The Chess Variant Pages

Capablanca Chess Variation

By Hans Aberg

Introduction

I have a variation of Capablanca Chess to submit, as well some comments on Capa Chess.

My variation has two differences from Capa Chess:

1. The new pieces, the Archbishop (moving as either a Bishop or Knight) and the Chancellor (moving as either a Rook or Knight) are placed next to the Queen side and King side Rooks, respectively. In Capablanca Chess these are put between the Knight and Bishops. The setup is shown below.

(Graphic created using Wim van Beusekom's "MacChess" graphics. - Ed.)

2. There is Enhanced Castling in use, defined so that the conditions for admitting the Enhanced Castling are the same as in traditional Castling (the King and the Rook must not have moved, squares in between are vacant, and the squares that the King originate from, pass through, or arrive at cannot be under threat), but the King can move to any of the empty squares between the King and the Rook, and the Rook can move to any of the squares that the King originated from or passed through.

The motivation for trying out the array (1) is to get the Knights closer to the center, where they are more useful, as from Orthodox Chess it is known that the Knights are inefficient towards the edges of the board. Also, Knights become weaker on a larger board. In addition, one should be able to play traditional opening developments, including Fianchetto.

In the Capablanca's Chess array, the two new pieces, the Archbishop and the Chancellor, are next to the Queen and the King. Capablanca is reported to have experimented with different arrays. It strikes me that he might have settled for this variation because his opening play involved the four center pawns of each opponent (i.e. those in front of the King, Queen, the Archbishop and the Chancellor), and not only mainly the two pawns of each color in front of the King and Queen as in Orthodox Chess. Perhaps only experimentation with playing games using the different arrays can tell which one is preferable.

The motivations of the Enhanced Castling (2) are to equalize the difference between Queen and King side Castling, as well as making the Castling move more efficient. Hopefully, more powerful moves will shorten the length of the games. The Enhanced Castling can of course be used in some other Chess Variation, like Orthodox Chess and Capablanca Chess.

Some comments on Capablanca Chess:

The book by John Gollon, "Chess Variations, Ancient, Regional and Modern" says that H. E. Bird had made an earlier variation (50 years before) of Capablanca Chess, where the new pieces are placed next to the King and the Queen. The book also reverses (relative the  Capablanca's Chess page) the Capablanca Chess board square colors, so that the White Queen end up on a white square in its initial position, as in Orthodox Chess then.

The book also mentions a "Chancellor Chess" on a 9x9 board, invented by Ben R. Foster, but the author is unable to reconstruct the game fully.

I made some suggestions for the relative strengths of the new pieces:

In the traditional system, the Queen is set to 9 pawns, the Rook to 5 pawns and the Bishop (at least in my Chess computer program) to 3.3 Pawns. Thus, the combination of moving as both as a Bishop and a Rook into a single piece, the Queen, gains a bonus of extra 9 - 3.5 + 5 = 0.7 pawns, or about 8.43%. If I add the extra 8.43% pawns to the new two-combination pieces, I get the following table.

  Piece Empirical Relative Value
P  Pawn  1.0
N  Knight  3.0
B  Bishop  3.3
R  Rook  5.0
A  Archbishop  6.8
C  Chancellor  8.7
Q  Queen  9.0
K  King  4.0


It is a funny thing setting a value on the King, as if it is lost, the game is over. But this value can be used locally on the board in evaluating endgame positions empirically.

In the Carrera's Chess array the two new pieces, the Archbishop and the Chancellor, have reversed positions. One might prefer the Chancellor on the King's side, though, because  the Chancellor is more powerful than the Archbishop, thus helping to balance up the weaker King's side material.