Chess Variants & Games

by Bernard De Koven on August 17, 2012

If you like chess, and you like to play – I mean, really like to play intelligently – I mean really intelligently, AV Murali’s Chess Variants & Games For Intellectual Development And Amusement is an adventure into creativity and game design that will last you for years.

Murali’s amazingly profound and extensive exploration of just about every possible permutation of chess pieces, moves, and boards is very much in the tradition of Fairy Chess and a host of similar explorations, but it goes far deeper and wider than anything I’ve hitherto encountered.

To give you a taste, I’ll start with a simple variation Murali calls “Gobbler Variant.” It uses a standard board with standard pieces, which, if you know chess well enough, makes it one of the easiest of his variations to imagine. I quote:

This is a fast variant that can be ultra fast if a player does not exercise caution. In this game, board and set up are s in orthodox chess. Units move as usual, but when it comes to capture, a unit can capture more than one unit of opponent by a sequence of moves. This is possible if a unit is available for capture after every capture. So, a player might need to balance between harmony and isolation of pieces to win this game. Objective is to checkmate the King. This variant is played as a series of games. Wining every game fetches one point. The player who gets 3 points more than the other wins.

I agree. The language adds a certain unanticipated challenge. But it’s easy (and very worthwhile) to get used to. And the idea of being able to continue capturing pieces is conceptually delicious. It adds to chess that wonderful moment in checkers when you are able to jump a whole array of your opponent’s pieces.

But I warn you, that is one of the easiest of Murali’s deeply playful and often profound chess variations. The majority of his exploration contemplates playing chess on boards that are: 3-dimensional, multilevel axial, overlapped, pentagonal, heptagonal, hexagonal, x-shaped, knotted, triangular, polygonal, trapezia, circular arcs, Lissajou’s figures, rose rhodonea, hypotrochoids, cylindrical, elliptical, fractal and hyperbolic – to name a few.

Murali extends his investigation into educational applications (language, chemistry, mathematics, physics), sports (from chessboard to play field), and concludes with an exploration of team chess. And then there’s an appendix full of yet more variations and games.

Whether you play chess or not, play games or design games, or just like to exercise your mind, you will find Murali’s Chess Variants and Games a masterpiece of creative thinking, a treasury and treasure of game ideas, an invitation to deep thinking and even deeper play.


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