Go back to frontpage

Fischer Random: The Wrap Up

Author: Jon Ludvig Hammer
Image credit: Lennart Ootes

When Magnus was asked how he had prepared for his Fischer Random match against Hikaru Nakamura, he said he had studied the castling rules. I don’t think it was meant as a joke, even though the comment surely triggered some giggles. The World Chess Champion needs to study castling rules?

It actually makes perfect sense: Other than the castling rules, Fischer Random is identical to chess – and Magnus Carlsen is a very good chess player. After both sides castle, it’s just a plain old game of chess. Therefore, coping with castling will be a crucial part of any Fischer Random match. We’ll take a look at the longest, the shortest, the earliest, the latest and – last, but not least – the best.

MCHN1

The earliest castling can’t ever be beaten! In this starting position, both players chose to castle on move 1. The reasoning is that the h2/h7-pawns are undefended, and there’s a bishop on b1/b8 hoping to exploit that. Castling is the most efficient way of protecting that pawn, and Magnus wasn’t shy about finding it hilarious, as well as being a good move.

Screen-Shot-2018-02-23-at-12.48.50

MCHN2

Which is the shorter castling? Having the king stay on g1 while the rook jumps across to f1, or the previous position, where the rook and king swaps places, a square each? I’m not sure – but this position gets an honorable mention. Not at least because Hikaru’s castling here (with black) was the only way to save the pawn on f5 – which makes it a short, but brilliant move.

MCHN3

It’s time for the longest castling, and the winner is a stunner. Hikaru, playing white, need to get his a1-rook into play. How, you ask? Just move the king to g1! It’s a double winner for longest AND best. This super-castling scores 1 point better with the engines than any other move. Actually, at move 20 it’s also a runner-up for being late.

MCHN4

However, the latest castling clocks in at move 21. Had it been one of my students, I would have angrily pointed out that we should secure king safety much earlier – however the player in question was the World Champion, and he got a good position – so better late than never? In fact, black’s previous move was Rd8-d7, only to castle now. That’s efficient doubling, if I ever saw one.

That’s the story of Fischer Random castling.

In other news, Magnus Carlsen won the match 14-10 and may justifiably claim himself to be the biggest maestro of the variant – weird castling included.