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Toffs v Plebs chess variant. Which side would you take?

  • #1

    In a recent game I reached a position where I was 2 minor pieces up against 4 pawns. As it happened, all 4 of my opponent's extra pawns were on the AB & C files and I had zero pawns on any of the ABCD files. The analysis said I was well ahead and I managed to lose; but that's beside the point. It got me thinking about pawns versus pieces. Then I remembered a limerick I made up a few months ago and posted on a chess poem topic that Batgirl started. Something like:

    Pawns of all colours unite. / Let the black fight alongside the white. / We are brothers not foes, / It's the toffs we oppose, The king, queen, rook, bishop and knight!

    So, my question:- which side would you take in this variant of the game?

    White has the usual set of pieces, but no pawns, and he can set them up in any order along his first rank as in Chess960. Black has all 16 pawns which he can set up anywhere on his first 3 ranks, and he does this after white has set up his pieces. It is then white's move and the players move in turn after that. The pieces move as in standard chess. Castling for white as in Chess960. Black can promote pawns to pieces on the 8th rank. He can promote to a king if he wants but can only have one king on the board at any time. Black wins by checkmating white's king. White wins by taking all black's pieces except that, if black has a king on the board, then white must checkmate the king. 

    Second question. If you feel the game is too one-sided, either way, how would you change the rules to make it more even.

    I have no pre-conceived ideas. I haven't even tried setting it up on a board. I'm more interested in what people would go for intuitively. Myself, I wouldn't mind having a go with the pawns, but it worries me that all of white's pieces are instantly mobile because they are not blocked in by their own pawns. Either way it's going to be a very bloody revolution!

  • #2

    You can place pawns on the 1st rank?

    Which pawns have 2 squares as their 1st move?

  • #3

    rooperi - I hadn't considered that. For now let's say none can move 2 squares. It would get rather complicated I think. The alternative would be that any pawn on the second rank could move 2 squares if not blocked, even if it started life on the 1st rank. Would that make a critical difference?

  • #4

    I don't think 16 Pawns is enough to compensate for a full complement of pieces. You would need 3 ranks of Pawns.

    Very much related to what you propose is Lord Dunsahy's game, which plays 32 Pawns against a FIDE setup (incl. 8 Pawns). http://www.chess.com/forum/view/chess960-chess-variants/random-positions?page=2

  • #5

    HGMuller. Thanks for the link. There are some interesting positions there. I'm not at all sure white would win Lord Dunsahy's game, as long as black is allowed to promote. White is going to have to sacrifice pieces to get in behind the black pawns. If he does get in behind then black is defenseless and can only win by trying to promote while his rearguard is decimated. 

    Same idea with my setup. The absence of pawns to protect the white pieces is a problem for white. I think black can soon close down the space and make it pretty awkward for white. I repeat that I haven't tried it - I'm just interested to see what people think intuitively. I think that the fact that black's pawns start off spread over three ranks is an advantage too, for black. I would think you can make a very tight defensive unit with 16 pawns over 3 ranks. Just a feeling. Obviously the main danger early on will be the white knights which maybe can get in behind the pawns.

  • #6

    I would instinctively think that the queen can break through pawns(on a diagonal) quite easily, and then clean them up from the back, while the other pieces sac to prevent promotion.

    pawns have to be protected as they advance, so would take around 12-20 moves to give a serious risk of promotion. and during that, queen should be able to take down 5-10 pawns.. leaving a trivial win for the pieces.

    somwhere in 20-30pawns would be the breaking point I would think

  • #7

    Thanks nikiburny. I seem to be the only one who has faith in the proletariat. Wink Do you consider that the fact black gets to place his pawns after white has placed his pieces is much of an advantage?

  • #8

    Well, it is easy enough to try this out with an engine. Assume white (the engine) sets up the the peiecs according to the standard setup, and set up the black Pawns anyway you want. Then play a game. My guess is that even a weak engine like Fairy-Max would toast you.

    Fairy-Max should have no problem playing with an arbitrary number of Pawns. But, as white wins by annihilating black,a normal Chess engine would refuse to take the last Pawn (but it will be pretty obvious that it can), because it would think the position is a draw by stalemate after that. And it would not want that when it considers itself to be so much ahead.

    So it would be best to play it with the ShaMax derivative of Fairy-Max. This is made for Shatranj, where stalemate is a win.

  • #9

    Most of that was over my head, but I might just try it. I had assumed that the engine would not accept the set-up because of black having no king. Thanks.


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