The Chess Variant Pages




Schizochess

This game was developed by me (Seth McGinnis) and Derek Christensen when we were in high-school (1988-1990). We originally referred to it by the stunningly unexciting name "split-board chess", but I think "Schizochess" is a much better name. The root 'schizo' means 'split', and the connotation of schizophrenia is appropriate, as you end up having to play two games simultaneously in your head.

Special Equipment

To play Schizochess you will need a chessboard that has been split lengthwise down the middle. A cheap one made of cardboard is easy to split horizontally at the fold. I recommend just rotating it 90 degrees and ignoring the fact that the colors are now incorrect. (Really, is it that important?)

Rules

Begin play as normal. After every fifth move, swap the two halves of the board, so that the left edge of the board becomes the right edge of the centerline, and vice-versa.

The board before and after a swap of the halves.

Note that the swap happens after five moves, not five pairs of moves. In other words, play proceeds WBWBW [swap] BWBWB [swap] WBW...

A player who is in check and will be taken out of check by a swap after his or her move is not required to do anything else to defend against check. Castling is unaffected: the Queen's rook is exactly as far away from the King in both configurations of the board. (Though the utility of castling is arguable, as the rooks are in the middle of the board half the time, now.) The en passant rule is probably also unaffected, but we never remembered to play with it anyway, so beware.

The only other rule change regards completion of a move: for a fair game, the player who moved before a swap must be allowed to take a move back and make a different one. Now matter how good you are at visualization, you will always at some point realize that you have made a crucial error only after the halves of the board have been swapped. Naturally, if swapping reveals that the last move was illegal (for example, by exposing the King to check), it is required that it be taken back.

Remarks

The swap should take place after an odd number of moves, so that you alternate whose turn it happens before. With some experimentation, we determined that five was probably the right number -- it's long enough that you can think ahead on the current board configuration (each player having a move and followup that happen on the same configuration) but not so long that you can afford to stop thinking about the other configuration.

We found that passing counters back and forth (the three-move player giving the two-move player a coin with each move, for example) was helpful in keeping track of how many moves since the last swap. It is surprising how easy it is to lose track.

Finally, make sure that the pieces aren't going to fall over every time you pick the two halves of the board up to move them. Being schizoid is difficult enough without being unstable as well.


Written by Seth McGinnis.
WWW page created: June 30, 1997. Last updated: September 27, 2001.