25 February 2012

No Time for Shelter

It seems ages since I reported on the results for the SchemingMind 2009 Chess960 Dropout Tournament, in The Seeds of Victory?, and now I can report on the site's 2010 Chess960 Dropout Tournament. Unlike the 2009 event, which was my first time playing the knockout format used for the site championships, in the 2010 event I survived into the final round, eventually finishing tied for 2nd/3rd.

My play wasn't as good as the result might indicate. Two of my strongest opponents defaulted in positions that were entirely unclear and which could have gone either way. I would have been lucky to win both games and a loss in either would have meant certain elimination.

My only loss was against the eventual winner of the event, the same player who beat me in the 2009 event. I covered a position from that earlier game in another post, Symmetry Misjudged. He coasted to victory in the 2010 event using a classic tournament strategy, winning all of his games as White, while drawing his last four games as Black.

The position in the top diagram shows the start position, SP234 NRQKBBNR. Its most striking feature is probably the traditional formation of the BNR on the Kingside. I decided that castling O-O was the most likely plan for both players and expected my opponent to open with 1.d4. I was surprised when he played instead 1.d3, which might well have been the first time that a strong player started with a single step of a Pawn as the first move against me. I answered 1...Nf6, and we were off. The next few moves were 2.Nf3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.Be2 Bg7 5.Bd2, reaching the position in the bottom diagram.

Both players have used their first moves to pursue rapid development and White is already able to castle O-O. I wanted to continue 5...Bc6, but was concerned that the Bishop was somehow exposed on that square. I decided to play 5...c5, making a shelter for the Bishop, but wasn't certain if the loss of time would work against me. As I expected, White played 6.O-O, and I continued 6...Bc6.

Now tactics unfolded quickly with 7.e5 Nd7 8.exd6 exd6 9.Bg5+ Nf6 10.Re1, when Black has to react with 10...O-O, or lose the option to castle. White continued to play aggressively, hitting me with a combination a few moves later where I overlooked the key move. I eventually lost a Pawn, then another Pawn, and struggled on to the 47th move, when I resigned.

After the game, I couldn't find anything wrong with my play, except for the uncertain 5...c5. Was that the losing move? It doesn't look like one, but in chess960 you're never really certain how you stand in the opening.

18 February 2012

An Aborted Announcement

While poking through issues of TWIC from the mid-1990s, in preparation for a post on The Last, Lost Interzonal, I found an earlier mention of chess960 than the 19 June 1996 press conference described in Fischer Announces Fischerandom. From The Week in Chess 51, 1 October 1995:
'Bobby Fischer to present new chess rules' By Roberto Alvarez: Bobby Fischer will present worldwide his NEW chess rules in Merlo City (San Luis, Argentina) on November 13, 1995. Fischer has visited Argentina in 1959 (3rd/4th at Mar del Plata tournament [1959], Buenos Aires 1960, Buenos Aires 1970 and match Fischer-Petrosian, Buenos Aires 1971).

From November 14 to December 30, 1995 will take place a tournament or match between GM Lajos Portisch (HUN) and GM Eugene Torre (PHI) using these rules. This tournament will be transmitted around the world using INTERNET. Also on November 11 (nearly, to be confirmed) will take place in Merlo an strong international open tournament (normal rules).

What happened to that 1995 announcement? Besides Alvarez, GMs Portisch and Torre might be able to answer the question. Alvarez isn't mentioned in my 'Fischer Announces' post, but he is associated with the 1996 event in a related item on ChessVariants.com: Fischer Random Chess - News (see 'News from Argentina'). His document is still available on rec.games.chess. Whatever finally became of the November 1995 plans, another post on this blog, Brady on Fischer Random, places Fischer in Hungary at the end of 1995.

11 February 2012

Two and a Half Blogs

A large number of visits flagged on this blog's stats page alerted me to a new chess960 resource, Chess with no opening book, on a site, Metafilter.com, that was also new to me. It turned out that it's an introduction to chess960 covering the following points:-
  • The problem of opening theory in traditional chess
  • Rules specific to chess960
  • The strong similarity to traditional chess
  • The fairness of the 960 start positions
  • Blog ('two and a half') & Youtube resources
  • Online play sites

The blog resources, Chess960 Jungle (see the sidebar) and this one that you're reading now, were deemed worthy of a number of targeted links, which explains the transient jump in my stats. For one day, my visits were triple an average day, but returned to normal the next day. I imagine HarryO received even more visits on his blog, since he garnered the lion's share of links to blogs. Well done, Harry!

The Youtube resources included one channel that I hadn't seen before, with two annotated Nakamura - Aronian games, probably from Mainz 2009. The play sites also had a new resource, lichess.org, including both 'Play with a friend' and 'Play with the machine' options. I tried the play with a machine option at the lowest level and got a chess960 game with 'Crafty A.I.', which I won easily.

The comments were also worth reading. The first comment showed once again that chess960 is interesting not only for grandmasters looking for a respite from opening theory, but also for club players who have no inclination to study that theory.

I'm an apostate - I was pretty serious about chess for a while, but it was the opening book that actually sent me away from the game. When I was serious, I told people, "I'm not going to memorize the specific openings - I'm going to learn the theory and work from that." The response, "OK, kid, tell me how that works out for you," was unfortunately too accurate.

Another comment...

I don't think Chess 960 would be damaged if "by convention" some subset of the initial positions like SP941 were simply disallowed as "uneven".

...reminded me that I haven't looked at the CCRL stats (sidebar again) in a long time. SP941 is RKRBNQBN; is there some reason to exclude it? I'll try to revisit at least one of these new finds in a future post.

04 February 2012

Second Looks

Here are a few topics that I've already mentioned in past posts. Dennis Steele, the admin at ChessManiac.com, wrote to tell me,
Just wanted to let you know that ChessManiac.com now offers chess960 and vote chess. We also allow Chess960 Vote Chess games. That is a twist. Not sure if anyone else offers this or not.

The site is listed in the right column under 'Correspondence (Turnbased) Chess960' online play. The original announcement, including an audio clip of Fischer describing his invention, can be found at Chess960 now available online at ChessManiac.com. Another page, Chess Maniac Community Raises $8100 for upgrades, mentions that chess960 was added by popular demand. Vote chess, too.


Chessvibes.com just announced its annual Vote for the YB Novelty of the Year 2011. What's that got to do with chess960? Two years ago I used the 2009 NOTY contest as a discussion point in Fischer: 'The *Old* Chess Is Dead'. You can find the report on the 2010 contest on Chessvibes' Anand wins Yearbook Novelty award of 2010.

I'd like to piggyback on the 2011 NOTY to run my own contest. Guess on which move the winning 2011 novelty was played and win a one year subscription to this Chess960 FRC blog. Second place gets a two year subscription. Yes, it's an old joke, but so are chess opening novelties on move 23. To get the ball rolling, I vote that the winning novelty will occur on move 15. The six candidate games have already been shortlisted on the Chessvibes announcement, so no peeking!


Finally, two Schemingmind.com chess960 events finished recently: preliminary groups for Chess960 League - Season Five and 2010 Chess960 Dropout Tournament. I played in both, know them well, and will feature a game or two from each event in a future post.