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Combination Chess

Escalation of the classic war game
  (+5, -4)
(+5, -4)
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Once upon a time I used to play a lot of chess. I don't claim any great expertise at it, especially nowadays, when there are so many other things to spend time on, that I am woefully out of practice. But in 1977 I sat down and combined together a number of ideas that I had encountered during prior years. The resulting variation of chess is described herein. It is not really a half-baked idea...but the idea of "selling" this to the chess community, full of purists as it is, IS half-baked!


First, the Board: This is a large combat area, 14x14 squares, checkered in the usual pattern of dark and light colors. As in Standard Chess, the Board is placed between the players with a light-colored square at each player's right.

Next, the pieces, quantities, point-values, abbreviations, and some movement-info:

14 Pawns: 1.5pts, "P" (combination-turn piece)

2 Assassins: 3pts, "A" (diagonal motion only); same as a Standard Chess Bishop (but what are BISHOPS doing on a battlefield??? Meanwhile, Chess originated in India, where/when Assassins were a semi-official part of the political structure.)

2 Squires: 5pts, "S" (orthogonal motion only); same as a Standard Chess Rook/Castle (but a Rook is a thief! And Castles don't move on battlefields! Meanwhile, there were two categories of Squires; one group consisted of wealthy landowners, almost of the nobility.)

2 Barons: 7pts, "B" (combination of Assassin and Standard Chess Knight)

2 Earls: 8pts, "E" (combination of Squire and Standard Chess Knight)

2 Dukes: 9pts, "D" (combination of Squire and Assassin); same as a Standard Chess Queen (and since when is a Queen the mightiest warrior in the realm? Not to mention that there are two of these in THIS game, and the King is not allowed to be a bigamist!)

2 Knights: 9.5pts, "N" (combination-turn piece)

1 Champion: 12pts, "C" (combination of Squire and Assassin and Standard Chess Knight)

1 King: Worth The Game, "K" (combination-turn piece)


Combination-type pieces such as the Baron, Earl, Duke, and Champion, may make only one type of move per Turn (EITHER Standard Chess Bishop-move OR Standard Chess Rook-move OR Standard Chess Knight-move).

Combination-turn pieces, the Pawns, Knights, and Kings, make purely ordinary moves, but may be moved at the Player's option either once or twice per Turn. The King is allowed to move THROUGH check. "En passant" for Pawns is allowed everywhere on the Board. Knights really are more powerful than Dukes! (I put a lot of time into experimenting with forced-mate scenarios, to make that determination.) Kings and Knights can capture guarded pieces and escape; they can even capture two pieces per Turn. To maintain its reputation as a jumper, the Knight's first move is allowed to enter any square that some friendly piece already occupies (it's not allowed to stay there, of course). The Pawns are a bit more restricted: On the first half of the Board, a Pawn may EITHER move one space forward, OR two spaces forward, OR capture. On the second half of the Board, a Pawn that gained enough experience to survive that far can move and/or capture in any combination, just like Knights and Kings. However, Pawns may only move forward, while Kings and Knights may be moved from Square X to Square Y, and BACK to Square X. (This has a side-effect of making stalemates almost impossible.) ALSO: These combination-turn pieces are combinable in another way....

During the Play, two separate pieces MAY be moved each Turn! Depending on how a Player wishes to coordinate an attack or a defense, the Champion and a Squire might be moved, or an Assassin and a Baron, or whatever pair seems appropriate. Furthermore, the combination-turn pieces can have their motions split up any which way. Moving a King one square counts as a half-move; moving a Pawn one square counts as another half-move. So a player might move each Knight once, the King once, and a Pawn once, thereby accounting for two whole moves in that Turn. A player is REQUIRED to make a half-move at a minimum each Turn, and is NOT required to do more than that. A player seeking a draw might deliberately move the King back-and-forth, effectively doing nothing. The Standard Chess rules for draws do not need to be modified much, to accommodate this.


Initial setup of pieces, and Castling:

All Pawns must be placed on the second row. The King is placed in center of the first row, on the square that matches its color (since there is no Queen to claim that privilege). The Champion is placed in the other central square. NEXT....

The rest of the first Player's pieces are now arranged on the first row in ANY symmetrical fashion. THEN....

The second Player's pieces may be arranged in any desired counter-pattern. It must also be symmetrical, it MAY mirror the first Player's arrangement, but it doesn't have to.

Face it: The best initial arrangement is unknown, so how should it be found? I can suggest this as being not-a-horrible-mistake: E; B; A; N; S; D; (K & C); D; S; N; A; B; E.

For the procedure known as Castling to be possible, the Player must first arrange the pieces so that both corner squares contain EITHER Squires, Earls, or Dukes. During the Game, the King and a corner-occupant must not have previously been moved, and all squares between them must become unoccupied (standard rules). When a Player chooses to Castle, the King is moved four spaces toward a corner, and the corner-occupant is moved toward and past the King, until one square separates the two pieces. Castling counts as one of a Players two moves per Turn.


Pawn Promotion:

ONLY ONE CHAMPION AT A TIME IS ALLOWED. But you can have lots of Dukes and Knights and other pieces.


Identifying the Pieces and their motions:

I constructed my Combination Chess set by first buying four ordinary sets, and then hacking and gluing various parts:

Pawns, Assassins, Squires, Knights, and Kings: Unchanged.

Barons: Saw off top of an Assassin and glue on top of a Knight.

Dukes: Saw off top of an Assassin and glue on top of a Squire.

Earls and Champions: Saw off part of a Squire and glue on top of a Knight.

For Champions only, continue by sawing off top of an Assassin and glue on top of the Squire-fragment.

Anyone who knows Chess should have no trouble figuring out how any observed piece can move, except perhaps for the Knights. Visualizing a Knight's potential double-move is tricky, and is one of the reasons why it is a very dangerous piece in this game....


Vernon, Jul 23 2001

Dragon Chess http://www.chessvar...ir/dragonchess.html
Complex chess variant created by Gary Gygax (of Dungeons and Dragons fame). [Lemon, Jul 23 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Many alternative chess games. http://www.chessvariants.com/rindex.html
[Head to the root site for some interesting information regarding the origins of chess.]
This page has a plethora of multicoloured chess variants, including of course, the famous Star Trek 3D chess. My personal favourite is Kriegspiel, a game I used to know as "blind chess". I thoroughly recommend this one, although it is better if there is more than one referee to share the joke... [Lemon, Jul 23 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]


       I knew from that dashed line under the first paragraph who the author would be. Lordy, Vernon. Are you sure you shouldn't get some sleep now and then?
lewisgirl, Jul 23 2001

       You're out of order, [POYF]. For all you know [Vernon]'s baking from home, or has a job which permits work-time baking (as do others). Where are *you* now?
angel, Jul 23 2001

       I think we're too hard on him. Actually, I think he enjoys that we find a challenge in trying to annotate past the end of his idea, and he's trawling out random ideas to give us all something to do. And really really, I think he's actually about five people, who dream up (or search out) these ideas and put them here. Those two jobs he mentioned? that's two jobs between the five of him.
lewisgirl, Jul 23 2001

       Or he types at home, saves on a floppy, and copy-pastes into B/2? While waiting for a compiler to run?
angel, Jul 23 2001

       aaaaaaaaaaaaaey! ^_^ its Vernon!
technobadger, Jul 23 2001

       I think Vernon just finds the thickest, most boring book, any subject, which has been translated from Russian / Chinese, so as to be very slightly un-understandable, then gets his dad to type it out for him.
PotatoPete, Jul 25 2001

       I for one have been trying to make an interesting variation on chess that did not lead to degenerate games -- No small feat, Vernon!
Tegestu, Sep 14 2001

       Tegestu, thank you! Although it remains true that "I sat down and combined together a number of ideas that I had encountered during prior years. "   

       The idea of the double-turn pieces is not original with me, nor is the idea of a combination Bishop/Knight/Rook. But I encountered them separately, and combined them into this game -- along with stretching the usage of the word "combination" into as many possibilities as I could manage.   

       When I first realized that the game board had to be rather larger in order to accomodate the pieces, I worried a bit, because, for example, an ordinary Knight's movement is comparatively dwarfed, and the value of the piece diminishes equivalently. However, when I thought of giving the Knight a double-turn, that particular balance was restored, and a little more. (And that "little more" was in turn pretty well balanced by having a lot of other enhanced-power pieces.)   

       So, yes, I tried to maintain some balance in this variation of Chess, and I greatly appreciat it being recognized. Thanks again.
Vernon, Nov 10 2001

       I think this is rather wonderful if I understand it right but am I allowed to ask - which part of the squire do we actually saw off?
po, Nov 10 2001

       [po], keep in mind that the Squire is the renamed standard Rook. The standard design of this piece is like a medieval stone tower, which is why it is often called the Castle. You don't need the columnar body of this piece; all you need is its "head". That "head" can be successfully glued on top of a Knight, although it may not be perfectly level when you're done.
Vernon, Nov 11 2001

       [UnaBubba] Hmm ... tried that. At least, I have a Go board and found the rules on the net somewhere. I'm worse at Go than I am at Chess, though, and haven't been able to find any comprehensible web site or book which explains it for beginners.
cp, Nov 12 2001

       [UnaBubba] - The beautiful thing about both Chess and Go is that they are games with very simple rules but with depths of complexity that cannot even be imagined the first time you play. They both can be picked up easily, but can be mastered only by extraordinary (or in the case of Chess, weird) people. They both, by virtue of having simple rules, hold out the enticement that the future course of the game should be predictable from the current board positions.
So, the bad thing about [Vernon]'s idea is that it replaces a complex game with simple rules with a complex game with complex rules. Then the complexity of the rules in Vernon-chess would make it daunting and pointless to even attempt any 'looking ahead' and thus destroy the major intellectual component of the game.
hippo, Nov 12 2001

       [hippo], you do have a point, but there are still reasons to want a larger-scale game than ordinary Chess. When I took my homemade game to a local chess club, nobody thought the rules were particularly complex. However, I do agree that the OPTIONS available can lead to enormous complexity of game-play, and equal difficulty in planning a strategy. Yet there is a simple way to remove a lot of that, IF agreed-upon by the players at the start of a Game. Just decide to do only one Move per Turn, instead of two. (The combination-move pieces still can be moved twice, and you can still split a Move between them, but now you only can move a maximum of two of them, and not four.)
Vernon, Jun 07 2004


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