When Chess Is Illegal, Only Outlaws Will Play Chess

San Francisco apparently faces a scourge of people playing chess in public parks,

Earlier this month, police confiscated chess gear, tables and chairs at the site [on San Francisco’s Market Street].

Police said the games had begun to attract illegal gambling and drug sales to the area adjacent to a cable car terminal, which is a popular tourist destination. Nearby merchants had also complained about an increase in illegal activity.

. . .

Police Capt. Michael Redmond told the San Francisco Chronicle last month that he agreed the chess players themselves weren’t the problem. But others used the games as a shield for illegal activities. Redmond said arrests and complaints from merchants increased in the area.

That’s cop logic for you: there are people selling drugs and engaging in gambling near people playing chess, so the obvious solution is to ban chess playing.


Mecklenbeck Chess Variant

Mecklenbeck chess is a chess variant that changes the pawn promotion rules,

he only difference with the rules of orthodox chess, is that pawns may also promote on the sixth and seventh rank. When a player moves a pawn to the sixth rank, it may choose to promote the pawn, or may decide to keep the pawn as a pawn. (Usually, one would choose the first option, but one might for instance want to avoid stalemate, or leave the option to take a knight open.) When the pawn remains a pawn, the same choice is there again when the pawn is moved to the seventh rank. When a pawn is moved to the eighth rank, it must be promoted.

Solitaire Chess

Solitaire Chess is a chess-based logic game published by Think Fun.

The game takes place on a 4 x 4 chessboard with various pieces placed on different squares, like this screenshot from the Android version of the game:

Solitaire Chess - Android

As in chess, you move one piece at a time, and all the pieces have to be moved according to standard chess rules.

You can start by moving any piece, but every move must result in the capture of a piece, and you “win” or solve the puzzle by capturing every piece until there’s just one left. Y

You can (and usually must) move multiple pieces, so in the above example the solution is to capture the Queen with the Knight, then capture the Knight with the Bishop, and then finish by capturing the Rook with the Bishop.

These start out easy and get very challenging. Solitaire Chess started out as a board game, which ThinkFun sells on its website for $19.99.

The board game version comes with 30 challenge cards that are double-sided, so there are 60 puzzles to solve.

The Android version goes for $1.99 on the Play store and includes 400 puzzles, divided equally into 100 easy, medium, hard and expert puzzles.

This was easily the best $1.99 I’ve spent on an Android game.

Solitaire Chess - Board Game

Singularity Chess

Singularity Chess is a chess variant in which the squares on the chessboard are no longer square and the space between squares is curved. (As cool as this is, I was kind of disappointed the first time I heard of it that Singularity Chess wasn’t chess played by super powerful AIs).

Since the board layout is a “curved space,” straight moves and diagonal moves have to be defined locally instead of globally. A straight move can be defined as a move which enters a “square” through one side, and may continue on to exit the “square” through the opposite (nonadjacent) side. A diagonal move can be defined as a move which enters a “square” through one corner, and may continue on to exit the “square” through the opposite (nonadjacent) corner.

This can lead to some insane situations where a rook can essentially move and return to its starting position, etc. This looks like it would quickly become headache inducing.


Singularity Chess Board



Z-Man Games has a nice looking Arimaa set. As the Z-Man website summarizes the game,

Arimaa is a game where stronger animals like elephants and camels try to push and pull the weaker ones from the opposing team into traps while one of the rabbits tries to sneak across the board and harmlessly reach the other side. The first player to get a rabbit to the other side wins.

But Arimaa is more than just that. It is a mini-revolt against our computer overlords.

Created after the 1996/1997 chess contests between Deep Blue and Gary Kasporov, Arimaa was explictly designed as a board game that computers would have difficulty beating,

In an attempt to show that computers are not even close to matching the kind of real intelligence used by humans in playing strategy games, we have created a new game called Arimaa. Here is a simple game that can be played using the same board and pieces provided in a standard Chess set. However the rules of the game are a bit different and suddenly the computers are left way behind. For humans the rules of Arimaa are very easy to understand and more intuitive than Chess, but to a computer the game is a thousand times more complex. To the best of our knowledge Arimaa is the first game that was designed intentionally to be difficult for computers to play.

The Arimaa Wikipedia entry has a good summary of the challenges faced by computer programs trying to beat humans at Arimaa, and there is an Arimaa wikibook with lots more information about the game, including strategies, etc.