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The game was created by the independent Shizmoo Games in the beginning of the 2000s, and was arguably the most popular game on the company's past website. It gained fans from all over the world, assembling a community of proficient players, a community which partly kept existing after the website was shut down late in 2008.
The game was invented by Dan Goldstein and was developed by him and his brother Joshua Goldstein, both founders of Shizmoo Games.
The idea of the unique "real time" gameplay applying to chess, resulting in general significant speeding of the gaming process, was the origin of the development. The name "Ultra Speed Chess" was given to it during the development stage. A notable apparent feature of the game was the sound: when a piece captures another, a fighting sound of hits and martial art battle cries was added to the act, in order to add interest and humor. This reference of fighting between rival pieces was influenced by the chess-variant video game Archon. Having the martial art reference by sound, and its swiftness by gameplay, this real-time chess was given the name "Kung-Fu Chess". Although not the first to be developed, Kung-Fu Chess was the first project to be released by Shizmoo Games.
The game was published on Shizmoo Games website, and later was accompanied by other games by Shizmoo. In later development, added to the standard game were additional modes, based on known chess variants (presented below), some of them available only to paying subscribers. Paying subscribers could also create their own custom variants and play them with other players on the site.
Kung-Fu Chess gained additional popularity when it was added in a special and systemically-simplified version to the ICQ instant messaging program in 2005, along with "Sumo Volleyball", another popular game by Shizmoo. Due to its nature of complexity in gameplay and rules, Kung-Fu Chess was less popular than Sumo Volleyball, but produced a stronger community of fans (in terms of devotion).
General aspects of the game
In Kung-Fu Chess, any player can move any of his available pieces at any given moment. Technically speaking, a player can only order one move of an available piece at a time, and the order is executed immediately. After a piece was moved, it is delayed (being unable to move) for a short constant and predefined amount of time before it can be moved again. The movement of the pieces from one position to another is not immediate but also has its own short duration, leading to a typical situation where many pieces on the board are on a move in the same time. Timing is a crucial aspect of the game, as a minimal fragment of time can make a difference between a piece being captured and a piece dodging the foe's movement. Hence physical speed and reflexes are a required skill for the game, beside the theoretical and mental skills required, which include the ability to develop fast tactics and strategies in accordance with the dynamic changes in the board's state of affair.
Although the theoretical rules are basically the same as in standard chess, the "real-time" aspect involved in this chess variant (in fact, this series of chess variants based on the same principle) leads to essential differences between the traditional chess and Kung-Fu Chess. The most major difference is the implication of threats upon the king. Since no player is bound to one move at a time, having one's king threatened does not deprive the player from avoiding the situation in composite ways, differing the obvious one-turn resorts. Therefore, checks, in the regular sense, do not exist in Kung-Fu Chess, nor a piece can be technically fixed to its current position due to a threat. For the same reason, checkmate in the regular sense, cannot be achieved. The game ends when one's king being practically captured, and loses the match. Victory can also be achieved by the resignation of the opponent player. Due to similar reasons, stalemate is also impossible situation in Kung-Fu Chess. A draw however can be achieved when accepted by a player after his opponent offered it.
Kung-Fu Chess types
Kung-Fu Chess is based on the standard rules of chess with the change of free movement, its timing aspects and their further derivatives. Beside the standard type, there are other Kung-Fu Chess game types, which share the leading principle and its derivatives, but based on other known chess variants.
The existence of two key parameters is shared by all of them:
- Speed: the speed of the movement of a piece, from the moment the order is given by the player to the moment the piece gets the ordered position. The piece's action (basically capturing a rival piece) is applied once the movement is complete. The standard value 1.0 for speed results in a movement speed of approximately one-tile-per-second.
- Delay: an amount of time for a certain piece while it is deprived from being moved, starting immediately after the last movement of that piece was complete. The standard value 1.0 for delay is approximately 10 seconds.
These two parameters has a predominant role in setting the whole rate of the match. While these two parameters are alterable, there were four official game types in Shizmoo of which these parameters are predefined and cannot be altered. Matches of official games were the only matches to effect the Shizmoo players rating, which arranged separately in each game type.
- Standard – The standard Kung-Fu Chess is one-on-one match, with average speed and delay, both set to a value of 1.0. The match ends when one of the players' king is captured (alternatively, when a player resigns or accept a draw offered by the opponent).
- Fast Four Way (commonly referred by its abbreviations "F4W" or "FFW") – Arguably the most popular Kung-Fu Chess game type (prevailing the also-popular standard type), Fast Four Way is a match between four players on a four-way board similar to the Four-Handed chess board. The goal is again to eliminate the opponents' kings, as it goes by the principle of last man standing. Once a king is captured the other pieces of that player are immediately removed from the board. In addition to its being four-player match, the major difference in this game type is its accelerated swiftness: the speed and delay are ten times faster than the standard, i.e. set to a value of 0.1. Compared to the standard type, Fast Four Way matches are characterized by live action and speed-tactics, rather than strategy.
Standard and Fast Four Way are the only two official types that were available at Shizmoo for the nonsubscribers (nonpaying players). Since altering the speed and delay parameters resulted in unofficial and thus unrated matches, popular differently adjusted settings created common types of "friendly matches", namely unofficial game types made by the players. A popular setting was by borrowing the high-speed of the Fast For Way to one-on-one match (i.e. speed and delay being set to a value of 0.1), which named by the players "Fast Two Ways".
- Crazyhouse – Crazyhouse was an official game type available only for subscribed players in Shizmoo. It is based on the chess variant with the same name, the principle being the same, as captured pieces can be used in the board again by the player who captured them. The speed is moderate in terms of Kung-Fu Chess: slightly faster than the Standard style. The reused captured pieces move slower than the original pieces in the match.
- Bughouse – Bughouse was the second official game type available only for subscribed players in Shizmoo, and like the chess variant with the same name, it is basically Crazyhouse for four players, arranged in teams of two players, each player is playing a one-on-one match with an opponent from the rival team, so that two one-on-one matches occur simultaneously. Captured pieces can be used again like in Crazyhouse, but instead becoming available for the use of the capturing player they become available for his teammate in the parallel board, thus creating an essential link between the two parallel boards. The first player to capture his opponent's king ends the game, winning the match for both himself and his teammate.
Only the four types above on their original speed and delay values were rated Kung-Fu Chess games in Shizmoo. Beside the ability to adjust the parameters of speed on delay in the predefined game types, subscribed members of Shizmoo could build new types and set new rules and principles. Thus other chess vaiants were created in a Kung-Fu Chess style.
Kung-Fu Chess assigns each player a numerical rating based on the player's win/loss record, using the same system as ICC, the Internet Chess Club. Additionally, each rating range corresponds to a Kung-Fu belt color as follows:
- Green Belt: temporarily unrated (20 games or fewer played)
- Purple Belt: 800–999
- White Belt: 1000–1199
- Yellow Belt: 1200–1399
- Orange Belt: 1400–1599
- Red Belt: 1600–1799
- Brown Belt: 1800–1999
- Black Belt: 2000+
Additional rankings such as black O and black X are awarded for 2200 rating and 2400 respectively.
The end of Shizmoo and its successors
Since December 16, 2008, the Shizmoo website is no longer accessible. Several attempts have been made in order to reconstruct a Kung-Fu Chess game, regather the community of players and provide a successor for Shizmoo. There was also an attempt to solely regather the Shizmoo community until a solution is found. Most of these attempts didn't last long, nor matured enough to become a worthy alternative to Shizmoo.
Tempest – Real Time Chess 2009–2014
In June 2009, a new project of reviving Shizmoo's Kung Fu Chess was rising, and appeared to be a more serious attempt than anything made before. The new project was called "Tempest", and eventually it succeeded in creating a fully functional clone of Shizmoo, as well as (partly) reviving a community of players, some of them are famous players among the former Shizmoo community.
Tempest Chess contained six different game types: in addition to the four existed in Shizmoo's Kung-Fu Chess, also included Fast Standard, and Four-Way Crazyhouse.
On May 27, 2014 Tempest was discontinued by its owner.
In 2010 a game similar to Kung Fu Chess dubbed "Ninja Chess" has been developed for iPhone and iPad. It is published on the App Store by Nordlysa Entertainment, but has been abandoned by the creator and is currently unavailable from the Store. This project brings the concept of Real-Time Chess to touch interfaces and includes the ability to play Head-to-Head (each player facing his own board). This was absent in Kung Fu Chess which offered only online play. However this project does not supports the many variants developed by Shizmoo.
A public beta of a new turnless chess game JebChess was released in June 2014. Both 2 and 4 player chess modes, including flexible teams, are available on this game. JebChess is the first real-time chess game to be built using a 3D game engine (Unity3D).
Return of Tempest
In September 2014 JudoChess was released. The game runs on Silverlight and can not be played on Chrome, but can be played on Internet Explorer and FireFox.
JudoChess currently features everything that Tempest had before its death. It is run by a new team of developers (hexchess and devilant).
- Sources on this matter are uncertain. A claim it was titled Game of the Year 2003 in Arcade Pod website, and Game of the Month February 2002 in GameSpot – could not be verified.
- http://www.shizmoo.com which is no longer accessible. A captured early version of the site (in December 29, 2001) is available here