Thursday, February 7, 2013

Non-Random Chess960 Trial Game 8: SP868

The PGN database for these trials is here.

Our journey through the opening of SP868 has concluded. Incredibly on the second run through this opening black has found an absolutely perfect defensive setup despite all odds, and I as white was unable to crack it. Towards the end of the trial the position I was seeing on the board looked so powerful for white, but actually in the cold hard light of objectivity the position was equal. Here is the trial variation as we concluded. Check the database out for greater detail and comments.

Clearly white's moves were suboptimal. The most serious question marks are:
  • 7. O-O?! white decides to try the same thematic castling idea that worked so well on our first trial run (see database)
  • 9. Ba3?! a wasted tempo since black can match it with ...Bd6. White thought that ...Bxf5 where black drops the bishop pair would have to be good for white. However black didn't need both bishops to equalize.

SP868: Black's perfect defensive technique

An important heuristic in this fiendishly difficult SP:
Mark has come up with an excellent way of looking at this fiendishly difficult start, SP868. The idea is that black's apparent inability to castle is almost equivalent of being a pawn down. So black's strategy is to sacrifice a pawn and retain the ability to castle thus connecting the rooks and allowing more active play.

Sounds good! From what I am seeing of this SP, there is a serious game of cat and mouse at work. First strategy to rule out all together in my view, is for black to castle queenside, or to slide the king over to the queenside. Once white sees this strategy, they simply castle kingside and hit the queenside hard. Really hard. It might possibly work under special conditions as idea no.2 shows.

To me the strategy is for black to wait until white commits to the kingside, and then slide or castle the king to the kingside very carefully themselves. The combined QBB combination now tends to equalise, because both white and black's king will be the subject of their crossfire, with black's king a little less secure than white's.

Now that we are studying this SP in greater detail, here are a collection of ideas:

SP868 idea no.1: 1)...e6!?

The idea here is that the e7 square will become a temporary safe haven for black's king. It's worthy of some serious consideration!

SP868 idea no.2: ...2.Nh5!?

One of the fascinating things in the above variation is how the black king transfers over to the queen-side using the bishops and queen as protection rather than the traditional pawn shelter. (Note that 23.b5?! is met with  23...Nxe4!)

SP868 idea no.3: The Amazing Military Knight defenders!

One of the fascinating things about the above variation is how black manages to get the time to reorganise the Military Knights and how well they do as a cooperative unit. White still has an edge but black has a lot of play and the slightest slip from white and a lot of the advantage is gone.