The Chess Variant Pages

The Fighting Fizzies

An Experimental Army for Chess with Different Armies

By Peter Aronson


I've been inspired by the recent series of articles by FM Ralph Betza (AKA Gnohmon) on Ideal and Practical Values to create my own army for his Chess with Different Armies. Since this army has been inspired by Ralph's writing, it contains pieces that were either invented by him, or inspired by him. And it is named after his favorite refreshment.

The Pieces

The Fighting Fizzies' theme is inventions by Ralph Betza, of which there are plenty. It is still under development, and might be a tad too strong (more on that below).

The Pieces, by equivalent FIDE pieces:

The Rooks: the Right and Left Single-Step Rhino

A single-step right Rhino steps one square in any direction, then, if the first square is empty, may turn 45 degrees to the right, and move one more square. So if it moves north to an empty square, it may continue by moving one square to the north-east. The left version is the same, but turns 45 degrees to the left after the first move. The right Rhino goes on the right, and the left Rhino on the left. Betza rated this as having the ideal value of 5/3rds the value of a Knight, which makes it Rookish or a bit more in value, depending on how you rate the Rook.

The Knights: the Gnohmon

The piece that started this, the fbNfbWnH. Or in other terms, a Narrow Knight plus forward and back Wazir plus a (0,3) lame leaper. A Knight-valued piece (its value is discussed in Ideal and Practical Values (part5)). The name is because . . . well, I had to call it something.

The Bishops: the Crabinal

The Crabinal is an absolute Halfling Bishop plus Crab (ffNbsNhhB). Half a Bishop + half a Knight = about a Bishop, maybe a bit less. The bit less is OK, since the Rook and Knight are strong. On the other hand, in the above referenced article on halflings, Betza notes that he suspects that a Halfling Bishop is worth maybe a tiny bit more than half a Bishop.

The Queen: the Eagle-Scout

The Eagle-Scout is a Boyscout (AKA Crooked Bishop) plus a Wazir (WzB). Since Betza rates a Crooked Bishop as 1.5 times a Rooks value these days, adding in a 0.5 Knight valued piece should bring it nicely to Queen level (or just below), and avoids the embarassment of a color-bound Queen.

While this army is perhaps a bit on the strong side, it is lacking in long range pieces -- the only one being the Eagle-Scout. I'm not sure if this is a problem or not.

Experimentation with Zillions of Games, for what it is worth, seems to indicate that the Fighting Fizzies start out at about equal strength to the other armies, but somewhere around the midgame start gathering strength, and end up winning most of their games. Now, Zillions can be a flawed oracle, and it is possible that rather than being stronger, the Fighting Fizzies simply are a better match for the Zillions engine than the other armies.

I do wonder about the balance. I suspect not so much the piece values, but rather how the pieces work together. The Gnohmons and Crabinals are, I think, very nice shock troops, and the single-step Right- and Left- Rhinos and the Eagle-Scout are good endgame pieces (the Rhinos include the Man or Commoner, which is known to be very powerful in the endgame).

The result seems to be an army that is stronger than the sum of its parts. I could weaken it slightly in a number of ways -- such as replacing the Crabinals with Barcinals (absolute Halfling Bishop plus Barc (fsNbbNhhB)) -- but I am not yet certain this is desirable.

Zillions of Games

          I have written a Zillions Rules File that pits the Fighting Fizzies vs the standard armies for Chess with Different Armies, as well as the Avian Airforce and the Spacious Cannoneers. You can download it here:

Written by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: November 2dnd 2001.