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ATTACKING WITH VERVE - CHESS FOR THE DIGITAL AGE

BETTER THAN AN ACTION MOVIE

They have shuffled their tiny wooden pieces back and forth, Vladimir Kramnik and his challengers at the World Championship 2007 at Mexico-City. But maybe the way tournaments are still decided these days - by using child-like miniatures on solid boards - will strike future generations as having been strangely old-fashioned at the beginning of the 3rd millennium. Whilst professional chess players still pay tribute to tradition with regard to the hardware of the game by sticking to centuries-tested wooden stuff, creative minds are already working on designing innovative versions of chess that do better fit to the digital age. Canadian Dave Potter, a 58-years-old IT-consultant from Toronto, has invented a thrilling PC-version of chess called VERVE. Its main features: You see the theatre of operations through the virtual "eyes" of your chessmen. Consequence: some parts of the terrain remain invisible to you. Moreover, VERVE introduces an element of "real time"-action into chess. DAVE POTTER who has learned chess at the age of 10 explains the revolutionary way that makes you discover the hitherto unknown potential of that ages-old game of chess, see the webpage www.vervechess.com. The VERVE CHESS-man answers questions that have been posed to him by the author Dr. René Gralla from Hamburg, Germany. Excerpts:

(photo: courtesy by D.Potter)


DR. RENÉ GRALLA: Many people consider chess to be very difficult: They stare at board and pieces, but they do not "see" anything. But right now here you come with VERVE CHESS, and that will make things probably worse for many people. Conforming to the rules of VERVE CHESS a player only sees certain sections of the board depending on the visibility of his pieces. Don't you see the danger that chess can simply become un-playable for all too many people if they try to play it by the rules of VERVE CHESS?
DAVE POTTER: VERVE does introduce new challenges. Some of these are also present in bridge, and I think that we can see from the success of bridge that players can handle and indeed love those challenges: the challenges of discovery, deduction and probabilistic reasoning, and of concealment, deception and surprise. Another challenge relates to VERVE's real time play feature. This challenge is not found in any other game, and I am sure that players will find it interesting and enjoyable as well. It is based on an ongoing trade-off between initiative and the availability of information. This trade-off constantly tests players' strategic judgement - they have to move at a rate that best balances the two. If they move too slowly, they concede the initiative too readily to their opponents. But if they move too fast, they give up too much information. Yes, it will take new players some time to become proficient at VERVE, as it does with bridge or with chess itself. But like those games, VERVE delivers fascinating challenges in return.

DR. R. GRALLA: The phenomenon of being "blind at chess" is well known - and dreaded. The player ponders a given situation; he checks out the pieces and their positions on the board. In the pure physic sense she or he is capable to recognize and assess everything - and yet she or he overlooks that the ominous square where she or he is is about to place a chessman is actually controlled by an enemy fighter. Thus, by overlooking that simple threat, the ill-fated piece gets primitively snatched away by the opponent. Now, with chess being played conforming to the new rules of VERVE CHESS and due to the reduced visibility in the scenario of VERVE, one can fairly assume that the number of cases like the one that has been described in the foregoing will probably increase, bearing the consequence that the quality of chess play will inevitably deteriorate. Taking the foregoing into account: What is the point of inventing - and promoting - VERVE CHESS?
D. POTTER: First, let me explain about hidden information in VERVE. Players see the board through the eyes of their men. They can see the squares their men can move to, and some other squares in addition. This lets them see quite a lot of the board. They should also be able to deduce quite a bit about the opposing position. In dealing with remaining uncertainty, they naturally try to choose moves with the highest chance of success. As in bridge, really good players will be able to play almost as well as if they could see the whole board. In the example you mention, the eventual loss of an important piece to the unseen unit of the opponent may have been a blunder. But it is also possible that the player did in fact make the best possible play based on probabilities. It happens all the time in bridge that the percentage play does not work out. Or maybe the loss resulted from rash play, which still was not an out-and-out blunder. So why promote VERVE CHESS? Well, I think people will enjoy the challenges I mentioned earlier.

DR. R. GRALLA: Not only amateur players but even great masters committ blunders. See the most recent black-out by World Champion Vladimir Kramnik running head on into a sensational checkmate in one during his match against the German computer program "Deep Fritz" at Bonn in late autumn 2006. You are not afraid that VERVE CHESS will lead to matches that are just a chain of goofs and blunders?
D. POTTER: VERVE is a sophisticated game that poses a strong challenge. In any such game, blunders will occur, even occasionally by the strongest players.


Kings Gambit Flop

Incoming units that are riding on diagonals which can be traced back to some positions well beyond the horizon of the duellists are rather difficult to detect in the scenario of VERVE. A typical situation after the moves: 1.e4 e5 2.f4 Bc5 3.Nf3 d6 4.c4(??) Nc6 5.Nc3 Bg4 6.h3? Bxf3. That situation - diagram: D.Potter - that has been played in standard chess some years ago has now been transformed conforming to the rules of VERVE, and the resulting diagram demonstrates that White can only notice that ominous gap on g3 and h4 that could be the harbinger of disaster. If that match would have been VERVE CHESS the mishandling of the defence by White would have been quite understandable: 7.gxf3 Qh4+ 8.Ke2 Qf2+ 9.Kd3 Nb4# 0:1 (Ulrich W. Schmidt vs. Dr. René Gralla, 5-Min.-Blitz competition, June 18th, 2003; Hamburg, Germany, Café "Zumir").

DR. R. GRALLA: What has triggered the start of your project VERVE CHESS?
D. POTTER: When I bought my first Apple II computer in the early 1980s, I thought that personal computers could allow games that were previously not practical. Computers could go beyond the limitations of boards, counters, cards dice and so on. The two capabilities of computers that most impressed me were their ability to selectively reveal information, and their ability to deal with events in real time. Traditional board games involving hidden information were limited, typically using awkward mechanisms like inverted counters and screens. And there were no real time board games at all. I started thinking about what chess would be like with incomplete information and real time play. Incomplete information was easy. The mechanism seemed intuitively obvious - pieces should be able to see along their movement patterns. And the value was also clear - hidden information would provide the same challenges in chess that it does in bridge. Real time play was more intriguing. Without the alternating move, how could the game still be chess? What would stop players from just moving as fast as possible? And most important, what intellectual challenge would real time play pose? I found these questions fascinating. Early on I had preliminary answers. A weaker version of the alternating move would preserve chess tactics and endgame techniques, while still allowing for meaningful real time play. And a trade-off between initiative and the availability of information would stop players from moving too fast. That trade-off would also provide the key challenge of real time play. But it took several years to refine these answers and bring all of the elements into balance.

DR. R. GRALLA: How long have you worked on realizing your concept of VERVE CHESS?
D. POTTER: I have been gradually developing the concept for about 25 years. But I only began serious programming work on it about four years ago.

DR. R. GRALLA: Your current rating in tournament play?
D. POTTER: I am just a recreation player, so I do not have a rating.

DR. R.GRALLA: Your project is called "VERVE" CHESS? Has that name something to do with the concept of VERVE?
D. POTTER: "Verve" means a spirit of daring and boldness. Players should be daring in the face of uncertainty and real time pressures. They should play the game boldly, with verve.

DR. R. GRALLA: So let's now have a closer look at the intricacies of VERVE CHESS. When I am pondering whether to move a given Bishop or not, just to name one example, then there will be visible on the screen only those squares of the diagonal where that officer can move?
D. POTTER: Not just the Bishop. You can also see all of the squares that any of your other men can move to. Plus: you can also see a surrounding envelope of diagonally adjacent squares.

DR. R. GRALLA: To make sure that I have got it correctly: Can the Bishop "see" - apart from those squares where the Bishop is allowed to move to diagonally - those adjacent squares as well that are laterally the nearest ones?
D. POTTER: No.

DR. R. GRALLA: Why that distinction with regard to the envelope of diagonally adjacent squares - that are visible - and laterally adjacent squares that are not visible?
D. POTTER: My original idea was that men would see just where they could move. But it seemed that there was too little information available, both in general and in two specific situations. First, you could not necessarily see enemy Pawns guarding the squares you might want to move to. Second, during a basic winning endgame, you could not see the enemy King well enough to force a win. So I expanded on the field of vision of the pieces by adding a surrounding envelope of all adjacent squares. But then it seemed that there was too much information available. So I settled on including just diagonally adjacent squares. This is enough to address the two specific situations mentioned above, and it seemed to me to achieve about the right balance of information availability.

DR. R GRALLA: The concept of reduced visibility in VERVE CHESS seems to be the adaption of the subjective camera that we know from the cockpits of racing cars. What are the consequences of that if we refer again to a Bishop on his diagonal? The Bishop is sitting there, but at a distance of three squares further on that given diagonal there is hovering the big body mass of an enemy Queen - or a friendly Queen. Beyond that blocking piece the diagonal continues, so what can the Bishop see? And how far can that long-range unit "see"? Does the Bishop's field of vision stop at the blocking piece on the diagonal? Or can the Bishop make out those squares behind that blocking piece too?
D. POTTER: The subjective camera thought is an interesting way of looking at it. I had not thought of it that way, but it is a very apt analogy. As for the blocking of visibility, in the example you give, the field of vision of the Bishop stops at the Queen and no further squares are visible. For a friendly Queen, the envelope of diagonally adjacent squares around the Queen is visible. For an enemy Queen, it is not.

DR. R. GRALLA: So the concept of reduced visibility on the board conforming to the rules of VERVE CHESS is more of a mathematical quality and scope rather than being based on a quasi-realistic approach to the game?
D. POTTER: Yes. I was aiming at consistency with chess rather than realism. So, just as the Queen blocks the move of the Bishop, so it blocks the field of vision of that very Bishop.

DR. R. GRALLA: Many matches in chess start with the classic move order 1.e2-e4 e7-e5. How far can White see after that?


After one move
Screenshot of VERVE CHESS after 1.e4 e5: The bulk of Black Army remains unvisible (diagram: D.Potter).

D. POTTER: White can see everything that all of the chessmen of the White Army can recognize, not just the King's Pawn that has moved from square e2 straight on to square e4. All squares to the 5th rank are visible to the Pawns: their double move lets them see to the fourth rank, and their envelope of visibility extends that up to the fifth rank. The Bishop f1 can see along the diagonal f1 to a6, and so adds a6 to what can be seen, and also c6 and b7 as part of the Bishop's envelope. The Queen can see along the diagonal d1 to h5, and so adds h6 because it is part of the Queen`s envelope. The "hollow" symbol of enemy King is a player aid that marks the last known position of the enemy King. If e8 were visible, the symbol of enemy King would be solid, not hollow.

DR. R. GRALLA: That "hollow" symbol of King is rather cryptic. What can I conclude from the "hollow" symbol of enemy King? Does it depict the result of the move before the last move of enemy King?
D. POTTER: This is not the correlative to anything on the "board" of virtual reality, and you can draw no special conclusion from that. On the player's display it is just a notation to remind him or her where enemy King was last seen. At the beginning of the game, right after 1.e4 e5, it is shown over e8, even though Black King is not visible there and never was, because we know that there it is, the starting-out position of Black King.

DR. R. GRALLA: Why have you chosen to depict that position by that hollow symbol?
D. POTTER: It's just a player aid, trying to make the game a bit easier to play by helping the player to remember a key fact.

DR. R. GRALLA: Apart from the envelope of diagonally adjacent extra squares that a piece can see - in addition to those squares that the unit can move to - your army can recognize that the enemy King is in check, maybe, or that he is closely blockaded or that he is guarding a square to which one could move a closely blockading man. Why those extra squares that are visible?
D. POTTER: As mentioned above, these extra - diagonally adjacent - squares are visible to allow you to enforce checkmate in a simple endgame. For example, with White King and Rook against Black King, if your Rook is on the sixth rank and the enemy King is on the seventh rank, then you can see it: White Rook sees along the sixth rank because it can move there, and it can see the whole seventh rank because those squares are all diagonally adjacent squares to squares on the sixth rank.


Blockading rook
Screen capture showing what a Rook can see as it closely blockades the enemy King. The brighter black and white squares are visible to the Rook and the duller coloured ones are not. White King has an X over it, indicating that White King is unable to see, having moved recently (diagram by D. Potter).

DR. R. GRALLA: What about a situation when your own King is in check, but the attacking chessman of your opponent is well beyond the horizon of the HQ of your army. Can you realize that your King is threatened? From the practic point of view one should be capable to detect that one's own King is checked, since that could be decisive for the outcome of the match, of course.
D. POTTER: You may not know if your King is in check if you cannot see the checking piece. You are correct that an attack like that is of great importance. If you cannot see that you are in check, you might try to make a move that is illegal because it does not escape check. Illegal move attempts are very costly. You have to pay an information penalty and wait 30 seconds before trying again. And if you do not find a legal move within four minutes of your last legal move, you lose.

DR. R.GRALLA: Your concept of VERVE CHESS seems to be a modern adaption of "Kriegsspiel": that version of chess that the former German World Champion Dr. Emanuel Lasker has once advocated. Nowadays it is Professor David H. Li from Bethesda, Maryland who has published an in-depths study on "Kriegsspiel". The basic idea of "Kriegsspiel": You can not see the army of your opponent; you are fighting the enemy troops by just guessing where they have dug in, therefore you need an arbiter at the board who keeps track with your operations and the maneuvers of your opponent and who tells you whether you have hit the enemy or whether you have been hit by unfriendly fire. So VERVE CHESS - which operates with a reduced field of vision at least - is a less radical concept than "Kriegsspiel" where there is zero visibility for both sides.
D. POTTER: Yes. VERVE makes a lot more information available than "Kriegspiel" does, so it is much more similar to chess - and in that sense less radical.

DR. R. GRALLA: It seems to me that VERVE CHESS is closer to reality than "Kriegsspiel". VERVE simulates the situation that the opponent resorts to partly concealing the movements of his troops by producing artificial "fog" - well, kind of - , since you can not keep track of every single unit of the opponent's army, on the one hand. But on the other hand you can make out at least some of the enemy troops, and that is the usual case in hot warfare too. In the theatre of operation of the digital age it is hardly thinkable that you can camouflage a whole army.
D. POTTER: Realism was not my inspiration for VERVE. But like standard chess and "Kriegspiel" it can be considered to be an abstract model of war. In that sense VERVE is more realistic than "Kriegspiel" in its modelling of the fog of war because it makes a lot more information available, as it is the case in real war. It is also more realistic than "Kriegsspiel" because VERVE models the real time nature of war by including the key element of real time play which "Kriegspiel" does not know. In that sense VERVE is even more radical a concept than "Kriegsspiel".

DR. R. GRALLA: That leads us to a historic and cultural excursion. Have you been inspired to create VERVE CHESS by the ancient chess variants of Burmese "Sit Tu Yin" and Ethiopian "Senterej"? In Burmese Sit Tu Yin you can only see the frontline of Pawns at the beginning of a match.


Burmese Chess Starting Out

A curtain drops down between the opposing lines of the infantry of both armies, and - concealed by that veil - the adversaries place their units where they assume that those are the best places to plunge right into action. Then the curtain will be raised - and only now the players can see where their opponent has deployed his troops. Ethiopian Senterej has adopted the rule of moving independently at the beginning of a match. During the mobilization phase - called "Werera" - every player moves the pieces just as she or he likes to do so, until the moment when the first unit will be annihilated or the first chessmen will be exchanged. After that the moving rules of standard chess apply again. Have you been inspired by Burmese Sit Tu Yin and Ethiopian Senterej before creating VERVE CHESS?
D. POTTER: No. I was not aware of those games.


Burmese Chess Army

DR. R. GRALLA: Back again to the possibility of moving VERVE CHESS-pieces in real time: What happens when a piece of mine is taken? Am I obliged to react - or can I just go on pursuing alternate plans of staging an attack on my own?
D. POTTER: There is no obligation to react. But you are guaranteed the right to react if you like - your opponent has to give you 30 seconds to respond before moving again.

DR. R. GRALLA: What about a check on my own King? Then I am forced to react, one might guess.
D. POTTER: Yes and no. Of course you do have to get out of check at your next move, as in chess. But you do not have to make that move right away. And if your opponent moves before you do, he might remove the check himself. Not very likely, but possible in theory. As I have mentioned earlier, you have to get out of check within four minutes of your last legal move or you lose. So this requirement is very significant.

DR. R. GRALLA: In the orthodox version of the game there is an iron rule: As soon as you have been checked you have to do something about that, either by leaving the danger zone or by doing something else, say, by killing the attacking chessman or by blocking him at least. You can not move on whilst your King is in check. But in VERVE CHESS that seems to be possible if we have understood you right?! If my King is checked but not check-mated I can leave the monarch on that very square where the commander-in-chief is checked - as long as the King is not check-mated - since it would be illegal to snatch away the enemy King ?!
D. POTTER: No, it is like chess in that you can't make a move leaving your King in check. All you can do is wait, hoping that your opponent will move first. But your opponent does not have to move first, and if he or she waits long enough, it is you who has to move first. The reason is that you have to make a legal move at least every four minutes, and your opponent made the last legal move to put you in check. So your four minute time limit expires before theirs. So, if your opponent wants, they can make you move first. Therefore, if your opponent wants it to be exactly as in chess, it is. In that case, you have to move first, and you have to escape check.

DR. R. GRALLA: Would you please elaborate on that a little bit more ...
D. POTTER: ... the motive for the rule is in fact to be as consistent with chess as possible. In chess you can't capture the King, so not in VERVE either. And in chess you can't make a move that puts you in check or leaves you in check, so not in VERVE either. For meaningful real time play, you do have to be in control of when you move, so you are not forced to move right away. But in chess,after your opponent moves you have to make the next move. So in VERVE you do, if your opponent forces you to do so. The rule that lets your opponent force you to move in turn is the four minute limit.

DR. R. GRALLA: Why letting the player try to keep on playing anyway after his King has been checked? There could be a more logical rule for that: After your King has been checked and you have ignored that by nonchalantly doing something else, then your cocky way of ignoring the check would be penalized by declaring your move to be illegal. And you will have lost the game at once.
D. POTTER: Well, you can't keep on playing without escaping check. The rule you suggest is in fact what VERVE does use, except that you don't lose the game on your first illegal move try. You get to try as often as you can within the four minutes from your last legal move - but only one try every 30 seconds.

DR. R. GRALLA: VERVE CHESS is chess as a kind of real time battle game, with White Army and Black Army operating independently. One has not to wait after one's own move for the adversary to react until one is allowed to deploy one`s units again. What is the consequence in a situation of imminent check-mate? Let's think of looming disaster: I am about to have committed Seppuku, on the chess-board virtually, because my opponent can finish my King off by just one stroke. Provided, I have realized that only after my fatal black-out, but before the adversary has become aware of that big chance: Do the rules allow me to react swiftly by moving once more again in order to neutralize the otherwise deadly attack on my King?
D. POTTER: You do have to give your adversary 30 seconds to react to your last move before moving again. That rule is needed because it provides for tactical consistency with chess. It means that in an exchange, for example, players will alternate moves, provided of course that they see the moves of each other. So the answer to your question depends on whether your opponent reacts within 30 seconds. If he or she saw your move, they probably will react, and there is nothing you can do to avoid checkmate, as in chess. But after 30 seconds, you can make another move to escape.


Verve Screenshot

Check-mate is imminent - but is Black aware of that? The screenshot - line of sight from the HQ of Black Army direction White (wearing red uniforms in this case) - depicts a tense situation after the initial moves 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 f6? 4.Nh4! ... . What can the defending side recognize if that match is a duel in VERVE CHESS? Black can see: all of ranks 8, 7, 6, 5 and 4 - because of the visibility enjoyed by the Black Pawns, even without considering the other men - ; the positions e3, c3, a3 - because of the view that the Black Knight enjoys from its square c6, and c3 and a3 are visible because of the view by Bishop f8; the square b2 - because of the view by Bishop f8. But the rest of Red Army is camouflaged by fog, with the exception of the attacking King as a kind of reminder where the monarch of the enemy has been located lately. Therefore the deadly threat is not easy to discover: that fatal blow via diagonal h5 to e8. The actual match - that has been staged with full view of the board, however - has been continued as follows: 4. ... Bc5?? 5. Qh5+ Kf8 6.Qf7# 1:0 (Dr. René Gralla vs. Ulrich W. Schmidt, August 5th, 2004, Hamburg, Germany; 5-min.-blitz, Café; "Zumir"). That match has been a 1:1-replica of Nibal Al Jindi (Syria) vs. Adeela Raweh (Yemen) on October 28th, 2000, during the 10th circuit of Chess Olympia Istanbul, women's competition. Photo: Christoph Harder.

DR. R. GRALLA: In VERVE CHESS there is no more being fixed to the ground like the poor rabbit being immobilized by facing the killer snake? After having one's King letting walk into the final trap? Since there is still the option left to react - provided there is still an option to react?
D. POTTER: Or only for 30 seconds anyway.


Olympia Opfer Adeela Raweh

Unknowingly she has contributed to the theory and practice of VERVE CHESS before that futuristic version of the eternal game has even been invented: Adeela Raweh, female top athlete from Yemen who fought for the colours of her country at the Chess Olympiad Istanbul 2000 (photo: www.chessbase.com).

DR. R. GRALLA: Consequence: There are more chances to repair blunders in VERVE CHESS? Is that a kind of compensation for the fact that boo-boos are more likely in VERVE CHESS?
D. POTTER: Well, as I have mentioned earlier, I do not envisage that many blunders occurring, but I guess you could look at it that way.

DR. R. GRALLA: Taking the foregoing into account the execution of checkmate seems to be more tricky in the scenario of VERVE than in standard chess. Only two alternatives are thinkable: either to create a situation where there is no defence anymore, or to menace a frugal check-mate and to react very fast then.
D. POTTER: Does the second method envisage capturing the King before it can escape? If that is what you mean, then no, you cannot do that. As in chess the King cannot be captured. If you have your opponent in check but not checkmated, then after waiting 30 seconds you are free to make other moves, for example to achieve checkmate or at least reduce the number of ways the King can escape, or to capture another man or otherwise improve your position. But you cannot capture the King.


Legal against white
Black wants to execute "Legal's Checkmate" by backhand stroke - after the moves as follows: 1.e3 e5 2.d3(?) Bc5 3.Nc3 d5 4.e4(?) Nf6 5.f3 Nc6 6.Nge2 Nd4 7.Bg5 dxe5 8.Nxe4? Nxe4!. The diagram - by. D.Potter - demonstrates what White would have seen now if that would have been a match of VERVE CHESS: Though some companies of the Black army are shrouded by fog, on the one hand, the combined task force of Black Bc5 & Nd4 - that wants to make the day - is clearly visible. But White - though even not having been handicapped by the reduced visibility of the scenario of VERVE, but having a good old 64-squares-board at his disposal - can not resist the obvious goof: 9.Bxd8?? Nxf3+! 10.gxf3 Bf2# 0:1 (Krebs vs. R. Gralla, December 14th, 1973; Kellinghusen/Germany, casual, "Liliencron"-Barracks).

DR. R. GRALLA: Sophisticated combinations - heavy sacrifices of material including - with the purpose to enforce check-mate upon my adversary get more complicated and risky then. Many combinations are based on the principle of action & reaction & action & reaction, and it looks as if that rule does not work too well in VERVE CHESS, as consequence of the real time feature.
D. POTTER: I do not agree. The principle of action & reaction is still valid in VERVE, because you need to give your opponent 30 seconds. And he or she has to give you 30 seconds after reacting. So, in tactical situations, the moves do alternate, that is, there is action & reaction & action & reaction.

DR. R. GRALLA: The real time modus in VERVE CHESS, that is to say, the possibility of the opponents to maneuver independently, instead of those alternating tit-for-tat-moves in standard chess, opens up a new dimension for chess. By the innovative concept VERVE CHESS combines the distinctive traits of the two members of the family of strategic games that we know today: chess - where moves are alternating - and strategic games on the PC where duels are fought in real time.VERVE CHESS combines the best of those Two Worlds ...
D. POTTER: ... that captures very nicely the inspiration behind VERVE - to take advantage of the capabilities of computers by introducing real time play and restricted information, but still in a way that remains true to chess. The only qualification I would make on your statement is to emphasize that VERVE CHESS is more abstract than most strategic games on the PC. In fact, the trade-off between initiative and information at the heart of VERVE is quite different than anything in any the PC games that I am aware of.


War Chess
Chess meets strategic gaming in the virtual world: Screenshot from KOZMO GAMES-release "WarChess" in 3D (photo: courtesy by KOZMO GAMES).

DR. R. GRALLA: Please explain to us the modification that you have just mentioned: that "trade-off between initiative and information". We learn that VERVE CHESS implements a trade-off between initiative and information: All moves are designed to cost information, and the loss of information increases dramatically as the player moves on too quickly.Please explain that irritating provision to us.
D. POTTER: This trade-off is very important. It is the mechanism that makes real time play challenging. It works as follows: When a chess-man moves, it temporarily loses its vision. The time it takes to recover its vision increases dramatically as a player moves more quickly. If a player moves too fast, several chess-men will soon be unable to see for long periods of time, and so much less information will be available to the player. This trade-off involves strategic judgement: A player who moves too quickly or too slowly gives his or her opponent a significant advantage. There is an exact formula for that rule as follows: When a man moves, it loses its ability to see for 22n-t-10 minutes, where n is the number of moves you have made, including the current one, and t is the time at which you move, in minutes since the beginning of the game. If the chess-man was already unable to see, the time it will take to recover its vision is extended by that amount.

DR. R. GRALLA: Why that loss of information when a player is playing too fast? Normally one should get more informations by the strategy of blitzkrieg - since one's army is supposed to know more positions on the battle-field the swifter your units get deployed there!
D. POTTER: Yes, you do gain information - in the long run - by moving your men to squares from which they can see more. But you lose - in the short run to medium run - because your men lose their sight for a while. And the faster you move your chess-men the longer they will lose it for.

DR. R. GRALLA: All right, obviously that is the VERVE way of simulating the effects of the exhaustion of the soldiers after having stormed against the enemy incessantly. In any case VERVE CHESS has the potential to persuade gamers - who otherwise tend to think that chess is boring - to try out chess again.
D. POTTER: VERVE's target audience does indeed go beyond serious chess players. It will also attract recreational players, people who enjoy chess variants, and yes, those who are not currently active players and who might be brought back to the game by new challenges.


War Chess Flying Knight
Targeting a new audience for an ages-old game: action chess by KOZMO GAMES (screenshot from "WarChess" ; photo: courtesy by KOZMO GAMES).

DR. R. GRALLA: Maybe VERVE CHESS can have a nice and unexpected educational aspect, namly to tackle the problem of game addiction in the sector of PC-games. Since VERVE CHESS - being played in real time - is close enough to PC-battle games to be attractive even for the hard-core gamers. And if they switch to VERVE CHESS, then they will have switched to a game that has an undisputed cultural and educational value.
D. POTTER: Yes, some of the play testers who have enjoyed VERVE the most have been PC games enthusiasts. VERVE has a strong potential to popularize chess, particularly among people who enjoy other PC games.


War Chess Island

Potential to popularize chess? Showdown in paradise (screenshot from KOZMO GAMES' "WarChess" ; photo: courtesy by KOZMO GAMES).


DR. R. GRALLA: Chess has a communication problem. It is full of adventure, but nobody can see that - apart from the players. Can VERVE CHESS be a way to make chess more attractive for onlookers? By introducing those elements of surprise just as in sports coverage: both armies operating independently in real time, enemy troops that are bursting into the theatre of operations just out of the blue - because you have not seen them before?! And there is this subjective camera: looking at the board through the eyes of your men - so you are getting right into the action, just like in great action movies. So by employing that kind of chess coverage that is the trademark of VERVE CHESS, your innovative version of chess could even trigger a revolution with regard to chess coverage - since every match of VERVE CHESS rolls on like a real action movie.
D. POTTER: In some ways VERVE CHESS can be even better than a movie, because it can allow the game to be viewed from the perspective of either player or from a full-information point of view. People could switch back and forth to replay specific game events from all three perspectives.


Verve: War Chess Desert Planet

Better than an action movie: conquering the desert plane by mate attack (screenshot from KOZMO GAMES' "WarChess" ; photo: courtesy by KOZMO GAMES).


DR. R. GRALLA: Quite obviously VERVE CHESS has the potential to popularize chess ...
D. POTTER: ... like bridge, VERVE can be played very seriously or just for fun. And playing just for fun can lead to improving skills and interest. Those who want to play well will of course study the underlying principles of chess.

A heavily condensed German version of the foregoing interview has been published by the daily "Neues Deutschland". The link:

http://www.nd-online.de/artikel.asp?AID=86670&IDC=6&DB=Archiv


Gralla

Dr. René Gralla, Hamburg, Germany

Any more question left with regard to VERVE CHESS? Then contact the inventor directly:
Dave Potter, 30 Glenarden Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6C 3K2, email: [email protected].


Written by René Gralla. Interview bij René Gralla and Dave Potter. Webpage made by Hans Bodlaender. Photo's by various creators.
Webpage made: November 8, 2007.