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Subject: A chess variant of mine on ChessWhiz TV rss

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Luis Bolaños Mures
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ChessWhiz TV is a Twitch and YouTube show about chess. I've been watching it quite a bit lately and it has served to remind me how fun chess can be when I get my designer mind to stop frowning at its cyclic nature and arbitrary rules.

Its namesake host, a fittingly witty and energetic character, is quite a seasoned games enthusiast himself and boasts a respectable chess rating to boot. On the show, he plays both regular chess and chess variants on the popular site lichess.org, which I've also been enjoying lately as a player. Some of those variants, like Antichess and Crazyhouse, are well-established and officially available on the site, while others are his own creations or his viewers' submissions. On episode 100, for a change, he played Go, which he seems to admire even more than chess.

A couple of weeks ago, while watching the show, I had an idea for a modest chess variant in the spirit of those that I have seen him try so many times: too crazy to ever replace chess, but fun and reasonable enough for daydreamers to briefly entertain the thought. At the very least, like a few of those, it should keep draws at bay. My variant, which I called Squatter Chess, adds one rule to regular chess: you also win if you move one of your pieces to the last rank without it being immediately captured by the opponent. Moves that are illegal in chess are illegal in Squatter Chess.

I wrote ChessWhiz about the idea and, to my surprise, he quickly decided to devote an episode to it. It will be episode number 392, no less, and it will be broadcast Sunday at 4pm GMT. The merit or lack thereof of my variant rules is less relevant than the entertainment value of the show. You can watch it live for free here:

http://twitch.tv/chesswhiz

All previous episodes are available on his YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/user/ChessWhizTV
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Hey thats pretty cool I look forward to checking it out.
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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An appetizer:

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Nick Bentley
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I've noticed board game stuff has been growing on twitch in the last year. Still not a twitch user (I prefer text to video), but I have my eye on it.
 
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Nick Bentley
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I pulled out a board and played a bit of squatter chess against myself before bed last evening. I found it pleasant. First impression: seems like it will be a crossing game with the occasional Check for flavor, rather than Chess with occasional crossing wins.

There was a related variant I played briefly back in my Chess days. The extra rules were (as I remember them):

1. You lose if you're responsible for completing a threefold repetition
2. You lose if subject to stalemate
3. You win if you move your King to your opponent's King's starting square.
4. There may have been a no castling rule but I can't quite remember

You wouldn't call it elegant, but I remember enjoying the dynamic created when a (rare) crossing win became a threat. It could take on a kamikaze "Ender's Game" sort of feel.
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milomilo122 wrote:
I pulled out a board and played a bit of squatter chess against myself before bed last evening. I found it pleasant. First impression: seems like it will be a crossing game with the occasional Check for flavor, rather than Chess with occasional crossing wins.

Yes, actually my initial idea was to dispose with the checkmate goal altogether and make it a kind of Breakthrough Chess, probably with an additional rule against non-capturing sideways and backwards movement to make it drawless. But lichess.org has no sandbox feature at the moment, so only subsets of chess can be played.

I'll find some time later to comment on your variant.
 
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Michael Howe
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I do not want to hijack this thread, but I do want to point out that I have in the past posted rules to my own "Breakthrough Chess" which has a crossing goal (run the opponent out of moves is also a win), no check (king is nonroyal and enhanced to K+N), and pieces that move only forward but capture in all directions. First move advantage is reduced by requiring white's first move to be a single square pawn move. Draws are not possible.

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Nick Bentley
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For those of you who are designing Chess variants, what would you say is your fundamental motivation for doing so? Back when I first started designing games, I remember enjoying chess variant construction, but I've since totally lost the bug, seduced away by the platonic beauty of (good) stone games. What is it you're trying to get at, on a fundamental level?

Is there a particular kind of beauty you wish to discover?

Are there things about Chess that bother you and you want to correct them?

Is it just to "see what happens" when you change this or that?

Do you want to discover something generally new about game dynamics?
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:

For those of you who are designing Chess variants, what would you say is your fundamental motivation for doing so? Back when I first started designing games, I remember enjoying chess variant construction, but I've since totally lost the bug, seduced away by the platonic beauty of (good) stone games. What is it you're trying to get at, on a fundamental level?

Is there a particular kind of beauty you wish to discover?

Are there things about Chess that bother you and you want to correct them?

Is it just to "see what happens" when you change this or that?

Do you want to discover something generally new about game dynamics?

That's what I mean, interesting subjects! I actually lost interest in inventing them too (if 'inventing' the word). But I remember what set off the first one. It was the question "how much do you actually need to make a chess variant". To give a direction: you need a king, but what about pawns? What about different pieces?

To get one thing out of the way, I call a game a 'chess variant' if it has checkmating an absolute piece as its goal. A subset is "variants of Chess", games based on the actual game, like Grand Chess.

Which brings me to another point: what triggered Grand Chess? My obsession (a little one, an 'obsessionette' maybe?) with completeness. The fact that two composite pieces are missing in Chess was, well ... stupid, however historically explainable. And Capablanca and Lasker had done a bad job fixing it.

I feel a chess variant needs to add an intelligent new twist to the idea of checkmate. Dreaming up fairy pieces is hardly intelligent. And yes, I too ran out of intelligent ideas, eventually.
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christianF wrote:

Which brings me to another point: what triggered Grand Chess? My obsession (a little one, an 'obsessionette' maybe?) with completeness. The fact that two composite pieces are missing in Chess was, well ... stupid, however historically explainable. And Capablanca and Lasker had done a bad job fixing it.


Interesting. The completeness of Grand Chess isn't what sets it apart for me. I think mainly because, while it does provide the missing composite pieces, the original piece set movements are a little arbitrary. Choose another set of base movements, and that would require a different set of composite pieces for "completeness". So it doesn't really remove my sense of arbitrariness.

What DOES set Grand Chess apart for me is the freedom of the rooks, as I find freeing rooks to be the most frustrating aspect of Chess.

Quote:
I feel a chess variant needs to add an intelligent new twist to the idea of checkmate. Dreaming up fairy pieces is hardly intelligent. And yes, I too ran out of intelligent ideas, eventually.


Reminds me of perhaps my most cherished design aphorism (not just game design but design in general). It's from Ian Bogost:

Quote:
...things are most compelling when they are allowed to be exactly what they are. And they’re even more compelling the more they are exactly what they are. That means that the designer’s job is to make things even more what they already are.


If the world's game designers pinned this above their desks, the world would be a better place (for me).
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mhowe wrote:
I do not want to hijack this thread, but I do want to point out that I have in the past posted rules to my own "Breakthrough Chess" which has a crossing goal (run the opponent out of moves is also a win), no check (king is nonroyal and enhanced to K+N), and pieces that move only forward but capture in all directions. First move advantage is reduced by requiring white's first move to be a single square pawn move. Draws are not possible.

I didn't know that. Do you have a link?
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
3. You win if you move your King to your opponent's King's starting square.

Nice to see you considered this. Do you know Mexican King Chess? It's similar to your proposal, but you just need to move your king to any square in the last rank in order to win. A kind of king promotion, if you will. I've played this a few times on igGameCenter and I actually like it better than chess. I see it as a natural next step in the evolution of the game, and one that might not frighten off as many diehard fans as more radical proposals would. Apart from increasing decisiveness, it shifts the focus a little from material to position, which alleviates my main other issue with chess.

milomilo122 wrote:
1. You lose if you're responsible for completing a threefold repetition

Does Stone Nick know what Chess Nick did?

I think trying to make chess drawless by forbidding repetition is an exercise that will only end in frustration. Been there, done that. But maybe your friend the scoring track can come to the rescue. How about this?:

1. There is a scoring track with 8 spaces numbered 1 to 8 next to the board.
2. At the start of the game, one Black token and one White token are placed on the 1 space on the scoring track. The Black token is placed to the left of the White one.
3. When a player moves their king to a rank higher than the position of their token, said token is moved one space forward. If an enemy token is already there, the player's token is placed to the right of it, on the same space.
4. The king can be captured like any other piece, and the game doesn't end when that happens.
5. The leader is the player whose token is on a higher-numbered space. If both tokens are on the same space, the leader is the player whose token is on the left.
6. If it's impossible for the player who is not the leader to become the leader or 50 consecutive non-progressing moves have been made by each player, the current leader wins. A non-progressing move is a move other than a pawn move, a token move, a capture or castling.

(EDIT: Improved wording.)

milomilo122 wrote:
Back when I first started designing games, I remember enjoying chess variant construction, but I've since totally lost the bug, seduced away by the platonic beauty of (good) stone games.

Same here, mostly.
 
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
christianF wrote:
Which brings me to another point: what triggered Grand Chess? My obsession (a little one, an 'obsessionette' maybe?) with completeness. The fact that two composite pieces are missing in Chess was, well ... stupid, however historically explainable. And Capablanca and Lasker had done a bad job fixing it.

Interesting. The completeness of Grand Chess isn't what sets it apart for me. I think mainly because, while it does provide the missing composite pieces, the original piece set movements are a little arbitrary. Choose another set of base movements, and that would require a different set of composite pieces for "completeness". So it doesn't really remove my sense of arbitrariness.

Of the single pieces rook and bishop are not particularly arbitrary and the knight ... well, maybe a little then. But covering the first squares that are not covered by the rook and the bishop is not lacking a certain logic.

milomilo122 wrote:
What DOES set Grand Chess apart for me is the freedom of the rooks, as I find freeing rooks to be the most frustrating aspect of Chess.

That doesn't lack a certain logic either, and it was missed by Capablanca and Lasker. They were brilliant players but poor inventors. The free rooks as well as the changed promotion rule are the 'colleteral damage' left by a good inventor. Not that I was actually looking for a way to do it better, but the moment I saw the new set-up accidentally emerge it all came together. I hope it clarifies the difference between a player and an inventor. Many posters seem to think that good players make good inventors. You only have to look at the rise of Fischer Random to see this misconception at work.

milomilo122 wrote:
Reminds me of perhaps my most cherished design aphorism (not just game design but design in general). It's from Ian Bogost:

Quote:
...things are most compelling when they are allowed to be exactly what they are. And they’re even more compelling the more they are exactly what they are. That means that the designer’s job is to make things even more what they already are.


If the world's game designers pinned this above their desks, the world would be a better place (for me).

Chess variants are all arbitrary, and in that sense our job would be to make them even more arbitrary. I'm not quite sure if I agree with that, considering that Grand Chess is less arbitrary than Chess. But I do indeed think that Grand Chess must still become what it is.
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luigi87 wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
3. You win if you move your King to your opponent's King's starting square.

Nice to see you considered this. Do you know Mexican King Chess? It's similar to your proposal, but you just need to move your king to any square in the last rank in order to win. A kind of king promotion, if you will. I've played this a few times on igGameCenter and I actually like it better than chess. I see it as a natural next step in the evolution of the game, and one that might not frighten off as many die-hard fans as more radical proposals would. Apart from increasing decisiveness, it shifts the focus a little from material to position, which alleviates my main other issue with chess.

milomilo122 wrote:
1. You lose if you're responsible for completing a threefold repetition

Does Stone Nick know what Chess Nick did?


I didn't design that one. It was in the days before I designed games. I think I found it on chessvariants.com
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
I didn't design that one. It was in the days before I designed games. I think I found it on chessvariants.com

Oh, I misread.

And I might have submitted a variant with a no repetition rule to that site myself, back in the day. whistle
 
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Michael Howe
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luigi87 wrote:
mhowe wrote:
I do not want to hijack this thread, but I do want to point out that I have in the past posted rules to my own "Breakthrough Chess" which has a crossing goal (run the opponent out of moves is also a win), no check (king is nonroyal and enhanced to K+N), and pieces that move only forward but capture in all directions. First move advantage is reduced by requiring white's first move to be a single square pawn move. Draws are not possible.

I didn't know that. Do you have a link?


Here is the original thread with a lot of my games described. You even commented on it!

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1254175/my-games-zrfs-a...

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Hey everyone,

The stream is live at http://twitch.tv/chesswhiz.

EDIT: the show is now over. YouTube video will be up shortly. I'll post a link below when it's ready.

EDIT #2: Done!
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milomilo122 wrote:
3. You win if you move your King to your opponent's King's starting square.


FWIW I believe that Hidetchi proposed this as an alternate way to win in Shogi as an improvement to the existing "count up material" method of resolving/reducing drawish positions (which are already rare compared to Chess). I like the idea in Shogi, but AFAIK it has not caught on in any official sense.
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Bill Cook
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Just watched the episode. Looks like squatter chess was a success.

Random thought... in squatter chess, does the value of K vs B change vs regular chess?
 
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The episode is now available to Patreon supporters and Boardgamegeekers. It will be released to the public next week.

Enjoy your exclusive access!

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Rey Alicea
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Very cool Luis! Had a blast watching the game in action!
 
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In the second game around 13:24, why couldn't white have moved their white bishop to row 8 to win before the black king reaches row 1 to win?
 
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Nathan James
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Hey! This is another way to "fix" the unavailability of rooks in chess!

It's hard to play for a different end goal in a well-known game like chess. I've experienced that myself and it shows pretty clearly in the games in this video. Of course it doesn't help that the time controls are so tight.

Another example is that White could have won the final game after the black king reached K-h3 with R-h1x ... R-h8
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russ wrote:
In the second game around 13:24, why couldn't white have moved their white bishop to row 8 to win before the black king reaches row 1 to win?

White could have won like that indeed. On the other hand, Black could have won at 12:40 with d3+ followed by Ba1.
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luigi87 wrote:
russ wrote:
In the second game around 13:24, why couldn't white have moved their white bishop to row 8 to win before the black king reaches row 1 to win?

White could have won like that indeed. On the other hand, Black could have won at 12:40 with d3+ followed by Ba1.

So White overlooked a win, and a little earlier Black had overlooked one himself - have I got that right?

But here's the thing (just a question, as a friend of the court): the expression "on the other hand" is properly used in contexts where one element balances out another. Now in this case that's obviously sort of true, if evenness of opportunity is all that we're looking at. But could it be that the evidence is beginning to point (as indeed intuition might have suggested) to a damaging surfeit of winning situations - in which case, the key point about Black's missed trick would be not so much that it compensated for White's as that it pointed in the same (unfortunate) direction?


 
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