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This page is written by the game's inventor, Ralph Betza.

Progress is Our Most Important Product

The basic idea of Progressive Chess is that White makes one move, Black makes two, White makes 3, and so on: the number of moves to be made at each turn progresses along a simple mathematical series.

Progressive Chess is a popular and useful game; especially when played by physical mail, when it takes a long time to trade moves, it is good to be able to play a whole game with only 5 or 6 postcards.

Three flavors of Progressive are in wide use: Italian, English, and Scottish. You can find Complete Rules in the usual place.

Unfortunately, Progressive Chess is an old and orthodox game, with the usual difficulties: there is an encyclopedia of openings, and there is at least one computer program that can help you find a move.

For the sake of variety, and for the sake of something new, I will present 3 new types of Progressive Chess that seem likely to be highly interesting and playable, several suggestions for other chess variants that deserve to be played Progressive-style, and a few Progressive speculations, that may be more interesting as ideas than as games to be played.

Progressive With Choice

The following 3 games, each of which can be played Italian, English, or Scottish, all allow the players to have a bit of choice about how many moves to play.

This creates a new element of strategy in these highly tactical games, because you must decide whether to play the maximum possible number of moves at each turn.

Progressive CambiaMarcia

Shifting the gears. Sometimes you go faster, sometimes slower.

Going faster, upshifting, each turn each player has the choice of playing one more move than the opponent just played (this is what you do in normal Progressive, where you have no choice about it).

Proceeding at the same speed, each turn has the choice of playing the same number of moves as the opponent just played (this is what you do in FIDE chess, where you have no choice about it).

Slowing down, downshifting, each turn each player has the choice of playing one move fewer than the opponent just played, but must make at least one move.

Hitting the brakes, in the types of Progressive where giving check ends the sequence of moves, it is possible to slow down the game by a large amount, simply by giving check before you have used all your moves.

Running out of gas? If you are stalemated, but you have already played at least as many moves as you must, and you can choose to play more moves, it's your choice whether the game ends with stalemate.

Progressive Piggy Bank

If you choose not to use all your moves, you can put the unused moves into your piggy bank and use them later.

In types of Progressive where check ends the sequence, if you end your sequence prematurely by giving check, you cannot put the unused moves into your piggy bank, but you do not lose the moves that are already there.

Optional untested rule: the only way to get money out of an old-fashioned piggy bank is to break it. You can put moves into the bank many times, but can only take moves out once per game.

Optional untested rule: banks these days impose a service charge on small accounts; you only get back one move for each two moves you put in.

Optional Progression

The players take turns owning the exclusive right of choosing whether to speed up the game. Using the privilege gives it to the other player, and failure to use the privilege for 3 turns gives up the exclusivity of the privilege. If you let your license expire, the next time you own it it will just be good for 2 moves, and after that, one move.

For example, after White plays his first turn, Black owns the right to speed up the game by playing 2 moves in one turn -- White cannot speed the game up, only Black can. After Black's third turn, if Black has not exercised the right to play two moves, then either player can do it (but whoever does it gives the other player the ownership of the speedup control). Let us suppose that White is impatient, and plays two moves; now Black has the exclusive right to speed up the game, has it again but not the same as before -- because he let it expire once, he can only keep it two turns.

The idea of this variant is that each player gets to slow down the game a little bit, but not too much.

Games Good for Progressive Play

Will you be surprised if I tell you that Progressive fans should try Progressive Chess with Different Armies? If you are surprised, you haven't been listening to me lately.

If you play a lot of Progressive Chess and haven't tried Progressive Chess with Different Armies yet, go away and don't come back until you've tried it. I mean it. Stop reading now.

I also have suggested that DemiChess would be interesting, and in fact I am giving a try to Progressive CambiaMarcie DemiChess even though I don't play much Progressive.

Naturally, Progressive Shatranj is indicated for the same reasons: combining a weaker set of pieces with the power of progression must produce interesting contrasts.

I would also like to suggest Progressive Rifle Chess. It seems to me that rifle capture in a Progressive game will be stronger than normal capture in some ways, but weaker in other ways, and that the result will be especially interesting.

Speculative Progressive Digressions

Normally, White plays one move, Black two, White 3, and so at each turn the number of moves is the next term of the series 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 ...

"At each turn". "Next of the series 1 2 3 4 5". Well,

How Often Do We Change Speed?

Instead of proceeding to the next term of the series every time, we could stay in one place for a while: we could change speeds once every other ply (but Andrea Mori thinks this would give one side too much advantage), or according to the ply number -- we'd have one turn with one move, two turns with two moves per turn, three with three, and so on.

This would really be N-ply Progressive Chess: when it's one move per turn, there is one turn before we progress, when it's two moves per turn we do it two times, and so on.

What Was That Series Again?

Instead of moving along the series 1 2 3 4 5 ..., we could use 1 2 3 5 8 13 21 ..., or simply 2 4 6 8 10 (Progressive Doublemove!).

The problem with Progressive Doublemove would seem to be that large numbers of moves happen before there is time to defend by exchanging all the powerful pieces, and therefore it is probably possible to analyze it to checkmate on the fourth turn. Progressive Doublemove Shatranj or Progressive Doublemove DemiChess are more likely to be playable.

Mix and Match

N-ply Progressive Doublemove: 2, 4, 4, 6, 6, 6, 8, 8, 8, 8, ....

This would be confusing, but probably playable.

Remember this is the "speculations" section, where the goal is more to find interesting ideas than to find wonderful new games.

Bye Bye

Thanks for reading.

If you play Progressive, be sure to give some of these a try: Progressive Chess with Different Armies, Progressive CambiaMarcia, Progressive Piggy Bank, Optional Progression, and perhaps Progressive Rifle Chess.

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