Friday, July 12, 2013

Non-Random Chess960 Trial Game 9: SP864 after 4)...e6

Here is the continuation of a series of trial openings we are playing through for very difficult SPs that black must face. The PGN database for these trials including comments is here.

In this post we are going to take a look at SP864 in more detail considering that black really struggled in our initial Non-Random Trial game 9.

The move history up to this point was:
1. Ng3 Nf6 2. Nf5 Rg8 3. Nf3 Ng6 4. O-O e6

As can be seen, white has already castled and successfully prevented black from doing the same. Black's difficulties will be king safety and how to activate the rooks.

Mark has suggested that 4)...e6 might be a good way to solve many of black's problems. Not only does it push back the knight, it also potentially aids black's development and even possibly enables a square for black's king to temporarily sit. The problem is that the f6 square is weakened when it will come under fire from white's automatically fianchettoed bishop. The theory is that this will undermine black's king safety.

Most of the analysis we will do of this situation will be discussed in the comments to this post.

Initial position SP864: 4) ...e6


  1. Yes, that's the position. - Mark

  2. Thanks for making me look deeper into this position. I've lost my fear of it once I saw these resources for black:
    Schematic 1) ..Bb8-d6-e7 defending f6
    Schematic 2) ..Nfd5/..f6 strengthening the a1-h8 diagonal.

    I've put the variations that surround these two schematics into the database of these trials.

    So I play 5.Ng3

    ...a small chance that black might have some problems. 5.Ne3 was the other choice but it leads nowhere that I could see - Harry

    On another topic, if you are content with this position, we ?could? start thinking towards doing a non-random trial run of Chess18 with these objectives:

    1) Do these 18 starts allow queenside and kingside castling strategies or are they restricted in some way?
    2) Do these 18 starts have roughly the same variety of opening moves relative to SP518?
    3) Do these 16 starts cover new opening ideas not seen in SP518?

    Just a thought.

  3. Let's play a few moves before we declare ourselves content with the position. White's position is still dangerous...

    4.O-O e6 5.Ng3 c5

    ...I'm OK with the chess18 idea. Shall we select the position by alternating piece/square choices like we did in the first few games of this series? - Mark

  4. I thought about 6.b3 but it just transposes to the move chosen and it gives black too much space on the queenside and black will castle manually via ..Ke7/Rge8/Kf8.

    The enthusiastic and capable person on thinks that 1.Ng3 is not the strongest available to white in this SP. Interesting thought if it is true that they have seen into this SP much deeper than we!

    4.O-O e6 5.Ng3 c5 6.c4

    ...frees the first bishop and takes some control of the center and queenside - Harry

    With Chess18, the main culprits we should investigate are the 6 SP's with knights on the same color probably starting with the four N.N SP's.

  5. Re, the jury is out on the quality, but it's good to see some analysis of real moves instead of the usual questions like 'Do you think chess960 is good for your normal chess game?'...

    5.Ng3 c5 6.c4 d5

    ...Hitting the ball back, waiting to see how White continues. The castling maneuver you mention only works if the g-Pawn is shielded.

    Why the emphasis on Knights on the same color? I think you once did a post on this, but I don't remember which one. Can you point to it? - Mark

  6. Basically because of GeneM on your blog Mark. My intuition tells me that the first step away from SP518 would be Chess18 and it looks like Pal Benko and others might have thought that as well. Here is the very first entry I can find on Chess18 that was on Toms Hardware Guide of all places back in 2005 it is a real historical nugget or priceless gem!!

    So if SP518 players look at Chess18 what are they going to complain about first? It would have to be knights on the same colour squares wouldn't it? GeneM has murmured about it before and so that is why I would start there.

    I personally call knights on the same square "Chivalry Knights" and so here is a composite of all my blogs on them:

    Back to the game:
    5.Ng3 c5 6.c4 d5 7.cxd5

    ...Keeps the long diagonal open and the recapture will give white some future activity. The other alternative 7.d4 black has too much counter-play for my liking.- Harry

  7. The link is a copy of a thread from (rgc). I don't remember having looked at rgc for other sources of inspiration, so I'll add it to the TODO list.

    Chivalry Knights: yes, that's what I was looking for. Thanks!

    As for chess18, promoting watered down versions of chess960 is not a high priority for me. Most of the people who promote these ideas have no real experience with chess960 and don't know what they're talking about. I've always said that any circle of players can restrict their interest to any subset of chess960 (including SP518 alone!), but it's up to them to build the circle. I've been thinking about trying double-chess960, where the players start with different SPs, but I don't have the time just now...

    6.c4 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5

    ...After the discussion on, I'm finding this variation too tame. If you don't discover a new idea for White by move 10, we should move on to the next trial. Take your time. - Mark

  8. I can tell you already now I haven't discovered a new idea!

    On Chess18, I think my memory of GeneM comments on knights on the same colour cannot be trusted. Here is a comment he did make on them:

    On Double Chess960 you might like to try the modified Winboard app I built for it here:

    What the app does is allow you to pick an SP for white, a depth and eval and the engine will go and find an SP that matches the chosen parameters so that the start is fairer for both sides.

    Doing this shows that Double Chess960 actually produces starts where black has the initiative. I think that double Chess960 is not as tightly bound by symmetry restrictions and so the players are freer to start their own independent strategies so long as a fair setup is chosen. For this reason I find it easier than Chess960 and more relaxing for a nice change.

    6.c4 d5 7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.b3

    ...Downside is that white looses diagonal access to a4. I tried a number of different ideas including Qc4 but I don't think there is a silver bullet. - Harry

  9. In the comment you flagged, I don't understand what GeneM is saying. He's a theoretician, not a player, and never backs up his statements with examples. A specific SP and an opening variation might clarify the concept of 'Knight opposition'...

    7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.b3 b6

    ...Black wants to play ...f6 and ...Kf7, but there is no need to rush. - Mark

  10. Well after three years of requesting Chess960 live chess servers to start white's clock straight away, I only ever managed to convince one developer.

    Still Chesscube and Lichess haven't implemented it. Does it matter to you? Am I just being crumpy? A person over at came up with a good solution but don't have live Chess960!

    7.cxd5 Nxd5 8.b3 b6 9.Rfe1

    ...Just improves the position and waits - Harry

  11. Yes, clock fairness is important. If extra thinking time is allocated before the clocks start ticking, the players need to share that extra time. I haven't played enough crossboard chess960 to have an opinion on the best way to start the clock...

    8.b3 b6 9.Rfe1 f6

    ...Preparing a shelter for the King. - Mark

  12. Enjoyed your Chess960 blog posts Mark hope you are well. In my mind Chess960 is the way to go. Chess18 is just an intermediate step. There are just too many fascinating SP's in Chess960 that cannot be captured by Chess18.

    An interesting question in Chess960 is what fundamentally causes there to be only one castling option? For example in this SP there is just one option for black (to castle manually). In other SP's in extreme patterns like RK(g1)R it seems that queen-side castling is often still a real possibility.

    I'm finding lately that studying some of the SP518 games (like the last game in the FIDE world cup just yesterday) there are often Chess960 themes cropping up more and more now in terms of unusual pawn structures.

    I think it is because players are trying to break out of the theoretical mold. When there are creative players playing SP518, studying those games is helping me to read Chess960 positions better.

    8.b3 b6 9.Rfe1 f6 10.e3

    ...Closing off access to f4 and preparing to mobilise the queen during the time it takes for black to manually castle. - Harry

    We could finish at move 10, but I think we could just play out another few moves because white may have a way to mobilise a somewhat intimidating kingside attack (see database).

  13. We can play this game for as long as you like. I was travelling for a week and Google decided that I wasn't me, so it wouldn't let me sign in to my accounts. Thus the silence...

    9.Rfe1 f6 10.e3 Nde7

    ...Threatening ...Bxf3, when the weak square on f3 will give Black plenty of counterplay. - Mark

  14. Just checking in to say 'Hi!'. If you want to abandon this game and move on to something else, it's fine with me. - Mark

  15. Hi Mark loved reading your blog last few weeks. I've gotten distracted with lots of study of SP518 for the sake of improving my general reading of Chess960 positions. Really helpful to study the old game.

    On future games, have you ever played SP524? I stumbled across it while studying Chess18. It's the famous!? start position that Kasparov in passing said something about being able to beat Kramnik with it during his comments on the 2000 world championship.

    Can you find the quote?

    You remember the 2000 championship was the one where Bobby famously talked about pre-arranged games that confused all of us but now we get what he was talking about!

    SP524 is an *amazingly* quiet SP.

    SP524 = RBNQKNBR (just the BN's swapped)

    By that simple swap the bishops have no tactical opportunities and the knights have none either. No fork's on c7, no bishop pins of the king etc etc.

    It's a position that almost plays itself black can almost do nothing wrong and white can in fact play four pawn moves without penalty from the start!

    The curiousity to me is why Kasparov would think that he has better chances against Kramnik playing him in SP524 than in SP518? I think SP524 could be even more quiet than the Berlin defense he had to face Kramnik against during that match!

    We could play SP524 with the view of trying to creatively put some energy into the start as soon as possible with some sort of gambit or creative resource we might be able to find.....

    Back to this game, really liked your last move. I think we better play a couple of moves more just to make a thematic point.

    9.Rfe1 f6 10.e3 Nde7 11.Qc4

    ...White wants to transfer the queen to the kingside to pressure black's king . - Harry

  16. Funny that you should mention the 2000 World Championship. I used the quote in this post...

    Dog-Tired from Memorizing Openings

    ...which was on my mind today for entirely different reasons. We just got a new dog on Saturday and I was thinking about somehow reusing that same post. I finally went with a better idea based on the most recent post on your blog. As for your other points, I'll tackle them at the same time I make my next move in our current game. - Mark

  17. Re 'why Kasparov would think that he has better chances against Kramnik', because he is a notoriously sore loser. Remember his reaction to getting whupped by Deep Blue in 1997?

    As for playing SP524, I'm willing to give it a try, but I would rather give priority to SPs that appear to give an advantage to White. There are still a couple on the list.

    10.e3 Nde7 11.Qc4 Bxf3, if 12.gxf3 f5

    ...Secures the e4-square against use by the White pieces. - Mark

  18. We've spent a lot of time on this SP. Although the results are inconclusive, I propose that we declare this trial to be over. Agreed? - Mark

  19. Apologies for not getting back to you! Very busy university study and something happened in my head that caused me to loose interest in this trial.

    If I trace back what happened, when you played 10...Nde7 at that moment the question of lost start positions in Chess960 was over in my mind.

    There are none. Bobby was simply a genius who saw this much sooner than anyone that has walked the planet since chess was invented....

    So since then I've just played Chess960 to enjoy it! Chess960 is a game for people who love to explore the unfamiliar!

    Now that I revisit the position that you have left me with after 12...f5 I am totally shocked, amazed, in disbelief, inspired, confused, intrigued and simply glad to have witnessed the sight of the position that is now on the board.

    I cannot understand how white is simply not winning here!

    I'll do a write up on this trial when I get a minute. Thankyou for leaving such an amazing position on the board!

    Finally, I think Chess960 is a game for people that like to feel in control conceptually, rather than factually. I think a majority of people like to know that the position they have on the board makes theoretical sense in terms of established fact. In contrast, chess960 players go by intuition according to how they understand the concepts and need very little else but their own intuition to guide them.

    Thanks for the gift of this game Mark.
    Happy that you have a new family dog!

  20. Here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, Harry! I have some new angles on our problem position and will come back to it on my blog after the New Year. - Have a good one, Mark

  21. Thanks for the wishes Mark yes that would be great! I hadn't yet thought of going back to the basics on this SP. Playing lots of regular Chess960 and making small blunders is half the fun since it throws up some amazing spanners in the works in some SPs!

    Best Christmas and new year Mark to you!