus six games from the current exercise makes enough games for further exploration.

'Nyuk, Nyuk' from NIC

Seen on the cover of New in Chess 2022/8 (newinchess.com; New in Chess): The woman on the left, wearing a 'Random Fandom' t-shirt (nice; I love it!), says, 'They call it chess960'. The man on the right, with chess pieces tatooed on his arm, says, 'Oh wow, that's a lot!' Wait until he discovers chess960-squared, aka DFRC.

Google returns three times more references to 'Fischer Random' in the magazine than it does to 'chess960'. I suppose NIC respects the preference of its contributors. Follow the money?

Google Gets Its Wires Crossed

I recently noticed a real mystery in Google search. The home page for this C960/FRC blog showed up in the results for a search on 'chess960' with the following description:-

Chess960 (FRC) • 'It is played in the Chess 960 or Fischer Random format. Created by Bobby Fischer in the late 1990s, Chess 960 shuffles the pieces on the home rank, with 960 ...'

That's all very nice, except I didn't write it. I never split the word 'chess960' into two parts and I try not to capitalize it. Why not? Because the word 'chess' hasn't been capitalized in a long, long time. As for 'created in the late 1990s', everyone knows that it was created by Fischer in the early to mid-1990s and announced in 1996.

So where does the description come from? Apparently from 2022 Champions Showdown - Chess 9LX (uschesschamps.com):-

What is Chess 9LX? • Chess 9LX is a tournament hosted by the Saint Louis Chess Club. It is played in the Chess 960 or Fischer Random format. Created by Bobby Fischer in the late 1990s, Chess 960 shuffles the pieces on the home rank, with 960 representing the number of possible starting positions. Players will not know the order of the home rank until 15 minutes before each round.

Thanks, Google, but please note that I have nothing to do with writing copy for the Saint Louis Chess Club. I could also mention that the moniker '9LX' is an aberration, but I won't. To the Saint Louis Chess Club: Please note that I haven't plagiarized your text.


There are a few more remarks I could make on minor points, but that's enough for this post. The first rule of chess960 is the same as the first rule of chess: 'Just have fun!'

21 January 2023

The Fascinating World of Chess960

Last month's post, Christmas Eve (December 2022), wasn't just about creating a new category for Posts with label MW's games (that's me). It was also about switching to a different online service for playing chess960.

I recorded my first game of chess960 in a post on my main blog, titled Chess960? I'm Hooked! (September 2008). The PGN embedded there says the game was played on SchemingMind.com (SM), a site for correspondence chess that is particularly strong in its support of chess variants. I continued playing there until 2016.

A few years after getting hooked, I started playing on another correspondence site, The Lechenicher SchachServer (December 2012; LSS), for reasons explained in that post. I continued playing on both SM and LSS until 2016, when I ran into a problem on SM and decided to leave. To make a long story short, SM has a no-engine policy, but makes little effort to enforce it. LSS allows engines for most of its events and I preferred the clarity of LSS.

I continued playing on LSS until last year. I was playing chess960 in a couple of multi-stage events, where success in one stage promotes a player to the next stage. As the two events were winding down, the site announced the next stages. Unfortunately for me, the start of both events coincided with a pair of two-week vacations that I had been planning for some time. Since LSS events allow only two weeks of vacation on a fixed number of days for a game (no increments), I was faced with an immediate time deficit in all new games. I decided to skip the next stages, essentially taking a year off from serious play.

As my active games gradually came to a conclusion, in my free time I started using an engine to analyze my old correspondence games from the pre-engine, pre-chess960 era. I was amazed that my moves were generally approved by modern engines. I could often recollect the reasoning and emotions behind my moves and realized that using an engine had turned me from a chess player into an engine operator. After 14 years of playing chess960, I hadn't gained much insight into its subtleties, because I was essentially playing what the engine instructed me to play, often without understanding why.

I decided to switch to a site that didn't allow engine use. SM was out because it doesn't enforce its policy. Then I remembered Chess.com, which has a good reputation for vigorously enforcing its no-engine policy, even if it leads to controversial decisions. I had played a few games of chess960 there in 2009-2010 and more recently in 2019, an experience documented in Playing the FWFRCC (June 2019).

I switched to Chess.com in May 2022, playing one or (maximum) two games of correspondence chess at a time. What a difference! Where my last years with LSS involved struggling against players with far more powerful engines than I was using, at Chess.com I was using my own head to play real chess against other players doing the same. After all, that's what had attracted me when I first started playing chess so many years ago.

So far I've played about a dozen games on Chess.com, never once tempted to use an engine. I also know full well that if I do use an engine and am caught, I will lose the premium membership that CEO Erik gave me when I was writing a review of the site for About.com in mid-2008.

That's the background for a series of posts that I plan to write for my games on Chess.com. There are several aspects to be covered:-

  • Insights from my games
  • The correspondence play interface
  • Game review tools
  • The site's custom anti-cheating measures
  • And more...?

I'll wander through these topics in future posts, some of them on my main blog. Thanks to both SchemingMind and LSS for the terrific support of chess960 throughout the years. May they continue to introduce keen chess players to the fascinating world of chess960.