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June 16, 2005

Fairy Chess
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:05 AM *

Dearly beloved, let us talk for a moment about chess. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that writing a novel is like playing a game of chess, but that isn’t what I’ll talk about today.

Chess is a wargame of ancient origin. Eight pieces and eight pawns on a side, a board of sixty-four squares arranged in a square. The rules are formal and fixed. The last successful variation to chess was nearly five hundred years ago: The Mad Queen’s Game, which gave the queen the power to move the length and breadth of the board in a single move rather than being limited to one square in any direction (like the King’s move).

Chess is an excellent source for pithy quotes:
“The blunders are all there on the board, waiting to be made.”
— Tartakover
No successful variations in the last five hundred years, did I say? I lied. There have been many; they just haven’t caught on universally. Many of them are called Fairy Chess, a term that became popular in Great Britain around WWI, when “fairy” meant “whimsical.”

Sometimes the board is modified (the right edge and the left edge, or the top and the bottom, become continuous to make a cylinder, for example). Sometimes the pieces get unusual moves or unusual methods of capturing other pieces. Sometimes dice or cards add randomness. Sometimes … things get weird. Let’s look at some creative chess games.

Adding a Piece

The Blue Queen is a queen, painted blue, or otherwise differentiated from the colors of either side. She moves like a normal mad Queen. She starts somewhere in the center of the board. And she belongs to whichever side is currently moving.

Adding a Piece and some Randomness

Behemoth Chess requires a piece (such as an Orc) that starts the game on d4 (Gads, I hate algebraic notation! That means Q4). That’s the Behemoth. The Behemoth doesn’t belong to either player, and it’s indestructable. You also need two dice, one eight-sided, the other four sided.

Before each move, the moving player rolls the dice. The eight-sider shows the direction the Behemoth will move, the four-sider shows the number of squares it will move. A roll of 1 on the eight-sider points toward black’s queen’s rook, the rest follow clockwise.

The board wraps for the Behemoth (but not for the other pieces and pawns). If the Behemoth leaves at the top of the board, it emerges on the bottom of the board exactly as if they were connected.

Anything that the Behemoth tramples it crushes. Those pieces and pawns are removed from the board. This means that … should the White player roll 6-4 on the first turn, that both sides would lose their queens.

If the Behemoth crushes a king, that side loses. Otherwise play continues until one side or the other wins by checkmate.

This variant is credited to Donald Seagraves.

Oddness in the Universe

Alice Chess is played with one chess set and two boards. The pieces and pawns are set up normally on one board. They move and … when they move, at the end of the move, the piece teleports “through the looking glass” to the other board.

Pieces and pawns that move on that board teleport back to the first board at the end of their moves. Moves are the same as for regular chess. If the target square on the other board is occupied you can’t move to an otherwise legal square on this one. Moves must be legal on the board on which they are made. The game ends with checkmate.

(A variant of this variant allows you go make a “zero move,” to just drop from one board to the other ending on the same square you started on, only on the other side of the looking glass. Kings can’t zero move to get out of check.)

This variant is credited to V.R. Parton.

A Guessing Game

This variant, Kriegspiel, requires two chess sets, three boards, and three players. Two of the players set up on two boards facing one another, with a screen between them so they can’t see the other’s board. The White player has only the white chessmen; the Black player has only the black chessmen. The third player is the referee; she can see both of the first two’s boards, and has her own board set up with both white and black. This board is screened so that only the ref can see it.

The object of the game is checkmate, by the usual rules.

Each side moves in turn; after each move the ref either says “legal” or “illegal.” If the move is illegal the moving player must take it back and try another move until hitting on a legal move.

Before moving, a player may ask “Any?” meaning “Are any pawn captures possible?” If there are, the ref replies “Try,” and the moving player must attempt a pawn capture before attempting any other move.

When a piece or pawn is captured, both sides are informed of the fact, and what was captured, but the player losing the chessman isn’t informed of what it was that performed the capture.

You can play a game against the computer here to see how it goes.

This variant is credited to Henry Michael Temple.

Games with Unusual Boards

I’ve already mentioned boards that wrap around right-and-left and top-to-bottom. You can find variants with round boards, hexagonal boards, boards that have more squares than standard and boards with fewer squares.

Let’s end with the infamous Star Trek three-dimensional chess board. Here are the rules.

St. Teresa of Avila is the patron saint of chess.




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Comments on Fairy Chess:
#1 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 01:38 AM:

I've got Nikolay Andrianov staying the next room. He played Kasparov in back in 1978 and won.

Now that he's got his green card settled, he's taking a trip back to Moscow to visit his mother in a couple weeks. And I'm going to drop in. :-)

#2 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 01:47 AM:

Jeez, talk about trumping the discussion!

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 01:55 AM:

I can envision Kriegspiel lasting as long as a good hard Monopoly game, or as short as tic-tac-toe. Good grief!

#4 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 01:58 AM:

The simple Fairy Chess variant that I promulgated, a decade ago and more, used a die. At the start of your turn, you roll the die. If it comes up 1, you have to move your king. If a 2, your queen. If a 3, a rook. If a 4, a bishop; if a 5, a knight; if a 6, a pawn. You decide which one of the mandated pieces to move, if there's a choice. If there is no such legal move, roll again. I got a number of people to play, including the former U.S. Women's Chess Champion. Just to show how much randomness affects the skill, I managed to beat her. Heh heh. My best game since I beat strong Expert Ben Nethercot, at normal chess, as witnessed by his Dad and others, in a strange ending where my 5 pawns outmaneuvered his rook. But don't get me started on the Chess Theorem I invented in Grad School, which someone else published, not acknowledging me. You know how sensitive I am about plagiarism...

Book recommended, not counting the Bobby Fischer one I cited on an earlier thread: THE DEFENSE, Vladimir Nabokov.

#5 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 02:20 AM:

John Gollon's CHESS VARIATIONS is the best single volume I know on the subject; it contains history as well as descriptions. (He includes Burroughs's Barsoomian chess, with playable rules.) Unfortunately, it's out of print, but it's likely to be in libraries. Dover did A GUIDE TO FAIRY CHESS, but that seems to be o.p. as well.

R. C. Bell's BOARD AND TABLE GAMES is also from Dover, but I believe it's still available; you want the Revised Ed., which combines the two volumes into one. He doesn't cover fairy chess as such, but there are a number of protochesses such as Chatauranga, and variations like Courier Chess.

Jose Capablanca, late in his career, decided that the possibilities of chess were at (or at least near) exhaustion, and devised an "expanded" version. Gollon describes it; my memory is fuzzy, but I recall it having an extra file and piece (there's a similar game called Chancellor Chess.)

And since nobody's mentioned them, Lewis Padgett.

#6 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 02:29 AM:

"Wizard chess" in Harry Potter.

"Let the Wookie win" in Star Wars.

#7 ::: Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 03:15 AM:

We don't do patron saints in Judaism, but in this case it's almost a shame because Rabbi Avraham ibn Ezra would make an excellent patron saint of gaming.

More famous as a biblical commentator, he was also a poet, and he wrote a number of poems about chess and dice (although not, as far as I know, as played in conjunction.)

For those of you who read Hebrew, his rules of chess (in verse, naturally) can be found here.

#8 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 03:54 AM:

A pedantic note: since "kriegspiel" is simply German for "war game," and there are, now, a lot of other war games out there, hidden-move Chess is sometimes called "blind chess" or "blind Kriegspiel."

There are many stories of Arabs and Persians without access to a board -- usually on long camel rides, sometimes in prison -- playing game after game with the pieces entirely in the players' minds.

#9 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 04:24 AM:

d4 (Gads, I hate algebraic notation! That means Q4)

d4 doesn't mean Q4 -- or rather, Q4 doesn't mean d4. Q4 is ambiguous; it can mean d4, or it can mean d5.

Algebraic is more compact, easier on the eyes with its mixed case, less prone to ambiguity, and in its figurine form is language-independent.

Descriptive does have a superior system of notating captures, I'll grant it that. (Mostly; I can think of situations where descriptive notation has to write "QPXBP" while algebraic writes "dc".)

To sum up: Descriptive notation was hopelessly obsolete twenty years ago. Deal with it.

Anyway, back to fairy chess: probably the most popular form of fairy chess in the tournament world is a thing called "bughouse". (At least, that's what it's called around here; there may be other names for it.) Bughouse is a partnership game for four people, played with two boards and two sets. One partner has white on one board, and the other has black on the other board. When a piece is captured, the capturing player gives it to his partner, who holds it "in hand". Any player may, as his move, take a piece held in hand and put it on an empty square on his board. (Very similar to the way captured pieces are dropped back onto the board in shogi.)

To add to the, er, fun, the game is usually played in blitz mode -- that is, using a chess clock to enforce a time limit of five minutes per player per game.

#10 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 05:15 AM:

You didn't mention Monster Chess. My high school chess club used to play that variant.

#11 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 06:54 AM:

In light of recent discussions, shouldn't "Behemoth" chess be renamed "Infernokrusher" chess?

#12 ::: Tom Scudder ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 07:05 AM:

There's "Nightmare Chess" from Steve jackson games (a translation of a French game whose name I forget) which adds a deck of cards to the chessboard, which can have various effects on the game (allowing any piece to move like a knight for a turn, say, or my favorite, the "earthquake", which turns the board ninety degrees. Any pawns now on the last row may promote, et cetera.)

Also, when was the "pawn may move two spaces in its opening move" rule added? I thought that was just in the last couple hundred years.

#13 ::: MD ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 07:22 AM:

"Knightmare Chess" is inspired from "Tempte sur l'chiquier".

The only Fairy Chess variant I can add to the list is one I used to play with some friend: we had a program generate random positions for all pieces at start.
I had three checkmates right from the start before we decided to edit the program a bit. ^_^"

#14 ::: Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 08:09 AM:

One of my first SF books was Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Chessmen of Mars. The book described a Martian variant of chess called Jetan.

I read the book in fourth grade, which for me was just after I saw Star Wars for the first time. Burroughs' Barsoom novels were excellent mind candy for a kid who couldn't get enough of Star Wars. And of course, I had to make my own Jetan board and talk my friends into playing, thus further solidifying my reputation as the class weirdo, even nerdier than the chess nerds.

#15 ::: Anthony VanWagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 08:40 AM:

Hey, don't forget Enochian Chess.

http://www.alchemywebsite.com/e-chess.html

#16 ::: Paul Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 09:03 AM:

David Goldfarb beat me to the mention of shogi, which looks like a fascinating game to play. Unfortunately I appear to be tactically blind and, playing against my own weak program, haven't yet made it out of an opening without losing a rook or worse. I think I'll stick to go.

#17 ::: Anton P. Nym (aka Steve) ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 09:11 AM:

Back at university I played blind Kriegspiel with a group of friends in the form of umpired WW2 miniatures games... each side had a map drawn on hexagonal-grid and a washable marker and "moved" their platoons by drawing an arrow for each one. The umpire then compared the two maps and told each side which platoons had to be placed on a board made of hexagonal tiles.

Shots could only be fired at pieces on the board, though pieces off the board could fire and would thus be revealed next turn. We also evolved rules for artillery, air support, and mines.

It could be slow at times, especially with multiple players on each side, but the end result could be really nail-biting for the players. (And very pretty with the sculpted tiles and the painted buildings and tiny tanks and infantry. It caught a lot of attention at game conventions.) Alas I don't think I have any photos... the boards were usually 4'x8' and the models only .75" long apiece.

Of course, this takes considerably more time, effort, and playing/working space than blind chess.

(I miss it so.)

#18 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 09:13 AM:

Not Fairy, but a fascinating novel about chess -- Walter Tevis's The Queen's Gambit. The Hustler with a female chess champion....

#19 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 09:16 AM:

My favourite chess variant is Penultima; in this particularly warped version, the players sit down without actually knowing the rules of the game, which are decided upon by the spectators. Spectators are then required to enforce the rules by informing the players when they've made an illegal move (at which point the player loses their turn).

It can be very fun, particularly if two spectators come up with rules that clash in an interesting way...

#20 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 09:26 AM:

Forgot to mention: one unique aspect of Penultima is that the spectators' rules may cause legal moves to have side effects; e.g., you could specify that when a particular piece moves (which it may do, for example, one square in any of the eight directions), if there is a piece on the square in front of it when it finishes, that piece is moved to the square behind it.

#21 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 10:01 AM:
John Gollon's CHESS VARIATIONS is the best single volume I know on the subject; it contains history as well as descriptions. (He includes Burroughs's Barsoomian chess, with playable rules.) Unfortunately, it's out of print, but it's likely to be in libraries.

Gollon's book is good on the history (as far as I know), but I am told by people who should know that his rules for many of the historical variations are incorrect.

Also, when was the "pawn may move two spaces in its opening move" rule added? I thought that was just in the last couple hundred years.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that move (or at least en passant capture) and castling in its current form are younger than 500 years. And of course other chess games, such as Shogi and Xiang Qi, have undergone their own evolution in that time frame (though I have no idea of the details).

Finally, the as-close-as definitive Internet source for chess variants is The Chess Variant Pages.

#22 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 10:17 AM:

You know about Blizzard Chess, right? It's Chess, as developed by a contemporary gaming company:

We'd like to thank all our fans for making Chess the success it is - can't do it without you, guys! Anyway, we're having a few game balance issues, so we're issuing another patch to Chess. Please see details inside.

Patch 1.01

Most high-level Chess players online recently are using the "center pawn rush" every single game! In order to restore game balance, we're revoking the ability of King Pawns and Queen Pawns to move 2 squares on the first move - from now on, they will only move 1 square per move. All other pawns can move 2 squares as before, which should hopefully end the "center pawn rush" from now on.

Patch 1.04

The Rook units are severly underused, only coming into the game late or, in some games, never. In order to rectify this, we have given the Rooks a special ability. From now on, given that a Rook and the corresponding Rook Pawn have not yet been moved, a player may simultaneously play P-R4 and R-R3. This should get the Rooks into play and restore balance to the Chess units. ...



#23 ::: Steve Miller ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 10:20 AM:

Bughouse -- mentioned above -- was the favorite of the young players before and between rounds at a lot of my tournaments (for some years I was the professional chess tournament director mentioned in the annual Locus polls) and when I ran the Maine State tournaments we had a "skittles" room where players could go over their games -- but which rapidly filled with bughouse games.

I should mention -- as a variant from regulation tournament chess, at least -- the various blitz games(also called speed chess) favored by young and old extra-hormonal players. Time limits of 7,5,or 3 minutes aren't uncommon, and I've seen 1 minute played. That's not per move, but per game. One of my two triumphs over masters happened in an impromptu after-tournmant 5 minute speed tournament (the other was in a club-rated rather than USCF rated event, so neither was "official", sigh). I achieved real Old Fart status for pointing out to the young players prepping for a day's play that "speed kills"... for too often they'd play speed for an hour before the real event started and then have difficutly slowing down for the first money round.

I have a hard time with the variations (like starting the game with having the pawns in place and then the first 8 moves for each player consist of placing the pieces where you want them on the first rank) and I don't know if it's because I'm calcified or because I'm so competitive I don't want to give up any advantage to someone who already knows the variation.

#24 ::: Jon ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 10:41 AM:

I remember my father making for me, back a couple or so decades ago, a three-tiered chessboard to play a variant I found in Dragon Magazine. I can't remember anything about the game other than the board, alas.

#25 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 11:02 AM:

Eric W. Weisstein. "Chess." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource.
"Chess is a two-player board game believed to have been played in India as early as the sixth century AD. In different parts of this world, different chess games are played. The most played variants are western chess, Shogi (in Japan), and Xiangqi (in China)...."
Try the hotlink for discussion of the various estimates of the number of possible chess games, and chess-rel;ated problems in recreational mathematiucs, plus an interesting reference list.

mathworld.com defines thus

Fairy Chess

A variation of chess involving a change in the form of the board, the rules of play, or the pieces used. For example, the normal rules of chess can be used but with a cylindrical or Mbius strip connection of the edges.

[Kraitchik, M. "Fairy Chess." 12.2 in Mathematical Recreations. New York: W. W. Norton, pp. 276-279, 1942.]

There is a repository of mathematical information on Chess and some variants (torical board, etc.) at the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. Click on "Use Database" and then fill in the searchbox (checked for "word") with the word chess.

chess, number of games , sequences related to (start):
chess, number of games , definition: position = position with castling and en passant information, diagram = position without castling and en passant information
chess, number of games: A048987* A079485 A006494 A089956
chess, number of games: see also A007747 A007545 A007577
chess, number of diagrams: A019319* A090051
chess, number of positions: A083276* A057745 A089957
chessboard, halving a: A003155
chessboard, quartering a: A006067, A003213
Dawson's chess: A002187*
games: see also chess
shogi (Japanese chess): A062103

These are such things as: "Number of ways a pawn-like piece (with the initial 2-step move forbidden, and starting from any square on the back rank) can end at various squares on infinite chess board." from Hans L. Bodlaender, The Chess Variant Pages.

"the maximal number of nonattacking queens that can be placed on the n by m rectangular toroidal chessboard"

"Maximum number of chess queens of 3 colors on an n X n board such that no queen attacks or protects another queen"

More good stuff at the home page of Chess- and Math-fanatic Mario Velucchi.

#26 ::: Ed Gaillard ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 12:34 PM:

to Jonathan Vos Post: The dice chess you describe upthread is actually very old, and derives directly from Indian chess (chaturanga). I remember playing chaturanga with dice in the early 1980s with a friend who was from Bangladesh, and who said it was still very common there; we also played three- and four-handed games, with half an army per player. I have read that some historians think the dice version was the original form of the game.

to Steve Miller: Like you, I'm not fond of the variation where the players place the pieces on their first ranks at the start of the game, but I have been enjoying playing Fischer Random Chess (aka "Chess 960") on FICS. In FRC, theopening setup, which is the same for both sides, is randomly chosen; bishops go on opposite colors, and the king is always between the Rooks, so castling is possible on either side.

to Dan Blum: I'm pretty sure that the two-square initial pawn move is about as old as Mad Queen Chess itself--I've never seen a game with the expanded Queen and Bishop moves but with pawns moving only one square, though the Oxford Encyclopedia of Chess Games has old games with various forms of the King's Leap (e.g., on his first move, the king could move like a knight), and Free Castling (on castling kingside, king could go to g1 or h1; Rook to f1 or e1; similarly for queenside). I think Free Rochade hung on in Italy until the 19th century.

#27 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 12:48 PM:

It was standard chess, but the story which contained it was just lovely: A woman who specialized in Renaissance studies who was asked to help prove that DaVinci's notebooks contained prior art for a time machine.

Another mid-nineties Analog story, "The [something-or-other, maybe a headband]"--anyone know the author? I'd buy a book based on the quality of that story, if it weren't too damn dear.

#28 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 01:01 PM:

We played Nuclear Chess occasionally back in college. At your turn you can move or nuke; to nuke you roll two eight-sided dice, and whatever's at those coordinates vanishes. This is chiefly to the advantage of an incompetent player, of course. Being one, I nuked a lot. Once I was in checkmate (or about to be, I can't recall) and nuked the opposing player's king, one of the only games of "chess" I've ever won.

#29 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 01:27 PM:

Jon, that three-tiered board was for Dragonchess, invented by Gary Gygax, and was in the beautifully-covered Dragon #100. I remember reading about this and thinking how cool it would be to know what you were doing and play someone who knew what they were doing, but it never went beyond that. Your dad must have been a pretty neat guy.

http://www.chessvariants.org/3d.dir/dragonchess.html

Somebody is making Dragonchess as free software, with permission from Gygax. Unfortunately, the computer player is not done yet, but fortunately, you can play over the internet.

I had the same wanting-to-play feeling once about Robert Asprin's Dragon Poker (in Little Myth Marker), with 5 cards up, 4 in the hole, and absurd local rules like "the Unicorn of clubs is dead on Thursdays if you're playing in an arboreal forest, but not if you're a virgin".

#30 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 01:27 PM:

Ed Gaillard:

You're right. I promulgated, not invented, that version, to chess players who didn't know the history.

Why Change Chess? (long answer)
"Most people are unaware that chess was not always the 'packaged game' that it is today. It has already undergone countless changes over the centuries! The earliest form of the game, called chaturanga (Hindu for the four branches of the Indian army) bore little resemblence to the 64 square board shown above on the left. Depending on whether or not you subscribe to the belief that the ashtapada was used to play chaturanga, the earliest form of chess may have involved rolling dice! (Note: The Indian ashtapada was a general purpose playing surface which was used for many different recreational board games that almost invariably used dice to determine the course of play.)"

"It was because that chaturanga was so interesting that a great many people were enjoying it. The Hindu players took to adopting variations of the game, including making a four-player version of the game, both with and without dice. The diceless four-player game, which involves only eight pieces per side, is still played in 21st century India."

"As chaturanga made its way further east, local customs, local fauna, and even 'bad translations' had influenced the game. For example, the four branches of the Indian army from chaturanga had names that translate roughly to elephants, horses, chariots, and foot soldiers. As the game made its way into Arabia, the Hindu word for elephant was translated to al-fil. The Spanish still call this piece the alfil, but the Italians sought a phonetically similar word, which was alfiere, meaning 'standard-bearer.' We know that the traditional design for this piece featured a split mark at the top to signify the tusk of an elephant, but the English players had mistaken it to resemble the miter of a Bishop. The French also misinterpretted the context of the split mark, and believed the 'hat' to be one that a 'court jester' would wear. The modern day French player would call the Bishop fou which literally means 'fool', but means 'jester' to the players of the game."

"As the game evolved, and the 'bad translations' and other factors molded the game, one thing remained common across all cultures. A game of shatranji, ajedrez, xadrez, scac, ... chess, could get rather long."

There was a joke among some Caltech grad students in the late 60s: "Power Chess."

One starts with the usual set-up of pieces. Then both players put their elbows and forearms flat on the able and try to push the pieces into their opponent's lap. Pieces that fall on the floor to either side of the table don't count. The winner is the one with the most pieces pushed over the opponent's edge of the table.

I personally favor the hypothesis that chess was introduced on Earth my extraterrestrials trying to slow down our scientific development by wasting precious brainpower.

See also:

The ChessBrain NetworkDistributed network chess experiment. Intends to create a single playing program using donated time.

Illuminati News: The Global Chess Game
There is an illusion that the chess game has two opposite sides, black and white,
but that is only an illusion. Both the black and the white pieces have the same goal, and it doesn't matter which side wins. Both sides are controlled by the same Masters, the Game Creators. The illusion of opposite sides in the game is only put there to make the game more interesting for the players on the chess board (or more traumatic if you want). Here we have the wars and conflicts of the world. As the Creators control both sides; whomever wins, it serves the Masters anyway.

Examining Evidence: Did Duchamp simply use a photograph
of "tossed cubes" to create his 1925 Chess Poster?
by Shearer, Rhonda Roland and Slawinski, Robert.


#31 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 01:37 PM:


There's an interesting passage on free will and determinism and chess in W. Somerset Maugham's book The Summing Up (1938), section LXXII:

"The metaphor of chess, though frayed and shopworn, is here wonderfully apposite. The pieces were provided and I had to accept the mode of action that was characteristic of each one; I had to accept the moves of the persons I played with; but it has seemed to me that I had the power to make on my side, in accordance with my likes and dislikes and the ideal that I set before me, moves that I freely willed. It has seemed to me that I have now and then been able to put forth an effort that was not wholly determined. If it was an illusion, it was an illusion that had its own efficacy. The moves I made, I know now, were often mistaken, but in one way and another they have tended to the end in view. I wish that I had not committed a great many errors, but I do not deplore them, nor would I now have them undone."

An Open Letter to Boris Spassky, by Ayn Rand
Dear Comrade Spassky:

"I have been watching with great interest your world chess championship match with Bobby Fischer. I am not a chess enthusiast or even a player, and know only the rudiments of the game. I am a novelist-philosopher by profession."

"But I watched some of your games, reproduced play by play on television, and found them to be a fascinating demonstration of the enormous complexity of thought and planning required of a chess player--a demonstration of how many considerations he has to bear in mind, how many factors to integrate, how many contingencies to be prepared for, how far ahead to see and plan. It was obvious that you and your opponent had to have an unusual intellectual capacity."

"Then I was struck by the realization that the game itself and the players' exercise of mental virtuosity are made possible by the metaphysical absolutism of the reality with which they deal. The game is ruled by the Law of Identity and its corollary, the Law of Causality. Each piece is what it is: a queen is a queen, a bishop is a bishop--and the actions each can perform are determined by it's nature: a queen can move any distance in any open line, straight or diagonal, a bishop cannot; a rook can move from one side of the board to the other, a pawn cannot; etc. Their identities and the rules of their movements are immutable--and this enables the player's mind to devise a complex, long-range strategy, so that the game depends on nothing but the power of his (and his opponent's) ingenuity. This led me to some questions that I should like to ask you...."

Siris
A Golden Chain from Tar-Water to the Trinity, With Thoughts Relating to Philosophy, Christian Theology, and the Universe Generally: Life as Chess

Suppose it were perfectly certain that the life and fortune of every one of us would, one day or other, depend upon his winning or losing a game at chess. Don't you think that we should all consider it to be a primary duty to learn at least th names and the moves of the pieces; to have a notion of a gambit, and a keen eye for all the means of giving and getting out of check? Do you not think that we should look with a disapprobation amounting to scorn, upon the father who allowed his son, or the state which allowed its members, to grow up without knowing a knight from a pawn?

Yet it is a very plain and elementary truth, that the life, the fortune, and the happiness of every one of us, and, more or less, of those who are connected with us, do depend upon our knowing something of the rules of a game infinitely more difficult and complicated than chess. It is a game which has been played for untold ages, every man and woman of us being one of the two players in a game of his or her own. The chess-board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of Nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us. We know that his play is always fair, just, and patient. But also we know, to our cost, that he enver overlooks a mistake, or makes the smallest allowance for ignorance. To the man who plays well, the highest stakes are paide, with that sort of overflowing generosity with which the strong shows delight in strength. And one who plays ill is checkmated--without haste, but without remorse.

My metaphor will remind some of you of the famous picture in which Retzsch has depicted Satain playing at chess with man for his soul. Substitute for the mocking fiend in the picture, a calm, strong angel who is playing for love, as we say, and would rather lose than win--and I should accept it as an image of human life.

Well, what I mean by Education is learning the rules of this mighty game....

--T. H. Huxley, "A Liberal Education; and Where to Find It," in Lay Sermons, Essays, and Reviews, Macmillan (London: 1880) 31-32.

#32 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 02:01 PM:

"I personally favor the hypothesis that chess was introduced on Earth my extraterrestrials trying to slow down our scientific development by wasting precious brainpower."

No, you're thinking of Sid Meier's Civilization III.

Soon to be supplanted by Wil Wright's Spore.

#33 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 02:22 PM:

If you look at them from the right perspective, you'll see that all the Civilization series of games are in fact (very complicated) variants of chess.

:)

#34 ::: Avery ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 03:00 PM:

Don't foget Turing's around the house chess. You play in a room with a door to the outside. After any move you may get up and run around the house. If you get back before your opponent has made a move, you get to make another move.

The obvious evil strategy is, the moment your opponent gets up, make a throw away move and chase him. You'll get another move before he figures out what you've even done.

#35 ::: scott lewis ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 03:07 PM:

Xopher, I played nuclear chess in school, too. In our version, you could blow up a piece instead of moving it: The piece gets removed and so do any pieces in adjacent squares. The best part was making the sound effects.

There are other nuclear chess variants, too.

#36 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 03:37 PM:

"...even nerdier than the chess nerds"

Yep, guilty as charged. Actually, we thought thought of it as taking a poke at the self-importance of the stuffy chess nerds.

A quarter-century ago, in high school, my friend Jim Bennett came up with several uses for typical cheap folding cardboard chess boards which through over-use had torn along the fold in the middle, yielding 2 4x8 board halves each.

The first game was "faultline chess" (I don't remember if that was what we called it then), where the chess board starts out as usual, with the two halfs re-assembled into a single normal chess board, the seam running across the middle halfway between the two players. However, after each move, one half board would be moved a square to the right relative to the other, until the two halves only touched at a single square. Then, the boards would start shifting back the other way, one square per move, until they reached the other extreme. Crossing the fold at the right time would cause a bishop to switch from red squares to black or vice versa.

The second variant, bagel chess, required 2 broken boards, in 4 4x8 pieces. The first half board was positioned in front of a player, with an 8-long edge facing the player, and was populated in the usual way. A 2nd half board was turned 90 degrees and placed to the left of the first half, with a 4-long edge facing the player contiguous with the first half board's 8-long edge. Then, a third half board was placed across the top of the 2nd half board, with their left sides contiguous. That third half board was the mirror image of the first, and was populated with the 2nd player's army. The fourth half board mirrored the 2nd at the upper right. The result was a 12x12 board with a 4x4 hole in the center, with one army arrayed in the lower right 8x2 squares, and the other army arrayed in the upper left 8x2 squares.

The trouble with bagel chess was that it took longer for the armies to come into contact with each other. Rooks became much more important (and bishops less), especially since the left hand rook could move immediately without waiting for a pawn to get out of its way.

We also discussed playing on the bagel board with 4 players, one starting on each half board, but I don't remember ever getting 4 enthusiasts together in one place long enough to try it.

#37 ::: Marc G. ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 04:27 PM:

I have a commercial 4-player chess board that's octagonal and contains 2 boards' worth of squares. The Queen's side files advance towards the opponent on your left, and the King's side files advance towards the opponent on your left. The person across from you is your partner. One of the nifty things about the board is that at the center there are 8 squares with corners touching, so if you can enter the center diagonally you can leave in 3 different directions.

#38 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 04:28 PM:

There is the variant for 4 players, with 5 boards arranged in a cross. That is, there is a central board, initially empty, each edge of which is adjacent to a board with one of the 4 players' boards with 16 pieces in the normal positions. The pieces come in 4 different colors. Moves rotate counterclockwise among players still in the game. You get one move at a time, but may attack anyone. I'm not clear on the extent to which coalitions could be made ( 2 sub-versions, with an without talking?). When you checkmate a player, all his/her pieces are now yours. This was (is?) commercially available.

I wonder if this influenced the recent Risk variant where the captured armies are sent to the underworld. An almost wiped-out player may suddenly be able to conquer the underworld.

My late father was an even worse chess player than I. My son first beat him when my son was 3. It was not my Dad's nature to have played poorly on purpose. My son got better and better at chess, beating me more and more often, but then was distracted, at age 5 or so, by Go, which is (of course) a far deeper game. Didn't we have a thread on Go vs Chess once?

#39 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 06:04 PM:

Wow, some of these variants sound really cool. The only one I've ever played, we called Pass Chess: two sets of people playing two different games on two different boards. You are partnered with the guy on your side of the table from the other game, only he's playing the opposite colour as you. Whenever he captures a piece, he passes it on to you, and whenever you capture a piece, it goes on to your partner. (Similar to Alice Chess in that you have pieces moving from board to board.) I seem to recall that you have the choice to put the captured pieces in empty pawn positions, but I can't remember all the rules right now.

#40 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 06:13 PM:

I have a really cool all-wood traveling chess set that I got when I won the regional elementary tournament (and then my father forbid me to play because I was :::gasp::: beating boys) and it lost a pawn at some point. I can't bring myself to throw it away, so I think it's destined to become a beady opinion piece at some point.

#41 ::: Rudy ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 06:49 PM:

There is a variation due to Yoko Ono where
both players start with white pieces; after a
while you can't tell the players' pieces apart.
Not practical obviously, but thought provoking.

#42 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 07:31 PM:

I've seen "blind kriegspiel" played with only one board, for the referee; the players had their backs to each other. That could be called double-blind kriegspiel, or just refereed blind; it looked like it played well at high speed, because it guaranteed that \somebody/ had all the pieces in place, instead of the two players having to rely on memory.

And if we're talking about fictions, don't forget Brunner's The Squares of the City, which follows Wilmar Shiras's character's desire to have a real, playable match underlying it.

#43 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 07:52 PM:

Stefan Jones wrote:
Soon to be supplanted by Wil Wright's Spore.

Penny Arcade's take (possibly NSFW if you work with really boring people) on the subject is priceless.

#44 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 09:25 PM:

re the fairy chess problem page, I am not sure I like the notation of inverting one piece to represent another piece (for instance the grasshopper is an upside down queen)

For one thing it would be incompatible with the shogi convention of having which side a piece is on be represented by which direction it's facing.

By the way I invented an ASCII-art chessboard.

The white king is )+ [a crown sideways] and the black king is +( . And similarly for all pieces.
Similarly for all the pieces. I wonder if it's possible to play chess by e-mail with that.

#45 ::: Cryptic Ned ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 09:30 PM:

In high school we used to play Maximum Carnage Chess. Just like regular chess except you start out with the pawns on the back row and the big pieces in the front row. You can get a tournament done much faster that way!

#46 ::: Alec Austin ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 09:56 PM:

Rudy: There's a variation on Go, known as "one color Go" (it shows up in Hikaru no Go; I'm told professional players and aspiring pros use as a memory exercise) which might have inspired Yoko Ono's innovation.

The point in the variation in Go is to learn to recall which stones are yours and which are your opponent's, despite their uniformity of color. Since professional Go players are required to be able to write out the course of a game perfectly from memory, it's not quite as unreasonable as it sounds.

#47 ::: Emil ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 11:05 PM:

The great Georges Perec wrote a whole novel patterned after the Knight's Tour puzzle - La Vie Mode D'Emploi.

#48 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: June 16, 2005, 11:59 PM:

We have, of course, a pretty definitive list of chess variants at (what else?) http://www.chessvariants.com. One of my favorites is DoubleMove Chess.

I also seem to recall a study done a few years back showing that comparatively new players could regularly beat grandmasters in chess variations, because the masters had spent so much time locked into one system of thought that they were unable to adapt to new circumstances in life. I've taken this lesson to heart in life-- probably no more so than in my high school chess team days, where we ended up playing a variant of sorts against other teams, and took them to the cleaners. Let me explain:

In our school matches there were five games, with the first game being worth 8 points, second game 7, and so on down to 4 points. Stalemates split points. The assumption was that each team would put their top player on board one, second best on board two, and so on.

We didn't play that way.

Instead, we took our fifth-board player (average in mid-game but ferocious in the endgame) and told him to play for a draw if possible. Then we put our best player on board two against their second best, our second best against their third best, third against fourth, and fourth against fifth. Usually, we won our matches 22-8 and we came in pretty high in standings as a result.

And the life lesson there, of course, is that there's often more than one game going on simultaneously, games that other players may have lost sight of-- and there are many layers to strategy.

#49 ::: Peter Aronson ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 12:56 AM:

Alas, the The Chess Variant Pages, while large, can not be honestly described as definitive. While we are fairly certainly the largest single collection of Chess variants you will find at any one spot, there are many variants that can be found in The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants or on British Chess Variants Society's pages for which we do not yet have entries. Someday, perhaps.

#50 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 01:47 AM:

Regarded in a suitable light, Ian Watson's Kingmagic, Queenmagic is a novel about chess...

#51 ::: JonathanMoeller ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 03:34 AM:

I don't know if otherworldly beings could have introduced chess to the Earth as a means of hindering our development; if they were bright enough to think of something like that, then they'd probably spend all their time playing chess and writing "Star Trek" games for UNIX.

Though, speaking of alternative rules, I've had great fun mixing and matching the various versions of Risk. Currently I have Middle-Earth Orcs battling Trade Federation Battle Droids for possession of the Taiwanese Free Trade Zone.

#52 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 09:53 AM:

With due respect to Mike Ford's recommendation above, the indispensible book of Chess variants is David Pritchard's The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants.

My chief contribution to the world of Chess Variants was creating a variant which broke the game engine of the Zillions of Games program. It's "Hecatomb", which I described in my column on the short-lived "Games Cafe", which is now archived at TheGamesJournal.

And Jim, some poking around shows that the flying queen, en passant, and castling were all added in a burst in the 15th and 16th centuries, but I wasn't able to find evidence of what order they were added in. Pawn doublestep was a bit earlier than those (obviously well before en passant); my gut feeling is that en passant was the last introduced.

Another page says that there were some changes to the draw rules in the 19th century, but I don't know the specifics. It has been proven, fairly recently, that there are some endgame positions involving bishop+knight+king against robado king which are winnable but in more than 50 moves; under the current FIDE rules, those would be draws.

There's a chess variant family that has wide play that doesn't seem to have been mentioned here: pre-chess, or shuffle chess, where the pieces on the back rows are distributed randomly before the first move. Its most prominent supporter is Bobby Fischer.

#53 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 09:57 AM:

My mistake--Ed Galliard mentioned pre-chess under the name Fischer Random Chess yesterday.

#54 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 10:12 AM:

Oh, and Andrew Looney created Monochrome Chess some years ago.

#55 ::: MD ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 11:55 AM:

Hey ! Had completely forgotten about Double Mouve Chess. Thanks for the reminder, brought back loads of memories.

Since we've drifted talking books about chess, or using chess, let me add The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte, and The Royal Game by Stefan Zweig. Not exactly the same kind of books, but both pleasant read.

#56 ::: Ed Gaillard ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 11:56 AM:

Kevin, B+N vs K is always winnable in less than 50 moves (maximum is 34 IIRC). There are lots of other endings that do require more than 50 moves before a capture or pawn move (though most are pawnless endings); many Queen vs two Bishops endings, for example.

FIDE has changed the 50-move rule at least twice, once to make some exceptions (I remember one was a very specific position with R+P vs B+P, with blocked rook-pawns), and again to remove the exceptions (once the computers had discovered large numbers of them).

There was quite a bit of minor fiddling with the 50-move and triple-repetition draw rules in the 19th century, mostly wording changes to make them more precise.

I think pre-chess is distinguished from Fischer Random by FRC-type variants using random selection of the starting position, while in pre-chess, the players alternate in placing the pieces.

#57 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 11:58 AM:

Didn't David Gerrold have a ramble about fairy chess in one of his Chatarrh books? A Day for Dalmations, I think it was....

#58 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 12:25 PM:

Triple-repetition draw rules are based on the mathematically cool fact that one cannot have an infinite binary string (of 0s and 1s) without a substring being repeated, but you can have an infinite ternary string (of 0s, 1s, and 2s) without a substring being repeated. See: Brinkhuis, J. "Non-Repetitive Sequences on Three Symbols." Quart. J. Math. Oxford Ser. 2 34, 145-149, 1983.
and Squarefree Word.

My brothers and I used to play, and get friends to play, a metagame that consisted of simultaneous Chess, Monopoly, and Poker. The games were intertwingled by allowing players to make deals that crossed game boundaries. For instance, "I'll sell you a Free Landing on Boardwalk and fold this hand if you don't take my bishop this turn." Making larger games by combining smaller games is treated in:
Berlekamp, E. R.; Conway, J. H; and Guy, R. K. Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, Vol. 1: Adding Games, 2nd ed. Natick, MA: A. K. Peters, 2001.

Berlekamp, E. R.; Conway, J. H; and Guy, R. K. Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays, Vol. 2: Games in Particular. London: Academic Press, 1982.

Conway, J. H. On Numbers and Games, 2nd ed. Natick, MA: A. K. Peters, 2000.

#59 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 12:27 PM:

I've heard the term "pre-chess" applied to any Chess which involves a section of the game where the pieces are placed on the board in a non-standard array before any moves are made. (Many pre-chesses don't require you to place all the pieces before some of them can start moving.)

I suspect you're right that the term is more commonly used to denote variants where the players choose the placement of the pieces instead of them being placed randomly.

#60 ::: Jesse ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 12:31 PM:

Instead, we took our fifth-board player (average in mid-game but ferocious in the endgame) and told him to play for a draw if possible. Then we put our best player on board two against their second best, our second best against their third best, third against fourth, and fourth against fifth. Usually, we won our matches 22-8 and we came in pretty high in standings as a result.

When I was about eleven, I read Piers Anthony's Battle Circle books, which featured this shift-one-rank-down strategy. It has come in handy more than a few times, although explaining it to people is sometimes a bit difficult. (It's by far the most useful thing -- perhaps the only useful thing -- I took from Mr. Anthony's writings.)

#61 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 12:41 PM:

Rudy,

It may not be practical, but at the Yoko Ono show at SFMoMA, I saw kids doing it.

#62 ::: Jayme Lynn Blaschke ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 03:50 PM:

I constructed my own "Dragon Chess" board and set years ago, of the kind that Gary Gygax published rules for in Dragon Magazine back in the '80s. It was quite a nice job, IMHO, although it is in a bit of disrepair after several moves in recent years.

I've never been a very good chess player, but I always had a good time playing that oddball variant.

#63 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 04:54 PM:

I don't really have time to be here, so I haven't read the thread, in toto.

My first step-father had a game called, "Neo-Chess" which had images of the pieces (a la a chess problem) on cylinders.

Gold on one side, silver on the the other (wooden pieces, actually nice to look at, and handle). They were of differing heights, based on the pieces, so the stagger made it almost as easy to spot the board conditions as standard pieces, once one learned the scale.

When one captured a piece, one flipped it over, and placed in on a rack behind the board. One could then, in lieu of movement, place the piece on the board as one's own.

Yes, a much stronger player could whomp someone. But it was actually accomodating of a fair gap between players. An extra knight is a potent thing.

TK

#64 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2005, 08:12 PM:

Neo-Chess was (prominent game designer) Alex Randolph's version of Chessgi (Chess and Shogi combined). It was originally published by 3M back when 3M had a games division. More recently it was published by Abacus (in Germany) as Mad Mate - this went out of print (or was blown out at discount prices, at any rate) quite recently.

Randolph did another chess variant for 3M called Mimikri - this was published only in Germany. Here the pieces are cubes printed on only one face. You can play either so that you can only see the identities of your pieces, or only those of your opponent's pieces.

#65 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2005, 12:11 AM:

Glenn/Jesse: I remember the Anthony, and suspect he got the downshift strategy from somewhere else (even when he was a writer, he struck me as good at picking up ideas from elsewhere) -- which makes me wonder what prevents both sides from doing it? I'd expect the idea to have spread....

#66 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2005, 05:10 AM:

The comment that is currently previous to this one, by "juan lentes," appears to be spam.

However, the comment that will soon be previous to this one, by CHip, is perfectly legitimate and lovely.

#67 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2005, 01:29 PM:

CHip/Glenn/Jesse:

Dear Emperor Bush II,

The Pentagon has been whining recently that we don't have enough troops to fight another war on the scale of Iraq. I'd like to suggest a simple way to deal with fighting on many fronts at once in your glorious War on Terrorism.

Suppose, for example, that we need to fight on 5 fronts at once (i.e. Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and Sudan). The usual assumption was that we should put our top division (i.e. best prepared for combat) on the new front (front one), second best on front two, and so on.

Instead, we can put our fifth-best division (average in mid-battle but ferocious in the nation-building) and order them to fight for a draw if possible. Then we rotate our best division to front two, our second best to front three, our third best to front four, and fourth best to front five.

We might lose a few troops that way, but, on the average, our projection of force and our regime-changing ability will be nearly optimum. It will also confuse the press and our enemies.

Sincerely,

Your Loyal Subject

#68 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2005, 07:05 PM:

Jonathan, that would imply Bush had any strategy going into Iraq, Afghanistan, and any opponents to be named later. On the other hand, looking at how he's prosecuted the Iraq War, maybe he's learned something from chess.

...nah. I can't imagine Bush could ever get the way the horsies move.

On a different tack, obviously the War on Terror doesn't even come close to mapping to chess. Maybe Stratego-- you can plant bombs in that game.

#69 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:02 PM:

Glenn Hauman:

My wife and I both LOL at your comment. Well said!

Fischerandom Chess has 960 = 31x31 - 1 possible opening configurations. I didn't see that in the nice web page linked to above, but said page has a nifty random generator shown as a board with icons, exact rules, reader comments, and "Hear Fischer explain Fischerandom Chess (MP3)."

#70 ::: Anarch ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 02:46 PM:

Triple-repetition draw rules are based on the mathematically cool fact that one cannot have an infinite binary string (of 0s and 1s) without a substring being repeated, but you can have an infinite ternary string (of 0s, 1s, and 2s) without a substring being repeated.

"Repeated" here meaning "immediately repeated" as in 012211211022, right? Because it's false for any of a variety of other notions of "repeated", c.f. Friedman's Enormous Integers paper.

#71 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2005, 03:06 PM:

Anarch:

Correct.

I've been thinking about that paper, as my son and I are working on a paper about self-avoiding walks on discrete infinite prisms.

#73 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 12:33 PM:

Wazir: {0,1}-leaper.
Fers: {1,1}-leaper.
Dabbaba: {0,2}-leaper.
Knight: {1,2}-leaper.
Camel: {1,3} leaper.
King: Wazir + Fers.
Alibaba: {0,2} + {2,2} leaper.
Fiveleaper: {0,5}+{3,4} mover.
Rook; {0,1}-rider.
Bishop: {1,1}-rider.
Nightrider: {1,2}-rider.
Queen: Rook + Bishop.
Raven. Rook + Nightrider.
Banshee: Bishop + Nightrider.
Amazon: Queen + Knight.
Grasshoppers. Moves along queen lines over one piece to the first cell beyond the hurdle.
Greater Grasshoppers. GGs hop in any direction (i.e. along rook, bishop, nightrider, camelrider, zebrarider lines) to the first cell, in that line, beyond the hurdle.

Sorry, also meant to link to:

The Games and Puzzles Journal Issue 38, March-April 2005: Chess-Piece Arrangement Problems
by George Jelliss
Part 3: Coverings using one type of piece.

#74 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 01:05 PM:

Math Magic Archives: Problem of the Month (July 1999)
[updated updated 4/20/01]
This month we investiate fairy chess endgames. In chess, it is well known that under normal circumstances, White needs (in addition to his King of course) a Queen, a Rook, 2 Bishops, or a Bishop and Knight to mate a lone Black King. But what about other possible pieces? Can White mate with an additional piece that moves like a king? How about a Rook that moves no more than 2 squares at a time? How many Rooks that only move 1 square at a time are needed? Feel free to invent your own pieces.

A Rook has 28 different moves (7 translations up, 7 down, 7 left, and 7 right). What is the fewest number of moves that a piece can have and still mate a lone King?

Here are some miscellaneous chess quickies:
Quickie #1:
Find a legal chess position in which we can conclude that at least one of the players has castled, but we don't know which.

Quickie #2:
Place a White King, White Pawn, and Black King on an n x n chess board at random. Let p(n) be the probability that if White moves first, White can win (that is, White can safely promote the pawn). As n→∞, p(n) converges to what value?

Quickie #3:
Who wins this 5x5 mini-chess game? Can you prove it is a tie?
...

#75 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2005, 06:07 PM:

Quickie 0:
Legal moves, without other pieces blocking any move, and with appropriate support? 2. Properly protected pawn on the seventh rank.

Quickie 2:
Zero. If the board is getting infinite, the black king can always keep moving onto a new rank.

#76 ::: Pen ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 03:03 AM:

There was quite a bit of minor fiddling with the 50-move and triple-repetition draw rules in the 19th century, mostly wording changes to make them more precise. I think pre-chess is distinguished from Fischer Random by FRC-type variants using random selection of the starting position, while in pre-chess, the players alternate in placing the pieces.

#77 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 03:18 AM:

Pen:

You're right (though Fischerandom chess has the white pieces randomized and then Black mirrors that pattern).

Tom:

Well, the answers given on the weblink shown (I omit the board diagram) are:

This month's problem comes from Ed Pegg, webmaster of mathPuzzle.com.

Quickie #1:
Here is such a position: [picture cut]

Each side has a promoted Rook. Since the Pawns did not pass each other on the c-file, at least one Pawn made three captures: off the c-file, back on to the c-file, promote on the d-file. Now each side's Queen's Rook and King's Bishop were captured on the back rank and not on the d-file. Therefore the three pieces captured must have been the Queen, a Knight, and the King's Rook. If A captured B's Rook on the d-file, then B must have castled, for his King and Rook have no other way to switch places.

Quickie #2:
John Hoffman thinks the answer is larger than 3/4, but smaller than 7/8. He came up with a very complicated integral for computing the exact probability.

Alan Williams, who suggested this problem, thinks the answer is 149/192. A Monte Carlo simulation with billions of trials supports this conjecture. And finally Ulrich Schimke has proved it! Here is his proof, written up as a text file.
[link on site]

Quickie #3:
I'm pretty sure this game is a tie, and the state space is just small enough that someone might prove it with brute force. But no one has yet.

===

I just submitted some Fairy Chess links to MathWorld, for their page on Fairy Chess. They hadn't, for instance, mentioned Fischerandom Chess... at which my son beat me 6 straight, after he played some chess with 2 former national chess champions (in the 10-year old category).

#78 ::: Mah Jong Sets ::: (view all by) ::: October 01, 2005, 01:23 PM:

Life is just like a chess game too. I found out that chess plays in different cultures represent the culture.

#80 ::: john petrison ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 02:47 PM:

fairy chess varian from an old man
who has played USCF chess morethan 55 yrs

each player may (secretely) replace the Queen
with one of the following described 'fairy'
pieces. (the 'secret' only exists in selection;
not in the course of play):

Executioner: moves as combined N & B
PLUS it has power to capture any of
its own color pieces or pawns. (capture of the King, of course, is resignation)
(If You fear the MISSIONARY this Executioner
is an excellent choice)

MISSIONARY this piece moves like a Bishop BUT
it has no power to capture! BUT it is strong!
Upon moving NEXT to an 'ENEMY PAWN" it (the M)
may immediately change the color of the pawn to
a pawn of its color. (the color of the M)
Thereafter, such pawn is in all ways the pawn
of the player with "M" piece.
(i.e. if a white pawn is transformed to a Black pawn on White's 2nd rank it becomes a Black
pawn on Blacks 7th rank ready to "queen" next
move (of course it may promote to another
piece.) The M has NO power to "convert a piece only a pwn. This piece can be "promted" to a
Bishop; but once a Bishop it can never be a Missionary!

THREAT CHAMPION or simply CHAMPION
This piece has huge threat possibilities;
It is A KNIGHT (N) that may one time
(only one time during a game) be able to
make 2 consecutive Knight moves during the
same move. This piece will cause a lot of
"time" losses by the opponent as time
has to be consumed trying to figure out
where the piece can move.

The ARCHBISHOP
Combines moves of Bishop & King (but,
of course the "check" restrictions
applicable to a King's moves does not
apply to AB (simply an "A" for notation)
AND the A can jump over pieces or pawns
of its own color. The A can "jump" over
any number of piece/pawns of its own color;
BUT it may NEVER jump over a piece of the Opponents color.

A pawn which "Queens' (promotes) can promote to any piece including "fairy pieces.

DUAL MONARCHY CHESS
A player at his option may choose to have
two kings ~ instead of a Queen or other
type of piece. However each "King" has the
power to capture it's own pices or pawns
(ie if a player wishes to give "Queen odds"
he may on hisfirst move have one King
capture the "other King"
The Opponent of the "DUAL MONARCHY"
must capture one king and checkmate the
"other King" in order to win.
It is impossibe to similtaneosly
checkmate both Kings since the first
King to fall must be actually "captured".

RUSSIAN SPEED CHESS
Black chooses the "game Speed"
(either '5 minute or 10 minute'.
HOWEVER if it is 'money game'
Black may choose to have 10 minutes
'on his clock' while white has only
5 minutes on his clock BUT in such
circumstances BLACK gives DRAW ODDS.
If White draws it is counted as a win
for money.
(This used to be called "CCCP" chess
but "CCCP" chess can only be played
when Blacks pieces are in actuality
RED.)

#81 ::: john petrison ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 02:48 PM:

fairy chess varian from an old man
who has played USCF chess morethan 55 yrs

each player may (secretely) replace the Queen
with one of the following described 'fairy'
pieces. (the 'secret' only exists in selection;
not in the course of play):

Executioner: moves as combined N & B
PLUS it has power to capture any of
its own color pieces or pawns. (capture of the King, of course, is resignation)
(If You fear the MISSIONARY this Executioner
is an excellent choice)

MISSIONARY this piece moves like a Bishop BUT
it has no power to capture! BUT it is strong!
Upon moving NEXT to an 'ENEMY PAWN" it (the M)
may immediately change the color of the pawn to
a pawn of its color. (the color of the M)
Thereafter, such pawn is in all ways the pawn
of the player with "M" piece.
(i.e. if a white pawn is transformed to a Black pawn on White's 2nd rank it becomes a Black
pawn on Blacks 7th rank ready to "queen" next
move (of course it may promote to another
piece.) The M has NO power to "convert a piece only a pwn. This piece can be "promted" to a
Bishop; but once a Bishop it can never be a Missionary!

THREAT CHAMPION or simply CHAMPION
This piece has huge threat possibilities;
It is A KNIGHT (N) that may one time
(only one time during a game) be able to
make 2 consecutive Knight moves during the
same move. This piece will cause a lot of
"time" losses by the opponent as time
has to be consumed trying to figure out
where the piece can move.

The ARCHBISHOP
Combines moves of Bishop & King (but,
of course the "check" restrictions
applicable to a King's moves does not
apply to AB (simply an "A" for notation)
AND the A can jump over pieces or pawns
of its own color. The A can "jump" over
any number of piece/pawns of its own color;
BUT it may NEVER jump over a piece of the Opponents color.

A pawn which "Queens' (promotes) can promote to any piece including "fairy pieces.

DUAL MONARCHY CHESS
A player at his option may choose to have
two kings ~ instead of a Queen or other
type of piece. However each "King" has the
power to capture it's own pices or pawns
(ie if a player wishes to give "Queen odds"
he may on hisfirst move have one King
capture the "other King"
The Opponent of the "DUAL MONARCHY"
must capture one king and checkmate the
"other King" in order to win.
It is impossibe to similtaneosly
checkmate both Kings since the first
King to fall must be actually "captured".

RUSSIAN SPEED CHESS
Black chooses the "game Speed"
(either '5 minute or 10 minute'.
HOWEVER if it is 'money game'
Black may choose to have 10 minutes
'on his clock' while white has only
5 minutes on his clock BUT in such
circumstances BLACK gives DRAW ODDS.
If White draws it is counted as a win
for money.
(This used to be called "CCCP" chess
but "CCCP" chess can only be played
when Blacks pieces are in actuality
RED.)

#82 ::: R.M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: March 11, 2009, 04:04 PM:

#82, john petrison -

Ooh, my husband will be thrilled to learn of a new variant of chess. Thank you! (And thank you, too, for posting on this thread at all. I wasn't reading this blog back when the thread was new, so there may be lots of fun stuff here for my husband and me. I wouldn't have found it without your post.)

#83 ::: Xopher sees incoherent spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2009, 07:45 PM:

Badly translated from the original Mandarin, perhaps?

#84 ::: LMB MacAlister sees more spam deriving from the original spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2009, 08:43 PM:

I also know play from a child, but now know that you should have been prosecuted. Keep your "leg of horse" to yourself.

#85 ::: Skwid Spies Spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2009, 04:47 PM:

At least, it quacks like it.

#86 ::: Charlie Stross sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2009, 12:54 PM:

Not buying it, thanks.

#87 ::: Frank Persol ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 05:24 PM:

Thr ws Wzrd Chss by drn Jcbs crtd n hs 1987 bk Th dvntrs f Wlly Th Wzrd, qt;
WTW p10
Wlly hd bn n Cld 84 whch ws fr Wzrd Chss Plyrs.
Ths wr pllmn-lk trns md f s-thrgh pltnm, nd nsd th trns wr chss rms. Wll ws hndcppd 18. Thr wr Wzrd Chss Mstrs wh wr vrtlly nbtbl. Wll hd md drng mv.

nd
WTW, Pg 14: …Thy wr plyng chss wth chclt pcs nd frstrtd by Wlly’s skll Wzrd Grmt rspndd t Wlly’s cll f chck by gntly mvng Wlly’s Qn’s Cstl nt hs mth nd fllwd t by btng ff bth knghts’ hds. Hy hy sd Wlly, tht’s nt llwd! h Cm n W, sd Grmt, y’r cmpltly t f my clss. H grdly clrd th brd f ll Wlly’s mth wtrng pwns

Bt f Crs y knw tht dn't y ?

#88 ::: cajunfj40 sees a blast from the past ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 05:37 PM:

Frank Persol @#91:

I think we've covered this before.

Don't you want this thread instead? Rowling’s being sued for plagiarism again

#89 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 05:48 PM:

Frank, why the return to the quiescent embayments of this, "backwater blog,"?

#90 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 16, 2010, 06:03 PM:

cajunfj40 -- No, he doesn't want that thread, where his nonsense was demolished. He wants this thread, where he was presumably attracted by the phrases "Wizard chess" and "Harry Potter", and hopes that people will have forgotten about all the other examples of magical chess, wizards playing chess, etc., that long predate that dreary "Willy the Wizard".

Bottom line, I don't think he has any recollection of that other thread -- he's a busy little spammer, after all. Can't keep track of all the sites he's visited.

#91 ::: frank persol ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 07:36 PM:

No not that thread=
try this thread for your delectation
Complaint - Allen v. Scholastic Inc.pdf

http://www.lxsnxs.cm/Cmmnty/cpyrght-trdmrklw/blgs/cpyrghtndtrdmrklwblg/rchv/2010/07/16/th-strng-cs-f-wlly-th-wzrd-vrss-hrry-pttr-lln-v-schlstc-nc-1-10-cv-05335-sdny-jly-13-2010.spx

as they say in chess-check mate! FP ,

#92 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 07:52 PM:

Oh, gods, is this guy back again?

frank (if that's your name), the point is it's stupid to claim plagiarism when the combination is an obvious one. If you have wizards, having them play chess is an obvious trope.

For gods' sakes, don't you have anything better to do? Go count the stones at the seashore or something.

#93 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 09:51 PM:

Out, out, out. Go away, Frank Persol.

#94 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2010, 10:05 PM:

Thank you, Teresa (and Avram and Abi). I'm so glad I don't have to put up with that loser any more.

#95 ::: Cally Soukup ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 12:24 AM:

frank persol @95

Checkmate? Really? Somebody merely files a complaint and you act like it's a settled case?

Anybody can file a complaint. I know someone who filed a complaint of sexual discrimination because, after the first two people who were asked were too busy, she (who was not busy) was asked to bring the field crew something they'd left behind. She failed to prove her complaint, as it was completely obvious there was no merit in it.

The mere act of filing a complaint does not, in and of itself, mean the complaint has merit, something you should have learned in high school civics class.

#96 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 01:01 AM:

Cally, FP won't listen to reason because the thing he thinks will make him rich is an unreasonable claim. I feel sorry for poor deceased Adrian Jacobs -- his heirs-and-assigns are awful.

#97 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 01:11 AM:

Jonathan Swift said something like "you can't reason someone out of something they weren't reasoned into in the first place." Did I see that here?

#98 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2010, 06:06 AM:

I'm not familiar with that one, Xopher. I imagine Swift saying something like "Opinions not born of reason are by reason unassailable."

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