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29 January 2005 @ 02:50 pm
Philosopher's chess  
One of the more intriguing chess variants to be found in The Chess Variants Pages is Philosopher's Chess, a small chess variant (40 spaces total on the board) that introduces an odd new piece: the Philosopher. The interesting thing about the Philosopher is that its movement abilities can change over the course of the game, controlled by another piece (the "Thought") on a separate board (the "Mind"), by both players.

This has inspired me to invent several chess variants with Philosophers and Philosopher-like pieces. Here's one; I'll post the others later:

Dialectic Chess

This variant is played on a standard 8×8 board with an additonal separate 3×3 board. It uses standard chess armies (the knight pieces can be used to represent the Philosophers) plus two differently-colored markers (a pair of checkers pieces would do).

The 3×3 board is the "dialectic", and its ranks and files are numbered 0–2. The two tokens are the "Thesis" and "Antithesis". The position of the Thesis on the dialectic determines how the Philosopher moves passively, and the position of the Antithesis determines how it moves to capture. They start on squares (1,2) and (2,1), respectively (meaning that, at the start, all Philosophers move and capture as Knights). Either player may, on his or her turn, move the Thesis or Antithesis one space orthogonally instead of moving one of his or her own pieces, with the caveat that a dialectic position cannot be repeated between moves on the main board (meaning that you can't simply undo your opponent's dialectic move immediately).

The setup on the main board is identical to that of othochess, but with the Philosophers taking the place of the Knights. Philosophers are leapers (making a single step for a move, ignoring intervening pieces, like a Knight), moving according to the positions of the Thesis and Antithesis: the coordinates are interpreted as a number of spaces in any orthogonal direction followed by a number of spaces at 90° to that, e.g. if the Thesis is at (1,2) or (2,1), the Philosopher moves passively as a Knight, at (1,0) or (0,1) as a Wazir, at (1,1) as a Ferz, and at (0,0) not at all. If a Philosopher captures another Philosopher, it is promoted to a Great Philosopher. Great Philosophers behave like Philosophers, but are riders, taking any number of Philosopher steps in the same direction, rather than leapers. So, with the Thesis at (1,2) or (2,1) a Great Philosopher moves passively as a Knightrider, at (1,0) or (0,1) as a Rook, and at (1,1) as a Bishop.

The usual restrictions on moving into and in check apply to moves on the Dialectic: you cannot move the Antithesis such that it would cause an enemy Philosopher to immediately threaten your King, and if your King is in check you may only make a Dialectic move if that would remove check.

Variant: Hegelian Dialectic Chess — the Thesis and Antithesis may occupy the same square, and if they do they may be moved as a unit, called the Synthesis. This removes an odd side effect of the basic rules, which is that a Philosopher that can move passively on the diagonal cannot capture in the same way that it moves, and vice versa. It also makes a little less than half of the Dialectic pointless, so you could play with all of the Dialectic squares nothwest of the main diagonal removed, giving the Dialectic a stairstep shape.
Current Mood: creativecreative
a_nation_of_one on January 30th, 2005 09:03 am (UTC)
You invent chess variations. You may be my new hero.

Alun Clewealun_clewe on January 30th, 2005 09:09 am (UTC)
and if your King is in check you may only make a Dialectic move if that would remove check

Er...perhaps I'm overlooking something, but I really don't think that's possible. Removing check would require either a piece to be interposed between a threatening piece and the king, or the capture of a threatening piece. A dialectic move affects how the philosopher moves or captures, but doesn't actually cause it to move or capture that turn. So I don't see how it could remove check.

Also, you don't seem to have explicitly addressed what happens if the Thesis or the Antithesis is on the 0,2, 2,2, or 2,0 squares. By the general rules for the dialectic pieces, though, I would gather that if the Thesis is on the 2,2 square, the philosopher moves like an alfil, and if the Thesis is on the 0,2 or 2,0 square it moves as a dabbabah (and similarly for capturing in the case of the Antithesis)...is this what you had in mind?
gwallagwalla on January 30th, 2005 09:27 pm (UTC)
You're right about the (0,2) and (2,2) moves. I didn't feel like listing all of the possibilities, and figured people could infer from the rules I gave.

As for removing check with a dialectic move, it is only possible if a Philosopher (and only a Philosopher) is the piece giving check. To remove check, you could move the Antithesis so that the Philosopher can no longer capture on the King's space. For example, if the Antithesis is at 1,2 and the King is a knight's move away from an enemy Philosopher, moving the Antithesis to (1,1) would make the Philosopher capable of capturing diagonally adjacent pieces instead of pieces a knight's move away, removing the threat.
Alun Clewealun_clewe on January 30th, 2005 10:17 pm (UTC)
As for removing check with a dialectic move, it is only possible if a Philosopher (and only a Philosopher) is the piece giving check.

D'oh! Of course. I was only thinking of the effect of the dialectic move on the person's own philosophers. I forgot that it would affect the opponent's philosophers, too, and that one of those might be the piece giving check.
The All-Purpose Guruallpurposeguru on January 30th, 2005 04:43 pm (UTC)
Chess with Philosophers and dialectics. You sir, are very broken.

You also truly ROCK.

gwallagwalla on January 30th, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
Another interesting variant would be to increase the size of the Dialectic to 4×4 with ranks and files numbered 0–3. This would allow the Philosopher to move as a camel ({1,3} leaper) or zebra, ({2,3} leaper) as well as the {0,3} and {3,3} leapers which I don't believe have standard names.

However, all added move types available on a 4×4 Dialectic are quite a bit weaker than the others, particularly on an 8×8 board. A Dialectic any bigger than 4×4 would be pretty pointless with a standard size board (but could be interesting as part of a large-board variant).
Vorn the Unspeakableunspeakablevorn on January 31st, 2005 05:35 am (UTC)
Your contention that Hegelian Dialectic Chess makes pointless part of the Dialectic appears to me to be false - after all, having the Thesis and Antithesis on symmetric but different locations is decidedly different from having the Synthesis.

gwallagwalla on January 31st, 2005 05:34 pm (UTC)
That's true. Actually, half of the Dialectic would be irrelevant only if the two could share a space and could not form a Synthesis, because there would be no blocking.

I'm not sure how much effect it would have on gameplay though.

A more interesting possibility may be to use the original blocking rules (no Synthesis) on the Dialectic, but use the half-board. That would mean no Philosopher could ever capture in the same way that it moves passively, and would make blocking on the dialectic more powerful.

While I'm at it, I just noticed a little ambiguity about the (0,0) space. I was treating it as a sort of off switch, so a Thesis or Antithesis sitting on that space would not lend any sort of movement power to the Philosopher (e.g. Thesis on (0,0) and Antithesis on (1,0) would mean that the Philosopher can capture as a wazir but cannot move passively at all). However, the rule that can be extrapolated from other rules is that it gives the piece the ability to make a move 0 spaces in each direction: in other words, the ability to pass a turn. The Antithesis would behave in the same way (after all, you can't capture a piece on the same space you're already on), but the Thesis would be subtly different. This also means that the (0,0) space would share a feature with the other spaces of the same color: they all lend the Philosopher a colorbound move. Not sure how I want to go with this: null moves are usually frowned upon, but it could also open up some interesting strategies.

Playtesting is necessary, I think.