Pal Benko's Pre-Chess


For those interested primarily in what my objectives are, as opposed to what Pre-Chess is, skip to the end (in bold) of this post.

From Wikipedia: Pre-Chess: proposed in 1978 by Pal Benko. The games starts with white and black pawns at the usual place, but initial position of other pieces selected by players in the following way. First, White places one of the pieces on the first row, and then Black does the same. Then White and Black continue in this way until all pieces are placed. The only restriction is that bishops should be placed on squares of the different colors. After that the game proceeds in the usual way. The castling only allowed if the king and a rook are located on their usual positions.

For a demonstration, check out the Pre-Chess page from the chessvariants website. As the site itself notes, the primary purpose is "illustrations rather than strong opponents". Still, very useful. Also, the comments give a bit more insight into this variant.

Alas, I could not yet find a copy of "Pre-Chess: Time for a Change" from Chess Life. If anyone has any ideas about where to find it, please post them here or PM me.

In lieu of that, I did uncover a follow-up article by Burt Hochberg (Chess Life editor and Pre-Chess proponent). You can view or download the PDF via this link:

Some useful snippets include the following, from Benko and Hochberg, respectively...

“The placing of the pieces has a strategy all its own,” Benko wrote. “It is clear that neither player, if he is alert, can get a serious disadvantage in this phase... 

Although White still has the first move, this gives Black the potentially important first clue as to how to place his own forces. It seems to me that for this reason the chances of the two sides are more nearly equal in pre-chess than in the standard game and that this will have the effect of producing not more draws but more exciting chess.”


"Far be it from me to take issue with Bobby Fischer, but I see no reason why players should not be thinking strategically even during the placement phase instead of obeying the whim of random chance. It is quite possible – even likely – that some of the randomly generated positions in Fischer Random Chess are strongly disadvantageous for the first or second player. In Pre-Chess, the fate of the players is in their own hands. Of course, players are free to place their pieces in their traditional positions."

Whilst my initial goal in posting thisand forgive me for running on a tadwas mainly to pose an inquiry regarding the name of this variant, (like Hans-Walter Schmitt, who wanted a more respectable name for FRC), I couldn't help but make this all an encompassing thread.

Ideally, I'd like to to achieve three things here:

1.     Take the temperature of players to gauge interest in this game

2.     Find other enthusiasts/supports, as well as accompanying information (like that elusive Chess Life article).

3.     Elect a new name for this variant, since the current one is a tad...ambiguous.

So, without further ado, let the discussion begin!


Kriegspiel is German for "war game" (krieg = war, spiel = game).


I think I remember once reading that there is an ancient form of chess that was played this way (perhaps in India).  I remember the writer (possibly Edward Lasker) stating that the players seemed to have their favorite setup and didn't appear to pay much attention to how the other side was setting up their pieces.


Well, so that other readers are not misguided then. Better not propagate misunderstandings...


I like Dark Chess better than Kriegspiel, btw.


Not sure what you mean (if it means anything at all).


Yes, I think I am starting to get the picture. I am afraid you paint a picture that everyone reading this thread will recognize:

You don't like being corrected, even when you make a mistake, and when you are, you start sulking like a 3-year old, making pathetic attempts to insult those that corrected you, in the hope to drive them away. Is that close?

I don't understand why you want to bring the subject to Spartan Chess, which is rather far from the original topic of this thread. It is true that Chess variants come in many flavors, some more imaginative than others, and that some people have a taste for the innovative, and others for the conservative. So what?


Don't know that variant... Perhaps if you explain the rules. :-)

To get back on topic, after the diversion to Kriegspiel and Spartan Chess: I am not really convinced of the merits of variants like Pre-Chess. Compared to Chess960 they have the disadvantage that they start from a position that is known it advance, so that it is subject to over-analysis of the opening 'moves' (in this case piece drops) in the same way as FIDE Chess. One could argue that the drops are so passive that there hardly is any strategic advantage to earn by how you drop, and as a consequence there is a wider choice.

So it offers nothing new (not even a generalization of the castling rule), and it is not clear if it solves any problem. (Other than temporarily invlidating all opening theory. But you could also acheive that by, say, swapping Knights and Bishops, and declare that the new opening position.)


I like Benko's idea, but would prefer a fixed placement order, perhaps K Q R R Bwsqr Bbsqr N N.

The name will have to go, how about '∞Chess'  (or infini-chess?)


I had been trying to get pre-chess going for some time. I'd love to see this on like they do Chess960 and 4-player chess.


If you consider that FischerRandom, Displacement Chess, and Chess960 are all "random," I would suggest an antonym of random for a potential name:


Like Methodical Chess, Planned Chess, Definite Chess, Specific Chess, or Particular Chess.


Or, it could be called "Benko Chess" after Benko since he pushed this many years ago.


Or "Terran Chess."  (Terran of course is a reference to Earth.)


Or, perhaps "Justice Chess" just because I'm awesome. grin.png


My gut instinct is call it "Terran Chess" or "Premier Chess." Online time control is 4 minutes with 4 seconds added per move. With in-person games, five minutes for set up (eight moves), then 15 minutes with 15 seconds added a move.


I hope runs with this. They'd be shocked how popular it'd be. 






This is by far my favourite chess variant from all the ones I have read about. Would love to see it in for sure.


I also think it would be more popular than the other variants available. I disagree about having separate times for placing and playing, I think that placing and playing should happen inside the same time so if you take more time placing you have less time playing. 


I like the name Prechess as a short for Benko's Prechess.


For a rather interesting twist on this, see Daslov's recent post on Fischer-Benko Chess (or Half-Random Chess):


MalcolmHorne, the absence of randomness AND predetermined positions is just what I like the most about Prechess. I mean, if I place my rook in a "strong" position, my oponent has the oportunity to make it weaker using his placement. Making a placement that will give you advantage is actually your main objective during placement and if you actually get this advantage it is all by your own merit.


I've read about half-random and I prefer playing Full random (960) OR non random (Prechess), but it is just my opinion I am not saying it is better or worse.


It was actually interesting tho thanks for the tip.


The placement is almost a game alone! It can give you advantage or disadvantage for the actual game, just like your position choices during a classic game.


What do you think then about Daslov's comment (within the link he gave, in the post I referred to at #13): "I liked Pre-Chess but when I played it with my friends, it wasn’t random enough, we were just trying to place as many pieces as we could to their natural positions (those from standard Chess)."


they did not have creativity or were lazy, obviously the easiest way is to choose standard you are used to it.