Chess 960 aka. Fischer Random (guide)

Starting position chess 960

With the first 2019 FIDE World Fischer Random Championship coming up, it would be only fitting to make a guide on how to play the game. And fortunately…

It’s not that hard! 

You might also have heard it being referred to as “chess 960” or even just “960”. There is an explanation to this, and you will learn this very soon!

Read through to the end to find a very easy-to-understand video of this game! 

 

Ground rules

If you’re new to this variant of chess, I’m going to tell you something relieving right away:

The rules are all the same as normal chess!

All the pieces move the same way they would in a normal game. The only difference is the starting position, and this is also why so many players have found this variant of the game so intriguing.

Because there are so many different ways to start the game, there is no opening theory to memorize (at least so far), because it would just be too big of a task, and you simply do not get that exact starting position often enough for there to be any point in memorizing 20-move opening lines.

Why is it getting so popular, though?

 

The creative player

As mentioned above, you don’t need to know all the different lines of any specific opening to play Fischer Random. And although normal chess won’t just go away, the Fischer Random is getting more and more popular, even amongst the top pros.

Magnus Carlsen is the most well-known chess player today, being the World Champion, and winning tournament after tournament, and being such, he has been quite the ambassadeur for Fischer Random. When winning the first unofficial world championship against GM Hikaru Nakamura, it sent quite the signal to the rest of the chess world:

The game is on!

Like Magnus has said many times, which is close to being a fact, Fischer Random simply applies to the creative player! You have to play CHESS from move 1, not just making moves some book has told you to!

And what do you know…?

Today so many of even the top pros will compete in tournaments in this format! To me that is very exciting, and I’m a big fan of this type of chess!

Before we look at the starting positions, let’s have a quick look at why it’s called Fischer Random or Chess 960.

 

Bobby Fischer

The man, the myth, the legend…introducing Bobby Fischer!

The american grandmaster who inflicted such devastating pain to Boris Spassky and the Soviet chess empire in 1972.

After having played chess for many years, Fischer started getting exceedingly frustrated with the fact that only somewhat talented players could actually do so well in the chess world. They memorized a ton of lines and positions, which eventually led them to win a lot of games and rating points.

So, eventually Fischer had had enough, and developed Fischer Random, which he introduced in Buenos Aires on June 19, 1996. Being a natural himself, a gifted and creative player, Fischer wanted to play “pure” chess. Although the game was developed back in 1996, it’s not until the recent couple of years it has really started to gain popularity. And like mentioned earlier, Magnus – and of course it’s not just him – has played a big role here!

 

Chess 960 has 960 starting positions

This makes sense, aye? Why not just give the game a fitting name, describing exactly what it is? Because if you follow the rules below for how to set up the starting position, you will have 960 different possibilities!

The rules go like this:Starting position chess 960

  • The only difference to a regular starting position, is the way the pieces behind the pawns are set up.
  • The bishops have to be placed on different colours, so that you don’t have two black-squared or two white-squared bishops.
  • The king must be placed between the two rooks, so that you still have the possibility of castling both kingside and queenside. (we will have a closer look at the castling option just below)
  • Important last note: As in regular chess, white and black’s starting positions are the same, meaning you don’t just randomly put the pieces out on both sides of the board. Only on one side, then the other one puts their pieces in the same spots.

These are the simple rules that makes for quite a different and fun game! Personally, I find it so much more fun when you don’t need to worry about your opponent winning just because they know the opening better, what traps to look out for, and so forth.

 

How to castle?

In a regular game, you would move your king two squares to either side, then have the rook jump and place on the other side of the king. Fischer Random castling is not all that different:

Apart from the number of squares the king and the rook would move, they will end up in the same position as in a regular game, like this:

 

You simply drop the king on the square it would usually go under normal circumstances, that being g1 or c1, and the rook goes to f1 or d1 respectively.

 

The 2019 FIDE World Fischer Random Championship

Now the battle is on for the first elusive World Champion title! And a lot of players want this title, including many of the top, top pros! Magnus won the unofficial title in 2018, and he’s probably dying to get his hands on the official title as well!

Right now there are qualifying rounds being played, deciding who’s going to play in the final which concludes on November 2, 2019. You can read all about the brackets and times here.

 

Is it here to stay?

I want to give that question a BIG FAT YES!

Many people express their despair with having to fear an opponent wasting them without actually having had to think for themselves. This is exactly why I think this game will just get more and more popular from here.

Some day even Fischer Random might be analyzed to death by engines, but I don’t think many people will bother trying to remember any of this, because it is simply too much!

Several sites online offer Fischer Random or Chess 960, and I think you ought to have a look at it. It’s honestly so fun having to think just right off the bat! Why would you play chess otherwise…? Being one of the World Championship organizers, chess.com obviously offers this, and below you can watch one of their great videos on how to play this game!

 

 

I will leave you with this, and hope I’ve managed to spark something within you to give Fischer Random or Chess 960 a try, or at least have a look at it. If you have any thoughts on the subject or this article, or any questions regarding Fischer Random, feel free to leave a comment below!

 

Good luck,

Joachim

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2 thoughts on “Chess 960 aka. Fischer Random (guide)”

  1. Wow, I had no idea that there was a more creative way of playing chess. I never got too much into it, because my memory isn’t that good and I could never remember the openings.
    It did feel kind of non creative watching the masters play and this variant seems to truely open up a new chance to the inventive players. It will be so much more interesting to watch the games right now. I will stay tuned! Thank you so much for sharing the Chess 960 aka. Fischer Random guide with us and getting us into the position to start having fun watching and playing chess, even if we do not remember traditional openings and strategies by heart!
    Janie

    1. Hi Janie,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the read!

      I, as one of many chess players out there, would totally agree with you on this: Fischer Random is a lot more fun, and really aspires to the creative player! Don’t get me wrong, I still love traditional chess, but I too get kind of sick of seeing the same 20-move openings again and again on the top level. I reckon chess needs Fischer Random, especially in this day and age.

      Thanks for your comment,
      Joachim

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