Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chess960: If you love genetics you will love 960

I do not understand why more geneticists and scientists are not playing Chess960. They would love it. Buried in the sequence of all Chess960 positions, are clusters of thematic positions. Tonight I played SP456 a very easy number to remember! This SP has to be one of the most hideously complex positions in the whole set of 960. Why is that? Here is the position:

SP456: Complexity!

The diagram on the right shows where you will find the KQR sequence on the king-side in the set of Chess960 positions. The diagram is rotated to fit on this page so SP001 is top left and reads down then across. In the diagram you can just see where the dark splotches represent the KQR positions. There are only 18 of them! If you take the mirror of them RQK then there are 36 positions, but Chess960 is not actually symmetrical about the half way because of the castling rule, and so I'm reluctant to include the mirror positions.

The amazing thing about the KQR sequence on the kingside edge are these features:
  1. There are probably at least 12 possible pawn moves to start the game that are all feasible, and must be ruled out by merit. Incredibly, every single pawn is defended which is pretty special.
  2. The a-pawn is particularly effective in this SP. This is because it develops a bishop on a2, it is backed up by a rook already, and if it is pushed up the file a4-a5 it potentially biffs a knight on b6.
  3. The green lines show that the bishops are poised to make some deadly attacks on the KQR sequence and the pawn move a3 or a4 followed by Ba2 attacking black's queen on g8, is a surprisingly effective development sequence
  4. It is difficult to know how to develop the queen (so what's new!)
  5. King-side castling is a high probability, and so the other side of the board and the center become major themes
  6. All the heavy weight pieces are concentrated on one side of the board, leaving all the minor pieces on the other side, and a lone undefended rook. Thus the queenside is a minefield of potentially undefended squares and holes in the position if it is not properly secured.
  7. There is a possibility to rapidly push out the kingside pawns f5/g5/h5 and not even castle at all.
The thing about SP456 is this, because all the minor pieces are concentrated on one side of the board, the chess960 players have to achieve three important high level tasks:
  1. They must structurally develop the queen-side to secure it from possible long term structural weaknesses
  2. They must structurally develop the queen-side to best develop the minor pieces
  3. They should be mindful of the powerful attacks that reflect back at the king-side.
Objectives 1 and 2 above are actually competing against each other. Yes it is possible to build a beautifully secure pawn structure on the queenside, but then the minor pieces won't be developed properly. It's a compromise and a potential minefield.

Enjoy 960.

Note: Queenside means the same as it does for traditional chess, except that the queen is not actually on the queenside!

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