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This item is an Interview
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2001-01-04
 Author: Hans L. Bodlaender and Ralph  Betza. Interview with Ralph Betza. An interview with the `Grandmaster of Chess Variant Design'.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
George Duke wrote on 2009-12-10 UTC
Humourless observers may miss the point. NextChess as a whole is an exercise. It's advocacy. It's not exact prediction to stand on or stand down. It's not like McCain 49.6, Obama 50.4, +/- 3 confidence interval 96%. Forget all that. We're humanists first--animal rights advocates too, and many other things. Some of our positions even conflict. The game we loved died, or dies before our eyes. Actually all these 21 nominees are still inadequate for the coming computer onslaught though they'll be better than what's left. NextChess5 here is recap and speculation after all the hard work of -1 -2 -3 and -4. Few designers say they love OrthoChess64 as well as 4500 CVs. Some say they hate OrthoChess and love 1/2 or 35% of the 4500 CVs. What's the difference? Most of us don't play f.i.d.e. orthochess more than 2 or 10 times a year. Most educated people play it less than that. That's a practical matter. If opposed to NextChess organization, just don't read these threads, as Joe Joyce pointed out. That's common in other histories too besides Chess. Spite trumps even self-interest. If it's not my CV, it's no good. If we make a little progress NextChess-wise, they bolt. The throes of a 1500-year tradition are before us. Don't let history pass you by. Now the four next nominees are from Aronson, Fourriere, Gifford, and Gilman, one of each -- a rare foursome at once instead of three. These are hard choices. You have to know each one's body of work? What would you choose of an Aronson, a Fourriere, a Gifford, and a Gilman for one, and only one, Next Chess? Prefer larger than 64 squares, and note that none of the 21 so far are from their work.

George Duke wrote on 2009-12-10 UTC
''What do you think about the future of Chess?,'' CVPage founder Bodlaender asked Betza. A current comment refers to ''No Chess,'' and that's been discussed here in CVP. NoChess was topic for one place in several interviews. Bodlaender would ask the interviewee, will Chess cease when Computers and high technology render play meaningless? Answered Betza in 1997: ''F.i.d.e. Chess is only a small part of Chess: it is perhaps not the most popular, and yet it has probably been played too much.'' That was 12 years ago. The Variant Chess credo is that 64-square Chess is going to be replaced, notwithstanding occasional overtures even by a cvpage Editor to squelch the trend; cvp is only one domain of chess after all. It should be serious work to develop standards of play for the good of education of youngsters. Qualities of self-control, pattern recognition, making choices. The humour and silliness are the wild and crazy CVs, in fact numbering the majority of CVPage material, of no real value, you know the types, written by anyone who wants lacking Betza's panache.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-14 UTC
I think I first read this interview in the late 90's, not too long after it was originally given, and at a time when I was just beginning to create Chess variants. With the perspective of time and experience, I have new appreciation for some of the advice Ralph Betza gave for creating Chess variants.
In order to come up with something really new, you have to know what's been done before

Some of my games are similar to earlier ones I didn't know about when I created them. Cavalier Chess is similar to Cavalry Chess, Fusion Chess is similar to Confederate Chess, Assimilation Chess is similar to Absorption Chess, Hex Shogi was preceded by George Dekle Sr's HexShogi, Wormhole Chess uses the same idea as Chesire Cat Chess, and one of my earliest variants, Duniho's Capablanca Variation, uses a mirror image of the opening array in Carrera's Chess. Except for the last one, I was fortunate that they weren't too similar to previous games.

in order to come up with something really good, you have to try -- and then perhaps learn from what you did -- and then try another one.

Many of my best games (at least by my own estimation) are based on previous games I created or were preceded by earlier versions that didn't work out as well. Grand Cavalier Chess is based on Cavalier Chess. Eurasian Chess is based on Yang Qi. Thunder Chess is a hybrid of Fusion Chess, Metamorph Chess, and Assimilation Chess, and it was preceded by dual hybrids of these three games. Kamikaze Mortal Shogi (developed in collaboration with Roberto Lavieri) was immediately preceded by Mortal Shogi (also in collaboration with Roberto), which was inspired by my earlier game Mortal Chessgi. Hex Shogi 91 and Hex Shogi 81 were both preceded by Hex Shogi 41 and an earlier version of Hex Shogi 81. Storm the Ivory Tower went through successive versions, including the aborted Sycophant Chess and a previous release of the game. Interdependent Chess began with the idea of using negative pieces and evolved into a different game. Caissa Britannia began with a theme that I didn't fully work out for a few more years. Earlier attempts at the game didn't work out as well as the current version does. This experience tells me that the best games don't usually come out fully formed like Athena from the head of Zeus. It takes time, and it takes trial and error to come up with some of the really good games.

once you have managed to invent a good new game, do not imagine that it will make you rich and famous, do not mortgage your cat in order to raise money to manufacture and sell sets and boards for your game, and do not expect that everybody in the world will immediately stop playing FIDE Chess and start playing your game instead. (It may happen, but it will take some time.) Above all, do not spam every chess-related newsgroup saying that 'Chess is Dead long live my new game' -- it's been done.

I've never seen this work out too well for anyone. Omega Chess may be doing fine, but I don't think its inventor has gone to the extreme warned against here.

you might need an answer you can use when people ask you 'if inventing a great new chess variant won't make you rich and famous, why do it?'
The classical answer is 'if you have to ask, you'll never understand'.

Perhaps so. It is a question I have never had to ask myself.


Gary Gifford wrote on 2007-09-21 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Somehow I had never come across this page before. But, I am glad I found it. Mr. Betza is without a doubt the best CV creator to date... and he is a Fide Chess Master! I never knew that. Anyway, this is a great interview. Anyone interested in the man behind the many great variants should check this out.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2004-02-06 UTC
'One idea is to have polls for each type of game. Then we can see which people find the most fun!' We have conducted polls in the past and shall continue to do so, though I don't think we have conducted polls on specific types of games. 'Why not team up with FICS and get some more variants into the chess servers?' As far as I could tell, FICS is only a Chess server. If they become interested in Chess variants and want our help, they can contact us. In the meantime, we have Game Courier, which already handles over a hundred variants and can always handle more. /play/pbm/

Daniel White wrote on 2004-02-05 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Excellent interview! I love playing normal chess, but it's always fun to read and learn about new variations on the game. One idea is to have polls for each type of game. Then we can see which people find the most fun! Just like music and art, each variant has a qualitative value. Some are bad, some are good, and some are amazing. Indeed, some are probably better than normal chess. Why not team up with FICS and get some more variants into the chess servers? Cheers, Daniel http://www.skytopia.com

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