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Comments by James Spratt

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Chess for ThreeBROKEN LINK!. Traditional pieces, three players, on a triangular board.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2007-10-11 UTC
Hi, Jonathan, and thanks again.  It's not necessary to create a perfect 3-player analog for fide chess, but now you've got me stirred to perfect what you say is the best try yet (thanks again), so I might try Chess for Three with the Bishops color-bound, knowing that that is more correct.  Bishops in fide can only access half the cells on the board, anyway, and the same would be true in CF3. I'm wondering how or why I overlooked that.

As the rules are written up to now, with Bishops un-colorbound, they can both move as freely to any cell as the Rooks, and seem even more dangerous than rooks because of the particular geometry of the board's triangular cells--the bishops exit the points of the triangles, they are able to slip between even quite a few pieces that appear visually to have the way blocked, parked side-by-side, but don't really stop the bishop, making him seem almost like a stealth piece, and quite sneaky. Color-binding him would put a sufficient limit on his freedom to make a better analog to his stature in fide chess.

Your ASCII diagram, if you mean a move from cell A to cell C, depicts a Rook move, not a Bishop move, but I appreciate that you've studied it with some care.  I've field-tested my version of Chess for Three with a hard set in public with many strangers and found that, if they could play normal chess previously, they catch it almost immediately and it's a lot of fun.  If anyone cares to try it, a board requires not much geometry to fabricate from a piece of poster-board or masonite and the pieces are commonly available, being standard; just spray-paint a third set of pieces and you're ready to go.  Some highschool in the UAE asked me about purchasing ten sets; I couldn't see charging a school the price for ten collector-sets, so I told them how to go about making them up for their class and that it was okay to print out the rules. Haven't heard back how it went over.

James Spratt wrote on 2007-09-30 UTC
Hi, Jonathan: Thanks for the excellent rating and for your very kind comments. Your astute observation regarding the difficulty of establishing representative moves for rooks and bishops on the triangular boards brought to me an inspiration I should have had earlier, which is to color-bind the Bishops, thereby restoring them to their normal level of power in the heirarchy. All they'd need is a slightly different starting position, on opposite color cells. Anyone who wished could play it that way, and thanks again.

Besiege Chess. Double height chess board, where black is surrounded by white. (8x16, Cells: 128) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2007-02-27 UTC
Hi, Joshua: That's typical of three-player games, that the two weaker players will gang up on the stronger until things start to equal out, then it's every man for himself. I made a Chess for Three game (in the index here) using three equal standard teams, that works quite well, which you might like, and which frequently produces some of the fun phenomena you mentioned in your 3-way Besiege game.

CDA: Pizza Kings. Experimental CDA army, submitted half in jest, with pieces whose movement imitates their shape.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2007-02-10 UTC
Hey, Joe, no problemo. Yum, yum, eadummup! *urp!*

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
James Spratt wrote on 2007-01-10 UTC
Well, I think a computer chess program constitutes much prior human
thinking beforehand, so ultimately, it is still human vs. human, the
player vs. the programmer. Further, the machine or program is dedicated to
solving the chess problem at hand, not really to defeating an opponent, in
a rather cold way, because, having no 'life,' it doesn't really care if
it loses and isn't subject to the many distractions and self-defensive or
wilfully aggressive exercises of will that color human decision-making. 
The human playing against a machine pits some 3 trillion neurons against x
number of bytes, which would seem to be a huge advantage for the human, but
focusing enough of them while ignoring distractions of life via other
sensory inputs makes it tougher.
  Maybe a sensory deprivation chamber and memory wipe would help.

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
James Spratt wrote on 2007-01-02 UTC
Seconded!  Thirded!  Thanks, all ye Editors, and a special 'Hats Off' to
Dr. Fergus Duniho, Webmaster Extraordinaire, and all you other guys who
come up with so much interesting chess stuff, for making this one of my
favorite places.  Happy New Year!

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-12-27 UTC
No machine will ever invent a chess variant, or challenge a human to a game
unless some human directs them to do so.  So-called 'intelligent'
machines are merely reactive, not initiative, and won't do doodle-um
unless a human kickstarts them.  (Shades of 'the Matrix' and 'Y2K'. 
Ho hum..  We da man...

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-12-08 UTC
Well, hey, Joe.  How's the Chess Cafe doing?  No, I haven't forgotten
about Postal Chess, but you kind of lost me on the 'flip' thing. Is that
a Shogi thing?

Fergus, what's the number-letter thing below the box here?  A straight
routing to File 13?

James Spratt wrote on 2006-12-08 UTC
Mark, y' silly thaing, now look what you've done--you've killed the blog
for three whole days, bringin' up subjects like that.  It's enough to put
a feller off his supper.  Things like that are best ignored, I'm

Philosophers Chess. Chess variant on two small boards with usual and `philosophical' pieces. (6x6, Cells: 40) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-11-26 UTC
I'll bet, and whoever designed the philosopher icon has a sharp sense of humor, too. Canis pensatorus, et canis pensatorus illuminati. LOL, it's too true! Mankind's in trouble! Arf, arf!

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-11-26 UTC
Hi, Claudio:  Well I'm a little muddy (no clue) what a dev is, but I'd
say, if you're making a real set using it, and the one piece spans more
than one square, make the piece of a size to match the squares of the
board; if it goes a long way, say, over three or four or six squares, you
might make two and just remember that they are really one piece.  The
Elephant in Elephant Hunt Chess spans four squares, so I'd just make him
big enough to put one foot in each of four adjacent squares.
I usually use modeling wax to make the original models of small chess
pieces; the wax off a Gouda cheese (if you just want a little bit to
fiddle with) is quite moldable, strong and obedient--that is, if you put
it there, it stays there, and doesn't have a rubbery resilience, which is
irritating, and can be extruded into long, tall forms without flopping like
some soft modeling clays do.

James Spratt wrote on 2006-11-22 UTC
You're welcome.  I invented this method by trial and error and long,
frustrating effort, then came to find out, much later, that the basic
principle of the process has been known and used for about ten thousand
years.  If you want to try it and get stuck at some point, feel free to
ask me; I've already made most of the mistakes.:-) Good luck.

James Spratt wrote on 2006-11-21 UTC
Hi, Gary:  If you say it works, I'll take your word for it; I've seen
some of your artwork, and am not surprised that you get professional type
results with little sculptures:-) Sometimes hard molds are all you need,
and if you can do hand-finishing, well, okay.
I usually use a pourable silicon rubber for most molds, a rather pricy
specialized stuff, but the window-caulk works fine for a semi-stiff, tough
flexible mold, the advantage of which is the ability to make tricky
undercuts and highly detailed surfaces, and ease of removal when
For a 2-piece mold:
1. Lay the pattern on its side on a small, clean work-board, and build a
vertical plastalene wall which covers the bottom of the pattern and
creates a flat area all the way around it for at least an inch.
2. Use Klean-Klay (sulfur-free, commonly available oil-based plastalene
clay, never dries or hardens) to build an area of 'land' around the
pattern, using a small knife to dress the edge up to the side of the
pattern at a clean right angle where you want the parting line to be.
3. Use a blunt tool to make a 'ditch' in the area of 'land' around the
pattern, or push a few shallow holes into it; these will register the two
halves of the mold into alignment.
4. Brush-apply the silicon all over the pattern and the land; let dry and
repeat until at least 1/8-in. thick all over.
5. When dry, mix a small amount of plaster and make a 'mother' mold on
top of the rubber; mix it thick enough to not be runny, but be quick
laying it on, maybe a half-inch thick.
6. When the plaster piece is set, flip the whole rig over and carefully
remove the plastalene clay, revealing the pattern, now buried halfway in
the rubber, and clean the area well with a small knife.
7. With a small brush, very lightly coat the exposed rubber with vaseline,
then do the other half of the rubber, just like the first half
8. When dry, make another plaster, right on top of the rubber; you now
have a sandwich of plaster, rubber, (pattern), rubber, plaster.
9. Remove plaster housings and gently peel the two rubber pieces apart,
completely or only down one side, if you like, and remove the original
pattern.  Now you have a mold that you can cast almost anything into, many
times. Reassemble for pouring and rubber band around to hold it together as
you pour into the exposed hole made in step 1.

Dragonchess. A three-dimensional fantasy variant. (12x8x3, Cells: 288) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-11-16 UTC
Hi, DragonMaster:  You can make heat-free rubber molds of considerable
durability for many repeated castings out of simple clear silicon
window-caulking, available in tubes in most hardware centers, for next to
nothing.  You can also use fiberglass resin, sold in small amounts, mixed
with about 50% by volume inert filler, such as plaster or sand, colored
with a bit of carpenter's chalk, for the castings, also for minimum
A lot depends on the complexity of the form of your models; simple rather
conical forms are easiest, but once you catch on how to make a 2-piece
mold, your patterns can become much more intricate, taller, etc. Build the
silicon up on your model in thin coats, letting air-dry between, until
it's maybe 1/8' thick all over, remove it from the original like a sock,
inside-out-wise, and there's a simple mold.
You can paint the resin castings with model car paints.

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-10-13 UTC
Hi, Smilemaker:  Yes, it is permissible for a Pawn to promote to a second,
third (rare) or fourth (extremely rare) Queen upon reaching the
opponent's home row.

Aside, I remember a 5th-Grad math trick called 'casting out nines' which
I think was really trick, but can't remember exactly how it worked.  Are
you familiar with it?

Leapers ChessA Zillions-of-Games file
. Played upon a 10x10 field with all the pieces having leaping capability.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-08-07 UTC
Yeah, it does. Don't mess with this babe, she bites. (Doesn't grasp intermediate levels of force :-))

Game Courier Logs. View the logs of games played on Game Courier.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-08-07 UTC
Stephen, that's a great idea--if you don't make a move in 100 days, you lose. (That's a lot kinder than what I was thinking.) They should be included in a player's percentile rating, too. There's already an etiquette recommendation against unilaterally terminating a game; I think it's just as rude to just wander off and not bother to finish one. 'Tain't sportin.

House of Mirrors Chess. Mirrors and reflective pieces add interesting twists to strategy by making pieces appear in 2 or 3 places at the same time. (8x8, Cells: 87) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-07-31 UTC
Well, Andy, you gave the answer that I gave in a physics class long ago, and which I was told then was right. Gary, I think maybe the phrasing fooled you--'before you' rather indicating arms' length, or the range at which most people look at mirrors. BUT, you prompted me to perform a few little experiments, and I realized that the further away you are from a mirror the smaller your reflection appears to be, a la 'law of perspective,' which involves square root of H or square of D over something (does anyone know the formula for it?), so I suppose you're right, too; I just can't see that far, O Eagle Eye.

Three Handed Chess. Three handed Chess with special rules to promote 3-way play. (Cells: 96) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-07-30 UTC
Ha-ha!  One of my old Navy buddies and I were playing Chess for Three on
the corner of Hannah's bar one afternoon with somebody's 12-year-old
daughter who had wandered over to see what we were doing, and wanted to
play the game.  Not only was she a cutie, she was quick, resolute, and
absolutely brutal, and we two old fools, initially falling all over
ourselves to help her out, never even had a chance. Worst stomping I've
ever gotten. But ain't that life for ya?
  We played with three separate third guys, all named Brian, the same
afternoon. Blew 'em away.

James Spratt wrote on 2006-07-30 UTC
Hi, Jaan:  I made a Chess for Three game on a triangular board (in the
alphabetical index here) some years ago and had to deal with the same
issues, of course, especially what to do with a dead King's remaining
men.  I've found that the two weaker players tend to gang up on the
strongest anyhow, as a matter of survival, until one King falls, at which
point, in my game, his pieces become inert and may be taken by either
player as required to get them out of the way. My thinking was that for
the capturer to be able to recruit the captured King's pieces would
constitute an overpowering advantage which would preclude further fair
play, although a subsequent victory by the (now) weaker player would be a
very satisfying 'David vs. Goliath' feat.  So how often does the
disadvantaged guy win in your game?
 The shape of the board may affect the practicality of a rule requiring
mutual assistance; on a triangular board a moment sometimes occurs when a
Queen has both of the opposing Kings lined up in such a way that she can
take them in sequence, taking one and 'checkmating' the other. I think
that would be less likely on a board with square cells because it's
easier for a targeted King to duck to one side.

Chess Rules for Kids. An illustrated guide to the rules of chess for children.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-07-29 UTC
Hey, Fergus, didn't someone (heh-heh) suggest maybe putting some more color on the front page a while back? Like maybe a few rows of the prettiest boards, maybe strung around the intro like nautical signal flags, possibly including a random selection of interesting icons?

House of Mirrors Chess. Mirrors and reflective pieces add interesting twists to strategy by making pieces appear in 2 or 3 places at the same time. (8x8, Cells: 87) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-07-28 UTC
Hey, these aren't just mirrors, these are MIRRORS, of the
'DOORWAY-TO-THE-ALTERNATE-UNIVERSE type, except they read backwards, like
all good mirrors do, like, um, Chinese and Korean and such.
Q:  If you are six feet tall, how long must the mirror on the wall before
you be so that you can see your entire self without moving?  (It's
astonishing the number of people who can't figure this out.)

Rococo. A clear, aggressive Ultima variant on a 10x10 ring board. (10x10, Cells: 100) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-07-26 UTC
Those animated illustrations of how the pieces move are extremely clear and effective. Hat's off to Peter and David.

Poll number Preference Poll for Third Game Courier Tournament. Sign up for the 3rd Game Courier tournament by voting in this poll.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-07-19 UTC
Who WAS that Masked Man? (Da-da-lump, da-da-lump, da-da-lump-lump-lump! An' a mighty Hiyo, SILVER!!!)

Double Chess 16 x 8. On 16 by 8 board. (16x8, Cells: 128) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
James Spratt wrote on 2006-07-15 UTC
Yep, Double Chess is one of the best games I know of.  It gets intense fast
and stays intense all the way through.  Can't imagine it being nearly as
much fun in ASCII.
Greg, don't we have a tie-breaker to play sometime?

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