17 August 2013

'Reform Chess'

Pleased that I actually learned something from old rec.games.chess (rgc) posts -- see my previous blog post, Foraging the 'News Groups' -- I returned to the resource looking for more material on the early days of chess960. Here's a snippet by IM Mark Ginsburg from May 1993, titled Fischer (again).
Fischer met with the Polgars recently on the Yugoslavia / Hungary border. He attempted to negotiate a match when he would play Judit a variant of chess, known in some circles as "Reform Chess" - where the piece arrangement for both sides on the first rank is determined at random before the game starts (except that the Kings, and the Rooks, stay on their 'normal squares' to allow for eventual castling).

No doubt Fischer feels that Judit is a product of intense training (and by extension, memorization) and wants to 'prove' his superior talent. Whatever the case, the Polgars have rejected his initial overtures to a Reform Chess Match and they went back to Budapest - and I suppose he likewise retreated to a hotel room in Belgrade. One anecdote that came out of this meeting is that Fischer is now being asked to pay for his hotel room daily, in cash.

A follow-up post, also titled Fischer (again), but from another rgc-user, gave more details about Fischer's new idea.

While some may interpret this as Fischer being unwilling to play Judit straight-up, I'd counter that Fischer has been promoting the idea of randomized chess for some time. Also, during a [Fischer - Spassky] II press conference (perhaps it was the one before the match started?) Fischer was discussing randomized chess.

Randomized chess was experimented with early on by Aaron Alexandre (1766-1850) and later by Erich Brunner (1885-1938). Of course, Bird (1830-1908) and Capablanca (1888-1942) were also very big supporters of unorthodox chess to get away from mechanistic memorization of openings. Fischer is obviously of the same belief.

This squares with other facts that I've featured in earlier posts. See, for example, Pictures of a Fischer Random Precursor. As for the youngest (and strongest chess player) of the three famous Polgar sisters, Judit is on record as having said, 'To be honest, I never was a big fan of Fischer Random'; see KC-Conference with Judit Polgar.

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