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Makarenko's Chess

Introduction

Makarenko's Chess (also sometimes called "Cubic Chess") is a Russian variant, created by Anton Makarenko (1888-1939), a Soviet teacher, social worker and writer during his tenure in the Gorky youth colony in 1920-1928. The main idea is that pieces are represented by stacks of chips, which can be freely split and combined during the game, constantly changing the situation on the board.

A Zillions adaptation (with slightly different rules than described below) has been created by Marek14.
Similar games include Abstract Chess and Stack Chess, which likewise represent the pieces as stacks that can be split and combined.

Rules

The following rules have been based on the following Polish publication: Zdzisław Nowak, Mu-torere, do-guti i inne. 50 gier na kolorowych planszach, Warszawa 1972. It is by far the fullest description of the game that I have found. However, some rules remain ambiguous. If anyone knows of a better source (perhaps some old book in Russian that isn't available online) that would provide a more accurate version, it would be appreciated.

The game takes place on a standard 8x8 board, and the initial piece layout is as in standard chess. However, each piece is represented by a stack of checker chips, of differing height:

  • pawn = 1 chip
  • rook = 3 chips
  • knight = 4 chips
  • bishop = 5 chips
  • queen = 7 chips
  • king = 8 chips

During the game, a stack with an "in-between" number of chips counts as the lower piece; thus, a stack of 2 chips behaves as a pawn, and a stack of 6 behaves as a bishop.

At the start of his turn, a player can split any of his pieces into two shorter stacks, then move with one of the split-off pieces. For example, if a player has a a stack of 5 chips, he can move the entire stack as a bishop; or he can split it into a pawn (1 chip) and knight (4 chips) and make a move with either of these pieces, leaving the other behind; or he can split it into a 2-chip pawn and a rook (3 chips) and move with either of them.

A player can move one of his pieces onto a square occupied by another of his pieces, combining them into a taller piece. (This ends the player's turn.) A stack taller than 8 chips cannot be created. Splitting off a piece then combining it with another piece can be done within one turn.

A pawn can perform a capturing (diagonally forward) move in order to combine with a friendly piece on the targeted square.

A player can have more than one King. However, if the player has only one King, he is not allowed to split it even for a moment (i.e. even if he'd use the split-off piece to immediately create another King on the same turn.)

There is apparently no castling, no en passant capture, and no pawn promotion. (The cited book, which otherwise assumes no familiarity with standard chess, does not mention any of these rules, and thus I assume they are not part of this variant.) It is not clear if standard checking rules apply, i.e. if the players have to declare check and if the king can move into check.

There is no checkmating; the king can be captured like any other piece. A player who ends his turn with no Kings loses the game. (This means that even if a player's last king is captured, he can still save himself by immediately creating another King on his following turn, but if he cannot accomplish this, he loses.)

Some questions remain unclear, e.g.:

  • Can a pawn combine with other pieces only via a capturing move, or can it also move orthogonally onto a friendly piece?
  • What happens if your last king is captured, and you use your last turn to capture the opponent's last king? Do you immediately lose the game, or does the game end with a draw?
  • If a pawn is split off from a piece on the second rank, can it move forward two squares?

 

Notes

An article about the game in the Russian children's magazine "Kostyor" gives different piece values: namely, the values of the bishop and the rook are exchanged, so a 3-chip stack is a bishop, and a 5- or 6-chip stack is a rook.

An article at a Russian board game website "tesera.ru" calls the 2- and 6-chip stacks "super-pawn" and "super-bishop", respectively.



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Author: Jacek Dobrzyniecki. Inventor: Anton Makarenko.
Web page created: 2019-01-06. Web page last updated: 2019-01-06