David said in What exactly does Bobby Fischer mean by 'talent' re 'I'm better than Morphy' in 2005 (probably re chess960)?

The differences between classical chess and 960 go far beyond just opening theory. Many strategic themes and even pawn structures that appear on 960 are hardly ever found in classical chess.

Is that true? I guess that would explain what Larry Kaufman said about Magnus Carlsen and Wesley So.

Magnus doesn't generally play such great openings, he strives to get the game out of book as early as possible usually. I think the issue here is that his greatest strength is the endgame, but FRC games are much more likely to be decided in the middlegame as the players are on their own so early. That's probably why he doesn't shine as brightly in FRC as in Classical chess.

But Levy Rozman (Gothamchess) said

All the pieces move the same. There's just no openings.

Or maybe that's just heuristic on Levy's part?

2 Answers 2


I think of the converse of this explanation: Many important strategic and tactical patterns in traditional chess (a) are specific to the initial position even though (b) they are not specific an any opening line. Think:

  • Attacks on the short-castled king, including
  • “Greek gift” Bxh7+ sacrifices,
  • Sacrifices on f7 or f2.
  • h2-h4 attacks
  • Isolated queen pawn strategic themes
  • Bishop fianchettos
  • and more…

Thus, when switching to chess360, you (a) don’t need to remember opening lines but also (b) you can’t rely on many of the tactical and strategic themes that have become second nature in traditional chess. Whereas (a) is seen as a plus for many, (b) might be seen as a drawback.

  • 1
    Regarding b), I'd add, that while there are themes across openings, there are also many thematic ideas and plans in the middlegame directly stem from the concrete opening played. Still, the principles of chess, tactics and strategic play are stay the same - it is just that the arising structures are more diverse. You'll still see isolated pawns, pawn majorities, good vs bad minor pieces, and so on, but one can't just memorize everything but needs to use one's own chess understanding..
    – Hauptideal
    Feb 14, 2023 at 15:17

Yes, it is true that the differences between Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess) and traditional chess go far beyond just opening theory. The starting position of the pieces in Chess960 is completely random, which means that players cannot rely on established opening theory and must use their strategic and tactical skills to create a winning position from scratch. This creates a level playing field for players of different skill levels, as the advantage of having memorized more opening theory is largely eliminated.

In addition to the lack of opening theory, there are other strategic and tactical differences between Chess960 and traditional chess. For example, the placement of the pieces in Chess960 can create unusual pawn structures and tactical patterns that are not commonly found in traditional chess. This requires players to think creatively and adapt their strategies and tactics to the unique position at hand.

While it is true that all the pieces move the same in Chess960, the lack of a fixed starting position creates a significant difference in the strategic and tactical requirements of the game. Therefore, the skills required to play Chess960 effectively are different from those required to play traditional chess, and players may excel in one format more than the other.

  • to make "different required skills" explicit: traditional chess needs much more memorization (concrete opening lines, thematic ideas in middlegames arising from certain openings, common plans, ...) vs chess960 requires pure chess understanding and memorization only becomes important in the endgame.
    – Hauptideal
    Feb 14, 2023 at 15:11
  • @Hauptideal Yes, that is fair. Traditional chess often requires a great deal of memorization of opening lines and strategic ideas, particularly in the opening and early middlegame. In contrast, Chess960 places less emphasis on opening theory and requires more pure chess understanding, as players must rely more on general strategic principles and improvisation. Memorization becomes more important in the endgame, where specific endgame positions and techniques may need to be recognized and remembered. .
    – Error404
    Feb 14, 2023 at 15:50

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