Many chess masters valued the challenge of playing chess with a non-standard setup as a way to break out of the opening play doldrums. Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess) plays like Standard Chess with the exception of a randomly generated opening setup of pieces behind the 8 pawns. The game is quite popular and played even by top chess grandmasters, like Svidler or Leko.
1. The rules
Most of the standard chess rules are in place. The only exceptions are:
- pieces are randomly shuffled on the first/last rank (the only restrictions are that bishops have opposite colors and that the king must be somewhere between the rooks, black setup mirrors white),
- castling rules are generalised to accomodate varying initial setup.
Example initial setup (one of the 960 possible):
Castling rule is easy to memorize: after castling, king and rook move to the squares they would land in standard chess (after O-O we have Kg1 and Rf1, after O-O-O Kc1 and Rd1). Typical chess restrictions apply - none of the castling pieces moved, source and destination squares are empty, king path is free of any pieces and not under opponent attack. SchemingMind interface shows castling icons whenever castle is possible.
O-O looks fantastic in the above setup, doesn't it? And require some work to prepare... But in setups with Kf1 and Rg1, one can play O-O as the first move of the game.
Except those, all standard chess rules apply, be it en-passant, pawn promotion, stalemate, or whatever. Once both sides castled there is no difference between chess960 and standard chess game (although the middlegame positions are sometimes unique - thanks to nontypical development of pieces or pawn structures).
2. Why play it?
Escaping long, well known, opening lines of standard chess is obvious advantage of chess960. We are again in the world where one must work from the very beginning of the game. It is fun, it is also valuable training for standard chess players (learning to think during opening stage helps when one meets unexpected line in usual chess).
Less known feature is that chess960 frequently creates middlegame configurations (from pawn structures, to piece layouts) rarely or never met in standard chess, giving way to nontypical combinations. Fun, but also good training to search for new tactical patterns.
3. Tips and tricks
Below a few tips for people starting chess960.
1. This is normal chess. The middlegame and endgame knowledge applies as-is. Basic opening principles (develop, castle, claim center, be active) also apply. Memorize castling rule quoted above, and you can play.
2. Spend some time studying initial setup. Are there diagonals you can quickly claim? Which side do you expect to castle? What are undefended or poorly defended pawns and squares? Which pieces can be difficult to develop?
3. Remember about activating all your pieces. There are chess960 setups, in which some pieces are difficult to develop (for example, imagine setup with queens on a1 and a8, especially if there are bishops on h1 and h8). It can pay off to sac some material, but to bring all forces into the battle quickly.
4. Avoid chess960 errors. One can see solid chess players hanging pieces, allowing for major forks, or even blundering a mate in one or two in chess960 games (see for instance cruel miniature , quick knight mate or devastating fork at move 3). The reason is that pieces are differently organised than in normal chess. Some patterns can be similar to known chess setups, and instinctively seen so, but allow for an attack, which in normal chess would not work. Those examples prove also, that one must be alert from the very beginning of the game.
5. Recognize weak squares. Everybody know about weaknessess of f2 and f7 in standard chess, in chess960 (depending on setup) there can be even squares which are not defended at all. Spot them, exploit them, defend them.
4. Instructive games
Selected example games:
Develop to win - white picks better development plan and manages to organise threatening attack before black coordinates his forces
The Queen problem - interesting game, which in particular illustrates the problem with developing queen in some setups; note also phantasy castling at move 14 and interesting endgame,
Castling on the first move - also, interesting example of development in rather difficult configuration (knights in corners)
Another early castling - plus just another example of interesting development problems (note difficulties black face with activating the queen, and both sides have with h bishops)
More links to instructive chess960 games played on schemingmind, are welcome. In particular, it would be nice to find:
more examples of exploration of weak square(s)
illustration of sacrificing some material to activate pieces,
closed position with pawn structure not likely to happen in standard chess,
5. Position number
The position number is a number from range 1 to 960, which in unique way describes the initial position. Exact algorithm (initially described by R.Scharnagl in his German book about the game) is not usually important, but if you are interested, see chapter 5 on this page. In short: if you write the position number in binary notation, then the lowest two bits encode position of light-square bishop, next two bits the position of dark-square bishop, then the rest of pieces are encoded.
6. Valuable links
See this journal article for a few commented games and some links to Chess960 sites.
links to chess960 sites are welcome
Game Page Help
The Action Bar
The Action Bar is the most important part of the game screen, this is where you interact with the game by entering moves, conditional moves, comments, draw offers, resignations, and much more (if you are not viewing one of your own games, the Action Bar is not shown). The Action Bar is in four parts, from left to right:
- The Move Input Box: where your move or conditional move is shown; it is possible to type into this box, but not recommended, you can enter your move by dragging and dropping the pieces on the board.
- The Action Selection Dropdown: this is where you select the action you want to do, for example, move, enter a comment, accept a draw offer, claim a draw, etc. Only the actions which are relevant to the current game are shown.
- The Continue Button: this button sends your action back to our server; sometimes you might see a pop-up text box before the action is sent, this is so that you can write a message to your opponent. You can set your preferences so that this box is always shown to confirm you move (under the "Chess Board" tab "Confirm moves before committing), some people find this helpful as a "blunder check".
- The Next Game button: clicking the button will take you to the next game for which it is your move.
The Game Information Panel
Under the Action Bar, you should find the Game Information Panel. This gives you more information about the game; because there is too much information to see on one screen here, it is arranged into "tab"; you can move between the various screens by clicking the buttons, from left to right:
- Game Overview: this tab shows the full history of the game, including comments (you cannot read the comments from another player's game, unless the game is marked as "public"), leave taken, etc. You can click the moves to see the position on the chess board.
- Hide Comments: this tab shows the moves of the game only, without the distraction of the comments shown on the game overview tab.
- Material Balance: this tab shows the captured pieces in the game. If you are playing CrazyHouse chess, or a similar game, you can drag pieces from here to the board to make a "drop".
- Tags: You can "tag" games, this makes it easier to come back to games, you can find the games you have tagged from the game database screen.
- Variant Information: this tab is available for some chess variants, it will show you a description of the variant.
- Opening Information: In standard chess games, this tab will show you information about the chess opening you have been playing, taken from the Game Explorer.
- Analysis Board: Opening this tab will overlay an "analysis board" on the main chess board; you can move the pieces around freely on this board to try out various ideas in the game.
- Engine Analysis: This tab allows you to analyse the game using a chess engine; because the use of engines is not allowed on SchemingMind, this tab is not available for ongoing games.
- Help: If you are reading this, you have already figured out what the help button does!
The Chess Board
The chess board shows the current position in your game; if it is your move, or if you can enter a conditional move, you can drag and drop the pieces on the chess board.
If you wish to castle, simply drag your king over the rook on the side you wish to castle on. When you promote a pawn, you will see a pop-up prompting you to select the promoted piece.
We have a number of different designs for chess boards and pieces, you can select the one you prefer from your personal preferences.
Under the chess board is a navigation toolbar (this toolbar looks slightly different if you are looking at the analysis board).
From left to right:
- Settings: This button will bring up your chess board and pieces display settings.
- Download Game: This button will allow you to download the game in PGN format.
- Copy Position: This button will copy the position to your clipboard.
- Move to Start: This button will show the start position of the game.
- Previous Move: This button will move position shown on the board back one move.
- Next Move: This button will show the next position on the board.
- Last Move: This button will show the current position on the board.
- Flip: This button will show the board from the other player's perspective (by default you see games from White's perspective unless you are Black; you can select an option to always show the board from White's perspective in your personal preferences).
- Animate: If you are not looking at the last move in the game, this button will animate the game from the shown position to the last move.
- Stop Animation: This button will stop the animation.
- Analysis Board: This button will show the Analysis Board (see above).
View this article in the Knowledge Base.