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Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-14 UTC
I think I first read this interview in the late 90's, not too long after it was originally given, and at a time when I was just beginning to create Chess variants. With the perspective of time and experience, I have new appreciation for some of the advice Ralph Betza gave for creating Chess variants.
In order to come up with something really new, you have to know what's been done before

Some of my games are similar to earlier ones I didn't know about when I created them. Cavalier Chess is similar to Cavalry Chess, Fusion Chess is similar to Confederate Chess, Assimilation Chess is similar to Absorption Chess, Hex Shogi was preceded by George Dekle Sr's HexShogi, Wormhole Chess uses the same idea as Chesire Cat Chess, and one of my earliest variants, Duniho's Capablanca Variation, uses a mirror image of the opening array in Carrera's Chess. Except for the last one, I was fortunate that they weren't too similar to previous games.

in order to come up with something really good, you have to try -- and then perhaps learn from what you did -- and then try another one.

Many of my best games (at least by my own estimation) are based on previous games I created or were preceded by earlier versions that didn't work out as well. Grand Cavalier Chess is based on Cavalier Chess. Eurasian Chess is based on Yang Qi. Thunder Chess is a hybrid of Fusion Chess, Metamorph Chess, and Assimilation Chess, and it was preceded by dual hybrids of these three games. Kamikaze Mortal Shogi (developed in collaboration with Roberto Lavieri) was immediately preceded by Mortal Shogi (also in collaboration with Roberto), which was inspired by my earlier game Mortal Chessgi. Hex Shogi 91 and Hex Shogi 81 were both preceded by Hex Shogi 41 and an earlier version of Hex Shogi 81. Storm the Ivory Tower went through successive versions, including the aborted Sycophant Chess and a previous release of the game. Interdependent Chess began with the idea of using negative pieces and evolved into a different game. Caissa Britannia began with a theme that I didn't fully work out for a few more years. Earlier attempts at the game didn't work out as well as the current version does. This experience tells me that the best games don't usually come out fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. It takes time, and it takes trial and error to come up with some of the really good games.

once you have managed to invent a good new game, do not imagine that it will make you rich and famous, do not mortgage your cat in order to raise money to manufacture and sell sets and boards for your game, and do not expect that everybody in the world will immediately stop playing FIDE Chess and start playing your game instead. (It may happen, but it will take some time.) Above all, do not spam every chess-related newsgroup saying that 'Chess is Dead long live my new game' -- it's been done.

I've never seen this work out too well for anyone. Omega Chess may be doing fine, but I don't think its inventor has gone to the extreme warned against here.

you might need an answer you can use when people ask you 'if inventing a great new chess variant won't make you rich and famous, why do it?'
The classical answer is 'if you have to ask, you'll never understand'.

Perhaps so. It is a question I have never had to ask myself.


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