Fischer random chains

Fischer random chess seems to have much to recommend it. It removes the advantage of memorizing large numbers of opening book moves, and arguably injects more creativity and dynamism into the game.

One major problem is that it heightens the asymmetry in chess between the player who moves first and the player who moves second. Some randomly generated positions will strongly favour white.

An easy way to counterbalance that is to play each random setup twice, with the players alternating who plays as white. The problem with this is that it reverses the original advantage by too much. The first game will provide all sorts of chances to think about the unique characteristics of the random opening position. The person who plays white the second time has the advantage of all that information.

To be more fair, then, perhaps players should play four games based on two positions:

  • Game 1: Random position one, player A as white
  • Game 2: Random position one, player B as white
  • Game 3: Random position two, player B as white
  • Game 4: Random position two, player A as white

Even with a ‘chain’ of games like this, the balance between the players still isn’t perfectly fair. One of the starting positions might offer more of an advantage to white than the other one does. For instance, position one might randomly be the ordinary chess setup, while position two might be one that allows white to gain a strong early advantage.

The cost associated with playing Fischer Random / Chess 960 is that it allows some degree of luck to enter into chess – a game that it otherwise devoid of any element of random chance. That being acknowledged, it seems like the amount of luck introduced can be minimized through pairings like the ones above, and that the remaining fraction could be worth accepting as the cost of achieving the other benefits of Fischer Random chess.

I would be up for trying a four-game mini-tournament with someone, perhaps with 15 minute per side sudden death time controls.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

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