Games, analysis and discussion

Chess variants playing package (e.g. 10x10 Sac Chess variant)

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FYI, link included for free chess variants package (plays e.g. my 10x10 Sac Chess [std 6 chess pcs & the 6 classic chess variant compound pcs]):

From circa 2016, here's part of a post by Dr. H.G. Muller, partly re: Sac Chess (a bit computer-resistant variant: large # legal moves + heuristics), to play chess variants against a computer, or to program one to do so:

"...I happen to host a package of WinBoard + Sjaak II at . In that package I have already
pre-configured WinBoard to start up with (a very recent version of) Sjaak
II as engine. It starts up playing a variant 'Sac Chess', which is defined
in the variants.txt file, but you can then switch it to another variant
through WinBoard's New Variant menu. So I would strongly recommend using
that package. If you put your own variant definition into the variant.txt
file of that package (not too much at the end, as that WinBoard has only
room for displaying nine engine-defined variants), you should see a radio
button for selecting it in the New Variant dialog."

Note Sjaak 2.2 has a current 2600+ ELO rating, but IMHO seems significantly weaker at Sac Chess than chess (I'm 2000+ ELO). The rest of this blog entry has supplementary links/info/thoughts about chess variants (including Sac Chess) for viewers who may be interested.

Below is link that includes my own description of Sac Chess. That's followed by a link with bit similar contents (notably other than having as many links), which includes colour diagrams. It's to a page on a website: includes lists suggesting best chess variants, & of some applets & programs, the ability for its members to play 100s of (currently just 2 player) variants vs. each other online by email free (on boards of various shapes & sizes; diagrams shown), e.g. Sac Chess, & its members can post comments or even email each other (addresses protected vs. bots):

From the last link's website, here's the final position of a Sac Chess game played between two members (the game can be played through from 'Starting position' by continuing to click on 'View', if desired, & there's a link to the rules), then link to other such game logs, then link listing all currently available chess variants that can be played there:

Below are links to 2 chess variant servers, the first being Dr. Muller's Variant ICS on WinBoard:

Note that physical 10x10 boards are in modern use, e.g. try searching "10x10 Draughts" on; there are some international sellers of physical fairy chess pieces, at the least, but in a pinch ones can be improvised, e.g. using elastics around extra chess set(s') pieces, or even coins. I'd note that there might be a significant market for manufacturers of assorted fairy chess pieces sold individually, and/or packed as a customized set according to a customer's order (perhaps including some standard chess pieces). In the meantime here's a somewhat dated link re: how to make a 'chess variant construction set':

[edit: Below is a link to a seller of 10x10 vinyl boards.]


As an aside, any aspiring manufacturer of assorted fairy chess pieces might wish to decide which types of fairy pieces to make the most of during production, some being more popular than others (e.g. due to being in play in more than one variant game, especially popular games). The possible kinds and names of fairy pieces are limitless, with more being invented (if not commonly used) all the time; unique special order pieces might be made from scratch, if a customer is willing to wait. Here's a link re: fairy pieces, which provides many examples of them ('crowned' or 'knighted' chess pieces, or classic 'compound pieces', as in Sac Chess, seem popular choices IMO), followed by a link illustrating many fairy pieces as used in diagrams:

[edit: Below's a link to one manufacturer of any customer's design of chess pieces (or boards, probably), in China, except it appears 'customer' must be a company.]

[edit: Below's a chess link re: some plastic chess variant pieces.]

Below is a link re: my personal criteria for chess variants & board games of skill. This includes my & other people's theories on what may make such a game computer resistant (i.e. favouring skilled humans); a couple of such games that were widely thought resistant (Go, Arimaa) have recently proven not so, apparently disproving some theories. Sac Chess may prove resistant to some extent, while trying to retain the flavour of orthodox chess to some degree:

The long paragraph below is part of a post I gave on The Chess Variant Pages (CVP), which has Game Courier for assisting email play:

I think to play offline a lot of people who need fairy chess pieces or non-8x8 boards for given variant(s) might not like trying to craft their own equipment, if not feeling terribly able to. Such equipment would come in handy for founding clubs for 1 or more variants to be played, besides for play, study or enjoyment in the home. I still feel uninitiated in fairy chess, but it seems that, luckily, only a relatively small number of fairy piece types or non-8x8 boards are at all popular with the public, at present, not counting commercial variants (are these at all popular on the whole?). Figurines of the B&N plus R&N compound piece types (of various names), plus Unicorn figurines (e.g. for 3D Chess), alone, should cover a lot of variants that are sufficiently popular at the moment that require fairy chess pieces, and, for boards, 10x10 (Grand Chess), 10x8 (Capablanca Chess), 91-cell Hexagonal, 16x4 Circular, 5x5x5 3D, plus 3-player & 4-player chess variant boards (such as made in China, as seen in a link I gave earlier), should largely satisfy public demand for now, I'd hazard to guess, without doing a lot of research. Less popular fairy piece types or non-8x8 board sizes and/or shapes, such as found perhaps mainly online (e.g. on CVP) could begin to be mass produced proportionally to the need that arises, with possible exceptions made for, e.g., proven top-50 Game Courier variants that use such. The problem is how to start the ball rolling, by somehow encouraging manufacturers to do more.

Note that for 2016, the webmaster informs me that the main site for has been getting in the neighborhood of 50,000 unique visitors each month, with something in the neighborhood of 80,000 visits each month.

In trying to speculate about how many people worldwide might be inclined to take up almost any sort of chess variant(s) seriously, if an organization for such existed (aside from chess, shogi, Chinese chess, Thai chess or Korean chess, which have their own organizations), I came up with a way to try to estimate the total number of people (x) who may play or enjoy such variants worldwide (i.e. seriously or not so seriously, at the moment at least). The answer's probably off by a lot, but my calculation may be worth a chuckle:

There's about 605,000,000 people who play chess worldwide (seriously or otherwise) according to FIDE. Let's say that almost all people who take up chess variants first learn how to play chess. The number of serious chessplayers with FIDE ratings, alone, was about 170,000 circa 2013, I saw on the web.

Let's assume that most of the people worldwide who are serious about chess variants are members on (which has pages in languages besides English), i.e. about 3,400 currently. From that I can now solve for x in an equation where

170,000/605,000,000 = 3400/x

to obtain the answer that x = 12,100,000 people worldwide who take chess variants seriously or just for fun at present. Note around 40% of the world population has an internet connection today, so perhaps my estimate may not be far off even considering that.

[edit: Below's a link that may be of some interest; for 2015 about 3% of all games played on the FICS chess server were chess variants (of the limited choices available, some of which I can't tell since they're called 'wild'), which is very slightly better than I'd expect based on my estimate of chess players interested in variants worldwide (i.e. about 2%, which it pretty much is for stats for 'All Years'); a websearch may find any sort of chess variants app or software to download.]

Updated 11-25-2017 at 05:10 PM by Kevin Pacey

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Chess variants