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Comments by Mark Thompson

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Review process for variants[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2012-10-20 UTC
You mean a member other than me can post a page with my name in the byline?
 It seems unlikely I started this page less than a month ago and forgot
about it.

I don't see how to delete it, but that's what I'd do if I could.

Mark Thompson wrote on 2012-10-19 UTC
When was this item started? I don't remember it.

Home page of The Chess Variant Pages. Homepage of The Chess Variant Pages.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2012-05-12 UTC
Here's another suggestion, related to the new comment filtering idea: perhaps registered users could set a default filter on the What's New items we want to see, according to various qualities (creation date, game features, authorship, etc.) so we could focus on the pages we find interesting.

Heraclitus: Method for balancing uneven sides, muttators and variants..[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2012-04-21 UTC
"The pie rule only works when both parties are highly adept at their
assigned tasks." 

But adeptness at their assigned tasks is simply the ability to evaluate the
quality of a board position as being likely to favor one side or another,
and that's the essence of playing skillfully: choosing moves that create
positions where you have the advantage. It isn't unfair if the pie rule
leaves an advantage with the better player. The better player naturally has
an advantage at every point in the game.

Chaturanga. The first known variant of chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2011-03-03 UTC
I do have David Li's book, which I bought years ago. I had read a favorable review of it that led me to expect that he had interesting new evidence on the origin of chess, but I was disappointed to find that the book merely piled up a tower of unsupported speculations. 

The closest thing to evidence was an anecdotal account of Xiang-Qi's being invented by a figure from ancient Chinese history, who as I recall lived a few centuries before Christ, the anecdote being attributed to a Chinese document only a few centuries old. This is valueless as evidence of such a theory: it means only that someone about the time of Newton or Voltaire wrote down a legend about something that had happened about the time of Alexander the Great. Without earlier documents, how could the late author know anything about events so far in his own past? Maybe the 18th century Chinese author got the story from an earlier period, but there were plenty of earlier periods between the supposed events and our document when such a legend could have been composed.

Besides this legend, everything I could find in Li's book was a seemingly endless parade of descriptions of how it MIGHT HAVE happened that way, and how it's really not so implausible that it COULD HAVE happened that way. Well, of course, it MIGHT have, as I didn't need Li's book to know. But that's what we call 'idle speculation', not evidence. Someone needs to find some much older documents, or dig up some very old equipment, or something, or this theory will remain negligible.

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2010-06-11 UTC
Flattery will get you somewhere ...

I believe it is possible to come up with betting schemes, for use in a
casino, that might give you a greater than 50% chance of ending with more
money than you began with. But that will necessarily mean that the
remaining possibilities, although they collectively have less than a 50%
chance, include losses that more than outweigh the likely winnings.
Probability theory defines a concept called 'expected value' which is the
sum, over all possible outcomes, of the product of that outcome's value,
times that outcome's probability. The expected value of the betting scheme
will not be positive, simply because it involves making a combination of
various bets that individually have negative expected values. The sum of
negative values can't be positive.

I feel pretty confident that the only reliable way to make money at casino
gambling is to get yourself a casino.

Puzzle Shatranj. Shatranj on a 15 puzzle. (8x8, Cells: 60) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2009-12-23 UTC
When it says, 'Whenever a piece is captured, it is held for dropping by the enemy,' does 'the enemy' mean the enemy of its original owner or the enemy of the capturer? When I first read this I assumed 'the enemy' meant the enemy of its original side, so that the captured piece changes sides.

If the piece changes sides, then it still need to be clarified whether the alternative winning condition is exactly-one or at-least-one piece per region, because there could be more than 15 allied pieces on the board at once.

Mark Thompson wrote on 2009-12-21 UTC
For the alternative winning condition, is that exactly one piece per region or at least one piece per region?

Trampoline Chess. Each player has a Trampoline that allows friendly pieces to make a second move. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2009-12-07 UTC
Thanks, Alfred! I don't recall seeing Hop Chess before. I've updated the page for this game acknowledging the similarity and priority.

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2009-12-06 UTC
I tried on Thursday to submit a new page for an original game, Trampoline
Chess, but the game hasn't appeared yet and I haven't heard anything
about it. Can any of the editors tell me whether the submission is in their
in-box, or whether I did it incorrectly?

Goodchess. Missing description (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2009-09-18 UTC
This description doesn't specify the starting arrangement of the pieces. They start in the second row, but are they otherwise in the 'usual chess' arrangement? Or are they arranged from left-to-right in the order you mention them?

They might be in some other order, or perhaps they could be arranged ad lib by the players at the start of the game: i.e., White places a piece-and-its-pawn, Black places a piece-and-its-pawn, etc., until all are in place, whereupon they start moving.

Royal FuryA Zillions-of-Games file
. A Futuristic Chessery Game - relaxed win rules.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2009-07-09 UTC
Ultima was also written up by Martin Gardner in his Scientific American column sometime in the 1960s, and became fairly widely known from that. What inspired what is mainly of historical interest, but also might direct people who are interested in games like Ultima or Maxima to check out Royal Fury.

Mark Thompson wrote on 2009-07-08 UTC
It's interesting how much this game resembles Ultima: the major pieces are differentiated by how they capture rather than how they move. The fantasy piece-names might be well adapted to creating armies from those expensive little figurines they sell in many game stores.

Tetrahedral Chess. Three dimensional variant with board in form of tetrahedron. (7x(), Cells: 84) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2009-06-27 UTC
Thanks! 'Defining the Abstract' is also on my own defunct website at .

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2008-01-02 UTC
Hey, lay off the early-20th century Indiana Legislature! The bill in
question wasn't their own idea and it wasn't worded as flagrantly as
'pi shall be 3.2', it was the work of a crank mathematician who produced
a long, turgid manuscript of bad results, some of them indeed implying that
pi would have a value other than the true one. He sent it to his local
state rep, describing it as a set of wonderful new discoveries, which he
would graciously allow Indiana to use -- for free! -- if only they passed
this bill. The legislators moved the bill along because it was appeared to
be more trouble than it would be worth to read it, which it doubtless would
have been. A visitor who knew something about math clued them in on it and
they spiked it. But even if the visitor hadn't done so and the thing had
been enacted, no harm would have been done, other than embarrassment to my
fair state's reputation -- which has evidently not been avoided in any

Whale Shogi. Shogi variant. (6x6, Cells: 36) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-11-15 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I've played Whale Shogi. It's fun. For someone to rate it 'poor' in protest against Japanese whaling practices is really, really weird.

[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-09-07 UTC
I agree, Sam, about this 'replacing' talk. What I say is, if you want to
replace FIDE chess, why, go right ahead and replace it. There's no point
in just talking about it.

Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-09-05 UTC
'what conceivable chess piece the millions of serious FIDE players would
accept as a replacement'

If you're seriously asking this, I'd suggest you drop by your local
chess club and find out. Conduct an informal survey. But I predict you'll
be disappointed if you expect more than 10% of them to consent to any
change to FIDE whatsoever, even to play as an amusing variant, and even
those wouldn't want to hear talk about a 'replacement' for FIDE.

I think the next evolution of chess, if it's to have one, will have to
attract players mostly from people who aren't serious FIDE players.

Capablanca Random Chess. Randomized setup for Capablanca chess. (10x8, Cells: 80) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-08-13 UTC
Today in Germany a law forbidding vaguely-defined 'hacker tools' went into effect.


This is a real DEATHBLOW to computer-using German people, because it makes no distinction 'between, for example, a password cracker and a password recovery tool, or a utility designed to run denial of service attacks and one designed to stress-test a network.'

What may be worse, 'While making life more difficult for security consultants and sys admins, the new laws will, paradoxically, make it easier for police to use hacking tactics in gathering intelligence on suspects.'


Please try to avoid Germany's becoming a totalitarian country. Until this law is rescinded, I promise to drink no more Beck's--nothing but Heineken and Guinness. I hope you'll do the same.

Omega ChessA link to an external site
. Commercial chess variant on board with 104 squares.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-08-09 UTC
I notice most of George Duke's criticisms of Omega Chess are the theoretical kind: weak pieces, low piece density, piece components have been done before, mathematical analysis... But no one understands game design well enough to be able to substitute theory for experiment. It doesn't matter if a game SHOULDN'T be fun according to the Duke Theory, what matters is whether it IS fun. I'm curious about how many games of Omega Chess George Duke has played, and I'd be more convinced by his review if he would cite particulars from those games that led him to consider Omega Chess uninteresting.

The game is long and builds slowly, no doubt about that, but whether that's good or bad is a matter of taste. Some people like movies starring Bruce Willis, others prefer novels by Charles Dickens.

Castling in Chess 960. New castling rules for Fischer Random Chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-08-09 UTC
I'm sure it will get funnier with each passing month, too. Keep it up, it's very revealing.

symmetry[Subject Thread] [Add Response]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-06-21 UTC
I don't think symmetry really shows that both sides start out equal,
though it may give that visual impression. In most CV's one side still
moves first and has an advantage thereby, which may be large or small
depending on the whole set of rules. To compensate for this it might
actually be better to have a somewhat asymmetrical setup -- something
like, if you have a balance scale in which the fulcrum is a bit closer to
one of the pans, then you would NOT achieve balance by putting the same
weights on both sides, but by overloading the side closer to the fulcrum.

Siam Chess Game. How Many "Mets" Will Finish Off The Naked King Of Siam?[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-06-19 UTC
'Oswald Spengler writes ...'There is not, and cannot be, number as such. There are several number-worlds as there are several Cultures.... Consequently, there are more mathematics than just one.''

Then for Spengler, what would be the point of discussing mathematics, since what one mathematician says might be true for his culture but not for his audience's? Similarly, to the extent that his idea applies to chess variants, what is the point of having a forum on them? (The underlying philosophical issue, as I recall from my undergraduate days long ago, is expressed succinctly as 'whether truth is one or many.')

I believe Spengler's viewpoint is more popular among sociologists and certain modern philosophers than it is among mathematicians, who tend to be Platonists, at least with regard to mathematics.

Cataclysm. Large board game with short-range pieces designed to be dramatic without being overly complicated or dragging on too long. (12x16, Cells: 192) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-05-05 UTC
I would think that one approach to a game like this -- massive armies moving rather slowly on a huge board -- would be to allow several pieces to move each turn.

Dada. (Updated!) The colorbound chess variant. (7x10, Cells: 70) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Mark Thompson wrote on 2007-04-30 UTC
It's unfathomable to you how anyone can not know how to write HTML code? Even though it's the internet age, babies aren't born knowing how to write HTML. I agree with the author of the variant, it's much less fathomable that people are unable to read ASCII diagrams -- and yet, mirabile dictu, they're able to translate them into HTML (?). If you find the variant interesting enough to spend this much time discussing the best format for the diagrams, I'd be interested in hearing the reasons for your interest in the variant itself.

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