Fischer random chess is a variant of chess proposed by former world champion Bobby Fischer. Unlike ordinary chess, where the board is set up exactly the same way at the beginning of every game, a game of Fischer random chess begins with the pieces distributed somewhat randomly. Pawns are still placed on a player's second rank, but the pieces on the back row may be placed in any permutation which fulfils the following requirements:
  • The bishops are on opposite-coloured squares
  • One rook is somewhere to the left of the king, and the other to the right
  • Black's pieces are on the same files as their White counterparts (i.e., a1 and a8 contain the same type of piece, and so on)
There are 960 positions which obey the above rules, and before the game one of these positions is selected at random. The game is then played according to the same rules as chess. Castling is still a legal move, and is accomplished by moving the king and rook to either the g- and f-files respectively, or to the c- and d-files. As in standard chess, the king may not move from, through or into check when castling, neither the king nor rook may previously have moved, and all squares between them must be vacant.

Fischer random chess is an attempt to revive the game of chess, which Fischer considers to have been "played out". The standard setup has been analysed in such detail that memorisation of opening variations now plays a large part in determining a player's success. By increasing the number of possible games a thousand-fold, Fischer random chess makes memorisation near-impossible and puts the emphasis back onto raw calculation and tactical ability. Whether or not the world's top players lend their support to Fischer's cause by adopting the game remains to be seen.

A chess variant designed by Bobby Fischer, and an odd one at that.

Confronted by the possibility of computers overtaking human players and also confounded by a sharp decline in an interest in chess in the 1990's, Fischer came upon a way of enlivening the rules of the game so that interest would continue.

Basically, Fischerandom chess randomizes the placement of the home row of pieces on a game-by-game basis so that gameplay is as unique as possible.

There are other placement requirements - the bishops must start on opposite-colored squares, the king MUST be placed within the two rooks and castling is a tiny bit more complicated - but essentially the game plays like standard chess. The advantages are two-fold: computerized opponents have a difficult time coping with opening strategies when the board's initial position is the definition of uncertain (there are over 900 different legal opening home row combinations), and human players are conversely invigorated by the abrupt change in strategy.

While not played on a tournament level, Fischer random chess remains an important part of the chess pedagogy as the definition of 'out-of-the-box' thinking.

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