A Game Designer Thinks That He Can Improve on Chess's 1,500-Year Old Rules

(Chess Nerd t-shirt now on sale at the NeatoShop)

We’ve previously seen some clever variations on the game of chess--not simply different pieces, but different rules and boards.

MIT graduate David Sirlin designs games for a living. These variations are fun, but he thinks that he’s developed a variation that fundamentally improves the game. Modern chess, he argues, requires players to memorize an excessively large number of movement patterns and leads to too many draws. Chess 2, as Sirlin calls it, starts by permitting players to choose between 6 different armies:

The “Nemesis” army gives pawns more freedom of movement, while players using the “Reaper” army have a queen that can teleport and capture anywhere on the board except the opponent’s back row. There are upsides and downsides to each army, and playing against others using the “classic” army (that is, basic chess rules) is valid and balanced, Sirlin says.

To end stalemates or long, drawn-out games, Sirlin’s variation also gives a win to a player  who can get his or her king past the midline of the board.

-via Smart News

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Disclosure #1: I've just read this article and the Chess 2 front page, so maybe I'm missing something.
Disclosure #2: I, too, am a professional game designer.

It's not uncommon to attempt to create new chess rules. In fact, it's a fairly good way for new game designers to stretch their creative legs. Sometimes, you get some pretty interesting results, many of which you can find at one of these two sites:

My critique:
Sirlin thinks modern chess requires players to memorize an excessively large number of movement patterns.

So his solution is to give players 6 different armies, each with different balance parameters? What?

That's like saying, "The jar lid is tightly screwed on, and we're getting nowhere with this screwdriver. Let's try opening it with this tennis shoe, instead."

Given some of the combinations ("Empowered" versus "Classic," for example), I see great risk of the game achieving speed of play through destructive imbalance.

Regarding drawn-out games, I wonder if he's heard of fast chess (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fast_chess), which simply holds players to a time limit. That's a fairly straightforward way to speed up play.

If you want more action or more chance in your game of chess, then it's possible that you don't want chess at all. Why limit yourself to the structure and conceits of chess if the game you wish to play is, in fact, not actually chess?

All in all, I'm reminded of Sheldon Cooper's 3-person chess:
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