28 April 2009

Chess Engines Don't Always Get It

After I issued a chess960 challenge on SchemingMind.com, the game was assigned the start position shown in the following diagram (SP416). It's similar to SP448, which I discussed in Chess960 Twins. In both games I was assigned to play White.

Start Position 416

The difference between SP416 and SP448 is the position of the pieces on e1, f1, and g1. In SP416 the pieces occupying those squares are Q, N, & K, instead of N, K, & Q as in SP448.

Just as in the SP448 game, I decided that the King would be best placed by castling O-O-O. This would avoid pressure from the Black Bishops, which are well coordinated and aimed at the castled O-O position.

Since O-O-O requires clearing d1, e1, and f1, I then decided that the best initial development would be Nd1-c3, Nf1-g3, and e2-e3 followed by Qe1-e2. Since the Nc3 would block the Pc2, which in turn blocks the Bb1, the move c2-c4 should be played before Nd1-c3.

Putting all this together, I concluded that 1.c4 would be a good first move. It wouldn't reveal my overall plan and it would let me see my opponent's move before committing to the development plan I had in mind.

Before actually playing my first move, I checked my idea against the computer vs. computer experience at CCRL (see Advantage in Chess960 Start Positions Revisited). The 60 games starting with SP416 in the CCRL database had a combined W-L-D record of +21-29=10, giving Black an overall edge, and the most frequently used first moves were:-

18 x 1.b3
13 x 1.b4
11 x 1.c4

Of the 11 games starting 1.c4, the W-L-D record was +1-8=2, accounting for almost the entire edge in favor of Black. Gulp! Was there something wrong with the logic that led to choosing 1.c4?

I looked at the 11 games starting 1.c4, and determined that in almost every one of the CCRL games, the machine castled O-O, directly into the attack of the enemy Bishops. In the other games they didn't castle at all.

Confident that 1.c4 was a good choice, I played it. Unfortunately, my opponent declined my challenge and the game stopped there. I might never get another chance to test that specific opening plan.


Our Mission: said...

I’ve been reading you blog and I just wanted to let you know the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship is coming up! It is May 7-17 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in of St. Louis.

The nation’s top 24 players will seek to steal take the title from last years year’s winner Yury Shulman–including the top 12 American players by rating, the 2008 U.S. Junior Closed Champion, the 2008 U.S. Open Champion and the 2009 U.S. State Champion of Champions. Not to mention, over $200,000 in prizes are on the table!

Anyway, here is a link to the media kit: http://www.saintlouischessclub.org/US-Championship-2009. And Also, here is a link to the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis website: http://www.saintlouischessclub.org, where you can RSVP for the free tickets. This website will also provide daily coverage! And both have player bios, chess facts, tournament history, etc.

Just figured you and your blog readers would love to know about all this as fellow chess buffs!

Valerio Tirri said...

Hi Mark,
first of all, congratulations for your interesting blog.
The feed of your blog was inserted successfully in the english directory of YourChess portal http://www.yourchess.net and it will remain in home page for several days too.

We are very pleased to have (if it's possible) a crosslink inserted in your blog site.

Best regards
Valerio Tirri
Staff of YourChess.net