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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2002-05-07
 Author: Hans L. Bodlaender. Inventor: Christian  Freeling. Grand Chess. Christian Freeling's popular large chess variant on 10 by 10 board. Rules and links. (10x10, Cells: 100) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Kevin Pacey wrote on 2017-10-03 UTCGood ★★★★

In spite of what I see as the drawbacks of this variant (bishops clearly stronger than knights, marshalls able to be traded quickly if developed symmetrically, complex pawn promotion rules that I don't quite like), the game uses a square (rather than rectangular) board and there are no unprotected pawns in the setup, which are arguably improvements over Capablanca chess (although that game's setup allows for smothered and back rank mates, arguably good features to have). The fact that the rooks protect each other, so that there is no need for castling, is both a plus and a minus in my view (as is the fact the player's armies ranks have many empty squares in the setup - otherwise there could be 30 pieces per side, perhaps, as I tried in my own Sac Chess variant, which is a lot of pieces).

My tentative estimates for the piece values in this variant would be: P=1; N=3; B=3.5; R=5.5; C=7.5; M=9.5; Q=10 and the fighting value of the K=2.5 approximately (though naturally it cannot be traded). Note that I rate a N significantly lower on a 10x10 board than on a 8x8, 9x8 or 10x8 board (where I estimate N=3.5 in all cases) as the many extra excellent central squares available to a N on a 10x10 board are IMHO way more than offset by the rather large size of the board, which makes it harder for a N to cross from one side of the board to the opposite one. Also note that on the four board sizes I've mentioned, I've kept R=5.5 as a constant value, changing the value of a B as I felt appropriate for a particular board size(s), in relation to the value of a R.


H. G. Muller wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
The whole point seems moot. You don't need 3 Queens to checkmate, and using a second one against a bare King is already embarrassing. The worst case I can imagine in FIDE that has any practical interest is KQKP where you can draw with Rook or Bishop Pawn on the 7th rank when the promotion square is covered by King, and the attacking King is far away. The trick is that with a Bishop Pawn the King can step into the corner, in stead of in front of the Pawn, because when the Queen captures it it would be stalemate. And with Rook Pawns you can force the King in front of the Queen, but you cannot use that to approach with your own King, as this would be stalemate. I think in Grand Chess KQKP with the Pawn only removed one step from promotion and the promotion square covered by its King is always draw, no matter what Pawn you have. And not because of stalemate.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
Fair points, but I'm really talking about more extreme cases. Is a stalemated king vs 3 queens a legitimate draw? I don't so. The only counterargument to that is "gee well the other player shouldn't so sloppy as to let the king be stalemated." But to me thats a moot point. Dominant player shouldn't be obligated to give the weaker player a legal move.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
> I see little justification for a weaker player that has been trapped being awarded a draw in this case. Well, this is a bit of a moot point, as you can also not force stalemate in KBK or KNK. Only KNNK turns into a win when stalemate is a win. > Pawn vs bare king, or piece vs piece I would still award as a draw. That is a bit funny, because KPK is really the only 3-piece case in FIDE where altering the stalemate rule would have practical consequences. Because the only way to avoid being trapped there for the weak side is to allow promotion. But it would not affect Grand Chess, because there KPK is always won, due to promotion before the last rank. > Imperative of movement is already central to end games, why not enforce it for moving into check and losing a game? Note that having no moves does not imply you would have moves if you can move into check. You can be stalemated even when moving into check is allowed (but losing).

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
Either way I would view mandatory promotion to RBN on the 9th/8th rank an improvement.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
Any game that uses the FIDE stalemate rule has something to do with stalemate. I'm really referring to cases in which a side has no legal move while facing an army with much greater material. I see little justification for a weaker player that has been trapped being awarded a draw in this case. For me its a loophole and nothing more. Pawn vs bare king, or piece vs piece I would still award as a draw. Minor pieces vs king is a grey area but I think trapping the king in such cases is worthy of a win. Imperative of movement is already central to end games, why not enforce it for moving into check and losing a game?

H. G. Muller wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
In Elven Chess I used a similar King and Rook placement as in Grand Chess, but indeed I conidered the absence of castling a mistake. The need for it remains, and there really is no reason to abandon it. So in Elven Chess I took Capablanca-style castling (the King moving 3 squares). That means you could castle on the first move, if you wanted. (But of course you should not want that, keeping the opponent in the dark about which side your King will take residence for as long as you can.) I believe Grand Chess was invented before the computer era, and Freeling's games are designed for over-the-board play anyway, so I think the promotion rule cannot really be held against him. I don't consider it a weakness of orthodox Chess that KBK and KNK are draws. And this has nothing to do with stalemate anyway.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-12 UTC

Does Freelings claim that Grand Chess is an inherent improvement of FIDE Chess stand up to scrutiny?

Removal of castling

Castling is an artificial but effective rule that serves more than one purpose-the ability to switch an immobile king to prevent lopsided enemy attacks, and increased ease of rook developement. Staggered rooks as an alternative accomplish the latter, a more centralised king on a more spacious board (mostly) negates the former.

Extension of material

The premise in conventional chess variant wisdom seems to be that the choice of the RB compound is arbitrary, and the RN/NB are the natural "missing" extensions. However the FIDE Queen is arguably the most conceptually fundamental piece in the game; its movement on an empty board can be described in 3 words; "it moves straight." The same certainly cannot be said of RN/RB.

K/B/R are restrictions, rather than fundamental building blocks. Similarly the knight is really a special case that subsets the more obscure 2-1 slider. It, and not the "mad Queen" is the true wildcard of FIDE.

Either way, the knight complements the FIDE array perfectly, and gives the ensemble a high degree of balance for such simple pieces - 8 pawns, 4 minor pieces, 2 major pieces, one 1 "master" piece, thats difficult to better, and in my opinion distributing its most obscure movement type in new combinations is not sound grounds for doing so.

In truth, the weakening of the knight move of a 10*10 board aids GC somewhat declustering the pieces and producing a clearer hierarchy, but not enough, and the final ensemble is undeniably lopsided.

I do feel that FIDE is missing a piece (and just one), but I would consider the 2-leaper (a piece so neglected among variants that it barely has a name) to be that piece. Its conceptually simple and bridges the gap between Queen and Rook almost perfectly, being in almost exactly equal power ratio to each.

Aesthetics

FIDE is played on a lower base board (2 vs 10), with perfect 50% piece density.

Pawn promotion

This is where I feel Freeling makes a real mistep. The optional promotion of the 8/9/10th rank is slack and the restriction of promotion to a captured piece is an archaic throwback to precomputerised chess. Freelings defense of the unnecessary complications that arise (pawns on the 9th ranks can give check while immobile) by pointing to the case of pinned pieces in FIDE yet giving check is at best a case of two wrongs not making a right. Why not enforce promotion to the RNB and complete the (R, N, B) power set?

Stalemate, pawn first move and en passant

The primitive stalemate rule of FIDE is left unchanged (piece vs bare king still irrationally given as a draw), and convuluted pawn behaviour is left as it was.

Conclusion

I don't doubt that GC is still an excellent game and most likely the best of its type, but its just not a game that can be considered a clear forward step from FIDE. It extends in an abritrary manner, improves in some areas, loses in others and leaves other chess conventions unchallenged.

Freeling showed an ability to distill the chess paradigm to clear endpoints in Rotary, Shakti and Chad, but ultimately GC can't be considered in that group.


Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-12 UTC
HG Muller, The KN is indeed underused, although the inclusion of such a compound then requires the RK and KB for a complete set, which no longer work as distinct unions. One could consider the gryffon and unicorn to be RK/BK compounds, temporal rather than spatial though that may considered a stretch by some...

H. G. Muller wrote on 2015-03-25 UTC
The 'mounted' pieces RN and BN give Grand Chess a distinct Capablanca flavor. In my variant Elven Chess I tried to give a somewhat similar setup on 10x10 a 'Shogi flavor' instead, by using 'crowned' R and B (RF and BW). And also the Commoner, which could be considered a crowned Pawn. I did not use the KN compound, though, and it is also lacking from Grand Chess. Funny that this piece is so much less popular than other compounds of the orthodox pieces.

John Davis wrote on 2015-03-25 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
This is a favorite of mine for the rules and board size, more than being another Capablanca. I am making some sets to give away for Christmas. I am including extra pieces to be a variant basic kit. I will post my changes for my "Grand Chess and Beyond" on the respective pages of each game.

David Paulowich wrote on 2012-03-19 UTC

Jason makes some good points concerning 10x10 chess variant design. I prefer placing Cannons on the back ranks, as in Shako and Shatranj Kamil X. Now the White Rooks will either have to share the first rank with the Cannons or position themselves on the second rank.


Jason L. wrote on 2012-03-14 UTC
On BrainKing, Embassy Chess which uses the same setup as Grand, is more popular and the smaller 10x8 board seems to work better for the 2 added super pieces. Grand Chess' main distinction is the extra row behind just for the rooks which is probably not as interesting as the creator thinks it is. Generally, those rooks just back up stronger pieces in front of them, or they are exchanged with other rooks on open files. It's more interesting in normal Chess where a rook tries to get on an open file by clearing other pieces out of the back rank than it is like this. In short, the freedom of the rooks and the extra space for the King to move around lead to less tension in the game which is not a good thing. 10x8 games with those 2 pieces like Janus Chess and Embassy (Bird/Capablanca) play better on 10x8.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-10-19 UTC
Well, I don't see much reason to assume that the piece values in Grand Chess are very different from the very well established values in Capablanca and other 10x8 variants. It is true the board has two more ranks, but these are basically ranks where you don't want to go. This would mean your values suffer from a gross uderestimation of the value of the Cardinal (BN), which in Capablanca is practically equivalent to the Marshall (RN). That there is logic in your system can be considered a drawback, as so far any logic in the practical values of pieces has been sigularly absent (or perhaps just not understood). If I would have to guess in which direction the Capablanca values should be corrected for Grand Chess, the major factor I would take into account is the fact that the promotion zone is 3 deep, effectively cutting 1 rank off the board. This makes that you are more in a hurry with lateral movements to stop passers, which disadvantages pieces that cannot slide along ranks. FIDE 10x8 Grand(?) N 325 300 -> 275 B 325 350 -> 325 (+50 B-pair bonus) R 500 500 C 875 -> 850 M 900 Q 950 950

Tbuitendyk wrote on 2011-10-14 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I've been dabbling with Grand Chess for a few years, and offer my analysis of the piece values 'the way I see it': P -- 1 N -- 3 B -- 4 -- I add 1 to each vector piece given the longer vectors on 10x10 R -- 6 C -- 8 -- I also add 1 for the combined power effect, like Q = R + B + 1 in classic chess M -- 10 Q -- 11 I've used these values for every game of GC that I've ever played, and they've never failed me yet when calculating exchanges. The method is consistent and logical -- for example, the Marshal is 10 because M = (R + 1) + N + 1. (1 is added to the R for the longer vectors and another 1 is also added for the combined power effect.) T.

John Smith wrote on 2009-01-31 UTCPoor ★
Too large size, Rook connection, tired compounds and strange promotion rules make this a bad game.

George Duke wrote on 2008-04-21 UTC
Carlos, Grand Chess links are the main way CVPage taps Christian Freeling's site. The site has better games than Grand Chess itself for sure. Nothing that you said, but I read elsewhere about Gabriel Maura and am still not sure whether he is only inactive in games now. For example, Robert Abbott, inventor of Ultima, commented here 5 yrs. ago seeming to say that unfortunately his age stopped him from analyzing or playing abstract games much any longer. I was just wondering whereabouts of Maura. [ Robert Abbott's comment about dropping out of strategy games appears 30.January.2004 under Rococo.]

Joe Joyce wrote on 2008-02-05 UTC
the link was good earlier

Sam Trenholme wrote on 2008-02-04 UTC
That link gives me a 404. Please provide a correct, updated link.

- Sam


Ralf wrote on 2008-02-04 UTC
We´ve produced now an exclusive Set for Grand-Chess - see our website.

Perhaps you can make a link on it and we do one on your site.


Al Myers wrote on 2007-08-19 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Christian Freeling's game is potentially excellent, but I feel it would benefit from two tweaks:

1) The initial array for the white major pieces should be Cardinal-D2, Queen-E2, King-F2, and Marshall-G2. (Of course the black pieces should be rearranged accordingly.) This setup does have the potential disadvantage of having the KBP on both sides initially unguarded, but the capture of either pawn would take several tempi and might lead to some interesting gambit play.

2) The king should be allowed a once-a-game safety leap of three squares either to the right or left. this would be in essence castling without the rook and would be subject to the same rules as castling, i.e. no prior king move and no moving over squares attacked by the enemy.

In any event the foremost requirement of viability for any chess variant is that the winning percentage for white be no higher than that experienced in ordinary chess.


George Duke wrote on 2007-08-18 UTC
R+Ferz,B+Wazir, RB, RN and BN all need explanation, as somewhat does 'N+nonroyal King'. First, it worsens 8x10 Carrera's to add squares and not pieces. Carrera's of dubious playability has much historical importance in creativity. Anticipating JG's rationale for GrCh, corner squares for Rook stand out. How about a spike for Bishop instead? It makes more sense because B (and N) are disadvantaged more than R by the two stock pseudo-compounds RN,BN. Rather than empty row for Rook alone, just add (test your visualization) solitary squares k2,l3,m4,n5,m6,l7,k8 reconnecting to j9. The other Bishop spike, or half-diamond, would be skewed oppositely between a2 and a10. (Rightly these should apply to mere 8x10) Two Bishop double-spikes for 'Bishop+Wazir', Queen and Cardinal, two holes in the board, unlike Morley. F V Morley's 'My One Contribution to Chess' is a 1940s classic, preceding GrCh by 40 years with the same type of empty corridors.

Jeremy Good wrote on 2007-08-18 UTC
I'd like to say something about raison d'etre for Grand Chess later but for now, I just want to take something you said and talk about it a little: 'RN and BN are inherently inferior to RB' -- Do you mean aesthetically?

Let's at least pretend you are talking mechanically. Betza argues that on an 8 x 8 board, RN is equivalent to RB such that one could replace the one with the other to create equivalent armies, as he does in Sort of Almost Chess where he even says the following: 'Both kinds of Queen have exactly the same strength, so it is an even game, even for masters.' But I suppose on larger boards, the queen becomes more powerful, just as the bishop becomes more powerful than the knight. What sort of added powers would one have to give to the RN to allow it to keep up with the queen as the board gets larger?

What would one have to add to a BN to make it equivalent to a queen? I'd like to know about different possibilities. One possibility is to make the knight a nightrider. I created this variant to explore this, but one also explores it in Lions and Unicorns and Pocket Mutation Chess, two inspirations for me in creating the former practice variant.


George Duke wrote on 2007-08-17 UTCPoor ★
We have panned Grand Chess several times elsewhere but never directly on its page. This game is a pitiful rerun for uncreative minds. If its date were 1800 or 1900, sure, there would be slight historical interest, thought not much in light of Carrera's, Turkish ones and all the others, but in 1980s it amounts to nothing. There are mediocre patents from 1970s with the same pieces that never reach this website. RN and BN are inherently inferior to RB, and medieval ingenuity made the right choice for the new Queen as full-stength RB(not one- or two-stepping) around 1496. Those prescient individuals from Italy and/or Spain presumably ignored out of hand BN, RN as weird, awkward, ineffectual exotics. Moreover, in all the Carrera derivatives, the individual Knights suffer overwhelmed by gross compounds. Grand's board acts overspacious and underutilized, largely because the misguided leaps to 100 squares increase over 50% the 1500-year 64-square standard and cannot cope. All this having been said before, the critique belongs here in the bowels of this loser. [Afterthought: Hey granted it is still a suitable game to build a player's rating at ridiculous one move a day with its straightforward standard moves]

Joe Joyce wrote on 2007-07-07 UTC
After posting my previous comment on Grand Chess, I received an email from Michael Howe [Nova Chess and others], who has been working on the pawn promotion/movement problem in his work. With permission, I present the relevant body of the text: [A pawn] 'can move to the back rank even when no previously captured piece is available, and while there it moves like a nonroyal king (commoner). If it moves out of the promotion zone it reverts to pawn. If it moves within the promotion zone it gets another chance to promote. A player can also move into or within the promotion zone and choose the commoner option instead of a piece promotion even if a piece is available: for example, in a situation when a commoner would mate but a cardinal or marshal would not. No in-situ promotion. I think this works better than a sideways-moving pawn because it is more threatening, although I doubt that this situation will come up much'. As I use the scheme I proposed in both Grand Shatranj and Atlantean Barroom Shatranj, I am adding this option to both games.

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