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Blocschach

Introduction

This variant adds me to the ranks of those variant inventors who have tackled the idea of the 8x8x8 variant. If your reaction is "God, not another oversized monstrosity" it is quite understandable. I have, however, taken care not to just populate it with simple pieces like the FIDE ones but weakened by the sheer vastness and (because it is 3d) looseness of the board. In fact, all pieces are either compound ones or multipath crooked ones.

In some of my past 3d variants I saw the transformation of a linear rank of 8 cells into a square rank of 4x4 cells as a doubling, and in the case of Intermediate Tunnelchess reflected this by turning the pattern 1+1+2+2+2 into 2+2+4+4+4, albeit with suitably stronger pieces. Well here I take the transformation of the ranks from 8 to 8x8 as a squaring, and square not only the number of pieces on the back rank but their composition. That is to say, it contains (1+1+2+2+2)x(1+1+2+2+2) pieces - 1 each of 4 types, 2 each of 12 (6+6) types, and 4 each of 9 types.

On deciding which types to use, I began with the Emperor and 3 kinds of 2-component linepiece. I then threw in all 12 kinds of crowned linepiece. I added knighted pieces as a Cardinal seemed the natural thing to have alongside a Pope. Finally I added crooked pieces alternating between two kinds of move, following the model of Ralph Betza's Rhino pieces. The last group may seem an odd choice, but prove a surprisingly good basis for matching spare representations left over after the straight pieces have been represented.

The name of the variant refers to each army being effective an alliance of subarmies that may be put out of action by the loss of their shortest-range piece.

I have since added another 8x8x8 variant, Gutenschach.

Setup

Ranks are numbered 1 to 8, levels lettered s-z, and filestacks - vertical groups of files - lettered a-h. The following table indicates which pieces start on the end ranks - those of the White army on rank 1 and those of the Black on rank 8.

level s

level t

level u

level v

level w

level x

level y

level z

Pieces

As numbers of piece types echo those of FIDE Chess I recommend using 5 types of FIDE set - 1 each of sets 1 and 2, and 2 each of sets 3-5. They may differ in size, decreasing as set number increases, or be novelty sets, or be marked with a strip of colour - unmarked for set 1, grey for set 2, purple for set 3, orange for set 4, green for set 5.

Single pieces in single sets, 1 aside in total:

Paired pieces in single sets, 2 aside in total:

The EMPEROR moves one step in any of the 26 radial directions, and must be kept out of Check. It is represented by the set 1 King. A linepiece with remaining Emperor moves added is described as imperially crowned.
The DIARCH is an imperially crowned Queen. It is represented by the set 1 Queen.
The DOWAGER is an imperially crowned Duchess. It is represented by the set 2 Queen.
The REGENT is an imperially crowned Governor. It is represented by the set 2 King.
The BARONESS is an imperially crowned Rook. It is represented by the set 1 Rook.
The POPE is an imperially crowned Bishop. It is represented by the set 1 Bishop.
The USURPER is an imperially crowned Unicorn. It is represented by the set 1 Knight.
The MARSHAL is a knighted Rook. It is represented by the set 2 Rook.
The CARDINAL is a knighted Bishop. It is represented by the set 2 Bishop.
The CAVALCADE is a knighted Unicorn. It is represented by the set 2 Knight.
The Knight moves of all three knighted pieces are unblockable.

Single pieces in paired sets, 2 aside in total:

The PRINCE moves one step, and the QUEEN any distance, through empty intermediate cells, in any of the 6 Rookwise and 12 Bishopwise directions. They are represented by the set 3 King and Queen. Though moving like the familiar FIDE King (or its extension to 3 planes, as featured in Ecumenical Eurasian Ninjachess), the Prince is capturable, although a player with no Prince cannot move any of their set 3 pieces (except Stockbrokers). Pieces with a mixture of Prince and Queen moves are described as royally crowned.
The DUKE moves one step, and the DUCHESS any distance, through empty intermediate cells, in any of the 6 Rookwise and 8 Unicornwise directions. They are represented by the set 4 King and Queen. A player with no Duke cannot move any of their set 4 pieces (except Stockbrokers). Note that the Duke is colourswitching, meaning that any move that it makes is to a cell of the other Bishop binding. Pieces with a mixture of Duke and Duchess moves are described as ducally crowned.
The BARON moves one step, and the GOVERNOR any distance, through empty intermediate cells, in any of the 12 Bishopwise and 8 Unicornwise directions. They are represented by the set 5 King and Queen. A player with no Baron cannot move any of their set 5 pieces (except Stockbrokers). Pieces with a mixture of Baron and Governor moves are described as baronially crowned.
Paired pieces in paired sets, 4 aside in total:
The CHATELAINE is a royally crowned Rook. It is represented by the set 3 Rook.

The PRIMATE is a royally crowned Bishop. It is represented by the set 3 Bishop.

The DOUBLE RHINO, or Rhino for short in the context of this game, alternates between steps of a Rook move and a Bishop move in similar directions, starting with either, through empty intermediate cells. Its 1-step destinations are those of a Prince, but its 2-step destinations are those of a Knight (but blockable). It is therefore represented by the set 3 Knight.

The VICEREINE is a ducally crowned Rook. It is represented by the set 4 Rook.

The BESIEGER is a ducally crowned Unicorn. It is represented by the set 4 Knight.

The DOUBLE NAVVY, or Navvy for short in the context of this game, alternates between steps of a Rook move and a Unicorn move in similar directions, starting with either, through empty intermediate cells. Its 1-step destinations are those of a Duke, but its 2-step destinations are those of the colourbound and ecclesiastically-named 2:1:1 Sexton. It is therefore represented by the set 4 Bishop.

The MODERATOR is a baronially crowned Bishop. It is represented by the set 5 Bishop.

The HERETIC is a baronially crowned Unicorn. It is represented by the set 5 Knight.

The DOUBLE THUG, or Thug for short in the context of this game, alternates between steps of a Bishop move and a Unicorn move in similar directions, starting with either, through empty intermediate cells. Its 1-step destinations are those of a Baron, but its 2-step destinations are those of the 2:2:1 Ninja and of integer length (3). It is therefore represented by the set 5 Rook.

Octuple pieces in all sets, 64 aside in total:
The STOCKBROKER moves one step along any of the 9 forward radials with the restriction that the move must be:
(1) noncapturing if orthogonal;
(2) noncapturing if SD and to a file the same distance in/out;
(3) capturing if SD and to a file further in or out;
(4) capturing if ND, including "cutting a corner" with no change in distance in/out.
Note that this makes its moves number:
(a) 3 noncapturing (orthogonal, 1 horizontal SD, 1 vertical SD) and 6 capturing (1 horizontal SD, 1 vertical SD, 4 ND) from files tb/tg/uc/uf/vd/ve/wd/we/xc/xf/yb/yg;
(b) 3 noncapturing (orthogonal, 2 horizontal SD) and 6 capturing (2 vertical SD, 4 ND) from files tc/td/te/tf/ud/ue/xd/xe/yc/yd/ye/yf;
(c) 3 noncapturing (orthogonal, 2 vertical SD) and 6 capturing (2 horizontcal SD, 4 ND) from files ub/ug/vb/vc/vf/vg/wb/wc/wf/wg/xb/xg;
(d) 3 noncapturing (orthogonal, 2 horizontal SD) and 3 capturing (2 vertical SD, 1 ND) from files sb/sc/sd/se/ef/eg/zb/zc/zd/ze/zf/zg;
(e) 3 noncapturing (orthogonal, 2 vertical SD) and 3 capturing (2 horizontal SD, 1 ND) from files ta/th/ua/uh/va/vh/wa/wh/xa/xh/ya/yh;
(f) 3 noncapturing (orthogonal, 1 horizontal SD, 1 vertical SD) and 1 capturing (ND) from files sa/sh/za/zh.
In other words, corner files apart it has the same ratio of move types as a Pawn on a 2d board, the outermost files corresponding to the 2d board's edge files. This is one parallel resulting from all ND moves being capturing; the other is that the move crossing through the centre line corresponds to a Pawn move between two equally central files on a even-file square-cell board.
Where Stockbrokers start determines how they can be promoted on reaching the far rank. Therefore:
those starting on levels s/v/w/z, filestacks a/d/e/h should be from sets 1 and 2;
those starting on levels s/v/w/z, filestacks b/c/f/g from set 3;
those starting on levels t/u/x/y, filestacks a/d/e/h from set 4;
and those starting on levels t/u/x/y, filestacks b/c/f/g from set 5.

Promotee-only pieces:

The EMPRESS moves any distance through empty intermediate cells in any of the 26 radial direction. It appears in the game only under certain conditions.

Rules

Play alternates between the two full armies as in FIDE Chess.

Stockbrokers have an optional initial double-step noncapturing move. The two steps need not be in the same direction - and in some cases cannot be - but must be valid noncapturing moves as if each step were a whole move. Immediately after making such a move they may be captured En Passant by an enemy Stockbroker as if it had made only the first step, if such a piece is so placed to do so.

Observe the three same-rank lines of 8 cells through the Emperor's starting cell. You will notice that each has a strong (compound) pure radial linepiece at each end. Next in is the compound of the weaker (simple) complementary pure radial linepiece and the Knight. Next in is a piece alternating the moves of the outer linepiece. Finally in the centre are the royally-restricted piece moving one step along all available radials, and the outer linepiece crowned by single-step moves along the remaining radials. These lines are in fact the analogues to the Rookheavy Chess back rank. In particular they are lines traversable by their own end linepieces. Castling is therefore allowed between the Emperor and either Queen or either Duchess, and Cathedralling (the diagonal analogue of Castling) with either Governor. Distances moved can be extrapolated from FIDE Chess and usual restrictions apply.

Stockbrokers reaching the far rank must be promoted.
* Those from sets 1 and 2 may be promoted to any imperially crowned or knighted piece whatever other pieces they have; or to Empress if the player has 2 Princes, 2 Dukes, and 2 Barons (either through not having lost any or through replenishment by promotion).
* Those from set 3 may be promoted to Queen, Chatelaine, Primate, or Rhino if the player has at least one Prince; or to Prince if they have at most one Prince.
* Those from set 4 may be promoted to Duchess, Vicereine, Besieger, or Navvy if the player has at least one Duke; or to Duke if they have at most one Duke.
* Those from set 5 may be promoted to Governor, Moderator, Heretic, or Thug if the player has at least one Baron; or to Baron if they have at most one Baron.

Check, Checkmate, and Stalemate are as in FIDE Chess, except that they can be made easier by the pieces being prevented from blocking Check or capturing the Checking piece for the want of a Prince, Duke, or Baron. If that were not help enough - and after all, pieces may be prevented from inflicting Check for the same reason - there is also the option of win by marriage. That is to say, a player wins if they have their Emperor and at least one Empress an Emperor's move apart, with the Emperor not itself in Check.

Notes

If the diversity of pieces seems daunting, allow me to break it down.
18 pieces have the Rook move and 26 of the remainder have the Wazir move.
18 pieces have the Bishop move and 26 of the remainder have the Ferz move.
18 pieces have the Unicorn move and 26 of the remainder have the Viceroy move.
12 pieces have crooked long-range moves.
6 pieces have the leaping Knight move.

I decided against having a greater variety of oblique leaps than the Knight's as I wished to limit the number of piece types without giving up the likes of Cardinal and Cavalcade for pieces with clumsier names.

Names for straight pieces (including crowned versions thereof) are fully explained in my piece article Man and Beast 01: Constitutional Characters. Those for Knighted pieces became established before my time on these pages, except Cavalcade (meaning a parade of horses) which I coined in reference to the double dose of horsiness implied by Unicorn+Knight. Navvy and Thug extrapolate from the idea of the Rhino as a less elegant relative of the horse. These last two are listed in Man and Beast 09: Mighty Like a Rose. The Stockbroker is now one of several "Stock" pieces in Man and Beast 15: Strengthened Across the Board.

Do not confuse the Navvy with the Longboyhexer (also in MAB 09), which also moves in a generally Sextonwise direction but by alternating steps of two Bishop moves. All Boyhexer moves are to cells of the same Bishop binding whereas Navvy moves (like Rook and Unicorn moves) alternate between Bishop bindings. The -boy- in the name is of course extrapolated from the 2d Boyscout, which moves generally Rookwise by alternating steps of two Bishop moves.

Note that I have taken care to place the pieces with the most closely related names in close proximty - Baron and Baroness, Cardinal and Pope, Duchess and Duke, and Prince and Queen.

The suggested markings in purple/orange/green are different combinations of red for Rookwise, blue for Bishopwise, and yellow for "yunicornwise" (as it is pronounced).

Set 5 could theoretically be Shogi pieces if you run out of distinctive FIDE sets, as their pieces are certainly comparitively small. As Shogi sets have fewer Rooks and Bishops, though, and no Queens or Knights, different substitutions would be needed. It can even be done entirely with promotable Shogi pieces so, if you have a good enough eye for Japanese characters but the will to ignore the usual meanings, you could even use them unpromoted for set 5 and promoted set 4!



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By Charles Gilman.
Web page created: 2007-04-17. Web page last updated: 2016-04-19