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Chess 2: The Chessening.
November 3, 2013 8:17 PM   Subscribe

Chess 2 - How a street fightin' man fixed the world's most famous game. The rules are available here for free.
posted by empath (108 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'd be a lot more interested in his opinions of the failings of chess 1.0 if he was any good at chess 1.0.

A lot of grandmasters play Bughouse. Bughouse is many times more interesting as a chess variant than his version is.
posted by 256 at 8:24 PM on November 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's actually really hard to design a good asymmetric game, in which sides with radically different characteristics nonetheless end up balanced.

Sirlin's a grandmaster at both playing, and designing such games. Seeing what he's done with Chess is interesting. Not necessarily successful, but neat. And certainly more interesting than Bughouse, at first glance.
posted by effugas at 8:43 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry to thread-shit, but I'm still waiting on those download instructions. Free purchases are frustratingly inefficient ways to distribute things.
posted by jeffamaphone at 8:45 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why not just post the PDF for download, instead of going through this checkout and registration business?

On preview: seconded, jeffamaphone.
posted by JHarris at 8:49 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


JHarris: "Why not just post the PDF for download, instead of going through this checkout and registration business?"

This crap seems to be bog-standard among the rules that internet marketing gurus send to companies on how to maximize their web presence or retain customers or efficientify clickthroughs etc. I hates it!
posted by barnacles at 8:56 PM on November 3, 2013


A choice line from the manual: "Pieces cannot pass through the Reaper army’s ghost rooks or occupy the same square as a ghost rook."

This seems hilariously irreverent, and kind of encourages you to play make-believe with the pieces. It's obviously inspired by a lot of good, strategically deep video and board games. But it doesn't have the abstract cerebral aesthetic of chess, and I fear that will stop some good chess players from playing it even if it turns out to be an excellent variant.
posted by vogon_poet at 9:05 PM on November 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Okay --

Chess is an amazing game of transcendent strategic significance. It has survived thousands of years of obsessive interest. That is how we know it is amazing. That is also its biggest fault.

You can't be really good at chess anymore without devoting serious time and effort to it. The best players devote their lives to it, for a chance to be a grand master. They memorize opening books of hundreds of positions just so they'll know the best ways to handle the early game, building off of the game's long history. Now, after decades of trying, computers have finally picked up the torch, and it seems unlikely that humans will be able to take it back.

When Chess 2 has proven itself interesting enough to sustain so much interest, and deep enough to have survived all that time without one strategy having been shown conclusively more powerful than the others, maybe then it'll actually be worthy of being called Chess 2.

But of course, that's Sirlin's strategy here, to pose his chess variant as something of a parody, simultaneously aggrandizing it while making it slightly more snazzy than Chess Variant 826, although most of those other variants have the advantage of having been designed by serious chess players. But this is presented as a parody, and by a Street Fighter 2 expert, which is why we're talking about it now, and not, say, Fischer Random Chess.

So in a sense, Sirlin is playing a game too. The game of Internet.
posted by JHarris at 9:07 PM on November 3, 2013 [11 favorites]


Also --

One of the chief ways we measure a game's quality is the ratio of rules to depth. It's not hard to make a really deep game if you fill it with rules to give players more choices and cover edge cases. Chess is great here because it gets its depth while still being fairly simple. There are only six kinds of pieces, only the Knight is anywhere near tricky to understand, and there's only three special case rules: pawn promotion, castling and en passant.

By starting from here, Sirlin's game adds a bunch of extra things a player will have to learn in addition to that, to try to add depth to a game whose depths have been plumbed for many centuries. Since we have no way of knowing if these additions really do add depth to the game, because no one's come close to exhausting the original, they seem unnecessary, ruining one of chess's great virtues to dubious end.
posted by JHarris at 9:16 PM on November 3, 2013 [14 favorites]


Sirloin is a grandmaster at taking other people's designs, changing one thing, and calling it a masterpiece. Also:self-promotion...
posted by Windopaene at 9:16 PM on November 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


When Chess 2 has proven itself interesting enough to sustain so much interest

Unfortunately, chess is far too entrenched for any other abstract to ever unseat it, no matter how much "better" it is.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:18 PM on November 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


no one's come close to exhausting the original game

I don't think this sentiment is congruent with your earlier statement that "computers have finally picked up the torch, and it seems unlikely that humans will be able to take it back". Seems to me if we can program a computer to do something appreciably better than the best humans, we must understand it pretty thoroughly.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:22 PM on November 3, 2013


Seems to me if we can program a computer to do something appreciably better than the best humans, we must understand it pretty thoroughly.

No. Because even with the aid of the machine, we still see no end in sight to the depths of chess. In the future the frontiers of chess may well still be interesting to us, but in watching how computer programs play each other. In other words, the full consequences of the game's rules elude us and our machines.
posted by JHarris at 9:25 PM on November 3, 2013


These new rules look pretty damn fun.

It's not chess anymore, but that's okay.

especially since I'm no good at chess
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:28 PM on November 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Arimaa is another abstract strategy game designed to be played with a chess set and chessboard.
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:33 PM on November 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


When I was in high school, I learned a game called "Ultima". It's a curious variant, played with a chess board, but I didn't have any luck getting any of my classmates interested in it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:54 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's actually really hard to design a good asymmetric game, in which sides with radically different characteristics nonetheless end up balanced.

For awhile my friends were obsessed with Chaos in the Old World, a four-player game themed around the Chaos Gods from Warhammer wrecking up the WFRP world. Every single week the guy who owned it would revise the rules again. He had it close to parity when we all lost interest because we were sick of it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:08 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


because no one's come close to exhausting the original

While I would partially agree that chess isn't solved, a 60% draw frequency among top-flight players indicates that maybe we HAVE exhausted the original.
posted by chimaera at 10:14 PM on November 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


Okay, I'm commenting again, because I can't stop thinking about game design.

I hate the "stones" mechanic. In summary: each player starts with three stones. When a player take a piece, the player losing a piece can choose to have a duel. Both players then bid a number of stones they have remaining in secret, and reveal them at once. If the attacker loses, he loses his piece too. That's the essence of it; there's more to it than that, but the mechanic takes a whole page of the rules to describe. The reason I hate it is that it destroys the direct cause-and-effect relationship of moves in the game, which is much of why people are able to think about chess efficiently, which is much of why they like it; it severely restricts how far you can plan in advance, because of this element of uncertainty.

Here are the six "armies" you can choose from, and my off-the-top-of-my-head opinions of each of them. Note, I haven't played chess in a long time. Anyone who's currently playing, please critique.

Classic: No change. Is the only army that can castle. Opinion: serious chess players would have a strong advantage here, of course.

Nemesis: Queen replaced with a "Nemesis," which is identical except it can't capture or be captured by anything except the enemy king. Pawns can make a special move towards the King (which might even mean being able to move backwards, although that's of limited use), but can still only capture the normal way. Opinion: By "nerfing" (I always hated that term) the queen, the player choosing Nemesis is at a great disadvantage. In exchange, you get the opportunity to destroy your own pawn cover! Why would anyone pick this?

Empowered: Rooks, Bishops and Knights, if adjacent to another of those types, gain its move abilities while there. (The rules don't mention if this also applies to capture, I assume yes.) In exchange, the Queen can only move as a King. Opinion: Remember, the Rooks and Bishops on both sides of the board begin adjacent to a Knight! In four moves, you can get your Rooks and Bishops out from behind pawn cover where you'd usually have to get your own pieces out of the way first, and start dominating the board almost immediately. Seems overpowered, especially since the ability will work again once you get those pieces back touching each other, and a Rook touching a Bishop turns both into Queens.

Reaper (oh god, really?): Can "teleport" (ugh) any space on the board not containing one of your own pieces, and capture any such enemy pieces too. Yikes! But it cannot move to the back row, and it cannot capture the King, which basically defangs the Queen. Plus, Rooks become "ghosts," and can teleport anywhere, but can't capture anything. All they can do is take up space, blocking other attacks. So: of your seven main attacking pieces, three can't threaten the enemy King! Why would anyone pick this?

Two Kings: A convoluted mess of a rule. Your Queen becomes another King. You lose if either King is checkmated, which is a hell of a drawback. In exchange, you can perform a "Whirlwind" attack with either King; this destroys all pieces (of both side) that are adjacent (including diagonally!), but cannot be performed while your Kings are adjacent. You also get an extra turn after you normal turn, in which you get an extra move and/or Whirlwind with one of your Kings. This seems like it muddies up the process by which our opponent must get checkmate; the rule stats you can't move into check, but in standard chess, this isn't because it's against the rules precisely, but because it's suicidal. If you can move your King twice in a turn, it seems you should be able to move into check so long as you move out, or Whirlwind your attacker, in the extra turn. Opinion: I understand what Sirlin is trying to do, which is a Dune/Cosmic Encounter-style system where each army gets a novel, overwhelming advantage to counter those of the others. But this seems half-baked.

Animals: Takes the Queen, Knight, Bishop and Rook and replaces them with variant pieces. Opinion: The most interesting of the armies, I'd say, and difficult to adjudicate. This one might have potential.

Pawn promotion: You can only promote pawns to pieces that began the game in your army.

(Note: In case I didn't make it evident enough above, I loathe Sirlin's terminology. "Warrior king?" "Jungle queen?" FEH.)

On designing asymmetric games: there are some tricks you can use. For example, Small World randomly assigns special abilities to each of its races, but the races that don't get picked get more valuable/cheaper to pick the longer they're ignored, which naturally balances out the neglected combinations. (Unfortunately Small World is fairly short, and the price difference is fairly minor, so it seems like it rarely matters much in a 2 or 3 player game.) In a game with many players, another balancing factor, if players have free reign over who they attack, is the stronger side being teamed-up against by the weaker ones.
posted by JHarris at 10:17 PM on November 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


"It has survived thousands of years of obsessive interest. That is how we know it is amazing."

…but the rules have changed during that time. It hasn't been a static game.
posted by klangklangston at 10:25 PM on November 3, 2013


…but the rules have changed during that time. It hasn't been a static game.

But a lot of that time, it's been fairly stable. Okay, thousands is overstating it, my mistake (it's been around about 1,500 years), but hundreds, yes.
posted by JHarris at 10:37 PM on November 3, 2013


You guys would probably be interested to know that Sirlin just ran a kickstarter for his new Poker-Killing game, Pandante. Also, he canceled it for technical reasons, and he'll be running it again soon.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sirlin/pandante
posted by keithburgun at 10:37 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jharris, maybe you should play a few games before deciding about the viability of various armies. From reading around about people discussing actually playing it, there seems to only be one unbalanced matchup out of 21 possible.
posted by empath at 11:46 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Some interesting ideas, but I think there's a basic marketing problem. People who don't like chess probably don't want a chess-like game, while people who like chess are loyal to it. Basically, this is a 'me-too' product, and they rarely succeed.

You might get somewhere by selling it as something totally new, which interestingly but incidentally turns out to have some chess-like features. Calling it 'Chess 2' leads with the chin and gives it runner-up overtones as well as being obviously inaccurate. Version 2 is never the good one, anyway.
posted by Segundus at 11:47 PM on November 3, 2013


It's just off the top of my head empath. If I am wrong, I am wrong. I thought it would be fun to do, and maybe it would get people talking about the nuts and bolts of the game.

Go ahead! Beat my off-the-cuff impression down! Tell me why I'm wrong! I want to hear it! I want to discuss these things, and learn, if there is something useful here to learn.
posted by JHarris at 11:52 PM on November 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


My feeling about games critique is the best way to demonstrate someone is wrong is by beating them :) dancing about architecture and all. That said, just off the top of my head-- I don't think reaper defangs the queen at all. It puts your opponent on a clock, essentially, because if they don't win fast enough, they won't have any pieces left to stop you from crossing the midline. They'll kill one of your pieces a turn. The player opposing you will have to figure out how to threaten every single one of their own pieces every turn to stop it.
posted by empath at 11:59 PM on November 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a little book of chess variants which I picked up at a tournament while younger (I was hilariously bad at tournament chess, sadly). It included suicide chess (aim to lose all pieces, if you can take a piece you must), Scottish chess (first player moves once, second player moves twice, third moves three times....) and more. Wikipedia has more detail. Point being that he won't be the first to invent a chess variant, and he won't be the last. While chess has changed over time, it has been gradual, in response to developments in the game. A more likely to be excepted change would involve minor differences. For example, the idea of winning if the King crosses the middle line, which I understand these rules include, could change the game all by itself, and would dramatically reduce the number of draws... of course it would also drastically limit late game pawn play where a king supports a pawns charge towards the end line. I'm actually a fan of this kind of play, so it would be a shame to lose it.

I actually suspect the nemesis piece could be super powerful. An (almost) untakeable piece with the movement abilities of the king that can still check!
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:06 AM on November 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Aaah, I had not considered that! That's clever.

But yes, I was just trying to get the conversation going. I love thinking and talking about game design. By stating a lot of things at once, I hope people will react, and the discussion will advance, instead of petering out.

There are also my non-balance critiques. There's too many rules here, it seems to ignore why a lot of people play chess, the terminology will turn off many chess enthusiasts, and it's presented in a way that will drive those guys off.
posted by JHarris at 12:06 AM on November 4, 2013


Reading up on some of the variants mentioned above, Bughouse seems interesting, especially as it adds an asynchronous aspect between the two games.
posted by JHarris at 12:16 AM on November 4, 2013


I'll stick to Tri-D chess against irate Ferengi, by far the most satisfying version of the game.
posted by Caskeum at 1:13 AM on November 4, 2013


Obviously in my previous post I mean movement abilities of the queen, not king....
posted by Cannon Fodder at 1:32 AM on November 4, 2013


JHarris: "One of the chief ways we measure a game's quality is the ratio of rules to depth. It's not hard to make a really deep game if you fill it with rules to give players more choices and cover edge cases. Chess is great here because it gets its depth while still being fairly simple. There are only six kinds of pieces, only the Knight is anywhere near tricky to understand, and there's only three special case rules: pawn promotion, castling and en passant."

I find this comment a little surprising because among the classic abstract strategy games I'd position chess sitting at the high end of rules complexity. Go, for example, elicits comparable depth from a much simpler rule set (one piece type, one special case).
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 1:33 AM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


In keeping with the off-the-cuff thoughts:

* I quite like midline invasion. Adding only that mechanic changes the objectives of chess so dramatically that many widely held strategic assumptions would need to be re-examined.

* In addition to its obvious functions of (1) forcing players to make evaluations about the values of pieces and (2) introducing an element of bluff/tilt to the game, the stones mechanic probably also has the functions of (1) forcing slightly more conservative play (presumably to counterbalance the utter lunacy that can unfold with teleporting queens and rampaging elephants) and (2) encouraging players to exchange blows at the pawn level. Furthermore, with all of the unexplored degrees of freedom inherent in the new rosters and their resulting combinations, there are probably various "hacks" (along the lines of the Fool's Mate) that the stones provide insurance against. Consequently, I suspect that the stones mechanic serves to protect the player against the shortsightedness of the design, which I count as points against it.

* Reaper is almost certainly overpowered. While the focus on the teleporting queen is understandable, note that a side with no legal moves *loses* under these rules. Anyone who can make it to the endgame with a Reaper army's basically got two teleporting untakeable blockades that can be used to choke enemy movement. While the midline invasion victory condition may make this a moot point, I suspect the possibilities of the "ghosts" have not been adequately considered.

* The premise that the 6 armies make the opening game "too complex to develop opening books" is rather silly. Some openings will remain quite obviously better than others, so working out the "major themes" for the 21 different configurations will take some time, but won't take *that* much time compared to the time it would take to advance the Book for standard chess by just a few moves. If this variant takes off (which I doubt), its early game will be mapped out within a couple of years at most; until that eventuality, it simply exploits player ignorance of the opening structure, rather than "solving" the stated problem with the early game.
posted by belarius at 1:42 AM on November 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Latest Build: Chess 1.0000064509 Beta (Rumplestiltskin)

For Last stable version please Download Chess 1.0(Chess) here
posted by fistynuts at 1:51 AM on November 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


> "Some interesting ideas, but I think there's a basic marketing problem. People who don't like chess probably don't want a chess-like game, while people who like chess are loyal to it."

Eh, I used to play chess variants every now and again when I was playing chess more seriously; they made for a nice change-up. One of my favorites was three-dimensional chess on the classic 5x5x5 Raumschach board. It's a literal headache at first, but once you get your head around the concept, it's great fun, and who doesn't want to play with a piece called a unicorn? Also played a lot of games with fairy pieces like Nightriders (knights that can move an unlimited distance until blocked), Amazons (queens that can also move like a knight), Zeroes (pieces that "move" by staying in the same place), pieces that can push other pieces into different squares, etc.

I never played a lot of the "two different armies" Betza Chess variants, but they can work pretty well.
posted by kyrademon at 2:08 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chess is "just kind of a draw-y game."

But still so complicated that the author of that piece had to make up a word to describe it.
posted by three blind mice at 2:32 AM on November 4, 2013


In chat keithburgun revealed that Sirlin invented Chess 2 six years ago, and I presume has been on his website for sale (for $3?) all that time.

belarius, you are obviously better qualified to critique Chess 2's failings at a glance than I am.

Proofs and Refutations: I find this comment a little surprising because among the classic abstract strategy games I'd position chess sitting at the high end of rules complexity.

But among the more recent board games, chess is surprisingly simple, although I might be misadjusting from over-familiarity. You can still describe chess with 1 or maybe 1 1/2 sheets, maybe with an illustration of starting setup. Compare that to Puerto Rico, which I like a lot, and is a well-thought-of modern board game (still #5 at BGG), but takes quite a bit more time to explain, has a lot more essential terminology, and has more special cases. And yet it's fairly simple as modern board game design goes.

I would agree with your assessment on Go at first glance, but then I remember that it can also be tricky to communicate because of things that aren't technically rules, but important nuances you must still understand to properly play and which tripped me up at first, like what are eyes, and determining which stones are dead.
posted by JHarris at 3:27 AM on November 4, 2013


A lot of the rules in Puerto Rico are linked to thematic elements. I am sure the game could be abstracted more. I think it's fairer to compare Chess to more abstract modern games: Zertz, Dvonn and Yinsh all have simpler rulesets than Chess.
posted by Akke at 3:45 AM on November 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


There's lots of awesome links throughout this whole thread. It's given me a lot of interesting, happy reading. The standouts being the Wikipedia pages/sections on Raumschach, Fairy Chess and Betza Chess.

I'm not so sure Puerto Rico becomes easier to understand without its theme. You'd just end up replacing the theme nouns with abstract versions. Plus it has all those special buildings that need to be described. There are simpler abstract games, sure, but they slipped my mind, and really chess and PR are too different for me have compared them. (And I had forgotten about the difficulties in explain chess's castling and en passant moves, how tricky it can be to explain knights to a newcomer, and the weirdnesses of the pawn's initial move, its capturing method, and promotion.)
posted by JHarris at 4:06 AM on November 4, 2013


I'm pretty sure PR becomes easier to understand with it's theme, even though it's not a particularly rich one: It makes sense that buildings need to be manned to produce goods, that some goods are more expensive than others, that quarries reduce the cost of constructing buildings etc. etc. A good theme is mental shorthand to assist in acquiring and retaining a complex rule-set.
posted by fFish at 4:12 AM on November 4, 2013


I've always liked Elephant Chess.
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:28 AM on November 4, 2013


Here another chess variant for the list Knightmare Chess.
posted by gonzo_ID at 4:30 AM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Version 2 is never the good one, anyway.

Sonic 2; Fallout 2; Street Fighter 2;System Shock 2; Monkey Island 2; Super Mario Galaxy 2; Crusader Kings 2; Warcraft II etc. There are exceptions.

I read this article when it came out, but I found it curious that there was no reference (that I can remember) to Go, which is the only other simple game of strategic depth that has been as successful as chess.
posted by ersatz at 4:33 AM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Arimaa really is the thing if you want a modern game with depth and clean abstract rules comparable to chess and go (but not a chess variant). Have a look at the Arimaa wikibook or the previewable pages of Arimaa Strategies and Tactics (that's an Amazon link; there used to be a free PDF available which I still have on my computer, but it seems to have been removed from the web) for a sense of the depth. The yearly championships are quite fun to watch, besides playing. Some of those games are archived with good commentary.

It's too bad the main Arimaa site still looks and feels like 1990s web, but it's worth looking into carefully.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:36 AM on November 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I agree with Belarius. Looking at the rules more objectively and less dismissively now, I can't help but feel that Sirlin dramatically overreached.

Chess is so well balanced that you need to use a delicate touch if you want to change it. If he had added only midline invasion, and then done comprehensive playtesting, I might be interested in it as a variant.

Instead, it seems that he basically decided that Chess should be more like Blood Bowl, threw dozens of arbitrary changes at it, and counted on chess's famous balance and complexity to make it all work out. But this isn't a chess variant any more. It's a crappy version of Blood Bowl played on a chess board.
posted by 256 at 5:22 AM on November 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


The rules of chess have indeed evolved, but they have evolved slowly. Even modern castling took intermediate steps to reach the move we have today:

First, The king could move 2 squares on his first move. As rules gave the modern pieces longer range, strategy developed that placed the kings into the corners. However, moving the king into the corner would hem in the rook, so there is a strategic problem to solve.

And indeed, in the first game of "modern" castling, this was solved with a manoeuvre that took 2 moves to make. You can see it: you clear out the pieces between the king and rook, then you move the rook next to the king, then the king moves 2 squares jumping over the rook.

Compare the development of this esoteric move of castling to any single one of the changes in "Chess 2", and one sees that even castling is a smaller and more logical change. "Chess 2" has stones, bidding, alternative pieces, and alternative starting positions, and an alternative win condition. Even the seemingly smallest change, whereby if the king gains the 4th rank he wins the game, will completely change the game of chess.

There are so many changes here that the result isn't chess at all. I find the idea that these are just possible rule changes to evolve the game further really silly given the depth and number of changes.
posted by cotterpin at 5:26 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, chess is far too entrenched for any other abstract to ever unseat it, no matter how much "better" it is.

Well shogi is popular in Japan (and similar Chess-cousins in China and Korea at least) and then there is Go, none of which have the presence of Chess in the West, but are not unheard-of, either.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:39 AM on November 4, 2013


Chess is so well balanced that you need to use a delicate touch if you want to change it.

Just this very weekend I was wondering how much mileage you could get out of making the moves in chess secretly plotted and simultaneously executed, from 1 to 3 moves in advance, somewhat like Epigo.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 6:14 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thought this was going to be ChessBoxing
posted by memebake at 6:21 AM on November 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Grand Chess
posted by Chrysostom at 6:48 AM on November 4, 2013


They finally release a sequel, and it's not even an MMORPG? And there's no single player mode? Come on!
posted by oulipian at 6:56 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Dragonchess.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:09 AM on November 4, 2013


What's going on around me is hella fucking dry
I need some new excitement fast

All this rote memorizing has sucked out all the life
The thrill is something from the past

I think I need a change of cast...

Reaper teleports, Emp' shares might
Two-Kings suicide whirlwind strike
Get your King up past the mid-line!

Grandmasters play real boring games
60% draws: hella lame
Get your King up past the mid-line!
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:27 AM on November 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


Unsurprisingly, I am not the first person to think of simultaneous execution of turns: Synchronous Chess.

Also, the rules of chess aren't all that simple. They take up a fair bit of space.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 7:39 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Any one of his new mechanics might be good. The combination of them all is like saying, "Hey, you love Civilization, and Command and Conquer is basically real-time Civ, because it's all about resources and structures." No, and fuck you for wasting my time.
posted by Etrigan at 7:39 AM on November 4, 2013


I get pretty tired hearing people who are not Masters or Grandmasters complaining about how 'drawy' chess is, and that it's all memorization and that it's soulless.

These things are only (arguably) true if you are very, very good and if you have spent untold shit loads of time memorizing opening lines and endgame tactics.

For the rest of us, myself included (and I have spent a fair share of hours studying the game), these things will never be a problem because we will never acquire the knowledge necessary to reduce the game to the point where we draw all the time because we know the other guy isn't going to fuck up.

I'm pretty good but I fuck up all the time, and so do most of you. Counting on this it's dumb for us to offer draws after 20 moves. The 'staleness' of Grandmaster-level chess is a problem, but not OUR problem. It will remain fun for us until we get a whole lot better.
posted by TheRedArmy at 7:41 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


They finally release a sequel, and it's not even an MMORPG? And there's no single player mode?

That's just it, though -- they've essentially created a reductive boardgame version of an RTS video game, even using the lexicon of such games to describe how this one works.

I think it's rather telling that Burns and Sirlin have to keep drawing on elements from other competitive games to construct and describe theirs. "resources, "touchdowns," "bidding system," and so on are imported mechanics.

It's also telling that they both assume that a high draw ratio means the game isn't "fun." This is the same argument some people use to explain why soccer shouldn't be popular. No one told the rest of the world.
posted by kewb at 7:48 AM on November 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sirloin is a grandmaster at taking other people's designs, changing one thing, and calling it a masterpiece.

It worked for all of the best-known classical music composers. Remember Newton: "If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants."
posted by Twang at 7:53 AM on November 4, 2013


I think it's rather telling that Burns and Sirlin have to keep drawing on elements from other competitive games to construct and describe theirs. "resources, "touchdowns," "bidding system," and so on are imported mechanics.

I agree about the duel system -- it seems to me that it's just there to balance out weaknesses in the game design to prevent unbalanced matchups from simply being walk-overs, and that it would be better without it. It's definitely the most 'un-chess-like' mechanic. I don't see any of the other changes as being particularly radical, though.
posted by empath at 8:00 AM on November 4, 2013


All of that may be true, TheRedArmy, but the very fact that you could pour tons of time and effort into a game just to get to that state makes it inherently uninteresting to some of us.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:03 AM on November 4, 2013


When I was in high school we played four man chess. It is just like two chess games, with the guy playing white sitting next to the guy playing black in the other game.

You just play normal chess. The difference is that if you capture a piece, you can give it to your partner. On their next move they can place it down on the board (you can't capture, put a king in check or put a pawn on the last row with this move).

This encourages fast, aggressive play, because you help your partner if you can give them pieces. You often hear shouts like "I need a knight! Get me a knight!" (Knights can be really powerful in this version of the game).

You can also play it as 8 man chess, or any multiple of 4. The largest we played was 16 man chess. Captured pieces move to the right. The game at the furthest right has to throw the pieces to his partner on the furthest left. With the larger number of people playing, you end up with lots of shouting and an occasional game with an enormous number of pieces on it.

Lots of fun for an otherwise bored chess club.
posted by eye of newt at 8:29 AM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is that not basically Bughouse chess, linked in the first comment of this thread?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:35 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


256: "I'd be a lot more interested in his opinions of the failings of chess 1.0 if he was any good at chess 1.0."

effugas: "Sirlin's a grandmaster at both playing, and designing such games."

One of these people is wrong.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:54 AM on November 4, 2013


Uh, no? According to effugas, Sirlin is a grandmaster at playing and designing asymmetrical games, which chess is not. According to 256, Sirlin is no good at chess (which may or may not be true; I'd be interested to know how 256 knows this).
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:57 AM on November 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ah. I misread that as "Sirlin's a grandmaster (at chess)." Thanks.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:01 AM on November 4, 2013


No problem! I am sure Sirlin is nowhere near the grandmaster level (how few are!), but I would be surprised if he wasn't "any good".
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:03 AM on November 4, 2013


Apropos of nothing but the historicity of chess pawns... Many years ago a buddy and I were traveling to an SCA event to fight in the armored tournaments, and were passing the time discussing troop movements and training for melee combat.

Suddenly, in a bolt, we both realized the pawns' movement is a bona fide training device for shieldmen (front line heavy infantry). In our games, the odds of such a man "killing" the man right in front of him - who is staring at him, with both shields between them - is very small, but the odds of killing either of his neighbors is quite good - after all, they're staring at the person in front of them, and their shields are at an angle instead of being flat on. Plus, there's an inevitable gap between the shields sooner or later, and it always points on the diagonal.

This was something we were trying to teach our new fighters: ignore the scary guy RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, and swing to the right or left. (In practice, right-handers have an advantage attacking rightwards, but that's a natural idea that doesn't need teaching.)

There's no reason to believe historical armored combat was any different in attack odds, which means chess taught everyone who studied it - including no doubt the first- and second- level line commanders - how to train infantry.

Now, as for teaching kings how to handle the Church leaders, or their own wives... probably not so much.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:11 AM on November 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


While we're on the subject of chess variants, this site has a whole slew of delightful alternatives (with more in the sidebar).
posted by belarius at 9:19 AM on November 4, 2013


That picture of Emanuel Lasker is the face of a man who was plucked out of his classroom by a group of mysterious men at a young age and told that he was being taken away to become a chess person now.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:23 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


All of that may be true, TheRedArmy, but the very fact that you could pour tons of time and effort into a game just to get to that state makes it inherently uninteresting to some of us.

That's sort of like discounting the whole history of visual art, from cave paintings and Rembrandt to Picasso and Banksy and Marvel, because 20th century minimalism seems boring to you. Sometimes it takes a lot of time, knowledge and effort to see the beauty in something beautiful.
posted by TheRedArmy at 9:23 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I can veer slightly off-topic here, the mentions of chess being played by computers reminded me of something I recently learned that blew my mind while looking into the possibility of writing my own chess engine for fun. (Because I am apparently a huge masochist with too much time on his hands.)

I knew chess was way too complex to be a solved game (like, say, tic-tac-toe, where the number of possible board states is very low), but I wasn't aware just how complex it was. To give you an idea, at the very start of the game, White has a choice of twenty possible moves. (Move any pawn one or two spaces forward, or one of the two knights to either of two valid positions.) Following White's first move, Black has the same twenty moves available. After only two moves, then, the board can be in any one of four hundred possible states.

It only gets more ridiculous from there. Claude Shannon once calculated the number of possible board positions after eighty moves (forty by each side) as being in the neighborhood of 10120. Ready for the mind-blowing part? That's more than the estimated number of atoms in the entire observable universe.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:37 AM on November 4, 2013


That's sort of like discounting the whole history of visual art, from cave paintings and Rembrandt to Picasso and Banksy and Marvel, because 20th century minimalism seems boring to you.

I don't think this analogy is actually helpful. I enjoy the history of chess and the development of its strategies, etc. I am just not that interested in actually playing a game that is, for all intents and purposes, closed to humans at the highest level. Really, even if it were not, it just seems hardly worth the effort to play something so fantastically well-trodden that any possible strategy I could come up with has already been tried and almost certainly found wanting, decades if not centuries ago. This is personal preference.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:12 AM on November 4, 2013


Mr. Bad Example: the number of atoms in the entire universe is a pitifully small number to compare with the number of possible board positions in chess.

There are about 1080 atoms in the universe. If there are 10140 possible board positions, that means that each atom in the universe has a 1060 board positions. That's a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion board positions per atom.
posted by pharaohmagnetic at 11:07 AM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is all heresy. Sure the game evolved a bit--pawns opening with two spaces and en passant--but it hasn't changed much in the last 200+ years. BESIDES, there can be a beauty to forcing a draw by repetition out of certain positions (often having to sacrifice several pieces to open up the king or what have you).
Many tournaments have set rules to do away with 12-move "Grandmaster Draws" (though Bacrot vs Karpov had one over the weekend--preferring to go into a blitz playoff, which Karpov lost after playing some amazing chess). These rules often say "no draw before move 35" and many of the newer, younger crowd is extremely averse to draws.
For example, in the inaugural Sinquefield Cup tourny here in the US (two months ago), Magnus Carlsen only needed a draw (or win) to win the tournament--if he lost, there'd be a playoff between him and Nakamura. After some exciting play, the position was extremely drawish, though both had some possibilities; Aronian offered Carlsen the draw and thus a guarantee to win the tournament. BUT Carlsen looked deeper into the position and realized he had a slight advantage and refused the offer, going on to win. The rate of draws was at 50% but many were exciting.
posted by whatgorilla at 11:25 AM on November 4, 2013


The rules didn't load for me, so could someone please explain to me why there are only 21 combinations, given that each player has a choice of six armies? Naively one would expect 36, or perhaps 30 (if one player picking one army means the other cannot pick that army).
posted by Flunkie at 12:14 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


That picture of Emanuel Lasker is the face of a man who was plucked out of his classroom by a group of mysterious men at a young age and told that he was being taken away to become a chess person now.

Lasker's Game: When he wipes out the other player in a game, people take note of his actions and relay them to an actual battlefield somewhere, where... they are of no use at all, because chess and fighting are still really different.

That's more than the estimated number of atoms in the entire observable universe.

But this is true of more games than you'd think, and is a result of a typical combinatorial explosion. Of course chess is going to be difficult to simulate if you look at every move, but realistically, many of those moves are going to lead to dead-ends, obviously stupid actions a grandmaster would never make. It might be 20 or more moves before that branch of the search tree withers, but they all stall eventually. Current chess software works not just as a position search algorithm but an expert system that assigns heuristic weight to some pieces and positions, to try to catch those processor-wasting branches early on, effectively giving the system a kind of strategy akin to the search tree paring masters do when they look at the board and discard moves experience has shown them to be terrible.

Looked at as a raw position search function, Go would be even worse, because the first player effectively has 91 possible moves [conflating rotations], and the second, 360 responses, and it only gets worse from there. But most of those moves and responses are absolutely not good plays.

Uh, no? According to effugas, Sirlin is a grandmaster at playing and designing asymmetrical games, which chess is not.

I don't know about even this. There's a lot of hype around him, and he likes Street Fighter 2 a lot... but he seems to turn everything he tries his hand at into another version of Street Fighter 2. You'd never get something like Twilight Struggle out of Sirlin, because he'd be too busy trying to figure out what special moves the USSR should get. (Okay, TS' event system looks a bit like special moves, but it's really a lot deeper than that; the other player can trigger them for you, or delay them.) He's a classic case of the creator knowing one thing really really well, who then views the whole world through that lens. There's a bit of overstatement there for clarity, but when you have a really good hammer, a lot of things start looking like nails.
posted by JHarris at 12:19 PM on November 4, 2013


Huh. Seconding Flunkie's question, I didn't question it because I had other things to talk about, but he's right, six armies on each side means 36 combinations. Where did 21 come from?
posted by JHarris at 12:23 PM on November 4, 2013


It's 21 matches because Empowered vs Reaper is the same match up as Reaper vs Empowered.
6 + 5 + 4 + 3 + 2 + 1 = 21.

On the subject of calling an army overpowered when you haven't even played the game: http://xkcd.com/1112/
posted by dereferenced at 12:35 PM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


"chess and fighting are still really different."
-- I don't know. Many of the same concepts have always seemed to come up in chess, martial arts and military strategy...from "get there with the fastest the mostest" to controlling the center (centerline in some MA) or relinquishing the center to attack on a flank (deflection), to anticipating your opponents moves and coming up with a tree of conditional responses, etc. I can't think how understanding the principle of maintaining the King's opposition or other endgame stuff would relate--but openings seem relevant in a way.
posted by whatgorilla at 12:36 PM on November 4, 2013


This is such a great example of how important context is when doing stuff like this. Imagine how much better the reception would be in this thread if he named his game something else, removed the "this ain't your grandfather's chess!" spin and pitched it as "hey, here's a fun strategy game that's based on chess but combines it with the best parts of 4X games, Eurogames, and CCGs...and best of all, you probably already own it!"

That's on Sirlin, I'm certainly not blaming the people here...his marketing issues a challenge and we rose to it. So if his goal is to ruffle feathers, I guess he got what he's looking for, but if he wants people to play and enjoy his game, there's much better ways of presenting it.

This context issue is hardly unique to Sirlin, of course...sometimes you just want to yell at the board game world "These games are awesome and I know my non-geek friends would really enjoy playing them but they never will because you set them all during The Hundred Years War and got a high school student to illustrate them!
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:45 PM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's only true if "White Empowered vs. Black Reaper" is the same game as "White Reaper vs. Black Empowered". Which I... kind of doubt?
posted by Flunkie at 12:48 PM on November 4, 2013


It's 21 matches because Empowered vs Reaper is the same match up as Reaper vs Empowered.

But that doesn't follow; you can be Empowered while your opponent plays Reaper, or vice versa. It's 21 possibilities to an observer, but it's 36 when you're a player. (On preview, what Flunkie added.)

On the subject of calling an army overpowered when you haven't even played the game

Again -- I was trying to get the conversation started, and "playing the game" takes a while. And a competitor. I thought I was pretty up-front, above, that my responses were from simply eyeballing it.

This is such a great example of how important context is when doing stuff like this. Imagine how much better the reception would be in this thread if he named his game something else

Exactly. I guess that's his style, to try to be confrontational. It certainly can backfire.

As for the board game world, well, it depends on which games you mean. I suspect I'm familiar with the kinds of games you're talking about and broadly agree. But the best ones, I think, are those that don't simulate combat at all, or take a novel, abstract approach to it.

and got a high school student to illustrate them!

I'm really grateful right now that Sirlin didn't include flavor illustrations of the new piece types, esp. the "jungle queen." Well, at least the game doesn't contain "mana."
posted by JHarris at 1:02 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


You'd never get something like Twilight Struggle out of Sirlin, because he'd be too busy trying to figure out what special moves the USSR should get.

This is too funny. So on the nose. I really like Yomi, but I am kind of Sirlin burnt out. No Pandante pledge for me.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2013


No. Because even with the aid of the machine, we still see no end in sight to the depths of chess.

I'm not sure I understand this comment. I don't mean this in an overly critical way -- I literally don't get what the "depths of chess" even means. We know the rules, and we know how to look N moves ahead. I don't think of chess as particularly creative. The space of possible games is very large, but not unlimited. It's not like you get a style score. :-)

That fact that computers are beating humans now by essentially being better databases *does* kind of prove the point. Yes, they do use heuristic pruning, but the point is that the only reason they do so is that the computer isn't fast enough yet to exhaustively search, not because the pruning itself is important to solving chess. Chess is a solved problem in the abstract, like most games without a random element.

I suppose one way to look at it is that chess moves from a game where a human plays directly to a game where a human programs a computer to play, in the same way we have abstract robot competitions. Then it's a matter of who can come up with the better pruning algorithm and fastest hardware. I suppose that could count as "depth", but it feels like a completely different game to me.
posted by smidgen at 1:29 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Chess is a solved problem in the abstract, like most games without a random element.

By "solved in the abstract" I guess you mean something like only solved for very limited subcases, e.g. on a 3x3 board? (More information: 1, 2.) Actually, the only plausible version of the quote would have to be "solvable in the abstract"; even the guy who solved checkers doesn't think we're all that close.
posted by advil at 2:04 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I kind of like the midline idea a little, but would prefer something that allows for a more interesting and drawn out endgame. Maybe instead a rule that every time you capture an enemy piece you have to designate a flag location on the board that will allow the enemy to win if they get their king within one space adjacent? This could allow for some interesting positional play over material play.

In exchange, you get the opportunity to destroy your own pawn cover! Why would anyone pick this?

For a positional game it's a strong pawn advantage to be able to always choose 3 spaces to move almost every pawn? If you've used pawns to take a lot of the mid-board squares you can move a pawn in to cover a column gap. As well you can uncover the rook file to allow rook movement. You can also unbind a specific color of bishop as necessary.

Personally I'm intrigued by the possibilities of empowerment, which I suspect has hidden depths. However, I'm not really interested in playtesting this to find out where the imbalances are. The older I get the more I appreciate simpler abstracted rulesets and complexity evolving from emergence.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:08 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do the players choose their army types simultaneously in secret, or is white forced to pick first?
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:14 PM on November 4, 2013


re: "Solved in the abstract"

One of the big ideas Alan Turing came up with while helping develop the codebreaking computer that deciphered the German Enigma code during WWII was that while there seemed to be bajillions of options to sort through, one could tell early on in the process whether or not a particular path was likely to lead to a real-world answer or just gibberish.

Those paths (and all the options that branched off from them) could be eliminated from consideration, drastically reducing the number of options to be considered, at which point the computers of the day could hammer away at it with brute force and come up with a solution.

Kinda feels like Chess is a similar problem. Yes, there are bajillions of choices and moves possible. But many of them can be eliminated because they lead nowhere but defeat. And once the negative-value options have been eliminated from consideration, the computer can hammer away at the extensive library of positive-value moves in its database.

If "solved" can be defined as "Per situation x, consult database for proper response move"...
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:41 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


If the two king variant has both kings forked or pinned against the other that's an automatic checkmate? Seems vulnerable.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:11 PM on November 4, 2013


My point about Sirlin is you don't have to like the guy (much like you don't have to like all the Chess grandmasters) but:

1) Asymmetric game design is really, really hard
2) He's gone deeper into the theory of it, than anyone else I know publicly.
3) Any asymmetric game that's been around for six years and hasn't absolutely fallen apart, is fairly impressive.
posted by effugas at 4:49 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two games immediately sprang to mind: Archon and Powers Monopoly.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 5:19 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


That fact that computers are beating humans now by essentially being better databases *does* kind of prove the point. Yes, they do use heuristic pruning, but the point is that the only reason they do so is that the computer isn't fast enough yet to exhaustively search, not because the pruning itself is important to solving chess. Chess is a solved problem in the abstract, like most games without a random element.

That's not what solved means. A solved game is one in which one side or the other will always win, mathematically. Where the implications of all states, from the start of the game, are known. A good number of games are solved, but there are still plenty that aren't.

There are still many years of enjoyment and development ahead for chess, I think. We have computer players that can beat the best human players now, right, but it's done by a combination of brute force and heuristics. If we can develop new heuristics for the game, perhaps by using those same computer tools, maybe we can learn to play better. Grandmasters already use computer players to train. We can derive interest from figuring out why computers play that way, learn lessons from those games, and bring those lessons into our own human vs. human games.

And further -- wherever there is a heuristic, there is the possibility that that heuristic could be defeated. It could turn out that the shortcuts we use to write chess software are flawed, that there are hidden depths of strategy in some of those pruned search branches. The more pruning such a heuristic does, the more chance of this happening. A human player could discover this, akin to the rise of the hypermodernists in chess history, and do well until the programs are developed to adjust for it -- if the can be adjusted at that moment, because such an event would prove that computer chess software needs to spend more processor time on the problem.
posted by JHarris at 5:24 PM on November 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


3) Any asymmetric game that's been around for six years and hasn't absolutely fallen apart, is fairly impressive.

Well... for much of that time, I believe, Sirlin demanded that you pay him three dollars for his chess variant. That's a good way to limit exposure, and thus shallowness-exposing eyes, when there are so many free chess variants around. Not that it is necessarily shallow, just that most people invent chess variants for the love of the game, not profit, and those are his competition for interest.
posted by JHarris at 5:25 PM on November 4, 2013


JHarris--

You make a reasonable point. It's just that even with a relatively small community, asymmetries get exploited pretty ruthlessly. It doesn't take long for Magic to devolve into one of a handful of metagames, and it takes forever to get something like Starcraft remotely balanced.
posted by effugas at 6:04 PM on November 4, 2013


It took about a year for SC2 to get balanced, and another year for all the fun to get sucked out of the game
posted by empath at 7:19 PM on November 4, 2013


I'm surprised I'm the first here to mention Chinese Chess, or Xiangqi. Its traditional version isn't very accessible to Westerners, since the pieces are Chinese characters. A few years ago, when I put the effort in, I found it a really rewarding game, with interesting mechanics that we don't have in Western Chess (like the Elephants which can't cross the river that runs down the middle of the board, or the kings, who can shoot at each other), but familiar enough to get going fairly quickly. A friend who knows it pretty well had a great time surprising folks as he traveled through Asia, by being a white guy who could play their favorite game.
posted by dylanjames at 9:36 PM on November 4, 2013


empath--

The custom games remain very fun. What made you think the fun got sucked out of the standard game (not necessarily disagreeing -- balance != fun).
posted by effugas at 9:56 PM on November 4, 2013


What, no Blizzard Chess?
posted by Evilspork at 10:37 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


What made you think the fun got sucked out of the standard game (not necessarily disagreeing -- balance != fun).

They basically balanced the game through map design, and they did it by making big maps with a lot of safe expansions and easily defendable choke points, so every reasonably high-level game is a 30-40 minute slog -- Z vs P ends with these endless Swarm-host vs Tempest stale-mates -- a recent WCS Europe game took over THREE HOURS.

It used to be that there were all these aggressive openings that caused players to have to scout aggressively and build defenses pre-emptively. Exciting stuff would happen in the first 4-5 minutes all the time - 6 and 10 pools, 2 rax bunker rushes, etc. It was rare and exciting when games got to tier 3 tech.

Now a 'standard' zerg opening is building two new expansions before building the first spawning pool. So little happens during the first 7-8 minutes of most pro games that the casters make a joke of finding stuff to talk about.
posted by empath at 10:39 PM on November 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saying that if chess gets solved its no longer interesting essentially damns every deterministic game and to be honest every random game really. If a game has strategic depth then there will always be a best move in every situation: choices with the same outcome are not really choices at all. But what makes games fun is trying to use your intutition about the game to try to pick the best choice.

I mean this is a deep cut about what makes games fun. You might like a game if there are multiple routes you can try to win. In chess there are examples of this, the most obvious being kings pawn or queens pawn opening (or something even more esoteric, I suppose). Checkers/draughts is a solved game but its still fun to play.

My problem with chess is that learning patterns can help you a disproportionate amount over intuition, but thats because I don't have the time to learn how to play so many openings. Playing chess puzzles on line you will see that there are situations where there is a standard three move play which is not obvious, but if you learn to see and spot it you can use it to your advantage. The most obvious example of this is setting up forks.

I actually don't think expanding the play set really helps against the idea of learning good openings. It actually makes the problem worse. At high levels you'd simply have to know more openings.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:54 PM on November 4, 2013


That is interesting empath. It goes to show that it's possible to balance a game out to the point of blandness.
posted by JHarris at 2:46 AM on November 5, 2013


It's possible to modify an unbalanced asymmetric game by introducing a bidding system or by modifying victory conditions. In Chess2 for example, if one of the armies is found to be much stronger than the other, selecting it could grant your opponent additional points for dueling. Alternatively, if your personal play was weak against specific armies, there could be a system where you assign the set of points zero through five to each of the enemies army choices before selection so that they have an incentive to pick an army you know how to fight from a strategy perspective.

A solved game is one in which one side or the other will always win, mathematically.

Sorry to be nitpicky, but:
Solving chess means finding an optimal strategy for playing chess, i.e. one by which one of the players (White or Black) can always force a victory, or both can force a draw (see Solved game). [wikipedia]
Thankfully, the 3-fold repetition and 50 move draw rules eliminate the possibility of the never-ending game, but I'm sure there are other games in which a loss can be avoided by adopting a never-finish strategy.

Saying that if chess gets solved its no longer interesting essentially damns every deterministic game and to be honest every random game really.

Not every deterministic game is necessarily going to be solvable or even finite state though.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:04 AM on November 5, 2013


Speaking of which, the "no draw" thing is BS, ghost rooks and pawns can trap kings in the corners with no moves possible.
posted by BrotherCaine at 10:08 AM on November 5, 2013


Solving chess means finding an optimal strategy for playing chess, i.e. one by which one of the players (White or Black) can always force a victory, or both can force a draw (see Solved game).

That is what I meant. "Mathematically" was a confusing term though and I shouldn't have used it; I didn't mean it in terms of algebra but logic. My point is that, even though computers have surpassed humans in playing chess, we (speaking as humans and computers, which are after all extensions of humans) still aren't at that point.

Speaking of which, the "no draw" thing is BS, ghost rooks and pawns can trap kings in the corners with no moves possible.

Under the rules of the game, as reported above, you lose if you can't move.
posted by JHarris at 11:41 AM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Two pawn stacked in sixth&seventh rank of first or last column blocking in king, ghost rooks available to move?
posted by BrotherCaine at 11:48 AM on November 5, 2013


According to 256, Sirlin is no good at chess (which may or may not be true; I'd be interested to know how 256 knows this).

The man has no official FIDE rating and, so far as I can tell, has never played in a sanctioned chess tournament. That's pretty convincing evidence that he is a decent amateur player at best.
posted by 256 at 12:53 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


BrotherCaine, I don't understand? If he can't move, he loses. Do you mean, what if ONLY the Ghost has a move, as a piece that can't attack? I don't think Sirlin's game is immune to draws, it just makes them much less likely, I think.
posted by JHarris at 2:40 PM on November 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Exactly, he claimed no draw conditions were possible, but I think less likely is more supportable. Maybe using duel points to resolve stalemates would make draws slightly more unlikely too.
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:55 PM on November 5, 2013


..except the empowered queen, when standing next to a knight and a bishop moves like a pawn, and can only attack diagonally on the white squares. Unless it's black's move. Then white can move while black is thinking it over, using the "look, your shoe's untied" gambit, followed by two out of three rounds of "paper, scissors, rock."

The winner buys the pizza.

Chess? Sure.
posted by mule98J at 7:16 PM on November 5, 2013


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