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All your pawn are belong to me

Variations on the game of chess

Variations on the game of chess

April 29, 2008|By PATRICK SNOUFFER / Pulse Correspondent

"Queen to Queen's Level 3."

- Scotty to Capt. Kirk in "Star Trek"

Chess has a long history.

Though apparently still a popular pastime aboard the starship USS Enterprise in the 23rd century, chess was invented in India in the sixth century, according to "A History of Chess," by Harold James Ruthven Murray.

Since medieval India, there have been innumerable variations on this very adaptable game, including 3-D "space chess," nautical-themed variations, and versions from China, Japan, Germany and other countries.

So, is chess a good summer pastime for teens? To answer this question, I spoke to Matthew Shives, 14, a home-schooler from Hagerstown; Scott Collier, 14, of Boonsboro; and Mike DiLeo, organizer of the MCA Paul Engle Jr. Open Chess Tournament that was held in Boonsboro on April 5.

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"Chess is a good anytime pastime for any age!" DiLeo exclaimed. "Besides (playing at) the two chess clubs at school, I play a guy who's 86 years old once a week just for fun!"

"Yes." Scott said. "Because it's fun, and a good game to play, basically."

"I think it is a good pastime for teens because it involves thinking," Matthew replied. "It doesn't just make your mind go blank."

He said he also likes it because the game is different each time you play it.

Yes, summer is almost here, which means endless hours of free time, and chances to try new things. If you're drawn to chess as a hobby, chess clubs are a great way to get started in the game, but most school-associated clubs close during the summer.

As it turns out, there are many other chess clubs and tournaments that operate year-round that are open to everybody. There's an informal chess club that meets at Borders Book and Music west of Hagerstown on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. Port City Java has boards available on Sunday evening. Beans in the Belfry in Brunswick, Md., has a chess board available for pickup games.

Besides regular chess, there are literally thousands of variants. Some use bizarre equipment like stacked five-square-by-five-square chessboards, boards with hexagonal squares, and a veritable cornucopia of pieces that are not featured in normal chess. Elephants, giraffes, crooks, cannons, checkers (yes, checkers!) and many more are added to the normal king, queen, bishop, knight, rook, and pawn.

"I play a four-way chess game," DiLeo said, "That's four players all at the same time. (It) gets wild and very busy."

DiLeo also suggests playing a 5-minute game using a timer.

"That makes for a quick game."

He also plays a game called Bughouse - a four-player, two-team game with two games side by side. In Bughouse, players take pieces captured by their partners and place them on their own board.

Then there's Fischer's Random Chess, a version that uses a normal chess board and normal pieces. As its name suggests, random chess involves placing pieces on the board strategically.

"I like it," Matthew said. "Sometimes it's better than normal chess, because there's no definite starting pattern. You have to invent your own opening."

If you have ever watched the old "Star Trek" TV shows and wondered if that odd, three-level Plexiglas chessboard is actually a real game well, it is. Although the rules are far too complicated to cover in this article, (movable platforms, etc.) it can be played on a homemade board.

So, after all this talk of fun chess variants, you must be wondering: "Where can I get the information for these games?"

First, you can find out about many of them by going online to Google and searching "chess variant." That shows you many different games that you can play, most of which use a normal chess board with normal pieces. If you're in the mood for Star Trek Tri-D Chess or even more eclectic variants, look on www.chess variants.com.

Also, Washington County Free Library has books describing chess variants.

Chess is a popular game, with plenty of strategy and depth. But if you look in the right places, you will find that there's a lot more variety to this game than meets the eye.

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