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Chess 90 Degrees & Chess Diamond

Most of us learnt to play Chess at school and some of us were reasonably good players, thinking enough moves ahead to be able to set up potentially winning traps. The problem tho' with Chess is its intellectualisation. It's been so thoroughly studied, with grandmaster games recorded and analysed, that it's become a game where victory is more often than not about learning and recognising classic openings and set ups. Many who'd happily play Chess as a casual pursuit find this off-putting to the point where they abandon Chess altogether in favour of other less processed abstract games.

This is part of the appeal of the various incarnations of Fairy Chess. Typically, Fairy Chess involves introducing a non-standard piece into the mix; for example, the Grasshopper, which moves like a Queen except that it can only move or capture if it jumps over another piece. Play with Fairy Chess pieces in the mix and you can all those volumes of classic Chess analysis become mostly inapplicable. Chess in its variant form becomes a game that you can play again on your own terms. Variants like Chessplus work in a similar way by altering what each piece can do.

But whereas most Chess variants involve substituting one or more new pieces that behave differently to those in the classic Chess set, you can also cut yourself adrift from the burden of Chess analysis by keeping entirely conventional pieces but instead changing the playing board. We've seen this before when Chess is adapted as a game to be played by more than two players; for example, Warlord Chess is a four-player Chess variant that's played on a 14 x 14 square board with the four 3 x 3 corners cut off. Chess 90 Degrees and Chess Diamond from Logijoy offer variant boards for a two-player game.

The board for Chess 90 Degrees is L-shaped. It's a conventional 8 x 8 chess board but with two extra ranks added to the North and East. It requires only one small alteration to convential Chess rules: the black and the white pawn at the corner are mutually immune from each other's capture until they've moved from their starting position. Otherwise all the rules of Chess apply. The 90 Degree set up tho' fundamentally changes how you play the game. Some dynamics change too. Tho' pawns have further to travel to reach the eighth rank (in effect, they are starting in rank -1 rather than rank 2) we've found in our plays of Chess 90 Degrees at Board's Eye View that it can be notably easier to Queen a Pawn. We were surprised, therefore, that Logijoy haven't included some extra Queens in the box.

Chess 90 Degrees is a novel and entertaining variant, and we've enjoyed exploring the different dynamics thrown up by the unusual set up.

Chess Diamond is similarly conventional Chess but played on a different shaped board. The 'diamond' board is 11 squares long at its widest and longest point but it narrows to just two squares at its west and east points; three squares north and south. Set up accommodates this by having a Bishop between the King and Queen in the back row, with the other Bishop in the middle of the two Rooks and Knights. In front of them is a rank of seven Pawns: the game is played with one less Pawn than the standard game.

The shape of the board and initial layout of the pieces necessitates some small tweaks to the standard rules of Chess; specifically, there is no en passant rule and there's no Castling. We had no problem with these, tho' the rules sheet caused some confusion over where Pawns had to reach in order to be Queened: the text implied that the end Pawns would be Queened after moving forward only five squares but the illustration shows only the inner seven Pawns being Queened (six and seven squares forward of their starting rank). This isn't a fatal concern, it just means players need to clarify their interpretation at the start of the game.

Logijoy's variant Chess games are definitely worth checking out. They may rekindle your passion for the game.

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