New Fischer moves

4/1/2002 – Although the reclusive ex-world champion Bobby Fischer has not played much chess in the last 30 years, he has introduced a number of important innovations into the game. After the Fischer Clock and Fischer Random Chess he is now proposing a further change, the "Fischer move". It was presented to FIDE and will come up for a vote at the Executive Council meeting in Dubai. More...

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Bobby Fischer has already introduced two important innovations that have received a larger or smaller degree of acceptance by the chess community. First came the "Fischer clock", which adds a small time increment after every move, thereby alleviating the brutal time trouble some players tend to get into. Then came "Fischer Random Chess", which scrambles the position of the pieces at the beginning of the game. This is designed to eliminate the very extensive openings preparation that is encountered in top-level chess today.

Now Fischer has turned his sights on what he believes is an unbearable preponderance of tactics in chess. His declared intention is to return the game to its origins and not allow the strategic spirit to be destroyed by "cheapo shots constantly fired by younger players." To this end he has submitted a rule modification, which FIDE is currently considering and will present to the delegates at its next general council meeting during the Dubai Grand Prix.

Fischer's proposal adds one rule to section 4.1-4.7 ("The act of moving the pieces") in FIDE's "Laws of chess". The new article 4.8 states that: "After a player has registered a move by his opponent he may, as part of his next move, either execute a move in the form stipulated by the rules 4.1-4.7 given above; or instead he may execute the opponent's and his own previous moves in reverse order, replacing any captured pieces onto their original squares, and then execute an alternative move, in accordance with the rules 4.1-4.7 given above."

The new "Fischer move" (which is also referred to as a "retractor") does not change the original flavour of the game – in fact many believe it actually reflects it more completely than the rules practised in tournaments today. The new rule has been extensively tested in informal play, where the advantages of the system are immediately obvious. Games are no longer decided by simple tactical strokes, the outcome depends much more on a painstaking exploratory strategy of "trial and error". The only disadvantage is that games may sometimes last a little longer, especially when a number of Fischer moves are executed.

The new Fischer move rule also provides an interesting solution to the problem of chess playing computers, which are the sharpest tactical entities on the planet. Our own experiments have shown that players who were scoring zero points against the 2750-rated Fritz program were actually winning some of their games when allowed to make extensive use of retractor moves.

Fide has stressed that a decision in Dubai to adopt the Fischer move rule would not mean that it would be immediately implemented in all tournaments organised or sanctioned by the world chess organisation. "We anticipate that it will take a number of years before the new rule is universally accepted," said a ranking Fide official. "Until then both forms of chess can coexist."

Many players are very enthusiastic about Fischer move games. "Retractor games remove the unnecessary tension of ruining your game with stupid blunders," said one leading grandmaster. "I can be much more daring in my choice of moves." But Judit Polgar, the world's strongest female player, disagrees. "I have my doubts about this new rule, maybe because I am not very good at it. I lost an retractor game in an important tournament once."

If you have the urge to express an opinion on the new Fischer move rule please write to us.

Attention: It turns out that the above report on a new rule proposed by Bobby Fischer 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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