Fischer Random | St. Louis Public Radio

Fischer Random

Chess legend champion Garry Kasparov will take a break from retirement to play Fabiano Caruana in the 2019 Chess360 tournament.
St. Louis Chess Club

Chess960, otherwise known as Fischer Random, is a chess variant that has struggled to find its place. It was invented and advocated for by Bobby Fischer, who thought that chess was becoming too reliant on opening theory.

The basic concept is quite simple: All the pawns start on their normal squares, but the back rank pieces are rearranged at random before the game begins. There are a couple of stipulations, however, which separate it from an older variant called “Shuffle Chess.” 

Garry Kasparov (facing camera) and Veselin Topalov compete in the Champions Showdown Chess960 event at Saint Louis Chess Club in September 2018,
Lennart Ootes | Saint Louis Chess Club

The opening is considered by many to be a sacred part of chess. Over the course of chess history, an enormous amount of theory has been developed covering the vast branches of possibilities resulting from the starting position.

In the modern era of professional chess, grandmasters will memorize thousands of opening variations, supported by thorough computer analysis. While robust opening preparation is a necessity for any top player, it has led to adverse effects for the sport. Elite competitions are seeing a growing percentage of draws, as it’s becoming more difficult to crack a well-prepared opponent.