Monday, May 16, 2011

Chess960: The territory of the Chivalry Knights

Now that I have got some name for the knight pairs in Insider information on the Knight pairs, it's really useful to look at them in detail. First came the Territory of the Military Knights and now the Chivalry Knights. Together with the Military Knights, they make up almost 50% of all Chess960 games so if you fundamentally understand these two pairings, you should have a good chance to win half your Chess960 games. Even without considering the Military Knights, the Chivalry's alone cover roughly 33% of all Chess960 games. This is because they exist on their start squares in two forms (NxN and NxxxN).

The Chivalry knights are great gallopers that can quickly confuse and demoralize an enemy. You can imagine that their speed is fantastic but because of it they have blind spots directly adjacent to them. They start on the same color squares and this is what really distinguishes them from the other knight pairs. When developed to the third rank, in just one move they can theoretically cover an exact 50% of the area of the board ((35sq-3sq)/64sq))  in a perfect 7x5 rectangle (except their blind spot squares):

The Chivalry Knights (~33% all games): 7x5 Territory (50% of the board)

The green squares show the squares that they cover straight away. The yellow squares show the squares that can be covered in a single move. The red squares show where the Chivalry Knights have their major blind spot. 

Like all knights, they have trouble really close in but in the case of these knights, the weakness is minor. They are very "bright" high energy knights because of the way they work together on the same colors, rapidly switching from one color to the other cooperatively.

The Chivalry Knights:
  1. Cover all of the opposite colored squares to themselves in an area of 7x5 squares (except their blind spots)
  2. Cover any same colored square in that area in one move (except their blind spots)
  3. Outside of their 7x5 area, in one move they can only cover a same color square
  4. Have only only three blind spots between them
  5. Have a significant weakness to a pawn fork at their "Chakra" square
  6. Can move forward and lock together in one move when needed
  7. When "locked" they have pseudo rank and file control (see diagram)
  8. Can retreat from being "locked" back to their Chivalry form to cover maximum area
  9. They can in one move form a confusing orthogonal Military Knight stance (see diagram below)  that can catch out unsuspecting enemies that do not appreciate how much area they cover in that configuration
  10. Cannot comfortably defend any of their pawn protectors ever
  11. Work best cooperatively and if they must split apart into independent operation,
     it better be for a good reason

The "Locked" Chivalry Knights area of influence in one move:
The green squares show the squares that are immediately covered. The yellow squares show the squares that can be covered in one move. The red squares can only be covered at the very least by two moves. So their primary area of influence is a bit like a light bulb shape (yellow lines) with some warning "electricity bolt type "zigzags" either side (red lines). When they are locked like this, specific calculation of what they can do is required as well as a general feel for their area of influence.

The "Locked" Chivalry Knights rank and file influence in one move:

You can see that within a single move window, they can actually cover three whole ranks and almost two whole files in an "electricity pole" shape (yellow lines). Since when the knights are locked together the coverage area is not a simple shape, specific calculation is required as well as a general feel for what they can do. As you can see there is a lot of territory that they can cover in one move.

Another particularly confusing arrangement that the Chivalry Knights can quickly posture into is an orthogonal Military Knight stance. When you are looking down the barrel of that stance, it can get optically confusing and can startle the enemy into a tactical error:

Chivalry Knights in Orthogonal Military Knight Position -
a 5x6 "Split Dome of Protection"

Although they are extremely vulnerable to rook attacks because of their severe vertical file weakness, in this orthogonal Military Knight posture they cover the green squares immediately, the yellow in one move and the red in two moves. Therefore their green area is almost a complete 5x6 area dome of protection other than a slice right down the middle. Without knowing this, our human eye tends to think that they have many more weaknesses than this arrangement actually shows them to have (we assume that they have the same incomplete coverage as a single knight). In this posture their adjacent square weakness is only a minor weakness and once again they have trouble getting to their long diagonal squares which is the main similarity with their single knight form.

Here are some practical examples:

Black to move: 5 seconds to find the right move
....Qf7 why? For every move, try to find at least two things that the move accomplishes
  1. Qf7 stays out of the 7x5 Chivalry Knight coverage area
  2. Qf7 stays off the dark colored squares that the Chivalry knights are on and is therefore immune to a forward attack by the knights. This is because outside of their 7x5 area, the Chivalry knights can only attack the same colored square that they are on.
  3. Qf7 attacks f3
  4. Qf7 clears the g-pawn

The Orthogonal Military Knights startle the enemy and cause a blunder!
Why am I going to all this trouble? Well with us humans, we both recognize patterns and we calculate. In future generations when kids have grown up playing Chess960, they will instantly see the coverage area of the Chivalry knights and they will instantly see what squares those knights can attack outside of their area. At the same time they will still calculate specific lines. It comes down to efficiency of cognition. Kids of the Chess960 future will build opening concepts, themes and lines around the various opening configurations of the chess pieces. All of the Chess960 openings will be familiar to them conceptually.

Realize this about our old beloved SP518 classic chess position.  If you look at the knight configurations, we do not often see Chivalry or Military knight configurations. Play around with SP518 knight movements and you can see it for yourself. There is a whole tactical set of themes missing in the SP518 setup that we only see if we play Chess960. Realise that Chess960 includes SP518 and other positions that are probably just as beautiful and just as deep. 

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