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Comments by John Lewis

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Simpleton's Chess. This is an even simplier version of Simplified Chess. (7x8, Cells: 56) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2011-07-29 UTC
You misspelled my middle name.  John Kipling Lewis.

As a teaching game this has potential.  The pawns can't support each other so it's very unlikely that they will promote.  I'd love to see a game log of two players.

Pagan Chess. Game with two linked board, one for living pieces and one for dead pieces, and a special piece that can move between them. (11x7, Cells: 67) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2008-09-20 UTC
I too was puzzled by the movement of the Pagan.  Perhaps some clarification about the bridge is required in the rules.

I also wonder about the flipped nature of the board and if it benefits black or white.  The Pagan is centrally located so one might think this is an advantage for it to be black as the King is hidden better and the White King is near a leap point for it.  The Pagan can sit on the bridge and block the White King...

A very interesting variant.  I look forward to playing at some point.

Simplified Chess. Missing description (8x7, Cells: 56) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2008-07-18 UTC
David Paulowich,

I've taken on what you've said and added the addendum that if a side can't legally move that they lose.

I very much appreciate your interest in this variant and your continue detailed review.

Please note that Rich is working on various other version of Simplified Chess that I am not involved with.  He liked the idea and ran with it.  My goals are and continue to be to create a set of rules for chess that are as simple as possible while retaining the basic feeling of chess.

I know that pieces, as you've shown, can become blockaded, but this position is almost a position that requires the player blockaded to purposely place his pieces in this manner.  It's so rare and extremely unlikely that I doubt it's come up in 99.9% of games.

However you are right that games should not have leaks and holes in them.  In attempting to simplify, there was his gap.

If you see more problems please post them.

Also, I would VERY much like to see a game report from you.

John Lewis wrote on 2008-05-09 UTC
I'll reiterate my point that this variant is specifically designed to be played with a standard FIDE set.  That means 32 pieces and no salt shakers.

There is also an element of strategy added by having promotions only allowed for captured pieces.

Enjoy the new dynamic for what it is.

And most importantly PLAY!  Try a game.  I really would prefer hearing informed comments from people that have tried the game.  Talk about the cramped feeling of the board.  Talk about the oddity of a middle square and how it affects pawn formations.

Theoretical discussion are great but I want to hear about people playing.

John Lewis wrote on 2008-05-08 UTC
Example Game:

1. e2-e3 d6-d5
2. d2-d3 e6-e5
3. Nb1-c3 Ng7-f5
4. f2-f3 Bc7-d6
5. e3-e4 Bd6-b4
6. e4xf5 g6xf5
7. a2-a3 Bb4xc3
8. b2xc3 f5-f4
9. d3-d4 Qd7-e6
10. Ng1-e2 Nb7-d6
11. a3-a4 Bf7-g6
12. Ra1-b1 b6-b5
13. Bc1-a3 Ke7-d7
14. Ba3-c5 Ra7-b7
15. a4xb5 Rb7-b5
16. Rb1xb5? c6xb5
17. Qd1-a1 Nd6-c4
18. Ne2-c1 Nc4-e3
19. Bf1xb5! a6xc5
20. Qa1-a7 Kd7-c6
21. Qa7-b6 Kc6-d7
22. Qb6-a5 Ne3xc2
23. Ke1-d2 e5xe4
24. Nc1-e2 Qe6-e3
25. Kd2-d1 Qe3-d3
26. Kd1-c1 Nc2-b4
27. Qa5-a7 Kd7-e6
28. Qa7-b6 Ke6-f5
29. Ne2xd4 Kf5-g5
30. Nd4-e6 
black resigns

John Lewis wrote on 2008-05-08 UTC

It's also easy to explain away these pawn rules and have a simple system in play. You can always complicate the game later. I think most young players are taught as I was, without en-passant and without castling rules. These were taught later, as they were unnecessary complications that weren't required for those early games.

By removing these rules streamlines the rules without really taking away anything important to the game.

Double Moves were added to the game to make it faster: This is addressed with less squares. Essentially you are moving two spaces from the start.

The En-Passant was added because of the Double Move rule creating an unfair way to bypassing an advanced pawn: This is addressed by removing this rule and the Double moves.

The promotion rules are directly in place for face to face games. There is no need for extra pieces or proxy pieces in this variant. How many times have you used a salt shaker for a Queen?

King Capture make the game very simple because it removes cumbersome rules about 'stale mate'. Kings are free to move into any square, including those that are threatened. This means even a King on King game can be completed with a win for one side as long as you remember to call repetition of board. I wish there was an easier way to deal with limited numbers of pieces, but I haven't found a way. Ideally I would like to get rid of the three move repetition. I'm open to other option.

If you study the historical reasons for these burdensome rules, you find that they were added over time to address specific issues. These issues are all addressed in this simplified version.


John Lewis wrote on 2008-05-08 UTC
Thank you for your review, Jianying Ji.  The odd number of rows does seem to have an effect on the infamous 'first move advantage' because the tempo can be reversed by black as you noted.

The No Draws rule does apply to some of your concerns.  For example there is no stale mate because the King is allowed to move into attacked squares, thus he loses.  Some position where the game would take a very long time to resolve is unfortunate and I am not sure how to resolve them immediately.  I may have to have a default number of turns after which Black wins... but this could have unwanted side effects.  

I will ponder.

Any ideas are welcome.  Thanks!

Victorian Chess. Capablanca variant with the most powerful pieces starting on the outside. (10x8, Cells: 80) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2007-10-02 UTC
I wonder if I can come up with a puzzle where there's a two move stalemate where only a knight or bishop (or rook!?!) would prevent the stalemate.

In any case I will wait and see.  I do like that name so if you aren't going to use it, I have dibs. ;P

John Lewis wrote on 2007-10-01 UTC
We should definitely create a page and add credit for the concept to you guys.  I would hope that a pawn could promote to any piece.  I assume castling was as listed (2 squares).  I'm more than happy to add in you guys as creators and me a developer for this... since I do think promotion should be any piece.

What do you guys think?  Or do you want to create your own page and I'll just delete this one.

Castling in Chess 960. New castling rules for Fischer Random Chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2007-08-08 UTC
Thanks Reinhard, but your ignorance is showing.  The original proposal was for Chess960 to be reinterpreted from FRC with these more logical rules, hence this document resides here.

After long debate with various and equally venomous Chess960 supporters I simply created another variant using the better rules.  No, I'm not a Grand Master so my variant will never have the fame of Fischer Random Chess, but I am sure that my variants are better than anything he could create.

Chess480 can be enjoyed online at www.SchemingMind.com (a site I think you left because of your caustic reactionary statement?)  But you are right, why don't you continue this discussion somewhere else.

John Lewis wrote on 2007-08-08 UTC
Hi Reinhard,

This document lead to the creation of Chess480 which uses castling as described here.  I still think FRC/Chess960 would be better with the castling system as I've described, but the former has a lot of momentum and that means it's unlikely to change (as I stated in the final section).

C:  If you like to take up the challenge, find a chess player who hasn't seen Chess960 and see what they think the most logical castling system is.  Don't prompt them, just ask how they would do it.

John Lewis wrote on 2007-08-08 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
The original intent of castling was to move the king to either wing, centralize the rook and connect the 2 rooks.

You clearly don't have a grasp of the history of castling and are confusing what modern strategy guides explain as the advantages of castling as opposed to the reasons for castling.

You assume that the original inventors of castling had the intention you mention but didn't both to read the article(s) I linked to which explained how castling evolved.

I understand your 'bunker' concept, but even in this case if the King is already in his bunker there is no use for castling from that position. You have to admit that is true. In Orthodoxed Castling there is at least a reasonable and tactical use for Castling to extract a king from a dangerous situation.

Fischer is, of course, a brilliant man, but that does not make him a game designer. I am a game designer and I can tell you that his castling rules are overly complicated, cumbersome, and take up almost half of his explanation of his variant. No, I think Fischer just dropped the ball on this one.

John Lewis wrote on 2007-08-08 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Both the previous poster claim that the use for Castling is to move the King from the center of the board to safety in the corner but both give extremely ignorant reasoning when there are numerous positions in Chess960 where the King does not move at all if he Castles.

If Castling is about moving the King to safety then I challenge that Chess960 is much less helpful in this regard because of the cases where the King is already in the spot it would move to.

In these same situations, using Orthodoxed Castling, the King would indeed move to a safer position two spaces away regardless of his starting position.

2007-2008 Chess Variants Design Contest. Chess variant inventors gather round! We're doing it again! Exact nature of contest to be determined with YOUR help!![All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2007-08-02 UTC
I. Number of Squares (Traditional)
 
 * Unknown starting board size.
 
 V. Piece Types:
 
 * Different pieces per side.
 
 X. Games with Drops
 
 * Captured pieces can be dropped or some starting pieces can be dropped
 
 XV. Confined King
 
 * As in Chinese Chess
 
 XX. Incomplete knowledge
 
 * Hidden pieces, pieces can only see where they can move?
 
 XXI. Winning Conditions other than mate.
 
 * Players can move any pieces and attempt to capture a rogue piece?

So what's YOUR favorite?. Yeah, we've got a list of recognized variants. But what games are YOUR personal favorites?[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2006-10-06 UTCAverage ★★★
My favorite variants are:

1. Lao Tzu Chess

The game is everything that regular chess isn't.  Lively and exciting.
Unexpected events happen.  Strategy and tactics still rule the game
without lucky set-ups ruining the fun.

2. Dark Chess (King Capture)

Classic!  I love the idea that my opponent is currently in check, but has
no idea I'm about to take his King!

3. One I'm working on. ;-)

I'll show it when it's ready.

Benedict Chess. Instead of being captured, enemy pieces switch sides. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2006-09-16 UTCAverage ★★★
I agree that white almost always wins unless the player is a novice.  The
game is very interesting but I think for it to be a good or excellant
variant it will require a tweaking to make black more competative.  

Perhaps Black must be the first to force a color switch.

Castling in Chess 960. New castling rules for Fischer Random Chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2006-04-22 UTC
I find it fascinating that this discussion started from an article
promoting a different castling system for Chess960/FRC.  

Granted, most of this can be considered on topic because of Fischers own
statement 'It's a great game, and can become the standard for chess.'

Hubris?  Perhaps.

Personally I enjoy games with limited knowledge but non-random.  For
exmaple Sun Tzu Chess uses the Chess960 set-up but plays like Dark Chess. 
You can only see the board where you can move.  This feels more like war to
me than regular chess.  You have no idea where the enemy is until you probe
for them.

Having said that, I know that not everyone will like a game like that. 
Most good chess players are good because they can examine the whole board
and make the right move with full knowledge of all the positions.  I
can't.  That's why I'm rated much higher in Sun Tzu than in Standard
Chess.

I'm even rated MUCH higher in chess variants with randomness as part of
moves because I'm very good at dealing with odds and managing risk.  So
I'm  Master level at Stanley Random Chess, where the computer makes 50%
of the moves for you randomly.

There is no ultimate chess save for the current version.  Our beloved
Standard Chess has not had a very long life in it's current form and is
still a mostly Western game.  China, Japan, and Korea all have their own
version that are just as deep and interesting.

Conclusion, I think this debate is interesting and I hope for most posts,
but I find the winding trail from the original subject curious.

John Lewis wrote on 2006-04-20 UTC
Certainly this article only attempts to remedy the flaws in FRC... and does
not propose to solve all the problems in standard 'Book Opening Chess'. 
The idea of creating a game where you may buy your pieces from a selection
of pieces is very appealing to many and deserves it's own article.  I have
for a long time studied the problem of allowing people to buy their armies
in Chess and I have various opinions I've come to based on
experimentation and dialogue with players.

Two things is certain:

1. Chess Master/Grand Masters will never accept a new game that takes away
their book opening knowledge advantage.  Particularly if played
professionally.

2. Chess960/FRC is a fine game, but improvements in it will not be
accepted by it's participants any more than standard chess Grand Masters.

John Lewis wrote on 2006-04-18 UTC
I was thinking of some of the Chess960 starting positions and I realized that some have pretty funny castling in them. For example:

rknnbqrb/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RKNNBQRB w KQkq - 0 1

I picked this from random selection. (Position #747)

In Chess960, you need at least five moves to castle to the right from this position:

rknnbqrb/pppppppp/8/8/8/3NNPB1/PPPPPQPP/RK4RB w KQkq - 0 1

The resulting castle would have the King move 5 spaces and the rook 2. I suppose that's okay. I see Kings make these kinds of moves all the time...wait I mean I see Rooks make these kinds of moves all the time. That's odd. Kings shouldn't be moving so far should they?

Rooks are meant to slide long distances. It's what they do. In Standard Chess Castling provides a unique extra move for the King. In Chess960 that extra movement can result in remarkable rearrangement of pieces, and rather than looking like the King is jumping over a Rook which just made a 'normal' move next to it, it looks like the Rook is jumping out of the way of a speeding King.

rknnbqrb/pppppppp/8/8/8/3NNPB1/PPPPPQPP/R4RKB w kq - 0 1

Ok, so what if you happen to be castling the other direction?

rknnbqrb/pppppppp/8/8/8/3NN3/PPPPPPPP/RK2BQRB w KQkq - 0 1

In this case you only need to move two pieces to give you the space to castle. But what's this? The King moves one space to his right and the Rook jumps three spaces. Why in the world would a rook be jumping three spaces? And why is the King moving right to castle left??

rknnbqrb/pppppppp/8/8/8/3NN3/PPPPPPPP/2KRBQRB w kq - 0 1

Granted, castling is the only time you can move two pieces simultaneously, so it kind of odd anyway, but all this Rook jumping business is very strange! In Standard Chess the only pieces that can jump are Knights and Kings... and Kings only get to do it on their first move as part of a castle.

It really seems more like these pieces aren't Castling so much as teleporting to pre-defined spaces. Which, of course, is exactly what they are doing.

In a bid to keep the game backwards compatible with Standard Chess, castling was restricted to the castling squares found in that game. It wasn't the only way to keep the game backwards compatible, but it was the one chosen by Bobby Fischer.

It also had the effect of putting the Castled pieces in familiar places to Standard Chess players. On the surface this might seem like a very good thing. Standard Chess players would be familiar with how such positions are defended and how to attack them. But I think this is counter to Bobby's own intentions. He was looking for something unfamiliar. Something where you're previous (extensive) knowledge of Standard Chess wouldn't give you an advantage. A game to put those who haven't studied endlessly in books a better chance of playing tactically with those that have.

So much for that, I guess.

In the end, a game can only be as good as it's rules.


John Lewis wrote on 2006-02-27 UTC

I find Mr. Reinhard Scharnagl's preferences interesting, and I'll address each one in turn. Remember, I am biased for the 480Chess method of castling.

a) The Chess960 castling rule is consistent, in Chess480 there are small variations, when the king is near to the borders: then he will move castling one step 'shorter'.

Consistency is in the eye of the beholder. It's true that in Chess480, the king on the 'b' or 'g' file can't make a two square leap to the near side. However I find this highly preferable to similar situations in Chess960 where the King doesn't move at all. Castling without the King moving seems rediculous to me. In Chess480 the King consistently moves and normally two spaces, unlike Chess960 where the King might travel anywhere from 0 to 5 spaces. From my perspective it's Chess960 that's inconsistent.

b) As reflected in the name, Chess960 preserves the natural asymmetry of the chess game supporting 960 different starting arrays. In Chess480 mirrored positions lead to equivalent situations (thus SMIRF proposes only such randomized positions for Chess480, where the white Kings is on white Queen's right side).

It's true that there are only 480 starting positions in Chess480 (hence the name). While you can still play the game from all 960 starting positions of Chess960 for variety, strategically there are only 480 that matter.

Having said that, the stated goal of both Chess960 and Chess480 is to open the game of Chess from it's years of studied opening play. Both games do this. I personally find the asymmetry of Chess960 to be a hinderence to introduction of the game to new players. (Which leads to your final point.)

c) After castling Chess960 positions are looking more similar to traditional chess games after the opening stage. Maybe that is the reason, why the masters will stay with Chess960.

If the masters gain some advantage from the board looking similar to traditional chess after the opening stage, then I think something has been lost from the inspiration of the game. Chess960 was intended to remove the advantage that is enjoyed by those very masters who have studied endless openings. Quoting David Wheeler 'Fischer's goal was to create a chess variant in which chess creativity and talent would be more important than memorization and analysis of opening moves.'. Liberating Chess from the book openings might also require removing from possible opening transpositions to similar openings. Chess960 is much more likely to have this happen as you've noted.

I understand why some who have invested so much time in Chess960 might view Chess480 is some kind of threat. The variant is easier to understand for novices and has many advantages over Chess960. Even hardcore 960 fans admit that the castling rules are overly complicated (they take up the majority of the rules themselves)... but none of them want to leave the rich history of games played in Chess960. I can't blame them. I'm sure players of regular chess didn't want to lose their history either.


Stanley Random Chess A game information page
. Missing description[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2005-10-20 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I think I can clear up the problems presented by those who are mystified by
the rules of Stanley Random Chess.  As the current American Grand Master, I
can assure you that even I find it hard to keep up with the volumes of
rules and stipulations that are involved.  In fact, I would suggest that
about 50% of the moves I make feel as if they were chosen at random from
all the possible moves available at that time.  It's only afterwards that
I'm able to determine the reason for my own errors, after looking up the
specifics of the situation in my leatherbound library.  (My personal
Achilles Heel are the moon phase transition instituted in Berlin, 1484.)

So while I often like to open with e4, about half the time my opening move
is substituted with the nearest legal ('random', to the layman) move from
all the available legal moves.  Again, I've never failed to be able to
find the rational for this transition upon review of the historical
journals.  I almost always find time to note these transitions to my
opponent, who sometimes finds such things humourous.  For example, when a
King joins inline with a row of pawns, this is known as 'Slumming'. 
When a Queen is prematurely brought into play she is often refered to as
'Dancing'.  The terminology is quiet liberating.

Should you have further questions, I'm sure playing a game would satisfy
your curiosity.  Feel free to challenge me on Scheming Minds.

Chess480. Missing description (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
John Lewis wrote on 2005-10-19 UTC
I'd prefer to continue to use both branches, as variety is part of the goal in this type of variant. Being human we may see something in one version that we might miss in it's reflection.

John Lewis wrote on 2005-10-09 UTC
Sorry Greg, but that is only one of *several* numbering systems I've seen.
 What I said was that there was no *standard* number system I was aware
of.

To show a mirror position in order to explain why there are technically
only 480 positions if Orthodox Castling is used.

The term 'Chess960' was invent by Hans-Walter Schmitt (chairman of the
Frankfurt Chess Tigers e.V.) after debate over a new name that did not
include Bobby Fischer's name.

John Lewis wrote on 2005-10-08 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Because there is no standard numbering system for Fischer Random Chess (Chess960), it would be hard for me to make a rule to explain which are duplicates due to being mirrors. It's likely that any system for generating all 960 positions would probably start mirroring at 480... so 480 and 481 would likely be mirrored positions.

John Lewis wrote on 2005-10-02 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Both sets of 480 are played for aesthetic reasons.

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