Symmetrical Fischer Random Chess

 Paul Grosemans and Austin Lockwood  9/16/2004  7 comments 

We discuss a new game, which may address some of the inelegancies in Fischer Random Chess.

Kramnick (Chess Life, June 2004), has made an interesting point about Fischer Random Chess, regarding the lack of aesthetic balance of random starting arrays when compared with the familiar RNBQKBNR.

Kramnick may well have a point (and who are we to argue?), however playing FRC should be a valuable learning experience for developing chess players because of the opportunity it offers to avoid prepared openings (not that learning opening theory isn't important for developing chess players - just that it's equally important to learn the importance of positional vision from the first move).

Perhaps if it were possible to restrict the opening arrays used in FRC to only those with a degree of innate symmetry and reject those where (in Kramnick's words) 'the bishop stands on h8, the knight is on g8 and the rook on f8', it might be possible to get the best of both worlds?

With this in mind, we have developed a new game, 'Symmetrical Fischer Random Chess' - this game has eight possible starting arrays (the array used is selected at random before each game). The rooks always start on their standard files a and h, and the king and queen always start on the d and e files (but may be switched). Finally the two bishops always start on opposite coloured squares. The eight possible arrays are:


It is suggested that the orthodox starting position is not used for SFRC games, reducing the number of possible starting arrays to seven.

An eight sided die (available at speciality games shops) could be used to select the opening array in OTB games (thrown again if an eight is thrown).

The castling rules are the same as in FRC, all other rules are as orthodox chess.

Symmetrical Fischer Random chess is a relatively new game. As the authors live in different countries, we have yet had very limited experience of playing SFRC 'over the board'. It is, therefore, difficult at this stage to discuss in any detail the themes that may emerge from the game. However we have now played a few games here on, and can confirm that some of the aims of the game appear have been met, in that:

  • So far it has not been possible to apply standard chess opening theory. It is possible that in the future opening theory may develop for each of the seven positions, however given the current mountain of books and database for the opening theory from *one* starting position, it will be a very long time before this becomes a concern!
  • The natural beauty of orthodox chess is largely preserved, and harmonious opening development appears to be possible.
  • As a corollary to the previous point, we no longer get the tangle of uncoordinated pieces so often seen in Fischer Random Chess (Chess960).

In conclusion, the symmetrical approach would seem to be a natural development of Fischer Random Chess. It allows and encourages a creative approach to the game from the first move. Of course we are not suggesting that SFRC should ever be a replacement for Orthodox Chess, but it is certainly an interesting diversion with some educational value for developing players.

Here is a sample game, recently played:

[FEN "rbbkqnnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RBBKQNNR w - - 0 1"]

1. e4 d6 2. Ne3 a6 3. d4 Ba7 4. Nf3 h6 5. c3 g5 6. h3 Qd7 7. Bd3 c5 8. a4 cxd4 9. cxd4 Ne6 10. Qe2 Bxd4 11. Nf5 Bf6 12. Be3 d5 13. e5 g4 14. hxg4 Bg7 15. Bb6+ Nc7 16. Nxg7 Qc6 17. Qe3 Bxg4 18. Bb5 to prevent 18... Qxa4+ if 18. Rc1 immediately 18... Qg6 19. Qc5 O-O-O 20. Qxc7#

Symmetrical Fischer Random Chess can be played here on We have also started a public discussion forum for FRC generally ( with an SFRC area, and would welcome feedback on this suggestion, or any other aspect of Fischer Random Chess.


 refutor 9/17/2004 

i would be happy to play any of those variations, except the one with the bishops and knights on the same side of the king...seems less elegants than the transposed k/q and transposes b/n

 Austin Lockwood 9/17/2004

Good point, but that reduces the number of starting arrays to only three (if we discount the standard array), which may be too few.

 rythmomachy 9/19/2004 

I refer to::

With reference to chess derivatives.

 nasmichael 10/22/2004 

I appreciate this addition to the Journals here. For those who are new to variants, this is a good segway to wilder variations, as much of the "standard" forms are kept, with enough flexibiity of mind to take players away from book, and make the game creative in a different way.

 refutor 11/30/2004 

I noticed this on this week :)

 nasmichael 1/16/2006 

This game has been a great teaching tool for me with players who have some trouble understanding the value of "shifting gears" when learning tactics. This symmetrical FRC gives them the opportunity to look for tactics from the start of the game, while being familiar ground in some ways.

 pallab 12/9/2008

Can we play this variant here?

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