Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chess960-SP150: Some creative opening ideas for black

Played SP150 today. The SP's around this number have a particular feature that chess engines initially think are pretty advantageous for white up to say +0.20 in the evaluation. Later they settle the evaluation down once they calculate deeper. The special feature is when a central pawn can develop out two squares and at the same time free a bishop and queen to develop along diagonal lines. Thus in one move three things have been achieved. I can see why it's a pretty decent start for white! That said, I looked through how black can play against this powerhouse and some novel ideas came up!

  • Never discount the possibility that the queen can develop quickly to a safe square. It's not possible in many starting positions but there are also quite a few where she can.
  • Don't be scared to expose the king to diagonal attack if the opposing wing is closed off from diagonal attack.
  • Never discount the possibility that the same pawn can be moved twice. In Chess960 there are many positions where it is bad, but there are also some positions where it perfectly fine to do so. The reason is that the cost in tempo for the extra pawn move, is compensated by an inability of the enemy to express their tempo in development, and thus be forced to waste tempo.
  • Don't discount the possibility of making more than two pawn moves in the opening. Sometimes black can close down positions quickly by doing so. It is risky though and must be carefully calculated. Three pawn move openings are fairly common, but four opening pawn moves are only rarely workable (as demonstrated below)
  • Always prepare an evacuation square for a knight that could potentially get biffed by a pawn and forced to move therefore.
  • Even in the opening, look for active development against the opposing king, because in Chess960 castling options for the enemy are sometimes limited.

Here is what I'm talking about:

SP150: How black can play against white's best opening - the queen's pawn

Verified by Rybka-4 960:
  1. d4  ... e5   Black realizes that in this SP, the queen is safe on e5.
                 Black is going to have to play actively in order to
                 equalize a situation that is easier for white to manage.
                 Ah hah I here you say "but if the queen is on e5,
                 white can play g3/Bg2/Bf4"
    but no! Black has Ne6.
  2. d5  ... f5!  White plays the common Chess960 pawn move to the 5th rank
                 that blocks black's d8 knight from being able to develop.
                 Black however has his own ideas. By playing ...f5 he
                 intends f4/d6 pawn formations that block white's diagonal
                 attack on his g-side king and also enables a nice development
  3. e4  ... f4!  White has got to play e4 to free the bishops but once
                 again pawn capture is declined
  4. c4  ... Be7  So far the standard chess opening principles have
                 all been broken. White is going for space and black
                 is going for equality by developing more quickly.
                 White has played out to c4 in order that his d1 knight
                 can develop without blocking a possible queen-side pawn
                 initiative. The big question is how is black going
                 to develop his d8 knight? At this stage it looks bad.
  5. b4  ... d6   White is now over-extending. It is interesting to see
                 how black blockades and develops.
  6. Nc3 ... Nb6  The point is that black has a safe squares to jump
                 to if his b6 knight is biffed by a pawn.
                 It can go to a4 or d7.
  7. Be2 ... O-O  Black delays any more piece development until
                 white clarifies intention.
  8. Nb6 ... Qg6  All black's problems are solved and there is a
                 possible attack plan as well.
  9. Nd2 ... Nf7  What an excellent counter-balance black has achieved
                 having to face white's solid queen's pawn opening.
  10. Qd1 ... Bh3! Black's amazing punch line development of the bishop!
                 The point is that white cannot castle kingside and
                 That black's development is stable.
  11. Bf3...       Now it is white that has to defend and even worse, there
                 is no clear plan for progress on white's queenside.
                 Black has magnificently and creatively kept it
                 under control.
Well done black!

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