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A friend challenged me to a chess variation I have never heard of.

  • All chess rules apply.
  • If you have an opportunity to take a piece, you must take it, you cannot avoid or block exchanges.
  • The only piece that cannot be taken is the king and there's no checkmate but you can check the king, and you can castle.
  • The strategy is to force your opponent to take all your pieces.
  • The winner is the one who has no pieces on board except the king.

Questions:

  1. Have you ever heard of this variation before? What is it called? Is it formally recognized like Chess960?
  2. I played black and lost all the matches. Does White have a decisive advantage since he can play d4 followed by Bh6, and losing a piece and stay ing one move ahead? This variation does not seem fair because it looks like a race to lose everything, hence White will win the race by force every time.
  3. If it exists and have a community, what are the main tactics and strategies, especially when playing black?
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I played black and lost all the matches. Does white have a decisive advantage since he can play d4 followed by bh6 and lose a piece and stay one move ahead?

According to Dr Mark Watkins of The University of Sydney, losing chess has been solved and White can force a win with 1. e3:

The move 1. e3 has been solved as a win for White under both FICS and International Rules. The final leg was actually much easier than expected, as I wasted around a year on false leads. In fact, the not-too-deep idea 1. e3 b6 2. a4 e6 3. Ra3 Bxa3 4. Nxa3 Qh4 5. a5 bxa5 6. Qh5! leads to some queen races where White just needs a bit deeper search to show a good score

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  • sorry i meant d3 or e3 but even then white doesn't have to take the pawn – Lynob Oct 5 '16 at 12:12
  • Hi @Lynob. Could you post a sample variation that was played. 1. d3 h6 2. Bxh6 gxh6 looks good for Black to me. – user1108 Oct 5 '16 at 12:29
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I suppose this chess variation is called Anti-chess. You can also play it online on lichess.com, chess.com(new version).

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  • it's not exactly anti-chess in that the king keeps a special status, which it has not on lichess – Nikana Reklawyks Oct 28 '16 at 9:26
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The variation I used to play is suicide chess, where the king can be captured. I have not heard of your variation though

Answers To Your Questions:

  • No, Chess960 is when both sides start with identical starting pieces but the pieces on the 1st and 8th files have been scrambled.
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1

Yes, I have played this variant before. This was a common game my family played when I was a kid, and we still play it now and then. We had slightly different rules about the king- it was just a normal piece for us, that could be captured and capture just like any other piece. I think that helped to balance the game somewhat, and was a slightly more equal variant than what you have described.

Wikipedia also describes this variant. It has many names, the ones I have seen most commonly are Takeaway Chess and Antichess. It is described on Wikipedia with the same version of the rules I have described (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Losing_chess), and a bit of the game's history and strategies. Wikipedia also claims that it has been weakly solved as winning for white with 1. e3. Thus, it has been proven that white always wins, but every line has not been calculated for the forced win (if this makes no sense, you can read about the different ways games can be solved here). However, since no one can memorize the number of potential lines required to win it, you can still play it and be competitive in your games with your friend.

Furthermore, Wikipedia provides several other lists of rulesets for this variant that are less common but still played in some local areas. Yours is one of them, so I would assume that your friend got this from an area where that version of the variant was played.

I have seen Antichess on chess.com, on the 4 player chess server. It is not currently among their standard 2-player-chess variants, perhaps because it has indeed been solved and wackos who wanted to get crazy ratings would be able to use computer help much more easily, or just memorize a bunch of winning lines. I agree with their evaluation of there not being much use of putting it in the 2PC variants, but the 4PC variant is quite fun, and has not been solved as an extra bonus. :)

It occurred to me after writing the above paragraph that Lichess has this among their 2PC variants- in fact, I checked and it is apparently their most popular variant- even more than Chess960. So I guess it can work in 2PC online. I'm pretty sure that while it's not recognized by FIDE or anything, being on Lichess and chess.com indicates that it is a major part of the chess community. Many other variants, like Chess960 have gained steam in local clubs, online, and in mid-level tournaments, before getting recognized as a real thing by FIDE. I don't think that will happen with Takeaway Chess, since it's already solved, but it still seems to have a sizeable community.

As for strategies as Black, you can read the Wikipedia article I already cited for deeper analysis and other references, but I'll summarize some stuff here.:

As black, the variation that is the hardest to play against as white is the Liardet Defense, which is 1. e3 b6. This makes the game take a very long time, and can send the game into an endgame, which are much more ferociously complicated than normal chess endgames, and can for all practical purposes make the game a coin toss when the game is played between two not-Magnus-Carlsen-level players. Thus, I would suggest that you try to figure out how to get into an endgame, which should actually be far more complicated than the middlegame, where there are more pieces on the board, counterintuitive though it may seem.

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