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!'

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