Chessician: noun; an enlightened or master Chess player, yet who’s expertise field of study is more focussed on related subjects such as alternative Chess variants, the inner mechanics of Chess games in general and the ludology of other related board game histories.
The game of Missionary Chess is commonly referred to as a “Chess Variant”, that is any type of game directly descended from Chess but which adopts alternative rules, pieces or boards.
These games, numbering in the thousands, are often invented by Chessicians who wish to further the good cause of evolving the historic game into a more playworthy medium of the modern age. They are also of course invented for fun and the greater majority of variants are invented purely as such ~ fun.
Yet there is a very serious pursuit amongst the academics and professionals of Chess, to evolve the game this century, in order to save it from great decline amongst club players and to bring a fresh new appeal to novices.
The first official promotion of an evolution of Chess was proposed in 1925 by the World Champion Jose Capablanca. He explained how exhaustive studies of Classical Chess will eventually lead to the stagnation of a played out game, prompting a need for it to evolve.
He was and still is, absolutely right.
However in the last century since those words were spoken, Grandmasters and Chessicians alike have been beginning to realise how actually making this “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, truly is on par with landing on the Moon.
As I do hope to explain in this latest Chess blog chapter, the evolution of Chess is bound by its very own nature of peace and must therefore already harbour the answer to our prayers within its very own natural design.
I hope to have solved a universal paradox, which every famous historic master such as Capablanca, Fischer and Seirawan, have tried to address and remedy in their own fantastically creative ways.
The remaining puzzle is why Chess remains a 64 square game, when it is a world wide acknowledged fact that the Classical game needs to evolve. Not only for grandmasters, but for novices alike.
What is wrong with the Classical game?
As a newcomer, club player or passerby, it may not strike you in anyway to be a flawed game. At face value, considering its immense bureau of strategical calculations and conundrums, its world wide historic acclaim, wonder and continuous fascination, the Classical game of Chess appears to be absolutely and wholeheartedly that… a Classic.
Yet believe it or not, much of this global acclaim for the ancient game is becoming with time, more of an overstatement, as I will attempt now to explain.
When I say, “grandmasters and novices alike”, I am touching on a sensitive issue many self centered professional players fail to even notice, let alone acknowledge.
You will often hear people exclaim how there are uncountable Opening strategies and defences, right from the very first move of the game.
This in reality is not only an overstatement, but irritatingly far from the truth.
Granted there are a total of 20 possible first moves alone… and well, you can do the maths. But in reality only a handful of these are actually worth one’s time and sanity to pursue.
Now, if you are an extremely intelligent player, perhaps aspiring to become a grandmaster, these four or five Opening moves will be presenting to you a hundred or so game scenarios which you would be more than eager to study… even at the atomic level.
Because being a genius, that’s what you do.
Yet most averagely adept Chess players are widely understood to be somewhat lesser than a genius. Indeed so too are novices.
To a player such as these, given enough club games, tournaments and of course, you know, those numerous mundane draws, the moves c4, d4, e4, or Nf3, become an ever increasingly loud gong sounding continuously in the back of their heads.
It is for the lack of a more accurate word… boring.
What the success fuelled professional Chess communities forget to remember, is that the purpose of an over the board Chess game, is to enjoy the adventure of each other’s creative company.
The game is meant to be fun.
Whilst the average club player will never reach international stardom, that is not the wholehearted reason he or she plays. One plays Chess to enjoy the adventure of a recreationally creative pursuit.
If the only way to enjoy that very essence of the game, is to obtain a PHD in mathematics, then we may as well put away the Chess board right now.
No, no, no… a, b, c, d, e… f, g, h, i, j.. these are the squares we play.
Ailments & Remedies
Aside from the limited selection of creative Opening strategies, there are other issues with the Classical sixty four square game.
I will now list a handful of them and address in turn.
- Lack of flank Openings.
- Berlin Defence Queen exchange.
- Blocked in or “bad” Bishops.
- Opposing fianchettos.
- Frequency of draws amongst masters.
» Lack of flank Openings
This of course is all part of the whole Opening repertoires issue, but to clarify, flank openings are those pursued to the sides of the board. Since each and every Pawn on the King’s flankside is vital to defence, very rarely are these initiated. When looking at Queen side flank Openings, these again are rarely played because they do not engage securely the central arena where most combat takes place.
Increasing the size of the board and inventing a suitable new piece to suit, would improve engagement along these lines severalfold and augment the whole scope of Opening strategies in general.
» Berlin Defence Queen Exchange
This is a well known Opening line, yet one much detested throughout history for its extremely boring conversation value. It is also arguably dangerous for Black from the word go.
1.e4 d6 2.d4 e5 3.dxe5 dxe5 4.Qxd8 Kxd8
White exchanges off Queens and forces Black to recapture with the King. As such Black may no longer Castle his King to safety and must increase efforts to defend it.
Missionary Chess remedies this Opening perfectly. Whilst the algebraic notation would be different, since files are now labelled a–j, we could still describe how the final moves would play out.
1.f4 e6 2.e4 f5 3.exf5 exf5 4.Qxe8 Mxe8 !!
As you can see here, Black merely recaptures with the c8 Mission, allowing his King the freedom to Castle.
» Blocked in or “bad” Bishops.
Often during a game, it is well known that if you are not careful about Pawn placement, or if your opponent is very clever at manipulating yours for you, then you may find one or more of your Bishops unable to move due to a phenomena of becoming “fenced in”.
Missionary Chess remedies bad Bishops to a lesser occurrence frequency, by the simple presence of more surrounding squares and thus interconnected lines of escape or attack.
Whilst there is never going to be a solution for this, since it is purely a result of playing strategy, the greater field of play guarantees more options for routes of deployment.
» Opposing fianchettos.
This ailment albeit a matter of opinion, is nevertheless very irritating for those players who would rather not have to bare it.
Firstly, a fianchetto is a strategic pattern of defense, or a military construct, if you prefer. It can be formed either side, but for King’s side as a common example, on the 64sq board, it requires:
1. g3 … 2. Nf3 … 3. Bg2 … 4. 0-0
Castling isn’t an official part of the fianchetto, but it is one of its purposes, to provide a storm proof defence for the King and/or to develop an exoskeleton of illusive attack scenarios.
Opposing fianchettos are whereby the opponent likewise forms a fianchetto at the opposite end of the diagonal, causing the eventual expected clash between two same colour-bound Bishops.
The irritation factor here could be described as trivial or mundane, yet in other debates it can be described as the epitomy of one’s dislike for the game.
This is because other than the fianchetto, there aren’t really any similar types of “military constructs” at hand, other than the mere formation of Opening piece placement.
The dislike arises after you have spent good time and effort preparing a strategy and plan of attack, only to find a precarious knife edge of a situation growing in the distance.
It is somewhat akin to the Berlin Queen exchange mentioned earlier, in that it harbours extremely boring conversation value.
Whatever your opinion here, Missionary Chess remedies these scenarios by the natural expansion of the board. Since the corner square diagonals of a 10×8 board do not meet each other, the formation of a fianchetto can be made with all the freedom of strategical pursuit and thus Opening peace of mind.
Furthermore, as will be described in following chapters, Missionary Chess accommodates many more kinds of these “strategical forts” than its predecessor Chess game, featuring indeed usage of the Mission and other pieces.
» Frequency of draws amongst masters.
This aspect of course speaks for itself in that, it was the great grandmasters of history who said, Chess must evolve today, in order to save itself from a death caused by lonely stagnation.
100sq Vs 80sq
Chess players who have an interest in the game’s rumoured evolution, are often under the impression that the next logical step up from an 8×8 is onto a 10×10.
Yet there are a handful of issues with a 10×10 board, which are actually remedied by using a 10×8 instead. Indeed the great Capablanca himself favoured the 10×8, exclaiming a 100 square board to be a lost cause for the game’s mechanics.
I will now reference a couple of the 10x10sq board size issues and then afterwards detail all the extensive remedies of Missionary Chess in general.
» Engagement of pieces is slow.
Capablanca remarked how the hand to hand engagement at the Opening begins very slowly, whereby development of pieces requires more time to become interactive between players.
As such the familiar live action and rapid fire of the Classic 64sq board game completely disappears from the books.
Capablanca suggested a 10×8 board to retain the conversational appeal and intellectual fulfillment adored of the original 64sq game.
» Vast spaces are created around Pawns.
When developing the Opening game, even unto the Middlegame, we find a significant difference in Pawn placement than we would on a standard 8×8.
As we begin to position our Pawns and other pieces, we realise the larger board and greater distances between them only creates vast empty spaces about our defences.
Indeed to say, any “fortress” which may exist harbours a different dimension, depending moreso on hypothetical scenarios than real time tangible observation.
Yes, the games of a 100 square board can be interesting, but this level of interest relies massively on a player’s patience to study hypothetically rather than tangibly and the willingness to sacrifice early hand to hand combat.
Needless to say, many 10×10 Chess variants require tremendous marketing to gain any decent audience.
The Remedies Of 10×8 Missionary Chess
✔ Numerously more Opening strategies, specialty fortifications, Middlegame & Endgame scenarios.
✔ Follying allows personal intervention of the starting position on the board, increasing the new number of Opening lines indefinitely.
✔ The Mission HEALS the Berlin Defence Queen exchange and other boring conversation derailments.
✔ Reduced frequency of Bad Bishop occurrences due the greater scope of strategic planning routes.
✔ Immediacy of engagement between combatting pieces is salvaged, whilst at the same time augmenting dimensional opportunities for more recumbent play.
✔ Pawns retain their close quarters and Classical nature of defensive cooperation, whilst at the same time expanding the scope of flank Opening lines to newer realms.
✔ Opposing fianchettos are not only obsolete, but additionally newer kinds of fortifications can now be added to one’s inventory.
✔ Draws are much less frequent.
Finally, if you are a devout nostalgic, it could be noted that a horizontally folding 10×8 travel board would finally bring to life the metaphysical representation of a historic book.
The Beginning & The Follying
Anyone who has studied the life and games of Capablanca would then also be familiar with his Chess variant, Capablanca Chess, likewise played on a 10×8 board.
Here we will see a similarity between his game and mine.
Capablanca chose to position his two newly invented pieces between the Bishop and the Knight, rather than adjacent to the King and Queen, and this is the case also with Missionary Chess.
There are many reasons why one might do this, for example to be sure all Pawns are protected before the game starts, or to enable easier deployment of specific pieces.
Regarding both Capablanca and Missionary Chess, the new pieces are placed on c1 and h1, firstly because their stronger powers would be detrimental to an early Opening if given a centrally active role and secondly, to allow the Bishops to develop quickly and easily, giving them the centrally active role instead, as they were originally granted in the ancient Classic.
In our game of Missionary Chess, the fianchetto is also an important consideration. Whilst it is common practice to place the Bishop within this fortification, doing so reduces the Bishop’s active presence center board. Changing the starting line up to allow the Mission to be placed inside the fianchetto grants the Bishop more freedom of influence where it is needed more often.
Indeed it could be argued a better thing to allow the original fianchetto of the Bishop instead, in place of the Mission, since this is a familiar strategy everyone has learned.
Yet worry not, for as I am about to teach you, Missionary Chess features a specialty called Follying, which revolutionises the game of Chess and brings an end to the age-old argument of… “Where shall we put our Bishop?”
Missionary Chess features a new specialty called Follying, whereby the Mission’s adjacent Bishop or Knight may be relocated to the Mission’s home square in the same turn of the Mission first vacating.
Whilst this could cause both Bishops to be of the same colour square, Follying can be performed both King or Queen side, replenishing the balance.
To perform a Folly, first make a regular move with your Mission, and then in the same turn, place either the adjacent Knight or the adjacent Bishop onto the home square of the Mission, now vacated.
Only the Mission’s adjacent Knight or Bishop may relocate to the Mission’s home square. To folly the other Bishop or Knight, they must relocate to the other Mission’s home square, in the same way when it similarly vacates.
Follying can only be performed once per Mission.
This is a very useful tool.
It enables several things which improve the dimensions of Chess strategy. Amongst these are a vast scope of fortification designs, exceptionally interesting variations of piece development and also reserve tactical manoeuvres should an Opening suddenly present unsavoury surprises.
Importantly, it also allows the choice of a Bishop focussed fianchetto or a Mission focussed fianchetto. As such an exceptionally colourful inventory of tactical Opening secrets.
In truth Missionary Chess is not only a beautiful thing to behold, but also to engage in conversation.
Nature & Design
Whence studying Chess and Chess variants, it becomes apparent that there are fundamentally only two types of Chess piece and from only one of these do all others branch.
Natural and Designed.
All Classical Chess pieces of modern and ancient Chess all have a natural movement pattern.
A natural movement pattern is one which naturally presents itself to the player when looking at the board.
So for example, we could move diagonally, horizontally, vertically and we could move these ways either limitlessly or restrictively.
Likewise a piece with full range of the board is a naturally born piece. A piece like the King which is restricted to only one square in range is also a naturally born piece.
Yet the reason why no founding Classical Chess piece of modern day Chess ever moves a specific number of squares, say for example 3 or 4 or 5, is because this would be a designed element of the piece and not natural.
In terms of range, it is either all or one, any other number would fall into the realm of artificial design.
Thus none of the Classical Chess pieces have a designed movement. They are all moves provided to them by the natural presentation of a Chess board.
Only the Knight is different, yet likewise the Knight’s special pattern is also a most natural trait, for its move is the first naturally recognisable pattern that comes to mind when all other natural movements have been assigned to other pieces.
It is simply an exceptionally easy to learn pattern, to recognise, utilise, duplicate and plan with from the word go. In fact in terms of any out of the ordinary move, which the 6th remaining Classical piece would have to have, the Knight’s move is arguably the only non ordinary move nature will allow.
It also only naturally portrays the head and neck of a horse.
Thus any newly invented piece entered into the Classical game of Chess, should most certainly remain as true as is mathematically possible to the employment of a natural movement pattern.
Yet, if all the naturally given moves are already assigned to the existing Chess pieces, how or what in all possibility, is the destined character of any new piece to be?
One would rightfully ask, how is it possible to create a natural move when all the naturally presented moves have already been taken?
The answer is that they haven’t.
In the many centuries of Chess Variant explorations, there is one move untouched nor heard of, either due to lack of inventive spirit, restrictions of communication, a pedantic overlook or disregard… or quite simply, it hasn’t been invented yet.
Yet and whatever the case may be, without further ado, hereby honouring the Classical Naturalism of Chess, by revealing the final equation to a divine puzzle… The Mission presents… a natural move from the paradox of none.
The Mission’s move, as described in An Introduction To Missionary Chess, takes hold of nature’s resources and thence divides them up amongst the only remaining squares of the Chess board.
For as the Mission absolutely demonstrates, orthogonal colour bound movement is the only remaining choice.
Value & Balance
I am now going to walk the reader through a number of stepping stones taken to reach the final design of the Mission and the process involved to evaluate its worth.
Let us start at the moment of enlightenment, whence first I had identified a final remaining natural movement pattern about the Chess board.
That pattern being colour-bound orthogonal movement.
This then, is a piece which moves horizontally or vertically, but may only land on squares of the same colour it’s bound to from the start.
Thus… a colour bound Rook.
Here now let us evaluate. A piece colour bound orthogonally would be worth only half the value of a Rook, for only half as many squares are available to it.
Yet this 50% reduction of field scope does not merely reduce its value by half. Indeed no, for the strong power of the Rook is by nature its freedom of colour.
Becoming colour bound tremendously impedes its agility, freedom and prowess.
The Mission then, must initially be valued at less than half a Rook.
First mark: 2.25 pts.
So, whilst we evaluate our newly born piece, here we find a weakness in its nature. That weakness is its vulnerability to attack and restricted ability to retreat or escape. Indeed also, opening move options are somewhat limited to a greatly delayed entrance.
For this reason we allow it another natural trait… to jump.
Yet reiterating “natural range”, it is either all or one. Thus since multiple jumps would only prove ridiculous, the Mission leaps only one square orthogonally.
Therefore the Mission jumps only how it appears to be natural and luckily only in a manner that is different to the Knight. It would be detrimental to the game to have too many pieces harbouring identical traits. This is why the Classical game does not have any such pieces already.
Since it must “pass over” opposing coloured squares anyway, it seems only natural to allow only its most adjacent orthogonal square to be leapt.
Second mark: 3.25 pts.
Indeed, this new extra trait alone does not entirely remedy its frustration, or grant the new piece much worthy power, since its colour boundness in this respect is still equally as impeding as if it were a temporarily misplaced Knight. Therefore we must also assign it another natural trait… diagonal movement.
Now when analysing “natural range”, we find there is a very rare exception and that being if the move or character of the piece itself naturally suggests a greater range.
The Knight is perhaps the only historical true example of a natural exception, in that although it leaps a specific number of squares, by design, that trait is only naturally suggested by the evermore so natural presentation of its very own yet uniquely rare, naturally identifiable pattern.
It is as I have said before, perhaps the only immediately recognisable non ordinary pattern, which nevertheless appears only natural.
This natural pattern of range is called a “standing footprint”.
The Mission by nature, leaps its nearest square, landing immediately after to the second square. This two-square-colour-bound range is the Mission’s natural “standing footprint”.
It is this very natural standing footprint which presents another apparently natural trait… of two square diagonal movement.
Since its only natural escape from its orthogonal restrictions is to reach out diagonally, the Mission does so in harmonious accord with its two-square standing footprint.
Furthermore, since full range diagonal movement would only deem the Mission piece overpowering and imbalance the game, the Chess board itself suggests a natural restriction.
Thus… a colour bound Rook with two square diagonal movement.
It’s ability to leap the nearest orthogonal square does not however allow it to leap diagonally. Whilst this was an original idea, I determined doing so would not only become destructive of founding Pawn architecture in the Opening, but that it was deviating from nature.
It is natural for the Mission to leap a square of a different colour, since it is colour bound, but allowing it to leap like-coloured squares would only impurify it with artificial design.
Thus the Mission may not jump diagonally.
Perhaps then the Mission & Knight, who both share this naturally defined exception to designed range, may in time prove to be uniquely gifted friends upon the Chess board.
Final mark: 4.5 pts.
This is a good calculation. In fact it could be argued to be more in the range of 4.3 – 4.5, due to its ambiguity of deliverance at range, specifically in the Endgame.
Yet, as a matter of vital importance, this would actually be even more appropriate.
Why? Well, in order to preserve the continuum of balance amongst pieces, as we transgress from the 64sq to the 80sq, we must be careful not to overpower the board, but instead find an even weight which compliments the set.
This is because firstly, the Chess board is a close combat arena or at least intended to be, whereby multiple minor pieces engage in skirmishes whilst paving the way for the heavy combatants to enter play later.
Any much more powerful than this and it would be akin to dropping a bomb onto a teddybear’s picnic. Chess works well due to the interconnectedness of many smaller pieces all communicating together… they are all themselves supposed to portray the larger whole.
Therefore 4.5 points value is a very suitable strength for a new Chess piece, in fact whilst my own opinion, I would say perfect.
As critics of the great Capablanca’s Chess Variant noted, regarding his two new pieces the Archbishop and Chancellor, a piece value in the range of 7 – 8 is far too powerful a presence on a 10×8 board. Indeed even 6 – 7 would be pressing on comfort tolerance.
Thus in my opinion, the game of Chess requires one more additional piece, within the combat ability range of just less than a Rook, but no more so than that, lest the board become engulfed with irrational premature warfare.
The Classical cannon is missing a piece, but not between Rook and Queen. It is missing a piece between Bishop and Rook, as suggested by the cannon’s own incremental progression.
This is where Chess is truly played.
The Mission, with its combat value of 4.5 points, delivers centrally unto this argument with not only a balanced presence, but a uniquely integratable pattern and Classically relatable logic.
I do hope you have enjoyed reading this carefully detailed, although somewhat lengthy, descriptive article about the science behind the creation of Missionary Chess.
It is now my own personal mission to continue the pursuit of mastering this beautiful game, by studying it daily and developing sound Opening theories, tactical techniques, strategical mindsets and to create as much informative material as possible for others to learn themselves.
If it interests, I was quite a learned Chess player back in the 90’s, when brick and mortar clubs were much more common place.
Whilst I consider myself a much more masterful player today, having even succeeded in making my father worry for the first time, my expertise has of course been gradually developing over my lifetime unto the final realms of Chess Variants.
It has been a difficult struggle of trying to develop a great intellectual prowess, yet whilst at the same time not being able to embrace any complete, justifiably designed or even commemorated game.
It was always Chess, yet without Chess. If only I could do what all our forefathers have been trying to do since the first man in history proclaimed himself World Champion, with the words “Check Mate”.
That final realm has now been discovered, opened… and engaged. It could perhaps, even prove itself to be The Holy Grail…
After all, nobody ever said it was a Chalice.
Welcome… to Missionary Chess.
Missionary Chess © Simon Jepps