Monday, August 29, 2022

Magnus opinion on symmetrical play in chess 960

Here is an interview with Magnus talking about chess 960 in the run up to the 2022 world championship:

He begins enthusiastically about 960 then becomes reserved towards the end. His initial thought is that playing symmetrically is the default way to play chess 960 in the absence of deep analysis.

From my experience the opposite is true. Playing symmetrically depends on the number of undefended pieces in the start position that will disturb piece coordination down the track if left unaddressed.

I think playing symmetrically is less beneficial in chess 960 then it is in classical chess because of the undefended pieces that occur more frequently in the start.

Yes, the rooks are undefended in the standard position, but they don't impact piece coordination in the opening phase. In chess 960, symmetrical players don't have the convenience of knowing that.

I wonder what you think?

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Chess960: The search for good opening gambits

I've always been interested in chess960 pawn gambits. At one time a few years ago I became negative that there were too few opening gambits available to be creative with for a few reasons including the problem of black playing symmetrically. After all a good opening gambit needs to trade pawn material for ongoing initiative or at least an ongoing development edge in the race to enter the middle game first. But in Chess960 there is also a bigger priority to increase piece harmony instead of giving material early. In standard chess, the pieces are already in harmony from the start and so opening gambits become more attractive.

I think Hikaru Nakamura is hunting for a good gambit line too and I hope over the coming years he finds plenty of them! Meanwhile I found one of my own and I could well be the first person in the history of chess to have found it (yeah for me).

SP158 white to move:
Find a good follow up move to the gambit
(note the break in symmetry so early)


Normally we don't like to move the queen early from our standard chess principals. But here she occupies a square that cannot be cheaply attacked. 

Even better, there is not a single reply black can make to protect the f4 pawn that doesn't either restrict development or risk a serious weakening of the pawn structure.

Candidate moves for black:
  • 3...Qf3?! {blocks the g8 bishop}
  • 3....g5?  {mistake because of Bd4 incoming}
  • 3...Qg5?! {but now white has Ne2 incoming}
  • 3...Bd6?! {blocks the c8 knight and the d7 pawn}
  • 3...c5?!  {ignoring the pawn but controlling d4}
    4.Nab3...Qc7 {white's bishops will be better}
So black really does get compensation. This is a good opening gambit line.


Enjoy 960.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Chess960: puzzle 22

Struck upon an amazing double queening tactical puzzle out of the opening for SP166 which in one primary variation has four queens on the board! It is advanced because it contains many tactical motifs primarily a quiet move, discovered attack, sacrifice, distraction(decoy), advanced pawn, exposed king and a defensive move!

SP166 white to play: move the only piece
 that wins in three moves
Solution bottom left (hint: the same piece
has two alternate moves to win)

e3!! (or e4!)

1.e3!! .. cxd2
2.Bc4+!.. Nxc4 (Kg6 leads to mate)
3.b8Q and black cannot avoid loosing a queen while white will have two

1.e3!! .. Qxd2
2.Be2!!.. and the only counter-attack ..Nd5 no longer works

1.Qxc7?.. cxd2
2.b8Q  .. Qe1+
3.Kf3  .. d1Q and black plays for a win with four kings on the board!

Comes from the opening for SP166:
1. f4 Nc6 2. b4 f6 3. Nc3 a6 4. a4 d5 5. b5 d4 6. bxc6 dxc3 7. Qa7 Qa2 8. Qxb8
Qxb1 9. Qxc8+ Kf7 10. cxb7 Qxc1+ 11. Kf2 Nb6 white to play

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Chess960: Watch out for the Chivalry Knights!

The chivalry knights are the name I've given to the many Chess960 positions that have two knights one square apart (or three as a variant).

They are one of the biggest threats in the opening phase of Chess960 creating many opportunities especially in blitz.

The key thing to remember about them is that they potentially hit two weak spots ahead of their position. Here is an example.

Black thinks that d6 might be a good idea to limit the forward scope of the chivalry knight pair. Good idea right? 

Well no. 

Firstly it breaks opening principals by wasting a tempo releasing the light bishop which already is released via e1-h5. Secondly, now e6 is a huge hole in black's position for the chivalry knights to exploit via the red lines indicated. There is a potential fork on e6 which would force the loss of the bishop pair and prevent castling. 

A would be disaster!

The chivalry knights can move forward to the square that separates them shifted three ranks up  - in only two moves - and they can get there from different directions. Two knights that coordinate with each other are like an octopus piece with tentacles that stretch all over the board.

Next time you see the chivalry knights in a Chess960 opening, have this pattern etched into your brain:

Enjoy 960

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Chess960: Puzzle 21

From SP 815 we get an awesome tactic that would never have happened in standard chess.


White to play and win:
Answer bottom left hand corner of this page

Notice the remnants of the start position in this tactic? Very difficult to get two kings in the corner and two undefended bishops next to each other in the corner.

Check out the solution below!

1. Ka2!! ... Qxg1?
2. e6! Black has no way to stop the e-pawn queening.
if instead:
1. e6? ... Qe1+!
2.Ka2 ... Qxe6
if instead:
1.Ka2!! ... Qe1!?
2.Bd5! ... Qxe5
3.Bc4 and black cannot avoid Qxb6 ruining blacks away-side pawns

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Chess960: The weak squares write a story

"The weak squares on the chess board determine what is possible in a game of chess. If we learn how to keep a track of how they change with each move, we become able to read the main story and the subplots that are being written in each game. Then once seeing them becomes automatic, we will have so much time to think even in blitz, we can take it to the next level, to be able to write a good story in the game. That is why Chess960 will never go away, because it is just chess generalized, the complete landscape for reading and writing the story of dynamic chess" - HarryO Chess960 Jungle blog

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Chess960 puzzle no.20

Symmetry is an interesting subject in Chess960. Sometimes black can play symmetrically, sometimes black can't.

Here is a great little puzzle demonstrating some of the more bizarre situations Chess960 symmetry can throw up:

SP366 Black to play (castling all sides permitted):
Why can't black copy white's play and come out materially equal?

Answer bottom left corner

Answer: because black's queen ends up undefended!

With best play:
4.Bxc7! Bxc2
5.Bxd8! Bxd1
6.Bxe7! Bxe2??