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The Second Problem: White's Advantage

While even just providing some partial credit for stalemate may in itself help matters, it was noted as we examined extending the system to several other forms of minor victory that this was simply a prerequisite to making the end-results of Chess games finely-grained enough to apply something analogous to komidashi to them.

Of course, the advantage of the first move is not necessarily a major problem in itself. After all, in Chess matches and tournaments, players alternate colors.

In Go, while games end with one player controlling a certain number of points more than the other player, at the end, after komidashi is applied, a game is still a win for one player or the other. By giving partial credit for minor victories, games of Chess would now have multiple different outcomes that are less widely separated, so the chance that instead of one outcome happening so often as to become boring, at least two different outcomes could result frequently.

So, if it happened, for example, that under the system of scoring outlined on the previous page, that games tended to end most of the time with White winning by either bare King or perpetual check, then matches would still be exciting and suspenseful as the more able player managed to win by bare King instead of just by perpetual check more often.

Other ways than some sort of transformed version of komidashi, of course, exist to equalize the situations of the players with the White and Black pieces respectively. One way to do this would be to deprive White, on his first move only, of the option of moving a Pawn two steps forwards. The availability of N-KB3 (Nf3) as an opening, and the viability of openings such as P-K3 (e3) and P-Q3 (d3) for White, however, mean that this is unlikely to be sufficient to provide the needed balance.

In pursuit of an exact balance between White and Black, I have proposed a chess variant which I have called Temporary Marsellais Chess; this is now discussed on a later page.

One scheme I've proposed on another page is derived from the basic notion of taking away the privilege of moving a pawn forwards two steps from White's first move:

This is more balanced than the simple plan of denying White the two-step Pawn move on his first move, I think. But I would be reluctant to take this step, as it would prohibit a large number of standard Chess openings.

The example of Korean Chess, however, suggests another method of reducing the advantage White has due to having the first move.

Give each player the option of rearranging his pieces as follows:

However, White must position his pieces first, and then Black gets to position his pieces however he wants subject to the above constraints after White has committed to a setup.

Because of the importance of placing Bishops on opposite colors, this was the best approximation I could make for conventional Chess of the rearrangement privilege in Korean Chess, but with the order in which the players rearrange their men reversed. The number of possible arrangements is much smaller than those of Chess 360; the possible arrangements when the King is left on his conventional starting square are:


...exactly eight of them.

Therefore, there are only 128 meaningfully distinct arrangements of the whole board, with the 128 reflections of those arrangements also possible unless White is not allowed to shift his King, as noted above.

Note that since the Rooks are not moved, and the King is always on one of the central two squares, Castling is unaffected.

In Korean chess, the player with the Blue pieces always moves first, and the player with the Red pieces moves second. Before the game starts, the Red player can choose to switch the two pieces which correspond to the Bishop and the Knight on either or both sides of the board as he chooses, and after he does so, the Blue player can then rearrange his pieces in the same manner.

This may give the appearance of somewhat balancing the advantage to Blue of having the first move, because while Blue moves first, here Red acts first.

However, it seems to me that the player who gets to arrange his pieces after the other player is committed to a certain arrangement is more likely to be the one who gains an advantage, since it is more likely that a particular arrangement of the pieces might have an advantage through being an effective response to the opponent's arrangement than an intrinsic advantage present in all cases.

I know that an analogous argument has been presented to claim that Black has the advantage in Chess, since by responding to White's choice of first move, Black has a greater influence on the character of the opening.

But the general belief that White has the advantage seems to be borne out by experience. In my opinion, the counterargument to this claim for Black's advantage is that no one general type of opening is so superior for either Black or White that it outweighs the major objective of being well-situated in whatever opening is being played through correct play. And, in this, by having an extra move, White has an advantage because his pieces will, other things being equal, tend to be more fully developed than Black's.

In the case of the rearrangement of the pieces at the beginning of a game of Korean Chess, the player who rearranges his pieces first, unlike the player who moves first, doesn't, as a result, get to have changed the board position more than his opponent at any turn during the actual game.

Thus, the only difference between the two players is that Blue was able to rearrange his pieces while better informed than Red was; so, having Red rearrange his pieces first increases Blue's advantage rather than decreasing it.

Chess 128

A third option, which I will term Chess 128, might be this: since the first option of restricting White's first pawn move decreases the number of openings, while having different initial arrangements for the pieces increases the number of the openings, one could choose one of the possible 128 arrangements of the board at random in addition to restricting White's first pawn move in the manner described. (Note that in this case, the references to a "Knight's Pawn" and a "Bishop's Pawn" are to be taken as referring to the Pawns in front of the original conventional starting squares for the Bishops and Knights, not those in front of those pieces in their actual positions in the current selected arrangement.)

In that case, as with Chess 360 and similar variants, once an arrangement has been chosen, players would play games in groups of two with the same arrangement, once with colors reversed.

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