Thursday, May 5, 2011

Chess960: SP051 and Svidler

Had a look at Mark's blog on Leko vs Svidler at Mainz during the first decade of this century:
The game that Mark highlighted is a really nice example of Chess960 opening theory. I actually think that Svidler broke one of the fundamental laws of general opening play:
  1. "Try to move only two pawns if possible before starting to develop at least a knight."
In Chess960 the rule is modified to:
  1. "Try to make only two optional pawns moves (possibly three?!) before starting to develop at least a knight. The exception is when there are necessary pawn moves that need to be played that also need to be played by the enemy"
Amazingly this is the game that I needed to find that proves me wrong that making more than three pawn moves in the Chess960 opening is bad! Normally it is, but this game is an exception (I think!?). Notice that it contains all the ideas of rule (1) above including the necessary move e3/e6. If you think of the g3/g6 and the b3/b6 pawn moves as being necessary moves (because both players need to exercise them), then this opening actually does not violate any of the rules of standard chess opening theory because only two pawn moves were made that were optional!

Another interesting thought is that if white plays b3 to release a bishop, can you consider the alternative pawn move b4 as necessary or optional? Does that mean that b4 would count as one of the two optional pawn moves in rule (1) of the opening but b3 would not?

SP051: Svidler's alternative line that would have accomplished what he was after
The line that is showing is the alternative that Svidler could have played. It is essentially the same idea as his, except that it does not break rule (1) above! Note this is a pure Suffragan bishops opening (Naming the Bishop Pairs) and thus is only ever seen in 6% of all Chess960 games. In other words like I said in (Insider info on the Bishop Pairs) forget about the Suffragan games. All of us Chess960 players should be concentrating on the Patriarch Bishop varieties because they occur roughly 50% of the time.

On another topic, Mark mentions that Svidler hung up his Chess960 gloves during the 2006 Mainz tournament after loosing to Aronian. What I think happened is that if you take a look at Svidler's ratings during that period, you can see that all through the period where Svidler is actively playing Chess960 as well as Chess, his rating was rising:
At the very first noticeable drop in his ratings that roughly coincided with Mainz in 2006 and the loss to Aronian, Svidler probably had to make a choice (or the choice was made for him). He could sense that his rating peak might not sustain, and so what has to go first? Of course Chess960 has to drop so that the super GM can avoid all possible distractions that impede the massive research effort that is required to find novelties in the standard Chess opening systems at the very top of the chess ladder. Svidler's ratings never regained their momentum after quitting Chess960 for a variety of reasons probably including being out-competed in the the vital off-the-board opening pre-arrangement research department.

Nakamura is now in a similar position that Svidler was in 2006! The two should get together and have a chat! Like I've said before, I believe that Nakamura's Chess has been greatly benefited by Chess960, because it has facilitated Nakamura to think up creative novelties in the Chess opening system that he could do on his own without needing big teams and powerful computers. However the burden of being near the top of the Chess ladder is that you now need the teams of assistance and the powerful computers to continue to win.

The situation is nuts, but what can I say? That period of collaboration between Magnus and Kasparov is a classic case. Both of those greats knew that Magnus needed a little something extra to make it to the very top. What was that? It was getting access to Garry K's very private opening database of novelties, that is what it was! After getting access to that, the intense collaboration between them was no longer needed.

It's not the novelties themselves that are the issue! Exactly like Bobby Fischer said on his flight out of Japanese detention, it is that the novelties pre-arrange midgame scenarios that the novelty player understands more deeply. So there is an inevitable flow on effect that filters through the rest of the game after the novelty is executed.

The teams of assistants aren't needed to find the novelties! There are specialised programs that run on computers that find the novelties automatically twenty four hours a day (talk to Topalov). The teams of assistants provide the super GM not with the global context of where the current opening trend in chess is at now, but where it is likely to be (something a computer cannot do). Super GM's must also forget certain opening theories in order to remember the one's that his assistants are telling him will be in vogue and that his computer is finding as well. So you have a continual renewal of old material as well as the occasional computer discovered novelty.



  1. Chess at the highest levels reminds me of politics in the United States. Here they have teams of pollsters researching the position they need to take on every issue to get elected. Each response to a question in a debate is one of thousands that were carefully scripted by aides, memorized, and recited verbatim. At least in chess you aren't allowed to read the moves off a teleprompter... yet.

  2. (belly laugh) very good thought there biffmeatstick hadn't thought of it. Another analogy is that at some point Chess hit the same theoretical phenomenon as "peak oil" where the supply of easy cheap energy hits a peak and slowly exhausts from there. I think Bobby Fischer said that in his opinion Chess was dead already 150 years ago after Philidor. He didn't mean that it was "dead" but that it had hit it's peak at that point and that it was slowly dying from then. Of course he studied the chess opening so deeply that only he and a few others would have seen the phenomenon of "peak chess".


  3. Fischer on "the old chess is dead":

  4. Fischer on the Philidor quote: