Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Chess960 Time of Change

A few months ago I started a discussion at Chess.com called Why The Chess960 Minority? (Top Reasons why I think Chess960 is at 5% of total Chess activity with no sign of change).

The intentions for advocating Chess960 are all good and so I carry no guilt of wasted time or wasted effort. I often stuff the intention up with bad execution but you can only do what you can do. The intention is good that is the point. What is interesting is that I did not mean to, but actually I was using reverse logic to advocate Chess960!? I think reverse logic is actually faulty (despite that it might have a temporary effect). So instead I thought I better come straight out with straight forward logic instead!

Top Reasons Why I Think Chess960 should Herald a Time of Change in Chess
  1. Teach our kids to encourage diversity! Our human species is in the middle of causing one of the greatest mass extinctions of species and cultural diversity in the known history of the planet. Chess960 is a perfect analogy of how we perceive diversity. Each one of the 960 positions is actually a "seed" that grows differently to it's neighbors but also relatedly. When we play the position, a unique plant will grow! Maybe the plant is slightly lop sided maybe not. But does it matter? Yes a few of the super GM's think that some of the 960 seeds are "absurd" when they compare it with standard chess. But the point is it is not really about our impressions. The point is whether every single position in Chess960 has something useful to offer (one chess960 position doesn't have to offer everything)How are we going to deal with the diversity in Chess960? Are we going to conduct an agricultural practice on Chess960 and encourage just a few varieties to grow? But according to what objective criterion? That the position looks similar to chess? (Chess960 and Agriculture). Or are we simply going to encourage our kids to enjoy the maximum possible diversity that Chess960 represents and deal with it. You could say the same with multiculturalism in our cities or biological diversity in nature. Diversity is good! We just try to learn to accept it as we find it and integrate with it.
  2. Encourage kids to embrace complexity! Yes we are all in the dark when we play Chess960 without all of that concrete bed of knowledge to fall back on. But actually we are in the light! Enjoy the experience of having to explore and appreciate complex environments rather than to shy away from them. In any case there is already at least one Opening Principal for playing Chess960 as a start. The idea is that Chess960 is teaching us to creatively deal with non-ideal situations from the very outset and to make something that is imperfect and complex at the outset, much more harmonious. Is that not a great skill to develop? I would say it is a skill we need in the modern age.
  3. Let the kids think creatively in unfavorable situations! Chess960 is actually a holistic way to play Chess. There is still plenty of practice that is done off the board, but also there is a new found emphasis on harmonious spur of the moment planning and being creative in all phases of the game from the opening through to the endgame in many opening situations that are often not "pleasing" to our common sensibility, but never-the-less can be made better. Isn't that wonderful?
  4. We should learn how to enjoy loosing a complex game with a degree of humility! Chess960 is about returning competition to the moment (rather than a pre-arranged memorized scheme). None of us can actually hide any more behind our rote memory. None of us can steer games according to our comfort zone. You will find that even the GM's are going to make some really goofy mistakes at times as well as absolute brilliancies at others. Chess960 is too immense to rely on rote memory for any of us and so we will have to accept our limitations (all of us GM's and patzers) and play with humility but also with great joy. Chess960 teaches us that the world around us is way more complex than we would theoretically like, but that the immensity of it is our friend not our enemy!
  5. Chess960 fits perfectly into the constraints of modern culture. None of us have that much time to book memorize a game. We do enough book learning as it is! Chess960 restores the balance of Chess back to an over the board experience. Chess960 is perfect for our time constraints. It is a net-workable game that can be played across the world. A Chess960 game is full of unknown adventures but we can make that adventure as short and concise as we would like! A half hour adventure into a Chess960 game in our busy lives is just that, an adventure or a short story within time constraints.
  6. Chess960 discourages addictive game play. In chess lets face it what do we do these days? We play one game online. If we win we play another straight away because we are already familiar with the opening that worked for us and little energy is required to replay that opening . So we dive right back in again and again repeating the same opening book looking to gratify ourselves with another win. If we have lost a game, do we actually try a new idea or just play the same opening plans hoping that we will get lucky next time? Because the Chess environment starts predictably, it encourages us to treat the game like a poker machine. This phenomenon of Chess was not a problem before the internet when we used to play chess in a physical club in our town! But these days we are all online at any moment of the day or night ready to dive onto the chess poker machine pulling the same levers expecting to get a different result. But Chess960 just does not work like that. You have to be disciplined at move one and it takes a lot of energy to play the opening phase without rote memorization to fall-back on. So if you have lost a couple of games, Chess960 encourages you to go and take a break, because there will be no getting lucky unless you are fresh and thinking creatively.
Enjoy 960

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