Saturday, July 23, 2005

Chess variants (second of a series)

By Frank “Boy” Pestaño

It's generally accepted that Chaturanga, which originated in India around the seventh century after Christ, is the mother of all chess variants, including modern chess, Shogi and XiangQi.

Shogi and XiangQi were featured in my column last week. As far as I know, Chaturanga is not popular anymore having been replaced by modern chess.

However, it is interesting to find out how it is played being the original invention.

The game is played on an uncheckered board of 8x8 squares. Each side has a king, a counselor, two elephants, two knights, two rooks and eight pawns. Note the similarity with modern chess, except that the counselor has replaced the queen.

The king moves as the usual king but additionally has the right to make a one-knight move during the game, provided that he hasn’t been checked before his knight move. There is no castling.

The counselor moves one square diagonally and the elephant moves two squares diagonally, but may jump the intervening square.

The knight moves as the usual knight and the rook or chariot moves as the usual rook.

The pawn moves as the usual pawn but may not make a double step on its first move.

Pawns can promote when they arrive at the last rank of the board but only to the type of piece that was in the opening setup (e.g., a pawn that promotes to b8 can only promote to a knight). Additionally it can only promote to a knight if the player has lost that piece during the game. A consequence is that pawns never promote on e1 or d8.

The object is to mate the opponent’s king. A player that stalemates an opponent loses the game.

KILLER CHESS. Children variants killer chess or suicide chess is a popular variant and probably of great antiquity. It is easy to play and serves as an introduction to children before more serious real chess.

The opening setup is the same and all pieces move as in normal chess. Capturing is compulsory. The king plays no special rule in the game and can be taken. There is no mate or checkmate.

When a player captures two or more pieces, he may choose which piece to capture. Castling is not allowed. In the case of stalemate, whichever has fewer pieces left wins the game. If both have the same number, the game is drawn.

The player with no more pieces on the board wins the game.

Atomic chess is another variant popular among children. It is identical to regular chess with one exception. In regular chess, the captured piece is removed from the board and the capturing piece takes its place. In atomic chess both pieces are killed and this explosion extends to all eight surrounding squares. All pieces are killed with the sole exception of pawns. Pawns are killed only when they are involved in the actual capture.

Checkmate is rarely achieved in atomic chess. Instead, the death of the opposing king happens when he is caught too near an atomic explosion.

FISCHER’S VARIANT. Fischer random chess is a variant created by Bobby Fischer. His goal was to create a variant in which creativity and talent would be more important than memorization and analysis of opening moves. His approach was to create a randomized initial chess position negating all opening theories.

The starting position for Fischer random chess must meet the following rules: 1) White pawns are placed on their orthodox home squares. 2) All remaining white pieces are placed on the first rank. 3) The white king is placed somewhere between the two white rooks. 4) The white bishops are placed on opposite-colored squares. 5) The black pieces are placed equal and opposite to the white pieces.

There have been talks that Bobby might play competitive chess again...using this variant.

CEBUANOS. International Masters Barlo Nadera and Richard Bitoon, both Cebuanos, made the Southeast Asian Games chess team in the rapid category together with Grandmasters Eugene Torre, Joey Antonio and Nelson Mariano II.
Mark Paragua’s request to be seeded automatically to the team has been rejected by Go Teng Kok, president of the National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP).

Earlier, Mark also did not qualify under the standard time category, which is composed of Antonio, NM Oliver Barbosa, FM Oliver Dimakiling, IMs Ronald Dableo and Jayson Gonzales.

Paragua though still has a chance to make the blitz team category if he participates in the eliminations.

INTER-BARANGAY. St. Francis of Assisi School board member Jorge Aguas said they will sponsor a chess team tournament between Barangays Opra and Lahug tomorrow at the St. Francis gym in Peace Valley, Lahug.

The two teams will compete for the top prize of P3,000. Players for Opra are Robert Sevilla and Patalinjug brothers Jan and Brian. Dante Arguelles, Jojo Santos and Raymund Quijano will banner the Lahug team. They will play four games each. If successful, the school will sponsor a bigger tournament with more teams to coincide with the school’s Founder’s Day.

P.S. Alexander Olis, a resident of Orange Park, Florida and member of the Jacksonville Chess Club, is here for a short vacation. He holds a doctorate degree in soil chemistry and is a professor in Middleburg School. With him is his 18-year-old son, Paolo, also a chess player. Alex is the brother of Cebu Executives and Professionals Chess Association (Cepca) president Jun Olis.

Chess really runs in the family.

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