Tired of regular chess and all the loads of opening theory? Then try Chess960 or the variant also known as Fischer Random Chess. The 11th World Champion Robert James Fischer was the most famous advocate of the idea of shuffling the back-rank pieces in 1996 to deal with the emphasis on opening theory.

Fischer random chess, also known as Chess960, is a variation of the game of chess invented by former world chess champion Bobby Fischer. Fischer announced this new game variation on June 19, 1996, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Fischer random chess employs the same board and pieces as standard chess, but the starting position of the pieces on the players' home ranks is randomized, following certain rules. The random setup makes gaining an advantage through the memorization of openings impracticable; players instead must rely more on their spontaneous talent and creativity over the board.

Randomizing the main pieces had long been known as shuffle chess; however, Fischer random chess introduces new rules regarding the initial random set up, "preserving the dynamic nature of the game by retaining bishops of opposite colors for each player and the right to castle for both sides". The result is 960 unique possible starting positions.

In 2008, FIDE added Chess960 to an appendix of the Laws of Chess. The first world championship officially sanctioned by FIDE, the FIDE World Fischer Random Chess Championship 2019, was held in 2019, bringing more prominence to the variant.



Before the game, a starting position is randomly determined and set up, subject to certain requirements. White's pieces (not pawns) are placed randomly on the first rank, following two rules:

1.The bishops must be placed on opposite-color squares.

2.The king must be placed on a square between the rooks.

Black's pieces are placed equal-and-opposite to White's pieces. (For example, if the white king is randomly determined to start on f1, then the black king is placed on f8.) Pawns are placed on the players' second ranks as in standard chess.

After setup, the game is played the same as standard chess in all respects, with the exception of castling from the different possible starting positions for king and rooks.

There are 4 × 4 × 6 × 10 × 1 = 960 legal starting positions:

  •  4 possible squares for the light-squared bishop
  • 4 possible squares for the dark-squared bishop;
  • 6 remaining squares for the queen
  • 0 ways to place the two (identical) knights on the remaining 5 squares;
  • 1 way to place the two rooks and king on the remaining 3 squares, since the king must be between the rooks.

This provides an easy way to set up a game (e.g. using a die / re-roll if needed to get values in the range 1–4 or 1–5).


Fischer's proposed "new chess" has elicited various comments from grandmasters.

1)"Of course, if people do not want to do any work then it is better to start the game from a random position." — Garry Kasparov December 2001.

2)"Random chess lets me enjoy myself and get publicity for chess without having to disrupt my life for months of preparation." — Garry Kasparov August 2018.

3) "I think we’re making theory or even making history because we’re opening not even a new chapter but basically a new book on the game of chess. That’s why I think all players are excited." — Garry Kasparov September 2018

4)"To me, mainly chess is art — that's why I like Fischer Random a lot; there is a lot of creativity." — Wesley So November 2019.

5)"I have to say that I love Chess960! I like to be creative and I really enjoy the Chess960 events in Mainz." — Alexandra Kosteniuk August 2010

6)"I don't see any drawbacks in Fischer Random chess. The only slight shortcoming is the start position, otherwise there are just advantages. That's why I support it in full. If all the chess professionals played Fischer Random, our game could have been much more popular." — Alexander Grischuk March 2018.

7)"Chess is already complicated enough." — Vassily Ivanchuk.

8)It’s a game I really love and I see it as the future of chess." — Levon Aronian July 2011.

9)"I think chess960 is great as it is simply pure intuition and understanding without theory or computers" — Hikaru Nakamura February 2014.

10)"Personally, It is refreshing to watch the Chess960 match between Carlsen and Nakamura. As a chess player and a fan, this is an exciting change. Could this be the future?" — Vidit Gujrathi February 2018.

11)"No more theory means more creativity." — Artur Yusupov.

12)" the play is much improved over traditional chess because you don't need to analyze or memorize any book openings. Therefore, your play becomes truly creative and real." — Svetozar Gligoric.

13)"Finally, one is no longer obliged to spend the whole night long troubling oneself with the next opponent's opening moves. The best preparation consists just of sleeping well!" — Peter Leko.

14)"I tried many different starting positions and all these were somehow very unharmonious. And this is not surprising as in many of these positions there is immediate forced play: the pieces are placed so badly at the start that there is a need to improve their positions in one way only, which decreases the number of choices." — Vladimir Kramnik.

15)"Fischer Random is an interesting format, but it has its drawbacks. In particular, the nontraditional starting positions make it difficult for many amateurs to enjoy the game until more familiar positions are achieved. The same is true for world-class players, as many have confessed to me privately. Finally, it also seems to lack an aesthetic quality found in traditional chess, which makes it less appealing for both players and viewers, even if it does occasionally result in an exciting game." — Vladimir Kramnik

16)Both players have bad positions." — Helmut Pfleger commentating on Leko–Adams, Mainz 2001, game 4.

17)"The changes in chess concern the perfection of computers and the breakthrough of high technology. Under this influence the game is losing its charm and reducing more and more the number of creative players. I am a great advocate of Fischer's idea of completely changing the rules of chess, of creating a practically new game. It is the only way out, because then there would be no previous experience on which a machine could be programmed, at least until this new chess itself becomes exhausted. Fischer is a genius and I believe that his project would save the game." — Ljubomir Ljubojevic

18)"In my opinion, we should start moving towards Chess960, just like we started to generate energy with renewable energy sources a while ago. If we start now, then by the time it reaches a crisis point, we will have a viable alternative ready." — Srinath Narayanan August 2017

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