Fischer random chess

Fischer random chess, also known as Chess960, is a variation of the game of chess invented by the former world chess champion Bobby Fischer.[1] Fischer announced this variation on June 19, 1996, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.[2][3][4] Fischer random chess employs the same board and pieces as classical chess, but the starting position of the pieces on the players' home ranks is randomized, following certain rules. The random setup makes gaining an advantage through the memorization of openings impracticable; players instead must rely more on their skill and creativity over the board.

Fischer random chess
Chess960 example init position.png
One of 960 possible starting setups. Black's setup always mirrors White's.
Years activeSince June 19, 1996
GenresBoard game
Chess variant
Players2
Setup time≈1 min + 1 min to determine starting position
Playing timeCasual games: 10–60 min
Tournament games: from 10 min (fast chess) to >6 h
Random chancePieces are randomized
Skills requiredStrategy, tactics
SynonymsChess960
Fischerandom
New chess

Randomizing the main pieces had long been known as shuffle chess, but Fischer random chess introduces new rules for the initial random setup, "preserving the dynamic nature of the game by retaining bishops of opposite colours for each player and the right to castle for both sides".[5] The result is 960 unique possible starting positions.

In 2008, FIDE added Chess960 to an appendix of the Laws of Chess.[8] The first world championship officially sanctioned by FIDE, the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship 2019, brought additional prominence to the variant.[9]

SetupEdit

Before the game, a starting position is randomly determined and set up, subject to certain requirements. White's pieces (not pawns) are placed randomly on the first rank, following two rules:

  1. The bishops must be placed on opposite-color squares.
  2. The king must be placed on a square between the rooks.

Black's pieces are placed equal-and-opposite to White's pieces. (For example, if the white king is randomly determined to start on f1, then the black king is placed on f8.) Pawns are placed on the players' second ranks as in classical chess.

After setup, the game is played the same as classical chess in all respects, with the exception of castling from the different possible starting positions for king and rooks.

Creating starting positionsEdit

There are 4 × 4 × 6 × 10 × 1 = 4 × 4 × 15 × 4 × 1 = 960 legal starting positions:

  • 4 light squares for one bishop;
  • 4 dark squares for the other bishop;
  • 6 remaining squares for the queen and 5! / (3! × 2!) = 5 × 4 / 2 = 10 ways to place the two (identical) knights on the remaining 5 squares,
    • or, equivalently, 6! / (4! × 2!) = 5 × 6 / 2 = 15 ways to place the two (identical) knights on the remaining 6 squares and 4 remaining squares for the queen;
  • 1 way to place the two rooks and king on the remaining 3 squares, since the king must be between the rooks.

Usually, the players accept the conditions of the organizer to generate the starting position with software, as it was used in the 2019 World Fischer Random Championship.

If the software is not available or the players don't accept it, there are many ways to generate a number in the appropriate range with equal probability; this number is then used as an index to the Fischer Random Chess numbering scheme.

In 1998, Ingo Althöfer proposed a method that requires only a single standard die.[10][11] (Re-roll if needed to get values in the range 1–4 or 1–5).

960 choices can be obtained in several ways by combining polyhedral dice without re-rolling; for example 4×12×20 or 6×8×20 or 8×10×12.

Toss a fair coin four times; record each ‘head’ as 0 and each ‘tail’ as 1. If the first four bits are all 1, start over; otherwise, continue with six more tosses. Now you have ten bits ranging from 0000000000 to 1110111111 (decimal 959) inclusive. The last four bits determine the positions (0-15) for the bishops, the first four bits determine the positions (0-14) for the knights and the two bits in the middle determine the position (0-3) for the queen.

Shuffling marked objects (cards, pieces, pawns, dominoes tiles, scrabble letters) and use the permutations. For example, shuffle 14 marked cards a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h, N,N,Q,R,R,R and place them, in this random order, separated into three rows:

  • For the black squares (a,c,e,g);
  • For the white squares (b,d,f,h);

The first card of each row determines one bishop's place.

  • The remaining cards Q,R,R,R,N,N place the queen, rooks and knights respectively in the remaining squares; the king must be between the rooks, so it takes the middle of the three 'R' squares.

NamingEdit

 
Hans-Walter Schmitt, Frankfurt 2011

The variant has held a number of different names. It was originally known as "Fischerandom" or "Fischerandom chess", the name given by Fischer. "Fischer random chess" is the official term, used by FIDE.

Hans-Walter Schmitt, chairman of the Frankfurt Chess Tigers e.V. and an advocate of the variant, started a brainstorming process for creating a new name, which had to meet the requirements of leading grandmasters; specifically, the new name and its parts:

  • should not contain part of the name of any grandmaster;
  • should not include negatively biased or "spongy" elements (such as "random" or "freestyle"); and
  • should be universally understood.

The effort culminated in the name choice "Chess960" – derived from the number of different possible starting positions. Fischer never publicly expressed an opinion on the name "Chess960".

Reinhard Scharnagl, another proponent of the variant, advocated the term "FullChess". Today he uses FullChess, however, to refer to variants which consistently embed classical chess (e.g. Chess960 and similar variants). He recommends the name Chess960 for the variant in preference to Fischer random chess.

Starting 2019, whenever the Saint Louis Chess Club hosts Fischer Random chess tournaments, their tournaments are called Chess 9LX,[12][13] where '9LX' is a combination of the Hindu-Arabic numeral 9 and the Roman numeral LX (60).

Castling rulesEdit

As in classical chess, each player may castle once per game, moving both the king and a rook in a single move; however, the castling rules were reinterpreted in Fischer random chess to support the different possible initial positions of king and rook. After castling, the final positions of king and rook are exactly the same as in classical chess, namely:

Examples of castling
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An example initial position of kings and rooks
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White has castled a-side (0-0-0) and Black has castled h-side (0-0).
  • After a-side castling (queenside/long castling in classical chess), the king finishes on the c-file and the a-side rook finishes on the d-file. The move is notated 0-0-0 as in classical chess.
  • After h-side castling (kingside/short castling in classical chess), the king finishes on the g-file and the h-side rook finishes on the f-file. The move is notated 0-0 as in classical chess.

Castling prerequisites are the same as in classical chess, namely:

  • The king and the castling rook must not have previously moved. Note that if the king did not move while castling on a previous move (i.e. the king is on c1 or c8 already while castling a-side or on g1 or g8 already while castling h-side), it may be possible for this condition to still hold for castling on the other side. However, the FIDE rules explicitly state that castling may be done only once per game per player.
  • No square from the king's initial square to its final square may be under attack by an enemy piece.
  • All the squares between the king's initial and final squares (including the final square), and all the squares between the castling rook's initial and final squares (including the final square), must be vacant except for the king and castling rook.[14]

FIDE's recommended procedure for castling unambiguously is first to move the king outside the playing area next to its final square, then to move the rook to its final square, then to move the king to its final square. Another recommendation is to verbally announce the intent to castle before doing so.[7]

ObservationsEdit

  • In some starting positions, squares can remain occupied during castling that would be required to be vacant under standard rules. Castling a-side (0-0-0) could still be possible despite the home rank a-, b-, or e-file squares being occupied, and similarly for the e- and h-files for h-side castling (0-0). In other positions, it can happen that the king or rook does not move during the castling maneuver since it already occupies its destination square – e.g., an h-side rook that starts on the f-file; in this case, only the king moves. No initial position allows a castling where neither piece moves, as the king must start between the rooks.
  • Another unusual possibility is for castling to be available as the first move of the game, as happened in the 11th game of the tournament match between Hikaru Nakamura and Magnus Carlsen, Fischer Random Blitz 2018. The starting position had kings at f1/f8 and h-side rooks at g1/g8. Both players took the opportunity to castle on the first move (1.0-0 0-0).[15]
  • Unlike in standard chess, there are exactly 90 starting positions where players have to give up castling rights on one side in order to castle on the other side. In just these 90 positions, a rook has to be moved (or captured) on one side in order to castle on the other side. This is seen by calculating that this happens 18 times in each of five possible groups of starting positions namely RKRXXXXX, RKXRXXXX, XRKRXXXX, XXXXXRKR and RXKRXXXX.[16] For example, in the starting position RKRBBNNQ, which is in the first group RKRXXXXX, a player intending to castle a-side must first move the c-file rook (or let it be captured).
    • The Sesse evaluations [17][18] (which used Stockfish 9) show that White has about, on average, a 7% increased advantage in these 90 positions (Evaluation is 0.1913) compared to the remaining 870 positions (Evaluation is 0.1790).[19]

TheoryEdit

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In this starting position, the players' a- and b-pawns are unguarded and subject to immediate attack if either player moves their f- or g-pawns.

The study of openings in Fischer random chess is in its infancy,[20][21][22][23] but fundamental opening principles still apply, including: protect the king, control the central squares (directly or indirectly), and develop rapidly, starting with the less valuable pieces.

Unprotected pawns may also need to be dealt with quickly. Many starting positions have unprotected pawns, and some starting positions have up to two that can be attacked on the first move. For example, in some Fischer random chess starting positions (see diagram), White can attack an unprotected black pawn on the first move, whereas in classical chess it takes two moves for White to attack, and there are no unprotected pawns.

White's advantageEdit

It has been argued that two games should be played from each starting position, with players alternating colors, since the advantage offered to White in some initial positions may be greater than in classical chess.[24]

Indeed, the Sesse evaluations [17][18] (which used Stockfish 9) evaluate the starting positions between 0.00 and 0.57 pawns advantage for White. However, they give an average of around 0.18 and a standard deviation of around 0.0955 but evaluate the standard chess starting position (SP 518) at 0.22. This is a 22.22% difference (between 0.18 and 0.22), over one-fifth of reduction of White's advantage on average.

HistoryEdit

Fischer random chess is a variant of shuffle chess, which had been suggested as early as 1792 with games played as early as 1842. [25][26][27] Fischer's modification "imposes certain restrictions, arguably an improvement on the anarchy of the fully randomized game in which one player is almost certain to start at an advantage".[28] Fischer started to develop his new version of chess after the 1992 return match with Boris Spassky. The result was the formulation of the rules of Fischer random chess in September 1993, introduced formally to the public on June 19, 1996, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fischer describes the rules here.

Fischer's goal was to eliminate what he considered the complete dominance of openings preparation in classical chess, replacing it with creativity and talent. In a situation where the starting position was random it would be impossible to fix every move of the game. Since the "opening book" for 960 possible opening systems would be too difficult to devote to memory, the players must create every move originally. From the first move, both players must devise original strategies and cannot use well-established patterns.[29][30] Fischer believed that eliminating memorized book moves would level the playing field.

During the summer of 1993, Bobby Fischer visited László Polgár and his family in Hungary. All of the Polgar sisters (Judit Polgár, Susan Polgar, and Sofia Polgar) played many games of Fischer random chess with Fischer. At one point Sofia beat Fischer three games in a row. Fischer was not pleased when the father, László, showed Fischer an old chess book that described what appeared to be a forerunner of Fischer random chess. The book was written by Izidor Gross and published in 1910. Fischer then changed the rules of his variation in order to make it different.[31][32]

TournamentsEdit

  • 1996 – The first Fischer random chess tournament was held in Vojvodina, Yugoslavia, in the spring of 1996, and was won by International Grandmaster (GM) Péter Lékó with 9½/11, ahead of GM Stanimir Nikolić with 9 points.[33]
  • 2006–present – The first Fischer Random Championships of the Netherlands was held by Fischer Z chess club and has since been held annually. GM Dimitri Reinderman has won this title for three years, champion in 2010, 2014, and 2015. Two grandmasters have won the title twice, GM Yasser Seirawan and Dutch GM Dennis de Vreugt.[34][35]
  • 2010 – In 2010 the US Chess Federation sponsored its first Chess960 tournament, at the Jerry Hanken Memorial US Open tournament in Irvine, California. This one-day event, directed by Damian Nash, saw a first-place tie between GM Larry Kaufman and FM Mark Duckworth,[36] which Kaufman won on tiebreaks.[37]
  • 2012 – The British Chess960 Championship was held at the Mind Sports Olympiad, won by Ankush Khandelwal.[38]
  • 2018 – The first edition of the European Fischer Random Cup was held in Reykjavik on March 9, 2018, on Fischer's 75th birthday. It was won by Aleksandr Lenderman.[39]
  • 2019 – The Icelandic Chess Federation organized the European Fischer Random Championship on the rest day of 34th edition of The GAMMA Reykjavik Open on April 12, 2019. The tournament was won by the then 15-year-old Iranian prodigy Alireza Firouzja, a full point ahead of US's Andrew Tang, who was second on tiebreaks.[40][41]
  • 2019 – The FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship 2019 started on April 28, 2019, with the first qualifying tournaments, which took place online and were open to all interested participants. After several rounds, finalists Wesley So and Magnus Carlsen played for the crown. The inaugural official FRC Champion was Wesley So.[42][43]

Mainz ChampionshipsEdit

Note: None of the Mainz championships were recognized by FIDE. Furthermore, they were all played with rapid time controls.

  • 2001 – In 2001, Lékó became the first Fischer random chess world champion, defeating GM Michael Adams in an eight-game match played as part of the Mainz Chess Classic. There were no qualifying matches (also true of the first classical chess world chess champion titleholders), but both players were in the top five in the January 2001 world rankings for classical chess. Lékó was chosen because of the many novelties he has introduced to known chess theories, as well as his previous tournament win; in addition, Lékó has supposedly played Fischer random chess games with Fischer himself. Adams was chosen because he was the world number one in blitz (rapid) chess and is regarded as an extremely strong player in unfamiliar positions. The match was won by a narrow margin, 4½ to 3½.[44]
  • 2002 – In 2002 at Mainz, an open tournament was held which was attended by 131 players, with Peter Svidler taking first place. Fischer random chess was selected as the April 2002 "Recognized Variant of the Month" by The Chess Variant Pages (ChessVariants.org). The book Shall We Play Fischerandom Chess? was published in 2002, authored by Yugoslavian GM Svetozar Gligorić.
  • 2003 – At the 2003 Mainz Chess Classic, Svidler beat Lékó in an eight-game match for the World Championship title by a score of 4½–3½. The Chess960 open tournament drew 179 players, including 50 GMs. It was won by Levon Aronian, the 2002 World Junior Champion. Svidler is the official first World New Chess Association (WNCA) world champion inaugurated on August 14, 2003, with Jens Beutel, Mayor of Mainz as the President and Hans-Walter Schmitt, Chess Classic organiser as Secretary.[45][46] The WNCA maintains an own dedicated Chess960 rating list.[47]
  • 2004 – Aronian played Svidler for the title at the 2004 Mainz Chess Classic, losing 4½–3½. At the same tournament in 2004, Aronian played two Chess960 games against the Dutch computer chess program The Baron, developed by Richard Pijl. Both games ended in a draw. It was the first ever man against machine match in Chess960. Zoltán Almási won the Chess960 open tournament in 2004.
 
The four programs Deep Sjeng, Shredder, Rybka, and Ikarus (with the programmers) at the 5th Livingston Chess960 Computer World Championship, Mainz 2009
  • 2005 – Almási and Svidler played an eight-game match at the 2005 Mainz Chess Classic. Once again, Svidler defended his title, winning 5–3. Levon Aronian won the Chess960 open tournament in 2005. During the Chess Classic 2005 in Mainz, initiated by Mark Vogelgesang and Eric van Reem, the first-ever Chess960 computer chess world championship was played.[48] Nineteen programs, including the powerful Shredder, played in this tournament. As a result of this tournament, Spike[49] became the first Chess960 computer world champion.
  • 2006 – The 2006 Mainz Chess Classic saw Svidler defending his championship in a rematch against Levon Aronian. This time, Aronian won the match 5–3 to become the third ever Fischer random chess world champion. Étienne Bacrot won the Chess960 open tournament, earning him a title match against Aronian in 2007. Three new Chess960 world championship matches were held, in the women, junior and senior categories. In the women category, Alexandra Kosteniuk became the first Chess960 Women World Champion by beating Elisabeth Pähtz 5½ to 2½. The 2006 Senior Chess960 World Champion was Vlastimil Hort, and the 2006 Junior Chess960 World Champion was Pentala Harikrishna. Shredder won the computer championship, making it Chess960 computer world champion 2006.
  • 2007 – In 2007 Mainz Chess Classic Aronian successfully defended his title of Chess960 World Champion over Viswanathan Anand, while Victor Bologan won the Chess960 open tournament. Rybka won the 2007 computer championship.
  • 2008 – Hikaru Nakamura won the 2008 Finet Chess960 Open (Mainz).
  • 2009 – The last Mainz tournament was held in 2009.[50] Hikaru Nakamura won the Chess960 World Championship against Aronian,[51] while Alexander Grischuk won the Chess960 open tournament.
Summary of Mainz Winners[52]
Year Championship Open Women's Championship Computer Championship
2001 Péter Lékó (4½–3½ vs. Michael Adams)
2002 Peter Svidler
2003 Peter Svidler (4½–3½ vs. Péter Lékó) Levon Aronian
2004 Peter Svidler (4½–3½ vs. Levon Aronian) Zoltán Almási
2005 Peter Svidler (5–3 vs. Zoltán Almási) Levon Aronian Spike
2006 Levon Aronian (5–3 vs. Peter Svidler) Étienne Bacrot Alexandra Kosteniuk (5½–2½ vs. Elisabeth Pähtz) Shredder
2007 Levon Aronian (2–2, 1½–½ vs. Viswanathan Anand) Victor Bologan Rybka
2008 Hikaru Nakamura Alexandra Kosteniuk (2½–1½ vs. Kateryna Lahno) Rybka
2009 Hikaru Nakamura (3½–½ vs. Levon Aronian) Alexander Grischuk Rybka

ComputersEdit

In 2005, chess program The Baron[53] played two Fischer random chess games against Chess960 World Champion Peter Svidler, who won 1½–½. The chess program Shredder, developed by Stefan Meyer-Kahlen of Germany, played two games against Zoltán Almási from Hungary, where Shredder won 2–0.

Miscellaneous MatchesEdit

From February 9 to 13, 2018, a Fischer random chess match between reigning classical World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and the unofficial Fischer random chess world champion Hikaru Nakamura was held in Høvikodden, Norway. The match consisted of 8 rapid and 8 blitz games, with the rapid games counting double. Each position was used in two games, with colors reversed. Carlsen prevailed with a score of 14–10.[54][55]

Saint Louis Chess Club's Champions Showdown: Chess 9LXEdit

2018 – From September 11 to 14, 2018, the Saint Louis Chess Club held a Fischer random chess event[56], but they did not yet call their event 'Chess 9LX'. (They started next year.) The playing format consisted of individual matches, each pair of players facing the same five different starting positions, with 6 rapid games (counting 2 points each) and 14 blitz games (counting 1 point each). The players and scores: [57]

  1. Veselin Topalov (14½–11½) defeated Garry Kasparov.
  2. Hikaru Nakamura (14–12) defeated Peter Svidler.
  3. Wesley So (14½–11½) defeated Anish Giri.
  4. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (17½–8½) defeated Sam Shankland.
  5. Levon Aronian (17½–8½) defeated Leinier Dominguez.

2019 – The playing format once again consisted of individual matches. The players and scores: [58]

  1. Fabiano Caruana (19-7) defeated Garry Kasparov.
  2. Wesley So (18–8) defeated Veselin Topalov.
  3. Peter Svidler (15½–10½) defeated Leinier Dominguez Perez.
  4. Hikaru Nakamura (14½–11½) defeated Levon Aronian.

2020 – The playing format changed to a round robin. The event was won by both (There was no tiebreaker) reigning world (standard) chess champion Magnus Carlsen and Hikaru Nakamura. The reigning FIDE world Fischer random chess champion Wesley So placed fifth out of the ten players.[59]

2021 – The playing format was once again a round robin. The event was won by Leinier Dominguez Perez. The reigning FIDE world Fischer random chess champion Wesley So placed second out of the ten players, tied with Sam Shankland and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. [60]

2022 – The playing format was once again a round robin. The event was won by Fabiano Caruana who defeated Alireza Firouzja in armageddon. Firouzja had placed tenth out of ten (last place) in the 2020 tournament. The reigning FIDE world Fischer random chess champion Wesley So placed fifth out of the ten players. [61]

FIDE World ChampionshipEdit

On April 20, 2019, the first world championship in Fischer random chess officially recognized by FIDE was announced. It ended on November 2, 2019. In the finals, Wesley So defeated the reigning and four-time world chess champion Magnus Carlsen 13½–2½ (4 wins, 0 losses, 2 draws) to become the inaugural world Fischer random chess champion.

In the announcement, FIDE president Arkady Dvorkovich commented:[62]

It is an unprecedented move that the International Chess Federation recognizes a new variety of chess, so this was a decision that required to be carefully thought out. But we believe that Fischer Random is a positive innovation: It injects new energies and enthusiasm into our game, but at the same time it doesn't mean a rupture with our classical chess and its tradition. It is probably for this reason that Fischer Random chess has won the favor of the chess community, including the top players and the world champion himself. FIDE couldn't be oblivious to that: It was time to embrace and incorporate this modality of chess.

On August 19, 2022, the second world championship was announced for later in 2022, in Iceland. This is exactly half a century after the World Chess Championship 1972, which was between the actual creator of Fischer Random, Bobby Fischer, and Boris Spassky and which was also in Iceland. From the announcement:[63]

The two-year pandemic hiatus put the organization of many major chess events on halt, and we're excited to announce the second edition of the Championship is taking place this year.

(...)

"I am so excited to be competing in Fischer Random again! And in Iceland! It couldn't be more special than to compete in that particular place, defending my title against the best players in the world. To play in Reykjavik, fifty years after the match between Fischer and Spassky, gives it a historical perspective that cannot be matched," commented Wesley So.

(...)

Eight players will have a shot at the 150,000 USD first prize and the FIDE Fischer Random World Champion title. Three of the four invitees are already confirmed. They are the defending champion American grandmaster Wesley So, the world's top-ranked grandmaster Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, and the strongest Icelandic grandmaster Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson. The fourth player will receive the wild card from the FIDE President.

The four directly seeded players will be joined by the four winners of the online qualifiers on Chess.com and Lichess.org, two from each site. The qualifiers start as soon as August 19 on Lichess.org (...) and August 22 on Chess.com (...).

The finals will consist of a two-group stage followed by the knockout semifinals and final. The time control will be 25 minutes per player for the first 30 moves, after which each player will receive additional 5 minutes on the clock and an increment of 5 seconds per move.

Coding games and positionsEdit

Recorded games must convey the Fischer random chess starting position. Games recorded using the Portable Game Notation (PGN) can record the initial position using Forsyth–Edwards Notation (FEN), as the value of the "FEN" tag. Castling is notated the same as in classical chess (except PGN requires letter O not number 0). Note that not all chess programs can handle castling correctly in Fischer random chess games. To correctly record a Fischer random chess game in PGN, an additional "Variant" tag (not "Variation" tag, which has a different meaning) must be used to identify the rules; the rule named "Fischerandom" is accepted by many chess programs as identifying Fischer random chess, though "Chess960" should be accepted as well. This means that in a PGN-recorded game, one of the PGN tags (after the initial seven tags) would look like this: [Variant "Fischerandom"].

FEN is capable of expressing all possible starting positions of Fischer random chess; however, unmodified FEN cannot express all possible positions of a Chess960 game. In a game, a rook may move into the back row on the same side of the king as the other rook, or pawn(s) may be underpromoted into rook(s) and moved into the back row. If a rook is unmoved and can still castle, yet there is more than one rook on that side, FEN notation as traditionally interpreted is ambiguous. This is because FEN records that castling is possible on that side, but not which rook is still allowed to castle.

A modification of FEN, X-FEN, has been devised by Reinhard Scharnagl to remove this ambiguity. In X-FEN, the castling markings "KQkq" have their expected meanings: "Q" and "q" mean a-side castling is still legal (for White and Black respectively), and "K" and "k" mean h-side castling is still legal (for White and Black respectively). However, if there is more than one rook on the baseline on the same side of the king, and the rook that can castle is not the outermost rook on that side, then the file letter (uppercase for White) of the rook that can castle is used instead of "K", "k", "Q", or "q"; in X-FEN notation, castling potentials belong to the outermost rooks by default. The maximum length of the castling value is still four characters. X-FEN is upwardly compatible with FEN, that is, a program supporting X-FEN will automatically use the normal FEN codes for a traditional chess starting position without requiring any special programming. As a benefit all 18 pseudo FRC positions (positions with traditional placements of rooks and king) still remain uniquely encoded.

The solution implemented by chess engines like Shredder and Fritz is to use the letters of the columns on which the rooks began the game. This scheme is sometimes called Shredder-FEN. For the traditional setup, Shredder-FEN would use HAha instead of KQkq.

Views of grandmastersEdit

Comments by FischerEdit

  • "Teach people to play new chess, right away. Why do you offer them a black and white television set, when there is a set in color?" — Fischer,[64] in the only meeting with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, responding to the latter advocating "step by step" changes mindful of the heritage of chess
  • "I don't know when, but I think we are approaching that [the end of chess] very rapidly. I think we need a change in the rules of chess. For example, I think it would be a good idea to shuffle the first row of the pieces by computer ... and this way you will get rid of all the theory. One reason that computers are strong in chess is that they have access to enormous theory ... I think if you can turn off the computer's book, which I've done when I've played the computer, they are still rather weak, at least at the opening part of the game, so I think this would be a good improvement, and also just for humans. It is much better, I think, because chess is becoming more and more simply memorization, because the power of memorization is so tremendous in chess now. Theory is so advanced, it used to be theory to maybe 10 or 15 moves, 18 moves; now, theory is going to 30 moves, 40 moves. I think I saw one game in Informator, the Yugoslav chess publication, where they give an N [theoretical novelty] to a new move, and I recall this new move was around move 50. ... I think it is true, we are coming to the end of the history of chess with the present rules, but I don't say we have to do away with the present rules. I mean, people can still play, but I think it's time for those who want to start playing on new rules that I think are better." — Fischer (September 1, 1992)[65]
  • "I love chess, and I didn't invent Fischerandom chess to destroy chess. I invented Fischerandom chess to keep chess going. Because I consider the old chess is dying, it really is dead. A lot of people come up with other rules of chess-type games, with 10×8 boards, new pieces, and all kinds of things. I'm really not interested in that. I want to keep the old chess flavor. I want to keep the old chess game. But just making a change so the starting positions are mixed, so it's not degenerated down to memorization and prearrangement like it is today." — Fischer, Radio Interview, June 27, 1999 (see 2:18–3:03) [1] (also see here 39:04–39:49) [2]


Fischer's proposal has elicited various comments from grandmasters.

Praising or predicting Fischer random chess is the future of chessEdit

2020-presentEdit

  • "I think in general the future of classical chess as it is now is a little bit dubious. I would love to see more Fischer [Random] Chess being played over-the-board in a classical format. That would be very interesting to me, because I feel that that particular format is pretty well suited to classical chess as basically you need a lot of time in order to be able to play the game even remotely decently. And you can see that in the way that Fischer [Random] Chess is being played now when it is played in a rapid format. The quality of the games isn't very high because we make such fundamental mistakes in the opening. We don't understand it nearly enough and I think that would increase a lot if we were given a classical time control there. So I would definitely hope for that." — Magnus Carlsen,[66] November 2020
  • "With the advancement in computers, I predicted that maybe 50 years from now, there won't be anymore high-level professional chess. You know. Like chess will be so well-analyzed. (Nakamura: So you think within 50 years, we'll have to, like, move to 960 or something?) Yeah I think so. Yeah I feel within 50 or 70 years professional chess playing won't be as big as it is now." — Wesley So, in a stream with Hikaru Nakamura,[67][68][69] December 2021

2015-2019Edit

  • "In my opinion, we should start moving towards Chess960, just like we started to generate energy with renewable energy sources a while ago. If we start now, then by the time it reaches a crisis point, we will have a viable alternative ready." — Srinath Narayanan,[70] August 2017
  • "Personally, It is refreshing to watch the Chess960 match between Carlsen and Nakamura. As a chess player and a fan, this is an exciting change. Could this be the future?" — Vidit Gujrathi,[71] February 2018
  • "I don't see any drawbacks in Fischer Random chess. The only slight shortcoming is the start position, otherwise there are just advantages. That's why I support it in full. If all the chess professionals played Fischer Random, our game could have been much more popular." — Alexander Grischuk,[72] March 2018 [translated from Russian]
  • "Random chess lets me enjoy myself and get publicity for chess without having to disrupt my life for months of preparation." — Garry Kasparov,[73] August 2018
  • "I think we're making theory or even making history because we're opening not even a new chapter but basically a new book on the game of chess. That's why I think all players are excited." — Garry Kasparov,[74] September 2018
  • "My favorite form of chess is actually chess960. Because there's not much theory, not much preparation, it's very original. With the traditional format, the engines are just getting super strong, and it feels like you have to memorize the first 20-25 moves just to get a game. Bobby Fischer once said that the problem with chess is that you get the same exact starting position over and over. These days, there's 10 million games in the database already, so it's very hard to create original play, while chess960 is really your brain against mine. After the first or second move, you're already thinking." — Wesley So,[75] April 2019
  • "To me, mainly chess is art — that's why I like Fischer Random a lot; there is a lot of creativity." — Wesley So,[76] November 2019

2010-2014Edit

  • "I have to say that I love Chess960! I like to be creative and I really enjoy the Chess960 events in Mainz." — Alexandra Kosteniuk,[77] August 2010
  • "It’s a game I really love and I see it as the future of chess." — Levon Aronian,[78] July 2011
  • "I think chess960 is great as it is simply pure intuition and understanding without theory or computers." — Hikaru Nakamura,[79] February 2014

Before 2010Edit

  • "Of course, if people do not want to do any work then it is better to start the game from a random position." — Garry Kasparov,[80] December 2001
  • "No more theory means more creativity." — Artur Yusupov [81]
  • "... the play is much improved over traditional chess because you don't need to analyze or memorize any book openings. Therefore, your play becomes truly creative and real." — Svetozar Gligorić[82]
  • "Finally, one is no longer obliged to spend the whole night long troubling oneself with the next opponent's opening moves. The best preparation consists just of sleeping well!" — Péter Lékó[83]
  • "The changes in chess concern the perfection of computers and the breakthrough of high technology. Under this influence the game is losing its charm and reducing more and more the number of creative players. ... I am a great advocate of Fischer's idea of completely changing the rules of chess, of creating a practically new game. It is the only way out, because then there would be no previous experience on which a machine could be programmed, at least until this new chess itself becomes exhausted. Fischer is a genius and I believe that his project would save the game." — Ljubomir Ljubojević[84]


MiscellaneousEdit

Lékó vs. Adams, 2001
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Starting position, game 4
  • "Chess is already complicated enough." — Vassily Ivanchuk[83]
  • "I tried many different starting positions and all these were somehow very unharmonious. And this is not surprising as in many of these positions there is immediate forced play: the pieces are placed so badly at the start that there is a need to improve their positions in one way only, which decreases the number of choices." — Vladimir Kramnik[80] [translated from Russian]
  • "Fischer Random is an interesting format, but it has its drawbacks. In particular, the nontraditional starting positions make it difficult for many amateurs to enjoy the game until more familiar positions are achieved. The same is true for world-class players, as many have confessed to me privately. Finally, it also seems to lack an aesthetic quality found in traditional chess, which makes it less appealing for both players and viewers, even if it does occasionally result in an exciting game." — Vladimir Kramnik[85]


  • "Both players have bad positions." — Helmut Pfleger,[86] commentating on Lékó–Adams, Mainz 2001, game 4

Similar variantsEdit

There are several variants based on randomization of the initial setup. "Randomized Chess, in one or other of its many reincarnations, continues to attract support even, or perhaps especially, that of top players."[87]

Summary
Variant Positions White - Black mirror Bishops opposite color King between rooks Castling
Transcendental chess (or TC) 2880 × 2880 Yes No
Double Chess960 960 × 960 Yes Yes Yes
Shuffle chess 5040 Yes Depends
Chess2880 2880 Yes Yes Yes

RemarksEdit

Shuffle chessEdit

The castling is not possible in any case or is possible only when king and rook are on their traditional starting squares.

Chess2880Edit

The castling is possible as follows:

After castling with the nearest rook to the column:

  • "h", the king will be in column "g" and the rook will be in column "f".
  • "a", the king will be in column "c" and the rook will be in column "d".

Chess480Edit

Examples of Chess480 castling
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An initial position of kings and rooks
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White has castled h-side (0-0) and Black has castled a-side (0-0-0).

In "Castling in Chess960: An appeal for simplicity", John Kipling Lewis proposes alternative castling rules which Lewis has named "Orthodoxed Castling".[88]

The preconditions for castling are the same as in Chess960, but when castling,

... the king is transferred from its original square two squares towards (or over) the rook, then that rook is transferred to the square the king has just crossed (if it is not already there). If the king and rook are adjacent in a corner and the king cannot move two spaces over the rook, then the king and rook exchange squares.

Unlike Fischer random chess, the final position after castling in Chess480 will usually not be the same as the final position of a castling move in traditional chess. Lewis argues that this alternative better conforms to how the castling move was historically developed.

Lewis has named this chess variation "Chess480"; it follows the rules of Chess960 with the exception of the castling rules. Although a Chess480 game can start with any of 960 starting positions, the castling rules are symmetrical (whereas the Chess960 castling rules are not), so that mirror-image positions have identical strategies; thus there are only 480 effectively different positions. The number of starting positions could be reduced to 480 without losing any possibilities, for example by requiring the white king to start on a light (or dark) square.

There are other claims to the nomenclature "Chess480"; Reinhard Scharnagl defines it as the white queen is always to the left of the white king.

David O'Shaughnessy argues in "Castling in Chess480: An appeal for sanity"[89] that the Chess480 rules are often not useful from a gameplay perspective. In about 66% of starting positions, players have the options of castling deeper into the wing the king started on, or castling into the center of the board (when the king starts on the b-, c-, f-, or g-files). From Wikipedia article Castling: "Castling is an important goal in the early part of a game, because it serves two valuable purposes: it moves the king into a safer position away from the center of the board, and it moves the rook to a more active position in the center of the board." An example of poor castling options is a position where the kings start on g1 and g8 respectively. There will be no possibility of "opposite-side castling" where each player's pawns are free to be used in pawn storms, as the kings' scope for movement is very restricted (it can only move to the h- or e-file). These "problem positions" play well with Chess960 castling rules.

Non-random setupsEdit

The initial setup need not necessarily be random. The players or a tournament setting may decide on a specific position in advance, for example. Tournament Directors prefer that all boards in a single round play the same random position, as to maintain order and abbreviate the setup time for each round.

Starting with Black, the players, in turn, place one of 8 pieces on White's back rank, where it must stay. The only restriction is that the bishops must go on opposite-color squares. There will be a vacant square of the required color for the second bishop, no matter where the previous pieces have been placed. Some variety could be introduced into this process by allowing each player to exercise a one-time option of moving a piece already on the board instead of putting a new piece on the board. Once the bishops are on opposite-color squares, if the king is not between the rooks, it should trade places with the nearest rook.

Without some limitation on which pieces go on the board first, it is possible to reach impasse positions, which cannot be completed to legal Fischer random chess starting positions.

When the empty squares of one color are two and the corresponding bishop has not been placed yet and another piece is placed in one of the empty squares of that color, then the position of the bishop is determined. That's why, it is more correct to place the bishop when the empty squares of a color are 4 or 3.

The Black places first because the placement of the 7th piece by him determines the position of the 8th piece. In that way, the Black places in 5 positions and seeks the best defense, and the White places in 3 positions and plays first.

In order for the players to share the squares equally and legal starting position setup, they have to choose alternately from the 8 pieces. Then each player places on a white square and on a black square. When all pieces are setup, if the king must be placed between the two rooks, then he is swapped with the nearest rook. In this case, the Black decides who chooses and who places first.

A chess clock could even be used during this phase as well as during normal play.

Chess18 and Chess324Edit

Chess18 is the subset of Chess960 where the kings and rooks are fixed. Chess 324 is the subset of double chess960 that is equivalent to double chess18.[90][91]

Chess870 and Chess90Edit

As discussed above in 'Castling rules', Chess870 and Chess90 are subsets of Chess960 where a player, respectively, never needs or may need to give up castling rights on 1 side to castle on the other side.[92][17][18][93]

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Bibliography

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit