Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chess960: Dysgenic Strategies

I think there is a legitimate new strategy in Chess960 that does not appear nearly as often in Chess. It is the art of deciding when your own position is so twisted up, that the only option is to mutually twist it. Sometimes a Chess960 player will experience a sudden brain cramp that both players are simply not prepared for. The idea is so bad and so dysfunctional, that rather than causing an instant resignation by the brain cramped player, the position devolves into a strange and completely unworkable position that neither player can respond properly to any longer. Thus the brain cramped player is spared from defeat by the art of the "Dysgenic" draw. Unlike a stalemate, a "Dysgenic" draw occurs when the players can still make moves, but the position is so unworkable that any moves would be utterly pointless.

In Wiki the definition of Dysgenics is:

Dysgenics (also known as cacogenics) is the study of factors producing
 the accumulation and perpetuation of defective or disadvantageous genes and traits
 in the offspring of a particular population or species. - 

As is often the case when I stumble across a definition in Wikipedia, the description is so good and accurate of the Chess960 equivalent, that I simply cannot add or improve the definition. All I can do is to recast it in terms of Chess960:

Dysgenics960 (also known as cacogenics960) is the study of factors
 the accumulation and perpetuation of defective
or disadvantageous moves and positions
 in the offspring
of a particular population of start positions. - HarryO

Here is a classic example of how a "cacogenic" position emerges in Chess960:

SP247 Black to move: The penultimate moment of devolution
Here playing as black in a blitz game, I was so cramped up and the start so poorly coordinated that there was little contribution that I could make except to devolve the position. I came to the brain cramped conclusion that NxN/Nc5 would probably be ok. Therefore in this brain cramp state I proceeded with the plan, but faltered (thankfully) before the final moment of execution. Here is that moment:

SP247 Black to play: The Dysgenic Strategy
By sheer random luck without any degree of thought at all, I stumbled upon a new Chess strategy. Nc5 was a terrible idea, and so instead the game went on:
7)      ... Nd7!  The dysgenic strategy begins
8) g5   ...       White wants to keep black twisted and depraved by preventing Nf6. At the time I thought this was a very good idea by white and secretly congratulated them silently but with muttering under the breath. 
8)      ... g6    Black decides that because there is nothing that can be done about the mangled position on the c-side, then simply continue development.
9) Qc3  ...       White is forced to protect d5 (Qb4 or Qd2 do not work)
9)      ... f5    Knowing that en-passant on the f-pawn is not an option for white, the idea is to try and devolve the position more generally via an old hedgehog strategy that is now cast as a dysgenic strategy.
10) Ba3 ... Qg7!   Black has successfully devolved the position!

SP247 White to play: Draw due to dysfunction
Ok so what has black achieved in this dysgenic strategy?
  1. All black's minor pieces are totally bound up unable to move and ineffective! In that sense the position is very beautiful!
  2. Black's queen is boycotted from any useful play except to block the bishop. In that sense the position is very beautiful!
  3. White is suffering from high level mutual dysgenic dysfunction! In that sense the position is very beautiful.
The game was drawn here in this informal game and I sincerely respect my opponent for this! They were such a better player than myself in this blitz game that they could see that there was no point in continuing. Just look at this one single bizarrely devolved continuation:
11.c6?! bxc6 12.Rxb8 Nxb8 13.Bb2 Qd7 14.Qb3 Na6 15.c4 Nc5! 16.Qa3 Ne4! Beautiful but totally crazy.
White is in a kind of a "zugswang" situation but with the distinction that they can move, but that there is no point in moving. This is the essense of the dysgenic strategy in Chess960!

Let's think for a moment what white's options are:

SP247 White move 12: A sublimely dysgenic hedgehog position

What are the features of this position:
  1. We have a beautiful mirroring of Q/B constructs on the long diagonal. Now it is white that has essentially duplicated black's dysfunctionality because if you notice, all the features of black's position are present in white's, just that white has a little bit more space to expand on the dysfunction of the position. But the point is that this is never and singularly not what white intended! :-)
  2. White's rooks are blocked as are black's
  3. White's knight has no purpose as does black's
  4. White's "suffragan" bishop in the corner is a truly suffering with pointlessness as is black's!
Here is one comical variation in this position (among many) for white:
12.Ba1 Qe7! 13.Qa5+ b6!  14.Qxa7 Rb7! 15. Qa8(o) =
12.Qd2 b6!  13.cxb6 Nxb6 and white helps black to unbind =
12.O-0 h6!  and now black has chances against the king
12.a4  Qe7  13.Ba3  f4!  14.Nf1  O-O  15.Nd2 Qf7 and black is better

SP247 White move 12: A sublimely dysfunctional hedgehog position!
12.h4 b6!  13.cxb6 Rxb6(o) 14.Bb4 c5! 15.dxc5 QxQ =
12.Qd2 O-O 13.c4   Qf7!    14.h4 Rd8! 15.h5 b6! 16.hxg6 hxg6 17.cxb6 =

Warning to anyone trying to unravel this dysfunctional dysgenic strategy by black.
Do so at your own risk! This position could well represent one of the quickest
and genuine clear demonstrations of chess960
dysfunctional draw strategies ever seen...
the dysgenic draw.

Enjoy 960

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