Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chess960-SP159: The Royal Punishment

Yesterday I got onto a "Royal" theme which even included a discussion about edge pawns yet again. Well here is just about the most punishing line I've ever seen white deliver to black for taking an edge pawn!

SP159: The Royal Punishment Line

Ok so here is yet another reason why taking the undefended edge pawn is bad! The actual bomb shell mistake that black made was 5...BxR?? But what's the alternative? Well here's the funny thing. Instead black plays 5....Bf7 swallowing all their pride in the process. White then quietly continues development with 6. Nb3 and we arrive at the question can white's queen trapped?:

Black to play: Can White's Queen be Trapped?

Well that's a little puzzle that I'll leave well alone! WARNING: If you try to work out how to trap white's queen, you may require admission into hospital at some stage. Enjoy! (If you want the answer comment me and I'll post it).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chess960-SP080: The Buckingham Palace Defense

Here's a really nice example of some more ideas for black. White has played g3!? which is a nice hark back to Mark's blog which talks about 1.g3 in standard chess:
Mark quotes this amazing 1.g3 game that looks like the players grew up playing Chess960:

Anyway back to SP080 what can I say about this bizarre but beautiful setup. I've resurrected it from the Advanced Chess960 group that I started and had to end last year at The bishops hit the queen but the queen hits the bishops! A really nice little problem to solve.....

SP080: The Buckingham Palace Defense (for black)

Why do I call it the Buckingham Palace defense??? Because Black decides to leave his center pawns on guard like the two royal soldiers out the front of Buckingham Palace. Then the knights play directly out in front of them on guard and boy what a good job they do! You would think that black blocking his center pawns has got to be bad because of the inability to create space in the center, but like I said this position is bizarre because of the playoff "Queen attacks Bishop but Bishop attacks Queen!" Just like all kingdoms or ex-kingdoms, occasionally you have to parade your queen out on the streets and put her on display but this threatens her from sniper fire. In this starting position the street is the long diagonal and the masked sniper is the opposing bishop!

Here's a summary of black's ideas:
  • Keep the long diagonals open exactly like white is trying to do
  • Deploy the knights into a fortress armed guard because they do not disturb the long diagonals. They can work offensively in combination with the bishops and totally confuse the white enemy about what black's castling intentions are! In fact because of the knights, black may not even have to castle at all.
  • Deploy the edge pawn 4.....a5! What a great idea by black. They decide to realign the dark bishop to a7 which completely bypasses white's g3 protection idea of the original dark diagonal. Note that the edge pawn can be deployed in this way because it has special properties:

The edge pawns are the only pawns that if they are removed do not break up the pawn structure into two pawn islands. In this way those little pawn guys can be creepy and annoying little covert attackers in quite a number of Chess960 SP's like "lone operatives" that can be used as suicide pawns in various situations without disturbing the central pawn organisation itself. 
However the edge pawn costs tempo to deploy....

So like I said, the amazing Buckingham Palace defense! Please oh please FIDE or whatever Chess organisation that one day might think to simplify Chess960 down into Chess18 or whatever, do not cut out this SP it is very beautiful. Matter of fact please do not cut any of them out. For us chess players all 960 of them have something to contribute.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chess960: How to simply enjoy

Yeah reading Mark's blog on "The Path of Bliss":
His points are excellent. There is a simple child like quality of joy to Chess960. Got me thinking about the name of this blog....."Chess960 Jungle".

Now I meant that name to contrast Chess960 against the beautiful rainforest's of diversity, exploration and the sheer joy of the amazing predatory practices that you find in it. What never occurred to me is that a "jungle" has the double meaning of the rat race of the city jungle where we humans fight each other to get to the top of whatever little hill we think is important to us.

Here are two photos that describe what I mean:

Jungle Skyscrapers

City Skyscrapers

Now actually both those skyscrapers are amazing in their own way (philosophical point). Do not get me wrong. The trees in the jungle are trying to grow taller than the next tree. But the jungle is about an integrated system and you cannot think of it in terms of one against the other because it doesn't work like that. Everything is dependent on everything else.

But what actually turns the skyscraper into this then?

Perhaps no-one will hear but it has to be said anyway. It is about our perception and a polluted mind.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to win at chess.
A child wants to win!

Chess is a journey and that is great!
Chess is an exploration and that is great!
Chess is a lot of fun and that is great!

But when we think we NEED  to win at chess because in so doing, we can possess a chess rating that will make us happy, that is when we pollute what it is to play chess!

Chess is not about these things. It is ultimately not about accumulating knowledge. Chess is a fun journey or an exploration that two players or two teams of players are sharing with each other. Think of it like that and you will ultimately enjoy Chess a lot more. That is one of the reasons why I like Chess960, because in 960 there is a fresh sense of a journey from the very start of the game.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Elementary Tactics - don't give up

Here's a simple little drawing line I came across in a 15 minute game. I was down a knight, facing an ugly back rank checking line against my king and generally pretty depressed. However because of the negative frame of mind, I missed a saving line! The position below is still a chess960 remnant from what was SP152. Note that white's bishop is out of play for a while and white's king is exposed which is at least some compensation for black being down a piece. In the first of two solutions black's queen influence saves the day even as she faces the firing squad. How romantic is that?!

Black to play: Find one of two ONLY correct moves
Don't scroll down until you think you have the answer...

...Qe6, Rd8+...Kg7, Qf8+...Kf6, Rd6...Re8+, Kf2...Re7+ =
...Qf6, Qc3...BxN, QxB...Qxf3, Rd8+...Kg7, Qd4+...Kh6, Qh4+...Kg7 =

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Chess960-SP150: Some creative opening ideas for black

Played SP150 today. The SP's around this number have a particular feature that chess engines initially think are pretty advantageous for white up to say +0.20 in the evaluation. Later they settle the evaluation down once they calculate deeper. The special feature is when a central pawn can develop out two squares and at the same time free a bishop and queen to develop along diagonal lines. Thus in one move three things have been achieved. I can see why it's a pretty decent start for white! That said, I looked through how black can play against this powerhouse and some novel ideas came up!

  • Never discount the possibility that the queen can develop quickly to a safe square. It's not possible in many starting positions but there are also quite a few where she can.
  • Don't be scared to expose the king to diagonal attack if the opposing wing is closed off from diagonal attack.
  • Never discount the possibility that the same pawn can be moved twice. In Chess960 there are many positions where it is bad, but there are also some positions where it perfectly fine to do so. The reason is that the cost in tempo for the extra pawn move, is compensated by an inability of the enemy to express their tempo in development, and thus be forced to waste tempo.
  • Don't discount the possibility of making more than two pawn moves in the opening. Sometimes black can close down positions quickly by doing so. It is risky though and must be carefully calculated. Three pawn move openings are fairly common, but four opening pawn moves are only rarely workable (as demonstrated below)
  • Always prepare an evacuation square for a knight that could potentially get biffed by a pawn and forced to move therefore.
  • Even in the opening, look for active development against the opposing king, because in Chess960 castling options for the enemy are sometimes limited.

Here is what I'm talking about:

SP150: How black can play against white's best opening - the queen's pawn

Verified by Rybka-4 960:
  1. d4  ... e5   Black realizes that in this SP, the queen is safe on e5.
                 Black is going to have to play actively in order to
                 equalize a situation that is easier for white to manage.
                 Ah hah I here you say "but if the queen is on e5,
                 white can play g3/Bg2/Bf4"
    but no! Black has Ne6.
  2. d5  ... f5!  White plays the common Chess960 pawn move to the 5th rank
                 that blocks black's d8 knight from being able to develop.
                 Black however has his own ideas. By playing ...f5 he
                 intends f4/d6 pawn formations that block white's diagonal
                 attack on his g-side king and also enables a nice development
  3. e4  ... f4!  White has got to play e4 to free the bishops but once
                 again pawn capture is declined
  4. c4  ... Be7  So far the standard chess opening principles have
                 all been broken. White is going for space and black
                 is going for equality by developing more quickly.
                 White has played out to c4 in order that his d1 knight
                 can develop without blocking a possible queen-side pawn
                 initiative. The big question is how is black going
                 to develop his d8 knight? At this stage it looks bad.
  5. b4  ... d6   White is now over-extending. It is interesting to see
                 how black blockades and develops.
  6. Nc3 ... Nb6  The point is that black has a safe squares to jump
                 to if his b6 knight is biffed by a pawn.
                 It can go to a4 or d7.
  7. Be2 ... O-O  Black delays any more piece development until
                 white clarifies intention.
  8. Nb6 ... Qg6  All black's problems are solved and there is a
                 possible attack plan as well.
  9. Nd2 ... Nf7  What an excellent counter-balance black has achieved
                 having to face white's solid queen's pawn opening.
  10. Qd1 ... Bh3! Black's amazing punch line development of the bishop!
                 The point is that white cannot castle kingside and
                 That black's development is stable.
  11. Bf3...       Now it is white that has to defend and even worse, there
                 is no clear plan for progress on white's queenside.
                 Black has magnificently and creatively kept it
                 under control.
Well done black!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chess960-SP287: How to play the opening with initiative

Thinking about game one of the previous post in SP287:
The first game was so drawish that it got me thinking about how to put more energy into the position. It is up to white to put the energy in, and up to black to take the energy out!

The striking features of SP287 are many:
  1. It is unlikely that g-side castling will happen
  2. It is not necessary to castle c-side in all situations
  3. Why waste the move g3 when g-side castling will not happen? Play g4!
  4. The naturally best squares for the knights are on b3/c3 (b6/c6)
  5. There is a battle to isolate the h-pawns that starts very early in the opening
  6. Black has no opening pawn move that is completely effective
  7. The edge pawns are safe else a draw becomes much more likely
  8. All bishops must stay on the board else the position becomes unbalanced
  9. White should avoid exchanging pieces to retain energy
  10. There is a long race to see who runs out of moves first
That is just the beginning of the analysis of SP287. It could well be that SP287 is drawish, but certainly there is far more energy in the starting position than game one of the previous post showed.

Once again there is not enough time for me to show all of the features of SP287. However here are the two most striking features that I can see:

SP287 - Why play f4/g3 when g-side castling is unlikely?!
The diagram above shows that the idea 1.f4 2.g3 to release the bishops is actually not the most effective opening play. It is much better to think in terms of g4 when castling g-side is not going to happen anyway.

SP287 - White does not have to play any pawns for initiative!
In this extreme example, white has simply played out the knights, castled and avoided playing any pawns until the necessary time. The point here is that although it looks like black can claim tremendous space, it is probably an illusion! Why then an illusion? Scroll to the end of the second example and follow this line:
  1.      ... Nc6  (...fxg4?!, Qg2)
  2. gxf5 ... gxf5
  3. Qh3  ... O-O-O
  4. e4!  ... dxe4
  5. Bxe4!
Wow, even I'm amazed by this last example!
Long live Chess960! 
You are the true beautiful game :-)