The Chess Variant Pages

This page is written by the game's inventor, James Gryphon.

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James Gryphon wrote on 2014-03-12 UTC
I'd like to say that I absolutely love your over-analysis. You wouldn't believe how hard it can be to find someone that can consider and evaluate concepts and possibilities like this.

I want to think a marathon game wouldn't happen, but the truth is that I never even considered the possibility when I was developing this variant. Since you pointed it out, I can definitely see the gap in the rules. The thing isn't that it's completely unaccounted for -- after all, there is the 50-move rule. The trouble is that I didn't think about how to translate that rule into the context of this new variant. All of the pieces in A.C. can promote, so that messes up the intent of the pawn move clause. However, I think I have an idea as how to handle this.

The 50-move rule states that a draw may be claimed if a capture, or a pawn move, has not been made in the last 50 moves. I'm thinking that we replace the pawn movement clause with a Prince promotion clause. If the Prince crosses the river, this is counted the same as a capture.

I feel this is the closest match to the context of the original rule. The reason why a pawn move is given such treatment is that it is expected the pawn is advancing towards promotion -- and a chance to permanently alter the landscape of the game. Once the pawn has promoted into a piece, it cannot return to its former state. The game is going to change. The Prince is similar. Once he crosses over the river, there's no return, either to his former position on the board or his level of power. The game is different from that point on. However, we can't reward just *any* Prince move. After all, there's no guarantee that a move gets him closer to promotion. He could just be shuffling back and forth between a few squares. Therefore, for the sake of simplicity, the only move that is rewarded is the one that actually takes him over the border. Since he can't go back over the border once he's crossed it, this means that each team has only one non-capturing move that counts against the 50-move rule. I hope this will kill the marathon game.

Insufficient material is a little harder to decide. It's obvious that one piece of any kind is enough to give a King a mate over an opposing Prince. The two-King scenario is a different story, though.

A King can reach no more than 12 squares at a time, counting the square he is in. But the difficulty of getting him pinned down probably means that unless you have Chariots, you'll need to be able to hit all 16 squares at once to get the mate. A position I just concocted that uses only one Chariot requires that he be in the corner, and even then uses no less than 33 points of material to bring the pesky fellow down. I'm not a Chess genius, and it's possible there might be more efficient solutions, but it doesn't look like it will be easy in any case. Probably the simplest thing to do, if the King remains the way it is now, would be to say that promoting your Prince when the other player has a King results in a draw (causing the tie-breaking point tally).

But I'm wondering if making the King so powerful was another mistake, as it seems to be the chief source of our problems. I'm considering the merits of weakening the Prince's move. I see three possibilities here: taking away his diagonal moves, taking away his orthogonal backward and sideways moves (which makes him equivalent to the Silver General from Shogi), or taking away all of his backward moves.

Taking away the diagonal moves is the best in terms of merging Western and Eastern Chess, as the royal piece in Xiangqi uses the resulting move (one orthogonal step). It also works in that the Advisor has a diagonal move (like the Xiangqi Ministers or Guards), which balances out the Prince's new weakness.

The other two proposed Princes are different from anything in any main Chess game, and that decreases the likelihood that I'll use them. I'd prefer for A.C. to use existing Chess rules and pieces in most cases, with only a few entirely new rules or pieces. That said, though, I do like the Silver General move, and no-backwards-movement is an unorthodox possibility that could make for a more combative game. I'm not likely to go with these options, but I still think both deserve a little consideration.

Regardless of which of those is picked, the new promotion would then only entail gaining the full range of normal Chess King movement (though still not being able to retreat behind the river). It somewhat fits the Eastern Chess tradition of weak royal pieces to do it this way, and it makes checkmate a much more reasonable possibility. It would also eliminate the need for a rule making two-Kings an automatic stalemate. I'd appreciate hearing your opinion on this.

I'll send the invite once I can work out how to do it (I haven't really used G.C. before). I think it's fair to warn you that my moves might be a little slow, as I have a lot of different things taking up my time. I will get them sent in at some point, though.

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