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A Completely New Category of Chess Variants

In Chessopoly, I started off wanting to make another sort of Chess with a random element.

I stopped adding rules as soon as I realized that I already had something really special with "Pawns move clockwise".

In fact, this is, as far as I know, a completely new idea that allows you to play forms of Chess that have a lot in common with race games! Chesschesi! Chessenat! Chessgammon!

Now I want to discuss this general category of Race Chess.

Traditional Circular Chess

 . . . .
 . . . .
 p p p p
 r n b q
 r n b k
 p p p p
 . . . .
 . . . .
 . . . .
 . . . .
 P P P P
 R N B Q
 R N B K
 P P P P
 . . . .
 . . . .
The traditional game of circular chess can also be seen as a 4x16 board with a wraparound boundary -- a piece going off the North edge arrives at the South edge.

In the traditional game, each player has 4 Pawns going North and 4 Pawns going South. Using the Race Chess rules, all the Pawns would be going North.

This game is of special interest because 4x16 circular boards are periodically manufactured and sold. (I don't know if any are "in print" right now.)

8x8 Race Chess

 . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . .
 p p p p p p p p
 r n b q k b n r
 . . . . . . . .
 . . . . . . . .
 P P P P P P P P
 R N B Q K B N R
Notice that 1...d6-d8 would be Check.

This is an incredibly dangerous position, with both Kings exposed. Of course, Pawns cannot start with a double step, because 1. f2-f4+ K:f4 2. d2-d4+ would win instantly; but 1.Nf3+ is answered by Ng8:f3, and so it should be possible to play the game using the Fabulous FIDEs (but not the Nutty Knights!)

I believe this game can be played using the Fair First Move" rule, perhaps adding the restriction that neither player may give check before the second move (choose a number as you like, but I think "before the fifth move" might be the biggest you should use).

Strategical Contrast

You'll notice that there is a big difference between the two games I've presented so far. Although both are dominated by the strategic theme of each player attacking the other's rear, rather like the Caucus Race in _Through the Looking Glass_, in one game the pieces are sandwiched between two rows of Pawns, but in the other the rear is (rather indecently) naked.

Of the two possibilities, I think the sandwich is more interesting. The rear-guard Pawns are partly helpful, and partly frustrating because of their weakness. They are also partly frustrating because they prevent you from counterattacking the enemy front lines.

I think the difference between levels of skill in sandwich-style Race Chess games will be largely a matter og how well you handle the rearguard Pawns.

The Turning Rule

In Chessopoly, I merely said "Pawns move clockwise. They turn the corner as they reach the diagonal." I think this needs clarification.

 . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
 . . . . . . . . . . . .   3
 . . . . . . . . . . . .   2
 . . . . . . . . . . . .   1
 P P P P         p p p p   4
 K B N R         q b n r   3
 Q B N R         k b n r   2
 P P P P         p p p p   1
 . . . . . . . . . . . .   4
 Z . . . . . . . . . . .   3
 . Y . . . . . . . . . .   2
 . . X . . . . . . . . .   1
 a b c d a b c d a b c d
The idea is that a Pawn at a1.c1 (marked X in the diagram) must be going West. It can move to only a1.b1, or capture on only a1.b2; likewise, a Pawn at a1.a3 (marked Z in the diagram) must be going North -- move to a1.a4 or take on a1.b4

When a Pawn is actually on the diagonal, for example a1.b2, marked Y in the diagram, I think it should have a choice. The Pawn at a1.b2 can either move North to a1.b3 or West to a1.a2, and it can capture on any of three squares. As soon as it moves, it has crossed the diagonal and no longer has a choice about which way it's going, but it is also possible for it to capture along the main diagonal and still be in the choosing-zone!

If the Pawn at a1.b2 captures to a1.a1, it's on the diagonal but there are no squares for it to move or capture Westward -- so it really has no choice but to go North -- but then if it later captures from a1.a1 back onto a1.b2, it once more has a real choice of North or West.

After a1.b2:a1.c3, it's easy to see that the Pawn has a choice.

The Turning Rule in Other Games

The Turning Rule turns out to be new and special, too.

     r n b q k b n r
     p p p p p p p p
 T O . . . . . . . . o t
 C O . . . . . . . . o c
 A O . . . . . . . . o a
 D O . . . . . . . . o k
 K O . . . . . . . . o d
 A O . . . . . . . . o a
 C O . . . . . . . . o c
 T O . . . . . . . . o t
     P P P P P P P P
     R N B Q K B N R
Many attempts at four-handed Chess have used a setup like the above.

The Turning Rule could be used in this game. Would it make things better?

You should know without needing to be told so that this author thinks that the game shown above would be better if White used the Fabulous FIDE army, Black used the Colorbound Clobberers, Red used the Remarkable Rookies, and Green used the Nutty Knights.

3D Race Chess

I have mentioned that you can buy boards for 4x4x4 tic-tac-toe, and 4x4x4 is 64 squares -- a tantalizing thought, to use this apparatus for 3D Chess.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work, 64 squares just isn't enough for 3D Chess.

One thing that might work is to use two of these boards and play 8x4x4 3D Chess. Each player would have 16 Pawns (covering one 4x4 plane), and 16 pieces, something like

 r b n r
 n k c b
 b a q n
 r n b r   ==== level 1

 p p p p
 p p p p
 p p p p
 p p p p   ===== level 2

 . . . .
 . . . .
 . . . .
 . . . .   ====== level 3
and so on. I suppose it's just because I associate the dimension "4" with the traditional 4x16 circular board, but somehow when I think of this setup I really want it to be Race Chess. I suppose it would work okay if the two players had their Kings at either end and their pawns moved towards each other.

This seems like such an obvious game, you probably wonder why I didn't think of it in my big writeup of 3D Chess. So do I. I think it's partly because I was an idiot and partly because the board is so narrow that the Bishops have no scope, and at the time I hadn't thought about how excellent it would be to add the bouncing rule of Billiards Chess to small-board games of 3D Chess.

For example, 3D Chess on a 2x8x8 board is very nice if you allow 3D Bishop and Roook moves to bounce off the top and bottom (but not the sides or end). Even though I haven't suggested the use of this rule on the 4x4x8 board, perhaps I was unlikely to think about 4x4x8 when I was generally unhappy with small-board 3D Chess, and more likely to think of it now that I know small-board 3D Chess can be good.

Race Chess for Many Players

This would change the rules only to the extent that you'd attach the front of one board to the rear of the other, instead of going head-to-head.

If all of the players are crazy, drunk, or both, and if you adopt the rule that you may not make a capture when crossing from one board to another, it might be playable.

Hey! "if you adopt the rule that you may not make a capture when crossing from one board to another" -- would that be a good rule for the normal game of Chess for any number of players?

Notice that Race Chess for Many Players with only two players is exactly the same as 8x8 Race Chess.


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