First let us start with two definitions.

Definition #1: A position is said to be normal if there exists a sequence of legal moves from the classical starting position which lead to this position.

Definition #2: A (Chess960) game is said to normalize at move n if the position after move n-1 is not normal, but the position at move n is.

I have seen some games of Chess960 between grandmasters and it seems that whatever the starting position is, the game normalizes quite early.

I was wondering whether there is a correlation between a high level game and an early normalization. The comparison should be made on a fixed position (in position 518, there is no need to be a good player to normalize!), as in some positions like King in f1 between the Rooks in e1 and g1, we can have the feeling that it will take longer to normalize.

One could do the following procedure to answer the question.

  1. Consider one of the starting positions of Chess960, except number 518.
  2. For this position, look at each game played. For example, it could be on a fixed website with the same time control and determine at which move they normalize.
  3. Then look at the correlation between say the average rating between the players and the normalization.

If this is not possible to apply, I would like to collect some factually based opinion about the question.

I think that strong players have a much better understanding of developing phase and can quite quickly reach a harmonious position, which should be normal. Moreover, "weak" players can have the tendency to keep in a nondeliberate way the position messy, hence the normalization process can be long.

What do you think? However, there could be cases where the bishops are at the corner and do not need to move for a while. In this case, the "normalization can be quite long.

  • Seems a position would become normal when the pieces are free to move from their initial positions and both sides have castled (because castling, rules are different). Does your question boil down to 'do strong players prioritize development and castling' ? Commented May 31, 2021 at 13:24

2 Answers 2


I have seen some games in chess 960 between Grand Masters and it seems that whatever the starting position is, the game normalizes quite early

Perhaps worth starting by examining what has to happen for a 960 game to reach what you call a "normalized" position.

  1. For each bishop at least one pawn move which allows the bishop to move has to be made
  2. For each rook enough pieces (bishops and queens) have to be able to move out of the way for the rook to reach its "proper" starting square.

Knights can jump so can always move out of the way.

What this translates to is "the position changes to become one which allows quick development".

So, is rapidly reaching a position which allows quick development a sign of a good quality game?

And the answer is obviously "Yes" regardless of whether it is 960 or not. As beginners we are taught that rapid development is an almost universal good. Probably the only things that are more important are not dropping pieces and not getting checkmated.


I think a sort of "normalization" would be an indicator of a well-played game. However I don't think your specific definition of the term is a particularly useful one. To start, some positions will be normalized quickly out of pure luck. Others will be normalized too but only considering absurd sequences, so it doesn't make relate at all to the quality of the game being played.

In short, there could be a correlation between skill and "normalization" (as in your definition), but it would be a weak one and there should be a better way to formalize the idea that "good 960 games become normal games".

  • 1
    I too think that the poster's definition of normalization is at least problematic. A position with Pb2 Pd2 B!=c1 can't arise in standard chess (except by very unnormal play), but can look totally normal otherwise. Commented May 31, 2021 at 14:50

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