Is Fischer Random really free of opening theory?
I think the Nakamura-Carlsen match organizers have made a big mistake. Fischer Random has been hailed as a chess variant without opening theory, but the decision to have double games – the same position twice, just changing the color – will change that. There’s three hours and fifteen minutes between when the starting position is known and the second game starts. I’d go so far to call it unprofessional if the players didn’t exploit this and had seconds trawling the starting position, developing theory on the fly, and with the help of previously played computer games. With 900k Norwegian kroners (about 113k US dollars) on the line, players should do everything in their power to be well prepared.
Why is the organizer doing this, you may ask? I certainly did. There are some positions in Fischer Random that has a higher winrate for white than normal chess. To compensate for this, the organizers wanted the same position to be played with both colors. The thing is, if one of these “unfair” positions now does occur in the match, won’t one of the players have a big advantage by having computer analysis ready for the second game?
Yes, there are some rare cases that might favor one player – but the chance of getting white in that position is still random. I think this is a clear case of the cure being worse that the disease.
Being on the topic of Fischer Random, I also very much disagree with everyone saying it’s a fantastic, theory-less way of playing chess. If Fischer Random were to be the number one way of playing chess, someone would use time and effort to develop and memorize theory in all 960 positions. It would be pioneering work, and a challenge of what the human brain could handle. But we’ve seen that before. Kasparov took openings to a whole different level, and if you tell Capablanca how much opening theory we got in 2018, I think he’d be shocked.
I genuinely believe having Fischer Random as the main way of playing chess would lead to a massive increase in opening theory, very contrary to the beliefs of its supporters. Now though, when Fischer Random is more of a curiosity, it is very free of computer analysis in the opening. As long as you don’t announce the position more than three hours in advance.