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Fischer-Benko Chess

Introduction

Fischer-Benko Chess, or Half-Random Chess, is a variant invented in 2020 by Davor Vujacic as a combination of Fischer Random Chess and Pal Benko’s Pre-Chess.

The rules of this chess variant are identical to the rules of Fischer Random Chess and the only difference is the way in which initial position of pieces is achieved and that it doesn’t have to be symmetrical but different for both players. Because of this, the number of possible initial positions is not 960 like in Fischer Random Chess but 921,600! Only 960 of positions are symmetrical and identical to those in Fischer Random Chess.

Setup

Place the white Pawns on rank 2 and black Pawns on rank 7.

picture FBC 01

Unlike in Fischer Random Chess, only three pieces (two Bishops and one Rook) are placed randomly and asymmetrically on the players' back ranks, meaning that the positions of Black and White are almost always different. The Bishops must be placed on squares of different colors. To generate a random position, adapt any of the Chess960 position generation methods or use an online random number generator.

picture FBC 02

Davor Vujacic writes:

Here is an example of how I used Ingo Althofer’s single die method for Fischer-Benko Chess random starting positions of two Bishops and one Rook. For first bishop and that is the white bishop at white square, there are 4 possible positions. Using single die, I got number 1 and placed bishop at b1 (first white square). I repeated the process for black bishop at white square, got number 2 and placed bishop at c8 (second white square ). I repeated the process with remaining Bishops and got their positions at c1 and f8. After placing bishops there were 6 available squares for Rooks on both sides, so I had to cast die two more times for each of them. For the white Rook I got number 3 and placed white Rook at third free square, at e1. For the black Rook, I got number 5 and placed Rook at fifth free square, at g8.

After both players placed their Bishops and Rook at random positions, the rest of the pieces are placed manually. Just like in Pal Benko’s Pre-Chess, White places one of the remaining pieces (remaining Rook, two Knights, King and Queen) on the first rank, and then Black does the same. The players freely decide in which order they are going to place their remaining pieces.

In the below diagram, we can see that White decided to place his second Rook at its ‘natural’ position at h1. I borrowed notation system from Crazyhouse chess variant so we can write this move like [email protected] The Black answered with Knight at e8 ([email protected]) preparing to fight for the control of the center of chessboard.

1. [email protected] [email protected]

picture FBC 03

After this, White placed his first Knight at d1 as a response to Black’s previous move and now Black placed the second Rook to a familiar place, at a8.

2. [email protected] [email protected]

picture FBC 04

White and Black continue to place their remaining pieces until all of them are placed on their back ranks. The only restriction is that, exactly like in Fischer Random Chess, the King must be placed between the Rooks. The last two pieces are placed simultaneously at their desired positions.

Here we can see that White placed the second Knight at a1, and Black at h8.

3. [email protected] [email protected]

Finally, both players placed their Queens and Kings (their last pieces in this case) in double moves. As the order in which players placer their pieces manually is not important, their last pieces could have been different, not necessarely the Queens and Kings, but it is logical to presume that the players would choose to place their most important pieces for the attack and defense, the Queen and the King at the end.

4. [email protected][email protected] [email protected][email protected]

picture FBC 05

picture FBC 06

Rules

After all the pieces are on the board, the game proceeds in the usual way, according to the rules of Fischer Random Chess, including there the castling rules of that game.

In real life and real battles, symmetry is very rare. Also, there are always some unpredictable circumstances that are in this game, presented as randomness. Luckily, we also have free will, and ability to analyze the situation and to adapt ourselves to it, in order to survive and win. That’s the whole meaning of this game.

Notes

Davor Vujacic later developed Half-Random Transcendental Chess, or Benko-Lawrence Chess, with input from Ola Sassersson. As the name implies, it uses Transcendental Chess as a base rather than Fischer Random Chess. The rules are as above, with two differences:

  • The King does not have to be placed between the Rooks.
  • There is no castling.
  • Unlike in Transcendental Chess, only one game is sufficient to determine winner and there is no need to additionally equalize chances of players to wi

 

Final words:

As the inventor of this chess variant, which I named Fischer-Benko-Chess (or Half-Random Chess, if you like it better) and its sub-variant Half-Random Transcendental Chess, which I created after clever objections from Ola Sassersson, I alway had in my mind that I must remain humble and in deep respect for the giants of Chess, Fischer and Benko, who have left an indelible trace in chess history.

I did not invent the randomness in starting positions that already existed in the Transcendental Chess and in the Fischer Random Chess, nor did I invent the manual placement of chess pieces at their starting position as it already existed in Pal Benko's Pre-chess. I just proposed a new variant that could be used for fun and maybe as a training method, and I tested it with my friends and some family members.

My favorite chess variants are Fischer Random Chess, Transcendental Chess and Pal Benko’s Pre-Chess. The huge number of starting positions was something I liked in Transcendental Chess, but I didn’t like the fact that many of those positions are unfair and strongly favor one or another player. 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). Finally, I liked everything in Fischer Random Chess but I wondered if we could play even more positions that just 960.

And that is how I created this little Frankenstein’s monster among chess variants, assembling rules from my favorite chess variants. This variant belongs to Maxwell Lawrence (Transcendental Chess), Pal Benko (Pre-Chess) and Bobby Fischer (Fischer Random Chess) more than it belongs to me. I hope they would forgive me for playing with their games and making a compromise in order to create playable and fun chess variant. I hope people would like it and play it as such because it belongs to all of us now. Have a fun!



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By Davor Vujacic.
Web page created: 2020-05-25. Web page last updated: 2020-05-26