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Letterbox: September 1999

The letterbox is a monthly posting of various emails and letters we receive here at If you would like to send us an email to appear on this page, please indicate somewhere in the body of your email that you'd like the letter to appear here. Also indicate if you'd like your email address mentioned at the end of the letter.


Castling Breaks the Symmetry

In your August 1999 Letterbox page, you publish a letter by Allon Mureinik on the number of positions in Fischer Random Chess:
"Although I completely agree with the calculations, I beg to differ the final result. Technically there really are 960 opening positions, so far no argument. However, since the chess board is symmetrical, exactly half of those opening positions are mirror images of the other half, so actually you have only 480 different opening positions."

Allon fails to consider that castling is not symmetric. The King castles to the c-square or to the g-square; those are not mirror squares. As a result, there are indeed 960 starting setups.

Pierre Tourigny

To which Allon responds:

Pierre is, of course, right. I did overlook the lack of symetry in the castling. Hmm... I guess that's what happens when you try to learn Fischer Random after a long day at work...

I want to hereby formally apologize to anyone who read my letter and might have been misguided by my mistake.

Allon Mureinik


Gygax's Other Chess Variant

Kudos on your excellent work. I especially like the material on Mr. E. Gary Gygax's three-dimensional Dragonchess. Few people know of this, but he later created another fantasy chess variant, called Fidchell. It was published in an appendix to the book Epic of Aerth, for the Mythus roleplaying game, as part of the Dangerous Journeys line published by GDW (Game Designers' Workshop)--all of which no longer exist--further casualties of the copyright war between Gary and T$R, inc.

Fidchell does not involve a multiple-tiered board as in Dragonchess, but it does incorporate the interesting concept that if certain pieces are in certain places, they may "gate" in certain other pieces to certain other places (instead of a move or capture). Let me know if this is something you could use, or if you have it already.

Also, is there any information available (in English) about "An-nan," or "Korean" Shogi? I read the scant data provided with Steve Evans' Shogi Variants program, but could find nothing else on it (apart from the Italian write-up). If possible, could you include a description on your website? [Editor's note: Hans has since created an Annan Shogi page.]

Thank you.

Michael Breier


Two-Room Handicap System

This game is fide chess on two different boards in two different rooms. It is designed to give a weaker player an advantage.

The weaker player plays on a standard board standard starting position with both white and black pieces (the white are his own, the black to keep track of his opponents moves).

The stronger player (who is in another room), plays on a board with both white and black pieces (the black are his own, the white to keep track of his opponents moves).

The stronger players board's squares are randonly scrambled (a1 might appear at the position normal for d4). When the stronger player sets up his starting position, he will put a white rook on d4 because a white rook starts on a1 and d4 was renamed a1. All rules are looked at from the weaker player's board.

frank a_l_i_n_y


He who Captures Last...

In the September 1997 issue of Chess Life Magazine (the official publication of the United States Chess Federation), Bill Maier of Phoenicia, New York proposed the following rules change for standard chess (I am rephrasing his rule).

If any of the usual drawing situations in Chess arise, the player who made the last capture will be deemed the winner.

Roger Cooper

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Written by various authors. HTML by David Howe.
WWW page created: October 5, 1999.