Thursday, 3 September 2020

Season 8 of the ZH League

Season 8 of the crazyhouse team league played on lichess.org was the toughest ever with former and current world champions JannLee and IM opperwezen both playing as well as Jasugi99, IM gsvc, TheFinnisher, Kleerkast & VariantsOnly. There were six teams of six players as well as 15 alts playing over five weeks, concluding in the first week of August with victory for ZHit Happens after five hard fought rounds. The winning team was made up of gsvc on board 1, pkr5025 on board 2, team captain pepellou on board 3, jamesog on board 4, earlpurple replacing JoannaTries for the last three rounds on board 5 and kostasvl with colwem subbing in for one round on board 6. ZHit Happens won the season thanks to four 7-5 team wins and was one match away from another 7-5 win in round 5 but denied by my own 2-0 victory against pepellou which clinched instead a 7-5 win for The Glass Bead Gamers against the Season 8 champions, and second place for our team headed up by Kleerkast. Coming in third place in the league was VariantOnly’s team Radical Posture captained by Marlonc.


IM gsvc was top board 1, LegionDestroyer top board 2, Bleichkind top board 3, SRTOBIAUDI top board 4, the_crocodile_hunter top board 5 (although earlpurple with an impressive 2000+ performance over fewer games) and adande1 top board 6 (although kostasvl with the slightly better performance).


Below are two sets of puzzles, one medium and one hard, based from positions in Season 8 of the League. I hope you enjoy them! If you prefer to try them directly in a lichess study, here is a practice with computer study. There is also a solution study with full variations as well as a highlights of Season 8 study with full games at the end of the blog.




Too easy? Try your hand at these instead!




Practice with Computer Study


Solution Study

Full Highlights Study

(includes full games & positions too complicated for puzzles)


The 2020 Candidates are well underway and you can see upcoming matches in the calendar to the right of this blog!


Keep playing and enjoying crazyhouse!


—okei

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Crazyhouse 960 Team League (Season 7.960)

As an intermezzo between Season 7 at the end of 2019 and Season 8 in July, 2020, we had a more informal crazyhouse 960 league in which matches against opponents on other teams could be played at any time and match times, game and results were recorded on a zh960 calendar sheet. 

Matches could be played either on ProgramFox’s http://chessvariants.training or on the newer site just created this year by gbtami https://www.pychess.org since lichess does not implement 960 functionality for variant play (although lichess is still useful for post-match analysis). In practice, Pychess proved overwhelmingly popular.

There were six teams of five headed up by Mugwort, JKtheBullfrog, littleplotkin, firefly (aka zyxon), 12teen and Fumitoks. The time control as usual for the league was (4+b)+(4+b) on board b, so 5+5 on board 1, 6+6 on board 2, 7+7 on board 3, 8+8 on board 4 and 9+9 on board 5.

Unlike the standard crazyhouse team league, players could agree to play more than two games and the score they received was the proportion of games they won. Some matches were therefore 4 games instead of the standard 2 and a 3-1 match win would score 0.75 for the winner and 0.25 for the loser. There was also a cutoff point for the season of March 21st after which a match scored d days late would result in a d * 0.01 penalty to the winner and if the resulting winner’s score w were less than 0.5, then a (0.5 - w) penalty for the loser as well, with of course any negative scores rounded up to zero. In practice, no matches were played in this period of slow decay from March 21st till the end of June for two reasons: first, the worldwide outbreak of a pandemic meant some players had more important priorities than crazyhouse 960, and secondly once the 2020 Crazyhouse World Championship kicked off, organised in 2020 by JannLee, all eyes were on the double elimination event. The latter has now run its course and whittled down the more than 128 contestants to 12 Candidates who will do battle over the coming months in “10 games of 3+2” round-robin matches, the winner playing IM opperwezen in a Grand Final at the end of the year for the 2020 Crazyhouse World Championship trophy. To see all upcoming matches both in the CWC and in the league, check out the zh calendar in the right-hand column of this blog.

In Season 7.960, unfortunately 17 of the 75 matches went unplayed, with board 1s especially lackadaisical in arranging their matches (only 7 of the 15 board 1 matches were actually played while there was also 1 missed match on board 2, 3 missed matches on board 3, 4 missed matches on board 4, and 2 missed matches on board 5). However, since this was an informal league, there were no penalties and no forfeits for failure to play, although both players would suffer in contributing zero points to their team from the missed match. These unplayed matches were fairly unformly distributed among the teams, with each team missing 5-7 matches, so no team benefitted especially. After all there were 58 matches which did get played and over 128 games of crazyhouse 960 recorded in the following two studies on lichess:

Fumitoks was top board 1, Isachess hero of so many former editions of the league was top board 4 fgalla was top board 5, but the top board 2 the-lone-wolf and top board 3 pkr5025 carried their teammates Mugwort, krxou & colwem to a team Mugwort win in Season 7.960 by the narrowest of margins, a quarter of a single match point! Team plotkin came second, and team FumiLegion a further half match point behind came third. If some of the remaining matches had been played the results could easily have been different. But this to take nothing away from a fantastic win from team Mugwort and a great celebration of crazyhouse 960 on the newly created https://www.pychess.org.

Here are 50 puzzles from positions in the zh960 season. You can alternatively practice them directly against computer here.

Level 1.1



Level 1.2


Level 2.1



Level 2.2



Level 3

You can see the solutions in this Highlights from Season 7.960 study, along with annotations of some of the games, or else practice these puzzles for yourself against the computer here.

Enjoy the CWC 2020 Candidates which are about to get underway, have a great summer & keep playing crazyhouse!

—okei

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Seasons 6 & 7 of the ZH League

Congratulations to Schaker ZHulu for winning Season 6 of the crazyhouse team league! The members of the winning team were RapidVariants, AmelyPlaying, d4rkn3ss23, MarlonC, Isachess, adande1 & Zher0.  You can find a summary of the season here:




Player of the season was Isachess with 9/10. This is also the second win in a row for both RapidVariants and Isachess who were in the winning team in Season 5 also. Loch Zhess Monsters came second and TwelveTeam third. Well done to everyone for making an exciting and competitive season. 4th 5th and 6th all came essentially equal with only tiebreaks separating them.

As well as doing several recap videos of the season, I also hosted a first ever crazyhouse puzzle battle setting two big-hitters LegionDestroyer & CrazyHome up against each other (and the clock) to solve puzzles based on this Season. Enjoy the puzzles below and watch how the puzzle battle unfolded to see some of the solutions. You can also practice the studies below in the following practice against computer studies:
Practice Against Computer Studies

I will also post links to the solutions at the end of the blog.


Level 1: (1700)



Level 2: (1800)




Level 3: (1900)

  

Level 4: (2000)

  

Level 5: (2100)



Level 6: (2200)



Level 7: (2300)



Level 8: (2400)



Level 9: (2500)



Level 10: (2600)


Once you have had a go for yourselves, you might enjoy the puzzle battle between LegionDestroyer & CrazyHome played on April 1st, 2020 on Levels 1-7.




Practice Against Computer Studies


Full Solution Studies
Season 7 of the crazyhouse league finished on Christmas Day 2019 and had six teams with six players on each team and at least one alt on each board in a 5-week round-robin. The teams were one board smaller than in Seasons 5 and 6 but still showcased some of the best players of the game on board 1: JKtheBullfrog, Mugwort and gsvc took turns for Kneel Before Zhod, while the other teams were headed up by TheFinnisher, RapidVariants, LegionDestroyer, vectorveld and CrazyHome.

The champions of Season 7 after a hard-fought race were the undefeated Recovering Buggers (2 wins and 3 draws) who won on tiebreaks from Rook & Rollers (3 wins and 1 draw). Both scored 7 match points out of a maximum of 10, but Recovering Buggers’ game score of 35/60 outmatched Rook & Rollers on 32/60. Meanwhile, Kneel Before Zhod recovered from 2 match losses to surge into third place after hammering their last two opponents racking up an impressive 35 game points (equal with the leaders, although with one fewer match victory). 

Congratulations to the MVPs of Season 7: Chronatog and fgalla who both won 9/10. We expect them both to play a board higher in future. But even bigger congratulations to the winning team for an amazing combined effort: Recovering Buggers LegionDestroyer d4rkn3ss23 (7/8) Chronatog (9/10) Isachess (8/10) UpGoerFive & adande1 (7/10).



https://zh.lakin.ca/zhteam/season/7/summary/ 

Player of 2019 goes to (drumroll) Isachess for winning three successive team seasons of the zh league, and one game short of being MVP for a third successive season. Each season he plays a board higher. He is an inspiration to so many that we can keep improving! Finally thanks to the mods colwem, kostasvl, Zher0 and okei for keeping the show on the road. 

Before we embark on Season 8 of the zh league, we have been enjoying the beginning of 2020 with a  special Season 7.960 of 960 crazyhouse on http://www.pychess.org.  This is drawing to a close but the Crazyhouse World Championship 2020 is up and away. See the calendar on the right for upcoming matches and some of them will also be streamed live by myself, Mugwort, Kleerkast, JannLee and others. I hope you enjoy them!


—okei

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Mating Nets

Crazyhouse might not improve your chess in the short-term. If you play crazyhouse, you might find yourself considering sacking your queen to go for a huge attack or doubling your pawns for better central control and end up suffering as your opponent trades down pieces into an endgame. It will however improve your mind and your vision of mating nets and in the long-term you cannot help but improve your tactical vision. Extra pieces means extra potential.

Here are some standard chess puzzles that crazyhouse players will enjoy, all from a recent series of 157 bullet games played over the course of four hours after midnight Norwegian time under coronavirus lockdown between Andrew Tang (penguingim1) and the World Champion of classical chess, Magnus Carlsen (DrNykterstein). The Iranian teenager Alireza Firouzja (alireza2003) had just hit 3200 bullet on lichess last week, after a couple of impressive wins over Carlsen in Lichess Titled Arenas. Magnus played a long series with Penguin, probably hoping to overtake the young Iranian, and despite winning the series 100½-56½, Penguin was too good and 3200 remained out of reach. Penguin at 3100 now still holds the all-time peak rating of 3256.

Write down your solutions. Highlight the line below each set to read the solutions. How many did you get out of 12?


Solutions: Rh8; Qg1; e7 Ke8 Bc6; Qxh6 Bxh6 Rxh6; f4 Ke4 Re6; g6 Kh8 (Kh6 Qh3 Bh4 Qxh4) Nf7 Kg8 Nh6 Kh8 (Kf8 Qf7) Qg8 Rxg8 Nf7; Bc5! (the final combo to conclude the series, deflecting the defender Nxc5 Rh2 Qg3 is mating, while Ke1 Qe3 only delays mate a few moves)



Solutions: Qa8; g6 Kh6 Rd8 Kh5 Rh8; f4 Nxf4 Bxf4 Kxf4 Qd2! Kxg3 Qh2; Rd8 Rxd8 Rxd8 Ka7 Bb8 Kb6 (Ka8 Bf4 Ka7 Bxe3) Rd6 Ka5 b4 Kb5 (or Black loses the queen) a4; Kg2! Qc7 Nxf6 with a clear advantage, but Kxh4 or gxh4 both lead to mate: Kxh4 Qg4 while gxh4 Qg4 Kh2 Qg1 Kh3 Qh1 Rh2 Qf1 Rg2 Qxg2


In crazyhouse news, the 2020 Crazyhouse World Championship has started and we hope to keep you updated in future blogs!

—okei

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

2019 1+0 Candidates Recap & Announcing the Final

The 2019 Bullet Crazyhouse World Championship Candidates are completed after a summer hiatus and the Grand Final between IM opperwezen (Vincent Rothuis from Holland) and JannLee (Justin Tan from Australia) is now underway. The first session of the Final happened last Saturday at 1200UTC with 30 games of 1+0. The second and third sessions will be on the 2nd and 9th November 1200UTC with a further 30 and 40 games respectively to complete the 100 game match. All games will be played on lichess.org and can be watched on the Lichess TV channels of the respective players as well as being streamed by JannLee (without commentary), Mugwort and okei on Twitch. After the first session opperwezen leads 18-12 with 50.5 being the target for victory. This post is to report how we got here since our announcement of the eight Candidates back in the spring.

The first match of the Candidates was on 21st May between the reigning 2018 World Champion in 3+2 crazyhouse IM opperwezen and the tournament organiser and 2018 CWC Candidate FM littleplotkin (Mark Plotkin from Canada). Opperwezen proved too strong and went on to win six out of his seven matches over the subsequent 31 days, again the first to complete all his matches as in 2018. He only lost to JannLee 14-16. In total he racked up 145 game wins out of 210 games (69% win rate) all but guaranteeing himself a spot in the Final which could only have been denied if two other players scored a greater total of game wins. Despite most matches being completed within 7 weeks as planned, OTB tournaments and the birth of Jann's second child put a stop to the action for a couple of months and the last few matches were not completed till October. With the final match of the Candidates, JannLee overtook opperwezen's game total by one game, scoring 146 game wins, along the way also scoring the biggest demolition of the round robin with 26-4 against VariantsOnly. We are in store for a great Final! Moreover, the winner of the Final will play an exhibition match with a separate prize fund with Jasugi99 (Janak Awatramani from Canada, formerly known as TwelveTeen aka cheesybread on FICS, 12teen on chess.com).

In third place on 116.5 game wins was chickencrossroad (who famously withdrew from the 2017 Candidates making way for opperwezen to take his place after an intensive qualifying tournament against all-comers). Apart from JannLee and opperwezen, chickencrossroad beat everyone else. In fourth place was penguingim1 on 109 game wins who beat everyone apart from Jann, opper and chicken, and in fifth was mastertan on 96 game wins who beat everyone apart from Jann, opper, chicken and penguin. In 6th was blitzbullet beating littleplotkin in 7th who in turn beat VariantsOnly in 8th, but VariantsOnly saw off blitzbullet in his final game, so the bottom three all won one match. Below is the full table of results and on the second page of the Candidates spreadsheet you can also find all the game links and streams. Thanks to TheFinnisher and LegionDestroyer for helping keep this updated!

See you on coming Saturdays at 1200UTC to watch the Final. To whet your appetite, here are a selection of 40 puzzles of various difficulties which you can either solve in your head, or if you prefer play out against the engine in a Practice with Computer Puzzle Study on lichess. There is also a solutions study. For a video recap of the Candidates (don’t look if you want to enjoy the puzzles below), check out part 1 and part 2 of the Highlights video. Coverage of all the 2019 CWC 1+0 matches (including my own coverage of week 1 of the Finals) may be found in the 2019 CWC 1+0 playlist with 39 videos to date.

Level 1 (1800): Improver

Level 2 (2000): Intermediate

Level 3 (2200): Expert

Level 4 (2400+): Potential Candidate

Instead of solving these in your head, you could also try to play out your solutions against an engine.

Check out the variations here.

We leave you with Jann's own recap of the Candidates and looking forward to the Final:

Keep playing crazyhouse and supporting the community!

—okei

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Back-Rank Mate

One of the most important mating motifs in crazyhouse (as in chess) is the back-rank mate. Unlike in chess, checks can be blocked in crazyhouse using pieces in hand, so getting the back-rank mate to work is a little more intricate. The final checkmate must either
  • be delivered by a rook or queen adjacent to the king,
  • smother the opponent king e.g. with a pawn on the 7th rank, or
  • exhaust the opponent’s pieces in hand.
These three can be illustrated in the following gif showing three possible continuations in a winning endgame between catask and CrazyAraFish (the actual game followed the second variation).


The best way to learn crazyhouse is through practice. So the following is a study of 31 back-rank puzzles carefully chosen to train different back-rank mating patterns, and getting progressively more difficult so despite being designed with beginners in mind, hopefully even advanced players can enjoy it. Play against the computer and see if you can deliver mate!


Understanding this mating theme will also help when you are on the defending side and need to recognise if you are susceptible to a back-rank mate yourself. If you are ready to see the solutions, they can be found in the following solution study:


If you prefer to sit back and watch someone else solve these puzzles live, then here was the live stream with the-lone-wolf where we explain the puzzles and the-lone-wolf solved them live on stream as well as contributing the final puzzle:



—okei

Acknowledgments: Many thanks to lishadowapps for having created the PGN Editor with which the gifs were made in this and my previous blog. Many thanks to the-lone-wolf also for helping to create the instructive video.

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Season 5 of the ZH League

Season 5 of the ZH League was the second Team Crazyhouse League building on the success of Season 4 and inspired by the ZH Summer League of 2017 organised by FischyVishy. While Season 4 was more of a trial with 4 teams of five players, Season 5 had 6 teams of seven players, led by TheFinnisher, xuanet, RapidVariants, VariantsOnly, Gene_Simmons and LegionDestroyer as the board 1 of each team. Team selection was done as in Season 4. Each week, players arranged two games of slow time control crazyhouse against the corresponding board of the opposing team. The time control played on board 1 was 5+5, on board 2 6+6, all the way up to board 7 playing 11+11. We have found this progression of times is favourable because weaker players appreciate the slower time controls (and we even saw some flags on board 7) while stronger players tend to be bored by anything slower. After three weeks of Swiss pairings, we discovered that there were two triangles of teams who needed to play each other, and since it isn’t possible to decompose the six edges of two triangles into two matchings, we needed an extra week so in each of the last three weeks of the season, two teams sat out and took a bye.

Team ZHorro were the champions with a commanding performance winning all of their five matches. Congratulations! Their team was made up of RapidVariants, CrazyHome, grogers, pkr5025, GodBless111, Isachess and darubaru (with Zher0 substituting in as alt for one round). TheIngloriousForkers led by TheFinnisher finished second with 3.5/5, while Cirque du So-Cray came third with 3/5. Top individual performers in the league were TheFinnisher from Finland living up to his number one seeding with 6/10, while CrazyHome from India was top board 2 with 8/10, pepellou the famous lichess streamer from Galicia in Spain was top board 3 with 7/10, pkr5025 was top board 4 with 8/10 and the biggest improver during the course of the league finishing the Season with a zh rating above 2100, charliehorse55 from Canada was top board 5 with 8/10, Isachess was top board 6 with a perfect 10/10, and jwwells42 was top board 7 also with 10/10. Special congratulations to Isachess and jwwells42 for being the players of the league in Season 5. For sure they will both be chosen on higher boards next season!

Huge thanks to colwem especially for keeping the programming of the zh league website working (although this site will go down once it is fully integrated into lichess4545.com) as well as to the other crazyhouse mods (FischyVishy, kostasvl & Zher0).

In total 184 games were played, and there are too many highlights to be able to share in a blog post (though these will certainly made into puzzle studies). So I will restrict myself here to a single game from Round 1 played on the 25th May, 2019 between RapidVariants and xuanet. I will share six positions from this game and under each image is one of the best variations:


Position 1



White to play!


RapidVariants found the move! 























Position 2



Black to play!





























Position 3



Black to play!































Position 4




Black to play!

Also, what should White have played instead of @g3?







Position 5




Black to play!







Position 6



White to play!



























In position 6, the immediate N@f7 can in fact be made to work a move quicker, but it is not intuitively easy and also less aesthetically pleasing.


If you would like to practice 80 puzzles based on the games of Season 5, then check out the following links (puzzles 13027-13106), and keep adding one to the puzzle number to see the next puzzle:
...
There is a progression of difficulties and all puzzles are also tagged by theme. We will write about the definitions of these crazyhouse themes in a future blog, with the purpose being to help new players especially with their pattern recognition.

You can also watch these 80 puzzles live-streamed in a crazyhouse puzzle competition in this 2-part video series (the second video ending with a brief survey of three games from the league).








The big news in the past month is that JannLee’s daughter Bella has a baby brother and the JannLee plan is to form a team for the next generation of Australian bughouse. Congratulations to all the family! In the meantime, Kleerkast has been taking up the reins of elite crazyhouse streaming. So everyone should follow his Twitch to get notified when he streams, and subscribe to his YouTube!

—okei

Season 8 of the ZH League

Season 8 of the crazyhouse team league played on lichess.org was the toughest ever with former and current world champions JannLee and IM ...