Why Fischer-Random is not the future of chess

  • FM FM_Eric_Schiller
  • | Nov 25, 2011

from time to time we hear complaints that chess is doomed because opening theory has been exhausted. These complaints have come from amateur players and professionals alike. In response, many people have proposed changing the rules of chess in some fashion. These changes have never proven popular and have never established an alternative to our classical game. The latest attempt is called Fischer random chess which involves players choosing their own initial setup of the pieces. For some reason it is claimed that this would avoid the supposedly problems of computer opening.analysis.

 This of course is not the case. The alternative form of chess, as with all alternative forms, is something which is once again solvable mathematically, and therefore computers can work it out. At best it can buy a little time. However, it does not address the underlying concerns for the sport.

 In fact it is not at all true that openings have been worked out and we see interesting innovations played at virtually every competition at every level of chess. Furthermore humans do not have the capacity to memorize all of the information that is available from computers without cheating, and therefore the sporting aspect of chess remains intact. I see absolutely no advantage in changing the initial placement of pieces. But I do see many disadvantages.

 One of the great joys of chess is that virtually every game includes some new move a concept that is never been played before. It is true that these innovations take place later and later in the game thanks to the huge amount of information that has been amassed. To me the opening remains one of the great joys of chess and coming up with a new idea is one of its greatest pleasures. It is an inherent part of the game that we compare our play with what has come before and see where the paths diverge.

 The so-called Fischer random chess simply abandons this glorious aspect of the game and offers nothing to affect the sporting aspect. If people are concerned with too many draws there are various small improvements that have been tested and some of them are proving quite popular, including the elimination of agreed draws early in the game and revised scoring systems and recent propsals for replays at faster time controls. However, the percentage of games drawn in top competition is not that much different now than it has been in the past. It is simply part of the game of chess that the game begins on a more or less level playing field and that the result of a draw is hardly surprising.

 I think there is a much better way to increase the sporting aspect of chess and keep the game interesting at all levels. The problem to me, is not that it is possible to prepare openings well, but rather that it is possible to fairly easily predict what openings are going to be played in a game and prepare accordingly. This aspect of the game can be eliminated easily enough. If, instead of starting games at the initial position, all games were to begin at a position chosen randomly from a huge set of positions that are evaluated as more or less even, then the aspect of opening preparation is illuminated and sporting nature of chess is increased.

 It is impossible for any human being to memorize all of the chess openings. There is simply too much data. So, if you sit down to play a game and do not know which opening is going to be used, then you must rely more on your own wits and experience. It is true that this introduces some aspect of luck into the game in that you might receive an opening position in opening that you happen to be well acquainted with. However, assuming that database of initial positions is large enough, this will not be a frequent occurrence.

 It is also very important to consider that more openings are considered playable these days than ever in the past because computers have found ways of playing openings previously considered to be inferior. That expands the range of positions that might be used in my come proposed competitive tournaments.

To make things even more interesting, the database can be established so that the positions that are used involved unequal material but about related as reasonably equal objectively. This means, for example, a lot of gambits. If you are present presented with a position where you are upon or in exchange down but have full compensation then the game is inherently interesting.

This proposal is easy enough to implement, it just means creating a database of positions that are suitable for competitive play. There is plenty of room for disagreement about which positions should be included and it would take considerable time for that database to settle down and be established in the professional arena, but I think it is worth experimenting this with this quite soon so that we can get on the path to making professional chess more interesting for spectators and players alike. I think that at first, the quality of the position database will depend on the individual organizers.

I think that this sort of competition is far, far superior to simply shuffling around the pieces at the beginning of the game, until we reach a point where computers have worked out the ideal formations and responses.

I'd like to know what the community thinks of this proposal and would love to see someone step up to the plate and run competitions with serious prizes along the lines suggested here.


  • 4 months ago


    dude, why are you so butthurt about a chess variant? lol

  • 18 months ago


  • 22 months ago



    Here is my game.

    The grandmaster FinalWarsGM that plays on Chess.com is working with me.

    People that play Fischer Random may find it interesting.


    I read your article based on the title but you did not actually discuss the faults of Fischer Random, awkward and cramped positions. The title should have been "Why I think that my idea of random opening positions is the future of chess"

    Your proposal to have a random opening position will not work. players that usually play d4 because it suits their style of play suddenly find themselves playing white in a sharp sicilian line? you also did not suggest how deep the positions are, 10 moves? you end up with positions where you have to play someone elses plan, not your plan. I do not think that your suggestion will ever work in practice.


    Final Wars

  • 2 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    Hopefully this hate filled rant by ArtashesMetz will be quickly removed as it clearly violates the terms or these forums. Someone who comes to a chess site and rants without bothering to play a game should not be coddled. There are too many absurd comments to address them all. He has already been allowed one hate filled, bigoted rant against Jews. That should be more than enough. Someone who thinks circumcision is the worst form of child abuse has not seen real child abuse. They also don't understand what is passed off as female cicumcision is some parts of the world, mainly where they also hate jews. Fischer lost his property because he was irresponsible and trusted a lawyer. 2 signs of utter and complete stupidity. The statement  "he answered "I am NOT a Chess genius, I am a genius that happens to play Chess" Is this not pure humility???" is an indication of how desperate a fanboy we have here. It is complete arrogance on Fischer's part, which is undermined by the fact he could not perform simple tasks like driving a car without blowing up the engine. Outside of performing a parlor trick on TV and playing chess, he demonstrated no aptitude for anything else in life. 

    Claiming "Bobby was NICE to everyone that cared and loved him" just shows this person does not know anyone that cared and loved Fischer. Even Pal Benko, easily the best master friend of his, had to punch his lights out to calm him down once. He threatened all who dared speak about him with "excommunication". 

    The quicker this post of ArtashesMetz is deleted the better. Unlike Bobby, I am not jewish and have not 1 drop of jewish blood in the 1500 yrs of ancestors I have been able to trace, but I do not want to see a chess site tolerate this level of hate when I have very young students on this site.  

  • 3 years ago


    The question as to whether computers could "solve" random or prechess is not the point. Obviously computers can now beat humans at any variation of chess. 

    The point is whether increasing the number of starting positions would revive the game. The answer is that it would. For example, there are millions of possible starting positions in prechess (even more if you allow two bishops of same color). That means that studying opening theory and memorizing or preparing lines would no longer play any realistic part in the game.

    In turn, that means that people who are highly skilled chess players but who don't want to spend hours every day simply memorizing variations would come back to chess.

    All the computer stuff is a red herring as is the argument that new variations are turning up all the time in regular chess. But, most of these are prepared, so only new to one player. Tell me this: Could even Carlsen defend the Fried Liver Attack over the board in a tournament game against Tal if he'd never seen it before? Well, every one of those millions of opening positions has a Fried Liver Attack in it somewhere and all the budding Tals in the world can rejoice that if they find it, their opponent will have to solve the maze over the board.

    That's real chess!

  • 3 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    I did see that the 15 puzzle is only trivial in certain configurations, however, Fischer apprently wasted the time to memorize all the solvable combinations for his TV appearance.  http://voices.yahoo.com/bobby-fischers-non-chess-talent-solving-15-puzzle-830407.html

    "But Fischer apparently memorized all the combination of moves so he didn't even have to think too hard." and 

    "Bobby Fischer couldn't solve it unless he was told that it was set up in a certain combination so it could be solved. "

    More of a carnival stunt than a talent imo. How much of an expert can you be if someone has to tell you that you can solve it. 

    I didn't see a reference for the start of go clocks or Byoyomi but it was widely known at the time of Fischer's patent. Additionally Bronstein's wiki page said he came up with the increment idea in 1973. Fischer tried his patent in 1988. 

    Sorry, but to me, Fischer was an idiot savant as I claimed and he clearly stole the idea for an increment clock from Bronstein and probably the workings from the Go field. Memorizing a puzzle where he had to be given a hint does not qualify as a talent in my book. You are entitled to your opinion. 

    This is hardly your math, I was politely telling you to read the thread. These numbers have been here for almost a year, with the additional data about prechess

  • 3 years ago


    It doesn't seem that you have done much research on any of this.

    Fischer demonstrated his ability to solve the 15-puzzle on live television during which he was presented with puzzles and solved them almost immediately. That would be quite difficult to fake. I don't remember which television program it was but you should be able to find the name of the program without too much difficulty while googling.

    Fischer did have a patent on his chess clocks with increments. Are you saying that is already existed in Go, but Fischer obtained a patent on it later? The patent expired due to Fischer not paying some maintenance fees.

    Why are you citing the same math that I already mentioned in my post?

  • 3 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    15 puzzle? Are you kidding me? First what is the proof of this? I have talked many many hours with Asa Hoffman, Pal Benko and Chernaz, Fischer's best friends, and none mentioned this child's game or any aptitude of Fischer's. That is one step up from claiming he was a tic-tac-toe whiz. 

    He did not invent any clock, he "borrowed" the idea from go, to be nice. He tried to patent the thing and was probably laughed at by the patent office. Benko also pointed out that Fischer random chess was one variant of his pre-chess. It is known he taught himself enough Russian to study their magazines, which means learning 8 letters and numbers. Getting by and aptitude are 2 different things. 


    You can read the math aspects of pre-chess and 960 chess below. Martin provided a good summary: According to the math I made Chess 960 would be solved 20 years after chess is solved. Prechess would be solved 24-26 years after Chess960 is solved.

  • 3 years ago


    This is not true. Fischer was also an expert at the 15-puzzle, demonstrated an ability to learn enough of other languages to get by without formal training, and invented the new chess clock.

    It is not clear that computing power will ever be strong enough to solve chess. Current chess computers are relying on massive opening databases + calculating ability. With 960 positions, opening databases are gone. So the new computers will have a problem 960 times more difficult than regular chess without the benefits of openings. As someone else pointed out, if computers do solve chess, it will be another 20 years before Fischer Random chess is solved.

    Schiller seems to be against Fischer Random because of his love of the openings, and states that this part of the game will disappear, but it's not actually the case. There will just be much more frequent novelties, which will be discovered after the game instead of before. It's difficult to know what the effect on the game will be without trying it out for some time. Grandmasters who have played Fischer Random overwhelmingly seem to like it.

    Starting from a random non-begininng position selected from a database seems very strange because why would one need to remove the preceding moves? Fischer Random seems to accomplish the same thing.

    Likely some amount of knowledge on the 960 possible starting positions would accrue so that there would still be some memorization involved.

    It is clear that the chess grandmasters are playing today is very different to the chess that was being played in the 1960s and 1970s. Much more time must be spent on memorization compared to in the past. If a new chess variant replaces chess, it should be to restore the balance that was there in the past.

  • 4 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    Bobby Fischer was a dropout from high school and an idiot savant. Without chess he was just an idiot. He did not work a day in his life outside chess nor did he ever provide one piece of evidence he had any aptitude outside of chess at ANYTHING. He tried to master karate and challenged Zuckerman, who reportedly knocked him down with the first punch. He got into it with Benko, who did not want to release the result of the noisy hotel altercation because he didn't want to embarass him. Benko told me in so many words the "fight" was a joke, he was pathetic. No intelligent man would give 100's of thousands of dollars to the worldwide church of God. It was fronted by Garner Ted Armstrong and his father Herbert. Ted went on the radio every week and said the world was going to end soon, so send him money to cleanse your soul. Only complete fools, like Bobby, fell for this nonsense. He was also wrong about circumcision having anything to do with being a Jew. There is a Jewish religion and a Jewish ethnicity. It does not take 100% blood to be part of an ethnicity. A person is English or German because their parents are English or German. A person does not get to choose this. Fischer's parents had Jewish blood, he is Jewish, maybe both father and mother. Bobby proved himself to be a patzer at religion. You repeating his hateful nonsense has no business on a site such as chess.com. I hope it is deleted rapidly. 

    Fischer wasn't too bored with classical chess to avoid a rematch with Spassky. He wanted his version of chess so he could be the best again. He knew his play against Spassy was not up to world class standards which is why he chickened out of his already planned match with Judith Polgar. Spassky had to be his whipping boy. Kasparov has already commented on the level of play in their rematch. I will avoid any comments except to point out that neither was able to win exchange and pawn up positions. See if you can find examples of this sloppy technique in his prime. Chess is a game you have to play to stay in shape.

    He was the 1st American to stockpile russian magazines and memorize tons of theory then he begrudged others for doing the same exact thing. He started the database age and then whined about the consequences.

  • 4 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    Thanks Martin, again your posts are informative.

    Glad to see Tuchi admits his last post was off topic. This is how he started when he posted his maths about prechess without knowing the rules of prechess.

    Between rants Tuchi has finally made some progress. He is still making up things I said and defends his poor knowledge of the English language. If someone else thinks that a site selling chess equipment is a respected chess site to use as an authority, what else is there to say? The link he gives goes to a 1300 player from MD, who  is the  purported expert on the use of plies vs ply. Why should anyone listen to a life master when a couple of 1300s have had their say?

    Pretending prechess is only twice as complex as chess960 avoids my point that the placing of the pieces move by move adds another layer of complexity. However there are concessions around the insistence he is an expert on children's maths.

    Martin appears to acknowledge this added complexity of prechess by adding an extra 4-5 years between the solution of prechess versus chess960. At least he now agrees with Martin's math and stopped trying to claim, when you solve one you solve all.

    We have a tacit admission that linking more and more processors is not the real argument, processor speed is, but no real discussion except to borrow Martin's math once again.

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    According to the math I made Chess 960 would be solved 20 years after chess is solved. Prechess would be solved 24-26 years after Chess960 is solved. Since this math is so rough it was made just to compare the time  between chess and chess960 to be solved and the time between chess960 and Prechess to be solved. The conclusion was that the time was about the same and allowing the king to not necessary be between the rooks is what made it not completely equal.

  • 4 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    1. Repeating the same thing over again does not make it more relevant. My last post addresses the size of these databases you claim will solve chess not how many variants are involved. You have attempted to sidestep the processor argument again and again. Simple logic refuted your claim that if one computer could solve chess, just string together a few hundred or thousand more. Martin understood the point, I am sure all the other readers, children or not, also understand. 20 years between solving chess and prechess is a very educated math guess. Your claim of one falls, they all fall has no math basis.

    2. My last post has absolutely nothing to do with the total number of positions, but the added complexity of setting the initial poisition by player choice one by one, not all at once by a computer. Again you make a strawman argument from nothing I said.

    3. There is a use for plies but it has nothing to do with chess. A plumber plies his trade. Even small children in this country know the difference in ply for a plumber and ply in chess. Pretend you are an authority all you want, Try to find a respected chess site that uses plies to mean the depth of analysis. That is ridiculous.


    It seems you have no interest in this thread except to insult and borrow Martin's math as your own. You didn't even know the rules of prechess before lecturing us with 10,000 words. At least you did not write 10,000 words this time. Quit while you are behind.

    Unless someone has a relevant comment on these last few details, i am done here. Thanks for the positive feedback. We have indeed shown why Fischer Random is not the future of chess. Good job Master Schiller!

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    @ Martin, Yes we can all agree that 32 piece table bases will solve chess but I have some questions for this math also. I think the math is clear, we are at least 20 years and probably more till that day.

    @ Tuschi, It is also clear to any reader that you are the one who started the "tense atmosphere" with your derogatory comments. You claim you are going to tone down your comments and then insult me further by claiming I can't do maths.  I have a Ph.D. in immunology and Pathology and many science papers published (check pubmed) with very complicated math. I have a national award from the national meeting of many science agencies involving a project which utlizies artificial intelligence to identify cancer genes. I doubt you could do this with a computer that could solve chess, so stop with the insulting nonsense. My weeks old comment that 960 was a laughable number to A SINGLE computer that could solve chess is 100 percent true and your claim that any child could do this math is laughable given that it has taken you 3 posts with help from Martin and about 30,000 words to try and explain it. You also admit you were inaccurate in explaining this simple math. You should look to yourself becoming a better person before giving that advice to anyone else. Another minor point is the use of plies, which is at least as silly as the use of maths. 100 ply or 1 ply, it is still ply. Nobody I know says 15 plies, colloqial or not. If you want to insult on blogs, you need your ducks in a row or you will reap what you sow. When questioning people's intellectual ability, literacy comes into play.

    Finally you have admitted 960 is a small number for a computer, that we can agree upon. There are also some logical flaws that are obvious in your arguments. If chess is solved it will probably be by all the processors we can possibly string together (but still a single computer to most people), so your idea to just use 960/1440 more processors is not logical or practical. The effort to solve pre-chess would require a large increase in processor speed. When the debate is how much more time pre-chess will buy humanity from the solution of chess, this is an important point.

    You attempt to dodge this processor speed angle by claiming it will be databases that solve chess all at once, no matter how many different setups are used. Where is the math analysis of this claim? We know that 4 man databases are a few megabyts, 5 man about 1 gigabyte and 6 men a terabyte. This appears much more than an exponential expansion. What size cloud are we talking about to get 32 man tablebases and how much will 7 more ply add to this equation? These are important questions before claiming a database will solve one and all. It seems just as logical that a computer will be able to draw all drawable positions and win all wins without needing this huge database. At this point classical chess will have been solved and the 20 year countdown predicted here will take over. When checker programs could not lose, we proclaimed checkers solved, nobody asked for a printout. What is the reason to assume databases will come first given the many years it has taken each time an extra piece is added to the tablebases we have now?

    Pretending the order in which you place your pieces is irrelevant and does not affect the math much is also not logical when confronted by the reality of technology being streched by a machne that can not lose and draws every drawn position. The entire game could hinge on the order of moves being played but there has been no effort to quantify this.

    When we go overboard on a blog an apology goes a long way to restore order. Go ahead, take your own advice and be a better person.

  • 4 years ago


    I don't think I have anything more to add on this subject and Tuchi81 explained it quite well. Weather specific rules like allowing the king to be placed between the rook should be applied isn't of big interest to me, but it does make a different in the result. Solving chess with a 32 pieces tablebase would make all variants with different starting positions worthless if preventing computers solving it is the problem, but if it's a question of remembering theory I think it is better to stick with chess960 which is quite popular and enaugh to make the fight of knowing theory a lot harder and therefor less important. Still, I still think chess is good enaugh and chess960 should merely be a chess variant that is not supposed to replace chess.

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago

    NM BMcC333

    Thanks Martin, I am not sure why you think lower time than estimated since processors are not getting churned out as fast. I can't make out the rate from these article, many releases were due in 2012 but they seem stalled,



    I am also curious in your opinion about the differnces caused because there is only 1 way to reach the classical chess or 960 positions, with no strategy involved to reach the full board and prechess, where most of the strategy might be piece placement. Benko did comment that it didn't seem to matter where the pieces went, the advantage for white was less. This was before any theory was developed. I am sure if prechess became popular there would be a ton of theory on piece placement and then more on what  to do with a full board.

  • 4 years ago


    If we call the time to double processor speed equalt to t we get

    f(t) = 2^t

    f(10) = 2^10 ~1000 (~960)

    f(22) = 2^22 ~4 million

    f(23) = 2^23 ~8 million

    So with this logic, after chess is solved it would take 10t (20 years if we assume processor speed doubles every 2 year) to solve chess960 and 22-23t (44-46 years if we assume processor speed doubles every 2 years) to solve prechess. In reality t becomes lower in time (probably), so this should effect the results, but with this logic it would require a bit more than twice the time to solve prechess as it takes to solve chess960.

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