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I ask about the exact rules for the chess variant known as pawn wars. The starting position contains only pawns which move exactly like in chess and the first to promote wins.

[FEN "8/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/8 w - - 0 1"]
[Title "The first to promote wins"]

But it should also be stated how to evaluate the end result when the side to move has no legal moves left. Is it lost or stalemated? I have been thinking about this game for years as a study tool for beginners but also as a philosophical research project into the game of chess for advanced players. I have found it recommended on several websites by kid educators.

I would like to write an engine to play this game but I cannot make up my mind on the best statement of the rules to maximize its practical relationship to chess. Are there any guidelines by experienced educators or existing environments to play this game? Any ideas how and why to fix the rules?

  • Can you expand on the situations that you find problematic and the different rules you are considering? – hkBst May 27 '16 at 7:22
  • A blocked position should be drawn or won by the side which has made the last move? We could go for a zugzwang game or for a stalemate game so to speak. – DrCapablasker May 27 '16 at 7:24
  • When we go for stalemate in a blocked position then what to do when one side has a passed pawn on its way to promotion while the weaker side has run out of moves (blocked pawns or no pawns left). Is it still a draw? – DrCapablasker May 27 '16 at 7:26
  • I do not think it matters a whole lot, but off the top of my head I think I prefer not being able to make a move to be an instant loss. – hkBst May 27 '16 at 7:31
  • My previous comment is specifically about the situation when both players have no more moves. When only one player has no more moves then that should definitely be a loss for that player. – hkBst May 27 '16 at 7:36
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A situation like this, with Black to move, is a win for White:

[FEN "8/8/8/3pP3/3P4/8/8/8 w - - 0 1"]

Why? Well consider the case where White has been skillful enough to take all of Black's pawns and promotes easily. By definition, Black has no legal moves. From a training game we do not want to teach that losing all material leads to a forced draw. That would be a poor lesson to learn for building a knowledge of King and Pawn endings on.

A note on passing. It seems that to implement this in a program, a player with no legal moves is forced to 'pass', just in case a situation arises that allows the 'stalemated' side to have a legal move later on.

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