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Fischer Random Chess Game in 1875!

Even Bobby’s “Fischer Random”, also known as “Chess960”, is not without precedent in our standard chess. We know that Fischer admires Steinitz, and is well aware of the 1st world champion’s games and writings. As a teenager Fischer was seen reading the International Chess Magazine, while as recently as 1996 he was observed buying a collection of Steinitz games from a chess shop in Argentina. One may guess whether Fischer was aware of the following game, played in the winter of 1875 between Blackburne and Potter – or of others like this one. It would be interesting to collect pre-Fischer examples of Fischer Random, to see if other piece arrangements were practiced.

The game itself is worth reproducing on several counts, beyond being a possible precursor of Fischer Random; for the unusual combat between two strong players, and the commentary by Steinitz are very fine – although the 1st world champion was still discovering his “voice” in this early column in The Field. Unless we are mistaken, a rare slip creeps into his note to Black’s 21st move where the dismissed 21…b6 does NOT lose the Exchange to 22.Ba6+ Kb8. The idea is valid, however, say if White’s Rooks were doubled. Perhaps another strange irregularity in an altogether irregular game.

Steinitz, from The Field (October 1875):

The interesting game published below was played at the West End Chess Club between Messrs. Blackburne and Potter a fortnight ago, for a small prize offered by Mr. Ballard. Both parties agreed to a displacement of the pieces, in order to waive all advantages from the knowledge of the openings, and it was therefore arranged that on both sides the Bishops should be placed on the Knights’ squares, and the Knights on the squares of the Bishops. We have adopted the usual notation, as if the pieces had been placed in the ordinary way.

View the Fisher Random 1875 Chess Game here


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