"Because what I’ve really done is I’ve ripped out the core of chess.”
October 13, 2016 12:31 PM   Subscribe

What is a chess game stripped of openings and normal patterns of play? It's Really Bad Chess, an iOS game by designer Zach Gage that randomizes the placement and quantity of pieces in each game. "[T]here's no concept of 'beginner’s luck' in chess because there's no luck in chess!" said Gage. "I wondered what would happen if I just struck down that balance in the stupidest way possible."

"The result is a game that’s much faster and more offensive than standard chess, but also one that’s more approachable. Whereas high-level chess requires the memorization of moves and patterns, Really Bad Chess encourages experimentation. [...]

"The name Really Bad Chess, meanwhile, has multiple meanings. It was originally suggested as a joke, but as Gage continued to work on his idea, it became more and more apt. For one thing, it’s a game designed in large part for people who are really bad at chess, serving as an entry point that allows them to better appreciate the game. But Really Bad Chess is also a game that might not sit well with purists. “If you look at this game and you try to appreciate it in the way that you’d appreciate chess, it’s really bad,” says Gage. “It’s a stupid game. But if you look at it from other contexts it becomes a lot more interesting.”

Previously: Play chess against a transparent intelligence, Learning Chess at 40, Bill Gates loses a chess match in 79 seconds to the new World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen
posted by not_the_water (29 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
What is a chess game stripped of openings and normal patterns of play?

Try Chess960 for a playable expression of this idea, where you won't find starting configurations like one side has 4 Queens and one has 1.
posted by thelonius at 12:34 PM on October 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


So, it's Fischer-Random Chess where, instead of pulling each piece from a bucket, you could end up with like 16 pawns.

I'm not seeing how that's an improvement.

edit:jinx, basically.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:35 PM on October 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


Finally, a computer chess game I can beat. Seriously, I am so bad at chess that it's too embarrassing to play with people, and too discouraging to play with software. I might try this.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:38 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Alternatively, you could play 9x9 Go.

Fast, Fun, Tactical.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:39 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I would like to see Willie Nelson and Ray Charles play this against each other.
posted by bondcliff at 12:42 PM on October 13, 2016


You start with a rating of 15 and then gain or lose points based on performance. 50 is supposed piece parity, and 100 is extreme Computer advantage. After the first few moves and quick captures of hung pieces, it becomes an ok drill for formulating attacks from odd board posiitons.

It's free to tinker with.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:43 PM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see Willie and Ray do anything together. Wait...I should qualify that.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 12:44 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I was in high school, one variant of chess we tried was called "Monster". Black gets a normal initial setup, and White gets a king and the four central pawns. BUT...

White moves twice for every move Black makes, and White's king can move into check on it's first move if it moves back out again on the second.

Our experience was that Black never won in any of the times we tried it.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:50 PM on October 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


I thought this was a fairly common idea already. I wrote a piece-and-layout randomization script when I was teaching myself to code. It wasn't playable, but the same basic idea.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:51 PM on October 13, 2016


too discouraging to play with software

Chess programs are too good now- I quit trying to play against them years ago. It just teaches you that anything that looks like it's good for you has some hidden refutation so don't even try it, just grovel and try to play something safe. And then you still get ground down.

All the chess programmers focus on making their programs as strong as possible. It seems to actually be very hard to program a computer to play chess like a decent but not great human. A lot of the attempts I have seen caused it to play like a really strong program and then randomly make a terrible blunder, and that was not very satisfying to play against.
posted by thelonius at 12:51 PM on October 13, 2016 [11 favorites]


White moves twice for every move Black makes

A fun variant is progressive chess. White moves once, Black moves twice, White moves 3 times, and so on. You can't play a check until the last move of your turn; if you are in check, you must get out of it the first move of your turn. It gets nuclear pretty quickly.
posted by thelonius at 12:53 PM on October 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


This sounds like playing chess with my son; he's just learning and it's kind of entertaining to play a game with somebody who has no idea of the traditional openings and just sort of randomly starts each game with grabbing a pawn and moving it forward, and then proceeds to trash talk me and verbalize his strategies which involve the pieces moving in ways that the rules don't allow. Which I gently correct, and I spend a lot of time asking him "are you sure you want to do that?" when he moves a piece into a position that I can take it. We've been talking a lot about how to protect pieces and the concepts of sacrifice lately. It's sort of a trial and error, learn by doing approach. I'm no chess genius, but it seems to me that letting him learn to play like that is giving him more enjoyment than how I learned to play, which was all about strategy and memorization.
posted by nubs at 1:12 PM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Chess programs are too good now

And they are also psychologically wearing because they're just too damn fast.

Me: I'm going to think about this move, be careful, think about the consequences, do it properly. * moves piece after 4 minutes *
Computer: BAM your turn.
posted by Jimbob at 1:15 PM on October 13, 2016 [6 favorites]


too discouraging to play with software

Chess programs are too good now


The options are either apps with idiot AIs that move pieces almost randomly and chess engines that destroy me in 15 moves. This app may be silly but it's allowing me to actually play. I'm not a great player. Definitely the audience this app was intended for. Right now I'm trying to mate with three bishops. Is it possible? Who knows! But I'm learning more about the strengths and weaknesses of bishops than I ever have in a real game.
posted by not_the_water at 1:23 PM on October 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Right now I'm trying to mate with three bishops. Is it possible? Who knows! But I'm learning more about the strengths and weaknesses of bishops than I ever have in a real game.

Heh. Last night I was chasing down checkmate on my son with two bishops, two rooks, and a knight and it was revealing to me how poor a player I am that it took as long as it did; but yeah, it was a good exercise in terms of how those pieces can interact to threaten spaces and support each other as you box the king in.
posted by nubs at 1:35 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I would like to see Willie Nelson and Ray Charles play this against each other.

Given one of them is dead, that would be something to see.
posted by tommasz at 1:52 PM on October 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


My enthusiasm for chess was also broken by a computer chess program, but not because it was too good. I accidentally stumbled into a Fool's Mate against a chess program, which made me realize that I knew the basic rules but in fact had not a single clue how to actually play chess.

This sounds kind of fun though.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:00 PM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


which made me realize that I knew the basic rules but in fact had not a single clue how to actually play chess.

Yeah, once I realized this, I felt really, really dumb.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 2:55 PM on October 13, 2016


Another method to play half-randomly is to place a screen between both sides of the physical board, then each player secretly sets up their own pieces any way they choose, or at least within limits mutually agreed upon. Both sides are then revealed. This would allow one to develop a playing strategy, and risk becoming known for it.
posted by Brian B. at 3:02 PM on October 13, 2016


There's a version of chess which is played with two boards and a judge. Each player has his own board which contains only his own pieces, and cannot see the other one. Each time its his turn to play, he makes a move and the judge tells him if it is legal. If not, he has to take it back and make another move.

There's also three-hand chess. A, B, and C take turns playing white and black, so:
Turn 1: A white, B black
Turn 2: C white, A black
Turn 3: B white, C black

and keep going like that. Whichever player makes a checkmate move wins.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:13 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I dig it. : ) But then, I've always been fairly mediocre at chess.
posted by bitterkitten at 3:43 PM on October 13, 2016


We used to play a version of chess where once per game each player was allowed to flick a pawn across the board in frustration. Any piece except the king and queen that fell off the board was captured.
posted by goatdog at 5:41 PM on October 13, 2016


Then there's 3-check. If you can give your opponent check 3 times, you win.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:50 PM on October 13, 2016


Just downloaded it and am already addicted.
posted by prepmonkey at 6:55 PM on October 13, 2016


Right now I'm trying to mate with three bishops.

Good look, I'm pretty sure they're meant to be celibate.
posted by axiom at 7:51 PM on October 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


A variant high school friends played was cylindrical-- the edges of the board are "connected".

My enthusiasm for chess as an educator was great. I afforded 15 sets of chess mats and pieces in draw-string bags so an entire class could play simultaneously. I had a few novelty sets as well, like the Simpsons boards and pieces. What's cool about the Simpsons set is the colors are purple and green, so the whole notion of "white square in right corner" and "white goes first" goes out the window.

I was often challenged about the value of checkers or backgammon and my reply was: They're fun. You've probably seen people play them while they're getting drunk. They're what can be termed games of pattern recognition, but chess is more. People equate it to intelligence and that's wrong, but what is true is people hate to lose at chess. Chess makes people nervous. Chess makes people sweat.

Some priorities were: Pawn structures, En passant, Fool's Mate, and why castling is preferred. A good warm up and what can determine who goes first is to take turns placing pawns on an empty board, but giving them the moves of a queen. You lose if you can't place a pawn without conflict.

I stressed a king is never killed, only trapped. Yet "everyone" else is captured, sacrificed, or won. Pretty ugly if you think about it. I also said this:

Many believe they know why they win, but no one, until it's too late, understands how they lost.
posted by lazycomputerkids at 9:47 PM on October 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I am pretty sure that I am the worst chess player in the world, except for a few small children and the odd primate or two. (I lack the patience to do detailed analysis, and tend not to notice minor details such as unprotected rooks.) So this game is a godsend, especially since it allows a lot of undos.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 7:15 AM on October 14, 2016


Update on my son: After I cleaned his clock Wednesday night, last night he gave me a heck of a game, with some inspired moves and good insight. I was busy setting myself up for control of the centre of the board and setting up an attack on the queen's side when he launched a bishop and a knight at me and made me sacrifice some pieces to maintain control. Unfortunately, he couldn't sustain the attack - both pieces were largely unsupported and dependent on me not being willing to sacrifice in the short term to gain positional advantages for the longer game - but he gave me a few turns of needing to be very careful and to be considered when he started putting me into check in order to force me to into complete defensive moves. Which was awesome.

Interestingly, we both had the same issue when it came to our attacks - we hadn't done a lot of movement of the pawns in front of the King and that limited our ability to maneuver the pieces in defense. So we had a good conversation about how the pieces can be tricky that way; you want to be able to support, but too much of a cluster can be bad too, and what looks like a good defense - the King protected by his pawns - can actually be made into a disadvantage.

I think I may throw this game on his iPad; it does provide interesting scenarios in the endgame and really makes you think about how the pieces move.
posted by nubs at 8:23 AM on October 14, 2016


Zach Gage is a genius and you should definitely check out his other work if this seems cool. I've lost a lot of bus/train commutes entirely to rounds of Sage Solitaire and some of his other stuff.
posted by sparkletone at 1:13 PM on October 15, 2016


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