Why Fischer-Random is not the future of chess
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.