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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2001-10-20
 Author: Bruce  Balden and Hans L. Bodlaender. Inventor: Dr. Ferdinand  Maack. Raumschach. The classical variant of three-dimensional chess: 5 by 5 by 5. (5x5x5, Cells: 125) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Jim Aikin wrote on 2001-05-14 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Raumschach is elegant in design (a good thing!) but not quite as good as it could be. The unicorn is far too weak to be a useful piece, and the king is so mobile that he is bound to be difficult to checkmate. I'm currently (5/15/01) working on these problems, and hope to have my new version ready for posting before too long. --Jim Aikin ([email protected])

Fearless wrote on 2002-08-01 UTCGood ★★★★
I like the setup, it's the most strait-forward, simple version of 3D chess that I've seen. However, there is a problem. The way the unicorn currently is, you need to have four of them for the same reason that you need 2 bishops in standard chess. Upon further investigating, you will find that each unicorn can only reach 30 squares (60, total) at any point in the game. That leaves 65 squares that they can never reach. As for using 4 color squares, that would be a good idea if you used 2 pairs of closely related colors, e.g. blue and green instead of black and clear and gray instead of white. This way, you can still see the bishop's diagonals. There should be 30 squares of 3 of the colors and 35 of the color that's on the corners of boards A,C, and E. Also, any given 2x2 square from any board should have all four colors (trust me, I've worked it out). As far as the king having too many moves, all the other pieces have added moves, too. Plus, there's more pieces anyway, so checkmating the king shouldn't be THAT hard. But other than the unicorn problem, it looks like a pretty good game.

Kaneda wrote on 2002-08-06 UTCGood ★★★★
I have always liked the idea of using the unicorn as a knight with an added dimension of movement. it's how i first imagined he would move instead of as a bishop with an added dimension. when my friends and i play, we use it this way because we find that there aren't very many good strategies that the unicorn can implement moving as a bishop. as a knight, we allow it to move in all three dimensions, one space in two and two spaces in one, ie. foward once, left once, up twice, or back one, right twice and up once. there are many combinations and it is much more difficut to determine where it will end up allowing surprise attacks to the uncautious. i haven't sat down and analysed any potential problems using the piece this way, nor have my friend and i encountered any. as for the king, we found it becomes easier to check mate if you cut out 8 of his moves, those eight being where he moves in 3d diaganols. this is just my input of minor tweaks to an otherwise great impemintation of 3d chess. the most fun one i've played as a matter of fact.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-02-16 UTC
While its straight-sided nature makes this game far better than the Star Trek one, the uneven numbers of squares are a problem, as is having only two unicorns. At least in 2-d chess odd-by-odd only gives a discrepancy of one square. Also, note that any unicorn can go to squares of both bishop colours and any bishop to those of all four unicorn colours. For a more symmetric solution, using only 3 more squares than Raumschach, see 4x4x8 by Alberto Monteiro (last before A in the 3-d index at time of writing) and my comments on it.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-05-25 UTC
Further to my previous comments, I have devised two variants compensating for Knights and Pawns being overstrengthened relative to Rooks and Bishops, and eliminating square-colour imbalances. Millstone uses a wraparound board, inspired by an add-on to Jim Aikin's Five Up (under F, not 5, in the 3-d index) but even more effective alone. Horizontal blocking of Rooks would be reduced and unblocked Bishops and Unicorns would always have access to 24 and 16 other squares respectively. To prove the end of colourbinding, a Bishop or Unicorn could reach an orthogonally adjacent square in two moves - one two cells forward and one two cells back, but the same way sideways. Haremschach arises from observing that the Raumschach King and Queen can move triagonally - an Emperor and Empress in my terminology - and there is no combination of two plain linepieces. There could be a version in which all linepieces are combined - two Queens in the 2d sense (Rook+Bishop), two Duchesses (Rook+Unicorn), and two Governors (Bishop+Unicorn). Pieces with a Rook move are clearly not colourbound but nor are Governors: consider a Unicorn move one step forward followed by a Bishop move one step back!

Matthew Paul wrote on 2004-10-04 UTCGood ★★★★
The Unicorn probably deserves a piecelopedia page, as it covers a fundamental direction in 3D. Although it might not be powerful on it's own, it's direction of movement (the so-called 'triagonal') can be used in combination with other pieces.

Anonymous wrote on 2006-09-24 UTC
According to Tim Sole's book 'The Ticket to Heaven', Dawson's column in Chess Amateur gave rules for a four-dimensional chess variant. Can anyone confirm this? What are the rules?

Abdul-Rahman Sibahi wrote on 2006-10-06 UTC
I don't understand where the pawn promotes. As I understand the text, a white pawn promotes when it reaches the 8th rank, the furthest Vertical Plane away from the army, making promotion all too easy. As I think it should be, a white pawn should promote when it reaches the row E8 (the row where black's king starts.) So, which is it ?

Anonymous wrote on 2006-12-25 UTC
The unicorn's weakness is certainly a problem, but I think there is a way to solve it. It appears that this problem affects any regular Euclidian field, and there is no way to solve it by altering the piece. It seems to me that any basic pieces such as the rook, bishop, and unicorn should have a 1:1 board coverage ratio. I have found that this is achievable if you use the Riemannian definition of a plane, which states that it is essentially a sphere (not including its interior). The only problem with this is that to accurately portray a third dimension in this space, you must organize spherical boards in a circle and define two corresponding points on adjacent spheres as being adjacent to each other. This is fine technically, but would probably only be practical in a computer program (not sure if it could even be done with Zillions) and could be somewhat hard to visualize.

Mark J. Reed wrote on 2006-12-28 UTCGood ★★★★
So is it possible to win this game without a Queen? I've tried all sorts of combinations against a bare king and it's just so dang mobile...

Abdul-Rahman Sibahi wrote on 2006-12-28 UTC
I believe it is possible. Not sure about the exact statistics though, but the bishops are very powerful. The problem in the Wikipedia article is a checkmate of a lone king.

David Paulowich wrote on 2007-06-07 UTCGood ★★★★

Regarding Charles Gilman's [2003-05-25] comment, Jim Aikin called the (Bishop + Unicorn) piece a Wizard in his 2001 variant Five Up.

I consider the (Ferz + Unicorn) piece to be another interesting idea. First reference I can find to this piece: November 4, 2001, david moeser made posts #976 and #977 in Yahoo chessvariants, suggesting the Unicorn in Raumschach be replaced by a Ferzicorn.

J. Fisher wrote on 2007-06-16 UTC
One way to avoid the drawish nature of the game and the weakness of the Unicorn would be to replace one with the Chancellor (Rook+Knight+Unicorn), and the Archbishop (Bishop+Knight+Unicorn). It seems that it would still be necessary to have a Queen for checkmate.

Larry Smith wrote on 2007-06-17 UTC
Check out Emperor Raumschach. It is a variant of mine which attempts to answer several of the obstacles of Raumschach. The Emperor piece guarantees a checkmate position. While the Herald(Unicorn+Knight or Unicorn+Hippogriff or Unicorn+Wyvern) frees up the simple Unicorn from its triagonal pattern. There's a Zillions implementation for those who wish to evaluate it themselves.

J. Fisher wrote on 2007-06-27 UTC
It appears that I misstated my prior comment. I was simply suggesting a sort of 'Capablanca Raumschach' that would be applicable to any variant of the game. The reference to draws is mere speculation that their frequency might decrease slightly in the standard game with the addition of another two more mobile, powerful pieces.

Matthew La Vallee wrote on 2008-04-10 UTCPoor ★
Yes, poor, but not Raumschach, itself. It is the game's preset which is 'poor.'.'*** The preset given on this site for Raumschach is improperly set-up in several ways. ( Here is a link to my only partially fixed version. Still, several of it's major problems are fixed.).*** First of all, the boards themselves are aligned incorrectly. The preset on this site depicts them in an identical array, side-by-side. Really, the squares on the second and fourth boards should be mirror images of the boards above and below them. Thus, the squares Aa1, Ba1, Ca1, Da1, and Ea1 should alternate in color, as should, obviously, every other square on the board with regard to its vertical file, and should be the same color along 3D diagonals. One needs only to look in the rules section for Raumschach to note the discrepancy between the example board given there, and the boards present in the preset.*** The incorrect positions of the second and fourth boards (or, if you want, the first, third, and fifth boards- it makes no difference) have many potentially confusing consequences with regard to all of the 3D movement of the pieces. The Bishops, and the Queens, when executing 3D, board-to-board, diagonal movements, are NOT color bound. They are so when moving on a single board, but, should either move one board above, or below, diagonally, they swap colors, and continue to do so top to bottom. Conversely, when a Rook moves along a 3D file it IS a color bound piece, and the Unicorn, which may never move on one board, 2D, is ALWAYS color bound, though in the original game, it is not. Even a Knight, when moving two squares, say, up, then over one square, must first pass through two squares of the same color.***The CVP Game Courier's Raumschach preset has another problem; the placement of the Unicorns and the Bishops are, here, the opposite of the games original starting set-up, and is, again, demonstrated in the rules page. The white Bishop on the square which, in this preset, is named Db1 (yet another problem!) should really be positioned at Da1, and the Unicorn should be at Db1. All of the other Bishops and unicorns should similarly 'swap' positions, as well. I'm not certain if this inconsistency should have a substantial impact on the game's play. Still, unless one is attempting a variant, it would probably be best to depict the game as it was originally conceived. *** Alas, we come to yet another problem. All of the pieces are placed exactly opposite of how they should be arranged. Here, the white pieces start on the E ranks, and the dark pieces are placed on the A ranks. Though one might consider this a technicality, if one were to, say, want to transcribe a game of Raumschach played on this site, it would make no sense to someone accustomed to the game's proper configuration.*** I am well aware of the difficulty involved in creating these presets. I have just completed one myself- Rennchess II, Eric Greenwood's new sequel to his awe-inspiring game Rennchess I. I need only finish its rules, and y'all can try it. I am also struggling with another preset of my own design at the moment, as well. I even tried to edit the preset for Raumschach, but was only partially successful. There were certain changes which were beyond my current capacities. I'm new at this. Yet, I do think we owe it to the inventor of Raumschach, Herr Doktor Ferdinand Maack (yes, apparently, that was really his name!), to portray his game as he intended. This game was invented in 1907! Few other chess variants can claim such seniority, despite Raumshach's often discussed flaws. It's a pretty darn fun, very challenging game- flaws and all!*** Finally, I wanted to make it clear that I mean no disrespect towards the creator of this preset, and, if I come across as snide in any way, it was entirely unintended. I respect that the creator of this Raumschach preset took the time to make a preset (and a difficult one, at that!) for a chess variant which has been, for many, a source of contention for some time.*** Would anyone 'in the know' care to fix the remaining problems which I could not? The other changes it needs are as follows: the second and fourth boards need to be mirror images of the others; the light pieces need to be moved to the bottom of the first and second boards; the dark pieces need to go to the top of the fourth and fifth; I changed the labels, but they ought to be put back such that they are read from left to right, once each side's pieces are moved appropriately; and, I need to be told not to write such long comments! Say, is it even possible to alternate the square colors of these side-by-side boards? Me, I dunno!

David Paulowich wrote on 2008-04-10 UTC

My Raumschach Revised preset has the correct alternation of colors on a (slightly wider) Raumschach board. I think I also managed to set up all the pieces correctly.

Please use my Person Information page to send me an email, if you find any mistakes. Later this month, I will try to get an editor to add a link on the game information page.

EDIT: Gave the new board the same green/yellow squares as Midgard Chess and increased the font size to 14. Got to thinking about an old 6x6x6 variant of mine and decided to post a (temporary) preset: link here. I don't know when I am going to find the time to playtest any 3D variants, but these two presets are not limited to their specific games - anyone can hit the [Edit] button on any preset to generate something new - you just have to rename and save your new preset.

Matthew La Vallee wrote on 2008-04-11 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
David, Thank you very much for fixing what I could not in the preset for Raumschach. I looks terrific! It is now exactly as it should be. Say, how did you alternate the colors on the boards? Can we replace the original preset with your revised version? Again, Kudos!

David Paulowich wrote on 2008-04-11 UTC

Matthew, thanks for getting me involved in 3D Chess presets - I have a lot of unfinished business from last year. I have already emailed an editor, changes should be forthcoming.

The 5x5x5 board is treated by the old preset as a 5x29 board, with four files 'painted white'. My new 5x5x5 preset has a 5x33 board, with double-width files 'painted white'. In all cases the square colors were locked into the 5xSomething grid. My 6x6x6 game turned out to be easier to set up.

Matthew La Vallee wrote on 2008-04-14 UTC
What do you think: better colors? in this one Clearly, this is not an important issue.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2008-04-14 UTC
They are too close to say which is better. In fact, depending on the monitor used, one may look better on Monitor A, but look slightly worse on Monitor B.

David Paulowich wrote on 2008-04-14 UTC

Using the Customize button, before sending an invitation, allows you to choose between Colors: 88AA88 FFFFDD (my colors for Raumschach Revised) and Colors: FFFFDD FF8000 (Matthew's orange). You can even bump the scale up from 65 percent to 75 percent, but that makes the board slightly wider than my 1280 x 1024 display. EDIT: Light/Dark squares also depend on your choice of Board: 10.01. or 01.10. My color scheme was originally chosen to go with Roberto Lavieri's elegant 'Galactic Graphics' pieces, in Midgard Chess. I may be using them in a 3D Chess variant someday.

I must confess that I have not paid much attention to PBM optional features, but I believe that the player receiving a move also has full 'Customize' options. Looks like the onlookers are stuck with the options chosen by the two players, though.

Alan Kopta wrote on 2009-04-05 UTC
I believe I copied a set of Raumschach design issues from this site, some time back. The issue of cell/cube/square coloring to help indicate triagonal line movers (unicorn/mage) reachable positions like the use of the white and black squares was mentioned but never developed. I just wanted to submit that I believe I have developed a board(s) design which permits indication of the diagonal line mover (bishop) and triagonal line movers. I currently expect to use my design to construct 5 boards using two patterns since the board patterns for the even boards/levels are the same as the boards for the odd boards /levels are the same. So for the game's five levels Levels 1, 3, and five have the same pattern while Levels 2, and 4 have the a pattern different from the pattern of levels 1, 3, and 5. But the same with respect to each other I have bitmap images representing the pattern of the different levels but was not certain if I could or should attempt to present them here.

David Howe wrote on 2009-04-06 UTC
Hi Alan, why don't you post your designs here, and we'll see if we can integrate them into the Raumschach page? Or you can email them to us.

David Paulowich wrote on 2010-07-08 UTC

ATTENTION: the 3-D CHESS FAQ FILE contradicts this Raumschach page with the following information: 'Pawns promote on the back rank of the opponent's end-level. White Pawns promote on the fifth rank of Level E; Black Pawns promote on the first rank of Level A. Dickins notes that in capturing Pawns must move toward their promotion rank. The '3-D' application of this rule means that a White Pawn on Cc3 can capture on Cb4 or Cd4 (like regular chess) or on Db3, Dd3, or Dc4, but not Db2. (Db2 is upward but backwards -- toward White's back rank instead of toward Black's back rank.)'

NOTE: I have a text-file copy of Bruce Balden's two newsgroup posts on October 8, 1990. I believe that he has accidentally reversed the pawn promotion zones and that the rules originally given on this page are also mistaken. Here is one reason for believing so. Everyone agrees that a pawn on level 'C' must either remain on that level or move to an adjacent level: 'D' for a White Pawn or 'B' for a Black Pawn. But this means that a pawn on level 'C' will never promote (according to Bruce Balden). So I accept David Moeser's pawn promotion zones (the starting squares of your opponent's King, Knights, Rooks) as stated in the 3-D CHESS FAQ FILE.

ALSO: my Raumschach Revised preset has the correct alternation of colors on a (slightly wider) Raumschach board. The initial setup and co-ordinate system match the game information page.

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