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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2010-11-05
 By Steven  Streetman. Spartan Chess. http://spartanchessonline.com/. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Steven Streetman wrote on 2010-11-12 UTC
This is the third of four parts on Spartan Chess: 1. Spartan Chess – The Dream 2. What makes Spartan Chess Different? - Waiting for the other Shoe to Drop 3. Spartan Chess – The Process 4. Spartan Chess - The Business -------------------------------------------------------------- SPARTAN CHESS – THE PROCESS I thought about a chess variant for some time and there were a number of considerations I had in mind. These included: 1) historical rationale, 2) asymmetry, 3) different pieces on both sides, 4) different pawns on both sides, 5) play balance, and 6) fun. When I arrived at the overall idea for Spartan Chess I added one additional consideration and that was 7) two Kings one side. 1) Historical Rationale Spartans vs. Persians is really all that needs to be said about the historical rationale. 2) Asymmetry In orthodox chess you can make a lot of equal trades. You can trade a Knight for a Knight or a Rook for a Rook for example. By design, every time you make a trade in Spartan Chess you have to consider how you are shifting the balance of power since there are no “equal trades”. From the start the “power hierarchy” of the pieces was created to enforce asymmetry. These piece values are still being worked on but rough values for the pieces in Spartan Chess are: Queen 9 Warlord 8 General 7 Rook 5 King 5- (the extra Spartan King) Bishop 3+ (plus 1/2 point pair bonus) Lieutenant 3+ Knight 3 Colonel 3+- Just after winning a game as the Persians one play tester commented something like, “This is irritating. I never knew where I stood, what trades to make. Things just aren’t equal. I think this is a problem.” I said “Yeah, that is a good point” while thinking to myself “He just won a hard fought game and is grumbling about the asymmetry. Mission accomplished!” 3) Different pieces on both sides First there was the consideration of what army to use for the Persians? It’s already done, the FIDA army is the Persians. The Persians had highly mobile fast moving army with such pieces as their chariots and elephants (rooks and bishops) and is quite regular and beautiful. I suppose that you might expect this after more than 500 years of development and play test :) For the Spartans I thought about achieving two goals; asymmetry and what I call “Spartaness”. In my early designs I used the Chancellor and Archbishop from Capablanca chess on the Spartan side as the Warlord and General. Thus the Persians had the most powerful piece, the Queen. The next two most powerful pieces were the Warlord and General. The next 2 most powerful pieces were the Rooks. Asymmetry was well underway. Next the Captain and Lieutenant were created as pieces to fight very well with their hoplites. They were slow moving, supportive and capable. So with two Spartan Kings, hoplites in place of pawns, and the minor pieces the Captain and Lieutenant I felt I had a good degree of Spartaness on the black side. 4) Different pawns on both sides The Spartan have hoplites in place of pawns. Hoplites are a form of berolina pawns that differ in that they can jump, not just slide, two squares on their first move. Six different configurations for pawns were tried before settling on the modified berolina pawn. The first was a hoplite that moved like a pawn and captured like a checker. That was quickly discarded. Getting the hoplite “right” took the most work. 7) Two Kings one side The Spartans have two Kings and their second King, based on testing, is nearly as valuable as a Rook. What makes the two Kings work is their situational check immunity, duple-check and duple-mate. These rules just naturally evolved as we realized that the rules being play tested just were not good enough. We tried total check immunity when the Spartans had 2 kings and we tried no check immunity at all. The first was somewhat OK and the second a complete disaster for the Spartans. The first game where we tried duple-check (if both Spartan Kings are under attack one must escape attack on the next move) there was very entertaining and dynamic game. The Spartans had 2 Kings, some hoplites and their two Captains marching across the center of the board. With no duple-check rule there was nothing to stop them on their slow path to promoting their hoplites. With duple-check the Persians were able to zip around both flanks and rear of the Spartans delivering duple-check after duple check eventually out maneuvering the Spartans and winning a still close fought the game. Further play tests proved the duple-check rules good ones. And this game seemed to underscore the historical point that if the Spartans let the Persian outmaneuver them then the Spartans should loose. 5) Play Balance We kept tweaking the rules play test after play test until we achieved at what we felt was play balance. The rules we arrived at were exactly the same as we final version except that the General moved like a Chancellor rather than a Crowned Rook. Fortunately Mr. H.G. Muller entered the picture and modified his Fairy-Max to be able to play Spartan Chess. We soon discovered from running hundreds of computer vs. computer matches that Spartan Chess favored the Spartans 2:1. Both Mr. Muller and I altered the major Spartan pieces, the General and Warlord in attempts to achieve balance. He tried them both as crowned and I tried making one or the other a Bishop + Dababa or a Rook + Afil and so on. Coincidentally we both tried the General as a Crowned Rook and the Warlord as an Archbishop and as if by magic equality was achieved. The last 100 games I ran with this configuration yielded this result: 39 Persian wins/40 Spartan wins/ 21 Draws. Mr. Muller had similar results. I shed a few tears over electing to make the General a crowned Rook rather than a Chancellor but play balance is THE BOSS. I bowed to him. 6) Fun I have had fun creating and the play testers have had fun playing Spartan Chess. I hope you have some fun too. **Interesting factoid from my research** Did you know that the commander of the Kings 300 man bodyguard was given a rank that indicated he commanded a cavalry unit?