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Chess Variant



Fischer Random Chess, otherwise called as Chess960, Fischerandom chess, FR chess or FRC, is a chess variant introduced by Grandmaster Robert “Bobby” Fischer in the Chess world on 19 June, 1996 at Buenos Aires, Argentina. The intention is to avoid memorization of moves which has largely taken place during the opening and which readily puts the other player in an outright disadvantage position especially when he has no seconds or access to different opening combinations. Fischer believed that chess should be an exhibition of creativity and talent among players that make the game far more entertaining and fair.

The number 960 came from the number of different opening starting positions that could be generated in playing the variant, hence chess960. Fischerandom has preserved the standard chess and basically, only the position of the pieces (except the pawns) is shuffled along the first rank. The objective is still to checkmate the opponent’s king or force him to resign. Below are the rules and requirements of Chess960, which could be used if chosen to play even in a small tournament

Chess960 Starting Position Requirements

White pawns are placed on the second rank as in standard chess. All remaining white pieces are placed randomly on the first rank, with a couple restrictions:

  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. The king never starts on the a - or h -files, since this would leave no space for a rook.

Single Dice Method of Determining Starting Positions

While there are several procedures for generating random starting positions with equal probability, the single dice method is found to be the most practical and the most common. This method is proposed by Ingo Althöfer in 1998, which requires only a single cube dice. The position of White’s pieces is determined as follows:

  1. Roll the dice and place a bishop on the black square indicated by the die, counting from the left, a through h. Thus, 1 indicates the first black square from the left (a1), 2 indicates the second black square (c1), 3 indicates the third (e1), and 4 the fourth (g1). Since there are no fifth or sixth positions, re-roll a 5 or 6 until another number shows.

  2. Roll the dice and place a bishop on the white square indicated. 1 indicates b1, 2 indicates d1, and so on. Re-roll a 5 or 6.

  3. Roll the dice and place the queen on the first empty position indicated, always skipping filled positions. Thus, 1 is the first (leftmost) empty square, while 6 is the sixth (rightmost) empty square.

  4. Roll the dice and place a knight on the empty position indicated. Re-roll a 6.

  5. Roll the dice and place a knight on the empty position indicated. Re-roll a 5 or 6.

This leaves three empty squares. Place the king on the middle empty square, and the rooks on the remaining two squares. Place the white and black pawns on their usual squares, and Black's first-row pieces to exactly mirror White's. So, Black should have on a8 the same piece type White has on a1.

Note that one of the random positions (rolled by 2–3–3–2–3 or 2–3–3–4–2) is the standard chess starting position, at which point a standard chess game ensues. There are several procedures for generating random starting positions with equal probability.

Instead of bringing a physical dice during the tournament which needless to say, will be very tiring to implement especially when there are several number of games. I myself developed a computer program that will automatically generate a starting position with just a press of a button. Try it for yourself. It's located on your right or click here, chess960-starting-positions-generator . Have fun!!!

Rules for Castling

Once the starting position is set up, the rules for play are the same as standard chess. In particular, pieces and pawns have their normal moves, and each player's objective is to checkmate their opponent's king.

Fischer random chess or Chess960 allows each player to castle once per game, a move by potentially both the king and rook in a single move. However, a few interpretations of standard chess games rules are needed for castling, because the standard rules presume initial locations of the rook and king that are often untrue in Fischer Random Chess games.

After castling, the rook and king's final positions are exactly the same positions as they would be in standard chess. Thus, after a-side castling (notated as O-O-O and known as queen-side castling in orthodox chess), the King is on c (c1 for White and c8 for Black) and the Rook is on d (d1 for White and d8 for Black). After h-side castling (notated as O-O and known as king-side castling in orthodox chess), the King is on g and the Rook is on f. It is recommended that a player state "I am about to castle" before castling, to eliminate potential misunderstanding.

Notwithstanding the above, castling may only occur under the following circumstances;

  1. Neither King nor Rook has moved.

  2. The King is not in check before or after castling.

  3. All squares between the castling King's initial and final squares (including the final square), and all of the squares between the castling Rook's initial and final squares (including the final square), must be vacant except for the King and Rook.

  4. No square through which the King moves is under enemy attack.
Players of Orthodox Chess should easily understand the movement of the King and Rook during castling:
  1. When castling on the h-side (White's right side), the King ends on g1 (g8), and the rook on f1 (f8), just like the O-O move in Orthodox chess.

  2. When castling on the a-side (White's left side), the King ends on c1 (c8), and the rook on d1 (d8), just like the O-O-O move in Orthodox chess.

  3. Sometimes the King will not need to move; sometimes the Rook will not need to move. This is allowed.

Tournaments Held

Grandmaster Peter Leko scoring 9½ / 11 ahead of GM Stanimir Nikolić with 9 points won the first Fischer Random Chess tournament. This was held in Vojvodina, Yugoslavia in the spring of 1996. The US Chess Federation sponsored its first Chess960 or Fische Random chess one-day tournament in 2010 at the Jerry Hanken Memorial US Open tournament in Irvine, California. It resulted a tie in the first place between GM Larry Kaufman and FM Mark Duckworth.

Tournament for computer chess program, The Baron, against human Chess960 World Champion GM Peter Svidler held in 2005 for two games resulted in a win by Svidler scoring 1½ - ½. Computer chess program, Shredder, developed in Germany by Stefan Meyer-Kahlen had two games against GM Zoltan Almasi of Hungary. Shredder won, 2-0.

Records for Men’s World Chess960 Championship showed matches held since 2001 to 2009. In 2009, the champion was Hikaru Nakamura against Levon Aronian scoring 3½ - ½. In the Mainz Open, since 2002 Chess960 tournaments were held. In 2009, the crowned champion was Alexander Grischuk. There were also games for the World’s Chess960 Women’s Championship and held on 2006 and 2008. These were both triumphed by Alexandra Kosteniuk. Tournaments for Computer Chess Program were held since 2005. In 2009, the chess program Rybka won. For sure, there are tournaments arranged beyond 2009 and as soon as these become available, that information will be posted here.

Chess960 Quotes

"If accepted on a professional level, this (chess960) innovation would mean a return to the golden age of chess: the age of innocence and creativity will return, without us losing any of the essential attractions of the game we love." – Valery Salov

"No more theory means more creativity." – Artur Yusupov

"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

"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 on chess960

"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." – Bobby Fischer (September 1, 1992) on his account for chess960.

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Players Corner



Gather all the whites' pieces and pawns. Click button below each time you want to generate starting position. Good Luck!!!

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