Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Chess960 training engine

Here is a modification of the wonderful Stockfish chess960 engine that I slightly modified to achieve what I think is a better solution to the original skill level code. When a skill level is enabled the engine plays at high strength for the first three moves, even if a skill limit is set or even if search depth has been limited. It also now throws in some variety in it's opening choices to add more interest for opening training.

It's really important to ensure that the engine plays near it's best at the start of a chess960 game because without a book database to refer to, almost all engines will play very poorly if they are constrained by skill level. Often their opening choices don't seem natural even by the standards of a amateur.

The modified Stockfish engine works in all the main chess applications and can be downloaded here in conjunction with Winboard-960: 

Big thanks and full credit to the developers here:

Stockfish, a UCI chess playing engine derived from Glaurung 2.1
Copyright (C) 2004-2008 Tord Romstad (Glaurung author)
Copyright (C) 2008-2012 Marco Costalba, Joona Kiiski, Tord Romstad

Enjoy 960

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chess960: Finally the knights and bishops have something in common

Just a small point of interest for Chess960 players. The following observation of the blind spots that the military knights and the patriarch bishops have in common, is really pretty important for Chess960:

The common blindspots of the knights and bishops
The squares in red are blind to the military knights directly in front of them in two adjacent squares, and for the powerful patriarch bishop pair, the blindspot is displaced by one rank. Finally there is a feature that the very different minor pieces have in common and only Chess960 really shows it!

The blind squares is a pretty important theme in Chess960 in terms of planning and awareness early on during the opening phase. The reason is that important pieces can sit on these blindspots and harass the position. Typically what happens is that for the military knights, an opposing knight will sit in their blindspot and attack weak squares on the second rank. For the blindspot of the patriarch bishops, what tends to happen is that the opposing queen or knights will sit in their blind spot and attack the first rank (viewed from the position above).

Enjoy 960