standard initial chess position, with the back row of white pieces moved to the row direct in front of the pawns

I remember this starting position played many times by my grandfathers. But I am too young to recollect the results of their games. If I have to choose, which side should I play? (White moves 1st)

  • 1
    what a very good question for this very weird starting position. when you run in the engine. it says draw and low depth but increasing the depth apparently white is winning despite the seeming lack of king safety! it looks like the 1st move is critical: white has to play Ra4. running some analysis, it looks like white is computer-winning but not sure about human-winning. the position, based on computer evaluation, seems very sharp like white doesn't have many good options
    – BCLC
    Oct 8, 2021 at 9:42
  • 2
    @BCLC Can white still castle in this variant? I assume engines would say no and calculate accordingly.
    – Michael W.
    Oct 8, 2021 at 20:29
  • @MichaelW. idk...why don't you ask OP instead? but good question also. i guess even if white could maybe engines cannot support it
    – BCLC
    Oct 8, 2021 at 21:20

3 Answers 3


First, the human assessment: White has the advantage of his figures being already developed (Rxh7 is always to consider), but is saddled with a king that is in grave danger already after the natural e5. (To underline this: Black to move seems to have a clear win, placing the white king on e1 is a clear win for White)

The position thus is tactically "red-hot", and very concrete. Lichess/Stockfish's first choice (it is probably receiving to let the computer run longer) is 1.Ra4 (WAT!!!) with a permanent 0.0 (maybe because of an optional perpetual Q-g5-f6 after e5?!)

A practical answer thus is: Play black if you are human and have a good tactical eye. With best play, White has a minute advantage. I tried out a few alternative White lines to the one suggested, just to have the assessment drop through the floor in no time (and I'm not a patzer when it comes to tactics...) For example, 1.Rxh7 e5 is a bad idea for White.


Best move to me, a 9 hundred on chess.com, is bishop E4. This move is designed to free up whites F pawn to move and allow the king to escape. You have such a lead in development it's likely sacrificing the bishop is an acceptable move. Think about it, grand master gambit pieces all the time in order to win development. So consider king safety number 1 over any more material.

  • 2
    sample refutation: 1. Be4 e5 discovered attack. if you try 2. Ra4 then it's mate in 2. i'm not a pro or anything. i'm just a regular person who uses stockfish. btw note in this refutation you do get your wish of moving the f pawn but be careful what you wish for XD
    – BCLC
    Oct 9, 2021 at 13:20

Ok so as I said in comments: It looks like white is computer-winning, but the position is very sharp. See for yourself on lichess stockfish. No idea if this is human-winning (ask Hauke Reddmann). But it appears white pretty much has to do as follows to win. It appears white has a few drawish options but even fewer winning options.

[FEN "rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/RNBQKBNR/PPPPPPPP/8 w kq - 0 1"]

1. Ra4 e5 2. Bxe5 d6 3. Bc3 Bxh3 4. Bxb7 Bd7 5. Re4+ Ne7 6. Bxa8 f5 7. Rf4 c6 8. Nxf5

White is now up 3 pawns.

Justification: It is too long to explain why white has to do these. Just see for yourself on stockfish. Make sure you let the depth go to like 20+. Maybe the above will even be wrong in 30+.

Proposal 1: Play this with castling for white . That's something a computer cannot take into account in analysis XD

Proposal 2: Play a chess960/chess870 version of this. I suspect black will always be human-winning in this because white in other setups will be human-losing even if computer-winning.

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