How to Play Fischer Random Chess

To play Fischer Random Chess, also known as Chess960, you need to understand the board’s setup. Put the pawns like how you would in a regular chess match, but place the pieces in the back row in a random order.

While at first glance, this setup might seem like it’d take away the coherency and order associated with chess, it’s not as random as you think.

There are rules on how to place the pieces on your back row and how certain pieces can move in certain scenarios.

So how to play Fischer Random Chess? Keep reading and you’ll know everything you need there is about this variant!

How to Play Fischer Random Chess

Let’s see all the nitty-gritty details of this Fischer chess:

How to Place Your Pieces

To keep the integrity and spirit of regular chess, Grandmaster Bobby Fischer introduced a set of rules that cover how you should place your pieces.

First, you must place your minor and major pieces on either the 1st or 8th rank, depending on what color you play with.

This rule might be too obvious, but other variants require different setups.

You can’t place two rooks next to each other. Your king has to stand between the two, so put them on either side of your rank.

You see, placing two rooks next to each other limits your ability to castle. You need to place your rooks on both sides so you can castle on either side.

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It doesn’t matter where you place the rooks as long as they’re on different sides. That means you can place them right next to the king or far away from it.

Like regular chess, place one of your bishops on a dark square and one on a light square.

You don’t need to place the bishops or the knights on either side of the king as long as they stand on light and black squares.

The last piece-placement rule is that both the white and black sides have to mirror each other. For example, if White has a bishop on c1, Black has to have his bishop on c8.

After all, if players are left to place their pieces however they want, not only will one player have an advantage over the other, but the game will be too chaotic and lose its spirit.

But how’s the placement of pieces decided? Do players need to talk it out beforehand?

In most cases, it will be decided using some sort of software in which the previous rules are inserted. In other cases, however, players use polyhedral dice with a set position for each throw.

Random starting position in Chess 960

How to Castle

Other than the placement of the pieces, the mechanics of castling is the biggest difference between this variant and regular chess.

For the most part, the rules of castling here are the same as in regular chess.

The king and the rook you want to castle with shouldn’t have moved the entire game. There shouldn’t be any pieces between the rook and the king. Any squares between them shouldn’t be under attack.

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However, it’s exactly these rules that make castling in the Fischer Chess a bit confusing.

There are two types of castling in regular chess.

You have the kingside castling where the king lands on g1, and the rook lands on f1.

Then, there’s queenside castling, where the king moves to c1 and the rook to d1.

When you castle in Fischer Random Chess, the pieces land on the exact squares as regular chess, no matter where they stand.

For example, if your king is standing on b1 and the rook is on h1 when you decide to do a kingside castle, you just have to move them to g1 and f1 (The regular chess kingside castling positions).

The same thing goes for queenside castles.

What if your rook is already standing on f1? In this case, you only move the king to g1.

If you’re playing this variant for the first time online, you’ll find it’s easier to castle than in live chess. The computer does the thinking for you.

Just grab the king and drag it on top of the rook, they’ll automatically move to the set squares.

Before castling kingside in Fischer Random

After castling kingside


How to Play Your Openings

A big part of regular chess revolves around theories and memorizing openings. Players usually have their openings set before the match even starts.

When it comes to openings in Fischer Random Chess, you can throw your prepping out of the window.

Players usually recognize a weak side in the setup they’re given and start building their strategies around it.

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Interestingly, you’ll also have whatever weakness you find in your opponent’s side. You have the same setup, after all.

So, you need to exploit the weak spots in your opponent’s side while protecting yours at the same time.

Furthermore, you need to keep in mind that because the setup is random, one of your pieces might stand in a bad square, preventing you from developing it the way you want.

This might happen because either you or your opponent made a move that blocks the path of that piece.

That’s what happened to GM Peter Svidler when he faced GM Hikaru Nakamura.

Under Nakamura’s pressure, Svidler blocked his own light-squared knight’s path with the bishop, preventing it from developing properly.

This wouldn’t have happened in regular chess, but this randomized aspect can offset even the grandmasters.

One strategy some players like to follow in a Fischer opening is to move their pieces so as to position them like a regular chess setup.

Regular chess gives you more freedom. If you pull this one off, you’ll have an advantage that your opponent doesn’t.

Wrapping Up

So how to play Fischer Random Chess?

First, you need to understand the setup of the board.

The randomization of the 1st and 8th rank might seem like it takes away from the orderly nature of chess, but the board is set in a way that keeps the spirit of regular chess.

The biggest difference between this variant and regular chess isn’t just the board setup, it’s also the castling rules.

Even though the castling rules are the same, the pieces’ moves aren’t as limited.

Look for any opening in your opponent’s side while protecting your weak points. Be wary of blocking your own pieces’ moves and you’ll be fine.