I wrote a debut article for Natalia Pogonina’s site this week in which I suggested experimentation with the number of pieces and size of the board and the double square pawn advance. My suggestion went down like a lead balloon amongst the readers there but I think it has enough merit to deserve open minded trials. The rules of chess have changed throughout history and in the light of where we are now some of these changes might not have been made.
One aspect of having variants with different rules is the ease with which ‘chess’ might be taught. Amongst the hardest rules to explain to beginners are the artificial and idiosyncratic ones such as the double square pawn advance (and therefore ‘en passant’ captures), castling and checkmate. But what if we were to put these things aside with games being won by capturing the opponent’s king?
This simplified form of chess would be much easier to teach kids to learn and play with confidence. Richard James explained how tough it can be to teach the abstract concept of checkmate to kids under 7 so if you want to start them earlier then why not just do away with it? This would give them plenty of time to get used to the geometry of the board how the pieces move. Plus winning by king capture for a while makes it easier to understand checkmate because you have to do whatever you can to get out of check.
Whilst I’m on the subject of variants are there any that I recommend for a player’s development? Well ‘scotch’ or ‘progressive chess’ is interesting in that it can help develop a feel for different mating patterns; White plays one move, Black plays two, White then plays three moves and so on. Check ends a sequence so unless it’s mate you need to hold back with them. On the other hand I don’t like games such as ‘suicide chess’ in which the object is to lose all your pieces; it just fosters the wrong kind of thinking!