30 September 2008

Chess960? I'm Hooked!

I won my first game of chess960 (see Shall We Play Fischerandom Chess?) as Black in 13 moves. The game ended so quickly because my opponent castled on the wrong side and was caught in a vicious attack. The diagram shows the start position.

Start Position 787

Here's the PGN, courtesy of SchemingMind.com:

[Event "Chess960"]
[Site "SchemingMind.com"]
[Date "2008.08.19"]
[Round "-"]
[White "roscoe"]
[Black "bemweeks"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "brqknrnb/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/BRQKNRNB w KQkq - 0 1"]
1.b3 f5 2.f4 Ngf6 3.d3 Nd6 4.Qd2 O-O 5.O-O-O b5 6.Ngf3 c5 7.Ne5 g6 8.N1f3 c4 9.dxc4 bxc4 10.Nd4 Qa6 11.Nxc4 Nxc4 12.Qc3 Rfc8 13.Qh3 Qxa2 0-1

Some observations from the first game (and a few moves of a second game):-

  • Having to think from the first move -- and I don't consider choices like 'Shall I play 1.e4 or 1.d4 this time?' to be real thinking -- is a refreshing change from the well worn opening paths of traditional chess.

  • The castling option requires more thought than in traditional chess. We learn very early the tradeoffs between O-O and O-O-O, but the standard guidelines aren't sufficient in chess960.

  • Many of the traditional positional guidelines -- develop quickly, watch the center, Knights before Bishops -- still apply, but have a new set of nuances.

  • The position starts to look like traditional chess after both sides have developed a few minor pieces and have castled.

I'm already hooked after one game!


Sebastian said...

Hi Mark,
Interesting post on chess960. I read your last post as well and congratulations for noting that their is a vested interest in NOT promoting chess960. What I don't understand is this: if the publishing industry can make a profit on selling books on the Ruy Lopez for the last 500 years I'm sure they can make some money out of chess960. Is there more to this than a fear of change?

drleper said...

White just castled straight into the rook and queen there =)

I think a lot of people dismiss chess960 without trying it. For me, it's the only way chess can be played these days. I have no interest in the reams of opening variations available today, I just want to play for fun, and 960 lets me do that. It really lets you play your own style, without the shackles of theory.

I generally find endings to be quite interesting, so it's great that all the chess knowledge on endings persists in 960.

I have a website (www.chess960.net) which has quite a bit of information on the game (including how to setup a position and castle).

drleper said...

Another thing worth remembering is that there a lot of players that focus exclusively on some specific opening/variation, and try to steer the game towards that always.

I remember when I used to play at clubs, I was doing really badly in a particular tournament, and after yet another loss a friend told me "you are playing too many different openings, just pick one opening and make it your fortress."

These days this is probably sage advice for the chess player.

There's a lot of guys like that out there, trying to get the same positions every time. To someone like that, Chess960 just doesn't make sense. ie "Why would I want to give up my openings knowledge and the advantage it (hopefully) gives me? I worked hard for that and I want to keep it."

So that's an uphill battle right there.

Mark Weeks said...

drleper - Re 'a lot of guys like that out there, trying to get the same positions every time', you make a good point. These are players who, in answer to the frequent question -- Is chess a science, an art, or a sport? -- would say 'a sport' (or a game), because winning is their goal. Hence their emphasis is on gaining an advantage by deep study of specific openings. Note that I'm making an observation, not criticizing. Playing chess for the thrill of winning is a perfectly legitimate reason to play.

Your web site is noted. - Mark

drleper said...

For me it's all those things at once. Science, sport and art. Sounds like you've got quite an objective position on the whole issue, that's a good thing. It's a valid way to play for sure, although I'm quite one sided in my views because I find 960 to be a lot more enjoyable.