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The 38 challenge

This has been over with for decades. This is just a historical record now.


In an email, on October 15, 1997, Eric Greenwood wrote:

I was in a creative mood tonight, so I just finished your birthday present for next year! Want an early gift? :)

In a later email, he sent me a chess variant on 38 squares, which he called Hans38 chess. His inspiration came from the variants which were made on the occasion of my 37th birthday, one of which Eric, I and two others are currently playing. Now, as I'm still 37, and I hope to become 38 on April 21, 1998, this may be a little early, but because of this, I had the following idea for a little competition.

The challenge

Design a chess variant on a board of exactly 38 squares.

The Rules of the Metagame

  1. To participate, you design a game that is a chess variant and that is played on a board of exactly 38 squares, and send the rules to Hans Bodlaender, [email protected], before January 31, 1998 (which is the third anniversary of The Chess Variant Pages.) If you cannot use email, you can also send them on paper to: Hans Bodlaender, [address removed].
  2. With a submission, you can, if you want, also include a few sample games, comments, etc.
  3. Hans Bodlaender is `first round judge'. Submissions to the contest that are not a chess variant, not a game, or are deemed unsuitable for publication on the Chess Variant Pages for other reasons may be rejected in this first round. Other submissions will be published on The Chess Variant Pages. Also, the amount of submissions per participant might be limited.
  4. With participating, you give me the formal rights to publish what you send (or in edited form) on The Chess Variant Pages, and its offline versions. Copyright remains with the author, and you keep the right for publication elsewhere.
  5. There will be a kind of voting, which will be done approximately from February 1, 1998 till April 1, 1998. The winning game will be announced on April 21, 1998. Everybody on the Internet will get a chance to vote. The voting prodedure may depend on an assumption that people are fair. (For instance, a page with some `vote' buttons might be made. One could easily win by voting a multiple times for ones own design, but that would be cheating; the contest is done under the assumption that everybody acts fair. Alternatively, I might try to make some filter in an email program such that voting is done by email.) All variants (except those `refused by first round judging') will be voted upon.
  6. The winner receives (if he wants) the latest version of `The Chess Variant Pages offline': most files of the website on floppy for offline browsing, and a copy of John William Brown's book Meta-Chess. Also, he receives the honours of being the `Winner of the 1st Internet Chess Variant Design Contest'.
  7. There is a second prize, which consists of the latest version of `The Chess Variant Pages offline'.

If you submit more designs than one, please try to make them really different from each other, and still keep it to very few submissions.

Mention games that have inspired you. Write correct English, and be clear and complete in giving rules, but you may assume familarity with the rules of standard chess. (For instance, you can write sentences like: Knights move like in usual chess. The purpose of the game is to mate the opponents General. Stalemated players lose the game.)

Additional rules

What else?

If you have questions or concerns, write to Hans: [email removed].

A question was asked by George Jelliss, (editor of Variant Chess): how literally should one take the notion `square', i.e., could squares also be cells? (He mentioned a chess board, consisting of two hexagonal boards each with 19 cells, which one get when the sides have length three.)

When writing `square', I was not thinking too literally at squares (in the sense that there are geometric objects with four sides of equal length and 90-degree corners between the sides), and for me, `squares' with a shape, different from a real square, i.e., cells, are also acceptable.

You can find more information, including the games submitted in the contest, and information on a tournament where the games submitted are played from the index page on this tournament.


Eric's birthday present for my 38th birthday was called Hans38 chess, and is not a submission to the contest. Eric made another submission to the contest; Ralph Betza also made a game named Hans38 chess, which is a submission. However, I'm hoping to turn 38 in April 1998.

Inspiration for this kind of contest was obtained from John William Brown's book Meta-Chess.

For more information, the submitted games, link to the `voting' page, see the index page of this contest.

Written by Hans Bodlaender.
WWW page created: October 16, 1997. Last modified: February 6, 1998.