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Feeble Chess to Weakest Chess

By Ralph Betza

These are forms of Chess that are played with the weakest possible pieces that are at the same time somewhat related to the usual pieces of FIDE Chess.

Rule Zero

The laws of FIDE Chess apply except where contradicted by the following paragraphs.

Pawns may not take a double step on their first move.

Pawns reaching their 8th rank are promoted to any non-Royal piece that was on the board at the start of the game.

Castling is not permitted.

Turning in Feeble Chess and in Weakest Chess

In all these games, pieces (and in some of the games Pawns) can turn, either 90 degrees (a quarter of a full turn) or 45 degrees (an eighth of a turn), at the cost of a move.

The general rules of turning are modified for these games: instead of automatically turning after moving, the turning is done as a separate move.

For example, imagine a Feeble Alfil at c1, currently turned to the Northeast (this is the position and the orientation in which this piece starts the game). It has three legal moves.

Firstly, it can make an Alfil move to the Northeast, in other words it can leap from c1 to e3, possibly capturing something on the destination square, whether or not the square d2 is occupied.

Second, it can stay where it is and turn 90 degrees to the left, aiming itself at a3.

Third, it can stay in place and turn 90 degrees to the right, which is not a very good idea because the destination square is off the board -- it would have no next move except to turn again.

Flipping in Weakest Chess

In Weakest Chess, a piece may either move or capture, but does not have both options available at the same time.

Instead of moving, it can stay where it is, and flip. If the piece can capture but is not permitted to make a non-capturing move, flipping allows it to move but forbids it to capture; and vice-versa.

Winning in Feeble Chess and in Weakest Chess

You can win the game by checkmating or stalemating your opponent.

You are required to move a piece at least once every 5 moves; you may not simply stay in place and flip or turn. If you have no legal moves at a moment when you are required to move, you have lost by stalemate.

It is illegal to make a move that repeats a previous position, and one can be stalemated by this rule and thereby lose. A position is repeated if all the pieces are in the same place, with the same orientation, and the same capture/move status, and the same player is on the move.

You can win the game by occupying the starting square of the opponent's King with your own King.

If 100 moves have been played without any captures or Pawn advances, the player whose move it is has lost the game.

Drawing in Feeble Chess and in Weakest Chess

The only possible way to draw is for both players to agree to a draw, because in the rules of these games there is no such thing as a drawn position.

You cannot win by Bare King; I decided not to use that rule because of the interesting endgame King versus King, which is even a bit difficult with Weakest K versus Weakest K, at least until you get a good feel for it.

Feeble Chess

Feeble Chess is not quite the weakest possible, but it has a simpler and more elegant set of rules.

There is no flipping.

Pawns have their usual FIDE rules of movement.

Both a Feeble Queen and a Feeble Chancellor are defined, which allows the game to be played with slightly different armies.

The leaping pieces and the powerful Queen or Chancellor make it possible to have slashing attacks with rapid opening development.

The Feeble King

The Feeble King starts the game on e1 or e8, and is initially able to move or capture one square straight forward. It can turn 45 degrees.

The weakness of the King makes the game playable.

The Feeble Queen

The Feeble Queen begins on d1 or d8, and is initially able to move or capture either one square straight forward or one square diagonally forward towards the center (that is, from d1 to either d2 or e2).

The Feeble Queen can turn either 45 degrees or 90 degrees, at will.

Its estimated value is one eighth of a Queen.

The Feeble Chancellor

The Feeble Chancellor begins on d1 or d8, and is initially able to move or capture either one square straight forward or one forwardmost Knight's leap towards the center line (for example, from d1 to either d2 or e3).

The Feeble Chancellor can turn 45 degres, and has the special option of turning only its Knight move or only its short move.

Its estimated value is the same as the Feeble Queen.

The Feeble Alfil

The Feeble Alfil starts on c1, f1, c8, and f8, and is initially able to leap two squares diagonally forward towards the center line (from c1 to e3), whether or not d2 is occupied.

The Feeble Alfil turns 90 degrees.

Its estimated value is less than one eighth of a Bishop.

The Feeble Knight

The Feeble Knight, on b1, g1, b8, and g8, is initially able to leap in the forwardmost Knightly direction towards the center line (from b1 to c3), and turns 45 degrees.

Its estimated value is one eighth of a Knight.

The Feeble Rook

The Feeble Rook, on a1, h1, a8, and h8, moves or captures one square Rookwise. At the start of the game it can only go straight forward, but it can turn 90 degrees.

Its estimated value is one twelfth of a Rook.

The Feeble Pawn

Moves one square straight forward, captures one square diagonally forward, in either direction, does not turn.

Sample Game of Feeble Chess

1. Ac1-e3 e7-e6 2. Ae3-g5 Ke8-e7 3. Ag5 turns left, checkmate.

This is of course the shortest possible game ending in checkmate.

Not Quite Weakest Chess

Weakest Chess is basically like Feeble Chess, with the major difference being that all pieces, including the Pawns, can both move and capture in the same directions, but not at the same time.

A piece that can move without capturing cannot capture, and vice versa; instead, the piece must first flip (as described above) from one mode to another.

The flipping rule makes the pieces basically half as strong as they are in Feeble Chess.

In addition, the jumping pieces are lame, and the Queen is a Weakest Ferz. With these changes the pieces are as weak as they can be while still retaining some relation to their usual powers.

The Weakest King

The Weakest King starts the game on e1 or e8, and is initially able to move but not capture one square straight forward. It can turn 45 degrees, or flip.

The weakness of the King makes the game playable.

The Weakest Queen

The Feeble Queen begins on d1 or d8, and is initially able to move but not capture one square diagonally forward towards the center (that is, from d1 to e2).

The Weakest Queen can turn either 90 degrees, or flip.

Its estimated value is less than 1/32 of a Queen.

The Weakest Alfil

The Weakest Alfil starts on c1, f1, c8, and f8, and is initially able to move but not capture two squares diagonally forward towards the center line (from c1 to e3), but only if d2 is unoccupied.

The Feeble Alfil turns 90 degrees, or flips.

Its estimated value is less than 1/24 of a Bishop.

The Weakest Knight

The Weakest Knight, on b1, g1, b8, and g8, is initially able to move but not capture in the forwardmost Knightly direction towards the center line (from b1 to c3), and turns 45 degrees or flips.

It cannot leap over an intervening obstacle: for example, it cannot go from b1 to c3 either if b2 is occupied or if c2 is occupied.

Its estimated value is 1/24 of a Knight.

The Weakest Rook

The Weakest Rook, on a1, h1, a8, and h8, moves or captures one square Rookwise. At the start of the game it can only go straight forward, to move but not to capture.

It can turn 90 degrees, or flip.

Its estimated value is 1/24 of a Rook.

The Not Quite Weakest Pawn

Moves or captures one square straight forward or one square diagonally forward, but of course in only one of those 3 directions at a time.

Its initial orientation allows it to move but not to capture one square straight forward.

It can flip or it can turn 45 degrees, but of course it can turn to only one of the three forward directions.

Sample Games of Not Quite Weakest Chess

1. d2-d3 e7-e6 2. Ac1-e3 f7-f6 3. Ae3-g5 f6-f5 4. Ag5 turns left Ke8-e7 5. Ag5 flips, checkmate. 5. a2-a3 Ac8-e6 6. e5xe6 checkmate.

This is, I think, the shortest possible game ending in checkmate.

And now to show how the weakness of the enemy pieces can make your pieces strong:

1. e2-e3 e7-e6 2. e4-e4 e6-e5 3. e4 flips; White wins the Pe5 and then has a powerful advantage because anything that approaches e5 can be attacked by turning e5, and so Black's position is cramped.

1. e2-e3 c7-c6 2. e3-e4 c6-c5 3. e4 flips, b7-b6 4. d2-d3 Nb8-c6 5. Ac1-e3 b6 flips 6. Ae3 turns left, b6 turns towards c5 7. Ae3xc5 b6xc5 8. c2-c3 Nc6 flips 9. c3 flips, e7-e6 10. f2 turns to e3, Nc6 turns to e5 11. c3 turns to d4, e6-e5 12. e4xe5 Nc6xe5 13. d3-d4 Ne5 flips 14. d4 flips Ne5 turns to g5 15. d4 turns to c5 c5xd4 16 c3xd4 Ne5-g6

The advantage of the first move is looks powerful, but that is perhaps because I didn't understand the game very well yet when I devised these samples.

1. e2-e3 g7 turns to f6 2. e3-e4 g7-f6 is an example of a better way to start the game.

Weakest Chess

The only difference between Weakest Chess and Not Quite Weakest Chess is the Pawn. I know that Not Quite Weakest Chess is a game that I like, and haven't really tried Weakest Chess yet.

The Weakest Pawn

Moves one square straight forward or captures one square diagonally forward, but of course in only one of those 3 directions at a time.

Its initial orientation allows it to move but not to capture one square straight forward.

It can flip or it can turn 45 degrees, but of course it can turn to only one of the three forward directions.

In order for the Weakest Pawn to change from moving forwards to capturing diagonally, it must flip and it must turn (this takes two moves). Whichever one it does first, it is aimed in a direction it cannot use. This is a little bit ugly, but it certainly is weak.

The Appeal of Weak Forms of Chess

Weak forms of Chess have a lower tactical complexity, which means that you can, and often must, think ahead a great many more moves than you do in strong forms of Chess. Because the pieces are weak and clumsy and slow, one player may start a manoeuvre that leads to an undefended Pawn being attacked 4 moves in the future, and his opponent may discover that there is no way to defend in time.

Weak chess can generally be played in the same amount of time as strong chess, because although there are more moves to be made there is less to think about on each move. The exception is when the time limit is so fast that without an increment there is simply not enough time to physically make the number of moves required to win a game of weak Chess.

Grid Chess is a weak form, and U-Grid Chess even weaker; and many people in the 1970s loved to play them, even by snail mail, when the cost of postage and the number of moves required made it an expensive game to play.

I have played a few hundred games of Shatranj with 7 minutes per side, and greatly enjoyed it; and I loved playtesting Demi Chess.

Feeble Chess and Weakest Chess (which already has two forms) are designed to appeal to those who love weak forms of Chess, and to take to an extreme both the virtues and the vices of such games.

I am proud of both games because as weak as they are they are both recognizably Chess, and I will be very surprised if anybody can devise much weaker games that are still Chesslike.

If You Prefer Strong

For those who don't like weak forms of Chess, there's always Tripunch Chess.


Written by Ralph Betza.
WWW page created: April 9, 2002.