Monday, November 25, 2013

Inverted Dream Chess: A New Spin on an Old Classic?

You know when you're dreaming or half asleep and you have that amazing, world-changing idea that you make a point of remembering for when you wake up so you can put it into practice in the real world, but then when you wake up and recall the idea you realize that no, putting milk chocolate inside a manila envelope and molding it into the shape of a walrus would never become the new best-selling taste sensation?  Stuff like that happens to me all the time, though usually more to the tune of "You know what would be a great story idea?  There's this woman made out of dirt, and she's part of the ground, and like, people walk over her all the time, and she falls in love with this guy who's riding a skateboard... and I don't know, we'll figure out the rest of the details later, but dirt lady!"

This is the type of thing that happened to me last night, with one notable exception: upon waking, my first thought was less "Nevermind, that's stupid," and more "Why has nobody else thought of this??"  I then tried to explain it to my fiancee and, judging by her expression, failed miserably so I'll try again here.  Therefore, I give you:

Inverted Dream Chess: A Fun New Way to Play Chess like an Idiot

Image courtesy of podpad/

Choosing the pieces:

The concept is simple really.  Before the game begins, each player puts all their game pieces into a cloth bag or a large hat, shakes them around a bit and then dumps out eight pieces in no particular order.  There is probably a better way to separate the pieces into two random groups of eight; In the event that you are able to come up with a better system for doing so, use that and please tell me about it.  The opposing player then takes these pieces to use as his own, and vise versa, the outcome being that each player has eight random white pieces and eight random black pieces.  The pieces should be marked somehow (like with masking tape, or maybe rubber bands if it's a chess set you're especially attached to) to easily denote which side they belong to.  In my dream the chess set being used was my old Chess Teacher set with the little cheat sheet plaques on the back, so we just used that to tell whose they were.

Setting up:

Naturally, this is where it gets a little confusing; at this stage in the dream the game screeched to a halt because we couldn't figure out where to put everything, but I think that had more to do with the fact that I had about seventeen Pawns, nine Bishops, four Kings (each of a different color) and a Three Musketeers bar on my side.  Unless you are using an especially problematic chess set this will not happen to you, but the question of piece placement still persists, so I had to use some post-dream engineering for this bit.  Therefore, each piece type is ranked on a scale of one to five like so:
Pawn = 2
Bishop = 3
Knight = 4
Rook = 4
Queen = 5
King = 1

The numbers on the grid indicate the maximum ranking of a piece that can be placed there in normal circumstances.  For example, a space marked with a 3 can hold a Bishop, a Pawn or a King.  So yes, a King could be placed in the front line, but given that either player could easily have either both Kings or no Kings, its status as a king is effectively nullified anyway.  
In the event that a player has fewer than eight pieces at a two or lower ranking, the next lowest available ranking pieces may be placed on as many 2-marked spaces that need to be filled.  For instance, if you only have seven Pawns and no Kings, a Bishop may be placed on the final 2-space.  If you have no Bishops either, then you may place a Knight or a Rook there instead, and so on.

Actually Playing the Game:

Following tradition, the player who possesses the White King moves first.  All pieces move as they were originally intended to, and this is where tradition stops.  Every given piece may only capture pieces of the opposing color.  For example, you cannot take an opponents Black Bishop with a Black Rook - you must take said Bishop with a White piece.  Given the randomness of the piece distribution, Castling is not a viable move (if it's even possible), and the standard play method is a free-for-all.  The game ends when one player either loses all his pieces and is therefore defeated, or if one color has been completely eliminated from the board (i.e. if neither player has any White pieces left)*.  In the latter situation, the winner is determined by who has more pieces remaining on the board.  

If you don't like free-for-alls, or just want to add some challenge back into the game, the Kings can be set aside from the initial drawing and used as actual Kings.  And heck, if you get bored with it, don't be afraid to make up your own variations.  Go nuts!

I imagine this style of play might ruffle some feathers.  Given the long, proud legacy of the game, some might see this as heresy, a dumbing-down of an old tradition.  However, I think  this is no such thing.  There would still be plenty of tactics involved in besting your opponent, and it would force you to think about chess in new and interesting ways.  Stalemates would still be just as infuriating as they were before, and while those "I'm going to take out your King and only your King" games are impressive, you have to admit that this would level the playing field a little more.  

Obviously, I haven't had a chance to playtest this and work out the kinks, but I'd love to develop it further.  So... anybody up for a game?

*EDIT: On Thanksgiving I had an opportunity to try out this game with my youngest sister and discovered that it would make much more sense for the game to end when one player loses one color.  Otherwise the game tends to drag on, as it did for us, as one player attempts to checkmate a White Queen with two White Pawns, a White Bishop and a single Black Knight.  


  1. I think you just found our programming project. :)

    1. I think we aught to call Nonchessence (Non-chess-ense) or something similar, in honer of the blog.

    2. You know, I was thinking something along those lines just as I was leaving today... but not quite actually that for some reason. I'm glad you did.