Are there chess variants with different rules

Touched, guided

Normal chess annoys me, normal chess players bore me. Ordinary people always want the same position. To get into this position, they spend ages alone in front of the computer. Some analyze in detail what their next chess partner likes to do best in this position. Where is the playful thing? Ordinary people want it to always run the same way. They find playing by different rules perverse. Normal chess can be exciting, as we are currently experiencing at the candidates' tournament in Berlin. But I prefer to play other things myself. Fisherman's chess, tandem chess, Basque chess, hands & brain, and neoclassical chess if you like. I'm certainly not a normal person. I think i'm poli.

Unfortunately, the chess life as a poli is very limited. There are hardly any games on offer. In Berlin, tandem players sometimes meet on Thursdays in Café En Passent. Last Saturday there was a fishing chess tournament there. But these are exceptions. Polis can only let off steam on Whitsun in Bad Königshofen. At the Small Lower Franconian Chess Festival, tournaments in different chess variants are offered. I prefer to call it the chess only poli camp.

Chess variants are played in individual chess clubs. In which clubs I can unfortunately not find out from the otherwise exemplary list of clubs. Not yet. Perhaps it will happen that we polis are discovered as a target group and our needs are noticed. Although I have my doubts about that. Many functionaries are particularly stiff normal people.

Of course, normal chess has advantages. It is a game that has been continuously improved since its beginnings 1500 years ago and works particularly well thanks to the harmonious basic position and rules of movement. Apart from the Asian chess games, it is the only chess that is widely known. But if you know the normal chess rules, you can learn almost any chess variant in a minute. And if the variant is good, then make new discoveries from game to game, invent strategies and test their effectiveness. Of course not if the chess variant is simply unnecessarily complex, such as this commercial product or various chess-for-more-than-two-player sets.

In normal chess, people are increasingly reproducing instead of actually thinking for themselves. A Fabiano Caruana has to memorize a million moves and regularly click monotonously through mountains of variants. The knowledge has assumed enormous proportions and spread. Anyone who is good at strategy games or regularly plays chess with family or friends but has not learned any openings can no longer compete with normal players. Or at best after the opening phase. Chess variations would be a great way to get on par with family players and other strategy games. Chess puzzles that do not require a special skill level are probably suitable as brain training in the prevention of dementia.

Chess is so rich in possibilities. Is chess in good hands with the so-called chess clubs and associations? Isn't it rather normal chess clubs and normal chess federations whose competence is largely limited to normal chess and who understand little or nothing about chess variants and puzzles, including culture and history?

There is a domain in which the diverse potential of chess is discovered and used. It is the smaller but rapidly growing part of the school chess movement that is not out to bring children to the chess clubs, but is actually pedagogically oriented and motivated. When I train chess teachers, I recommend small games. Not only those to practice the rules, but also games that convey something additional. A very simple example is the tower game.

There is only one tower. We take turns pulling it in pairs. Exceptionally, we are only allowed to pull the tower forwards or to the right, never backwards or to the left. As many fields vertically or horizontally as we want. Whoever moves the rook to h8 wins. Usually the children learn from game to game. You can even formulate what you have learned about it. This is very valuable from an educational point of view. Some children play the tower game perfectly the second time around. Some even see right through it. Tournament players have little advantage over children. I've seen some who haven't figured it out after five tower games.

For me, in school chess, puzzles on the chess board and chess variants are an essential part of it. Anyone who communicates from the beginning that it is only correct chess with 32 pieces and according to normal tournament chess rules can forget all that. Then many opportunities to get children to think in different ways in a playful way and to promote their logical, mathematical and metacognitive skills are wasted. I think Polis should only teach chess in schools. Even teachers should only be trained by Polis. Normally people tend to proselytize with children and teachers for their sole correct chess. Let them train ambitious normal people.

At the chess jam this Sunday in the Kühlhaus, the venue of the Candidates' tournament, polis will come into their own. You can try fishing chess, Basque chess, tandem chess, neoclassical chess and Hands & Brain. Go on the 9 × 9 board too, by the way, because chess players, whether normal or poli, understand what the other great strategy game is about. There are lectures and discussions. The overarching question is how to bring more fun to your chess life. I am co-organizer and moderator of the chess jam and will report on it afterwards. Incidentally, normal people are also welcome.

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Chess for polis

From Stefan Löffler

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