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.