Fischer Random Chess
by Hartmut Metz, May 2001, translation by Harald Fietz (Figo)
This kind of chess is Hans-Walter Schmitt's new darling. As he did seven years ago in rapid chess, the tournament president now aims to promote Fischer Random Chess. At the Chess Classic in 2000, German top player Artur Yusupov played a match against the programme Fritz on Primergy which received great attention and was won 2:0 by the machine. Compared to the classic royal game, Fischer Random Chess is characterised by a different initial position. Whereas all pieces move as they normally do and pawns are placed on the second rank, the position of pieces is fixed by drawing lots. However, some rules have to be taken into consideration, e.g. that each player gets a light and dark-squared bishop. In order to achieve equality of opportunity, Black gets an identical initial position. An important nuance, which distinguishes this type of chess, originally invented by American former world champion Bobby Fischer, from Shuffle Chess is the rule for castling. No matter where king and rooks are placed at the beginning, if a player decides to castle, both pieces move to their customary position: in the case of what is called 'a-castling' the rook is on d1 (d8) and the king on c1 (c8), and in 'h-castling' the rook is on f1 (f8) and the king on g1 (g8). Sometimes this looks strange, e.g. if only the king moves from e1 to g1 while the rook already has its initial position on f1! Otherwise players have to follow the usual castling rules: if king or rook have already moved it is not allowed. Moreover, castling the king is forbidden if he crosses a square under control.
What was Fischer's intention when he invented this? Drawing lots means there are 960 options for the initial position. Only in the one of classic chess opening theory plays a role. The 58 year old aimed to minimise its significance, so that not the best prepared variation wins but the stronger player. Right from move one, both players have to develop their own strategy without the help of patterns. How successfully this can be done will be demonstrated by two grandmasters: in the first high level match between two top players, player no. 4 in the world rating list, Michael Adams, will face Peter Leko, ranked three places lower, in Fischer Random Chess.
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