Sunday, February 15, 2015

Top 10 Variations of Chess

Even if there are already several strategy video games (especially in PC) that have been developed to have more intellectual gameplays than chess, this timeless boardgame is still as popular and esteemed as ever.   But did you know that there are actually numerous variations of chess out there?  Here are my favorite modified versions of chess that employed a couple of twists to make the game more complex or crazier – hence, more interesting.      


Three-Dimensional (3-D) Chess has its origins from the late 19th century.  It features multiple boards at different levels, on which the pieces could move in three-dimensions.  This variant features different variants itself, but the most popular is the “Star Trek” version.  Star Trek’s 3-D Chess has been seen many times throughout the franchise’s TV series and movies.  Originally intended to be merely fictional, fans developed detailed mechanics to make it playable in real life. 

3-D Chess is probably the most complex chess variant I’ve encountered (yes, even more complex than Quantum Chess) that I didn’t even bother to thoroughly learn the rules.  But this is probably the most popular chess variant out there because of its connection with Star Trek, so I gave it the tenth spot.  And, besides, I have to admit that I also find it fascinating because of its intimidating set-up.     


When I first encountered the image above back in 2011, I shared it in Facebook and jokingly captioned it...
So during my research while constructing this list, I was surprised to discover that I was spot on with my jesting deduction. 


This chess variant is developed by Yoko Ono (yes, that Yoko Ono) as an art project.   Both players’ pieces are white.  Therefore, after a few moves, the board gets confusing; the players will have the difficulty of determining which pieces are theirs.  Of course, those with genius-level eidetic memory would be able to play it with ease as if it’s a normal chess game.  But for most players, they must trust each other in determining whose pieces are whose. 

“Play It By Trust” is supposed to serve as a metaphor for the senselessness of war.  Through it, Yoko Ono intended to eliminate the “conflict” in a chess game, rendering the “battle” to eventual futility after a couple of moves.  So – if I get her intentions right – the set-up instead promotes “peace” and “unity” by forcing the players to rely on each other’s memories and honesty if there’s hope of finishing the game. 

It’s either stupid or profound.  Your call.  Either way, it’s truly unique.        


In Monster Chess (also called Super King Chess), Black has the standard set of pieces while White only has a king and four – sometimes two, sometimes eight – pieces of pawns.  However, White can move two successive moves per turn. 

On paper, Black seems to have the advantage because he has a complete set of pieces.  But White’s “two moves against Black’s one move” function actually can make the game very winnable for him, especially if White plays with eight pawns.   


To win, instead of checkmating the king, one has to capture all pieces of a particular kind of chess piece.  Therefore, he can win by doing one of the following: capturing the king, capturing the queen, capturing the two bishops, capturing the two knights, capturing the two rooks, or capturing all eight pawns.  Since the king is just a normal piece here, the restrictions in castling in check are suspended.  Moreover, a pawn can now also be promoted to a king.  Also, the queen should be taken good care of, since there is only one queen and its elimination would automatically mean losing (unless a pawn has been promoted to another queen prior to the initial queen’s elimination).      


I will be doing a “two item in one spot” entry here because both variations make an interesting use of a “nuke” option, but in different methods. 

In Atomic Chess, standard board and rules apply.  The twist is whenever a “capture” happens in a particular square, an “atomic bomb explosion” happens; all pieces – whether belonging to the player or his opponent – in the eight surrounding squares are removed from play.  Pawns, however, are immune to an “atomic bomb explosion”, hence, they can’t be removed from play by it. 

In Stratomic (illustration above), the game happens in a 10x10 board.  There are two extra pawns, and, instead of rooks, the two extreme bottom pieces are nuclear missiles (those that look like inverted kings in the illustration above).  A nuclear missile moves and captures one step at a time, like a king piece.  However, a nuclear missile can also be launched.  When launched, it “nukes” – removes from play – the piece on the square it is targeting as well as all the pieces on its eight surrounding squares.  The “nuclear missile” piece is also removed from play after its use.  The king is, understandably, immune to nukes.  There are two prerequisites before a “nuke” can be launched: 1.) a non-pawn piece must have been captured prior to using it; and 2.) the nuclear missile should not be on a “state of attack” – can be captured on the next turn – by an enemy piece at time of launch.  Lastly, pawns can be promoted to nuclear missiles.    


Standard board and rules apply.  But whenever a “capture” happens, the capturer gains the movement ability of the capturee.  Example, if a rook captures a bishop, it can now also move diagonally (basically, making the rook capable of doing what a queen can do).  Or if a queen captures a knight, it is now also capable of executing an “L” movement.   


The number three spot is for Three-Player Chess and Four-Player Chess – another “two items in one spot” entry.  Sometimes, a few additional rules are applied but they are basically, at their core, three-way or four-way games of chess.  The “multi-player” aspect, simple of a twist it may be, actually enhances the difficulty and stakes.   There will always be “Unholy Alliance” and “Mexican stand-off” aspects hanging on the game.  It really makes the strategizing more complicated and exciting.


Bughouse Chess (which has also been called in other names like Exchange Chess, Siamese Chess, and Tandem chess) involves four players divided into two teams and playing against each other in two boards.  The set-up, as what the above picture illustrates, involves one of the players playing white on his board while his teammate is black on the other board, and the teammates should sit side by side.  Standard chess rules apply.  However, whenever a player captures an enemy piece, he can hand it to his partner and his partner has the option of putting it into play on his own board by placing it on any vacant square.  The team wins when either one of the two players checkmates his opponent or his opponent ran out of time.        


This mash-up of chess and boxing is actually a real sport, with federations and tournaments and all that.  It’s definitely one of the most extreme sports in the world as this taxing sport puts both mental and physical toughness into test.  A chessboxing match consists of 11 alternating three-minute rounds between chess and boxing  – 6 for chess and 5 for boxing (with sixty second breaks between rounds).  This means that after one or both players have exhausted the three minutes in the opening chess round (there is a total of 18 minutes worth of chess time; 9 minutes for each player), they would then proceed to a three-minute boxing round, then back to chess, and so on.  Anytime during the match, a player wins it if he wins in either a chess round (checkmating his opponent, opponent exceeds his time limit, opponent resigns) or a boxing round (a knockout, a TKO).  If neither of the players wins within the 11-round match, the chess game ends in a draw and the one leading in the boxing scorecards is the winner.  If it’s also a draw in the scorecard, the player with the black piece wins (I don’t know why such rule). 

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