Saturday, April 16, 2011

Chess960-SP287: The edge pawn debate continued

Cool more high quality games to study from Mark's blog that do not contain tactical blunders, just strategic errors:
It's particularly cool because last month I tried really hard to prove that the edge pawn is safe in all 960 positions (there is no benefit in taking it):
I did pretty well in what was a lot more difficult than it needs to be. That said there were a few "holes" in my proof that I could not plug and still have not plugged whatever! Unfortunately nobody came to my aid to help me unbind them. So here are more practical cases of the edge pawn under threat. Should be a lot of fun.

SP287 Game 1: edge pawn gambit accepted

SP287 Game 2: edge pawn gambit declined

Game 1 Analysis:
An great chess960 game for studying how white assists black in achieving a draw pretty much right out of the opening. Remember that the roles of the colors in Chess is for white to try and find a win, and black to prove a draw or wait for an error. For some reason almost every single move of white's encourages a draw and black should be only to happy to play along. Amazingly, I almost have to redefine my definition of symmetrical play after seeing this game:
There is a  third rule of symmetrical play that this game highlights and that is that white must not steer the symmetry in a direction where it is they that looses the initiative. That's what happened in this game!

White's drawing moves:
  • 2.Bxa7?! Why capture the least significant edge pawn when the opponent can do exactly the same? Is it not better to continue development for the sake of more tangible pressure?
  • 4.Nb3?! Why would white give away the initiative in a symmetrical opening if they are already playing a drawish line? Better to keep the initiative going with 4.e4 or even the dubious initiative move 4.Qh3 (attacking the edge pawn and threatening potential lines against the king at the expense of sidelining the queen). If white has the initiative at least there is a chance to play for a win. This particular move Nb3?! is fascinating from the point of view that white temporarily breaks symmetry with a complementary Zwischenzug type move that gives black the initiative and forces the line back into symmetry.
  • 7.d4?! This is the start of a series of move that set's up a hedge-hog pawn structure that looks drawn because there is no play for the only remaining bishop. 
Looking at the way white played, it almost looks as if they were deliberately aiming for a draw perhaps because of the tournament table who knows. If that is the case then hat's off to them. The game was played to extremely high technical standards without major strategic or tactical errors. It is interesting how soon the kings centralize in a such a stalemated mid-game. The endgame drawing sequence was extremely sharp tactically and well played. Although most of the game looks like a draw, the subtleties are beyond me I have to admit and perhaps Peter Leko would be the best to comment considering he has actually played a Chess960 game against Bobby! (can anyone find that game!?)

Note: See this post for how to play this SP with more energy:

Game 2 Analysis:
Game two is easy to analyse because it contains a couple of strategic errors and no tactical errors:
  • 7.BxN? In a position where the game will open up, it is suicidal to exchange away one bishop unless the benefit of having two knights balances the exchange. In SP287 this is highly unlikely. Without the dark bishop, white's queen will have to do the job of being a queen as well as being a dark bishop. It is too much.
  • 19.O-O? With black's bishops bearing down on the c-side you can understand that white is nervous. However it is already lost for white because black's bishops can so flexibly re-deploy either to attack the c-side or the g-side. Even worse, white castles into open attack, because as soon as he has done so, black begins the attack with 19....h5!

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