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Understand The Position 16: “It Needs a Change!”

GM Ján Markoš | August 10, 2011 – 10:29One Comment | 870 views
Understand The Position 16: “It Needs a Change!”

If the position on the board seems familiar to you, you are right. There is no better known and more basic position in chess – one could say that there is not much to write about it. Lately, however, it is not true. There is more and more discussion suggesting that there is something wrong with this seemingly obvious position.



Translated by: Dusan Turcer

Thanks to the computer assistance, the opening theory has advanced so much, that the chess at the highest level has become mainly a game of memory and cyber work and is not the play of the creativity and character anymore, which was the case during the sweet times of vacuum-tubes. Nowadays, if you open an on-line broadcast from some super tournament 15 minutes after the start of the round, you will often find players in the middle game. According to my knowledge, the absolute record in homework is the game Nepomniachtchi – Shirov played this year in Wijk an Zee, where both players played so fast that they had one more hour on the clock at the end of the game. And the game was about 70 moves long! You can double-check if you don’t believe.

Of course, strong players don’t want to compete in the repression of processors, or to play the game “who will be surprised” over and over. They therefore try to find ways to change the basic position and to eliminate the sediment load of the chess theory.

The first interesting attempt was an idea of Bobby Fischer to randomly shuffle the pieces on the first and the last rank. This chess is known as Chess960 in the English-speaking environment, because there are exactly 960 basic positions and it is quite popular these days. Its disadvantage is, that in many of the arising positions some outlandish orders apply, which don’t have too much in common with the chess as we know it. Moreover, White has a significant edge in the number of positions.

Garri Kasparov therefore suggested to chose only about 20-30 positions out of 960, geometry of which is the most similar to the current game of chess. A particular position could be tossed before the game or event, or to be designated “from the top level” for a limited period, let’s say a year.

The famous chess trainer Mark Dvoretsky proposed even a finer change: to randomly move with one white and one black pawn by a single square in the basic position. All the pieces would stay on their “normal” places. However, the problem of this change is that some positions will be immediately balanced, while in others the dominance of white pieces will be significantly increased. As an example you can compare the position after 1.f3 e6 with the position after 1.g3 h6…

The participants of the Candidates Matches in Kazan also proposed its own forms of chess. Vladimir Kramnik recommended prohibiting the castle before the 10th move. This would have enormous impact on the chess theory (White castles before the 10th move in 55% of the games, Black in about 50%.); however, after the 10th move, the chess as we know it would be played again.

My favourite idea is the proposal of Radjabov to switch the places of the white king and queen, while the black royal couple would remain at the same places. White then castles short to the queenside, Black to the kingside. That would be a lot of attacks with the opposite castling! I even organized a blitz tournament in this form of chess during one chess assembly. Its participants agreed that this is the only form of chess in which Black has the edge. Being tempo up is not essential in comparison with the chaos in the unaccustomed head of White. When you see your own monarch on the queenside and on the white square, you always feel that there is something not quite right in your position.

Other interesting ideas refer to the changes in the rules. For example Ivanchuk proposed to introduce a new rule. The player who simultaneously attacks the opponent’s king and queen is immediately winning the game. He actually invented a new type of checkmate.

But I think that FIDE will finally approve the most prosaic solution: further shortening of the time for thinking. Theory will not be so important in rapid and blitz games. Moreover, this decision will help to increase the showmanship of the chess and will cause troubles to cheaters, who will have significantly less time to transfer the moves from player to computer and back.

Shortening of the time control will change chess to a sport of reaction and nerves; artistic and exploring aspects will disappear somewhere in the background. I cannot judge, whether it is a change for the better or for worse.

It is, however, for sure, that chess in its present form will not exist for long.


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