Chess 2

I certainly don’t think that chess has somehow become “boring,” but that won’t stop me from following this development with great interest:

Chess is one of the most enduring games in the world. Is it time for a sequel?

“Chess 1 was a big hit, no question there,” wrote game designer David Sirlin in a blog post announcing the audaciously titled Chess 2, “but a few issues have cropped up over the years.”

Chess, he says, requires far too much memorization of particular move patterns. Worse, far too many games end in draws or overly drawn-out endgame sequences, especially in high-level play. In the most recent world championship game, 22-year-old Norwegian Magnus Carlsen took the crown from 43-year-old Viswanathan “Vishy” Anand, who had held the title since 2007. The 12-game match ended after game 10, when Carlsen got his seventh draw.

“It was super boring,” Sirlin says of the championship match. “If there was any kind of deviation from what the player had studied and memorized, they would completely shift towards only playing for a draw. There was very little real interaction in the games.”

Chess 2, designed to be played with a normal chess set, shakes up the 1,500-year-old formula by giving players a choice between six armies with one or two small but significant variations.

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The six different armies allow for 21 possible matchups — good luck memorizing openings for that. The “Nemesis” army gives pawns more freedom of movement, while players using the “Reaper” army have a queen that can teleport and capture anywhere on the board except the opponent’s back row. There are upsides and downsides to each army, and playing against others using the “classic” army (that is, basic chess rules) is valid and balanced, Sirlin says.

Other changes include a “midline invasion” rule that allows players to win simply by getting their king across the halfway point of the board. Sirlin says that this rule change alone effectively solves the issue of draws and drawn-out endgames.