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The Chess Variant Pages

This page is written by the game's inventor, Fergus Duniho. This game is a favorite of its inventor.

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Fergus Duniho wrote on 2008-11-02 UTC

M. Winther,

I take it you haven't played the game with another person. It's a different experience than playing it against Zillions of Games. I just played a game against Zillions of Games, and it won in 23 moves. When I play against the computer, I'm trying to fit the whole game into a single sitting, and I take less time to make my moves, which easily leads to blunders. Grand Cavalier Chess is tricky enough that I don't recommend it for speed games. But for correspondence games, played over Game Courier with rules enforcement, it works very well. Correspondence play gives me the luxury to take more time on each move and to give it the same degree of analysis I give to Chess problems.

Let me now turn to your specific claims. You claim “it's obvious from the design that the branching factor is humongous.” I'm sure its greater than Chess, because the pieces are more powerful, and the board is larger. But I don't think it is greater than Shogi, which remains popular despite having a high branching factor. In support of this, it isn't difficult for me to defeat Zillions of Games at Shogi, even using the specially tuned and optimized ZRF I've written for it, yet it is difficult for me to defeat it at Grand Cavalier Chess. I submit that the high branching factor of Shogi is the main reason ZoG does not play that game well, and that it plays Grand Cavalier Chess better mainly because this game has less of a branching factor.

Furthermore, the branching factor is more likely to affect how well a computer plays the game than how well a human plays the game. Humans tend to screen out bad moves and focus on the few that look good, whereas a computer will try to evaluate every branch of the move tree to a selected depth. I don't think that a large branching factor will have much bearing on actual gameplay between two humans. What is more likely to have a bearing on gameplay is the ability for humans to visualize Nightrider and Cannon moves, since these are the sneakiest in the game. My experience is that with patience and experience, it can be done.

You claim “The pawns in chess have a calming effect on the game, like the control rods in a nuclear reactor. Without them an explosion results. Instead of pawns you have inserted pieces that do the opposite, increase the confusion.” I don't think the Cavaliers do the opposite. Because they are Chinese Chess Knights, not regular Chess Knights, they block each other. For most of the game, the Cavaliers block each other and prevent easy passage across the board. Like Pawns, they create barriers that other pieces have to work around to get to the other side.

You claim, “There is no strategy in this game, it's plain mayhem.” It's true that the game is more tactical than Chess, but it hasn't been my experience with the game that it is just mayhem without strategy. In my present game, my opening strategy was to rely on my Cannons and Nightriders to make some material gains before I brought out my stronger pieces. My mid-game strategy has been to reduce my opponent's forces before moving in for checkmate. I have hemmed in one of his Cannons so that it can't bother me, and I need to work on unblocking my most powerful pieces, as it is now time for them to come into active play.

As for your evaluative claim that the game is a failure, I don't agree at all. My experience is that while it is difficult to play against the computer, it is great for correspondence play. It's a game that rewards time spent in analysis, and it is a dynamic game in which a player behind in material can win by taking and keeping the initiative. See this finished game as illustration of this. I think your opinion of the game would change if you spent some time playing a correspondence game. If you're interested, I would like to invite you to play a game.

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