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PostPosted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 2:24 pm 
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Internet chess is a different experience than table chess. I conjecture that it will with time influence both its development and the rules of chess. Table chess is typically slow. It is a much more psychological and instinctual experience. You can see the terror in the opponent's face when you sacrifice the bishop with check. Chess is by nature very strategical and, in the opening phase, very theoretical, spiced with tactical themes. It demands deep analysis, a sincere effort, both during the game and before, not to become boorish wood-chopping.

However, Internet chess is essentially rapid chess, yet without the psychological atmosphere of table chess. What's more, the very valuable ingredient, which is the hard toil to produce a memorable game, is lacking, too. This means that the experience of chess is devaluated and the game is experienced as somewhat monotonous. Sooner or later it grows slightly dull. It is as if chess isn't really designed for Internet play, while it isn't a superficial game. You must dig deep into it to really appreciate the game. You need good play from both parties, and a true effort, in order for it to be really engaging.

I have also played Chinese Chess (Xiangqi) on Internet servers. Xiangqi is really cut out for the Internet. It is, by nature, a fast and very intuitive game. It is all about tactics, while strategical planning plays no part at all. Compared with chess, it is superficial. Yet it is entertaining as tactical intricacies start immediately and it goes on until either party is mated. You never get a breather, because it is all about grabbing the initiative and to attack, before your opponent does the same. It is fast-paced, since you never have to find out how to solve difficult problems by devising a deep plan. Instead, you solve problems by devising short tactical lines involving some finesse. Sometimes the tactical situation is so impermeable that you cannot possibly calculate it, even if you have loads of time. At these occasions one must resort to intuition, which draws on experience.

Xiangqi opening theory is much different from chess theory. In Xiangqi, it's like all the variations are thrown into the same bucket. It's more or less the same themes, which means that you cannot benefit much from studying theory. There aren't really different lines that differ radically in opening strategy. Some are more aggressive and some are slower, that's all. In chess, if a player decides to change opening from, say, the Stonewall to the Benoni, it's like learning a different game. If he has played hundreds of Internet games in the Stonewall, he is becoming slightly bored, and that's why he has decided to change opening. The "Stonewall universe" of variations is quite interesting, provided that players make an effort of strategical planning. But this seldom happens in Internet play. So he decides to change to the Benoni and finds that he has regressed to amateur level. This is yet another nail in the coffin for his chess passion.

This never happens in Xiangqi. In opening play anything goes. Provided that the move isn't immediately refutable, it is wholly playable. As Xiangqi isn't partitioned into different "opening universes", like the Benoni and the Stonewall, the whole field of tactical themes are always present, which is always the same as all other openings. So there are no constraints and no monotony, which often occurs in Internet chess, especially when you have played the French Exchange for the umpteenth time. There is no such thing as a boring or a drawish opening in Xiangqi.

As Xiangqi opening theory isn't essential, cheating is not a big issue. Xiangqi softwares are weaker than human players. They seem to pose no threat at all to Grandmasters. I don't know why it is so. I don't think the game is more complex. It could have to do with the ramification of variations, i.e. how the search tree looks, as it is not partitioned into smaller "opening universes". More importantly, there is always a tactical trap beyond the search horizon, since tactical traps are always present.

A feature of Internet chess is that some games are boring while some are engaging, it's up and down all the time. Games are engaging when they are well-played, especially when they are theoretically correct, and no player blunders. However, many games degenerate into dreary wood-chopping that is essentially meaningless as there is a lack of intellectual content, only the monotony of realizing a material advantage. This never happens in Xiangqi. A loss of a pawn in Xiangqi doesn't mean anything, and even if a player blunders a whole piece the game often continues, as there is no monotonous way of realizing a material advantage, but the player must resolve the problems by tactical measures. Sometimes you can blunder a whole rook. The tactical complexity is such that the opponent can miss out on one of the many tactical traps, and then you're back in the game. The conclusion is that the game is fun even if there has earlier been very bad play. The search after tactical finesses continues. There is no such thing as a boring game of Xiangqi. Monotony doesn't exist. However, the game can be accused of being superficial. Chess is much deeper.

I fear that Xiangqi will continue to expand on the Internet at the expense of chess, if Internet chess cannot transform and adapt. We must begin to differ between Internet chess and table chess. These two arenas endow chess with very different qualities. A suitable variant for Internet rapid chess should be developed; a variant, perhaps, that has some of the characteristics of Xiangqi. For instance, a Xiangqi pawn cannot be blocked. It might be enough to change the rule for the pawn, so that it cannot be blocked so easily, what contributes to the slow and strategical character of chess, so unsuitable for Internet rapid chess. Such a variant will not make Fide-chess obsolete. As a belligerent complement to drawish and strategical Fide-chess it will contribute to the popularity of chess. I have myself developed a few proposals on my chess homepage.

M. Winther
http://hem.passagen.se/melki9/chessvar.htm


Last edited by Mats Winther on Mon May 14, 2012 5:05 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:18 am 
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I propose the following rule change suitable for Internet rapid chess. If positioned on a knight- or a rook file a pawn can jump like a knight to an empty square, east-north-east or west-north-west. A condition is that the pawn is blocked by an enemy pawn. Compared with standard chess, this means that a flank pawn is sometimes endowed with an extra jump move, which increases its value only slightly. Hence the flanks cannot easily be blocked, something which greatly enhances attacking play.

There are three different variants of dynamic pawns. The pawn is endowed with the extra jump move to an empty square (1) if blocked anywhere on the file (2) if blocked on the 4th rank onwards (3) if blocked on the enemy side.

Image

The flank pawn can make the oblique jump move to an empty square if blocked. In an alternative variant the pawn can only make this jump move if blocked on the enemy side.

More information and a Zillions program is here:
http://hem.passagen.se/melki9/dynamicchess.htm


M. Winther


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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 7:19 am 
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This variant is a better suggestion, perhaps:
http://hem.passagen.se/melki9/valiantchess.htm

It can be played online:
http://www.chessvariants.org/index/msdi ... liantchess

Compared with chess, Xiangqi and Shogi overflow with tactics, which is why these games are never boring and monotonous. I am arguing that we are doing chess a disservice when we refuse to provide chess players with an alternative variant in which they can get an outlet for their creativity and tactical imagination. It would function as a complement to Fide-chess, and would serve to enrich chess, in order for it to remain popular.

/Mats


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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 8:41 am 
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Not sure I agree with this view of Internet chess. I play some `tournaments` on the Gameknot.com site, and these are different from OTB chess. There are pro`s & cons...
Typical pro`s are that you can play a great variety of opponents from across the globe, without incurring travel costs, and other costs...so its very convenient.
I`d like to find ways of integrating `web chess` with mainstream chess. First & most importantly would be grading. To produce a generalised grade for web players, that is recognised in mainstream chess circles would be good. This could enable thousands of web players to relate there playing standard to that of mainstream chess.
This might have the benefit of encouraging many web players to realise that they really are not bad players, and could consider playing OTB chess...league, or tournaments. Such grades would be treated as `estimates`, which could be used to give initial guidance to clubs or congresses. It might help encourage more take-up of mainstream chess.
There are zillions of web players...some player purely for fun/social/casual chess....many play what I`d call lunchtime casual chess....others play more seriously. There`s something for most tastes.
It intregues me to see some players who will have upto 100+ games running in parallel.....and no Game Fee`s? These are often the people who slow the tournaments down....some older tournaments have run for upto 5 years....not good. I have campaigned for changes to stop such excesses....
One of the discoveries I made was that web chess is not necessarily fast...many tournaments, where often hundereds of players will enter various graded sections, can actually run for months and even years. Typically a round can take upto 3 - 6 months in some tournaments. Noticably, in the higher rated events, the progress is noticably `slower`...
Yes, its a different sort of challenge (and I suspect there is a modicom of cheating by a few..), but it offers interesting features...a bit like postal chess in some ways, with the added feature that you can observe your opponents progress against other players....watching numerous games progress.
One problem is that it can become time consuming...running several games in parallel. Particularly in the middle game, you can get drawn into deep analysis, which is interesting, but can at times create the problem of the irrisistable force v the immovable object. When I feel this happening, I might consider a draw offer.
The problem with web chess, in some respects, is that it is `stop-start`, which can break concentration over a period. By the same token, there is the tendancy/danger to get `flippant` and impatient, and make that `hurried move`, which might frequently be flawed, and sometimes fatally so.
You flick onto the webpage and just spontaineously belt out a move...
But it also provides interesting challenges, trying to recover from difficult positions. Its amazing sometimes what you can come up with in `analysis`, when clock pressure is minimal....but it is present, particularly if you have several `difficlult` games in progress.
So, yes, I think the web scene has things to offer chess.
I was playing a Canadian recently, and we got `talking`, and I asked if he played OTB chess..
He said he lived in a small remote town of some 3000 inhabitants, and there was no chess club, nor a chess league...due to it being in a remote part of Canada (which is a huge place...).
No, we dont need to create a new game.... Chess is fine as it is...
Theres other games, like GO, Bridge, Backgammon, etc..etc..if players want something different.

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 8:53 am 
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Chess played on the internet is usually either postal in nature or blitz. So rather than devoting three hours to a single game, you play several, but 10 minutes each.

Servers nominally use a scale equivalent to the International Elo but as with all rating systems, they are vulnerable to inflation and manipulation.

Chess servers were amongst the earliest internet applications, pre-dating web-sites. So they've being running for approaching 20 years.

The big problem is that unless you trust your opponent, or have a third party present, the suspicion of cheating is never far away.


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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 11:03 am 
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I would say that for the vast majority of players, mainstream chess isn't "boring and monotonous" - but each to their own, as ever :wink:

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2012 7:45 pm 
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Until such time as the Dalai & Panchen Lamas (Carl & Paolo) graduate to chess variants - as opposed to variations - we here will just have to imagine the possibilities (of House of Flying Pawns & Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon chess) described by the 'Yellow Hat', Mats Winther. and remain in the traditional chess 'Red Hat' majority with Matt Mackenzie.
(For an introduction to the esoteric significance of these and other coloured hats search for 'hats' & Tibetan Buddhism.)

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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2012 5:05 am 
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Indeed, it would be a good idea to split chess into a rapid variant and a slow variant. Correspondence Chess (whether e-mail or postal) is another question, but I personally see no point in playing against someone who uses a strong chess software as second.

Rapid chess on Internet servers isn't very engaging in the long run, because chess isn't designed to be played at this rapid pace. With Xiangqi it works very fine, however. One is always presented with tactical problems, from the first to the last move. There is no monotonous wood-chopping, so it's suitable for rapid play. Rapid chess would be much more fun if the tactical vistas were to be opened up, although slow standard chess at amateur level is a different matter. In this Chessbase article series "Give up the sissy version – play Chinese chess!" prof. David H. Li expounds on his love of Xiangqi:
http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2455

Don't let yourself be fooled, chess is the superior game. The difference is that Xiangqi is never boring, because there are always clever little tactics, sometimes involving the cannon. Cannon tactics, unknown to Western chess players, is very peculiar. The conclusion is that Xiangqi is more rewarding when played over the Internet, with the exception of blitz and bullet games, which involve a race against the clock. Chess in this form is exciting but not very sophisticated.

Chess involves many standard methods, like realizing a passed pawn on a wing, thereby forcing the enemy king to hunt it down, whereupon you can enter his position, capture his pawns, advance your own pawn and promote to queen. Such methods don't exist in Xiangqi. You always have to figure out how to mate the other party before he mates you, with whatever little material there is left. Pawns don't promote.

Chess, when played rapidly, always boils down to standard methods of tactics, standard piece exchanges, standard mating methods, standard positional plans (taking control of an open file with the heavy pieces is a theme repeated over and over again). It is a matter of technique and opening knowledge. I admit that rapid chess is slightly fun, but Xiangqi is much more exciting when played over the Internet, because one cannot apply monotonous standard techniques. A player who tries, will lose immediately. You always have to be on your guard.

Chess is deep and must be played deeply. However, since chess is so extremely methodical, it also lends itself to blitz and bullet games. It occupies the extremes, that is. Xiangqi is not really suited for blitz and bullet games, unless you are extremely skilled. There are too many exacting moves to be done. Too a high-degree chess can be played with the auto-pilot switched on. This is not possible with Xiangqi. But when chess is played with the auto-pilot you soon get tired of the wood-chopping, although there is a nice combination now and then.

The gist of my idea is to introduce a variant that is closer to Xiangqi, hence more tactically vital, to function as a complement to Fide-chess. Fide-chess is really designed to be played slowly. Among the majority of players, it degenerates into superficial wood-chopping when played rapidly.

M. Winther


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