The problem with Chess960

by Frederic Friedel
2/28/2018 – Two weeks ago there was a World Championship — in Chess960, a variant that symmetrically shuffles the position of the pieces behind the row of pawns. The game has gained some popularity since it eliminates the staggering amount of preparation that is required in regular chess. But Chess960 has a few problems that probably prevent it from really taking off. We discuss some possible solutions to these problems.

Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer

No other World Champion was more infamous both inside and outside the chess world than Bobby Fischer. On this DVD, a team of experts shows you the winning techniques and strategies employed by the 11th World Champion.

Grandmaster Dorian Rogozenco delves into Fischer’s openings, and retraces the development of his repertoire. What variations did Fischer play, and what sources did he use to arm himself against the best Soviet players? Mihail Marin explains Fischer’s particular style and his special strategic talent in annotated games against Spassky, Taimanov and other greats. Karsten Müller is not just a leading international endgame expert, but also a true Fischer connoisseur.

More...

What is Chess960?

There is a comprehensive article on Chess960 on Wikipedia, which you can consult on all the details of this variant. Here I will only summarize some of the main points.

In 1996 former world chess champion Bobby Fischer announced, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a new variant of chess that became known as Fischer Random Chess. It employed the normal chess board and pieces, but the starting position of the pieces on the first rank was randomized, with the pawns being placed on the second ranks as in standard chess. The position of the pieces was reflected for both sides.

Fischer's proposal was itself a variant of Shuffle Chess, which was first played in the late 18th century. But it had some additional rules and restrictions: the bishops must be placed on opposite-colour squares, and the king must be placed on a square between the rooks. The game has some fairly complex castling rules, which you can study in the Wiki article.

The name Fischer Random Chess soon turned into Fischerrandom, and after he had introduced this variant into the Mainz Chess Classic in 1991 organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt changed it to Chess960, which reflects the number of different starting positions that are possible in the game. A few years before he died Bobby Fischer consulted me on a possible match against World Champion Viswanathan Anand. In our phone conversations, he referred to the game as "Fischer Random" or, more often, "New Chess".

The typical start of a Chess960 game — note that the h-pawns are undefended

Why does anyone need this new chess variant?

Fischer's intention in introducing the new rules was to eliminate the incredible level of openings preparation that prevails in contemporary chess. In my conversations with him, I admitted that this was a real problem: imagine a world championship in a few years from now, where the two players reel off 28 moves of a known variation, in just a few minutes — and then one of them plays a novelty. His opponent thinks for an hour and resigns the game! Bobby enjoyed this somewhat facetious scenario that justified his introduction of New Chess, where players must devise original moves from the start. Memorizing thousands of home prepared opening lines would be eliminated, and the playing field would be levelled.

I undertook a few public and private 960 experiments with strong players. In the ill-thought-out expectation that human grandmasters would be able to score better than computers, we arranged matches against Alexei Shirov and Vishy Anand, against GM Artur Yusupov, and then Pocket Fritz against Peter Leko and Michael Adams. The results were disappointing, especially for me, rooting for the players and hoping for a reprieve in the man-machine circuit.

But the reality was that as computers grew stronger they had an ever greater dominance against humans. The only chance a strong GM had was to come out of the opening with very good ideas and a concrete plan on how to proceed. Computers, on the other hand, see the position for the first time. But in Chess960 this applies to both sides, and that is far more disconcerting for the human than for the computer.

The disadvantage of Chess960

In human vs human Chess960 games, the players are much more evenly matched. In recent tournaments and matches, e.g. the one a fortnight ago between Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura, the strongest players tend to win, using only playing skill and general understanding of the game — as opposed to openings preparation and tricks.

In 2008 FIDE accepted the inevitable and added Chess960 as Guidelines II — Chess960 Rules of its Laws of Chess. Slowly the game gained popularity, though it did not take off the way its devotees hoped. There are some grave disadvantages, which I noticed all too clearly when I attended the Mainz Chess Classic over a decade ago.

Take a look at the above picture, from a rapid chess event played in 2006. In a traditional game Anand and Radjabov have a familiar, very promising position on the board. Aronian vs Svidler, a Chess960 rapid game, has a weird position the players still pondering on move four.

Here's another example: Svidler is still wondering, on move five, if he can move a pawn and not lose instantly, while Anand is pondering his 22nd move in a very interesting position. In the commentary booths, the GMs were discussing Anand's options with great excitement – he seemed to be struggling to equalize with white in a Sveshnikov! They were completely silent on the Aronian-Svidler game, as nobody had the faintest idea of what was going on. I think it was Tim Krabbé who compared commenting on a Fischer Random game to conducting a guided tour of an art gallery that you are visiting for the first time. Very apt.

Another problem is that the Chess960 positions, regarding their winning probabilities, are often asymmetric. We know this for example from a very large number of computer games — over 200,000 played by the Computer Chess Ratings List team in 2005–2008.

There are a few other disadvantages. Traditional chess offers continuity: you see a very nice game in a certain opening or a disaster with it, and you wait for someone else to play it, to see how they fare. That is impossible in Chess960. The same applies to learning from your mistakes: if something went wrong in a game there is no incentive to look for an improvement. You are never going to get the position again.

Starting positions most/least advantageous for White

 
 
 
 

You can move the pieces on the above boards to think about how to start the games. Full data for all 960 positions can be found on this special CCRL statistics page. Some give White substantial advantage, some are simply bizarre, causing players to cringe, and some invite blunders and result in very short games. But many are interesting and exciting.

So what to do about Chess960?

There have been many attempts to improve on Fischer Random and Chess960. For instance, there are suggestions to modify the castling rules, which are not easy to comprehend and quite off-putting. John Kipling Lewis proposed a simplification that results in Chess480 — half the Chess960 positions are mirrors but different due to the complex castling rules, which Lewis avoids. Others have suggested that kings and rooks should start in their usual places, and only the other pieces are placed randomly.

To remedy the problem of biased positions (in which one side has a clear advantage) the suggestion is that Chess960 tournaments should have two games with swapped colours per encounter. But this means you have to halve the time per game or halve the number of games per tournament. Also in the second game players have learned from the first one: the g-pawn is vulnerable and can be easily blundered, as my opponent just did. I must be very careful about that. Or they learn from the clever ideas of the other player and can use them in the second game.

But the main problem of Chess960, in my opinion, is that you start with absolutely no prior information or practice. Preparation has, for more than a thousand years, been an integral part of chess — and greatly appreciated by its adherents. Chess fans swooned over new openings ideas the masters have come up with in-home preparation, and the ideas and strategies that are born of this kind of research have improved our understanding of the game.

The main problem arose in the second half of the 20th century, and especially since the advent of computers and chess databases: openings preparation started to completely dominate chess. Chess960 eliminates this problem, but it does so at the cost of turning off an important aspect of human creativity. Must we do away with all preparation in order to compensate for the exaggerated degree to which it had grown? Or is there a compromise?

Kasparov's proposal

In 2005 (I believe it was) I discussed Fischer Random and Chess960 with Garry Kasparov. He came up with the following suggestion: we select ten interesting and exciting positions to be used in tournaments and allow players to prepare in advance. Immediately before the start of each round, the audience in the hall (or on the Internet) selects one of these ten positions for all games. This provides spectator participation, which is never a bad thing. Players have some basic preparation for all ten positions — they do not have to start the game with a long think about "can I move the c-pawn?" And commentators can come prepared as well.

At the time I was, as mentioned above, talking to Bobby Fischer about his plans for a comeback with a Fischer Random match, and I discussed the ten-position idea with him. He was quite interested in it and we spoke for maybe half an hour, discussing all kinds of details. But then he said: "It is quite a good idea, Frederic. When did you come up with it?" I confessed it was not me but Kasparov, and the tide immediately turned. "No, there's a trick. He has preparation for special positions or something." And that was the end of discussion of "Kasparov10" chess with Fischer.

I also discussed the proposal with GMs playing Chess960 in the Mainz Classic, with essentially the same reaction: interesting, maybe... But when I revealed the proposal came from Kasparov they became very defensive — must be a trick." I must mention that the idea was rejected by some players explicitly because it involved some kind of prior preparation. Clearly they were enjoying the new form of chess where absolutely no homework was involved: you just appeared for the round and used your general chess skills and understanding to outplay your opponent.

One last thing I need to mention: when discussing Kasparov's proposal with FIDE officials, to lukewarm reception, I suggested a more radical approach: the International Chess Federation announces a single Chess960 position, on November 1st of each year. This position is the one that is used during the entire coming year, and on November 1st of that year, a new position is announced. The intention is to allow industrious players to do some fairly profound preparation and produce deep, creative ideas, while not letting them go too far. They know that after the end of the coming year they can dump their entire preparation and start afresh. The best of both worlds? Of course, my proposal was not adopted, and the same applied to Kasparov's ten positions variant. So we are stuck with Chess960 in its current form.

So what do our readers think? We would be very interested to hear your opinions: do you like this chess variant, do you think it is necessary, do you think it cures the problem of over-preparation? And what do you think about restricting the starting positions to 360, or ten, or just one per year? Please tell us in the comment section below.

All photos by Frederic Friedel

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Editor-in-Chief of the ChessBase News Page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.
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celeje celeje 4/17/2018 10:55
Here is a comment on another Chessbase article.
Copied here because it's about Chess960, not because I agree or disagree.


"Bobet5 4/4/2018 02:17
Everything is now "mechanistic!"Meaning, from the first twenty-five or thirty moves of any known opening theory along with its variations, from the starting point toward its middle game and onward even to endgame, all chess moves can now be " statistically predicted, " a scenario already forecast in the past by British mathematician and genius Alan Turing. With such an advent of today's modern - day computer technology or artificial intelligence along with its ingenious state-of-the-art chess programs, it is now more than ever can human creativity with its intelligence and logic can be at a terrible loss when pitted to a computer. The human mind who discovered the idea and the technology related to computerization is now on the brink of losing a serious brain game, a chess game to a also man-made machine which he, himself created. If such trend continues for a longtime, then, one day the chess world with its players might find themselves losing their taste and love for the game due to its non-creativity playing against an A.I. who can think millions ahead without getting tired! Sure, no serious chess players would want such day to continue for a long time. How can human chess playing minds with its superlative grandmasters and world champions regain the love, appreciation and dedication to the game, a game which is now "ruled by machine?" Its only by reformatting or reshuffling or arranging the thirty-two chess pieces into the sixty-four square can a chess world with its chess players can uplift its spirit anew. How? It is by "random piece arrangement," with very few chess rules to be amended. I think it is "FISCHER'S RANDOM CHESS," a new piece arrangements in a sixty-four square board in what the FIDE officials and of course, with superlative and ingenious grandmasters must work together so as to regain the game's decency, creativity and originality of the said boardgame."
celeje celeje 4/14/2018 11:11
@ Petrarlsen:

Back to castling soon...
celeje celeje 4/9/2018 08:02
On Bronstein-Fisher chess:

Carl Boor, Ken Neat, Ken Regan, etc. commented here re. Bronstein-Fisher chess.
I agree Bronstein-Fisher is an interesting idea.

BUT 2 possible issues:
1. The starting position for Bronstein-Fisher is empty back ranks & the first moves are placing pieces, so maybe chess pros will think to play Bronstein-Fisher they have to study opening theory for this starting position. Then if they won't want to study Bronstein-Fisher opening theory they won't want to play it at all.
OR
2. Chess pros will play it but they will be very conservative in their Bronstein-Fisher opening whether or not they study this beforehand. Then lots of starting positions are not played even if they are interesting or even better and should be played.
celeje celeje 4/7/2018 08:56
On preparation:

Frederic Friedel: "But the main problem of Chess960, in my opinion, is that you start with absolutely no prior information or practice."

Jacob woge: "As for shuffle chess in any variation. The one and only advantage is to get rid of opening theory, and get rid of the need to study your opponent and prepare for games.
But that is also its main drawback. ..."

This does not have to be the case. The playing conditions can be made to allow longer preparation time. If you want more prep just give the players more time after the start position is chosen before the game begins.

GM Hammer had the OPPOSITE worry to Frederic in the Carlsen-Naka match. GM Hammer worried the extra hour before the second game with the same position would allow TOO MUCH preparation.

If you want, you can give players the position mid morning for afternoon game & they then have e.g. 4 hrs to prepare. In Carlsen-Naka they could not prepare much with 1 hr, but they did not have Chess960Base. More and more games played means more and more games in Chess960Base. Then 4hrs with Chess960Base does allow a lot of prep but not memorizing 30-move lines like in traditional chess now.
Prep is only limited now because Chess960 hasn't been played enough for there to be many games between top GMs to look at before the game starts.
celeje celeje 4/7/2018 08:36
@ Petrarlsen: No problem. I'll just tidy loose ends & pace the comments...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 4/4/2018 03:27
@ celeje : I'm sorry ; for the moment, I can't find any time to write on this page... But I will come back to it in a few days...
celeje celeje 4/2/2018 02:22
More on "Folktale history" vs. "Real history":

"Preparation has, for more than a thousand years, been an integral part of chess — and greatly appreciated by its adherents. Chess fans swooned over new openings ideas the masters have come up with in-home preparation." (Frederic Friedel)

Another example of folktale history, not real history.
For more than a thousand years??? Really? This is just made up. Unless someone can find a thousand-year-old manuscript of detailed opening preparation.

"Chess fans swooned over new openings ideas." This is wildly romantic.

No respectable historian would say those things.

But that does not mean we should ignore chess history.
Non-historians make up folktale history. Doesn't mean historians don't know anything about real history.
celeje celeje 4/1/2018 06:49
More on "12-yr-old-girl openings":

("The super-GMs want to avoid giving their opponent an easy banged-out draw with no thought needed over the board. So they play 12-yr-old-girl openings.")

The Candidates tournament showed this. Kramnik & second Giri did not give any amazing novelty in a long tabiya. Kramnik played 12-yr-old-girl openings. His exciting games were not because of his openings.
The commentators thought only a couple of games were boring. They thought one boring game was Shak vs. So because he DID go into opening theory. It became a "memory check" and So passed.


This 12-yr-old-girl-opening stuff is OK. It does not mean traditional chess is over. Because games starting with a 12-yr-old-girl opening can still be very good ones e.g. Kramnik-Aronian. And not EVERY game starts with a 12-yr-old-girl opening.


Traditional Chess and Chess960 can perfectly exist together.
celeje celeje 3/31/2018 01:52
Petrarlsen:"I agree that it isn't because there could be a more important advantage for White in Chess960 in certain positions than in traditional chess that this would mean that these positions should be suppressed : each side have the same pieces' placement, so the general situation is in fact the same as in traditional chess. ... Furthermore, in tournaments, the colors are always determined by some sort of a drawing of lots, so the differences in color don't create an inequitable situation for certain players."

Another thing: in open tournaments, you're not playing the same opponents and definitely not the same opponents with the same color assignments. Who the leaders face is a huge amount of luck. That is FAR MORE "unfair" than the POSSIBLE but UNKNOWN slight theoretical difference in white advantage for a different starting position.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/28/2018 08:34
@ celeje : Thanks !
celeje celeje 3/28/2018 06:20
@ Petrarlsen: take your time if you like. Or post a bit at a time.
Castling discussion still to come!
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/28/2018 05:23
@ celeje : I think it will be possible to me to answer your posts tomorrow... I'm not completely sure, but, at least, I will try !
celeje celeje 3/28/2018 07:58
@ Petrarlsen:

3rd: " Chess960 must be played."

I said before we'll only learn about the 960 different starting positions & Chess960 by playing lots of good games. I meant no man can judge what is an "ugly" or "harmonious" starting position right now even if he's Garry.

BUT when I said "Chess960 must be played", etc., I meant something different (& I think you asked your question because of the other thing).

I meant that if there are different versions and everyone says he'll refuse to play it unless it's the exact version he likes, then the game will never survive in ANY version.

In traditional chess history there were rule changes to speed the game up, etc. If before all those changes everyone refused to play at all because Chess was "too slow" there would not have been the speeding-up changes because they'd be no game at all.

So even if the game is imperfect it has to be played in order for it to survive at all. If it survives, rule improvements can come as it evolves.

That was what the "Chess960 must be played" comment meant...
celeje celeje 3/27/2018 12:03
@ Petrarlsen:

2nd: Chess, Chess960, Variants...

Petrarlsen: "And there is a question to which you didn't answer : Why are you interested in Chess960 and not in all the other chess variants on this page :...?"

I think you asked this because something I wrote was not clear. I have to re-explain that. But before that I can answer anyway.


I am wiki-phobic. I guess the page has things like bughouse, etc? Then my answer is the stuff I wrote when Jacob woge compared Chess960 to bughouse.

But let me make your question more extreme...
Not-Petrarlsen: "Why are you interested in Chess and not Poker? Do you think Chess is superior to Poker?"

Me: Yes, I think Chess is superior to Poker!! But I don't think I can come up with an objective argument so that every reasonable person must agree that Chess is superior. I can make some arguments. I can compare how easily a player can become elite. I can say without the money aspect Poker would not be popular. Mr Poker can reply, "I don't care about those things."
I can say Chess has beauty & depth. Mr Poker can say, "Still don't care. Beauty is subjective, anyway."


But I don't think your question & Not-Petrarlsen's & what I just wrote is relevant to what was said before it. (Need to re-explain that in future comment.)
celeje celeje 3/26/2018 04:17
@ Petrarlsen:

1st: Objectivity vs. Subjectivity...

By "subjective", I mean one person can reasonably argue one way and get one conclusion & another person can reasonably argue another way and get another conclusion.

Petrarlsen: " in my opinion, the problem is that you are confusing the "objective / subjective" pair with the "practical / theoretical" pair."

No, I don't think they are directly related. I think it looked like that just because we started talking about planes, technology, etc.
Here's why SOMETIMES there's a relation:
Practical things like hunting for food or building a hut force the caveman to look at objective reality. The caveman may have subjective feelings about how cute bears are. But his feelings are trampled by the objective reality of whether the bears want to be cuddled by him or want to eat him.
The caveman may like a plane design. But objective reality decides if it falls out of the sky.

A sport or game is not like living or dying. So Nature is not going to decide objectively what is better. There may be objective stuff, but the caveman has to rely on himself to work that out.

So e.g. your bridge example:
Yes, an engineer can design it fine before it's built. But the theory he used is only known because in the past people tested things out and learnt from that. The engineer is relying on the body of knowledge history provides going back to Romans building bridges & earlier. So the engineer is not really designing it without trying it out. His ancestors have done that.

Our objectivity/subjectivity discussion is about castling. I still have to explain that (FUTURE COMMENT).
But objectivity/subjectivity is relevant to e.g. great players like Garry thinking they can decide good or bad starting positions. They are wrong. They are thinking they know objective Chess Reality. But no one does. Only playing lots of games will show Chess Reality.
My guess: interesting and boring openings exist in all 960. Interesting and boring games exist in all 960. All 960 are a theoretical draw.
celeje celeje 3/24/2018 05:18
@ Petrarlsen:

I'll read your comments & reply soon! I think there are some things we misunderstand about each other's points. But the discussion has revealed the misunderstandings so we can correct them.

One thing: I haven't yet given all arguments or fully explained some.
Partly because there are a lot of discussion points.
Partly because Jacob woge's & others' comments are creating new opinions/points that have affected my viewpoints.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/24/2018 03:59
@ celeje (3/3) :

- About Jacob woge's castling :

* About "mobilization" or "mobility" : I think that this criteria hasn't necessarily to be introduced, for castling, but, also, I absolutely haven't anything against it, as long as the chosen type of castling is coherent with this idea. And, furthermore, I think at first view that both traditional chess' castling and my "b/g-file castling" (as you would call it) would be coherent with Jacob woge's "mobility" (or "mobilization") idea...

* "You and Jacob woge are definitely not in agreement, because you come to different conclusions. You conclude (restricted) b/g-file castling is best. He concludes (restricted) 2-square K-move castling is best."

For this, you are completely mistaken about my positions. I don't necessarily consider at all that my "b/g-file castling" is the best ; I - subjectively, this time ! - rather like it, but this castling is ONLY an example of a type of castling that I consider as being logical and coherent. Not more than that. (The main reason for which I gave this example of what seems to me to be a globally logical and coherent type of castling is that I generally consider that when you criticize something, it is more or less necessary to propose a solution to the problems that you expose.) And I consider that the Chess960's present castling isn't presently completely logical and coherent, so I consider that my "b/g-file castling" is better. I also consider that Jacob woge's castling isn't completely satisfying, because castling wouldn't be allowed for some starting positions, and, logically, if castling is considered as being an important and good move, it would be better to choose a type of castling that allows the players to castle for every starting position.

But, if, for example, Jacob woge's would improve its idea in such a way that it would become completely logical and coherent, it would really not matter much to me that Jacob woge's castling would be implemented instead of "my" castling... I would in fact find this completely satisfying : the only thing that really counts for me is that the chosen solution would be logical and coherent...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/24/2018 03:58
@ celeje (2/3) :

* And there is a question to which you didn't answer : Why are you interested in Chess960 and not in all the other chess variants on this page : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chess_variants ? If, as you seem to think, arguments derived from the practice of a game would be the sole arguments that could be used to consider that, objectively, a game (or a game's variant) is or not satisfying, logically, it would mean that your reasons for choosing Chess960 rather than all these other chess variants could only be subjective. (But, obviously, what I think is that, as theoretical arguments can perfectly well be also objective arguments, many of these chess variants could simply be discarded on theoretical but objective grounds.)
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/24/2018 03:57
@ celeje (1/3) :

- About the question of the subjectivity (or not...) of my arguments :

* Even if I don't approve it at all, I understand your position... I must admit that my first reaction was to be rather annoyed with your arguments about the "subjectiveness" you are attributing to my positions, because I think that my arguments are as objective as possible, and that, frequently, to claim : "...subjective argument !..." without an adequate demonstration to prove it is an "easy way out" : it is ALWAYS possible to affirm (without really proving it) that any argument is subjective, and it can be a simple way to try to say that the arguments of the persons who don't agree with you can be discarded at will... Taking your last post into account, I do think, now, nonetheless, that you really fully think that my arguments are subjective. But, obviously, as I don't agree on that, I will now answer to your arguments on this point...

* I have just reread all the posts in which you explain your positions about what you consider to be the subjectivity of my arguments ; in my opinion, the problem is that you are confusing the "objective / subjective" pair with the "practical / theoretical" pair. Each time you say that my arguments are subjective, it means, in reality, that they are theoretical, and not practical. But this isn't the same thing at all ! A theoretical argument can perfectly well be completely objective !

For example, if an engineer is designing a bridge for a highway, and that his calculations show that, for his present project, if a truck was to use the bridge, this bridge would collapse, it is a purely theoretical argument (a - mathematical - reasoning would be the only source, for this conclusion), but also an objective argument (nothing linked to the tastes or personal inclinations of this engineer). The same could be the same for financial calculations, in a company : if financial calculations show that a given operation would be financially impossible, it is a theoretical argument, but, nonetheless, an objective one. Last example : if a newspaper globally oriented toward the 60 - 80 age bracket suddenly publish for the most part articles oriented towards the 15 - 25 age bracket, it will nearly inevitably lose a substantial part of its previous readers - this is once more a theoretical, but nonetheless objective, argument.

And, furthermore, I don't think that my arguments about castling in Chess960 are really purely theoretical : in a Chess960 game with a starting position that I consider as unsuitable, the problems that I developed will inevitably be present, as they already exist in the starting position...

For example, this could be compared to a news website whose strategical choice would be to specialize itself in flashy but false news. Considering as a starting point that a news website would normally be per se destined to spread news, if the informations given are in fact false, not only it will not spread any real news, but, furthermore, a certain number of this site's readers will think that these false news are true, so the result will be the opposite of the "normal" result : it will globally have a negative effect on the level of information of its readers. In this example there is no need to see in practice what the result will be : if the site's specialization is to deliver "flashy but false news", the result cannot possibly be good. This, because its concept is flawed from the start.

The same is true for Chess960 : as for castling, in my opinion, it is in part conceptually flawed from the start, and practice cannot change anything about this.
celeje celeje 3/22/2018 05:54
@ Petrarlsen:

P.S. to my previous comment on Jacob woge's terminology:

I'm pretty sure now it's better to think "mobility" than "mobilization". Jacob woge's older comment ("On castling") did use "mobilization" once and unfortunately that was the word quoted by us. But his newer comment ("More on castling") uses "mobility" a few times.

The issue he's raising is K mobility (in the castling move).
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/22/2018 01:17
@ celeje : I will normally not have time to answer today, but I will do it tomorrow...
celeje celeje 3/21/2018 04:08
@ Petrarlsen:

Petrarlsen: "Once more desperately trying to say that everything I say is subjective!"

No, I don't mean that everything you say is subjective. I mean specifically that your claims that you have an objective "logical coherence" argument against Chess960 castling is wrong, and that that particular argument is subjective in a way you don't see.

That's all.

I don't interpret Jacob woge's "mobilization" as "development". I think the word "mobilization" wasn't a good choice, actually, and that may be a part of why you thought of it as "development". I think "mobility" is a better word for what I think he meant, though maybe I'd still use other words.


You and Jacob woge are definitely not in agreement, because you come to different conclusions. You conclude (restricted) b/g-file castling is best. He concludes (restricted) 2-square K-move castling is best.
That means EITHER:
i) at least one of you (could be both) has made a mistake in logical reasoning,
OR
ii) you have made different subjective choices of criteria to satisfy.

"Subjective" does not mean "bad". It just means it's not true that Chess960 castling is "objectively wrong", which is basically what you've been claiming.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/21/2018 05:44
@ celeje :

- You are always trying to demonstrate that my arguments are subjective, but you are yourself being quite subjective : when you say about Jacob woge and me : "so you're not going to agree with each other's conclusions even if you agree that the criteria have been correctly applied", you haven't the least idea about it ; only a completely subjective impression, without any element to demonstrate it. In fact, I could have different preferences, but if Jacob woge's solution was completely logical, it would suits me quite well.

- "You have made the subjective decision to ignore his "mobilization" criterion completely."

Once more desperately trying to say that everything I say is subjective ! I don't ignore his "mobilization" criterion (but it is possible, by the way, that I don't understand it completely - for me, it is more or less the equivalent of "development", but perhaps I am wrong) ; what seems to me more or less certain is that I mustn't have anything against his "mobilization" idea, so I don't see at all why I should "subjectively" decide to ignore it ! This is rather absurd ! The only reason for which I don't find quite satisfying Jacob woge's idea (and I already expressed it clearly) is because it leads to having certain starting positions for which castling isn't allowed. And there isn't ANYTHING subjective about this !
celeje celeje 3/21/2018 04:53
@ Petrarlsen:

Maybe you disagree with Jacob woge on how the criteria have been judged or applied AS WELL. But you have different criteria TO BEGIN WITH (so you're not going to agree with each other's conclusions even if you agree that the criteria have been correctly applied).

You have made the subjective decision to ignore his "mobilization" criterion completely.

When Jacob woge wrote about "(two/three/six)-fold moves", it was just the way he was expressing "mobilization". (I actually would/will describe it with a different term.)

I'm not saying I agree with Jacob woge's preferences about castling.
The list from before was:
1. "c/g-file" castling
2. "two-square K-move" castling
3. "b/g-file" castling
(4. No castling allowed)

I'd call your preference "restricted b/g-file castling", where the restriction is of allowed positions.
I'd call Jacob woge's preference "restricted two-square K-move castling", where the restriction is that the K must be strictly able to move two squares before the rook jumps (as far as I understand him -- he gives an example of forbidden castling as starting position with Ke1, Rd1, Rf1).

I think his restriction changes the nature of those positions too much. The RKR setup on e1-f1 with no castling allowed seems to leave the king very vulnerable.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/21/2018 03:51
@ celeje :

- "This is one illustration of the subjectivity of your criteria. You and Jacob woge are choosing different sets of criteria. You then come to different conclusions. You prefer b/g-file castling to 2-square K-move castling. Jacobe woge prefers 2-square K-move castling to b/g-file castling.
Your disagreement stems simply from applying different criteria."

No, I don't agree. The problem with Jacob woge's concept, in my opinion, is that, when castling isn't coherent with the ideas of "safety" and "mobilization" (to use his own words), he considers that no castling must be allowed. In my opinion, if castling is considered to be something important and useful for chess, a castling's version which allows castling for every starting position (like the b1, g1 ; b8, g8 castling) is preferable to a castling's version which doesn't allow castling for every castling position (like Jacob woge's castling). (And, normally, you should agree with this, as you wrote in a previous post : "Having no castling seems undesirable because it changes nature of the game too much.".)

- "In a previous comment, you just replied to Jacob woge like this.
Petrarlsen: "I think that castling in Chess960 (or other shuffle chess variants) should not be considered like this. "
That's just subjectively choosing your criterion rather than his."

I don't agree at all either. I said : "I think that castling in Chess960 (or other shuffle chess variants) should not be considered like this." about Jacob woge's "six-fold moves", etc., description of Chess960's castling, because, in my opinion, it is a very complicated way to explain something globally rather simple (I remind you that I didn't ever affirmed that the Chess960's castling was too complicated ; only that it isn't conceptually satisfying). Nothing subjective at all about this...

In my opinion, you still didn't demonstrate satisfyingly at all what would be subjective in my views about Chess960...
celeje celeje 3/21/2018 03:15
@ Petrarlsen:

I wanted to come to this later... (One thing at a time...)
But a quick word because of your most recent post:

This is one illustration of the subjectivity of your criteria. You and Jacob woge are choosing different sets of criteria. You then come to different conclusions. You prefer b/g-file castling to 2-square K-move castling. Jacobe woge prefers 2-square K-move castling to b/g-file castling.
Your disagreement stems simply from applying different criteria.

In a previous comment, you just replied to Jacob woge like this.
Petrarlsen: "I think that castling in Chess960 (or other shuffle chess variants) should not be considered like this. "
That's just subjectively choosing your criterion rather than his.


But maybe back to some history discussion first, in my next comment...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/21/2018 12:21
@ Jacob woge :

- "The logic behind castling in c960 seems to me to be to maintain castled positions as we know them, whether is makes sense in terms of safety and mobilization or not."

This is exactly what I don't find satisfying in Chess960 in its present form.

- "When it comes to c960 in its present state, the main idea seems to be to maintain castled positions as we know them. This means that instead of saying how each piece moves, we identify special squares that they must go to. The move is then defined by how the piece reaches the target square, be it c1, b1 or g1.

This, in my opinion, is a complication. And an unnecessary one."

In my opinion, to state that castling means to put the King on one of the per se safest squares of the board (b1, g1 ; b8, g8) and the Rook beside the King, on the nearer to the center's square, wouldn't be more complicated than the "King's two squares displacement plus Rook's leap" castling.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/20/2018 11:47
@ celaje :

About your last post related to GM Deviatkin's tweet :

- "You cannot judge beforehand any of the 960 opening positions. (...) We can only find out by having people play them. When enough games by good players have been played, it will become clearer. Not before."

The whole point behind my reasoning about castling in Chess960 is precisely to demonstrate that, conceptually, a certain number of the Chess960's starting positions aren't satisfying, because of the inadequate castlings that they cause. So I obviously cannot agree with this...

- I agree that it isn't because there could be a more important advantage for White in Chess960 in certain positions than in traditional chess that this would mean that these positions should be suppressed : each side have the same pieces' placement, so the general situation is in fact the same as in traditional chess. And, as in traditional chess, too, there is an advantage for White, I don't think that it is necessary to enter into the details of the respective winning percentages in traditional chess and in certain Chess960's starting positions. Furthermore, in tournaments, the colors are always determined by some sort of a drawing of lots, so the differences in color don't create an inequitable situation for certain players.
Zuglich Zuglich 3/20/2018 08:14
I am a former club player, who quit when I became father. That was in 1998 and now I would like to return to a chess club - to play Chess960! But there is no club playing it at a normal time level. I always liked endgames, having the fantastic book "Die EndspielUniversität" by Dvoretsky from ChessGate. But I really don't like chess openings, for me just repeating moves that only the pro's really understand. So I won't return to classical chess and keep hoping for Chess960 in Dutch chess clubs.
celeje celeje 3/20/2018 04:19
Jacob woge: "(How this change of Queen power came about, I don't know. I have no information about any intermediate stage, from half-a-bishop to Rook plus Bishop. Somebody else, perhaps?)"

In English, Murray's 900p book is the place I'd look if I had a copy.

Murray (not in that bk): "There were signs that players were a little disappointed with it: a game took too long." And: "the Lombard players were strengthening the moving power of some of the men... These attempts culminated in the great reform of the 1490s which gave queen and bishop their modern moves."


"The need for a game accelerator" -- Jacob woge previously. Murray's history seems to support that. I don't think game speed can be ignored in judging rules. I'll explain this point more later....


P.S. Murray apparently calls the kings and queens on swapped files the "crosswise arrangement". Doesn't sound like this was a universally used arrangement, though.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/19/2018 03:00
@ celeje : Yes. In fact, I already had this post ("3/17/2018 07:02") before. So, for me, it was only the very last post by Jacob woge which didn't appear until now...
celeje celeje 3/19/2018 02:40
@Petrarlsen: Jacob woge's post on 3/17/2018 07:02 "On castling ... " was the other one that suddenly appeared for me. (Which explains why there's a comment with the title "More on castling".) Do you see it?
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/19/2018 02:33
@ celeje and Jacob woge : As for me, I have only one comment by Jacob woge (and it also appeared with a delay). It is the post beginning by "More on castling" and ending by "Otherwise no castling, or possibly just to one side." Is there another one that I don't have ?
celeje celeje 3/19/2018 02:07
NOTE: I see two Jacob woge comments have appeared for the first time -- for my web browser anyway -- apparently delayed in transmission but appearing in the time order for when he actually posted them.
i.e. my & Petrarlsen's last few comments were written after but appeared before Jacob woge's...

Very longwinded way of saying: everyone, make sure you go back & have read Jacob woge's last 2 comments!
celeje celeje 3/19/2018 12:32
@ Petrarlsen:

"So all 960 starting positions should be accepted" is just what I think GM Deviatkin's tweet meant. Maybe he would say it differently.

If he thinks like I do, he'd say: You cannot judge beforehand any of the 960 opening positions. We know nowhere near enough about any to say they should be dropped. We can only find out by having people play them. When enough games by good players have been played, it will become clearer. Not before.

So "should be accepted" means "until proven unacceptable", which would likely take a huge time to discover.

My guess is that all will turn out totally okay. It'd only really be not okay if a position led to a forced loss that in practice players could remember. So not a forced loss in 380 moves with 100 only moves on each side.

The limited stuff we know does not suggest that's the case for any of them.
We don't even know if there's really a practical difference in the White adv. of any. People just assume. Even if there is, there are many ways to deal with it without banning the position. Playing two games with opposite colors is just one way that can work.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 3/19/2018 12:28
More on castling.

When the Queen gained massive power, and became the strongest piece on the board, the original King's position on d1/e8 became insecure as both Kings were under the gun of the undeveloped enemy Queen. (How this change of Queen power came about, I don't know. I have no information about any intermediate stage, from half-a-bishop to Rook plus Bishop. Somebody else, perhaps?)

So the white King swapped place with the white Queen. (could have been black, but then again, white did not always open the game).

But this had the effect that the knight' move castling put the King in peril. The most common castling was Kd1-b2, Ke8-g7, and the Kings would oppose each other at the long diagonal. With the Kings opposed, this castling became Ke1-g2, Ke8-g7, leaving both Kings open to attack from the soon-to-appear fianchettoed enemy Queen's Bishop.

So it made sense to stay on the back rank. The double King's move castling was born. Much in accordance with the double pawn's move, the piece is allowed extra mobility on its first excursion.

But this had the effect of locking up one's own Rook in the corner. The Rook lost mobility, compared to the Knight's move castling. To maintain mobility, the rook jump was introduced. Otherwise, the King would have to go to second rank anyway.

This, to the best of my knowledge, is the turn of events. There is a certain logic to how present day chess has come about.

When it comes to c960 in its present state, the main idea seems to be to maintain castled positions as we know them. This means that instead of saying how each piece moves, we identify special squares that they must go to. The move is then defined by how the piece reaches the target square, be it c1, b1 or g1.

This, in my opinion, is a complication. And an unnecessary one.

My preferred shuffle chess - which I played quite a bit, in primary school, before ambitions set in - would be that the only restriction on piece placement is, Bishops on squares of opposite colour. Castling rules unchanged, i.e. double King's move, Rook jump, if the position allows it. Otherwise no castling, or possibly just to one side.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/19/2018 12:12
@ celeje : About GM Deviatkin's tweet (2) :

Chess960's starting positions and traditional chess' openings cannot be compared : it is conceivable to elaborate a reasoning to demonstrate that some of the Chess960's starting positions are bad for whatever reasons, while, for an opening, if it serves its purpose (to win or draw a game), it is good (at least for one given game against one given opponent), and that's all... So, nonetheless, GM Deviatkin IS comparing apples with oranges, in my opinion...
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/19/2018 12:01
@ celeje : About GM Deviatkin's tweet :

It is true that Frederic Friedel's sentence ("some are simply bizarre, causing players to cringe, and some invite blunders .... But many are interesting and exciting.") is mostly based on subjective arguments, and I agree that subjective arguments shouldn't be used.

But when you say : "So all 960 starting positions should be accepted.", it sounds like a religious belief ! It isn't because some subjective arguments should be rejected that ALL arguments about the Chess960's starting positions are necessarily bad ! The Chess960 rules aren't a religious dogma, to the best of my belief !!
celeje celeje 3/18/2018 11:39
@Petrarlsen:

Again and in general I'll try to reply to one topic at a time..

Petrarlsen: "As for GM Deviatkin's tweet, I don't think that it really brings anything to the debate ; it is essentially a provocation."

The tweet obviously is a reaction to Frederic's article. GM Deviatkin is very pro-Chess960. So I interpret his tweet as making fun of this part...

Frederic Friedel: "some are simply bizarre, causing players to cringe, and some invite blunders .... But many are interesting and exciting."

I think Deviatkin's point is that Frederic should not think he can judge what's bizarre or interesting or exciting. Just as no one should judge what opening is bizarre or boring. We don't force people to play our favorite openings. So all 960 starting positions should be accepted.
Petrarlsen Petrarlsen 3/18/2018 09:46
@ celeje (2/2) :

- "The most important thing now is that CHESS960 MUST BE PLAYED. If it is played, it will be discovered what is good or bad. If it is not played, it won't get better or worse but simply won't exist."

My first answer will be a question : "Would you consider that your reasoning about Chess960 would apply to all the chess variants on this page : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_chess_variants ? And thus, would you also consider that to reject any of these chess variants would be a subjective choice, rationally impossible to defend ?"

As for me, for all these chess variants and for Chess960, my viewpoint is the same : some chess variants can answer satisfyingly to a coherent and logical concept, and some other will not. And for the chess variants who don't answer satisfyingly to a coherent and logical concept, I consider that they don't deserve to be used.

And so I think that it is a complete impasse to affirm that any reasoning tending to select chess variants and to discard others is only subjective. In fact, such a reasoning is completely objective, and, furthermore, to proceed like this is necessary, or you would have to play myriads of more than strange chess variants...

In fact, I think that, without perceiving it, you ARE doing yourself such a reasoning ; otherwise, why would you interest yourself in Chess960 and not in other chess variants ? In my opinion, because, globally, Chess960 is conceptually rich (even if some points would need to be improved), while many other chess variants are quite simply conceptually absurd...

- And, globally, you always say that my arguments are subjective, but, in my opinion, you don't demonstrate satisfyingly at all WHY my arguments would be subjective (...I even demonstrated why my reasonings are objective in a previous post, and you didn't answer to that...), so, in fact, paradoxically, in my opinion, when you say that my reasonings are purely subjective, it is your own reasoning that is subjective ! Indeed, to say : "your reasoning is subjective" without a proper argumentation to justify it, is a subjective argument !...

- As for GM Deviatkin's tweet, I don't think that it really brings anything to the debate ; it is essentially a provocation, "comparing apples with oranges"... The opening, in a chess game, is chosen by the players ; if a player consider that the opening played by his opponent isn't good, there is a simple answer for him : to win the game... (or at least, to draw it.) And if your opponent's opening is "bad" but you can't win or draw, then, perhaps you should reconsider your opinion about this opening... Schematically, a good opening is an opening that wins, and a bad one, an opening that loses ; it is as simple as that... and it hasn't anything in common with the Chess960 problems...