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Zero Relay Chess

Adding the rules or Relay Chess to the rules of All Go Together Chess is a perfect fit.

Unfortunately, the purest form of the rules produces an unplayable game.

The Rules of Pure Zero Relay Chess

As usual, we begin with Rule Zero.

Multiple Occupancy

Pieces may freely move onto squares occupied by friendly pieces, and when a capture is made, all pieces on the square are captured at once.


When there are multiple pieces on the same square, any of the pieces on that may move or capture using the powers of any piece on that square, with the usual exceptions -- in deference to Mannis Charosh, Kings may not give or gain relay power, and Pawns may not use relay powers to go to their first nor 8th ranks, nor may a piece use a Pawn's power to promote itself, nor do Pawns give their power to other pieces.

Clarifications to the Rules

The rules as stated are extremely simple, but a few things should be added to avoid possible misunderstandings.

  1. You may move onto, but not through, your own pieces. Thus, 1.Qd1-b3 is not a legal move but 1.Qd1-c2 is legal.

  2. The power that is gained is temporary. Thus, after 1.Qd1-c2 Qd8-c8 2.Pc2:h7, the Pawn at h7 is now only a Pawn (it no longer has the power of a Queen).

The Pure Rules Have a Problem

1. Qd1-c2 is too strong.

If 1.Qc2 c7-c6 2. Qc2-b2 forking; therefore

1. Qd1-c2 Qd8-c8 (passive but forced)
2. Pc2:h7 Ng8-e7 (the other moves are worse)
3. Qc2-b2 Ke8-f8 (...f7-f6 is too weakening)
and although Black might be able to hold on and fight back (4. Qa2 Qc7!), this forceful opening does gain some advantage and spoils the game.

There are Many Solutions

It is necessary to spoil the purity of the rules to make the game playable. What one rule should be added?
  • To begin with, one could simply forbid the winning move. There are a few games already that restrict White's first move for the sake of balance, and they have names like "Balanced Zero Relay Chess".

  • Another solution is to use a different Queen, for example the Chancellor. This also works, but both this and the previous solution cause difficulties when you play with different armies.

  • Forbidding Pawns to use their relay powers for capturing is an interesting and playable game which I hereby name "Mild Zero Relay Chess". It is too mild for me; powerful Pawns are what makes Relay Chess fun to play.

  • Forbidding all Pawns and pieces to use their relay powers for capturing is "Very Mild Zero Relay Chess" and is much too mild for me. However, it is certainly playable and interesting and I know that some people would prefer its relative tactical calmness.

    Forbidding Pawns to use their relay powers when capturing an unmoved enemy Pawn appeals to me. Of course, they can still capture a crowded square (the P takes one of the other pieces, which also kills the unmoved Pawn). Therefore a P must be both alone on its square and unmoved to be exempt from this type of capture. This leads to another idea.

    Why not simplify the rule, and make any solo Pawn exempt from this type of capture? I love this! It's the perfect rule because it creates an advantage to being solo; there is already an advantage to being crowded, and so now we have a strategic and tactical tension between the two advantages -- this can only make the game more interesting to play.

    This rule might make normal Relay Chess playable as well!

  • Other possible solutions to the problem exist. Having found such a good one, I see no reason to examine the others.

The Rules of Zero Relay Chess

The rules of Pure Zero Relay Chess apply except as follows.

A Pawn which wishes to capture an enemy Pawn which is alone on its square must do so using only its natural Pawn powers.

Different Armies

Relay is intrinsically value-preserving and so you ought to be able to play it with different armies; however, themed armies such as the Colorbound Clobberers suffer from having too many similar powers -- you gain little from having a BD on the same square as a FAD.

The Clobberers, the Nutty Knights, and the Remarkable Rookies all are expected to do poorly in any form of Relay Chess.

The Forward FIDEs should be okay.

Sample Play of Zero Relay Chess

In this sample, both sides use the Fabulous FIDE army.

1. Qd1-c2 Bf8-g7 2. Rh1-h2 h7-h6

The interesting gambit idea 2...Ke8-f8!? 3. Rh2:h7 Rh8:h7 4. Qc2:h7 Qd8-c7 fails because of 4.Pc2:h7 Ng8-e7 5. Qc2-h7!

Notice that 1. Qc2 Bb7 2. Qb2 b6 3. Bb2 f6 is an alternative defense. 3. Bf1-g2

The idea of 1. Qd1-c2 Bf8-g7 2. Rh1-h2 h7-h6 is that after 3. Pc2-h7, Ng8-e7 and the Ph7 will eventually be captured; however, 2...g7-g6 was better.

3. Bf1-g2 c7-c6 Needed because Rh2-g2 would threaten Rg2:b7.

4. Rh2-g2 Pg7-g6 5. Bg2-f2 a7-a6 6. Rg2-f2 f7-f5

5...a6 was forced because 6 Rf2 f6 7 Rf2:a7 makes a new Queen after either 7...R:a7 8 Pf2:a7 or 7...Ra8-b8 8. Ra1-a2.

7. Pc2-e4!

The weakness caused by 2...h7-h6 now makes Black's game extremely difficult.

1. Qd1-c2 Bf8-g7 2. Rh1-h2 g7-g6 3.Bf1-g2 c7-c6 4.Rh2-g2 Ng8-e7 5.Bg2-f2 a7-a6 6. Rg2-f2 f7-f5 7. Rf2-e2 e7-e6 8.Ra1-a2 O-O

White's opening advantage is larger than it is in FIDE Chess, but it does not make the game unplayable.

Wild Zero Relay Chess

In normal relay chess, power is passed to defended pieces; for example, 1. a2-a6 is legal because the Pa2, being defended by Ra1, temporarily gains Rook powers.

The simple form of the game is obviously unplayable, although my new rule forbidding relay capture of solo Pawns may well make the game playable. Maybe Relay Chess with my new rule should have a name? "Limited Relay Chess". Sounds good?

Adding normal relay to zero relay produces Wild Zero Relay Chess. Note that all pieces on the defended square gain the relayed power, and so when a piece moves off a crowded square it may still give power to that square.

I assume without examining the game that White's initiative will be too strong.

Wild Mild Zero Relay Chess

The "Mild" form of the game forbids Pawns to make any relay captures at all.

Both Wild Mild Zero Relay Chess and Wild Very Mild Zero Relay Chess (no relay captures at all) ought to be playable and interesting games.

Wilder Mildewed Zero Relay Chess

I have no idea what this game would be.

Can you help?

Written by Ralph Betza.