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The Chess Variant Pages

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Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-11 UTC

Below's a link that may be of some interest; for 2015 about 3% of all games played on the FICS chess server were chess variants (of the limited choices available, some of which I can't tell since they're called 'wild'), which is very slightly better than I'd expect based on my estimate of chess players interested in variants worldwide (i.e. about 2%, which it pretty much is for stats for 'All Years'):

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-08-10 UTC

I have never used IRC and have no famiarity with it.

Greg Strong wrote on 2016-08-10 UTC

I think for realtime play to be popular, you need a lobby where people can hang out and pick up games.

If I were doing this, I'd be riding on top of IRC.  Then you get real-time communication, chat messages, and a lobby for free.  Each real-time game in progress would be a room.  These game rooms would be basically just a web-based IRC client embedded in a GC game page.  The IRC component should need little modification - just enough to recognize incoming chat messages that encode game moves and update the board.  The GC component would be modified to send the moves as chat messages.

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-10 UTC

I think many variants that are popular use just orthodox chess' equipment, and I'd suppose from that alone lots and lots of people worldwide play or enjoy chess variants, even if just in fun. Once I became a Canadian chess tournament player as a junior in the 1970s, I was soon introduced to bughouse, and, later, to a considerable number of  other probably quite popular such 8x8 board-using variants, such as progressive or dice chess (the latter's extra equipment minimal). I also encountered CV literature, perhaps inevitably. Computers, the internet, chess servers supporting chess variants, and CVP's Game Courier, make picking up playing or enjoying CVs even more likely nowadays.

I meet with a very small group of friends very occasionally (in differing places) to play a small number of board games/(chess variants), all of which we have equipment for. The only equipment we don't have are Hawks & Elephants for Seirawan Chess, and we make do with using a smaller chess set's pieces, i.e. B&N or R&N put together on a particular larger board's square; we don't know if we really like the variant yet, but if we did it's nice to know we can order the fairy piece types needed to look more respectable, say in public.

I think to play offline a lot of people who need fairy chess pieces or non-8x8 boards for given variant(s) might not like trying to craft their own equipment, if not feeling terribly able to. Such equipment would come in handy for founding clubs for 1 or more variants to be played, besides for play, study or enjoyment in the home. I still feel uninitiated in fairy chess, but it seems that, luckily, only a relatively small number of fairy piece types or non-8x8 boards are at all popular with the public, at present, not counting commercial variants (are these at all popular on the whole?). Figurines of the B&N plus R&N compound piece types (of various names), plus Unicorn figurines (e.g. for 3D Chess), alone, should cover a lot of variants that are sufficiently popular at the moment that require fairy chess pieces, and, for boards, 10x10 (Grand Chess), 10x8 (Capablanca Chess), 91-cell Hexagonal, 16x4 Circular, 5x5x5 3D, plus 3-player & 4-player chess variant boards (such as made in China, as seen in a link I gave earlier), should largely satisfy public demand for now, I'd hazard to guess, without doing a lot of research. Less popular fairy piece types or non-8x8 board sizes and/or shapes, such as found perhaps mainly online (e.g. on CVP) could begin to be mass produced proportionally to the need that arises, with possible exceptions made for, e.g., proven top-50 Game Courier variants that use such. The problem is how to start the ball rolling, by somehow encouraging manufacturers to do more.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-08-10 UTC

I have recently been working on adding better support for real-time play. This involves adding the ability to schedule a start time when both players will be expected to be online at the same time. But after working on that for a while today, I took a break from thinking and made this playlist:

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-09 UTC

Here's a 2012 demographics report on FIDE's website about adult chess players, fwiw; included are details re: USA. I noticed over half of people who played chess were aged 18-34 in the US taken together with four other nations. Also, I'd note 2012 is at least after the infancy of mobile gaming (Apple app stores first opened 2008):

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-09 UTC

Fwiw, here's Google answers to US chess player demographics, albeit 10 years old. I noticed one piece of info, that half of the people who played chess were children:

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-09 UTC

Perhaps along the lines Fergus suggested in his last post, re: web series about tabletop games:

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-08 UTC

Fwiw, the link below shows that for this year a high proportion of Chess Federation of Canada members are juniors (note the province of Quebec has its own federation, although Quebec is within FIDE's zone of Canada); also, overall membership has began to creep slightly higher again, after the CFC nearly went belly up in 2007. It's probably not unfair to say that the CFC hasn't always been a well-run organization, and has less members per capita than the USCF currently has. It's also possible that relatively high proportions of junior CFC members may come from certain demographics (e.g. chess has deep roots in Russian culture):

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-08-08 UTC

While I don't watch YouTube videos of video games, because I find them boring, they are popular, and perhaps something similar could be done with Chess variants. My thought is to take a game that is already finished and walk the audience through it in a video shot with screencast software. I happen to like BB FlashBack Express, but there are others that will do the job. The game could be displayed with Game Courier, Zillions-of-Games, Chessv, or other software. The video maker could discuss some positions in detail, explaining the threats on the board and why some moves are bad and others are good.

Greg Strong wrote on 2016-08-08 UTC

I personally consider 3-D to be a disadvantagesous gimmick.  3-D is great in real life, but on a computer screen it's much easier to see a 2-D board.

Game Courier is almost ideal.  You can play almost any CV imaginable.  It's not quite there yet for real-time play, but Fergus has made significant progress on this recently.

I think the sad fact is that there just isn't really much intrest in Chess variants.  For the most part, the younger generation isn't even playing Chess anymore.

Wyatt Van Dyke wrote on 2016-08-08 UTC

I didn't know Game Courier was still being updated. My mistake. Though I am sort of tempted to blame it on it's obscurity relative to Tabletop Simulator...

I already know you're not a fan of TTS. I'm just wondering if anybody else on this site is a fan of TTS and is willing to make CVs or TTS versions of existing CVs in it.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-08-08 UTC

Tabletop Simulator is a novelty that has not yet proven itself to be useful or popular for Chess variants. If you prefer 3D graphics, you might consider its ability to use them an advantage. In all other respects, it has no advantage over Game Courier with respect to Chess variants. Looking at which definition of rusty might make the most sense of your claim that Game Courier is more rusty, "stiff with age or disuse" is the only one that could apply. Game Courier is older than Tabletop Simulator, but it is regularly used and improved. The original idea behind Game Courier was to provide a 2D tabletop simulator for Chess variants, but it has since grown into a lot more.

Wyatt Van Dyke wrote on 2016-08-08 UTC

I forgot to add this since I have no idea how to edit my own posts, but since Tabletop Simulator is less "rusty", so to speak, than Game Courier and more popular, it might be a better gateway to the CV community. YouTube videos of people playing video games while engaging in humorous banter is all the rage right now, so that just might be the ticket to making us more popular.

Wyatt Van Dyke wrote on 2016-08-08 UTC

Tabletop Simulator is fine too. It's less of a strict game simulator and more of a physics sandbox designed to simulate tabletop games. It wasn't made to enforce rules and only real-time play is possible, so it's a little closer to OTB than correspondence play. Unless you're using scripting, programming isn't required to make new games, though you might need to make models for objects that you can't find. There are guides availible for easily creating games in Tabletop Simulator, but as of right now, I'm too lazy to find them. There's already a few CVs on Steam Workshop, including Portal Chess, an original variant.

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-08 UTC

Hi Fergus.

A big barrier to people starting to play chess variants more often (especially novel ones) may be the low or non-existent production of fairy (non-chess) piece types, and/or boards (other than 8x8 size), since they may want to be able to play a particular variant offline, or perhaps have a [decorative] chess variant set (even if plastic) that may occasionally interest guests who notice it.

As far as CVP goes, Game Courier is good (even essential) since many variants can be tried, in case members ever tire of their favourites (do many who play regularly just stick to a small number of tried & true ones normally?). I haven't figured out yet whether, say, 5 minute live server-style variant game play is currently supported or easy to perform (if I even have the machine capability or computer savy that may be required). I'm fine with slow correspondence style play, if I return to it eventually, but I suspect many people out there on the internet prefer server-like fast same day time controls. Having many more rule-enforcing variant presets would also be cool, as might be having chess variant engine(s) available directly on CVP, but I know that's hoping for a lot. Some people might have trouble navigating their way around CVP to webpages of interest, with the current setup, but I've been able to find my way eventually to things of interest. One thing I'm not sure of is whether Diagram Designer's webpage should be mentioned somehow in the main menu, or a secondary menu page to it. A guest may not find out about it unless he decides to try out being a contributor, and Diagram Designer is a cool feature once one sees all of the fairy piece sets to choose from when diagramming.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-08-07 UTC

The question is, how do we get them here? Some factors to consider:

  1. Chess is much better known than Chess variants.
  2. Both Chess and Chess variants have to compete with video games nowadays.
  3. The popularity of video games proves there is a huge interest in gaming.

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-07 UTC

In trying to speculate about how many people worldwide might be inclined to take up almost any sort of chess variant(s) seriously, if an organization for such existed (aside from chess, shogi, Chinese chess, Thai chess or Korean chess, which have their own organizations), I came up with a way to try to estimate the total number of people (x) who may play or enjoy such variants worldwide (i.e. seriously or not so seriously, at the moment at least). The answer's probably off by a lot, but my calculation may be worth a chuckle:

There's about 605,000,000 people who play chess worldwide (seriously or otherwise) according to FIDE. Let's say that almost all people who take up chess variants first learn how to play chess. The number of serious chessplayers with FIDE ratings, alone, was about 170,000 circa 2013, I saw on the web.

Let's assume that most of the people worldwide who are serious about chess variants are members on CVP (which has pages in languages besides English), i.e. about 3,400 currently. From that I can now solve for x in an equation where

170,000/605,000,000 = 3400/x

to obtain the answer that x = 12,100,000 people worldwide who take chess variants seriously or just for fun at present. Note around 40% of the world population has an internet connection today, so perhaps my estimate may not be far off even considering that.

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-06 UTC

Thanks for the info, Fergus. On a couple of chess message boards I visit regularly, one can view Who's Online at any moment, by clicking to it. Typically only a small fraction of those visitors online at any given moment are identified as spiders or bots (the two message boards are chesstalk, and the Chess Federation of Canada's discussion board). Thus, the number of unique visitors to CVP main site may well be a high percentage of actual people. Even if only half the unique visitors to CVP main site monthly are truly unique individuals, that's heartening as far as indicating that there may be a very substantial number of people even slightly interested in chess variants worldwide (not all being English language readers). As far as people just looking stuff up goes, I think websearches would include the name CVP in giving any search result description, which someone would see before clicking on the link, so that may count for something.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2016-08-06 UTC

Going directly to the source, it says,

The  popularity  of Chess Variant Pages is evident, with almost a  quarter  of  a  million page  views  and  nearly  100,000   visitors   a   month.

Wikipedia replaced "almost" and "nearly" with "over," which changes the meaning.

Looking at figures for this year, which is all I have since moving the site, the main site has been getting in the neighborhood of 50,000 unique visitors each month with something in the neighborhood of 80,000 visits each month. The play subdomain has been hovering around 3000 unique visitors per month with something around 6000 visits per month. Although the vistor count has gone down, the page view count has gone up. The main site plus the play subdomain combined have had more than a quarter million page views each month, exceeding half a million last month. Since activity on this site doesn't reflect such huge numbers, many of the unique visitors could be bots and spiders crawling the site or lurkers just looking something up. Some of the unique visitors could also be the same person using different devices. For example, I visit this site from my desktop, from my Windows 10 tablet, from my Kindle, and from some Android devices.

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2016-08-06 UTC

For anyone's info:

Here's wikipedia's entry re: The Chess Variant Pages; I noticed that it was claimed that circa 2007 there were about 100,000 visitors to CVP per month:

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