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
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
†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 SchemingMind.com, 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"]
to prevent 18... Qxa4+ if 18. Rc1 immediately 18...
Symmetrical Fischer Random Chess can be played here on SchemingMind.com. We
have also started a public discussion forum for FRC generally (www.chess960.info) with an SFRC area, and would welcome
feedback on this suggestion, or any other aspect of Fischer Random Chess.