Chess

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"They say it's the game of kings. That chess teaches one to think strategically. What a load of rubbish! Both sides have identical pieces, the rules stay invariably the same. How does this mirror real life?"
Chess, yes it IS this exciting.
--Radovid, on why chess completely fucking fails as a wargame.

The most famous tabletop game in all of human history, though according to /tg/, chess is just a cheap western knockoff of the ancient Chinese game of go Wei Qi. Despite its rampant popularity and how it is associated with geniuses, it is obvious it fails in every way to simulate war, tactics, combat or anything else it has been hyped over for centuries about. Common complaints include the lack of army list and deployment options, the Knight's plain weird movement and the fact that the King is both the most important piece and completely useless (though that could just be a political statement).

Rules[edit]

Basic rules
  • Two players play this game.
  • The players' goal is to kill the King of the opponent put the opposition King in a situation that would result in his death next turn, without a way to escape. This is called a checkmate; the Persian "Shāh Māt" literally means "The king is dead" with some changes in Arabic. If the king is threatened, we call it check and - because of the Brutality Rule (below) (and because you would immediately lose after it) - you cannot allow him to be killed. You have to:
    • move the King away,
    • get a piece of your own between the King and the piece threatening to provide cover or
    • capture the attacker piece.
  • If you can't do any of these, the death of the King is inevitable; you lose.
  • If a King is dead, his troops will surrender IMMEDIATELY. If you expose your king but you can kill the enemy king in the next move, you still lose (and thus, are not allowed to expose him in the first place, because of the Rule of Brutality).
  • You can also lose when you resign, or if you run out of time (on a timed game, usually professional games). If neither player has enough resources to kill the enemy King, or if both players agree to this, the game ends in a tie. Stalemate also ends the game in a tie, look below.
  • The game doesn't encourage passive play, if the same position is repeated three times or if 50 turns pass without moving a pawn or killing anyone, there is no progress made and both players are allowed (not forced) to claim a tie.
The arena

The battlefield is an 8 by 8 board, the columns (files) marked with letters, the rows (ranks) with numbers so that the squares can be referenced easily (with d4 or similarly). The board is checkered, h1 is white.

The game is played in turns, one turn is the period of time between (for example) before white's move to after black's next move.

Brutality rule

Even pre-teen kids play this game, so no actual killing is ever shown. The game ends if a king is threatened with inevitable "capture". So, it's against the rules to expose your king (for example, by moving a piece previously granting cover to the king (think of it as if the piece was pinned down) or moving the king to a threatened square) because the opponent could kill the king. (These moves would only be good for losing anyway.) Also, when killing any other pieces, it's officially called capturing them. However, throughout history, and in military philosophy, it is generally considered that if one can get their opponent to surrender and they can't gain anything from surrendering beyond what the conquerer sees fit, that is better and more productive than a fight, which is risky and whose resources could be better spent elsewhere. Today is the logic behind military cyber attacks followed up by an email, for example, letting opponents know their system has been compromised.

Combat system

In this game, initiative is key because there aren't tons of hit points granted for every piece. If your piece attacks first, even a pawn can kill the enemy queen, because everyone has only a single wound. Everyone is always surprised (apparently they don't really want to fight and are forced to by the king) so if it's your turn, you can capture any piece you threaten. You can't attack pieces through cover (except with the Knight). You can't move without attacking (except with the pawn) but you can attack empty squares too (again, except with the pawn). If you attack either an empty square or an enemy piece, you'll win the fight and you must move the attacking piece to the attacked square. This move is compulsory, you cannot decide not to. You can't attack your own piece, even when they provide cover for the enemy, we aren't savages here. Quite easy and streamlined, eh? Guess it reminds you of something...

The Pieces[edit]

Chessmechs.jpg

Unlike similar games, you don't get to assemble your battleforce. It is probably because the field is rather small (40' by 40'), and both players have 16 pieces. So the starting force is the same for both players (an approximately 38-point army).

King: {WARBOSS} ♔ ♚ One of the weakest individual pieces, he is on the battlefield to give the army a morale bonus to fight indefinitely. If one interprets each turn as perpetual fighting and movement, they drug their troops. But in the context of classical warfare, the turn might represent an entire year, where warfare meant a lot of standing around waiting and little bursts of conflict. He can attack all the squares around him like any basic D&D characters. He isn't worth any points but you must field one to play, and he is subject to the Brutality rule as outlined above.

Rook: {TRUKK} ♖ ♜ You have two of these powerful pieces. They are basically castles with cannons on them so they can attack everything in the row and column they are on(but watch out, Cover rules apply for them too). Just like everyone else, they can only attack once per turn. Funnily enough, they too have to move to the square they attacked. Capable of "Castling," a complex maneuver outlined below. They are said to be worth 5 points.

Bishop: {MEKBOYZ} ♗ ♝ People will tell you that they have similar powers to the Rook. Don't believe them! Basically, they can do everything the Rook can, but only diagonally, which means that half of the battlefield is simply as unreachable as another continent. This is why you get two of them, one for the white squares, and another for the black. Due to this limitation, they are considered worth less than the Rooks at 3 points.

Queen: {BOSS} ♕ ♛ This is easy. She gets to do everything the Rook AND the Bishop can. She is the strongest piece in your army, she really doesn't get -4 STR. Tournament rules only permit fielding one Queen per army, but an army can airdrop the equipment to turn a Pawn into another Queen as reinforcements in the late game if they can get far enough into enemy territory. The Queen became a powerful piece when the game came to Europe, back in India she and the king were almost equally incompetent with the Queen being slightly better. Today, the Queen is globally accepted as the most powerful single piece on the board, but because pieces insta-die if attacked this also means you have to be very cautious when playing her. Point value is 9, and worth every one.

Knight: {DEFFCOPTAS}} ♘ ♞ This is the most controversial piece of the Chess army. People will tell you that it's difficult to keep in mind how they can attack. Lies! It's very easy: a Knight is basically a character with a reach weapon. He can't attack squares next to him and he can attack all the squares 10 feet of him, except the ones which the Queen would be able to (most likely balance reasons, and everything about chess is a giant commentary on feudal hierarchy, i.e., the Queen<the Knight). This leaves 8 targetable squares, arranged in L-shapes around him. He is also the only piece able to attack pieces behind cover. Still, for their limited range and mobility, the are considered as valuable as a bishop unit at 3 points.

Pawn: {BOYZ}♙ ♟ The backbone of your army. You've got 8 of them, and they can move only forward one step in a turn. If they haven't moved or attacked yet, they can move two squares to give them a head start. However, unlike most pieces, they can't attack forward, only diagonally, forward-left or forward-right, and they can't attack empty squares. They seem quite weak and indeed, they are the unit against which others are measured, being worth only a single point, but this changes when they reach the opponent's end of the battlefield. When they are there, they don't become unusable, they get special powers instead: They will become a queen, a rook, a bishop or a knight (your choice). No you cannot make your pawn into another king, as much sense as it would make to have a backup (or not, given that doubling your opponent's chances for a checkmate or Brutality rule shenanigans is effin' stupid). This doesn't even take a turn, at the moment they reach the end of the battlefield, you can switch the pieces. In professional play, the arbiter can provide you with the extra piece, in casual play, you can just use counters. If your opponent claims that you can only use previously captured pieces, either he lies or I do right now, and it's not a bad idea to just agree on this sort of thing in advance. Pawns also have a special skill called "En passant", which you can use when one of your Pawns stands on any square of the fourth line from your enemy's view and one of his Pawns tries crossing a square that your Pawn could attack (i.e. the enemy Pawn doing the aforementioned 2-square move). When using the skill, your Pawn moves to that attackable square while killing the enemy Pawn who was trying to sneak across.

Army setup[edit]

Chess algebraic notation.png

White can field pieces from a1 to h2, black from h8 to a7. Each army is built with 38 points + one "King" command unit. Flexibility was sacrificed for the sake of game balance, so both armies must deploy the same units in a strict predefined formation. This is enforced even outside tournament matches; almost all chess players will refuse to play if you don't assemble and deploy your 38-point army in this manner.

  • You place the King and the Queen to the middle of the row closest to the players: Queens d1 and d8, Kings e1 and e8.
  • Next to them (c1, g1, c8, g8) come the bishops, then the knights and finally the rooks.
  • The second row (a-h 2 and a-h 7) is filled with the 8 pawns of the players.

The gameplay[edit]

  • First both players roll a die. Whoever rolled higher rejoices; white starts (unless you're Napoleon). The players take turns after each other to play.
  • To maximize tactical combat, you and your opponent can use only one piece in a turn, unlike games where you move all of them in the same turn.
  • In your turn, you have to attack (or move) with a piece. You can't pass. After all, this battle is lead by The King Himself, we can't just do nothing!
  • If you can't move but your King isn't threatened right now, the game ends in a tie. This is called a stalemate and is often the refuge of the inferior side in the endgame.

Special rules[edit]

En Passant

The foreign name is because this is a stupid rule from a previous edition buried right at the back where nobody reads it. It's clearly an attempt by chess's authors to imitate D&D's "attack of opportunity," proving that chess is really just a bad knock-off of 4th edition D&D. If an enemy pawn moves two squares on its first move, and it arrives right next to (1 step to the left or the right) a pawn of yours, you can take it as if it only moved 1 square; the pawn is moved into the square the enemy pawn moved over (ie, where it would be if it had only moved one square) and the enemy pawn removed. This is the only way to take a piece in chess without ever occupying the same square as it. Absolutely nobody knows this rule exists the first time they encounter it; in fact, one of the biggest challenges in writing grandmaster-level chess programs is programming them to argue for half an hour that you can't do that with a pawn.

Castling

If you think that your King is too exposed, you can "castle" him by moving the King two squares toward the Rook you want to use for this maneuver, and immediately placing the castle to the far side of the king. This is a very unrealistic representation of the king retreating to his castle, since there have been approximately zero real-life battles where a king hid behind a castle and the castle responded by wandering off and killing two knights and a member of the enemy clergy. It only takes one turn and thus, is a really powerful move, as no other Chess maneuver can re-position multiple pieces. However, this has multiple conditions:

  • The King and the Rook you want to use haven't attacked or moved yet this game.
  • There are no pieces between the Rook and the King.
  • The King isn't threatened and he doesn't move through threatened squares (we assume that in older editions all pieces got AoOs against the King and this move was forbidden because of the Brutality Rule). Of course you cannot move him onto a threatened square either. These rules don't apply to the Rook.
  • To munchkins: The King and the Rook must be on the same row, you cannot castle with a pawn-rook.

How to suck at chess[edit]

F2-F3
E7-E5
G2-G4
D8-H4

If this happens to you, [the game says you are an idiot.]

Serious Business[edit]

Professional players claim that Chess is serious business so they invented a lot of extra rules like this association football throw-in rule: "At the moment of delivering the ball, the thrower must face the field of play, have both feet on the ground on or outside the touch line, and use both hands to deliver the ball from behind and over his head." - unnecessary rules that exist solely because some fucker tried to be smart and exploit a loophole in the rules. Seriously: 310 words just about the shit you gotta do when TOUCHING the pieces. I won't 1d4ise these, so go to The Other Wiki and see for yourself.

If any of the rules aren't clear for you, why the fuck are you reading a wiki about this? There's a goddamn store in my neighborhood that sells ONLY books about chess. It's been done to death; there's probably entire shelves about chess at your local library.

Variants[edit]

Chess is nothing but a huge ripoff of older and cooler games (Shatranj, Chess with elephants... which for some reason are weaker than the modern Knight) but has still managed to give birth to a few amusing variants. One is commonly called "Bughouse" (like that has to do with anything) or "4 player chess". Most people cry witchcraft at this point, but it actually works. Bughouse is two teams playing against each other so that one member of each team is white and the other is black. (It's racist but what can you do?) Every time your partner takes a piece he hands it to you. Every turn you have you can either move a piece that's already on the board or drop that captured piece on any unoccupied square. Yes, this makes surprise butt sex possible through chess. By playing this way you can annoy your opponent for hours by dropping pawns all over the place as long as you have a partner with half a brain. Usually Bughouse is played on a very limited clock because no one wants to watch slow butt sex.

WARNING: Do not attempt Bughouse unless you are actually good at chess or you are likely to break your brain. A game does not get to be called Bughouse because it is played by the sane.

There are also a variety of 3D chess versions but only Trekkies know how to play them, so nobody cares. An interesting (in a mind-bendingly weird sort of way) variant is Timecube Chess, in which chess is played in the past, future, and four simultaneous presents.

Now if you paid attention to what you just read, you may have guessed that western chess came from a much older (and very different) indian version. And that indian version did not just spawn a few variants in Europe but in eastern Asia as well. One well-known version is Shogi or japanese chess. It has two-sided pieces, a promotion system that arguably makes some pieces less interesting once promoted, a supply/capture system and some more subtleties that make some say that it is superior to all other versions of chess, but all in all, it's not really that exciting. Like most things in Japan, especially overly complicated games that are not role-playing games, it is considered serious business. As in, dedicated cable TV channels, public tournaments and scouting for players in elementary school serious business.

Another variant is Xiangqi or chinese chess. There is a promotion system as well, plus the game has elephants, chariots that player call cars or tanks nowadays, catapults or cannons, your king *BLAM!*None shall taint the name of the Holy Emperor by putting him in a game! *RE-BLAM!*The emperor is a coward and is holding the glorious revolution of the people back! general has two personal guards, each side has a fortress and there is a river in the middle of the battlefield. Much like western chess, all these elements are not enough to make it awesome because all of them are held back by the rules and by some logical flaws. The elephants cannot cross the river and have a stupid movement pattern so they can only be used in defense and have only seven possible positions on the board making them easy to threaten. At the end of the day, your two elephants are just trying to protect each other. The two guards cannot leave the fortress, meaning that they have only five possible positions on the board and are pretty useless. Firing the catapult moves it to the destination of the projectile and you can only fire it if there is something between it and its target. The promotion system only applies to pawns and the horse has the same movement pattern as the knight but cannot jump over other units. Since there is no equivalent of the bishop and queen (which means in modern terms, the 'king' would be called a 'monarch' or the 'chief executive', democratically, the 'President' or 'Prime Minister' or for extremes, the Supreme Soviet or Duce) the car (which moves exactly like the rook) and the catapult (that has a pretty retarded movement pattern) are the only pieces that can really help you control the board. Xiangqi also has loads of variants including one with four players, supplies and no river (meaning that the elephants can finally be useful), a version played mostly in Hong Kong that is pretty similar to Stratego, one based on the Three Kingdoms war for three players... Xiangqi is not that different from western chess in that the game is not as awesome as it sounds, and the general is the central piece of the game and is completely useless unless you are a manly man and decide to move your general out of the fortres and checkmate with him. That tactic is called feijiang and contrary to popular belief, does not translate to "flying general" but is chinese for "fuck you".

There is a korean variant of it called Janggi which is nearly identical save for a few things that makes it a bit more interesting : the general/king starts at the center of the castle rather than the back edge ; players place their pieces in turn, one by one because they are allowed the switch the position of the horse and the elephant giving the green (equivalent of white) player the advantage of starting but the red (equivalent of black, duh) player the advantage of reacting to the other guy's choice of where to put his elephants ; the pawns don't get promoted and can move sideways from the beginning ; the catapult can only fire AND move if there is a piece in front of it ; the rules for stalemate are a bit different ; and most importantly, there is no river meaning you can use the elephants offensively. The biggest difference though is that while xiangqi is alive and well and played in China plus south-east Asia plus by the diaspora from these areas, janggi is mostly played for money by old people while everyone watching bets on the winner, and nobody outside of korean retirement homes gives a shit about it, not even the growing number of koreaboos. Too bad, it's a nifty alternative.

There is also a thai variant that resembles western chess and is actually more interesting, but nobody cares about it.

Modern variants[edit]

Among the more common things some game designers do is try to "fix" various flaws in chess (usually the reliance in top level play of memorizing the opening playbook, and the tendency to stalemate at the endgame) or expand it in some way, by making their own variant. There are many hundreds of these; to give you a general taste of what these look like, here are some notable ones:

  • Fisher Random Chess, by that Bobby Fisher, which randomizes the starting positions.
  • Grand Chess, which makes the board 10x10, adds two Queen-equivalent pieces, and removes Castling in an mildly elegant way.
    • (There are a large number of 10x8 variants that add two pieces that Grand Chess evolved out of (most notably, Capablanca Chess, designed by that Capablanca), but Grand Chess is probably more popular, as it adds an element of space missing in most chess variants.)
  • Marseilles Chess, in which every move after the first is a double move (that is, you can move one piece twice, or two pieces once).
  • Hexagonal Chess, played on a Hexagonal board. There are several versions, that usually differ only by the starting setup and pawn movements.
  • Circular Chess, played on a circular board.
  • Bughouse Chess, mentioned above, in which two teams of two play, and can place captured pieces from their teammate's opponent on the board.
  • Alice Chess, the "other" two board game, in which you change boards each time you move.
  • Anti-King Chess, which adds an "Anti-King" to each side, in front of the other side's King's Pawn; if your Anti-King is not in check, you lose.
  • Ultima, (not to be confused with that Ultima) in which every piece but the King and Pawns is replaced by a piece that moves like a Queen, but captures uniquely--including one that doesn't capture at all, but merely completely immobilizes enemy pieces adjacent to it--and the Pawns have their own replacement that "merely" moves like a Rook.
  • Maharajah and the Sepoys, in which White has the ultrapowerful Maharajah, which moves like a Queen or a Knight, but only that, and Black has the regular chess army with slightly weaker pawns. Among skilled players, Black always wins, but the variant is useful in teaching Chess strategy.
  • Kreigspiel, in which you can't see your opponent's pieces. Requires a referee.
  • Martian Chess, the Icehouse chess thing covered in our Icehouse article. Icehouse.
  • Many, many attempts to make a three-dimensional chess.
  • Many, many attempts to make three or four player chess.
  • Arimaa, of interest only because it was designed to be "hard" for computer players to handle. Eventually, somebody made a computer program that could reliably beat the best human players. I for one welcome our new robot overlords.
  • "Chess 2: The Sequel", only notable for its preposterously ambitious name.
  • Chess Boxing, which alternates rounds of boxing with rounds of Blitz Chess (that is, chess with very aggressive timer).

Fictional versions of Chess[edit]

Fantasy and science fiction writers have tried their hand at making chess variants to suit their worldbuilding; probably the best known is Star Trek's three-dimensional chess (for which rules were never officially supplied), although works as diverse as A Song of Ice and Fire, Star Wars, John Carter of Mars, and Discworld have their own versions of chess (some of them even had rules).

3D-Chess (Star Trek)

A future version of the game with multi-layered board, with the pieces moving up and down accordingly. Other than that the rules seem to be the same as regular Chess.

Dejarik (Star Wars)

Played in a circular board, and the pieces are holographic representations of real creatures in the Star Wars universe, including a FREAKING RANCOR. Movements are based on how the creatures moved in "real" life. A extremely important rule: if your opponent is a Wookie, let him win.

Magical Chess (Harry Potter)

Normal Chess with magically animated pieces. They will respond to verbal commands and physically destroy enemy pieces when doing a capture.

The OTHER Magical Chess (No Game No Life)

More of a Chess theme war simulator. Pieces will refuse to move if it means their gonna die, change alliances, and can be motivated to combat trough speeches that appeal to the love for their families or their fetishes

Prosfair (Blood Blockade Battlefront)

And here is when things get bonkers. A bizarre version with rules that become more complex the longer the game goes. Pieces will gain levels and some of them can only be placed in the board at certain times. The arena initially consist of one large board surrounded by 4 smaller ones, and then more small ones appear, and then all the small boards became spherical. There is a time limit of 99 hours because at that point the game will be starting altering reality, but most human players will have died or going insane before that. If this description sound chaotic an vague, is because that is how is presented in the series.

Stealth Chess (Discworld)

This variant is said to be played by the Assassin's guild in Ankh-Morpork. It's deceptively simple, adding a seventh piece to the game, the Assassin. Each player controls two assassins who move invisibly on the board (this is simulated in game by giving the board two additional columns called the "slurks" for just the assassin piece, which tracks how far they've moved through the game). Assassins begin in the slurks beside your castles, can move one square in any direction (though not diagonally), and move two squares to capture. For example, if the assassin has moved two squares in the slurk, it may then choose to appear in any square two away from its starting square, then move an additional square to capture a piece if desired. This means that if an assassin has moved fifteen squares in a single game before popping out, it may essentially appear anywhere on the board. Crucially, assassins can capture both enemy and allied pieces, though out of professional courtesy they're not allowed to capture other assassins.

Regicide (Warhammer 40,000)

A 40K IP-licensed game named after 40k's equivalent of Chess. If you're hearing about it only now, that was pretty much the game's reception in a nutshell. It's essentially Chess set up as Orks vs. Space Marines, but with blood soaked animations and the option to use guns and psychic powers to wear down pieces rather than capturing them the old way. The game itself was actually pretty mediocre.

See Also[edit]

Warhammer 40,000 Regicide: A vidya variant of chess with 40k units you know and love from the Space Marines and Orks chopping each other apart in place of the classic chess pieces. Now you can finally put the BRUTAL in "Brutality Rule."

External Links[edit]

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