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Many people feel that the huge amount of opening theory for chess forms a problem for the game: one needs to know so much theory to play it well, and many games are almost ended when the existing theory is departed. Henk van Haeringen, from the Netherlands, feels the same way. To solve the problem, he invented Superschaak, or in English: Superchess, a collection of chess variants, featuring a large collection of new chess pieces.

At the moment, various products can be obtained to play Superchess. A book, titled Schaak en Superschaak - van schaker tot Superschaker has been written by van Haeringen, and appeared in 1999. Earlier, a booklet giving the rules of the game and a variant was published in 1993. The booklet has an English translation (with the translation also written by the author), and is called Super Chess and Monarch - The Laws. In addition to the book and booklets, some sets of pieces are available. The main idea of Superschaak is that chess is changed by replacing some of the standard pieces by new pieces: e.g., some pawns could be replaced by T-pawns. The game can be played on a standard 8 by 8 board, but instead, one can also play on a larger board and add some pieces. The sets, called Exchess provide many of these new pieces. The sets are excellent, with beautifully designed shapes for the new pieces. The pieces are designed to fit well together with standard (Staunton) chess pieces, and they do so very well. There are three sets: Exchess set 1, with 8 white and 8 black pieces (39.95 euro's, excluding postage; an euro is currently almost one dollar.) Of each color, there are one empress, one princess, one veteran, one herald, two rapid pawns, and two T-pawns. The second set adds to the Exchess set 1 a standard set of chess pieces that fits together. End of summer 2002, the Exchess set 2 appeared. (One can see the set at the Superchess website; it can be purchased for 89.95 euro's.) The set features 10 new models, e.g., emperor, guard, magician, and also has additional T-pawns and rapid pawns; in total there are 32 pieces in the set.

The book

The book, witten by Henk van Haeringen on Superschaak is called Schaak en Superschaak: van schaker tot Superschaker, which translates to Chess and Superches: from chess player to Superchess player. The book is written in Dutch; there is no English translation of it. In the book, van Haeringen describes the different forms of Superchess: Small, Large, or Extended Superchess; Coalition-Superchess; Monarch; and Universal Chess. New forms use more different pieces, often with additional special features. The forms are more or less of increasing complexity, adding new types of pieces to older forms. Most variants play on an 8 by 8 board; but some play on a 10 by 10 board.

The book: Schaak en Superschaak

In the book, each of these variants with its rules, and most importantly, its different types of pieces, are described. The movement of each piece is illustrated by one or more clear diagrams.

Most of the book concentrates on giving and explaining the rules for the new superchess pieces. Just rules of chess variants and movement rules and explanations of pieces may become too tedious after a while. For the players interest, we thus we find in the book several problems (many explaining endgame theory using the new pieces), a number of analysed superchess games, and background information. It is clear that van Haeringen has written the book with great care, giving much attention to detail.

There are 50 new superchess pieces described in the book. Some may find such a number too much of a good thing; actually, I am missing a few of my favorite fairy chess pieces in the list, like the Ferz, the Berolina pawn, or the grasshopper. In a few cases, well known standard terminology from fairy chess is not followed. Many chess variant enthousiast will find the major shortcoming of the book however that it is only available in Dutch.

Overall, I recommend this book to chess variant enthousiasts that can read Dutch. Regardless whether one reads Dutch or not, one can have much enjoyment from the beautiful Exchess sets. The pieces can be used to play Superchess, but are of course also very useful for playing many other chess variants that have non-standard chess pieces.

Information can be found on the website of Superchess:

H. van Haeringen
Schaak en Superschaak: van schaker tot Superschaker
ISBN: 90-71421-33-3
Coulomb Press Leyden, Leiden, the Netherlands, 1999

Written by Hans Bodlaender.
WWW page created: August 30, 2002.