An interview with James Plaskett (GM)

chess959: I would like start with a very tricky question: Which one is a chess variant: Chess960 or SP#518 (RNBQKBNR)?

plaskettJames Plaskett: Oh my… Both I’d say! The latter…maybe not. I understand what prompted Fischer to seek a variant of the game.Seirawan has even invented SeirawanChess. But… Maybe It’s some kind of lost cause.







chess959: Bobby Fischer was a genius and so often he used language in a way that we are not familiar with. We think we understood him but actually we were not listening, we were just operating off our own assumptions of what we think he meant. One of the biggest controversies is what Bobby meant when he talked about “pre-arranged” chess games…..

It sounds like match fixing……..I used to get confused about what Bobby was talking about. But Bobby was talking about “pre-arrangement” in the sense that both players have organised what they are going to play on the board before they get there (independently from each other).

The idea of “pre-arrangement” is that as Bobby noted, it should be stated up front (acknowledged rather than blindly accepted). What is the difference between playing from an opening book in your mind, compared to if both players actually used a physical opening book as they were playing through the opening?

James Plaskett: You ask players openly using opening books… well something akin to that happened in Kasparov´s Active Chess idea i.e players openly consulting computers during play.

chess959: Advanced chess.

James Plaskett: Yes. Sounds a bit daft to me. Fischer was a chess genius yes but his celebration of the 9/11 atrocities was vile.

chess959: If there was a physical book, everybody would be clear about what is happening. As it is now, the book is in human memory. But what is the difference?

James Plaskett: Theory is updating all of the time. That could be the difference…

(Off the record) me: James what kind of response is this? Are you serious?

chess959: We now know that some people intentionally misdescribe chess960 as a chess variant. What could be the main reason for this?

(Off the record) me thinking: He won’t answer this question and will try to say something else. And here it is…

James Plaskett: It is a chess variant.

(Off the record) me thinking: He started to defend SP518. But no chance. The truth cannot be hidden anymore!

James Plaskett: Random starting positions. A few yrs ago I even played a FischerRandom event in Murcia, near my home. I finished 2nd.

chess959: James,,, please! (Note: Finally I lost my patience.)

James Plaskett: eh?

chess959: Ok, here is another try.

James Plaskett: Yes sir!

chess959: Carry out this simple thought experiment that questions our Chess centric way of thinking: “In an alternative reality, hundreds of years ago the game of Chess960 was invented. Then late in the 21st century, a small movement began to only play SP518 (Chess). But players all around the world asked the simple question, why would you want to dumb down Chess960 like that?”

AND Chess (SP518) is a variant of Chess960 and so are the other 959 positions. There is no difference that I can tell. Chess960 is not a variant. It is a generalised set of rules that determine all the possible positions of pieces on the back rank without violating any past rule. Not a single rule of chess is violated in the process, not one.

James Plaskett: NO INDEED not… except the position of the pieces at the start… but; so what? Tactics, strategy, ending technique affected? Not at all.

chess959: Indeed.

James Plaskett: I’m quite enjoying it, even.

chess959: Most chess960 games after 10-15 moves, will look like a classical chess position. You won’t be able to easily determine how the game originated.

James Plaskett: Quite.

chess959: And last one: If the purists are so insistent that chess 960 is not “real chess”, why did we let computers rule the analysis of classic chess?

James Plaskett: Rule it? They are engines for perfecting commentary AFTER the games, Señor.

chess959: Don’t you know supercomputers for opening preparation?

James Plaskett: They are used there, too.

(Off the record): I think James is a good guy, but lack of knowledge about computers invasion to human chess. Here Ian Rogers, reported from Sofia, Bulgaria, 2010:

“World Championship games are expected to last four, perhaps even six hours. This one was over in little more than two. The Indian World Champion was destroyed; nay, humiliated. On Bulgarian television that night, Topalov explained that the entire game had been prepared by him and his team at home; he didn’t need to find a single original move to score a simple first game victory.”

chess959: James, Chess960 is not a variant of chess. Chess960 is a generalization of chess. Do you agree?

James Plaskett: And, over the last 25 years people are less and less happy about that. I’ll go along with your definition of Chess960.

(Off the record) me: See? He is a good guy, when vital information given to them (GM), they will understand it. Most of them spend entire life to chess. I have full respect to them even to Kasparov (number 1 enemy of pure human play a.k.a chess960)

chess959: James, thanks for your time.

James Plaskett: Pleasure. Adios.



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