Chess960, All Welcome! -- Color Commentary by Michael Farris


A Chess960 Mini-tournament



It is a pleasant opportunity to see some good games unfold in this prelude to the major event, the 2006 Chess960 Dropout Tournament. (For our purposes here, Chess960 and FRC are being used interchangeably). So many good games are being played here online, and it is my wish to give back to the chess community and open the door for some commentary from the players themselves. Because the games are ongoing, my goal is to encourage players to comment here as the games are completed. Comments on active games are discouraged, but if a player refers to a move/idea more than 10 moves in the past, then that might be acceptable instead.

I hope that games could be discussed in the following terms:

  • The "Centre" of the first attack
  • Exploiting Tactical Weaknesses
  • The Need for exchange
  • The Acquisition of Space
  • The Powerful Combination
  • Sustained Tempo
  • The Perils/Benefits of Castling
  • Returning to the Endgame

In doing so, it may help to hold up examples of FRC as supportive of "traditional" principles, which are revealed and emphasized via novel positions that are part of the design of Chess960. To create on the novel board the strategy to win shows a deeper understanding of the principles of chess we value most. Beyond regurgitation of studied lines - which are important, mind you, the reader, for common ground amongst players; our past 100-or-so years of intense analysis of our Noble Game has contributed a great deal to our collective understanding of the game - this energetic variant gives Master and Amateur an opportunity to exchange ideas again, and so place games in terms of Concept vs. Opening. Revisitation of these games, whether they be Amateur (One who Loves the Game) or a Master (one who intimately loves the Game), might allow a formalization of Terms of Discussion of the ideas, so it will be easy to put forth and clarify a Chess Concept without regard to the position with which one begins. Imagine a book using Standard and Chess960 examples to further the game itself, discussing principles of development and engagement from both versions of play, and in doing so enlighten the new player to employ a harmony of innovation and technique, supporting both the old and the new. That is what I want - respect for what has come before and for what is to come.

In this public tournament, offered by Austin (see the link we have players representing California USA, Montreal CAN, the United Kingdom, Washington USA, Phillipines, and Malung SWE. Several are full members, and I suspect with this group with more than a few FRC veterans, some good games will arise.

The positions that are being argued:


These positions are played in couplets, with each player playing 6 of these against their opponents. I would like to hear from the players themselves-is there one that gave you trouble over the other positions? Did play flow smoothly from them against your opponent, or did you really have to look and see how you wanted to begin?

A comment on unprotected pawns

In other major Chess versions – XiangQi (Chinese Chess) and Shogi (Japanese Chess) the pawn soldiers have a different movement. They move and capture forward, with varying rules on promotion. One criticism on FRC by non-players has been the possibility of an unprotected pawn in the starting array. The concern has been put forward that one side or the other has an unfair advantage because of this setup. For the other major versions of Chess (ASIDE: for some great examples of masterful play in either incarnation, see for games from the 9th XiangQi World Championship, played for the first time outside Asia in the history of the game; or for some powerful Shogi games, see [thanks to Reijer Grimbergen] and for an article of one of Shogi’s strongest masters, Yoshiharu Habu, read "When a Shogi Champion Turns to Chess" at the "lone soldier" is a tool for the masterful player to use, and often the endgame examples show a single pawn playing heavily in the mating net-its power is limited, but essential, in the mating of an opponent. No piece is ignored in any version of this triumvirate of Chess. The varying support or isolation of the pawn plays less of a role in FRC than some might think because each player is involved in a couplet and will have to contend with both sides of the problem. To play the game one must LOOK at the board and have a plan in hand before the game begins. Each position will require different development and planning to move forward successfully. Consider that concept as you play.

What I would like to see from the reading public:

Every month or so I would like to make some updates as to the completion of the games, and the ideas that may have come from them. I encourage the players themselves to make a brief (or not so brief) synopsis of what they were thinking while they played, and what they wished they might’ve done at certain high points of the games. The couplets can be instructive, and we should make use of them. Like any dance, when the lead changes, the story changes. Emmanuel Lasker in his Chess for Fun and Chess for Blood narrates the games he chooses with interesting commentary; Andrew Soltis in The Great Chess Tournaments and Their Stories makes the games themselves delightful through his commentary and highlights of particular positions. His goal was not to make himself look bright but rather to put the focus on how powerful the decisions and ideas of the masters were in those games. In the process he brought a great passion to the stories themselves, and made the chosen games part of an exciting pursuit of great chess ideas. I would like to see the same for our games-let us remember that at that time they were amateurs, each with their own professions-and they, as we, played chess for the glory of the game.

As of 26 November 2005, one game is completed at this time.

IamATiger (UK) - Everheiri (SWZ)
Startdate 16 November 2005
Position 736

It was an eight-day game, and the 11 moves were instructive. In another discussion we players talked about how to categorize completed FRC games. Since some strong tactics on one player’s part will take the fire out of an opponent’s attack, some games end in resignation because of some powerful following-up of a combination that would seriously cripple the player behind in development.

1. c4 e5 White wants to make use of the bishops, and Black aims to hold the centre 2. b4 d6 3. f4 exf4 The long diagonal a1-h8 could be powerful, but Black Queen g8 protects that rook 4. Bf5 Ne6 5. Qd4 Nxd4 White’s early team is broken up early with a mis-place of the queen. I would like to see what White really intended, as this may have been a solid fight. The new angles are always something to consider in developing the pieces-the knights, the hardest piece in Western Chess to visualize, are fighting from different starting points. 6. Bxd4 f6 7. g3 b6 Now Black tries to take control of his own diagonal, and forces the rook to take a safer spot. 8. Rg1 c5 9. Bxc8 Kxc8 White tries to equalize material, and Black gives up castling privilege-but does he need it? 10. Bc3 d5 Black has achieved a lot of space to move around, and his long-attackers are sharpening their swords. White is left with short-range pieces, and with Queen and one bishop gone, he is deciding whether he wants to fight that hard! With more than 30 days left to play, that will be a long grind... 11. gxf4 d4 That white bishop is now locked away by a well-timed pawn chain development, and Black’s lanes are free to run along for some developing attacks.

white resigns, Black Win

In playing any chess game, it is not so much about what has left the board, but how each piece that is present on the board is being used in that particular game. So in the analysis, we have to assume the players have plans, and we must respect them. In this first game, the Acquisition of the Centre freed Black’s pieces to threaten the opponent, just as Vidmar "threatened" Nimzovich with an unlit cigarette in New York 1927
- and for those who have never actually seen the game that follows this funny anecdote, here it is:

Milan Vidmar - Aaron Nimzovich
New York

(Notes by Nimzowitsch)

1. d4 Nf6 2. Nf3 e6 3. c4 Bb4+ 4. Bd2 Qe7 This innovation, introduced by the author, does not in any way indicate an early commitment to a particular line of opening: the queen is well placed at e7 in any case- Indian or Dutch 5. Nc3 Slightly better would be 5 g3 5... O-O 6. e3 d6 Black is still at the crossroads between Dutch (b6 and Bb7) and Indian (c5 or e5 with Nc6) the decision is taken on the next move 7. Be2 He foregoes 7 Bd3 which must come as a success for Black's alternating policy. If 7 Bd3 e5 7... b6 8. O-O Bb7 9. Qc2 Nbd7 10. Rad1 Bxc3 11. Bxc3 Ne4 12. Be1 f5 He turns completely Dutch 13. Qb3 The idea of this slightly puzzling move is to keep his e-pawn covered, e.g., after Nd2, ...Nxd2, Rxd2, ...Qg5, f3 and the e-pawn is covered 13... c5 With this move the dutch formation is completed : point e4, and the pawn at c5 for attack or defence, (stopping White's c5.) 14. Nd2 Nxd2 15. Rxd2 e5 16. dxe5 dxe5 17. f3 g5 Black's task is now to manage his wing attack in such a way that his opponent cannot in the meantime break through on the d-file 18. Bf2 Nf6 19. Rfd1 Rae8 20. Qa4 Ba8 21. Rd6 Insufficient would be the sacrifice of the exchange by 21 Rd7 Nxd7 22 Rxd7 because of ...Qf6 23 Qxa7 and now simply ...h6 21... Qg7 22. Bf1 A better defence is available by 22 Be1, e.g. : 22...e4 23 Bc3 or if 22...g4 23 fxg4 Nxg4 24 Rd7 Qg5 25 Bxg4 Qxg4 26 Qc2 22... e4 23. Be1 exf3 24. Bc3 Now this digression comes too late as the pretty play demonstrates 24... Qe7 Now 25. Bxf6 would lead to mate; 25...Qxe3+ 26 Kh1 fxg2+ with ...Qe1+ 25. R6d3 fxg2 26. Bxg2 Bxg2 27. Bxf6 If 27 Kxg2 Qe4+ with a short and decisive attack 27... Qe4 28. R1d2 Bh3 29. Bc3 Qg4+ And mate in two, 0-1

I look forward to December and the development of the rest of the games in the tournament.

Links for FRC games:


nasmichael12/13/2005 17:42Updates are on their way! Comments by the players themselves are very welcome.
nasmichael12/15/2005 10:07From December 3rd 2005--

toguints – Torbjorn Bjorklund – 0-1

(position 501) StartDate: 11/18/2005 EndDate: 12/01/2005 [14 day game]

toguints 30 days, 21 hours
1636 (153)

Torbjörn Björklund 41 days, 15 hours
1901 (255)

1. d2-d4 d7-d5 2. c2-c3 Ng8-f6 3. Ng1-f3 c7-c6 4. Ne1-d3 Bd8-c7 5. Bd1-b3 Bc8-f5 6. Nf3-h4 Bf5-e4 7. f2-f3 Be4-g6 8. Nd3-c5 Bg6xb1
9. Ra1xb1 Bc7xh2 10. Bc1-g5 Qb8-g3 11. f3-f4 Nf6-g4 12. Bg5xe7+ Kf8-g8 13. Nc5-e4 Ng4-e3#
Black Win

MJF: Smothered attack by Torbjorn. Quick development of pieces, control of squares around opponent’s king.
Bishop and queen guard escape squares while knight delivers final lancing attack.

Torbjorn – Toguints – 1-0

(position 501) --RQBBNKNR

Standard (30 days + 1 day/move) StartDate: 11/17/2005 EndDate: 12/01/2005 [15 day game]

Torbjörn Björklund 42 days, 10 hours FRCrating--1901 (255)

toguints 31 days, 1 hour FRCrating--1636 (153)

1. d2-d4 Hi! 1... c7-c6
2. e2-e4 Bd8-c7 3. Ng1-f3 Ng8-f6
Torbjörn Björklund: 3...d5 4.e5 Lf5 (4...f6 5.Sd3 Lf5 6.0-0 Lxd3 7.cxd3 fxe5 8.dxe5 Lxe5 9.Te1 Ld6 (9...Lf4 10.d4 Sgf6 11.Df5) 10.d4 Sgf6 11.Lc2 0-0 12.Lg5 Kh8 (12...Sg4? 13.Lxh7+ Kh8 14.Lf5) 13.a3 (13.Lf5!?) Dc7 14.Lf5 g6 15.Lh6 Sg7 16.Lxg6 hxg6 17.Dxg6 e6 18.Sg5 Tae8 19.Lxg7+ Dxg7 20.Dxg7+ Kxg7 21.Sxe6+ Kg6 22.Sxf8+ Txf8 23.Tac1 Se4 24.Te2 Lc7 25.Td1 oklart/=)—annotation by TB
4. e4-e5 Nf6-d5 5. c2-c4 5... Nd5-b6
6. Nf3-g5 6... g7-g6 7. h2-h4 Nb6xc4 8. h4-h5 f7-f6 9. h5xg6 h7-h6 10. Ng5-f7 Rh8-g8 11. Bc1xh6+ Ne8-g7 12. Qb1-c1 b7-b5 13. Bh6xg7+ Kf8xg7 14. Qc1-h6#
White Win

MJF: Domination of space was key here; in both games queen and knight team run out to attack the king from both sides. Sacrifice of bishop key in this game to pull queen into place for final attack. Pawn outpost important.

Other couplets holding a position with doubled “centralized” bishops: position 421 (center and left of center);
position 666 (center and right of center). In both knights are toward the periphery.

[TB—to] couplet—both games were done in 14 moves. Both mates, both N+Q assaults. Could they have been equalized? Yes. To hold off the attack, toguints might have decided to shift his attack from material to space. The essence of the chess game is a balance of increasing space and increasing one’s own active material in relation to the other. Most players focus on the material; there are GMs who focus instead on space acquisition, and creating “good space” for themselves, and “unusable space” for their opponent—see the games of Glenn Flear, Tony Miles, Tigran Petrosian, Leonard Shamkovich. They take different tacks in their games, but they are all unified in their approach to the game in terms of “Space”.

position 142 – a game played by GMs in August 2004
FiNet Open, Mainz, Germany

[Event "CCM4 - FiNet Open"] [Site "Mainz"] [Date "2004/08/05"] [Round "5"] [White "Kobalija"] [Black "Sasikiran"] [WhiteTitle "GM"] [BlackTitle "GM"] [Result "1-0"] [FEN "
nrqnkbbr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/NRQNKBBR w KQkq - 0 1
"] [Board "2"] [Input "DGT1805"] [Owner ""] 1.d4 d5 2.f3 h5 3.Nb3 c6 4.e4 Nc7 5.Nc3 e6 6.Qd2 b6 7.O-O-O a5 8.Kb1 Nb7 9.Bd3 Nd6 10.Qe2 Qd7 11.h4 Be7 12.Bh2 Kf8 13.Be5 Ra8 14.Na4 Nc8 15.c4 dxe4 16.fxe4 Ra7 17.c5 b5 18.Nb6 Qe8 19.Nxa5 f6 20.Nxc8 Qxc8 21.Nxc6 Ra8 22.Nxe7 Kxe7 23.Bd6+ Kf7 24.d5 Bh7 25.Bxc7 Qxc7 26.e5 Qxc5 27.dxe6+ Kf8 28.exf6 gxf6 29.Rhf1 Kg7 30.Bxh7 Rxh7 31.Rd7+ Kh8 32.Rxh7+ Kxh7 33.Qe4+ 1-0

and also by our noble players:

Torbjörn Björklund 39 days, 11 hours
1901 (255)

dmichael 38 days, 6 hours
2160 (113)

1. Na1-b3 Na8-b6 2. e2-e4 e7-e5 3. c2-c4 Forward! 3... c7-c5 Indeed! 4. d2-d3 Bf8-e7 5. f2-f4 f7-f5 6. Qc1-c3 6... Nd8-c6 7. Nd1-e3 Nb6-a4 8. Qc3-c2 f5xe4 9. Nb3-d2 Na4-b6 10. Ne3-f5 e4-e3 11. Nd2-e4 Nc6-d4 12. Ne4-d6+ Be7xd6 13. Nf5xd6+ Ke8-f8 14. Qc2-c1 Qc8-d8 15. Bg1xe3 …and ongoing.

Game 4 completed on Saturday December 3, 2005.
iamatiger 33 days, 18 hours FRCrating - 1496 (267) vs. doodledandy 38 days, 23 hours FRC 2238 (94)

1. g2-g4 d7-d5 2. Bf1-g2 e7-e6 3. c2-c4 Be8-a4 4. b2-b3 Ba4-c6 5. d2-d3 g7-g5 6. d3-d4 d5xc4 7. Be1-c3 c4xb3 8. d4-d5 Bf8-g7 9. d5xc6 Rd8xd1+ 10. Kc1xd1 Nb8xc6 11. Bg2xc6 O-O-O+
12. Kd1-c1 Bg7xc3 13. Bc6xb7+ Kc8-b8 14. Bb7-a6 Bc3-b2#
Black Win

nasmichael: Game 4 completed.

Possible means of analysis:

For each move, give a reason for each side. Use same column system as gamescores.

IamaTiger (1496) DoodleDandy (2238)
//White// (Move) //Black// [Advantage]

//opens lanes for Q & B// (1) //pawn takes center//

//activates light-sq. bishop// (2) solidifies center (pawn chain)//

//attacks center soldier from flank// (3) //bishop aims for rook to go up exchan
nasmichael12/15/2005 10:17(continued from above)

//attacks center soldier from flank (3) //bishop aims for rook to go up exchange//

//blocks capture with pawn (4) //bishop retreats/competes for long diagonal a8-h1//

//strengthens c4—pawn chain// (5) //controls long diagonal –captures rook en prise (threat) //

//pawn closes lane a1-h8// (6) //opens file in front of king’s file (pxP)//

//develops dark-sq. bishop?holds center// (7) //denudes kingside (pxP)// [advantage - Black]

//discovered attack on queen—extends center// (8) //protects queen and holds long diagonal//

//aims for Pxp #, but overlooks black’s next move—pulling tactic. (Pxb)// (9) //Forces capture, takes away white’s castling privilege (rxR)//

//Forced, or else mate in 1 (Kxr)// (10) //Develops knight, makes a-side castling possible, further development.// [Tempo advantage]

//Attacks material, ignores space (Bxn); developing h-side knight might be better// (11) //Develops a-side rook, attacks king directly. Option to take the white bishop out of play possible.//

//King escapes check// (12) //Controls space around king [restriction] (bxP)// [Advantage - Black]

//Sticks with original plan, but ignores king safety. (Bxp +)// (13) //King escapes check. It is non-lethal check.//

//Bishop vacates square to allow queen in for mate, but ignores black’s threat.// (14) //Bishop checks with all escape squares under black’s control. Advanced pawn essential to mating net. [Black wins.]//

One observation: position 692 is one of the 7 Symmetrical FRC positions.
Standard (30 days + 1 day/move)

everheiri 33 days, 4 hours FRC 1834 (97) vs. dmichael 35 days, 7 hours FRC 2160 (113) – at move 11. Ongoing.

link: .
nasmichael12/15/2005 10:41As of Dec 14th, 19 games are completed. I have to thank all the players for their pleasantness and diligence in their games. Startdate was November 18th (or somewhere thereabouts), and with one month gone, players are active, games are proceeding well. Doodledandy and Torbjorn have 100% in 6 games each, so as they share the lead, their couplet against each other will prove a deciding factor. For example, 10 moves ago (as of Dec 14th) this was the position in the game: [SIDE NOTE: I only refer to positions to which there can be no return, so as not to disturb the players, and also so as not to give comments which would be damaging to the sanctuary of either player]

4rrk1/1pp2ppp/p2p3n/2P1p3/1P1PP2q/P1Q1P2b/2B1N1P1/R4RK1 w KQkq - 0 1
. White to move after 19...Qxh4.

Black had acquired some space and had sent a "surveying party" downfield to harass the white king in his castle. White had been developing, and runs into an interesting problem--how does he throw hot oil on some unwanted neighbors without opening his castle doors too wide in doing so? The pawn soldiers are clashing in the middle of the battlefield, but in the process have closed down lanes to exploit later. Is there a way to create roads to ride towards the black king? On Dec. 3rd this was the question posed after 19...Qxh4.
12/24/2005 08:34
With 26 games completed, I would like to congratulate the players for their diligence and displaying a desire to win their games. Playing on a server makes keeping up with game positions easier, allows analysis online without misplacing pieces or confusing the main position with alternative branches, and maintaining observance of time controls. We will get a high percentage of completed games, and this round-robin allows for both players to try and take the lead (and in doing so, improve their understanding).

One couplet I was viewing with (dmichael & doodledandy) , now at move 21, had the benefit of being handled by two strong FRC players. Position 609 allows for early diagonal convergence queenside, and the attacks can coalesce at b3-c3-b4-c4 against uncastled kings. That may help a new player understand some (very basic) early plans. These players saw something else also, being stronger players, and chose to bring the calvary out first, and in both games traded out the bishops and fought for central control.

do-dm pos.609
brnbqkrn/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/BRNBQKRN w KQkq - 0 1

after 11...Bd8-f6

br3krn/p1p2ppp/1pq2b2/5N2/1P2p3/7R/P2P2PP/B1N1QRK1 w KQkq - 0 1


dm-do after move 11...Nc8-d6

br2qr1k/p1p3pp/1p1n1pn1/3P4/2QB4/1P3PP1/P1P3P1/1RNB1RK1 w KQkq - 0 1

Control of the center is present in both games--but in version 2, Dmichael tries to take advantage of the diagonals earlier in the game.

Since then ("then" was around Dec.3rd) they have moved into other battles, but this couplet was demonstrative of different paths that can be taken in novel positions.
These examples help me to understand why players choose different paths in our Standard game, and how the personality of the player may draw him or her to a particular style as white or black. Knowing what you are comfortable with playing is important as you approach your studies. So a suggestion from your humble author is to play what you are comfortable with first, and tool your studies towards others who make the same choices and learn from their examples. Play enough games to figure out what you like. Be creative, and enjoy yourselves!
nasmichael01/03/2006 04:42Ten games left. I am very interested to hear from the players what their favorite games were. Tell me about the challenges in this match, and what they think their best decisions were.
Space01/10/2006 02:48Here is a commented game from this tournament Chess960, all welcome:
nasmichael01/15/2006 20:51Thanks, Torbjoern (no umlaut on my keyboard, with apologies.)

4 games left today. We have 4 draws, two from the couplet with position 916, and two with position 142.
Do-TB -->N+2P vs n+2p
TB-Do -->N+R vs r+2p

TB-Dm-->N+B+5P vs r+6p
Dm-TB-->Q+4P vs q+4p

I ran the last position through Fritz 8, and the results I will post later on as it checks the drawishness of the game.

Stepping back 5 moves in time, here are the positions from the games to come, including the game which may decide the winner of the tourney. Torbjoern is the leader currently, with 10 out of 12 games, but DoodleDandy could take the lead with his last game.

As of:

i/06/2006, dm-do, position 609, after 30...Qb2-c3
8/p5pk/1p4np/P1p2n2/2P3Q1/1Pq2P2/3rBBP1/1bN1R1K1 w KQkq - 0 1

xii/17/2005, ev-dm, position 692, after 18.Rb3-c3
1rr3k1/pp2ppp1/3bb2p/3P4/4B3/2R2N2/PP3PPP/2R4K w KQkq - 0 1

xii/20/2005, dm-ev, position 692, after 14.Nf5-g3
r1b1r1k1/ppb2p1p/2p1nnp1/8/8/2P3N1/PPB1NPPP/R1B1R1K1 w KQkq - 0 1

xii/25/2005, SC-ev, position 827, after 17.d3-d4
r1k1qr2/p1pb2bp/3pp1pn/N3Pp2/n2P1P2/1NP3PP/PP1BQ3/2KR1R2 w KQkq - 0 1

Commentary on these positions will be held for later, although we have set ourselves far enough back so as not to interfere with the games.
nasmichael04/08/2006 02:46I really enjoyed following this tourney. I had some other info to be typed, and the last game ended at February's end/start of March, but work got very busy then. If anyone had a favorite game, let us know here--some folks were talking in the forums, but I want to centralize the information.

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