Want a change from standard chess? – Try Chess960!

Chess960, formally Fischer Random Chess, was invented by former World Champion Bobby Fischer and introduced in Argentina in 1996 in a tournament won by Peter Leko. Shuffle Chess, a similar variant, has been played as early as 1842. The first Chess960 World Championship was played between Peter Leko and Michael Adams in 2001, which Leko won with 4.5 to 3.5. Leko was chosen because he had reputedly played Chess960 games against Fischer himself, had introduced many novelties into chess theory and had won the first tournament and Adams was chosen because he was World Blitz Champion and very good in unusual positions. There have been championships and tournaments every year since.

Fischer’s idea was to eliminate what he thought was a complete dominance of openings preparation and replace it with creativity.  He believed that Russians were fixing all international games. With a random starting position it would be impossible to fix every move of a game, as it would be too difficult to devote to memory 960 different starting positions. From the first move both players would have to come up with original moves and could not use theory. Fischer believed that eliminating memorized theoretical moves would level the playing field.

Before a game, one of a possible 960 starting positions is randomly determined and set up, subject to certain special requirements. The game is played in the same way as standard chess except for castling. Pieces and pawns have their normal moves, and the objective of checkmating your opponent is the same.  White’s pawns are placed on the second rank like standard chess. All the remaining white pieces are placed randomly on the first rank, although the bishops must be placed on opposite coloured squares and the king must be placed on a square between the rooks. Black’s pieces are placed equal and opposite to White’s pieces. The king never starts on the a– or h-files as this would leave no space for a rook.  The starting position can be generated before the game by computer program, or chosen by different methods including dice, coins or cards.

If you want to play Chess960 games on a server you can go to websites such as Scheming Mind, where you will find examples of games and useful advice about each of the 960 starting positions. Go to www.schemingmind.com then click on ‘Chess’, ‘Game Explorer’, ‘Chess960’ then a position number between 1 – 960. Amazingly, one of my opponents, a very strong Chess960 player himself from the USA, saw one of my previous articles here and suggested I write about Chess960. I have played only two Chess960 games myself and found them refreshingly different, but very hard to play, as you are thrust into battle from the very first move, and it is almost like playing from a middle game position which you have not created and can have weaknesses which you have to watch out for. Unfortunately, it is not possible to show a game here, but you can view games on the Scheming Mind website.