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This item is an article on pieces
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2001-11-07
 Author: Ralph  Betza. Worse than Worthless. A discussion of pieces with negative value, and the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity![All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
H. G. Muller wrote on 2016-11-10 UTC

I suddenly remembered another variant with a worse-than-worthless piece: 'The Wuss'. This is basically a second royal that is extra vulnarable, because it is only allowed to evade attacks by moving away, and not by capturing the attacker or interposing. The Wuss itself has no capture power at all. It moves a a Queen, though. This piece must also be more of a liability than an asset, although also worth something in a Pawn ending for its ability to block Pawns.


H. G. Muller wrote on 2016-11-08 UTC

The value of an extra King might also be negative. I once tried the following test (requested by someone on chess.com): play a FIDE army without Queen against a FIDE army where the Queen was replaced by a second King, under rules of absolute royalty (i.e. none of the royals can be exposed to capture). The result was not significantly different from 50%. So on average the extra King is just as much a liability for getting mated as an asset for (defensive)  tactics.

This is not equally distributed over the game, though. In a Pawn ending, a side with two Kings almost always beats a single King very easily. So in the late end-game the extra King is nearly as good as having an extra minor. That means that it should have a significantly negative value in the middle-game to neutralize its effect overall.


George Duke wrote on 2016-11-07 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Ralph Betza's classic brief on negative values. Few today know "nattering nabobs of negativity" (call it NNN) came from Spiro Agnew, who resigned as Vice President just before Richard Nixon resigned as President.

Yet it depends on the position. Betza's first example, Negative Relay Knight with no capturing power that relays its move to opponents actually as described still has blocking power, and we could make up a problem where it figures in a checkmate for owning side. But over-all there is average negative value in such a piece, and barring a weird specific combination in view, you just as well get rid of it but probably cannot. (That would be another study to design, namely show a case when it is worthwhile to capture a NRK.)

NNN are an experimental Chess Different Army and have enhanced Bishop and Rook to go with Negative Relay Knight. Is NNN equal in value to Colorbound Clobberers and to F.I.D.E. and to Nutty Knights and to Pizza Kings?

Under Strangeness in Asymmetrical Relay, Betza suggest further relay complications such as to move as a Rook or capture as a Bishop, and if your own piece is doing so of course it has (further) negative value.


(zzo38) A. Black wrote on 2011-03-30 UTC

I invented the Giveaway game with the Ghost and Relay. See /index/msdisplay.php?itemid=MSghostarelay. Both players have one Ghost.

There is multiple purposes of the Ghost. You can use a Ghost at just the right time to force a series of captures, but you can also block opponent's pawns and block your own pieces from being forced to capture.


George Duke wrote on 2009-10-03 UTC
To answer ChessboardMath11 Quiz of 3.September.2009 one by one a day, #(2) asking about the Nattering Nabobs of Negativity, the answer is here, that Betza has N.N. of N. as a Chess Different Armies fleet. I will back-cite the answers later at ChessboardMath11 once they are all linked for answers. Now the phrase Nattering Nabobs of Negativity was used in 1970s by a certain USA Vice President, who got it from William Safire, who just died this week. The Vice President goes unspeakable and nameless for his corruption. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_fools

George Duke wrote on 2009-06-05 UTC
Pieces are conceived rarely that have negative value. Betza's piece that moves as a Knight unable ever to capture, but always conferring Knight-power temporarily to opposite piece(s) that distance away. Negative although you can think up some exceptional endgame where its blocking ability helps a bit. Generally negative value, and assigning 5.0 to Rook 1.0 to Pawn, you have to go minus 3 or minus 4 or so [or -10?] for Negative Relay Knight. Factor that into all power density equations that were popular mid-decade. [New class of CVs suggested! All, stress all your pieces, confer advantages on opponent in varying degree, and the task is get them one and all out of his way.]

George Duke wrote on 2008-08-07 UTCGood ★★★★
Betza recalls his writing for 'NOST-algia' in the 1970's, publication of Knights of the Square Table. As figure of speech, NOST is acronym. Nattering Nabobs of Negativity are another alliterative Chess-Different Army. Linked is the leveling effect. Peter Gelman's six-year-old Comment 6.January.2003 refers to Philip Jose Farmer's ''Riders of the Purple Wage,'' a utopian cashless society. Now Chess Morality XII quotes Farmer's ''Sail on, Sail on.''

carlos wrote on 2003-09-06 UTC
the idea of negative money has been disussed in great detail, in the n. california bay area, and now in tulsa, ok on this: http://www.designhaven.net/blog/carlos/index.php?p=74&c=1 blog.

gnohmon wrote on 2003-01-07 UTC
'positive values in Losing Chess?' Clever thought. A bit of analysis seems to tell me that a negative relay Q would be a good thing to have in Giveaway Chess. Undoubtedly the best piece to have in Giveaway would be one with huge mobility and no capture -- in other words, the Ghost! If you take the game from the Black Ghost page and play giveaway, Black must surely win by using the Ghost at just the right time to force a series of captures. Is the -relay Q stronger than that? In fact, in Giveaway it is weaker because the opponent will simply capture it at first opportunity! The interesting thing about the -relay N in the normal game is that you can get a small positive value from it by trying to get your opponent to capture it; but in Giveaway there is no such reluctance. Thus the Ghost is stronger than even -relay Amazon in giveaway chess. In my opinion, at least.

Peter Gelman wrote on 2003-01-06 UTC
In his story 'Riders of the Purple Wage' (1967), Philip Jose Farmer describes a society with something like 'negative money'. In that story, wealth is a universal birthright, money is a societal negative, getting rid of money is everyone's goal and difficult to achieve (a bit analogous to Losing Chess). Would 'Worth than Worthless' pieces necessarily have positive values in Losing Chess?

gnohmon wrote on 2001-11-07 UTC
I'll answer the easy question and quietly ignore the others. <p>As a general rule, a neutral piece has the same value to both players. (Exceptions are interesting...)

Doug Chatham wrote on 2001-11-07 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Mindblowing ideas. Too bad the term 'White Elephant' can't be used to describe these Negative-valued pieces :-) Some questions: I'm working on 42-square contest entry that involves neutral pieces that require two turns to move. In one move the player would announce which such piece will be moved and in the next move (or at the very next opportunity if an immediate move is not possible) the player would move that piece to an empty adjacent square. Let's call a piece with this temporal handicap (requiring two turns to move) Halfhearted or Hesistant, so my proposed piece would act like a Neutral Halfhearted Man. <p>Has such a thing been done before? If so, where can I find the info? What is the general valueof such pieces? (Indeed, what is the value of neutral pieces in general?) FInally, what would a game between Halfhearted and Halfling armies be like?

Anonymous wrote on 2002-04-06 UTCGood ★★★★
I'd like to see this article expanded to include other types of ...er.. cursed pieces and cursed players. For example, how about Restless (or Hyperactive or Flying Dutchman) pieces that have to be moved each turn (e.g., the King in Triplets)? Or how about the Ruddigore Chess curse that requires a player to capture an enemy or discard a friend at each turn? (By the way, a similar curse is imposed on the players of Sudden Death Chess.) Perhaps you could also include Hesistant (or Hamlet?) pieces that require two or more turns to move (somewhat like Ralph Betza's Inchworms). Finally, how about Cuckoo pieces that can only capture friendly pieces? (Some species of cuckoo place their eggs in nests of birds of other species.)

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