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Betza Notation. A primer on the leading shorthand for describing variant piece moves.
Glenn Overby II wrote on 2003-01-25 UTC
Okay, I put up a page. We can continue the discussion over here. :) Question: How would some of you try to unambiguously describe the Horse of Xiangqi in Betza notation? nN is not perfect, because the Horse can be blocked on the orthogonal but not the diagonal. It's a question that has likely been solved, since the notation provides for things like p for the cannon. But I have not run across the answer.

Michael Nelson wrote on 2003-01-25 UTC
I'm revising my comments as I thought of a better idea: Mao would be [nWF] meaning moves as Wazir then Ferz in the same move and cannot jump. [WF] would be a synonym for N, as would [FW]. A piece that could move a a Mao or could stop on the first square would be W[nWF] (the Rhino from Captain Spaulding Chess, for example). A hypothetical piece that could move as a Mao only if the orthogonally adjacent square is occupied could be [jWF]. This would be useful for bent riders, too: a Gryphon would be F[nFR] (or F[nFWW]), while the variety of Gryphon that can't move a single diagonal step would be [nFR] (or [nFWW]).

Michael Nelson wrote on 2003-01-25 UTC
A suggestion for leaps outside the 3x3 range: {x,y} where x and y are the number of squares in each direction. Thus the Pegasus would be J{1,4}.

Moussambani wrote on 2003-01-25 UTC
doesn't n[WF] does it? We need a designator for 'outwards', as in the usual knight description 'moves one square rookwise, then <u>outwards</u> one square bishopwise'

Michael Nelson wrote on 2003-01-25 UTC
I prefer [nWF]to n[WF] as other cases might be amiguous. Compare [nWA] vs. n[WA] does the latter mean that the Alfil portion of the move may not be a jump? But [nWA] means that the Wzir move must be to an empty square, while [nWnA] would designate a Wazir move followed by a non-jumping Alfil move. I think 'outward' should be implied and we need designators for the contrary cases, which are less common.

Glenn Overby II wrote on 2003-01-25 UTC
I think that outward is the default usage within square brackets; the Rhino is simply z[WF]. I don't know about [nWF] for the Horse. Does nW make sense? I'm still mulling over how to define a long leap, short of using up more of the alphabet. The curly brackets are possible. Or parentheses. And I think the comma would be optional in that context.

Robert Shimmin wrote on 2003-01-25 UTC
Betza's Funny Notation has its merits, but it also has its weak points. It's great at concisely describing combination leapers, and OK at describing the simpler types of riders, but as one begins to contemplate the vast variety of fairy pieces (take a look at the glossary of Problemesis for inspiration sometimes) that have actually been used in games or problems, it becomes obvious that describing them all accurately requires an enormous supply of modifiers (far larger than the number of letters in the alphabet). As an example, just look at some of the modifiers that Jorg Knappen had to invent to describe the various crooked nightriders used in Nachtmahr. I have begun a time or two to formulate a more general notation, but every system I have come up with simply requires too much effort to decode. Quite simply, it is less effort for someone reading the rules to read a natural-language description than it is to decode a sufficiently complicated compact notation. The Funny Notation is wonderfully concise and easy to decode for the those pieces that it was originally designed for. But the ad-hoc piling on of modifiers can only be taken so far before it is no longer easy to describe or decode pieces, and I think it's pretty close to that point at present.

Michael Nelson wrote on 2003-01-25 UTC
Glenn is right, nW doesn't make sense. I propose that the n for the compound move be implicit, like 'outwards'. So [WF] designates a piece whose move consists of moving one square orthogonally to an empty square, followed by moving one square diagonally outward to an empty or enemy-occupied square. The piece that can make this move even if the orthogonal square is occupied would be designated N. If the orthogonally adjacent square must be occupied, then use j[WF].

Anonymous wrote on 2003-01-25 UTCGood ★★★★
Good, but when the crab is defined in funny notation you actually described the barc.

Glenn Overby II wrote on 2003-01-26 UTC
Thanks for the catch. I did get it backwards. It is fixed now; the notation on the page is really the Crab. :)

Anonymous wrote on 2003-01-26 UTC
Perhaps different symbols could be used for different types of capturing? ` short-leap capture ~ long-leap capture ! rifle capture @ mutual capture # 4-way sandwich capture ## 8-way sandwich capture \$ withdraw capture % 4-way intervention capture %% 8-way intervention capture ^ advancing capture & co-ordination capture with royal piece && co-ordination capture with other pieces of same type + mutual capture and explosion on squares a wazir's move away * mutual capture and explosion on adjactant squares and a few others: <> swaps place with friendly piece <|> swaps place with enemy piece <||> swaps place with any piece >< immobilises adjactant enemy pieces >|< immobilises ALL adjactant pieces >+< immobilises enemy pieces a wazir's move away >+|< immobilises ALL pieces a wazir's move away = moves to the opposite side of the board before carrying out move(a1 to h1, b2 to g2, etc)

gnohmon wrote on 2003-01-26 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
'Betza's Funny Notation has its merits, but it also has its weak points.' Well, yes. Why do you think I gave it that name? My primary goal was to create a notation that would be easy to read and that would be capable of describing many different pieces. In this respect, of course the funny notation was a great success. It is now almost a standard, and whatever notation is the next advance to supersede my early attempts will probably contain some degree of backwards compatibility. I wanted as much as possible to avoid the use of all the strange punctuations. This was because in my real-life career as a programmer for 3270 emulations used in hundreds of countries by tens of thousands of users, I was intensely aware of the variations, not only in standard 'national ascii' but also in substandard mickeysoft code pages. I eventually had to use square brackets [] but they often came out badly because Hans's computer would treat them as dutch asciii mickeysoft nonstandard code page. My earlier notation, largely unpublished, used more squigglies and angles and ^%\$#!()*& stuff. The ultimate notation, that will be determined by international committees sanctioned by the ISO (International Standards Organization) will of course succeed at describing the most common pieces within the ASCII code page, and the second tier of most common pieces within 8859-1. Unicode will be exploited to carry the possibilities to their ultimate. You cannot imagine that a work of this size could be conducted by a single person. My funny notation was never intended to be the ultimate, merely a necessary step along the way. I think that, as such, it has been a *great* success. Likewise, Chess with Different Armies. A hundred years from now, most likely nobody will play chess without different armies, and very likely nobofy will use the primitive armies that the long-dead Betza devised. (I do hope to be remembered a bit.) The golden age of chess variant development has only just begun.

Peter Aronson wrote on 2003-04-22 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
This is probably pointless, and almost certainly frivolous, but I have been thinking about syntax to partially describe promotion lately, and have a proposal. <hr> A pieces that promotes is indicated by an <b>=</b> sign at the end of its movement description, optionally followed by a piece description (what it promotes to), a set of piece descriptions enclosed in <b>(</b> <b>)</b> and separated by commas or spaces, or a one of <b>*</b>, <b>+</b> or <b>-</b>. <blockquote> <p><b>*</b> indicates promotion to any type of nonroyal, nonpawn piece that started play on either side of the board. <p><b>+</b> indicates promotion to any type of nonroyal, nonpawn piece that started play on the owner's side of the board. <p><b>-</b> indicates promotion to any previously captured nonpawn piece. </blockquote> <p> A <b>=</b> at the end of a piece without anything else simply states that the piece promotes in some (most likely obscure) manner. If a piece can promote in different ways at different times, multiple promotion strings separated by multiple <b>=</b>'s are possible. <p> This scheme does not specify how or where promotion occurs. <h4>Examples</h4> <li><u>FIDE Pawn</u>: fnWfcF=* -or- fnWfcF=(N,B,R,RB) <p> <li><u>Makruk Pawn</u>: fnWfcF=F <p> <li><u>Gothic Isles Chess Pawn</u>: fnWfcF=FfW=- <p> <li><u>Rococo Cannon Pawn</u>: gWFnWF=- <p> <li><u>Shogi Rook</u>: R=FR </ul> <hr> So there it is. Hardly complete, but that's funny notation for you.

John Lawson wrote on 2003-04-23 UTC
The first thing I see right off that I would change is the = sign. I think the use of a > sign would more clearly imply 'becoming'. So fnWfcF=* would be fnWfcF>*. Also, although you didn't state it, I infer the - for promotion to a previously captured piece means from the owner's original array.

Ben Good wrote on 2003-04-23 UTC
i'd caution against your use of = for 'other promotions.' = is already standard shogi notation for no promotion, and standard among problemists for stalemate.

Peter Aronson wrote on 2003-04-24 UTC
Well, if we were to use <b>></b> instead of <b>=</b> (as John suggested), we'd avoid the problems that Ben sees. But unfortunately, it is really easy to lose greater thans in HTML.

John Lawson wrote on 2003-04-24 UTC
OK, that's sensible. Are any of the various forms of brackets ), }, ], easy to work with? What about |, or ~ ?

JorgKnappen wrote on 2003-09-18 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
This is an excellent pedagocical presentation of Ralph Betza's funny notation as it is. Thanks to Glenn for this.

Freederick wrote on 2004-08-17 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I'd like to suggest 'a' for approach capture, and 'w' for withdrawal capture. These letters are not yet used, and they would facilitate describing Ultima-like pieces, which cannot be notated without this addition.

Anonymous wrote on 2008-02-22 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Brilliant! A real time-saver! I personally think this is one of the best pages on this web site! Tip of the hat, Ralph!

George Duke wrote on 2008-06-21 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Standard reference.

Anonymous wrote on 2010-04-12 UTC
What about making crosswords with Betza's notation? For example, there may be questions like this: 'Piece, wich was used first in Chinese chess?' - answer should be 'mRcpR'. Of course, it's joke, but interesting idea (i have seen somewhere crossword with chemical elemants).

Joe Joyce wrote on 2010-04-19 UTC
Might I offer the possibly sacrilegious comment that it's time to update Betza notation? As excellent as it is, time has moved on, and new pieces cannot be easily described using the current notation. Several people, including myself, have done some extension of this notation to describe our own pieces, if nothing else. Once upon a time, I would have proposed a project here to update the notation, bring it into the 21st century. I probably know better now. So I'll just ask for everyone who has extended Betza notation to let us all know what you've done, with at least a brief but thorough description and a link to the complete work. I would suggest that Ralph's prohibition on symbols can be relaxed now, as it's unlikely that even minimally careful use of standard typewriter symbols will cause that many problems on today's webpages. Was going to end here [many might wish that I had], but decided I'd throw my hat into the ring with notation I developed for shortrange pieces of varying complexity. I use this notation and associated icons extensively in my designs, having found it a very useful shorthand for this sort of piece. So I'm hoping that all those game pages won't have to be changed at some time in the future. And while I'm not overly optimistic this will wind up next to Betza's work, I'll give it a serious try with the following condensed discussion of the warmachine and its various possible moves: DW 0] Combine the dabbabah and wazir into the warmachine. The generic piece can be identified as 'DW'. This identifies the components without specifying any particular movement pattern. D/W 1] OR. The warmachine may move as either one of its components, that is, like a wazir or a dabbabah. D+W 2] AND (linear). The warmachine may move as either or both of its components, in either order. It may not change direction during this move. D +/- W 3] AND (nonlinear). The warmachine may move as either or both of its components, in either order. It *may* change direction during this move. D/W + D/W 4] And-Or (two-step linear rider). Our basic DW piece may move as either of its components, then it may [or may not] move as either of its components again. D/W +/- D/W 5] AND-OR (two-step nonlinear rider). Our basic DW piece may move as either of its components, then it may [or may not] move as either of its components again. It *may* change direction during this move. [D+W]/[A+F] 6] [AND]-OR-[AND] (compound two-step linear rider) The War Elephant. This piece may move as either the linear Hero, as seen above, or as its diagonal analog, the linear Shaman. http://chessvariants.wikidot.com/joe-s-strange-notation is the wiki page with illustrations and a companion iconology for identifying how the pieces move.

Anonymous wrote on 2010-05-09 UTC
I like this idea. However, i would prefer C instead L and Z instead J ('camel' and 'zebra'). I think, it's more memorizable.

George Duke wrote on 2013-07-01 UTC
See Betza's ''squigglies and angles'' of this comment, http://www.chessvariants.org/index/displaycomment.php?commentid=2466. Betza also has a Rule Zero, http://www.chessvariants.org/misc.dir/rule-zero.html, that was used for a few years to save unnecessary wording. Since the same rules get reapplied, Betza Notation can extend to entire CV not just piece-types, and there could become no need to use words for rules-set, just mathematical notation. Ralph Betza above is inviting someone to develop such system, and in fact Joe Joyce was one of the developers beyond the Betza Notation of this Overby article description.