By Ralph Betza
Tripunch Chess is a chess variant with simple rules: the normal FIDE Chess pieces are replaced by other pieces that have simple moves but which are enormously powerful.
It occurred to me the other day that there are very few chess variants on the 8x8 board that use pieces much stronger than the Queen, and very few commonly used pieces stronger than Q.
In Tripunch Chess, the Rooks are replaced by Reapers.
A Reaper combines the moves of Rook and Gryphon. Its estimated value is approximately 2.4 Rooks.
When I was about 14 years old, I used to take a long trip on the trolley car every Saturday morning to the Carnegie Free Library, where I would read a dusty copy of H.J.R. Murray's monumental "History of Chess", week after week, a thousand pages.
It was thus that I learned of the Gryphon, with which I fell in love at first sight; and of course I imagined the Reaper, a chariot with scythed wheels that cuts a triple path of destruction through the enemy ranks. I always wanted one, and now that I have it, how sad it is to find it is worth a mere 2.4 Rooks.
Take heart. The Reaper is only the second strongest piece in this game.
Bishops are replaced by Harvesters in Tripunch Chess.
Tripunch Chess replaces Queens with Combines.
The Combine combines the moves of Harvester and Reaper. Its estimated value is just about 2 Queens, or a bit less; this is less than the sum of Reaper and Harvester because so many of their moves overlap.
Note that a Halfling Combine should be worth about as much as a Queen!
Tripunch Chess uses Nightriders instead of Knights; the Nightrider, which is worth a Rook, is the weakest normal piece in Tripunch Chess.
Pawns and Kings
The usual Pawn and King are used in Tripunch Chess.
Because of the extreme power of the major pieces, the role of the Pawns in guarding the King is very important; however, with the K at g1 and Pawns at f2, g2, h2, an enemy Nightrider can check along the line d7-e5-f3-g1 -- and thus we see the importance of the Nightrider in the design of this game.
In addition, the Harvester, Reaper, and Combine all need some Pawns to move so that they can get out into the open. This means that there is no safety.
After 1. e4 e5, of course the Combines defend the e-Pawns.
Simplifying with 2. NNg1-e2 (attacks h8) NNb8xe2 does not seem like a good way to keep the advantage of the first move. Recapturing with the developing move Harvester f1xe2 prepares for O-O, but hangs the Pe4; and recapturing with Combine d1xe2 blocks the Harvester on f1 and makes it harder to Castle.
1. e4 e5 2. Harvester f1-c4 is an interesting move, as 3. Harvester c4xf8 would force the King to recapture. In response, 2...NNg8-e7 3. NNb1xe7 Harvester f8xe7 (attacks c4) and Black should be comfortable -- 4. NNg1xe5 defends c4 but looks risky. Perhaps it's okay, though, and in that case this is an interesting opening.
1. e4 e5 2. NNg1-a4 (attacks c8) b7-b6 3. b2-b4!? (prevents NNg8-a4, opens development lines for the Reaper a1 and the Harvester c1, and makes possible NNa4-b2+). This is a reasonable attempt at opening advantage. 3...a7-a5 4. b4-b5 Harvester f8-b4 (threatens b4xf1 which kills O-O) 5. NNa4-b2+ d7-d6 6. NNb2-d3, Harvester b4-e6 (or b4-a4!? and a4xc1 becomes possible).
In this position, White still cannot O-O and Harvester f1-e2 still hangs the Pe4: no advantage.
1. e4 e5 2. NNg1-a4 b7-b6 3. b2-b4 a7-a5 4. NNa4-b2+ d7-d6 5. b4-b5 NNg8-e7 6. NNb1xe7, Harvester f8xe7 7. Harvester f1-c4, NNb8-d7 8. Reaper a1-b1, NNd7-c5+ 9. d2-d3 (the Harvester on e7 attacks c4, therefore 9. NNb2-d3?? is bad) O-O 10. O-O, Harvester c8-g4 (defended by e7); no advantage?
The opening is complicated and there are other moves one might try. The game seems to be playable.
One of the delights of FIDE Chess is the dryness of the long-winded endgames, as the few remaining pieces struggle desperately to decide the result.
This delight is an acquired taste. If you are a chessmaster, as I am, you must perforce have learned to love the endgame; but if you are a lower class of player (and I still remember when I was one) you may find the endgame to be nothing but a protracted form of torture -- I know I did.
Therefore, it may be an advantage or a disadvantage for Tripunch Chess that there are, practically speaking, no endgames.
If you get down to a few pieces and some of the major pieces remain on the board, the situation usually soon resolves either to perpetual check or to checkmate.
The Pawnless endgame K + NN + NN versus K is said to be a forced win.
Torus Peace Bump Punch Chess was a game where the armies were given extra punch to make up for the difficulty of checkmating the King; and I suggested that Punch Chess could be played on a normal 8x8 board.
Tripunch Chess is "triple punch" because of the triple swathe cut by the Reaper's move; and "swathe" suggested an agricultural theme for the piece names.
The only way you can play with different armies is to play Augmented Tripunch Chess.
CritiqueThe pieces in Tripunch Chess are very similar to the pieces in Punch Chess, and in Punch Chess the reason for having the Nightrider in the army was that its movement on the torus board is so crazy.
Purely by luck, the Nightrider in Tripunch Chess is exactly the perfect choice to make a good game into a great game. Although the NN is the weakest piece, it is strategically and tactically the most interesting, with an importance that must not be underestimated. The major pieces are so powerful that a small weakness in the King's position can lead to sudden checkmate; and the Nightrider has an exceptional ability to force or provoke the fatal weakness.
One problem with this scheme is that the Nightriders may get traded off early because of their huge mobility; however, one expects that an aggressive player will try to retain at least one Nightrider.
Written by Ralph Betza.
WWW page created: March 2nd, 2002.