A Game Designer Thinks He Can Improve on Chess’ 1,500-Year-Old Rules

A young MIT-grad and game designer named David Sirlin says he’s come up with something better than the timeless board game


Chess was invented around 1,500 years ago in India, and the game's lasting popularity is a pretty solid testament to its success. States rise and fall, real wars come and go, and still chess endures as a test of strategic thinking.

Now, a young MIT-grad and game designer named David Sirlin says he's come up with something better. Chess is cool, he thinks, but there's room for improvement. In a blog titled "Announcing Chess 2," Sirlin revealed his master plan to call checkmate on the old game and introduce a set of rules that adds new thrills to the board, including, in some games, a teleporting queen. He explains the game's premise:

A new win condition (in addition to the old one) allows a victory if your king crosses the midline of the board. This practically eliminates draws, and it also cuts down on having to walk through book-solved endgame situations, and eliminates the need to concede far before the game really ends. In Chess 2, there's action right up until the end, and the end is unlikely to be a draw.

A double-blind bidding mechanic when you capture pieces allows for some "yomi" or mind reading of the opponent's intentions. It also greatly disrupts scripted openings allowing for more emphasis on intuition. It's also quite skill-testing in measuring how much each player values each piece. If your opponent has an incorrect opinion about how much a particular piece is really worth in this particular game situation, you can capitalize on that by making him bid incorrectly in an effort to save that piece.

Additionally, players can chose from six "armies," such as "animals" and "reaper"—five of which create twists on the classic set, by favoring pawns, for instance, or the king.

On his blog, Sirlin writes that he was motivated to improve upon the game because of its frustrating tendency to end in a draw because memorizing strategies often trumps other types of intelligence. He admitted to Wired, however, another motivation for making the change—serious chess matches are just  "super boring."

More from Smithsonian.com:

How the Chess Set Got Its Look and Feel 
Chess Queen 

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