Chess960: Nakamura and Carlsen start with two draws

by Macauley Peterson
2/10/2018 – The Chess960 competition between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura in Hovikodden near Oslo opened yesterday afternoon with the first two rapid games. The "Fischer Random Chess" (the official name of match) in the "Henie Onstad Kunstsenter" is considered to be the "unofficial world championship" in Chess960. Both games ended in draws. Game 3 starts Saturday at 17:00 CET (11:00 AM EST). | Photo: Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg made the ceremonial first move | Maria Emelianova /

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Fresh positions, normal-ish chess

If yesterday was any indication, the concerns raised by GM Jon Ludwig Hammer, which we mentioned in the match preview don't seem to have much practical impact. Hammer worries that the player with the white pieces in the second game may be able to benefit from the three and a half hours between the selection of the opening position and the start of game two. But according to both players' post-game interviews, their discussions of opening theory with their respective seconds between games did not go more than a couple of moves deep, and so had little practical import.

Fischer's grave

One interesting detail that was reported on the live commentary webcast of game one is that the white marble table used in the match is made from the same type of marble as that found in Bobby Fischer's tombstone in Laugardaelir, Iceland (photo at right by Gerd Densing).

For the games of the first day, a starting position was determined in which the knights stood side by side on the queenside in the corner of the board. The position was shown to the players shortly before the start of the first game on a screen in the playing hall:

The players then had a few minutes to study the position before the clocks were started. In the first game (with Carlsen playing white) the players quickly brought about a "normal", symmetrical position, in which they simply exchanged pieces. The conclusion in the endgame was unavoidable.

Game 1


12...0-0 13.0-0


Live commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Anna Rudolf

Carlsen and Nakamura shake hands

The players shake hands after the first game | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

Game 2

The second game was lively up to a point:


Nakamura played 12.Rg3, but what would you think of 12.Bxf6 and 13.Rc3 instead?

In the queen and knight ending, the initiative finally lay with Carlsen, but it was not enough for the World Champion to win.




Live commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan and IM Anna Rudolf

Nakamura Carlsen

Nakamura and Carlsen trying to describe what was happening in the second game | Photo: Maria Emelianova /

All tied at 2 : 2

The match uses a scoring system of two points for a win and one point for a draw, so the offical score after two games is 2 : 2.

This afternoon we continue with games three and four of rapid chess, with a new starting position, again chosen using a random number.

Daniel King sums up Game 1 and 2

Klaus Besenthal contributed to this report


Macauley is Editor in Chief of ChessBase News in Hamburg, Germany, and producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast. He was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.
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celeje celeje 2/14/2018 12:52
I guess you already know the answer to your question now.
It's 2,1,0, because they decided to play fast rapid games worth half that
and 1, 1/2, 0 we can cope with better than 1/2, 1/4, 0.
genem genem 2/11/2018 10:27
Today's pair of games used the setup NNQRBBKR. The most commonly used FRC-chess960 setup numeric ID system, the S# system, designates this setup as S#042 (as KGBesenthal noted in the article).

So then, what would be the best numeric ID for this same position in the opposite sequence: RKBBRQNN? I would say S#542, with *only the first digit differing* between these two cousin positions. This minimal and predictable variance among IDs would make the ID numbers more useful for us humans.
Alas, the S# system would not assign S#542 to the cousin, and instead would assign S#917. I see no human-relevant relationship between 42 and 917.

In contrast, the M# system would assign M#389 and M#889, revealing their relationship.

Computers do not require a numeric ID system, as they can use NNQRBBKR. The IDs are for human benefit, as they are much more pronounceable than any string of eight officer letters.
genem genem 2/11/2018 10:24
Why is this better than the well-known 1, .5, 0 points system?
{ "The match uses a scoring system of two points for a win and one point for a draw..." }
genem genem 2/11/2018 10:22
Hopefully their next pair of games will have the two white knights start on squares that are the Same shade; and will have no bishop starting on a Corner square. Unfortunately, odds are against such a position being randomly drawn. Same shade white knights mean less of the "knight opposition" that every traditional chess game is saturated with, and means we taste variety that endless reuse of only one position hides from us. Corner bishops are overly constrained, as they have only one way to develop.
TommyCB TommyCB 2/11/2018 06:16
johnstdm: "...I was reading this in bed at night while my girlfriend slept... Not a very sensible ... decision there. "

Sorry, couldn't resist.
johnstdm johnstdm 2/11/2018 03:16
Why did the media content on this page start automatically?! I was reading this in bed at night while my girlfriend slept and had to frantically close the page to avoid waking her. Not a very sensible editorial decision there.
Mawin Mawin 2/10/2018 08:47
How about Fischer Placement Chess?