Saturday, March 5, 2011

Annex Chess Club and Lateral Thinking

Here's a nice read about Chess960 at the Annex Chess Club:

And some good old natter on Chess960 from them as well:
"I should have said Catholicism is slightly more radical an organization than Chess. It changes about once every 100 years, most Chess breakthroughs are on at least a 200 year timeframe or worse. All fun aside, and no harm is meant to the fine fathers of the Church, conservatism is often good. I prefer evolution to revolution in Chess, since the principles of the game are very sound. 960 is a natural extension of the game, not a replacement. Having 959 -other- starting positions makes line memorization irrelevant. It does also put the onus back on the human player to make good opening choices, that are usually based on very esoteric and subtle considerations i.e. if I do this, I get saddled with this blocked piece in a pawn endgame. Obvious to us, but not so obvious to Fritz with a 100 move computational horizon."

From my personal perspective, it's not so much that memorization in the opening phase is irrelevant, it's just the form of memorization that we are used to is irrelevant. Instead of memorising vast trees of specific lines, we now remember vast sets of specific characteristics and themes. 

It's just a conceptual distinction but it can be thought of like this:
Memorization in the opening phase of Standard Chess:
Mainly vertical but some horizontal (vertical thinking/memorization)

Memorization in the opening phase of Chess960:
Mainly horizontal with some vertical (lateral thinking/memorization)

Ultimately most players want to win and see their rating rise so they do not care whether they think vertically or laterally (it's just a concept anyway). Players are motivated by the desire to improve their rating. The strength of a Chess rating means that there is little motivation to study something that does not directly impact on that goal. It is much better to simply learn some sharp and specific lines that work most of the time. It is not immediately obvious how to do that in Chess960 (although there are ways). That is why Chess960 is slow on the uptake.


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