Author Topic: What Defines a Chess Variant?  (Read 103 times)

ubersketch

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What Defines a Chess Variant?
« on: March 27, 2018, 08:31:55 pm »
So I've been asking this question for a long time now. What defines a chess variant?
I've put down two basic rules:
1. Gridded game
2. Capturing and/or movement
However, I feel this is either too exclusive or too inclusive.
What do you people think?

"Okay now I can't stop staring at that alien crotch." ubersketch 2k17

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HGMuller

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #1 on: March 28, 2018, 03:19:46 am »
Defining characteristics of a chess variant are usually considered to be:

  • A 'board' with a regular pattern of discrete 'cells', which each can be occupied by a 'piece'.
  • There is no hidden information
  • Many different piece types.
  • During a 'turn' one piece can be moved from one cell to another.
  • The players can decide freely on their moves, i.e. without any input from factors determined by chance (such as cards or dice).
  • Each piece type has its own characteristic set of moves, independent of its location on the board.
  • Pieces can be captured by 'replacement', i.e. by moving to the square they were on, and taking their place.
  • One of the pieces is 'royal', meaning that its capture ends the game.

There can be slight violations of any of these rules without immediately disqualifying a game as a chess variant, (e.g. castling violates the one-piece-per-turn rule, and e.p. capture the replacement capture rule, even in orthodox Chess, and the confinement of certain pieces to certain zones violates move uniformity in Xiangqi). But there should not be too many violations, and the more there are, the closer it has to be to a very popular 'standard' variant in other respects. For instance, Checkers, Ultima, Arimaa, Einstein Würfelt Nicht or Clobber cannot be considered Chess variants.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2018, 03:30:18 am by HGMuller »

John_Lewis

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2018, 01:10:33 pm »
My definition of Chess Variant is a game where a working knowledge of Chess gives you the majority of the rules required to play the game.

In other words, you can describe the game as "Chess, except..."

The percentage of rules that get over written or changes will vary and the number of additional rules will also vary. However the casual observer of the game state might assume the players are playing chess or at least recognize chess elements. In this case just having an 8x8 board isn't enough to be a Chess Variant, IMO.

I'd have to ponder a bit longer than I have time for now to figure out what percentage of rules in modern Chess would need to be replaced before the resulting game was no longer, IMO, a Chess variant. There are certainly games where the only apparent similarity is a board with spaces and pieces, which the goal being the capture of a "royal" piece...

Asher Hurowitz

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #3 on: March 29, 2018, 05:09:35 pm »
That's a really interesting and difficult question. What even is our hobby? :)

I heard somewhere that the Knight move defines a chess variant, but that isn't my personal opinion, just thought I would share that (at the very least I would add the royal piece rule).
« Last Edit: March 30, 2018, 08:02:55 pm by Asher Hurowitz »
Indeed it is certain that Chess Variants make me happy.

My Youtube Channel on Chess Variants
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCb-lm6a8XZo0eqAhfR4QWOg

My Lecture at Yale University, aged 13
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smDO2Dpx5tg

My Youtube Channel on Rubik's Cube
Search"Polyhedral Paradise"

John_Lewis

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #4 on: March 30, 2018, 03:04:25 pm »
That's a really interesting and difficult question. What even is our hobby? :)

I heard somewhere that the Knight move defines a chess variant, but that isn't my persona opinion, just thought I would share that (at the very least I would add the royal piece rule).

Knightless Chess: A chess variant made just to prove a point.

• All the rules of normal chess apply, but you replace all the Knights with Bishops (so you will start with four Bishops for each player).
• Obviously you can't promote to a Knight, because the Knight piece is now a Bishop.

fin.

HGMuller

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #5 on: March 30, 2018, 03:33:50 pm »
Chu Shogi doesn't have any Knights.

ubersketch

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #6 on: March 30, 2018, 08:15:47 pm »
Defining characteristics of a chess variant are usually considered to be:

  • A 'board' with a regular pattern of discrete 'cells', which each can be occupied by a 'piece'.
  • There is no hidden information
  • Many different piece types.
  • During a 'turn' one piece can be moved from one cell to another.
  • The players can decide freely on their moves, i.e. without any input from factors determined by chance (such as cards or dice).
  • Each piece type has its own characteristic set of moves, independent of its location on the board.
  • Pieces can be captured by 'replacement', i.e. by moving to the square they were on, and taking their place.
  • One of the pieces is 'royal', meaning that its capture ends the game.

There can be slight violations of any of these rules without immediately disqualifying a game as a chess variant, (e.g. castling violates the one-piece-per-turn rule, and e.p. capture the replacement capture rule, even in orthodox Chess, and the confinement of certain pieces to certain zones violates move uniformity in Xiangqi). But there should not be too many violations, and the more there are, the closer it has to be to a very popular 'standard' variant in other respects. For instance, Checkers, Ultima, Arimaa, Einstein Würfelt Nicht or Clobber cannot be considered Chess variants.
I do not allow slight violations because what is slight and what is not is subjective.
"A 'board' with a regular pattern of discrete 'cells', which each can be occupied by a 'piece'." This is a perfectly normal rule.
"There is no hidden information." Kriegspiel is a Chess Variant.
"Many different piece types." This is entirely subjective unless you mean there has to be more than one piece type. Also, I should mention, this rule seems too inelegant and too unmathematical.
"During a 'turn' one piece can be moved from one cell to another." Immobilization Chess - Chess but every time a Queen is moved, the other player cannot move for the next turn.
"The players can decide freely on their moves, i.e. without any input from factors determined by chance (such as cards or dice)." Chaturanga (and maybe some other early variants) is played with dice.
"Each piece type has its own characteristic set of moves, independent of its location on the board." The Querquisite is a piece which violates this rule.
"Pieces can be captured by 'replacement', i.e. by moving to the square they were on, and taking their place." Igui, burning, and general moves in shogi variants violate this rule.
"One of the pieces is 'royal', meaning that its capture ends the game." Bombalot violates this rule.
I like inclusivity so I will allow even the most unchesslike of variants like Checkers and Clobber.

"Okay now I can't stop staring at that alien crotch." ubersketch 2k17

Martin0

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2018, 02:28:58 am »
From wikipedia:
A chess variant (or unorthodox chess) is a game "related to, derived from, or inspired by chess".[2] The difference from chess might include one or more of the following:

different rules for capture, move order, game objective, etc.;
addition, substitution, or removal of pieces in standard chess (non-standard pieces are known as fairy pieces);
different chessboard (larger or smaller, non-square board shape, or different intra-board cell shapes such as hexagons).

References:
Pritchard, D. B. (1994). The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants. Games & Puzzles Publications. ISBN 0-9524142-0-1.
2: Pritchard (1994), p. vii

Martin0

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #8 on: March 31, 2018, 02:49:44 am »
Defining characteristics of a chess variant are usually considered to be:

  • A 'board' with a regular pattern of discrete 'cells', which each can be occupied by a 'piece'.
  • There is no hidden information
  • Many different piece types.
  • During a 'turn' one piece can be moved from one cell to another.
  • The players can decide freely on their moves, i.e. without any input from factors determined by chance (such as cards or dice).
  • Each piece type has its own characteristic set of moves, independent of its location on the board.
  • Pieces can be captured by 'replacement', i.e. by moving to the square they were on, and taking their place.
  • One of the pieces is 'royal', meaning that its capture ends the game.

There can be slight violations of any of these rules without immediately disqualifying a game as a chess variant, (e.g. castling violates the one-piece-per-turn rule, and e.p. capture the replacement capture rule, even in orthodox Chess, and the confinement of certain pieces to certain zones violates move uniformity in Xiangqi). But there should not be too many violations, and the more there are, the closer it has to be to a very popular 'standard' variant in other respects. For instance, Checkers, Ultima, Arimaa, Einstein Würfelt Nicht or Clobber cannot be considered Chess variants.

Just for fun, let's look at how my event chess variant holds up to these requirements. I know you said they were not strict, but still. My event chess variant is based on starting a normal game and then a player can start an event. The event is chosen randomly from over 100 events and will make some rule changes (and some will break these things).

1: There is an event that allows pieces to stand on intersections between squares. Pieces can still stand on squares though, so I think I passed
2: Some events have hidden information.
3: Passed!
4: Some events allow several moves in a turn
5: Which event is started is pure chance by dice roll, although when a player chooses to start an event is optional. That is the only violation to this though.
6: Location of a piece sometimes matters to how they move
7: Captures are sometimes made in a different way
8: Some events makes no piece royal.

Well, I passed 2/8 and I still consider it a chess variant  :)

I'm not overly interested if people think my variant passes what others consider necessary to be a chess variant or not. I can still have equally fun playing it.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2018, 02:58:05 am by Martin0 »

HGMuller

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #9 on: March 31, 2018, 07:22:17 am »
I do not allow slight violations because what is slight and what is not is subjective.
...
I like inclusivity so I will allow even the most unchesslike of variants like Checkers and Clobber.
The problem of that approach is that it will require you to consider almost every game a chess variant to avoid excluding some games that obviously are chess variants, so that the concept becomes completely useless. There is no demand for a new synonym for 'game'.

What kind of violations are acceptable and which not indeed is subjective, but I think this is unavoidable when you are dealing with a continuous spectrum of possibilities. Any exact bound would be arbitrary, which IMO is just as bad as being subjective. It would be far more useful to acknowledge that 'chessiness' is a continuous measure, and not an all-or-nothing quantity. IMO games like Checkers or Clobber do not have a chessiness of more than 5%, and it would not be very useful to consider games with such a low resemblance to Chess as chess variants.

Martin0

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2018, 02:50:33 am »
I agree with HGMuller. If we try to include too much, then a chess variant will not even be about resembling chess anymore.
I want to say something similar to a chess variant must resemble chess at least 50%. But trying to decide an arbitrary number of how much it must resemble chess or deciding how big the differences are percentage wise for a variant compared to chess is a bit stupid.

Some rules I would have a really hard time to get rid of and still consider it a chess variant is that it must be a turn-based game and played on a board with pieces. But it is not a definition of turn-based strategy board games we are looking for, it is the definition of a chess variant.

HGMuller

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2018, 04:23:46 am »
Indeed. And even the 'turn-based' requirement is not sacred. There exists a variant 'Turnless Chess', which is exactly like orthodox Chess, except that each player can move at any time, and pieces then move at finite speed to the indicated destination, and suffer some 'dead time' after they arrive, before they can be moved again. (There are some supplementary rules to resolve collisions between pieces that are 'in flight'). It is recognizable as a chess variant because it is so much like Chess in every other way. (It does not just have many different pieces, each piece moveing through a fixed pattern, one of them royal, but it has exactly the same pieces moving in exactly the same way as orthodox Chess.) But it feels like a totally different game.

ubersketch

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2018, 09:50:39 am »
Indeed. And even the 'turn-based' requirement is not sacred. There exists a variant 'Turnless Chess', which is exactly like orthodox Chess, except that each player can move at any time, and pieces then move at finite speed to the indicated destination, and suffer some 'dead time' after they arrive, before they can be moved again. (There are some supplementary rules to resolve collisions between pieces that are 'in flight'). It is recognizable as a chess variant because it is so much like Chess in every other way. (It does not just have many different pieces, each piece moveing through a fixed pattern, one of them royal, but it has exactly the same pieces moving in exactly the same way as orthodox Chess.) But it feels like a totally different game.
That is why I didn't require turn based as a requirement.
Also I just realized roguelikes satisfy my requirements for chess variants.

"Okay now I can't stop staring at that alien crotch." ubersketch 2k17

John_Lewis

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #13 on: April 06, 2018, 11:25:20 am »
I'll repeat my standing assumption:

A chess variant must contain some amount of rules from standard/modern chess.

Starting from this assumption, you can then decide or debate how many rules from chess are required to make it recognizable as being a chess variation rather than only having some similar rules.

HGMuller

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Re: What Defines a Chess Variant?
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2018, 01:14:56 pm »
Well, that is quite close to what I said, except that I also give a summary of the most important rules. And I would not use standard/modern Chess as a template, as it is just one particular variant, (and only second in popularity), which already has some abnormalities that would not occur in 'perfect Chess'.