Chess960 (or Fischerandom) is a variation of chess invented by the eleventh World Chess Champion, Bobby Fischer. It maintains the original chess flavour while ensuring the “live” creative spark.
Compared to the past, chess is played very differently today. With computers exceeding human tactical ability and providing storage of massive game databases, we have an ever growing knowledge of chess from the beginning of the game onwards. We know which moves and configurations are good, and we can learn to play them from memory.
Chess960 is healthy and good for your chess. If you get into it and not just move the pieces to achieve known positions it really improves your chess vision.
— GM Levon Aronian
The time when both players start thinking (without trying to recall or rediscover analysis) is slowly pushed further and further in, probing the limits of human memory. The phenomenon is many times more pronounced with masters, but the amateur is affected to a certain degree also. While there is no danger of chess being exhausted, it becomes harder and harder to obtain a position where the players are thrown to their own resources—where both are lost with no compass other than their own judgement and ability. For example, many high level tournament games have been played that are in fact reproductions of prior computer-assisted analysis. Although these games can be aesthetically pleasing, the spirit of such play is not satisfactory to all chess players.
Fischer felt that this approach to chess produced lifelessness and a general decline in creativity. His solution was to shuffle the back row of pieces (with constraints to allow castling and preserve the opposing coloured bishop pairs), giving a total of 960 different starting positions. Many other solutions have been tried, but Fischer’s is the best so far. Although the concept is radical, actual play comes quite naturally. Chess960 offers players the chance to enjoy original, creative, and exciting games (without compromising the core elements of chess). It’s easy to learn, and most importantly, fun to play.