Fischer moves – a cruel hoax!

by ChessBase
4/2/2002 – Yesterday we posted a report on a new rule proposed by Bobby Fischer and under consideration by FIDE. To our horror we have discovered that this was a cruel hoax, perpetrated by an evil prankster in the ChessBase team. Apparently he was practising a pagan ritual know as "April Fool". We apologise to the visitors who for who found the spurious article distressing, and thank everyone for the many letters we we received. You will find some excerpts here

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The April Fool tradition

Almost all countries have a day very much like the United States April Fool's Day. On this day dignity is discarded and everyone plays practical jokes. Americans do their fooling on April 1 because the early Scottish, English, and French settlers brought the custom with them. Also known as All Fools' Day, the occasion provides pranksters of every description an opportunity to play a wide variety of jokes upon their friends and neighbors.

ANCIENT ROME: The custom of playing practical jokes on friends was part of the celebrations in ancient Rome on March 25 (Hilaria). The timing seems related to the vernal equinox and the coming of spring a time when nature fools us with sudden changes between showers. and sunshine.

ENGLAND: In England, tricks can be played only in the morning. If a trick is played on you, you are a "noodle". Widespread observance in England began in the 18th century.

SCOTLAND: In Scotland, April Fools Day is 48 hours long and you are called an "April Gowk", which is another name for a cuckoo bird. In Scotland, April Fools Day is 48 hours long. The second day is called Taily Day and is dedicated to pranks involving the buttocks. Taily Day's gift to posterior posterity is the still-hilarious "Kick Me" sign.

FRANCE: In France, the April Fool's is called "April Fish" (Poisson d'Avril). The French fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their friends' backs and when someone discovers this trick, they yell "Poisson d'Avril!"

SPAIN: Dia de los Santos Inocentes is held in Spain on December 28th. This is The Feast of the Holy Innocents. It is celebrated similarily to April Fool's Day, with practical jokes.

AMERICA: The English, Scotch and French introduced the custom to their colonies in America. One of our forefathers' favorite jokes was to send someone on a "fool's errand." For example, one might have been asked to go out and obtain a copy of "The History of Adam's Grandfather," or bring back some "sweet vinegar."

MEXICO: The "foolish" tradition is celebrated in Mexico, too, but on a different day and for different reasons. "El Dia de los Inocentes," which is December 28, was set aside as a day for Christians to mourn Herod's slaughter of innocent children. Over time, the tone of that "unluckiest of days" has evolved from sadness to good-natured trickery.

"The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year. " – American humorist Mark Twain.

In the 24 hours after the "Fischer move" report was published the messages came in thick and fast. About half our readers saw through the joke, the other half were quite upset by the idea of sanctioning takebacks in chess. You may be interested to hear what some of our readers had to say. We start with the ones who recognised the joke.

Devangshu Datta: Dear ChessBase team, come, come! If only your news format didn't include a dateline under the header! That's a big giveaway with this item. Lovely idea though and I liked the Judit quote with its tongue in cheek reference to Kasparov's infamous move that wasn't! A request: Please track the replies and count the ones who fall for it versus the ones who don't. Could be an interesting psychological experiment. A) Chess players are popularly supposed to be paranoid and suspicious. B) They are also supposed to be mostly resident on another planet and quite unaware of mundane details of dates etc. If the first character trait has more actual weightage than the second, you'll get a high percentage of people who see through this item.

D. Al Sault: April Fool to you too.

Richard Howitt: Great April Fool's joke. Wacky Germans!

Johan Ostergaard: Good one :) You had me going there for a while...the legal language was quite convincing and I didn't actually realise what date it was until I reached the part where plans were introduced to let this replace normal chess. Interesting idea though :)

Scott Doughty: Happy April Fools Day! Is this really practiced in Germany? And I thought Germans were such serious people. Very funny!

Chris Taylor: What was the date again?

Pierre et Monique: Nice try guys. Happy April's fools day!!

Tan Choon Hwa: Happy April Fool's Day! Germans do have a sense of humour! I visit your site almost every day, so keep up the good work!

James Coleman: Tremendous April Fool piece, best I have ever seen.

Righetti Michele: ROTFL!!! Have a good day of the fools. Or, as we say in Italian, April's Fish. I really enjoy your site, go ahead!

Jes Knudsen: Splendid joke! In particular I appreciate the remarks concerning how the move would (more completely) reflect the "original flavour of the game".

Richard Tervo: Great April Fool Report, although there are times when I would love this rule. Of course, it should apply "only to a player and not to his/her opponent"!

Bill Gathright: Very clever indeed! Thanks for the humor. Happy April Fools!

R.D. Keene: Nice April fool.

Michael Fitch: April Fools :-))) LOL.

Graham Sorgard: Happy April Fool's.

A. Termaat: I do not believe a word of it!

Benjamin Goh: And a happy April Fool's Day to you too ;-)

Jonathan O'Connor: Guys, brilliant. I read the news story, and thought, oh yeah, I am not surprised by that. But the second last paragraph suddenly got me thinking. And wham! I remembered what day it was.

Johannes Steckner: I've been laughing tears! Very good 1st of April news!

Douglas Reid: Nice April Fool's joke. Enjoyed it. It's a great site, so keep up the good work.

Dimitris Skyrianoglou: Nice try guys!!! I almost believed it!!! Then I noticed that it was posted on 1st of April. To be honest I wouldn't be surprised if Fischer came up with such a proposal. It fits his style I think. However I was very surprised to see that FIDE was thinking seriously of adopting the idea! It is completely opposite with their currnt efforts to shorten the duration of the games and to promote the sportive character of chess. In this respect, FIDE is in favour of blunders since, according to their opinion, these blunders make the game more fascinating (???!!!). Then it was this event with Polgar that it was a bit odd. How could noone else have heard about it before :-) As for the proposal itself, I think it would be interesting but I'm not sure that the advantages are more than the disadvantages...Maybe each player could be allowed to make a "retractor" move only once per game just like the castling move :-)

Tom Anderson: I read with interest your article on Fischer's idea for allowing retractor moves. Perhaps you might like to give examples of one or two games which include these moves, demonstrating how the quality of the chess is improved. I'm encountering this idea for the first time, and would very much like to see how it works in practice. I myself an am ordinary club player. I can see how retractor chess can potentially lead to high quality games at top level chess, but am doubtful that the idea will be useful at club level. For me, much of the appeal of chess is the high-adrenaline atmosphere that is created during a game, knowing that a single mistake will potentially cost the game. Yes, many games are won and lost due to tactical blows, but of course positional play is also important. I believe that nullifying the tactical element by allowing retractions will not appeal to club players. On a practical note, how do retractions affect the number of moves played? Also, it seems to me that a player could abuse this rule . For example, what if player A leads 1.d4 and player B plays 1...d5. If player A doesn't like double Q-pawn positions, could he then retract those two moves and start again with 1.e4? Perhaps I've misinterpreted the rules, but if such a scheme is possible then that is entirely against the spirit of the game. I would suggest that the number of retractions for each player should be limited (e.g. to 1 or 2), and that no retractions should be permitted before move 10.

Tom Anderson: Don't bother to reply to my earlier email – I hadn't woken up with the hour change yet! Only just realised its 1st April.

IM Jovan Petronic: If I may be allowed to comment on the "Frankenstein move": I have read your article and I consider it as another "pile of rubbish" invented by the "chess patzers and insanes" of this world, trying to find any possible way not to expose themselves as such, making "idiots" out of the professional chess players around the world who study chess seriously. FIDE officials also do not seem to know what they are talking about... You should expose them by naming them when quoting the high ranking FIDE officers. I am very surprised that FIDE is considering such a suggestion at all (as according to your website report). Fischer's (or whoever's) "idiotic" idea sounds to me like "stabbing someone to death", followed by the corpse pulling the knife out – long live Frankenstein!! P.S. Your website is the best, anyway! And April fools on you too...

Shivkumar Shivaji: The fischer moves article has got to be part of the April Fool special!!

Case Blue: Yep you got me for about 90 seconds. Then the little light came on above my head!!

Eugene Lewis: This is the best april fools joke yet.

Jean Efpraxiadis: Given that today is April 1st, I do not believe the Fischer Moves story

Dennis Monokroussos: Nice April Fool's joke. :)

Jeff Ledford: Very cute! Of course, the first thing I did was to check today's date, March 31st. But then, there is that time zone difference. But I must also ask – -is the mate in 262 also an April Fool's joke?

Terry McCracken: This is an April Fool's joke isn't it? It's a horrific concept! Questionable is Advanced Chess advocated by IGM Gary Kasparov, but this idea of Fischer Moves (Retractable Chess), if so, brings the game to an all time low. I'm hoping it's just a bad joke:o)

David Moore: It was with keen interest that I read your most interesting article on the Fischer move. From personal experience playing my Mephisto chess computer I know all too well how sharp the computer is tactically. I have found that my play is of a much higher caliber when I "retract" moves, but I have always felt a little guilty about doing so. Now, with this change to the rules I won't have to feel this way. The only difficulty I have with this new rule is in that maybe it doesn't go far enough. I have found that sometimes I have to retract a whole sequence of moves in order to arrive at a satisfactory position where I once again feel able to compete with my computer. Usually though, I am just delaying the inevitable, as I still end up losing , no matter how many retractor moves I make. Also, we all know how much of an advantage computers have in the opening and in sharp tactical positions, so I think only human players should be allowed to invoke the Fischer move rule, no retractor moves for computers. This will also benefit the programmers as they will not have to write all that extra code, and can instead focus their attention on refuting the "anti-computer" stratagies being adopted by human players. In closing let me say I strongly endorse the "Fisher move" rule change. and encourage all chess players to do likewise. Indeed, you would have to be a fool to not see how much the Fischer rule will benefit the great game of chess. Keep up the excellent work at Chessbase News, my favourite chess site!

We now come to people who believed the story and were alarmed to different degrees by it. We have left out the full names and simply used initials to spare our readers any embarrassment.

E.N. Uh, uh, there could be a way tp exploit that new idea. If you're playing with Fischer-style timers (for example 2+12) and you're running out of time, then you can just do lots of Fischer Moves in a row to get back as much time as you want... Let's say you have 5 seconds left on your clock, then you just do a Fischer Move (= Undo) and get 12 seconds back on your clock (with the +12 example). Then you play anything. The opponent plays. Then you do another Fischer Move again, and keep going...

D.P. This suggestion is ridiculous. How could a player like Kasparov, Kramnik, or Anand ever lose a game? The only way to have a decisive result in a game is for someone to make a mistake, the only way this type of chess would produce a winner is if someone made two mistakes in a row. When was the last time someone like Kramnik made two mistakes in a game let alone two in a row? Mistakes are a part of the game. The only way to truely avoid making blunders is not to play; Fischer is the prime example of this strategy.

M.B. For eons chess players have been told that retractor moves are tantamount to cheating. Coaches have always cautioned their wards to think first and then move the pieces. Chess is a mirror image of life. In life any move we make can't be taken back and we have to suffer the cosequences of our actions. Chess was actually invented to teach people values like pragmatism, hard work, discipline, dedication, courtesy, and to never take anyway or anything lightly. Even the strongest must treat the weakest opponents with respect or pay the price. I disagree with Fischer. This will do more harm than good to the game. If both opponents keep taking back moves and playing good ones, most games especially at the higher levels will end up drawn. Fischer was once a great player. Now he is a pathetic disillusioned figure, who is trying hard to be recognised and to stay in the limelight. It is best in the interests of chess itself to ignore his ravings and rantings and let him continue to dwell in the imaginary world that he has created for himself.

S.M.: I am totally disagree to the continuous effort by FIDE to change the chess rules. This new rule deserve no real merit but to destroy the chess history. How many classical games back to centuries will render irrelevent because of this asshole new proposed rule. They will destroy chess history,art and chess industry. Time control and knock out and now the very essance of chess art and tradition inherited for centuries. The FIDE existing office bearer should resign. They will bring more harm to chess in future.

K.K: I totally disagree with the Fischer move. Tactics and blunders are all part of the game of chess. Retracting moves? Isn't that like asking your opponent if you can take back a move cause you made a fatal blunder? This would ruin classic chess and all the studies and efforts that people have gone through to truly understand it's artistic and scientific nature. I hope this rule is never universally accepted and that it never enters tournament play. I urge you to vote No to this proposition.

A.B.: I am a genuine patzer, rated in the triple-digits USCF, who has made many a blunder. I sure wished I could have taken some of those blunders back. However, the ability to make binding blunders is part of the game, as is the ability to visualize over the board. I hope the so-called "Fischer move" does not make its way into the game. Incidentally, I think the move as proposed to FIDE could be subject to some abuse by players trying to stick their opponents in time trouble. A player with a definite time advantage could make a complicating move. The opponent could then take too much time planning his or her next move, also planning several after it (a la Silman in "How to Reassess Your Chess"). Then, after the move is finally made, the player with a time advantage could execute a Fischer move (however unnecessary), and the player already in time trouble would then have to repeat the process. Another abuse could be that a player intent on a draw, particularly as White, could make a Fischer move to see the opponent's response to every legal move in a position, starting as early as move 1. Nineteen moves could be played before getting around to 1. e4. This could get ridiculous in a hurry. Anyway, this is just one patzer's opinion...

F.R: The Fischer Move Rule is terrible. I hope it is rejected. You spend a lot of energy trying to arrive at a position where you should be able to find a combination due to the fact that your position is good and your opponent's position is bad. This rule can turn your effort into wasted energy. The rule is VERY BAD for chess.

P.G.: Blunders are part of chess and should not be eliminated by modifying the rules of this ancient game. The path to the elimination of blunders is better preparation and more practice.

A.P.: The introduction of the Fischer move would be bad for chess. Mistakes, strategic or tactical blunders are a essential part of the game, contributing to it's rich nature. The triumphs and tragedies are what makes chess such a fascinating game.

A.A.: First, I would like to thank you for your very interesting and up-to-date chess news section on your. Second, I think that Fischer move is a very good idea, because sometimes one blunder can decide the outcome of the game no matter what were the plans or the position before. And I think that is not what chess- the ultimate strategy game- is all about. Fears of this new rule are only psychological just because it is new. Hopefully we'll see FIDE implement it soon.

A.V.: What about more extensive information? Especially some games with notes where you can see where a player have chosen to take back. I have an idea of that in the early opening phase the Fischer Move could be exploited, destroying all the fun. (1. e4 – b6 Uh thats looks annoying – i better take bake: 1. g3!) And how many games are drawn compared with todays rules? Otherwise quiet interesting, players could earn some more years on top level and perhaps will even correspondence players start to play "normal" chess.

J.L.: I just heard about this rule a few minutes ago when I read the article. I have a quick question: Can the game with this rule go back a few moves if both players execute the retractor consecutively? Also, even though I am a mere 1800 player, I propose an addition to this rule that would not allow a player to make the same move that he retracted. In other words, let's say that I start my game with e4 and my opponent answers with c5. Let's say that I hate facing the Sicilian, so I retract both moves and play d4. Let's say my opponent answers with Nc6, and I prefer to face the Sicilian as opposed to the Chigorian, so I retract both moves and play e4. Thank about the mind games that could occur this way!!! With my addition to the rule, a player would not be able to make the move e4 again. This would make someone this twice before retracting a move, knowing that he could not make that move again.

T.P.: In chess you are punished for your mistakes, not rewarded!

F.R.: The new Fischer proposal is inadmissible. With this rule poor chess players can draw or maybe win against superior players. We know this because we can win against computers using this rule. This rule means the humans fear of computers, accept this rule is cowardice. Please, we need preserves the chess traditions. All Fischer rules are really inadequate. Normally, old champions propose this type of rules after lose the title.

T.C.: Can you just explain to me what the actual move does? can you give me a position then explain what to do if I did a move, and how you could use the retractor?

J.C.B.: This is the most absurd idea yet. First they speed-up the game with shorter time controls. Now, they want to move things in the direction of correspondence chess by allowing "take-backs." When I practice against the computer I get my butt kicked every time when I miss a tactical shot. That is part of chess!! This helps me when I analyze the game and figure out why I overlooked the tactic in that particular position. Isn't chess SUPPOSED to be 99% tactics!?! Fischer has now completely lost his mind. Let's hope this doesn't go through!

S.D.: Ok I bet a lot of Fritz owners like myself already know the retractor chess game. In fact this is the only way we can hope for a draw against Fritz, and I am still hopeing! Fischer once said: "I could give any woman in the world a piece and a move; to Gaprindashvili even, a knight…" Maybe retractor chess could be another way of playing chess games against a very strong opponent but only if the weaker player – women or men – is allowed to execute the new "Fischer move"!

B.T.: Fischer is just upset because he is an old man and he cannot take the pressure anymore. Perhaps he could learn a lesson from Victor Korchnoi.

A.Z.: I believe that what arouse interest in a game or sport is the presence of [to a certain degree] by a win-by-chance. We [the beginners of the game] look up to grandmasters as having achieved some level of mastery in their play but not someone who are imposible to beat. They are just better than us because they can limit the chance-factor of the game to minimum. This unpredictable lucky-punch factor is one motivation for beginners and an attraction for fans to stick into the game. If there will be no beginners to play this game then it will die. Coupled with game psychology, preparation, practice, nerve control and pressure management this game is as interesting as boxing, soccer, basketball, etc. I think this is because every game is a place, a moment or an opportunity to show our strength in the game, but it should not be done by taking out the suspense to make a better or worse move at every turn. It is possible that a game will not go past the opening! considering that there maybe some joker, too. Looking at other sports, why they are popular (?) – they keep the suspense and drama into the game. Then they attract fans because the games look more like a real warfare, for in real-life we want to avoid mistakes and when we make a mistake there`s painful consequences. Then again we cannot just retract, rather we commit to improve our mistakes and make a suspense-filled revenge. Emotional and psychological dynamics injected into a scientifically intricate game like chess or boxing awake the competitive nature of potential fans. Fans will become beginners then sponsors will soon discover a bussiness potential. So the sponsors to cover greater market will try to boast the popularity of the game by bringing it closer and easier to many people. Eventually, fans will increase, then players will increase, then sponsors will increase – and so on, in a cyclic development. It is impossible to develop the game in straigth line here where on one end – the top 50 grandmasters; and on another the sponsors. Keyword: fans. So, I think FIDE should make the game more appealling to fans and beginners not to sponsors and top 50 GMs. Fans wants excitement not a boring multiple retraction of moves, unfair addition of 10 sec/move or constant changing of rules. This fischer-move is apparently designed to beat chess-computers, but why? Computers should not be allowed to play in tournaments with human. A separate tournament for computers may be better, for in the near future, computers will dominate the tournaments. Man vs machine match play is good enough for promotion of chess software. But don`t ever ask who`s better -man or machine? Fans are not stupid, they know the answer [note: I tried to ask this to fellow starters]. Better ask more appealing questions. What I don`t understand here is that fischer being too concerned about 'cheap' tactical moves by beginners while if you`ll look in any of his games as a beginner, you`ll see those same tactical motifs. I think the FIDE move to shorten the time control is more than enough to somewhat adjust the barrier or difficulty of the game concurrent to the demand of the times. If you`re really searching for a game that will replace chess, try shogi (japanese chess), it is more like a real-life warfare and will be more exciting than fischer-move chess, besides you may be able to corner big sponsors and donors from japan. To sum up: (1)Fans are the real movers of every succesful sports; before FIDE gets serious about fischer-moves, please hear more from fans. (2) Blunders and mistakes are part of every game and every sport, if there is no tension it`s boring! Afterall, being a better player requires better personality.

C.B.: I like the idea of Fischer Random chess. I believe that it is the future of the game, but retractor moves?! This sounds like it will remove tactics from the game. Eventually leading to nothing but end games. I have nothing against end game play, and enjoy the challenge as much as finding a good tactic, but why remove tactics?

X.X.: As a GM I would like to express my first impressions concerning the Fischer move. First, I would like to say that it is a very noble initiative, with a logical foundation. This new rule would positively improve the scientific issue of the game. Nevertheless, it would completely destroy the competitive side. There would be no sense to take part in tournaments. Chess would no longer be a sport in the sense it is today, nor in any sense at all. Besides, people could laugh of chess tournaments. Concerning computer chess, this new rule could certainly be adopted, but as a matter of a handicap. There would be no shame in accepting this. "Nobody Special": As a struggling class player, I can see how this new rule could greatly improve my results in tournaments. Alot of my losses were mostly based on overlooking a one move tactical stroke, or analyzing a position so deepely, that I overlooked a basic move that simply forces me to resign. I do think the quality of most games would improve, and the true stronger person is bound to win with this simple move retraction, however, I think it can also be abused. If I start with 1. e4, and my opponent responded with 1. c5, I can take back my move, since I don't know much of the sicilian? I can constantly take back even the first move until I find a move that my opponent plays that I'm comfortable with? Or, what if, by move 40, neither of us likes how the game turned out, so one after another, we slowly take back one movers until we are back at move 20, or 15, or whatever? Or, what if, after spending most of my time working out a key move, my opponent decides he doesn't like my responce, and simply takes back the move? I wasted all that time trying to figure out the variations, and all that may never happen in the game, if he plays a completely different move? Or, what if, I see a tempting variation, but my opponent plays the best move on the first move, and the variation doesn't work? Can I take back that move 10 times until I find a move I like that he responds with? I like the idea of the Fischer move, if there were restrictions (say once per game per side? a 10 minute penalty per use? both players split the time on clock for the 2 half moves (if there were fancier clocks that could record that)). Just my thoughts on this wonderful idea

S.H.: How can anyone think that this is a chess innovation. This is affirmative action at the chess board at its best, and is an attempt to eliminate one of the greatest aspects of the game which is the tactic. How juvenile an idea this is; my goodness.

P.S.: What an embarrassing dumbing-down of chess!

F.F.: This is the most ludicrous idea Fischer has come up with so far.What is the point when playing a serious game of Chess of allowing moves to be taken back.Could this happen in any other sport? I do not think so. Personally I am against the Fischer clock as I can see nothing wrong with the old method where both players get exactly the same time. If a player gets into time trouble so what.Its down to him. Random Chess belongs to the Circus and how can anyone take it seriously. We have the finest game invented. Why on earth do we want to keep tinkering with the rules? The new FIDE time controls are bad enough.Lets stop these LUNATIC ideas right now! Leave OUR game alone!

P.T.: I think the idea of Fisher moves is not worth too much consideration, really. What would chess be without Karpov's Rcd8?? and the likes? ...Rcd8?? Qxd7! oopsee, Rdd8? I think that the pressure that you always have to beware of traps is what keeps the game interesting, and allows also to turn the tables with one move. Also, where would one draw the line? Why only one Fisher move? If I sac a piece, only to find out it doesn't work 3 moves later why shouldn't I be able to retract it? Also, it takes a lot of creativity out of chess! If I sac a knight, my opponent can take time to evaluate it and put the pieces back if he wants, or take it. If he does, my sac was probably incorrect and I take it back. This takes chess tactics to another dimension that I think most players don't want to go really.

L.K.A.: Retractor moves against computers I can understand, but not against humans. You either calculate it right or you don't. Making blunders and loosing on time are part of chess. winning after an opponent blunder is of course not as sweet as winning by mere tactical skills, but it still counts. Fischer retractor moves must never be an option in a real life over the board chess game between two humans on any level. There is suddenly no risk in making an move any more.

A.M.: I think that using retractor moves is fair and necessary in one's home analysis and study of the game, but it would be extremely unfair in actual play – especially as part of sport. You make a mistake – you take responsibility for it! The essence of the game of chess is not playing perfectly; in that case (because chess, after all, can be finitely calculated!) playing chess would be boring... It is the mistakes, noticing them and exposing them by way of exploiting them – that makes the core of chess as we know it. Besides, moves cannot be retracted infinitely; maybe your opponent could have made a better move too – after having seen your retracted and corrected move... Retractor moves as legal moves would change the essence of the game and its seriousness (the seriousness of being playful and having fun) – not for the better, I believe... Who wants to be perfect, anyway?! (Chess as it is does not allow the invasion of chaos; too much order spoils the play.) Keep up the good work!

Once again we apologise to any readers who were upset by the April Fool report.

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