Even a player like Gary Kasparov, who has fabulous memorization capacities, complained, that he could not always remember his opening preparation. A good example of the importance of having perfect knowledge about an opening system was shown by Vladimir Kramnik, when he beat above mentioned Kasparov in the Braingames Match last year. The "Berlin Wall" proved to be an excellent choice against Kasparov, who couldn´t break through. However, creativity in well-known openings is still possible: players like Morozevich and Shirov keep coming up with amazing plans in well-known positions. And if you don´t work on your openings, like Anatoly Karpov, who relies on his strength in the middle- and endgame, you will lose rating points.
Of necessity, in F.R. Chess the castling rule is somewhat modified and broadened to allow for the possibility of each player castling either on or into his or her left side or on or into his or her right side of the board from all of these 960 starting positions. However, after "a"-side castling, the King and Rook find themselves on the usual squares: King on c1 (c8) and Rook on d1 (d8), after "h"-side castling : King on g1 (g8) , Rook on f1 (f8). Sometimes castling looks odd in F.R. Chess: e.g when your King is on e1 and a Rook is on f1, you only have to move your king to g1 ("King-move-only" castling). All the other castling rules apply as in classical chess: e.g. no other piece is allowed to stand between the castling King and Rook; you are not allowed to castle "out" of check.
What did Fischer have in mind, when he thought about this chess variant? Because of the many possible starting postitions, knowledge about opening theory is irrelevant and the strongest player will win the game, not the player who is better prepared. From move 1 on both players have to come up with original strategies and can not use well-known thinking patterns.
Fischer stated, that without access to databases of the millions of opening variations in traditional chess, computers do not really play chess all that well. However, Matthias Wüllenweber, one of the founders of ChessBase, has a completely dífferent opinion on that subject. Last year, when "Fritz on Primergy" played two Shuffle Chess games against German number 1 Artur Jusupov, the software specialist said: "When playing F.R Chess unusual patterns come up on the board. Knowledge of these patterns, however, is one of the main weapons for humans in their battle against computers. Wüllenweber refers to a test his partner Frederic Friedel did with Hungarian Grandmaster Andras Adorjan. Friedel showed Adorjan several positions for a period of ten seconds. The Hungarian could recall those "normal" postions far better than amateur players did. Humans remember so-called "chunks" e.g. they do not remember pawn on f2, g2 and h2, King on g1 and Rook on f1, they remember the chunk "Castling Kingside". If you build up a position without those patterns, but try to put up a position that really doesn´t make sense, with pawns on the first and eigth rank for example, there is hardly any difference in memorization between amateurs and grandmasters. According to Wüllenweber this 'thinking in chunks' is the main difference between humans and computers and the difference in ELO is some hundreds of points. A computer can play with 3 knights or 5 rooks, no problem.
The world had to wait until 2001 before a brave organiser decided to organise a F.R. Chess match between two world class players. Hans Walter Schmitt wants to make F.R. Chess as popular as rapid chess, with which he started 7 years ago in Frankurt. 5 years after giving birth to F.R. Chess it is going to take place in Mainz and we will wait and see if F.R. Chess can become a popular chess variant in the future. The two top ten players, Michael Adams, number 4 and Peter Leko, who is ranked 7th will play 8 games. It will be interesting for the audience to think with the players from move 1 on. Leko and Adams will see one of the 960 initial positions just a minute or two before the game begins and they can try to show the world the new varieties in this fascinating experiment. Like a new-born child, they have absolutely no orientation and their knowledge of openings is not relevant.
Is F.R. Chess the start of a new era? Artur Jusupov thinks, that F.R. Chess is not the end for Classical Chess. "However, due to the influence of computer programs and over-analysed opening variations it could become a popular variant. No more theory means more creativity. It is a bit premature to predict, how F.R. Chess will develop, but it could become a real alternative", Jusupov said. However: "Chess is very beautiful and difficult and will be played many years to come", Jusupov concluded.
Last modified: Sunday, April 1, 2012