Chess 960 - Fischer Random Chess

Chess 960 is the brainchild of the colossal chess talent, Robert J Fischer. Moving away from ancient variants like Shatranj, this is quite a modern innovation on Western chess. Fischer grew disillusioned for the future of chess.

Games would often go 20 moves or more before players were "out of book". Only then would they actually resort to their own skill or ingenuity. Fischer also believed that Russian players were pre-arranging games from the first move to the last.

Capablanca flirted with the idea of bigger boards (10x8) and the introduction of new pieces. Fischer stuck with the same 8x8 board and kept the same pieces with the same powers. But he removed the relevance of opening analysis and the possibility of pre-arranging entire games with one simple change.

The back row pieces would no longer start in their traditional places. In each game they would be jumbled up. This new variant would also be known as Chess 960 as there are 960 different possible starting positions. Now players would have to rely on their natural ability and skill right from the first move.


Chess 960 History

The first 960 tournament was held in Mainz in 2001

It would be wrong to say the concept for this variant was an entirely new one. The idea of swapping around starting positions for the pieces had been around for quite some time.

Shuffle chess had been played since as early as 1842. Even then the effect opening analysis had on chess inspired some to counteract it. So Fischer's idea had not come out of thin air. Like many great innovations it was a modification or refinement of earlier ideas. In 1996 Fischer unveiled Chess 960 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The main difference between traditional Shuffle Chess and Fischer Random Chess is that in Shuffle Chess the eight back row pieces can find themselves on any square. There is no castling and the pieces do not need to mirror each other. Fischer's variant provides for castling and the two armies retain a mirrored set-up. He also kept bishops on opposite colors so as to remove opening theory but preserve the fundamentals of chess.


Chess 960 Rules

Chess 960 Rules

It's probably easier to talk about the differences between Chess 960 and Standard Chess since most of the rules are the same. You have the same board, the same pieces. The pieces have the same power.

Players can agree on the set-up for each individual game or can use a dice to decide it. The only limitations are that the two bishops must be on different colors and the king must start between both rooks to allow for castling. Pawns of course line up on the second rank, no change there. The two armies must mirror each other.

The same conditions apply for castling as in standard chess. You can castle if neither the king nor the rook in question has previously moved, if the king is not currently under attack and if no square that the king must cross is under attack. The pieces finish the maneuver on the squares they would normally occupy after castling in standard chess. On the Chesscube app here at Lapoc you can castle by placing the king on top of the rook.


Chess 960 Strategy

Chess 960 Strategy is the same as Standard Chess but you must find your own way in the openings

Strategy and tactics are the same as standard chess. All of the old reliables apply. In the openings you strive to develop your minor pieces early, you get your king castled to safety. You get your rooks and queen nicely positioned on the edges of the action, poised to enter the fray later on at the right moment. And you try to gain center control with your pawn structure, preventing enemy invasions.

In the middle game you battle for control of the board. You try to secure whatever material or positional advantage you can through strategic or tactical means. And in the endgame you use any advantage gained to close out the victory, or if you are at a disadvantage you try to battle for a draw. The only difference with Chess 960 is that with all of the novel starting positions, players must play off the cuff from the first move as there is no opening theory to rely on.


Chess Variants: Play Chess 960

To play Chess 960 on LAPOC, just check the Chess960 radio button on the Seek function in the Chesscube App

Playing Chess 960 lends a fresh twist to chess, exactly as Fischer had intended. It makes every game, as Forrest Gump's mama might have suggested, like a box of chocolates. You just never know what you're going to get.

There can be no pre-planned opening as the pieces could be anywhere for each new game, especially if you're using a dice for set-up. But there's nothing to say that you can't agree where to start the pieces with your opponent just before the game.

When you play this game online it truly is random. When the game starts, the computer will choose the initial set-up for you. You'll be delighted to hear that not only is there a high quality resource online to play Chess 960, but it's right here at LAPOC.

Moving On

Play Korean Chess

Play Korean Chess

When I first heard of this variant I was honestly dubious as to whether it was too far removed from standard chess to inspire the same intrigue. I thought it was just another novelty, that the things that make chess so wonderful were compromised too greatly.

But I have to say, having played many games in this format, I have nothing but admiration for it. Fischer did manage to eliminate the ills as he saw them with standard chess and yet retain all that is glorious about it. I wouldn't think of it as a replacement for chess but I do enjoy playing a couple of games at frequent intervals.

The next variant in the series is another from South-East Asia. Also called Janqui, changgi or jangki, this is a variant closely related to Chinese Chess (Xiangqi). This is Korean Chess.

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