Placement Chess

(and Chess20)

reconfiguring the piece array

Placement Chess


The mirrored relocation method allows the players optionally to relocate the king and the queen before the play begins, whilst retaining the castling rights. The players can abstain from this if they both prefer the standard setup. It is a cogent method of rearranging the initial position to enhance opening ramification, while allowing the players to remain in control. The resultant positions are all mirrored and are 20 by number. They are a subset of Fischer Random Chess (Chess960) and deviate marginally from the standard position. Thus, chessplayers would feel at home in any of these positions.


In Placement Chess Black can decide the initial positions of the kings, while White can decide the initial positions of the queens. The positions must mirror each other. Placement Chess is like standard chess except that the players can, before play begins, swap places of the king + queen and another piece except the rooks. Thus, when the king is swapped (relocated), the other piece (the relocatee) ends up on the king's square. When the queen is swapped, the relocatee ends up on the queen's square. One restriction is that the bishops mustn't end up on the same square colour, and the king cannot become a relocatee (i.e. swapped by the queen). Note that black begins by swapping his king. Alternatively he can choose to leave the position as it is. The white player then mirrors black's swap. After the kings thus have been swapped the turn is still with white. White can now relocate the queen, if he so wishes, and black then mirrors this. Next white starts the game by making the first move. Diagrams of the 20 possible positions can be viewed here.

Note that the king retains his castling rights even if it has been relocated. The castling rules are simple and derive from Chess960. King and rook end up on their usual squares. The only difference is that the king can make longer (or shorter, or none at all) leaps than usual. All squares between king and rook must be empty, and all squares between the king and its landing square must be unthreatened. Neither of the pieces must have moved before.


I want to strike a blow for alternative setups of pieces. This will enhance creativity in chess; at least it's good for chess training. I think chess journalist should seriously begin to discuss this option in today's era of computerized opening preparation. With these relocation rules the rooks remain in their natural positions, and the bishops are always positioned so that there is still a choice to develop them on either of the queenside or the kingside. This maintains the strategical ambiguity of the initial position, while sound positions are produced where no definitive advantage can be obtained. Black relocates first. Thusly white gets a chance to make a strategical decision that suits himself, which enables him to create an initiative, as in the standard position. The initial positions are a subgroup of Fischer Random Chess. The most conservative relocation, it seems, is to change place between king and queen, which is a convenient way of avoiding theory. Remember that the resultant castling positions are always the same as in standard chess.

Arguably, this method of reconfiguration of the initial array makes the procedure of randomization redundant (cmp. Fischer Random Chess, here). Thus it answers to the chessplayer's predilection for remaining in control. Black can choose to relocate to a position which somewhat improves his chances against, for instance, the e4 openings. But White can adjust to this and try to predict his opening plans and on which side Black is going to castle. This can inform his choice of queen positioning. The standard position is an active and strategically ambiguous position, which could often be advantageous to White. However, as Black, the standard position is not necessarily the best defensive position. As White is recompenced by giving him the last word in the setup of the pieces, I believe that this gives him a slight possibility to maintain an advantage. It is necessary to maintain the first move advantage in order to retain the strategical tension.

Placement Chess, example

Black has relocated the king to g8 and the relocatee to e8. White has mirrored this move and then relocated the queen to e1 and the relocatee to d1. Black has mirrored the latter relocation. Black can later castle short by moving the rook to f8, or castle long by moving the king to c8, as usual. Paradoxically, despite the many pieces in between, the likelihood of long castling is greater. Thanks to the king's protected position, the player can wait a longer time before deciding on which side to castle. Now white starts the game.


The randomized version of Placement Chess (Placement Random Chess) implies that the initial position is randomized according to the above rules of king and queen relocation. It is supported in the program. It is also called Chess20 as there are 20 possible board positions. It is comparable to Fischer Random Chess. Placement Chess is designed to overcome the problem of opening monotony.

© M. Winther, 2009 April