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This item is a reference work
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2002-06-28
 By Ralph  Betza. Rule Zero. A base or starting rule set for most Chess variants.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Jianying Ji wrote on 2002-06-28 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Absolutely a must read for formalizing variants. Will definitely be one of my references for my variants in the future, and will safe a lot of typing too :-) now that I can just refer to Rule zero

gnohmon wrote on 2002-06-29 UTC
'Now that I can just refer to reule zero' is of course the point of it, and I'm glad you like it. I probably left out a rule or two or ten that should be in. Feel free to add.

Tomas Forsman wrote on 2002-06-29 UTCPoor ★
The idea is great. Most of these are explained over and over. Add more rules to it and it will go from Poor to Excellent in no time. This deserves more work put in to it. Tomas Forsman

gnohmon wrote on 2002-06-30 UTC
I could only think of so many rules that were common to lots of chess variants. Perhaps T Forsman in his vast wisdom could suggest others.

Tomas Forsman wrote on 2002-06-30 UTC
I don't know about any vast wisdom but on the top of my head I can think about a couple of things you could add. 3d notation tiles vs. points winning by killing all or some of the other players pieces winning by reaching a point on the board pass allowed vs. not allowed shared pieces progressive turns I'm sure you can think of more or find more by browsing around. I think the idea is great and very usefull when making the rules for the site. I hope you keep working on it. With high respect and regards Tomas Forsman

Jianying Ji wrote on 2002-06-30 UTC
Then along these line one can establish a notation for describing the rule set of chess variants, in a similar spirit as Ralph Betza's Funny notation for pieces. And if we have that, then we can have a Funny variant notation to zillions translator, from that we can have a program that spits out random variants to play. Whether this is good or not is in the mind of the bethinker

John Lawson wrote on 2002-07-01 UTC
You could define a handful of basic rule sets that would apply to most chess variants, differing in such things as the effects of stalemate, or repetition. They could then be codified as Rule 0.1, Rule 0.2, etc., but that rather defeats the whole purpose of a Rule Zero, which I understand to be the irreducible minimum that most chess variants have in common. It is also possible to say, 'Rule Zero applies, except for...'

SBlkWlf wrote on 2002-07-01 UTC
i don't know that this is really practical, or any more practical than simply stating what specific rule changes from FIDE a particular variant has on the page of it's original listing. Isn't FIDE Rule Zero enough? Also, along the lines of Thomas's sugesstion, a more useful compilation might prove to be a Zillions scripted Piececlopedia. Considering the wealth of work Ralph's done, surely by now most of the more common pieces are presently defined in zrf terms somewhere. Now THAT would be a time saver! Instead of hunting through endless variants to see how a certain piece might be defined, have all of them gathered in one file that could be copy/cut/pasted from into a new variant. We could even have a user rating as to which specific manner of scripting a certain piece proved to be the most effective; additionaly things like castling under all the variously described conditions could be included also. IMHO.

SBlkWlf wrote on 2002-07-02 UTC
Sorry, that would be more in line with Ji or Lawson's points, i should say. -S.-

Mike Nelson wrote on 2002-07-02 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
The castling rule might not quite be sufficient. While it is simple enough, there are some cases to consider: 1. The rule as stated is fine for a simple colorbound piece such as a bishop. The bishop moves a-file to c-file -- a square of the same color that it could reach by legal moves on an empty board. 2. What about an alfil starting on a1? It could never reach c1--but it can by castling. Similarly a wide half-knight (hN) on a1 could never reach c1, even though it is not 'colorbound' (but can't reach all 64 squares).

gnohmon wrote on 2002-07-03 UTC
Mike Nelson says 'The castling rule might not quite be sufficient.' This is an excellent and well-considered observation. It makes me very happy to see somebody new contribute such fine thoughts. However, this is only intended to be rule zero. If you design a game where you have a piece ADsNfbW which starts in the corner, you are expected to notice whether or not Rule Zero gives an appropriate definition for Castling with it. Also, for example, I am currently working out a game where the board contains 16 neutral pieces -- each of which covers a 4x4 area as in Grid Chess -- which the players may move after their normal move, a multipart move similar to Avalanche Chess. Rule Zero defines two things about this game that I intend to specify anyway -- I intend to say specifically that rule zero applies in two situations in order to avoid any possible doubt or confusion. In this case, rule zero will serve not so much to save typing as to reassure the reader of the game that the rules are familiar! I have always tried to point out whenever possible that I am using rules that are merely the standard FIDE rules extended by interpretation to cover a new situation; for example, promotion to any piece (except P or K) in either army (that's what happens in the FIDE rules, right?). And the reason for pointing this out was to reassure the player that very few new rules need be learned for the game. (((of course, my last few games have been very much cucina bolognese, very rich and with many ingredients; but hey, we go through phases in our creativity.)))

gnohmon wrote on 2002-07-03 UTC
SBlkWlf says 'isn't fide rule zero enough?' My answer is that I have been feeling the need for an extened rule zero for quite a while. There are certain situations that have often arisen in games that I have designed, and the resolution has often been to use the same rules as some other familiar chess variant. The rule zero file that I have written is biased towards the ingredients that I have most often or most recently used in my own variants. Other chess variant designers may prefer a different mix of ingredients, and may wish to add some paragraphs to rule zero for this reason. For example, I have always loved Cylindrical Chess; not so much as a game to be played, although of course I have often played it, but rather as a basic archetypical rule. One of the rules of Cylindrical Chess is that one may not move a Rook (no other piece can do this) from a1 to a1 (via h1, crossing the border). I also love a piece called the Rose, although I have never played a game using one against a real opponent. There is a rule that a Rose may not move from e1 to e1 (e1-g2-h4-g6-e7-c6-b4-c2-e1). I combined these in rule zero as a general principle. Nothing prevents you from making up a game where every piece has some sort of null move and is permitted to play it! the idea of rule zero is that usually the rules should prevent null moves. Usually. In fact, one of the benefits of rule zero is that somebody will make up a game that violates everything in rule zero!

gnohmon wrote on 2002-07-03 UTC
By the way, I never expected this page to get so many commnts!

Mike Nelson wrote on 2002-07-03 UTC
I agree with Ralph on castling--if his colorbound rule isn't sufficient, the game designer should spell it out. Here is a proposed general castling rule for 'build your own army' type variants in which the designer can't know what piece will be in the corner: The King can Castle with whatever piece is in the corner, even though that piece is not a Rook, and of course the usual restrictions and rules on Castling apply. Definition: a 'possible square' for a piece is a square it could reach by a series of one or more moves on an empty board, disregarding special moves such as castling, pawn promotion, etc. Castling kingside uses the first rule which results in the corner piece moving to a possible square. 1. King to g-file, corner piece to f-file. (Normal castling) 2. King to h-file, corner piece to g-file. 3. King to g-file, corner piece to e-file. 4. King to g-file, corner piece to d-file. 5. king to g-file, corner piece to c-file. 6. King to g-file, corner piece to b-file. 7. King to g-file, corner piece to a-file. If none of these rules apply, castling kingside is not allowed. Castling queenside uses the first rule which results in the corner piece moving to a possible square. 1. King to c-file, corner piece to d-file. (Normal castling) 2. King to b-file, corner piece to c-file. 3. King to a-file, corner piece to b-file. 4. King to c-file, corner piece to e-file. 5. king to c-file, corner piece to f-file. 6. King to c-file, corner piece to g-file. 7. King to c-file, corner piece to h-file. If none of these rules apply, castling queenside is not allowed. (The concept: if normal castling is not allowed, we try shortening the corner piece's move and put the King next to it; if this also doesn't work, we try lengthening the corner piece's move and put the King on its normal castling square.)

gnohmon wrote on 2002-07-04 UTC
'Here is a proposed general castling rule' ... this is very good in its way, but the real question is whether we want rule zero to get so big and detailed. I'm not so sure, undecided, iffy, on the fence. Rule Zero should be considered community property. It's not my personal file or project; I kicked it off because we needed it, but from now on it should be maintained and updated by consensus of the chess variant community.

JorgKnappen wrote on 2002-07-04 UTCGood ★★★★
I want to coment on the rule 'When stalemate wins, repetition of positions is forbidden'. This rule is known to Go players as Superko rule. Alltho it is implemented in some official Go rule sets (e.g. for New Sealand) it is considered problematic. The reason is that humans are not good in tracing repeated positions except in the most simple cases. In my opinion the FIDE rules are perfectly right: One can claim draw on repeated position, but there is no automatic consequence. A superko rule theoretically rules out a draw (or in Go terms: a no result), but in chess there are just too many positions available to eliminate draws effectively in play between humans.

gnohmon wrote on 2002-07-05 UTC
> [snip] Superko [snip] problematic [snip] You are absolutely correct! I have thought about it being problematic, but in the pressure of other thoughts that have needed to be written down, I have not thought about it enough. Let me suggest this addition: 'In games where repetition is forbidden, it may be difficult to see that the position has been repeated when the repetition is not immediate. For this reason there must be a rule that specifies what happens if a player mistakenly plays the forbidden move of repeating the position. First of all, in all circumstances there is no penalty and the forbidden move becomes a legal move if the opponent fails to point out the repetition before making a reply to the forbidden move. When a forbidden repetition is pointed out, in a tournament game the player who played the forbidden repetition has lost the game; but in a friendly game, the offender is merely required to play a different move.' Consensus?

Anonymous wrote on 2002-08-24 UTC
Ralph, I would be interested in your reasoning on why repetition should be forbidden if stalemate is an objective? Does that also imply that the 50-move rule should be a win? (As you have stipulated for Weakest Chess, changing it to 100 moves because of the weakness of the pieces.) Taking these together, it does eliminate all draws, but is there a necessary connection between stalemate=win and no draws? In Shatranj, stalemate was a win but draws were possible. Modern chess changed stalemate to a draw, perhaps with a view to punishing inferior endgame play--many stalemates occur in positions where the stonger force could have checkmated with better play. Hypothetically, the primordial (pre-Chaturanga) chess had capturing the King as its objective. Then players found the winning by oversight when the opponent failed to protect his King against threatened capture or exposed his King to capture wasn't rewarding, so the rules of check were invented. A player could not expose his King to capture or leave it exposed to capture, if he had any alternative. Then the absence of moves relieving the threat of capture was defined as the objective and the final capture of the King was omitted--thus checkmate was defined. The absence of alternatives concept is equally applicable to stalemate, in this case the absence of moves which don't expose one's King to capture. So by the same logic, stalemate is a win--both checkmate and stalemate involve taking away the opponent's alternatives to allowing his King to be captured. [Is there any possible stalemated position where the illegality of exposing one's King to check is not a factor?]

Joseph DiMuro wrote on 2002-08-24 UTC
In response to the last comment: [Is there any possible stalemated position where the illegality of exposing one's King to check is not a factor?] This is the simplest one I can think of: White King h8; White Rook h7; White Bishop h6; White Pawns on e7, g7, and h7; Black King e8. ::::kBRK ::::P:PP :::::::: :::::::: :::::::: :::::::: :::::::: :::::::: (sorry for the ugly diagram) White is stalemated, but not because it is illegal to move into check (the king has no moves regardless).

Joseph DiMuro wrote on 2002-08-25 UTC
That should be Rook g8, Bishop f8, of course. (Man, what a brain cramp that was :-D)

Mike Nelson wrote on 2002-09-30 UTC
I still wonder about repetition=loss if stalemate is a win. I can see why this applies when stalemate is the only objective as in Nemeroth. I also use the rule in Separate Realms, where checkmate is the primary objective and stalemate is a win because the nature of the pieces make mates difficult. In reality, the rule has litte effect, but I have a couple of games on file where avoiding repetition required one side to make an unsound attack from a symmetric position and thus lose. In FIDE chess, the player could and would choose to make the repetiton and take the draw. I think I prefer the latter outcome in these cases, but this is a question of personal chess philosophy--while I deplore excessive numbers of draws, I believe it is good that a very well-played game by both sides can end in a draw. I can, however, understand and respect the opposite viewpoint.

Anonymous wrote on 2004-06-28 UTCGood ★★★★
Maybe this should include rules covering boards with holes, irregular edges etc.

George Duke wrote on 2008-08-31 UTCGood ★★★★
Betza's standard for 8x8, unfortunately much in abeyance.

Rich Hutnik wrote on 2008-09-07 UTC
I do applaud the effort here. More needs to be done in this area. However, I disagree with the pawn promotion rule. Currently chess has a '9 Queen' problem. It is theoretically possible in Normal chess for a player to have 9 queens. The problem is that NO chess set provides you 9 queens. This problem will get worse when you add variants. Unless we want to have 'Jester' pieces who act as wildcards, and officially codify it in the rules (today a flipped rook in FIDE chess would be a Jester), the need for the rules and pieces to match should be dealt with. I would recommend that whatever is the base rules, aka Rule Zero here, state that pawns can only promote to material that exists in the game, and accounted for my the rules, enabling players to also differentiate whose pieces belong to whom when promoting. This is far more robust than the Rule Zero promotion rules. I am interested in hearing someone argue against this, particularly when dealing with physical chess equipment.

George Duke wrote on 2009-12-11 UTC
Aronson's Mad Scientist uses Rule Zero. Betza's Rule Zero should be revived to save verbiage. There are CVs of a 1000 words that could be 500 words. Actually good notation, some cross between a programming language and Bertrand Russell style logic system, would enable each CV to be fully defined in as many lines and characters as this comment without ambiguity. Then there would be more play.

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