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.

No comments: