The Chess Variant Pages




Kevin L. Scanlon of Vicksburg, Mississippi recently wrote of his variant of Christian Freeling's Grand Chess, called "Grander Chess"...

GRANDER CHESS

The rules of Grander Chess, a variant of Christian Freeling's Grand Chess, differ from the parent game in the following respects; all other rules remain exactly the same.

  1. A player wins when his opponent has no legal moves left, as a result of being checkmated or stalemated. In Grander Chess, draws can thus only come about in one of three ways: by a three-time repetition of the position, by agreement between the players, or by insufficient mating material.

    FIDE rules notwithstanding, many players and scholars argue that stalemate should be a win; positional immobilization should count for more than a draw. "I find the stalemate rule in Chess to be illogical. I much prefer the rule of Shatranj and Xiang Qi, where a stalemated player loses," states R. Wayne Schmittberger on page 207 of his book New Rules for Classic Games. Freeling objects thus: "Of course I see the point, but I don't think a win should be marred in any way, and a stalemate win will always have a ring about it of being flawed. Since stalemate will be extremely rare in Grand Chess, I fail to see the problem." The problem is that rare or not, it should be made a win in the interest of crafting Chess variants of maximal logical consistency.

  2. There are no pawn captures en passant. It is eliminated in favor of the original passar battaglia rule, in which a pawn on its fifth rank is unable to capture an enemy pawn passing by on an adjoining file.

    This change, too, makes this variant simpler and more logically consistent. As stated by Kenneth Whyld, coauthor of The Oxford Companion to Chess, "You might think that a piece could capture a pawn en passant. Illogically, this is not the case- it is a pawn's privilege." But since giving pieces the ability to capture en passant would greatly add to the complexity (and hence, confusion) about the application of this rule, that logical option has been ruled out in favor of the simpler one of eliminating captures en passant altogether.* "Now en passant, that really is illogical whichever way one looks at it. Either give the pieces the same right or abandon it altogether, I would say. Why then didn't I state the rules accordingly? Because I want to 'maintain the maximum resemblance to the standard game.' It's as simple as that," states Freeling.

  3. The Queens are centralized in the opening array. The opening array for White's first rank is unchanged. The opening array for White's second rank (from b2 to i2) is now N/B/C/Q/K/M/B/N. The third and eighth rank pawn positions for both sides remains unchanged. Black's opening array is completely symmetrical to White's.

    The Queens are more familiarly placed in the center of the 2nd and 9th ranks alongside their respective Kings, rather than by Freeling's idea of simply keeping them on the d-file in Grand Chess as they are in orthodox chess. Despite, as Freeling says, "A further correspondence between Grand Chess and Chess is that the King and Queen are on their familiar positions on the d- and e- file," Queen centralization maintains the symbolism of the orthodox chess array better, and continues to allow the board to be divided up conveniently into the Kingside and the Queenside. What is most "familiar" is the primary centralization of both the royal pieces. Also, since in Freeling's words, "The King's safety would hardly constitute a plausible argument in a Chess game" (for a castling rule), why then make the paradoxical statement that with his off-center queen placement "The pawns in front of the King are especially well protected, which seems a good thing considering the fact that there's no castling." Seems like "The King's safety would hardly constitute a plausible argument in a Chess game" for Queen decentralization as well!

Despite its admittedly minor aesthetic and functional flaws, Grand Chess is easily the best and most playable reinvention of Chess I have ever seen, unlike many Chess variants which strike me as interesting but abstruse mathematical diversions that will never catch on with the average player, because they are not basically "player friendly." Grand Chess, in my opinion, completes the revolution in the game's rules that was started over 500 years ago by some unknown inventor in the middle of the Renaissance. It is long overdue.

* If pieces were allowed to capture en passant certain cases listed below would likely apply. 1) A piece might be allowed to capture a pawn on the bypassed square or occupy it as normal without capturing; 2) a piece might be able to capture the advancing pawn normally or en passant on its next move; or 3) capturing en passant or capturing normally or occupying the bypassed square without capturing might be possible all at the same time. In addition, a line piece could never be allowed to leap over an advancing pawn from directly in front of it on the same file in order to occupy the bypassed square without capturing en passant. All these conditions are complicated enough so that piece captures en passant should be ruled out as a viable option.


Written by Kevin Scanlon.
WWW page created: January 15, 1999. Updated December 18, 1999.