Monday, November 23, 2015

Chess960: The more the better? part 3

This is a continuation of the discussion of Basque Chess960 that was had *here* and *here*. In Basque Chess960 each player simultaneously plays one board as white and the other as black. I've played it a few times and think that it is a wonderful way to play Chess960 and really makes sense because it eliminates any differences in advantage that the white player has.

I found that it is even possible to play Blitz Basque Chess960 because two games are not that difficult to keep a track of - our brains seem to be pretty good at seeing in double! If anything, I found that Basque Chess960 actually maintained or improved the quality of my blitz play because I could not stop to think - it forced me to play instinctively. Stopping to think in Blitz can often make your play worse not better.

With that in mind, I was surprised that the two commentators at the Showdown in Saint Louis 2015 exhibition match between Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana were intrigued by the Basque Chess960 idea too. Here is a transcript of their thoughts as they were commenting game one of the Chess960 competition:

Jennifer Shahade: "I really wish that we had Basque Chess for Fischer Random don't you? So that we could see how Fabi would tackle playing white (in contrast to Hikaru)"

Yasser Seirawan: "Oh that would be intriguing for sure"

Jennifer Shahade: "I think in Fischer Random it really makes a lot of sense, because you get to show....cause it's to easy to say after the game 'hey white just has an edge in this particular Fischer random'. But if you play Basque Chess960 you have to show it from both sides"

Basque Chess960 is a lot of fun, equalises fairness 100% and you get twice the game for each start position. You can also play it against the computer if you set up two Winboards side by side on your screen.

Enjoy 960

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Chess960: Showdown in St. Louis - Fischer Random Style

I'm in the middle of transcribing the Chess960 portion of the video recording of Hikaru Nakamura playing Fabiano Caruana in Chess960 (Fischer Random) at the recently concluded Showdown in St. Louis 2015.

Here is an interesting idea that the commentators mentioned during game one of the Fischer Random portion of the event, as to why Chess960 has been slow on the uptake.

Jennifer Shahade:  "Obviously Fischer random is just perfect for somebody like Nakamura he really loves the game. I really like it too. Why do you think it hasn't begun to be even more popular Yasser?"

Yasser Seirawan: "You know one of the things, I've spoken to a lot of my colleagues on this very question. One of the things is a lot of my colleagues feel it has to do with amateur players. That is to say amateur players are so vested in their openings, they want to see players playing the French defenses and their Sicilian dragons and they know those openings so very well, they want the players to play their favourite openings and favourite defenses. Instead, when the players are playing a game of Fischer random, then a lot of the amateur players say "gee I don't know this position, I don't know what's going on". A lot of the professional players like Fischer Random and would like to see more Fischer random events. Its sort of like the organizers are hearing from the amateurs "no don't do it we want them to play OUR openings, OUR defenses". Its kind of an intriguing idea right?"

Jennifer Shahade: "It is strange because normally you hear amatuers complaining about how much opening analysis there is but when push comes to shove they like it in a sick way."

Yasser Seirawan: {laughs}

If that is the case that amateurs are actually the ones holding up the progress of Chess960, we just have to wait for critical mass to occur when finally the amateurs make the switch to 960. According to the Chess960 popularity counter *here*, we have probably got another 20-30 years to go until the tipping point occurs. Popularity is steadily rising, but there is still a long way to go.

In the mean time, remember that Chess960 is not here to replace Chess, just be a viable loved alternative to chess and be its equal.

Enjoy 960.