960 times the positions, 960 times the fun
Over a year since the inaugural Titled Arena, we decided to mix things up with our first ever Titled Arena in Chess960. Chess960 is a chess variant where the back rank pieces for both sides can start in any of 960 different combinations - throwing opening theory out of the window and leading to some extremely sharp (and sometimes peculiar) positions right from the off! A total of 4 of the 2649 games played started from the standard position, but the majority of course were unknown territory. As such, it was only fair to increase the time control to the sedentary pace of 2+1 - but this didn't deter some competitors who proceeded with berserk rates of over 70%. An interesting effect of the time control was that we saw far more berserking than 1+0, despite the loss of increment making it theoretically an even more berserk decision! We don't yet have the statistics in on if the number of computer mice broken in a rage was reduced as a result, but we hope so.
The event started with many players balanced out of the gate - taking longer to string the wins together. Mystery GM Watneg took an early lead, stringing an impressive 8 wins together. Meanwhile, Magnus managed to cling on for a win on time while down a full rook, but then failed (just) to do the impossible again after getting his Queen trapped 4 moves in against IM MeneerMandje - losing 113 rating points in the process. GM Watneg and IM opperwezen continued to trade places in 1st and 2nd over the next half hour, with the latter taking the victory in their first meeting.
Another fascinating first meeting, and great example of the craziness possible in Chess960 came around halfway through the event, with GMs DrNykterstein and Watneg facing off and playing with some serious imbalances:
While that was going on GM Night-King96 (Oleksandr Bortnyk) slipped into first place, after a shaky start then stringing 9 wins in a row. GM FrostWyrm took up position in second place but then unfortunately withdrew from the tournament for reasons unknown - but unlikely to be tilt after 8 wins back to back. With 40 minutes to go, Bortnyk and Carlsen were leading the pack with 71 and 70 apiece - then for the first time in the tournament Magnus took the lead with 35 minutes remaining, would he ever let it go again? We won't keep you in suspense, the answer is no and with that Magnus became the winner of the first Chess960 Titled Arena ....pretty impressive for someone who played the whole event on their phone.
A big thank you of course to all the players, patrons, spectators and streamers who help to make the event both possible and so enjoyable for us all!