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Half-Shogi Chess, or Pawn Drop Chess

One of the problems often adduced to the game of Chess is that there are too many draws. I have been informed that the modern game of Shogi has very few draws. This might be because a player who obtains an advantage in material by capturing an opponent's piece now has a much larger advantage than in the Western conventional game of Chess, because he now has a piece in hand that can be re-entered on the board.

Adding drops to the conventional Western game of Chess, while not including the other feature of Shogi, most pieces promoting when they reach the far end of the board but not necessarily the last rank, has been done.

The 3M Corporation produced a commercial game, Neo-Chess, with special pieces adapted to being flipped over for use by either player, and yet which stood up on the board like conventional Western chess pieces. (It was intended to publish this game as a member of 3M's line of Bookshelf Games, which already included the Chess variant of Ploy, under the different name of Mad Mate, but that had not happened.) Games with basically the same rules were known as Chessgi and Drop Chess. Because the promotion rules were not changed from those of standard Chess, a former Pawn remained in its promoted state after being captured, unlike the case in Shogi. (There had also been forms of Chess in which a captured piece is placed on the board immediately after the capturing move, and forms where it could only be returned to the board on one of the starting squares of that piece type, such as Replacement Chess and Reinforcement Chess.)

An old rule of Chess, still sometimes seen in informal play, but not one of the actual rules of Chess as it is currently played, is that a player can only promote one of his Pawns to a piece of his that had already been captured. The purpose of this rule, of course, is to facilitate neat, tidy play with one ordinary Chess set, since Chess sets generally do not include extra pieces for use in promotion.

It seems to me, though, that this in effect rewards a player for having his pieces captured, and it would make more sense to allow promotion to a piece captured from one's opponent. Except, of course, Chess pieces can't change color.

Thus, I was thinking that if one had a set of Chess pieces adapted to a version of Chess with drops like Shogi, it could also be used for a form of the game that does not go all the way to adopting drops as they are used in Shogi. Instead, one might only get to re-enter captured pieces when one promotes a Pawn, by promoting it to a captured piece.

That, in itself, would not change Chess too radically, however. If one in addition allowed captured Pawns to be placed on the board, instead of moving a piece in a turn, but only on one's own back rank, while this wouldn't usually allow one to give check with a dropped piece, it would still move the game in the direction of Shogi.

I think it would also be appropriate to have the rule that one could not escape check through interposition of a dropped Pawn, although this is the opposite of the case in Shogi. A more general rule, that if a piece is en prise, and a dropped Pawn on the back rank, the only drop permitted in this game, interposes, then the Pawn can be ignored, in analogy to the en passant capture rule is what I propose in this game; this makes interposing to a check an illegal move, since it leaves the King still in check.

Equipment for the Game

Also, I had the idea that each player might have eight pieces, both players having pieces of the same color (perhaps of clear glass or plastic), and sixteen disks such as are used in Reversi, so that a disk by itself is a Pawn of the color it indicates, as well as a disk giving color to a piece placed on it. With that type of equipment, capturing a piece means that one gains both a piece to which to promote a Pawn, and a Pawn to drop on one's back rank. Also, certain complications resulting from allowing players to drop Pawns removed from the board by being promoted as well are avoided.

Further reflection has led me to a clearer notion of the type of equipment which would lend itself to the desired game.

I propose now that there would be two sets of Chess pieces and pawns made of clear plastic, with a U-shaped grooved opening in the base.

Each player would have one set, along with sixteen disks. The shape of the disks would be that of three disks stacked together in a centered fashion, with a slightly larger disk in the middle. The larger disk would align the Chess piece or Pawn in which the disk is placed, and would allow the disk, rather than the piece, to rest on the chessboard. But this construction wouldn't be necessary if the disk were to be inside the piece rather than under it.

Each player would have eight disks completely of his own color, placed in his pieces, and eight reversible disks, black on one side, and white on the other, which he would place with his color on the top in his Pawns.

Thus, Pawn promotion would take place as follows: one takes the non-reversible disk out of the captured piece, and places the reversible disk from one's own Pawn in that piece to create a piece of one's own color to put on the board.

A captured Pawn can be dropped on the board, because the disk in a Pawn is reversible.

Since the Pawns also now have a clear plastic component, does that mean the fact that when one captures a promoted piece, one gains an extra reversible disk, ought not to let one drop an extra Pawn on the board? No, because the problem still exists from the leftover clear plastic Pawns from Pawn promotion. This clarifies what really needs to be done. All the disks can be reversible, so as to limit the amount of additional equipment needed to play Reversi, but when a Pawn is promoted, the Pawn would need to be placed back in the box instead of being kept with a player's captured Pawns.

And with that rule, the game could also be played with directly reversible pieces, rahter than requiring pieces with two components.

Note also that there is no reason why this could not be applied to Progressive Systematic Random Variant Chess, combining a solution to the problem of opening theory to a solution to the problem of draws.

As rules have been given on the previous page for Spectral Realm Random Variant Chess, that too might be combined to enlarge the board and give the game three-dimensionality, yielding Half-Shogi Spectral Realm Progressive Systematic Random Variant Chess, for example.

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