Dylan McLain wrote this column at the New York Times on August 19, 2007:
Giraffes, Viziers and Wizards: Variations on the Old Game
By DYLAN LOEB McCLAIN
Published: August 19, 2007
Published: August 19, 2007
Five years ago, Bobby Fischer, the former champion, was asked if he still played chess. Referring to a chess variant he introduced in 1996, he replied: “Only Fischer Random. I don’t play the old chess any more. The old chess is dead; it’s been played out.”
Most players do not agree, but that has not discouraged people from inventing chess variants.
One is Turkish Great Chess. According to a Web site on variants (chessvariants.org), the game is mentioned in the 18th century. It is played on a 10-by-10-square board and has a few extra pieces: giraffes, which move like a queen or a knight; war machines, which move like a rook or a knight; and viziers, which move like a bishop or a knight.
Another variant called Grand Chess was invented in 1984 by Christian Freeling, a Dutch game designer. It is also on a 10-by-10 board. Its extra pieces are marshalls, which move like a rook or a knight, and cardinals, which move like a bishop or a knight.
There is also Omega Chess. It is on a 10-by-10 board with an additional outside square diagonally at each corner, for a total of 104 squares. Four pieces called wizards start on those corner squares. They move one square diagonally in any direction or leap over pieces by moving up or down or sideways three squares and then one square to either side. Other pieces, called champions, move orthogonally in any direction or jump two squares up or down, sideways or diagonally.
Fischer Random Chess, also called Chess960, is popular. In Chess960, pieces along the first and eighth ranks are arranged in one of 960 starting positions. (The white and black pieces face their counterparts, so if a white rook is on a1, a black rook is on a8.) By shuffling the pieces, players cannot use openings they have learned for regular chess.
For the last six years, the Mainz Chess Classic in Germany has had a Chess960 tournament and matches. There were 280 players in this year’s tournament, including many of the world’s best.
The Chess960 matches, which ended Thursday, included Viswanathan Anand of India and Levon Aronian of Armenia. Aronian beat Anand in the final. Although Anand lost in a tie-breaker, he forced overtime with a victory in Game 4. The starting position is on the diagram.
After 19 ab, 19 ... cd is risky as White gets two passed pawns.
Instead of 38 ... Ra3, Aronian could have played 38 ... Rh1 to eliminate White’s pawns.
Instead of 44 ... Bg7, 44 ... d3 gives Black enough counterplay to hold the balance.
After 53 Rb5, Aronian was hopelessly behind, so he gave up.