Over my time playing atomic I’ve created quite a number of resources for my own benefit and for others. This will primarily be a list of lichess studies covering different topics. (I may consider making the pgns available directly in the future, but the lichess studies may evolve constantly.)
Endgames are probably the most important thing to learn, whether you’re a new player or an experienced one. The basic techniques are very different from regular chess endgames, and fully worth the investment to master them. The first three studies are perhaps the most important of all for practical play.
- Lone king endgames - How to win versus a lone king. Covers KQ, KQQ, KQB, KRR, KRB and KRN versus lone K.
- KQP v KP - How to win when up a queen. The single most important “how to win a won game” technique to master. This endgame is why a material difference of a single pawn is winning in atomic.
- KQ v KP - Lone queen versus lone pawn. Also an important endgame, and the trickiest basic endgame; even top ten players have messed this up (queen versus rook-pawn)! This endgame is what typically results after even-material pawn races. Sometimes, a draw may even be stolen by the side with the pawn.
The rest of the endgame studies may not be as overridingly important as the first three above, but knowing these will give you vital ammunition to convert to winning endgames, and will indirectly improve your middlegame play as well when you consider how to convert to the appropriate endgames.
- Pawnitisation - The idea of “pawnitisation”. When only pawns are left but one side is up a bishop, the bishop might find itself useless if the opponent’s pawns are all on the opposite-coloured squares. There can be very tricky ideas with pawn structure and zugzwang in these endings. Losses turn into draws and draws into wins if you know these ideas.
- Rule of the rectangle - A proposed method of counting out KP v K (and some other pure pawn) endgames more easily, like the rule of the square in regular chess. The ideas here are helpful for analysing certain more complex endgames.
- KPP v KP: backwards pawn - Two pawn versus one is winning if one side can promote, but if the one pawn hold back two, it may be drawn as KQ v K with connected kings is only a draw. Nevertheless, there are some tricky wins possible, and always the hope that the opponent defends incorrectly (which is surprisingly easy to do). Learn the proper technique to defend once and for all, and never worry about dropping unnecessary half-points again.
- KPP v KP: exercises - A set of 31 exercises to accompany the above KPP v KP study. Good for training calculation and reinforcing what the other study teaches.
- Expert KQ v KP - While in the basic KQ v KP study the pawn is already blocked, in the expert study we consider positions where the pawn is not yet blocked. Knowledge of the basic study is absolutely required. Once you master the content here, however, you will have a complete, tablebase-perfect understanding of this fundamental endgame.
- Expert KQ v KP: exercises - A set of 39 exercises to accompany the above KQ v KP study. These are instructive and sometimes extremely tricky positions showcasing the depth of this seemingly simple endgame.
- KRP v KP - How to win when up a rook with a pair of blocked pawns. A rarer endgame but certain positions are much trickier than with the queen.
- KR v KP - A hard endgame, but perhaps more common than KRP v KP. White has a surprising number of winning positions here, although the methods to win them may not be obvious to find over the board.
- K + 2 pieces v KP - A set of fundamental endgames where the winning methods may not be as easy to find over the board as they seem. Knowing how to win these will expand your range of “easily winning” endgame conversions.
Analysing games is a good way to improve your chess (also your atomic chess). Failing that, the next best thing would be to go over annotated games.
- My old games - A critical look back at some of my older games, back when I had just started playing atomic chess.
I have also analysed and annotated over 200 of the games played in the 2017 Atomic World Championship, which was organised by tipau on lichess.org in November-December 2017. This is analysis with human comments on the ideas and features of the positions (and of course certain tactical lines), not just engine evaluations. There should be something for all skill levels in these games.
- AWC 2017 Round 1 upper
- AWC 2017 Round 1 lower
- AWC 2017 Round 2 upper
- AWC 2017 Round 2 lower
- AWC 2017 Round 3
- AWC 2017 Round 4 (quarterfinals)(some games analysed)
I’ve also downloaded the variant games from the FICS game database, and separated all the atomic games from 2009 to 2018 (PGNs compressed in .7z format, 11.7 MB). These are provided for the curious player to appreciate older atomic games.
Opening study is an often misunderstood part of atomic chess. Mainstream atomic theory might be sharp and well-studied, but knowing it well is different from being good at atomic. I personally try to have a wide rather than deep repertoire, so I’ve done several analyses of more offbeat (but still playable and practically good) openings, as well as some mainstream analyses.
I also apologise if anybody finds the opening names I use strange or lacking historical relevance to the players who first played/analysed them. It’s just a way for me to remember the lines; do tell me if you think a certain player should be credited with the lines being played.
- Midnight - 1. Nf3 f6 2. e3 d5 3. Nd4 or 3. Bd3 g6 4. Nd4, undeservedly much less popular than the heavily theoretical 3. Ng5/Ne5. If unprepared, black can easily fall into some trap lines or generally drift into an inferior position.
- Mahiru - 1. Nf3 f6 2. e3 e6 3. Bd3!? An interesting pawn gambit, which can be accepted with 3…Bb4 4. c3 Bxb4. Despite being a gambit, the key to success as white is positional understanding, exploiting a lead in development and black’s lack of the dark-squared bishop. The fact that this is playable with decent results shows that “objectively correct” computer-analysed openings are not the only way to go.
- Yokke 3…f5 - 1. Nf3 f6 2. e3 e6 3. Nd4 f5!? is a contribution to atomic theory by Yokke, an old player from FICS. I analyse several continuations of this more mainstream option from black’s perspective.
- ZA 2…d5 - 1. Nf3 f6 2. e3 d5 3. Ng5 or 3. Ne5. A massive amount of research by others has been put into this line as white, thought to be one of white’s strongest choices. I look at this opening from black’s side to try and show that black can do fine in these lines. In fact, after analysing, I feel it is harder to play white correctly, as black can get tricky counterplay and drawing threats in almost every line.
- Boat - 1. e3 e6 2. Nf3 Qf6, an attempt by black to lead the game into more complex waters. Material imbalances usually arise in this theoretical line.
- Reversed Boat - 1. e3 Nf6 2. Qf3, the reversed version of the Boat. The ideas are similar to the Boat, but the extra tempo white has here makes a significant difference.
- Fantasy Knight - Reachable by multiple move orders, black sacrifices queen and pawn for two dangerous knights. While theoretically dubious, it is important to know how to deal with it as white. Your playing strength will also increase if you understand how to cause maximum trouble as black.
- Right Horse - 1. Nh3 h6 2. Nc3 e6 3. Nb5 is a line where white usually ends up an exchange in a queenless middlegame. This opening is excellent as a direct competition of atomic skill, as the player with the better middlegame and endgame understanding will usually win.