Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Frankfurt City Chess960 Cup 2014: Let's follow the winner (part 1)

The Frankfurt City Chess960 Cup is possibly the biggest ongoing Chess960 event in the world since Mainz ended. It has been running since 2010 and plans continue to run the event until at least 2020. So lets support it! 

On my blog you can download all the games of the entire history of competitive Chess960 ever played since it was invented by Bobby Fischer, including this tournament.

I thought I would take a close look at the games of the winner of this years event FM Zuyev, a very strong 2400 ELO Chess960 player who has played in the cup every year since it began. He won every single game he played this time, seven out of seven! 

I apologize to all the players in advance for not covering their games in this blog, but time and energy do not permit it.

Zuyev's first game was white against a 2071 player (H.Schmitt) and began as a Queen's Gambit Declined Slav Defense (exchange variation). However this was not chess, but SP428 and there is no bishop on f1. Yes, this is a very funny version of the queen's gambit!

SP428 Queen's gambit: Zuyev plays 2.c4

Zuyev offers a pawn but there is no way to capture the pawn back if black accepts the gambit. Nc1-b3 or Nd3 are then not possible and white will be down a pawn for a very long time. There are some advantages with 2.c4 however. White can get a strong center if the gambit is accepted (except that e4 blocks the bishop on b1), and black will have to sacrifice tempo to support the pawn on c4 with b5. Perhaps Zuyev wanted a really active game against a player that is almost 400 ELO lower than him.

But black did not accept the gambit (was he showing nerves?), and the game entered the Slav defense proper. The next interesting point in the game was 4.....h6!?

Black plays 4....h6!?

Black wants to develop his light bishop to h7 and oppose white's bishop on b1. This is not a bad idea, considering that the g8-a2 diagonal is blocked by d5. Perhaps a better alternative was 4....f6, preparing e4 and liberating the g8 bishop towards the center. Note that my Stockfish 5 kibitzer wanted to play 4....e6?! for quite some time until it changed it's mind to 4....f6 at depth 22.

The next critical moment is when Zuyev plays 5.f4. This move seems dubious to me since it ruins white's pawn structure, king safety and the f4 pawn is exposed to the b8 bishop. Also, the move leaves a big hole on e4 for one of black's knights to sit. Perhaps I am wrong, so I ask the question!

Why 5.f4?

The reason white played f4, is because he wants to play Nde5 where the knight will be supported twice against Bxe5(N) which would preserve two supported pawns in the center. White figured that black is unlikely to kick Ne5 with f6 because that would block a development square for black's e8 knight. This is in fact what happened in the game.

Why 8.Nb3?

I personally do not like white's idea. I think white wants to attack g7 at some point, but black can simply insert ...b7 which completely stops the b3 knight in it's tracks. Also, 8.Nb3 blocks any progress of the queenside pawns. I think better was Ncd3, where white can always withdraw his e5 knight back to f3 if necessary. This also is compatible with the old golden rule of chess, develop the knights towards the center!

Now black takes the initiative because of the hole on e4. White is uncertain about how to develop his g1 bishop and despite being 400 ELO stronger than black, is on the back foot. He plays 9.Be3:

White's decides to develop with 9.Be3

But as the diagram shows, this gives black a very simple plan to develop his knights to f5, attacking Be3, and if the bishop withdraws to f2, black has Ne4 again attacking the bishop. Although this is not fatal, black has a clear plan.

To cool things down a bit however, if black does trade a knight for white's dark square bishop, this is not necessarily bad, since the pawn construction d4-e3-f4 closes down the play for the dark squared bishops and black is better to retain a knight in a closed position (perhaps).

Here is the next key moment where black decides to trade off his undeveloped dark squared bishop for white's actively placed knight on e5:

Black plays 14....Bb8xe5(N)

I think this was a very good decision by black. No time has been wasted moving the dark squared bishop yet, while white has expended quite a lot of effort to play the knight to e5 in a forward position. Perhaps a better way to achieve this was firstly to play 14....Nxc5(N) and then Bxe5(N). The improvement is that white will be left with three isolated pawns! There will be a pawn on c5 that cannot be supported because of a5, and isolated pawns on e5 and e2.

Instead, black (may be due to time pressure) decided to simplify down the position with ...Bxe5(N), ...Nxf2(B), ...b6 (kicking the knight), ...Rc8. The problem is that all of black's initiative is gone and the game is completely even:

Move 18 white to play

White now has connected pawns in the center, is contesting the open c-file and has pressure on f7. My Kibitzer Houdini4 and Stockfish5 evaluate the game at 0.00. Black now plays a beautiful attacking game, putting pressure on black's king safety and arrives at the next crucial milestone:

Move 23 Black to play: don't blunder!

Black has pushed the h-pawn and will try to open up white's king safety. However the attack looks blunted since Qf2/Rf1/Nf4 are strong defenders. With the attack coming to a halt, black plays the natural move 23. g5? to kick the knight and continue the pressure, but this is a key blunder. Can you see why? (Solution bottom left hand corner of this blog). White sees the blunder, and black resigns in a lost position:

Move 27 Black resigns

Black's queen will be trapped after Rf3, and in any case, she is on the wrong side of the pawn with black's queenside and d5 under-defended.

Solution to move 23 blunder:

24. h3...Qg3 {deflecting the queen from protecting the knight on f5}
25. Nxd5! {capturing a crucial pawn, undermining the protection of the f5 knight, and revealing a discovered attack on the f5 knight}
White wins a pawn and black's queen is trapped.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Chess960: Compilation Database Update for the Frankfurt City Championships

Right at the climax of the Chess World Championship at Sochi, there is also a Chess960 tournament unfolding!

The Frankfurt City Chess960 Championships have become an annual event which I only just realised has been going since 2010. Here is the link. The good news is that it looks like it is scheduled to continue until 2020! Perhaps it is the spiritual successor for the Mainz Chess960 event that ended in 2009?

The 2014 Frankfurt City competition is still unfolding with a few rounds to go.......

In the mean time, I have updated the compilation database for Chess960 that I host on this blog for another 216 games! The additional games are from the Frankfurt Championships 2010-2013 for games where at least one of the players is 2000+ rating.

Once the dust has settled on 2014 championships, I'll add them to the database as well.

Thank you to the organizers for uploading the PGNs for all the Chess960 games!

Chess960: Two steps forward one step back at Saint Louis

Disappointing news today that the two Chess960 greats Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian are back for another Chess showdown at Saint Louis Chess Club but there will be no Chess960.

The questions I ask are:
  • Why is this exhibition being hosted right at the climax of the 2014 Chess world championship at Sochi?
  • Perhaps it is because the promoters hope that the internet exposure will be larger?
  • Perhaps this exhibition is trying to display an alternative more innovative format for a future chess world championship?
  • Why no Chess960 between the two great 960 players? 

A few months ago the Saint Louis Chess hosted a Chess960 match between Nakamura and Aronian at the Sinquefield cup 2014 called "Ultimate Moves" but it was botched. There was no live stream, no commentary of the match and it was tacked onto the end of the tournament when most commentators and journalists had left the venue.

So this new Chess showdown could have fixed all that damage and promoted Chess960 with a properly organised Chess960 showdown.

But no! Really disappointing. Such an opportunity wasted.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chess960: Puzzle no.14

Black has played a sloppy opening and seems to be dropping a pawn. It would be nice to quickly regain it, but how?

SP571 Black to play castling legal:
How can black regain the pawn?

(Solution bottom left corner)

Black can regain the pawn with:
4...Qg7! Inserting a mate threat, guarding the queen, preventing rook deflection off the f-file
5.c3 ... gxf5 and the pawn is saved

Friday, September 12, 2014

Chess960: Puzzle no.13 from the Sinquefield Cup 2014 - Game 4

Here is a beautiful Chess960 puzzle from the fourth game of the 2014 Sinquefield Cup between Chess960 world champions Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian. Levon was faced with an interesting puzzle as early as move 4:

SP896 black to play (O-O-O possible) move 4:
Can Levon (black) take Hikaru's h2 pawn
without loosing material?

The answer is very funny, so enjoy it!
(solution: bottom left corner)

Answer, yes!:
Aronian decided against it, possibly because of the Rf2/g3 trap,

and so he played 4...Nh6 instead.
4.     ... Nxh2!?
5. Rf2 ... b6!
6. g3  ... Ng4!! and the knight flees with attack! 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chess960: Sinquefield Cup 2014 Corner bishops stay on the board!

The pgn games of the Sinquefield Cup 2014 are available for us fans to enjoy ->here<- Thanks for that! I've updated the Chess960 database on this blog with the six games to bring the total number of Chess960 games up to 1676.

Critics of Chess960 say that the bishops in the corner are just plain bad, because they get exchanged off early resulting in dull games....

Well I think Hikaru and Levon think otherwise! In the first two games of the match between Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian, both bishops were in the corner. The bishops did not get exchanged off for a long time and they produced very interesting games!

SP579 Nakamura v Aronian move 6 white to play

SP579 Aronian v Nakamura move 9 white to play

Look at the different approaches to the opening
taken by both players, excellent stuff!

In game two Aronian had white and tried the idea to damage blacks kingside pawn structure with 3.Bxf6 leaving Nakamura's bishop entombed in the corner by two pawns. What did Nakamura do? He just spent the tempo playing g6 and f5 to free his bishop in the corner and went on to win the game!

Big picture question for this SP. Is queenside castling a possibility, even though we did not see it in these two games?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Chess960: Seeing the strategy from the first move

I played SP121 today and could see a clear strategy from the first move. I looked up the Chess960 database and any other database of human players I could find, to see if others could also see this strategy that seems to me to be very obvious (but I have played more than two thousand Chess960 games already).

SP121: Can you see the obvious strategy here?

 Here are the central features of the strategy that either side can play:
  1. Kingside castling is very likely since it will take too long and the queen will be too restricted, to make queenside castling plausible.
  2. With two heavy pieces on the queenside (Q+R), pushing the b-c pawns seems very likely.
  3. The titular bishop pair in the center of the board will have very clear roles on this occasion, they will work in tandem to sit on the queenside and take aim at the kingside, working in cooperation with the queen to form powerful diagonal batteries.
  4. The side that first makes this strategy a serious threat, will create more weaknesses anywhere on the board, even if all the bishops are neutralised.
The titular bishop pair  can be quite difficult to assign roles to since neither bishop can efficiently be fianchettoed. However, when the king and queen are sitting on the extreme ends of the back rank opposed to each other, the strategy I have described here becomes much more obvious. See also my analysis of SP505 by clicking on the label (titular bishops).

Incredibly, no player in the database even up to 2000 rating, has seen this very obvious strategy. I wonder why? .....Hint.

Enjoy 960!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Chess960: Anand's dubious opening in the Chess960 World Championship 2007

In the last moments of the 2014 candidates tournament featuring Anand and Aronian, I thought I would look at a game played by these two greats in the 2007 Mainz world Chess960 championship.

What I found slightly shocked me I have to be honest!

In a rapid game of Chess960 where there is still plenty of time to play a reasonable opening, Anand started out in a dubious fashion, giving a lot of hope to all us Chess960 patzers out there!!

SP535: Anand (white) first move - Wch. Mainz Rapid 2007
1.c4 ... g6. A dubious first move by white, since it slightly weakens king safety, and black can apply pressure immediately with 1...g6 (with d5 to come). White probably didn't want to play d4 or e4, since the former comes under fire after g6, and the latter blocks white's own bishop on h1. However, d4 and e4 still seem like better moves, since they are centralizing and allow a more rapid development (develop more pieces at once), without compromising king safety at all.

SP535: Anand (white) second move - Wch. Mainz Rapid 2007
2. d3 ... d5. A dubious second move by white, since it is passive, giving black the chance to play aggressively with d5/Qa4+. A better move would have been 2.Nc3 which takes control of d5 and prevents what black now tries...

SP535: Anand (white) third move - Wch. Mainz Rapid 2007
3. cxd5... Qa4+. White seems to accept that Qa4+ is coming, but there were alternatives. One energetic but dubious alternative was 3.Qa5...dxc4, 4.Qd5+...Nbd7, 5.Qxc4 ... Nb6.

SP535: Anand (white) fourth move - Wch. Mainz Rapid 2007
4.Kd2 (forced). White will never castle, will have to move his king again to free the c1 bishop and the only compensation is that black cannot easily develop his knights to c6 and e6

If one of the greatest players of all time can play a Chess960 opening like this, there is still hope for all us patzers out there! 

I do have to say in Anand's defense, he actually won the game despite this opening! 

Another point in Anand's favour is that incredibly, Houdini-4 evaluates this position at 0.00 even at depth 22!

Enjoy 960
PS) if you want the PGN for this game, download the database of all Chess960 games here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Chess960: Car crash openings part 4

A Car Crash Opening is any opening where the game is over before the tenth move because the loosing side is asleep at the wheel - enjoy the ride!

Mostly I stuff up beyond the 10th move somewhere. However in the tradition of the "Car Crash Opening", the end must come on or before the 10th move. So here is the fourth classic car crash opening played by me where each move I played is a perfect instruction on how not to play the Chess960 opening.
1. Ne3!? I'm thinking "c'mon man no way you are blocking your center!"
Now it's time to move. I notice these things about the position:
  • Bishop next to king - potential checks on the king
  • Queen next to king - red hot diagonal tactics on the king possible
  • Chivalry knights - danger if they are allowed to move forward
  • Fork on e2 against queen and rook
  • Both rooks are undefended
Now I'm blowing my brain cells on the first move! I play a move that breaks all the theories of first opening moves.
1. ...e6?! What the?!?! Doesn't develop any pieces at all and opens lines against the king. I was thinking that I wanted to set up the pawn structure e6/d5/c5....
2.d3!? I'm thinking "c'mon that is way too passive!"
2. ...d5!? I start to enact my secret plan of e6/d5/c5
3.Nxd5! What the !?!? you must be kidding
3. ...exd5?? Played instantly thinking my opponent is on drugs
4.Qg5+...f6 Blocking the bishop but what the heck
5.Qxd5+ Qd7 Surely something can be done about this coming car crash...
6.Qxg8...Ne6 I can trap the queen tell me I can trap the queen?
7.Qxh8 Black resigned. I can't castle and the queen escapes via h7
Here is the tragedy step by ugly step:

Aaaggh. Crash! (Good fun)

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Chess960: Memorable moments in Moscow and America

Thanks to Mark Weeks highlighting the Fischer Random tournament in Moscow last weekend, I found a great quote by Emanuel Lasker at the Chessvibes reporting of the event.

"Education in Chess has to be an education in independent thinking and judgement. Chess must not be memorized, simply because it is not important enough. ... Memory is too valuable to be stocked with trifles." - Emanuel Lasker

It's not so much the memory that is too valuable, but the investment in time. Even a genius like Magnus Carlsen has still spent a major portion of his life memorising vast amounts of opening variations. He has the memory capacity to do that, but it was the investment in time that is questionable. Sure he has been rewarded for it by becoming the world champion, but think of the thousands of almost-as-good-players that aspired to it as well and spent just as much time memorising opening moves without the same result.....
This brings me to the points Hikaru Nakamura has made over the last few weeks. In an interview after the Zurich tournament this year, Hikaru said:
"In general I like reading a lot, book on just about everything. I'm also quite interested in languages, and spend a lot of time studying Italian and French. Sometimes I'm into hiking. Maybe I have too many interests, and that's why I'm not so good at chess. I just try to enjoy life as much as I can"
Sounds logical to me! Rather that than sitting in front of a computer studying the latest Livebook database findings for the latest fashions in chess opening fads.....
An interesting interview in America by Hikaru on Chess960 here:
Question - Do you think there will ever be a time in the future when Chess960 is a serious competitive chess format? Do you feel it does a good job of shaking up the theory-heavy metagame for more "casual" observers?
Hikaru - "I think chess960 is great as it is simply pure intuition and understanding without theory or computers. In my opinion, a lot depends on the trends. For example, at the moment everyone is playing the Berlin Defense which has severely reduced the number of games with 1.e4 If this trend of attempting to "kill" the excitement continues, it is hard to believe 960 won't take over at some point. However, if we start seeing a lot of deep preparation and exciting games in in the Najdorf or Dragon, then I think the scope of normal chess will continue for a very long time"
Why isn't chess960 as popular as normal chess yet?
Do you like it more than regular chess?
"I've answered this before, but I think it depends on which openings and which styles of normal chess dominate in the coming years. Chess960 is not as popular mainly because there is less financial incentive and because normal chess is still quite alive. For the most part, I do like chess960 more."
A really special Fischer Random interview in Russia translated here:
Translated by Google: E.SUROV: What is the prospect of Fischer chess and the statement "to replace it (chess)?"

A.DEVIATKIN: I have to say that I - a supporter of the Fisher chess and, therefore, perhaps be a little subjective. The question itself is really quite categorical: replace or not? Actually, why replace chess, why cancel and switch to the classic Fischer chess? Here, rather, we are on a parallel system of competition, about how to organize more and more tournaments in Fischer chess....

S.GRIGORIANTS: Even most fans of Fischer chess do not say that something needs to be replaced. Of course, everyone likes classical chess....and they can coexist and not interfere with each other, rather complement each other.
Enjoy 960

Monday, February 24, 2014

Chess960: I played SP518 for the first time in years

Today, I finally reached SP518 (the standard chess position) after three and a half years of working through the Chess960 positions starting at position 001. Still have got a long way to go to reach SP960! I play Houdini or Stockfish twice for each SP, once as white and once as black, with no time controls, and vary the depth according to how much trouble I feel I am in and always start at depth 24 because it only takes the computer a couple of minutes. I also complement this with Chess960 blitz, Chess-tempo online tactics training and studying human Chess960 games.
Playing the good old classical chess position SP518 for the first time in years, by accident, I played the French Defence Exchange Variation as black, and the Scotch Game as white. So to celebrate the arrival at SP518, I got one of the most enjoyable positions I have ever seen:
SP518 white to play: find the only move that equalises
First question is, what is this knight fork called? It is more than a relative fork, it is not an absolute fork, it is not a royal fork and it is not a special absolute fork! So what is this fork called when the knight forks both rooks and queen all at the same time?
To cut straight to the chase, the equalising move is......h6! Black needs to guard the back rank and watch for the queening pawn and there is never enough time for black to capitalise on the triple fork. Black cannot play Qf7?? or Qh7?? they are both total disasters. If ...Qf6, Ne4 counter attacks the queen. So the queen puts up a fight with ...Qe7, h7+...Kh8, Bd4+...Nxd4, Qxd4+...Qf6 0.00
What a great way for white to un-fork himself from a three way relative special fork attack!
I'll probably not play SP518 again for many years, and so will have a game to remember fondly as I move on through the delight of Chess960, starting next with SP519.

Note that in the compilation database I have made available to the Chess960 community here, I decided to include the SP518 games because even though they were all cancelled when the players realised that by random chance they had rolled the standard chess position, remarkably, in over just one thousand high quality human games, it appears to have happened four times! So I have left them in the database. I suspect that the reason SP518 rolled itself that often in what is only a 1-in-960 chance, is that there must have been a bureaucratic stuff up during the tournament.
Enjoy 960

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Chess960: The search for improvements to chess have been doing a series of posts on variants to chess, but as yet continue to post very little on Chess960. Why? Chess960 is played and enjoyed by people around the world as a great complement to standard chess. The very software Chessbase sells supports Chess960 fundamentally. Just yesterday there was Chess960 competition in Russia featuring Russia's top players and had online coverage yet there was no comment from Chessbase? Chessbase-12 software recognises Chess960 starts and correctly sorts them by number. It can also do database searches of Chess960 games by number as well. Fritz-12 can even build an opening Chess960 library!
So why do Chessbase post so little on 960 then? ** (see below for my own speculation)
Well, at least their readers speak louder than they do....
In this Chessbase article "Computer resistant chess variants" the author makes this claim:
Thankfully, this was challenged by one of Chessbase's own readers!
Thank you hpaul, I could not have said it better myself.
**(WARNING-speculation only): The reason I think that Chessbase is quiet on 960, is that they are building support behind the scenes for adding just one or two extra 960 start positions annually or bi-annually to the FIDE regulations, rather than randomising all 960 starts. The official claim would be that this allows players to study a new start position and give them scope to pre-arrange their strategies off the board with creative study, freshen Chess and increase interest in the sport.
But actually,
this FIDE change suits the business model of Chessbase much better than Fischer Random Chess960 does. Their LIVEBOOK technology plays a critical role here. They effectively have a monopoly control of Livebook technology and would make a lot of money as FIDE players driven by competitiveness, would need to subscribe to Livebook and pay DUCATS for computer resources, to analyse the hand picked FIDE Chess960 annual or bi-annual starts. The question I ask is why do we want technology and memorised openings to dominate our sport more than it already does?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Chess960: Bishops in the corner do not have to exchange off!

Unlike some, I actually like all four bishops in the corner. Mark Weeks has also talked about this in the Myth of the Corner Bishop. To quote Mark from his own post:
"The only real disadvantage of the B:a/h setup is when both Bishops start in the corner. When this happens, all four Bishops are facing each other on their long diagonals. The order in which the Bishops are developed becomes a subtle tactical dance where a player's fast grab of one diagonal cedes the other diagonal to the opponent. Furthermore, a premature development of the Bishops can lead to them all being swapped off in the opening for a Bishopless middlegame. A player who wants to avoid this must block the diagonal before developing the Bishop, but this gives the opponent the opportunity to develop first on the same diagonal. And so the dance continues"

The reason I like bishops in the corner, is that both sides can play can and mouse, which I think of more as a subtle strategic dance as they hide their castling intentions from each other. If either side can provoke evidence of castling intention prematurely, the other side can castle to the opposite wing and launch an attack.....well at least in theory!

Here is a classic example. Note how both sides play all their moves to deliberately hide castling intentions, until one side cracks. In this example it is white that cracks, and is then promptly punished for it when black offers a sacrificial pawn.

SP515: Who will reveal their castling plans first?
So don't believe the gossip out there spread by some anti-Chess960 people, that bishops in the corner produce boring games. There are ways to prevent bishop simplification from happening and to even create opposite wing castling scenarios. However computers usually can't see that deep into the game to appreciate the cat and mouse that is going on, so computer examples of bishops in the corner games are not valid.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Chess960: A lesson in methodically exploiting structural weaknesses

At Mainz 2001, Adams took a win with a very good display of patient technical exploitation of blacks structural weaknesses. For me the lesson of how Adams carry's through the methodical build-up of pressure is excellent, yet an even more important lesson is how black should avoid creating unnecessary structural weaknesses in the first place.

SP811: Adams takes a win

The standout lesson for me is that Leko probably should have avoided creating a weakness on e6 at move ten with more dynamic and creative play:
A creative alternative to 10...d5

Monday, February 17, 2014

Chess960: Leko's amazing bishop

I'm hoping to work my through all the competitive ELO 2000+ games of Chess960 listed in my Chess960 compilation database
Here is one of the first ever competitive games of Chess960 played at Mainz. It features a really nice Chess960 opening idea by Leko.
SP934: Just watch Leko's amazing dark bishop win the game

 The stand out moves for me were:
  • 4.Bb2!? - Leko decides to put his bishop on the long diagonal despite that it will be blocked by the d4 pawn and that he already had spent a tempo releasing it along the c1-h6 diagonal! The point is that white will have to play e3 to release the light bishop (Leko cannot play e4), and so the dark bishop would have been trapped in any case. With the dark bishop on b2, it plays a defensive role keeping control of the dark squares around what Leko realises, is very likely to be a queenside castling system.
  • 27.Bd2! - Leko finds the best move that engines only find at depth 17. Black is totally lost because of the mating configuration b4/Qc5+/Bf4+. Notice that it features that amazing Leko dark bishop!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chess960 database - compilation of games 2001-2018

DOWNLOAD HERE (Courtesy of and

 Here is my own compilation of all human Chess960 games played since Fischer Random Chess was invented, according to these criterion:
  1. Human ELO 2000+
  2. Over the board competition preferred
  3. No blitz games
  4. Online tournaments at long time controls but not correspondence
  5. Simultaneous exhibitions
There are a lot of famous players in this database, including games by Anand, Aronian, Svidler, Nakamura, Carlsen and Kasparov!

The compilation remasters the original pgn games still available from around the web, repairing them by hand so that they are fully replayable in software that recognises Chess960.

The standard I used for the remastering is Chessbase 12 and it's interpretation of Chess960 PGN format and start position numbering. 

THE FORMAT IS NOT UNIVERSALLY ACCEPTED and the database will not load in some software. The difference is in the [variant] tag. Chessbase use a space between Chess and 960. Here is an example: [Variant "chess 960"]. 

Some databases omit the space. Other databases use a different variant tag altogether. Winboard uses [Variant "fischerandom"].

I think it should be:
[Variant "chess960"]

But that doesn't work in my chessbase software!

Here are some tips for people who want to search the database:
  • If you want freeware that can import the database, winboard works. If you want a Chess960 specific version of winboard you can download a modified winboard app from this blog that can import the database and display the games with the official Chess960 number in the title bar (plus more).
  • If you are using Chessbase you can search by the official Chess960 number if you first convert the PGN into native Chessbase format.
  • If you are using Chessbase you can sort the games by their official Chess960 number if you first convert the PGN into native Chessbase format.

The sources I used to compile the database were:

If you think I missed any games, please let me know!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Let's crowdfund the first ever Chess960 simultaneous

WARNING, I've had an idea.....

In response to this post from Mark Weeks "Who Needs Fide?"
We crowd-fund the first ever Official Chess960 Simultaneous between Hikaru Nakamura and the Chess Tigers club in Germany. The event is held some time this year before the next world championship match. Hikaru's manager is contacted to find out what the minimum attendance fee would be so that we have a funding target.
Just imagine how wonderful it would be to see Hikaru in a Chess960 simultaneous competition! Suddenly we would have a wealth of openings to study!! The Chess960 players in Germany would be good enough and plentiful enough to make it at least a bit of a challenge for him!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Chess960: The Bishop Sweet Spot

Here is the start of series of posts on what I call "the bishop sweet spots" on the chessboard, which are squares that allow the bishops to come out and be active, yet avoid being exchanged off. Usually in the opening we are trying to avoid changing the strategic quality of a position by exchanging a bishop for knight before the opening has had a chance to evolve (the bishop might be needed). The bishop sweet spots are not really outposts, because they are not solid enough to be called an outpost. They are just important squares in the Chess960 opening system, that need to be considered.
From classic standard chess (SP518), a very well loved and well worn bishop sweet spot is on b5 and it's mirror on g5. As we all know, the knight gets pinned and the bishop can sit on it's sweet spot for a long time, creating some important thematic tactics:

The Classical Queenside Bishop Sweet Spot (b5)

Finding the sweet spot is really easy. Look for any SP where a bishop and knight are separated by a minimum of three squares, triangulate vertically, and the bishop sweet spot will be three ranks directly above the knight.
Triangulating to find the Bishop Sweet Spot

In summary, the general definition of the bishop sweet spot is:
Classic Bishop Sweet Spot:
  1. The start does not contain Military Knights
  2. Bishop and knight separated by at least three squares
So, what are the benefits of the bishop sweet spot?
  1. The sweet spot square allows a bishop to sit without being attacked by another knight
  2. A bishop on a sweet spot does not have to waste tempo relocating
  3. Since the bishop is actively placed, it can create tactics striking the enemies back row
  4. Finding a safe square to place pieces helps with rapid, coordinated development
  5. Gives the bishop a chance to transition to a different diagonal
  6. If the enemy tries to kick the bishop off the sweet spot, this can be at the expense of pawn structure
Here is a start that fails the bishop sweet spot test:
Military Knights mean the sweet spot can be attacked
Here are some examples of the many bishop sweet spots in Chess960!
SP007 - Classic Bishop Sweet Spot

Notice that when the bishop is in the corner, the bishop on its sweet spot (d5), attacks the position of blacks castled king (g8).
Variants of the classic bishop sweet spot:
Chivalry Knight Sweet Spot:
  1. The start contains Chivalry Knights
  2. There is still a space of three squares between bishop and furthest knight
SP007 - Chivalry Knight bishop sweet spot
Even when the chivalry knight sits in the middle, the bishop sweet spot can still not be attacked by an enemy knight.
Variants of the classic bishop sweet spot:
Monastic Knight Sweet Spot:
  1. The start contains Monastic Knights
  2. There is still a space of three squares between bishop and furthest knight
SP114 - Monastic Knight bishop sweet spot

Notice that the monastic knight variant is not as tactically strong as the classic bishop sweet spot because the bishop only ever hits a knight on the enemies back rank. However, the sweet spot might still be useful to use as a spot to temporarily locate a bishop to aid in rapid, coordinated development.
Finally, don't forget that the mirror version of the bishop sweet spot also exists and is just as powerful.
SP001 - The bishop sweet spot reflected on the queenside

Finally here is a sample game that demonstrates the bishop sweet spot quite nicely:
SP511 - White finds the bishop sweet spot!
White finds the c5 square to pin black's knight against the rook
Enjoy 960