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Unreliable Delivery Chess

Or Delay Chess


Here's the story behind this variant, as told by Hans,
So, what happened was that I wrote an email to Ralph in which I told him that I would add a file, but didn't send it out over the modem until the next day. And in the meantime had added the file. Then, this was Ralph's answer...

So, in an email to Hans, Ralph Betza wrote:

You make a normal move, but delivery is randomly delayed.

So, for example, on your 10th move, perhaps your 8th move and 10th move both happen at once!

This game requires a computer moderator and doesn't make sense unless you play by email.

In order to win, you must capture the enemy King. If you try to defend your K against check, but unreliable delivery keeps your defensive move from happening, you still have a chance: maybe unreliable delivery of the opponent's move will save you.

Option: once every 5 moves each player can send one move special delivery, guaranteed to arrive on time.

So Hans asked me to make a web page out of this, and what follows is my attempt to "flesh out" the idea as stated above. It occurred to me that there are at least three general approaches one could take here:

1. "Anything Goes" Rules

A move is a particular piece moving from one position to another position. If a capture would have occurred on the move, it might not happen on the delayed move.

When a delayed move takes place, the piece, from its original position moves to the target square of the original move. This occurs even if such a move is no longer a legal chess move. The only condition it does not occur in is if the piece whose move had been delayed, had been captured before it actually got to move.

It's possible that a delayed move could result in the capture of a friendly piece (assuming a delays can change the relative move order for a player). In this case, the move still occurs, and the friendly piece is captured.

It's not legal to move a piece from it's current position more than once. In other words, if I decide to move my queen from e1 to e5, but the move is delayed by 2 turns, I cannot on my next turn decide to move my queen from e1 to d2 (or to any other square for that matter).

2. "Keep it Legal" Rules

As in "Anything Goes", except one may not make a move that renders any pending moves illegal. Illegal here means an illegal orthodox chess move, except for any check or checkmate rules. If the piece that is waiting for it's delayed move to take place is captured, then it's pending move becomes null and void.

Is it possible that a move could be made that makes a delayed move cause a further delayed move to be illegal? I don't know, but if there is, then such moves are also not allowed.

3. "Partial Move" Rules

In this case, the delayed piece makes its move by trying to make the move as best it can. So, if there is a friendly piece blocking it, it stops immediately before the blocking piece. If there is an enemy piece blocking it, it captures the enemy piece. In other words, the delayed piece tries to move in the direction and number of squares it was supposed to move, but if blocked will either stop moving or capture and then stop moving.

Now here are two ways to play the game. One by mail (or email), the other may be played by two players in person (as long as they have a 6 sided die).

Play by mail

In Play by mail, each player decides what the delays will be for the opposing player's moves. The delays can be from 0 turns delayed, to three turns delayed. The delays for every four turns must add up to less than or equal to four.

Turn sequence:

  • White decides a move, and mails it to Black
  • Black decides a move, decides white's delay, and mails the move and delay to White
  • White decides a move, decides black's delay, and mails the move and delay to Black
  • etc...

On each player's turn, they make all moves that are due to be made on that turn. Move order is up to the player making the moves.

After four turns, the delays that were chosen for each side must add up to less than or equal to four.

Of course, given a third party moderator, a random number could be selected for each delayed move instead of having the players decide.

Play in person

Turn sequence:

  • White decides move.
  • White rolls a 6 sided die and subtracts three from the roll (interpret negative numbers as zero). This is the number of turns the move is delayed.
  • White notes the piece, the from and to squares, and the turn the piece should move.
  • White moves all eligible pieces for this turn. Move order is player's discretion.
  • Black repeats above procedure.

Introduction written by Ralph Betza and Hans Bodlaender. Idea by Ralph Betza. Everything after the Introduction written by David Howe.
WWW page created: January 17, 1999.