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a8 black king
b8 black queen
c8 black bishop
d8 black bishop
e8 black rook
f8 black knight
g8 black rook
h8 black knight
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white bishop
b1 white rook
c1 white knight
d1 white king
e1 white rook
f1 white knight
g1 white queen
h1 white bishop
Transcendental chess. One of the possible starting positions.

Transcendental chess (TC) also known as pre-chess,[1] is a chess variant invented in 1978 by Maxwell Lawrence.[2][3] Chess960 (Fischer random chess) is similar but has fewer starting positions. In transcendental chess the beginning positions of the pieces on the back row are randomly determined, with the one restriction that the bishops be on opposite-colored squares. There are 8,294,400 such positions in total. In Chess960 there are 960 possible starting positions, but that is because the king must be located between the rooks and both sides must have the same starting position. In transcendental chess there is no such rule so the position of one side can be any of 42×6!÷22 = 2,880. There is no castling.[3] On the first turn a player, instead of making a move, can transpose any two pieces on the back row.

In Chess960 the back rows are mirror images, but in transcendental chess the setup of black and white is different 2,879 out of every 2,880 times (there being a 1-in-2,880 chance that both sides will draw the same setup). This can create inequalities in the position. One way to equalize these inequalities is to play a couplet: the players play two games with the same setup, one each as white and as black. To win the couplet, a player must win at least one game and draw or win the other. The other way to equalize the opening positions is auction transcendental chess, in which each player bids to give their opponent extra opening moves in order to play the side of the board they want.[4]

In orthodox chess, innovations in opening play are increasingly hard to come by, with most good players having processed an extensive catalogue of opening moves—novelties tend to occur later in the game. Transcendental chess offers opening complexity and novelty immediately because every game starts in a dense and unfamiliar position.



  1. ^ Dunne, Alex (1991). The Complete Guide to Correspondence Chess. Thinkers' Press. ISBN 978-0-938650-52-2.
  2. ^ Pritchard (1994), p. 319
  3. ^ a b Cazaux, Jean-Louis and Knowlton, Rick (2017). A World of Chess, p.324. McFarland. ISBN 9780786494279.
  4. ^ Pritchard (1994), p. 13
  5. ^ "D-Chess". Dhamma Wiki.