02 December 2008

An Exercise in Chess960 Positional Thinking

My third chess960 game lasted longer than the second (see Lesson in Chess960 Opening Patterns), although it was effectively over when my opponent dropped the exchange on the 21st move. The diagram shows the start position.

Start Position 002

The first few moves were instructive. After the logical 1.e4 e5, my opponent played 2.Bc4. The resulting position looks similar to the Bishop's Opening in the traditional chess setup, but in this particular chess960 setup, White's last move is a mistake. I played 2...b5.

Black's second move is possible because the b-Pawn is protected by the Queen. In addition to attacking the Bc4, the Pawn move helps to develop both the Ba8 and the Qb8. White has an awkward time defending the attacked Bishop. If the piece retreats 3.Bb3, it blocks the Pb2, which in turn blocks the Ba1. If it retreats 3.Bd3, it blocks a natural development square for the Nc1. The best move was probably 3.Be2, although that obstructs the Re1's defense of the Pe4. White chose 3.Bd3, but ended up playing Bd3-e2 a few moves later in response to another threat.

An important aspect of 2.Bc4 is that it prepares castling O-O already on the next move. It is less likely that either player will castle O-O-O, when O-O is so readily available. Also with the goal of castling O-O, I later played ...Bc5, which was much better after ...b5, when the Bc5 can retreat to b6 without interfering with the development of Black's Queenside (or a-side as chess960 terminology calls it).

Another aspect of 2...b5 is that the Ba8 is immediately developed after the b-Pawn moves. In fact, that Bishop never moved during the game, although it participated in the tactics that won the exchange almost 20 moves later.

After three games, my chess960 rating has climbed from 1200 to 1738. I might be in a position to challenge an expert player after another game or two. Here's the full game, again courtesy of SchemingMind.com:

[Event "Chess960"]
[Site "SchemingMind.com"]
[Date "2008.11.04"]
[Round "-"]
[White "FeralPawn"]
[Black "bemweeks"]
[Result "0-1"]
[SetUp "1"]
[FEN "bqnnrbkr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/BQNNRBKR w KQkq - 0 1"]

1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 b5 3.Bd3 Ne6 4.Nc3 c6 5.N1e2 Bc5 6.Ng3 Nf4 7.Be2 Ne7 8.b4 Bb6 9.Qb3 Nxe2+ 10.Rxe2 O-O 11.O-O Kh8 12.Nf5 Nxf5 13.exf5 d5 14.Rfe1 Qd6 15.Qb2 f6 16.a4 a6 17.a5 Ba7 18.Qb3 c5 19.Na2 c4 20.Qh3 d4 21.Bb2 d3 22.cxd3 cxd3 23.Re3 Bxe3 24.Rxe3 Qc6 25.Rg3 Qc2 26.Qg4 Re7 27.h4 Qxb2 28.Nc3 Qxd2 29. h5 Qxc3 30.h6 Qc1+ 31.Kh2 Rd8 32.hxg7+ Kg8 33.Qh4 d2 34.Rh3 Rxg7 35.f3 d1=Q 0-1

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