Minichess

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Magnus Carlsen promoting 5×6 chess variant Chess Attack

Minichess is a family of chess variants played with regular chess pieces and standard rules, but on a smaller board.[1] The motivation for these variants is to make the game simpler and shorter than the standard chess. The first chess-like game implemented on a computer was a 6×6 chess variant Los Alamos chess. The low memory capacity of the early days computer required reduced board size and smaller number of pieces to make the game implementable on a computer.

3×3 and 3×4 boards[edit]

Chess on a 3×3 board does not have any clearly defined starting position. However, it is a solved game: the outcome of every possible position is known. The best move for each side is known as well. The game was solved independently by Aloril in 2001 and by Kirill Kryukov in 2004. The solution by Kryukov is more complete, since it allows pawns to be placed everywhere, not only on second row as by Aloril. The longest checkmate on 3×3 board takes 16 moves. The number of legal positions is 304,545,552.[2]

In 2009 Kryukov reported solving 3×4 chess.[3] On this board there are 167,303,246,916 legal positions and the longest checkmate takes 43 moves.

4×4, 4×5 and 4×8 chess[edit]

a4 black rookb4 black queenc4 black kingd4 black rook
a3 black pawnb3 black pawnc3 black pawnd3 black pawn
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white queenc1 white kingd1 white rook
Silverman 4×4
a5 black rookb5 black queenc5 black kingd5 black rook
a4 black pawnb4 black pawnc4 black pawnd4 black pawn
a3b3c3d3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white queenc1 white kingd1 white rook
Silverman 4×5
a5 black kingb5 black knightc5 black bishopd5 black rook
a4 black pawnb4c4d4
a3b3c3d3
a2b2c2d2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white bishopc1 white knightd1 white king
Microchess
a8 black kingb8 black bishopc8 black knightd8 black rook
a7 black pawnb7 black pawnc7 black pawnd7 black pawn
a6b6c6d6
a5b5c5d5
a4b4c4d4
a3b3c3d3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawn
a1 white kingb1 white bishopc1 white knightd1 white rook
Demi-chess

In 1981 mathematician David Silverman suggested 4×4 chess variant shown on the diagram.[4] The first player wins easily in this game (1. axb3+ Qxb3 2. cxb3+ Kxb3 (or 2...Kb4 3. bxc3 checkmate) 3. bxa3+ Kc4 4. Qa2 checkmate), so Silverman proposed a variant: Black can select a pawn, and White must make a first move with this pawn. However, in this case Black wins even more easily (select pawn b2, 1.bxa3 (or 1.bxc3) b2+ 2. Qxb2 Qxb2 checkmate). To make the variant more playable, Silverman finally proposed to insert a row between pawns and use the board 4×5. In this variant pawns can do double-move if target square is free.

Another chess variant on a 4×5 board, Microchess, was invented by Glimne in 1997.[4] Castling is allowed in this variant.

There is also variant on a 4×8 board, Demi-chess, which was invented by Peter Krystufek in 1986.[5] Castling is allowed in this variant.

5×5 chess[edit]

a5 black rookb5 black knightc5 black bishopd5 black queene5 black king
a4 black pawnb4 black pawnc4 black pawnd4 black pawne4 black pawn
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white king
Gardner
a5 black kingb5 black queenc5 black bishopd5 black knighte5 black rook
a4 black pawnb4 black pawnc4 black pawnd4 black pawne4 black pawn
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white king
Baby chess
a5 black bishopb5 black knightc5 black rookd5 black queene5 black king
a4 black pawnb4 black pawnc4 black pawnd4 black pawne4 black pawn
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white kingb1 white queenc1 white rookd1 white knighte1 white bishop
Jacobs–Meirovitz
a5 black rookb5 black bishopc5 black kingd5 black queene5 black bishop
a4 black pawnb4 black pawnc4 black pawnd4 black pawne4 black pawn
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white kingd1 white queene1 white knight
Mallett

A board needs to be five squares wide to contain all kinds of chess pieces on the first row. In 1969, Martin Gardner suggested a chess variant on 5×5 board in which all chess moves, including pawn double-move, en-passant capture as well as castling can be made.[6] Later AISE (Associazione Italiana Scacchi Eterodossi, "Italian Heterodox Chess Association") abandoned pawn double-move and castling. The game was largely played in Italy (including by correspondence) and opening theory was developed. The statistics of the finished games is the following:[4]

  • White won 40% of games.
  • Black won 28%.
  • 32% were draws.

Mehdi Mhalla and Frederic Prost weakly solved Gardner minichess in 2013 and proved the game-theoretic value to be a draw.[7] Gardner minichess was also played by AISE with suicide chess and progressive chess rules. In 1980 HP shipped HP-41C programmable calculator, which could play this game.[8] The calculator was able to play on quite a decent level.

In 1989, Martin Gardner proposed another setup, which he called Baby chess. In difference from Gardner minichess, black pieces are mirrored. Paul Jacobs and Marco Meirovitz suggested another starting position for 5×5 chess shown at the right. Jeff Mallett (main developer of Zillions of Games), suggested setup in which white has two knights against two black bishops.[9]

5×6 chess[edit]

a6 black queenb6 black kingc6 black bishopd6 black knighte6 black rook
a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawn
a4b4c4d4e4
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white queenb1 white kingc1 white bishopd1 white knighte1 white rook
Petty chess
a6 black queenb6 black kingc6 black bishopd6 black knighte6 black rook
a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawn
a4b4c4d4e4
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white kinge1 white queen
Speed chess
a6 black rookb6 black bishopc6 black queend6 black kinge6 black knight
a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawn
a4b4c4d4e4
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white bishopc1 white queend1 white kinge1 white knight
QuickChess
a6 black rookb6 black bishopc6 black kingd6 black queene6 black knight
a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawn
a4b4c4d4e4
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white knightb1 white queenc1 white kingd1 white bishope1 white rook
Elena chess
a6 black rookb6 black knightc6 black bishopd6 black queene6 black king
a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawn
a4b4c4d4e4
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white king
Chess Attack
a6 black kingb6 black queenc6 black bishopd6 black knighte6 black rook
a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawn
a4b4c4d4e4
a3b3c3d3e3
a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawn
a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white queene1 white king
MinitChess

There are several chess variants on 5×6 board. The earliest published one is Petty chess, which was invented by B. Walker Watson in 1930.[10] Speed chess was invented by Mr. den Oude in 1988.[11] Elena chess was invented by Sergei Sirotkin in 1999.

QuickChess was invented by Joseph Miccio in 1991.[12] Pawn double-move and castling are not allowed in this variant, pawns can only promote to captured pieces. The game was sold by Amerigames International and received National Parenting Publications Award in 1993. Miccio obtained an USA patent in 1993, which described 3 further chess variant on 5×6 board.[13] Besides two variants similar to Speed chess and Elena Chess (same position of white pieces, position of black pieces is symmetrical), the patent claimed one further variant, which have been named later Chess Attack. Miccio advocated these games as educational tools for children to learn chess rules. The smaller board and less pieces would reduce the complexity of the game and allow for more quicker games. The piece setup like in Speed chess was intended to teach short side castling and setup as in Chess Attack - long side castling.

Laszlo Polgar published a book in 1994 Minichess 777+1 Positions (Quickchess teaches chess quick),[14] completely devoted to chess on 5×6 board. Besides initial setup as in QuickChess, Polgar proposed to use any other possible setup of pieces, even asymmetrical one. The book contained problems, combinations and games for 5×6 chess. Polgar recommended to use is as a first book to teach children to play chess.

Chess Attack, which has the same setup as Gardner minichess (but played on a bigger board) is sold by Norway company Yes Games AS since 2008. In this variant, pawns can make double-moves and en-passant capture is allowed. The game was endorsed by Magnus Carlsen and Alexandra Kosteniuk.

MinitChess, published in 2010 based on earlier 2007 and 2009 variants, is played on a Gardner board with the black pieces mirrored. In this variant there is no castling, no double pawn moves, pawn promotion only to queen, victory by king capture or when an opponent has no legal move (including moves which permit the king to be captured—these moves are legal), and draw after 40 moves by each side. In addition, the bishop is replaced by a bad bishop that has the additional option of moving to any adjacent empty square on its turn, allowing it to change color. This variant is intended to be easy to write computer programs to play and harder for expert human players of standard chess, while still retaining the essential character of the game: several computer tournaments have been held.

6×6 chess[edit]

abcdef
6a6 black rookb6 black bishopc6 black knightd6 black kinge6 black bishopf6 black rook6
5a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawnf5 black pawn5
4a4b4c4d4e4f44
3a3b3c3d3e3f33
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawnf2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white bishopc1 white knightd1 white kinge1 white bishopf1 white rook1
abcdef
Diana chess
abcdef
6a6 black rookb6 black bishopc6 black kingd6 black knighte6 black bishopf6 black rook6
5a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawnf5 black pawn5
4a4b4c4d4e4f44
3a3b3c3d3e3f33
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawnf2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white bishopc1 white knightd1 white kinge1 white bishopf1 white rook1
abcdef
L'Hermitte chess
abcdef
6a6 black rookb6 black knightc6 black queend6 black kinge6 black knightf6 black rook6
5a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawnf5 black pawn5
4a4b4c4d4e4f44
3a3b3c3d3e3f33
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawnf2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white queend1 white kinge1 white knightf1 white rook1
abcdef
Los Alamos chess

Besides Los Alamos chess, there are other chess variants played on a 6×6 board. The game Diana chess (or Ladies chess) was suggested by Hopwood in 1870. The initial position is shown above. There are no queens on the board and pawns can't promote to queens either. Pawns cannot move forward two squares on their initial move. Castling is done by switching the positions of the king and rook. The same condition as in chess apply for castling (e.g., the king should not be under check, neither rook nor king should have moved before etc.)

Serge L'Hermitte suggested in 1969 a game with nearly the same setup as Diana chess, except that the positions of the black king and knight are exchanged from their positions in Diana chess. Additionally, knights cannot move within the first three moves, and the king can move to the knight position without losing the right to castle.

abcdef
6a6 black knightb6 black bishopc6 black queend6 black kinge6 black bishopf6 black knight6
5a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawnf5 black pawn5
4a4b4c4d4e4f44
3a3b3c3d3e3f33
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawnf2 white pawn2
1a1 white knightb1 white bishopc1 white queend1 white kinge1 white bishopf1 white knight1
abcdef
Simpler chess, without rooks
abcdef
6a6 black rookb6 black bishopc6 black queend6 black kinge6 black bishopf6 black rook6
5a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawnf5 black pawn5
4a4b4c4d4e4f44
3a3b3c3d3e3f33
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawnf2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white bishopc1 white queend1 white kinge1 white bishopf1 white rook1
abcdef
Simpler chess, without knights
abcdef
6a6 black rookb6 black knightc6 black bishopd6 black bishope6 black knightf6 black rook6
5a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawnf5 black pawn5
4a4b4c4d4e4f44
3a3b3c3d3e3f33
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawnf2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white bishopd1 white bishope1 white knightf1 white rook1
abcdef
Simpler chess, without king or queen
abcdef
6a6 black rookb6 black bishopc6 black queend6 black kinge6 black bishopf6 black rook6
5a5 black pawnb5 black pawnc5 black pawnd5 black pawne5 black pawnf5 black pawn5
4a4b4c4d4e4f44
3a3b3c3d3e3f33
2a2 white pawnb2 white pawnc2 white pawnd2 white pawne2 white pawnf2 white pawn2
1a1 white rookb1 white knightc1 white queend1 white kinge1 white knightf1 white rook1
abcdef
Mallett 6x6 chess

A. Wardley proposed in 1977 a Simpler chess, a family of 6×6 chess variants, in which a pair of pieces is removed from the both sides: rooks, knights, bishop or even king and queen. Removing bishops results in Los Alamos chess; the result of removing rooks or knights is shown on the diagrams above.

Jeff Mallett proposed the setup knights versus bishops also on 6×6 board. On a normal 8×8 board, bishops are considered slightly more valuable than knights (especially two bishops). However, on 6×6 boards, because of the smaller size of the board, two knights are presumably equal to two bishops.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Pritchard, D. (1994). The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants. Games & Puzzles Publications. ISBN 0-9524142-0-1.
  2. ^ 3×3 Chess by Kirill Kryukov.
  3. ^ 3×4 Chess by Kirill Kryukov.
  4. ^ a b c Pritchard (2007), p. 113
  5. ^ Demi-chess (Jocly)
  6. ^ Martin Gardner (1991). The Unexpected Hanging and Other Mathematical Diversions (Reprint ed.). University Of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-28256-2.
  7. ^ Gardner's Minichess Variant is solved
  8. ^ HP-minichess by Hans Bodlaender, based on an email from Ross Crawford.
  9. ^ This game can be found in set of games shipped together with Zillions of Games. The history section says: A little experiment by Jeff Mallett.
  10. ^ Petty Chess
  11. ^ Chess - Speed Game by Hans Bodlaender
  12. ^ Polgar (1994), p.3
  13. ^ USA patent 5257787 Chess-like game
  14. ^ Polgar (1994)

References[edit]

External links[edit]