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Sosarian Chess. 12x8 Game with Capablanca-type pieces plus two lions.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Kevin Pacey wrote on 2019-11-01 UTCGood ★★★★

I've been racking my brain lately trying to come up with a good 12x8 variant (or maybe even larger) that besides having the FIDE army per side includes the Archbishop and Chancellor piece types (as Sosarian Chess does, here), with very few other piece types added as well. Eric Greenwood wrote on his ArchCourier Chess rules page that he couldn't make these criteria work together for him (on 12x8), to his satisfaction.

I've noticed that there are 3(!) presets for Sosarian Chess, each with slightly different setups. The one I prefer (as apparently does Greg, based on a comment in a game of his with Jeremy Good) is the setup with White: Q on a1, A on f1 and C on l1, with Black placed similarly; this particular preset is called 'SosarianChess' (no space between the two words).

There's also a setup that was unintended to be used (again based on a comment by Greg in said game with Jeremy Good), a preset that has 2 A's and a C (no Q) per side; this particular preset is called 'Sosarian'.

Finally, there is a preset with White: A on a1, Q on f1 and C on l1, with Black placed similarly; this particular preset is called 'Standard'.

The reason I prefer the same setup as Greg (to the 'standard' one) is, in addition to his one, in a comment to Jeremy (that the Q helps guard an edge pawn again, in the setup), I like that an A on f1 can discourage the Black C (on l8) from developing to k6, since White can push the pawn in front of his king, as soon as move one, if he wishes to. Thus the setup helps keep the Chancellors from always developing to the k-file by a knight leap, followed by an unfortunate exchange of these pieces on said file, which could be a waste of their presence in the setup.

So, aside from agreeing that the SosarianChess preset has the best setup, and should be preferred, I found the choice of Lions as the added piece type (compared to 10x8 Capablanca Chess, etc) interesting. I'd quickly estimate the piece type to be worth about 4.75 on 12x8. Its ability to leap 2 squares orthogonally (besides 3) comes in handy, as it can go to the third rank and still be protected by a pawn. Since it also moves like a ferz, it usefully guards pawns in the setup.

One thing I've been undecided on is whether to have some sort of fast castling rules (as in my earlier 12x8 Wide Chess) for any board that's wide - no one has recently commented on whether they like such a rule, but for my 12x8 variants so far people seem to have voted with their feet (unless some other features were unattractive, alternatively). Anyway, Sosarian Chess deals with this issue by having the rooks each one file closer to the centre, and then retaining Capablanca Chess style castling rules (I observed this from a comment by Greg to Jeremy, when I was seeking confirmation). Based on Greg's (longer) game with Jeremy, the latter was on the verge of actually castling at one point, and so it seems Greg's way of handling the castling issue may be fully feasible.

No one has played this variant in a long time, maybe partly because of confusion about what the setup position should be (a tidying up of the presets at some point would clear that up, unless there was meant to be a choice offered if players preferred). It looks like it could be a very fun game, albeit one with a lot of powerful pieces and kings that may feel insecure often at the start. That's in spite of the queen(s) possibly being a little buried for a while at the start of a given game, with my favourite setup being used.

[edit: Here's a link that currently includes the 3 presets I mentioned above for this variant (Sosarian Chess):]

[edit: Here's a link that gives all finished games of Sosarian Chess (regardless of preset used in a given game):]