Calvin’s Commentaries: Alice Chess

In terms of board games, few offer the long term interest that chess has.

There is depth to the game which allows players to get better with experience, and anytime you can improve your skills at something, you tend to want to try to do just that.

It helps too that chess is a game that has spawned hundreds of variants, games where someone has tweaked the rules to create a different game experience. Some of the tweaks are minor and easily learned. Pocket Knight Chess comes to mind, to others where players need extensive expertise, and much time to learn, which is a bit more devotion to a variant than I generally want to give.

In that regard, I do appreciate when some designer has been able to take the familiar game of chess that most of us know at least a little, and while leaving the core pieces making their standard moves, adds a rule or two, and creates a worthwhile new chess experience.

One of the more-interesting of that class of variant is Alice Chess.

Alice chess was invented in 1953 by V. R. Parton.

Parton was an English chess enthusiast and prolific chess variant inventor with many of his variants inspired by the fictional characters and stories in the works of Lewis Carroll, so include Tweedle chess, Dodo chess, Cheshire Cat Chess and others.

While creating several variants, it is Alice Chess, named after the main character ‘Alice’ in Lewis Carroll‘s work Through the Looking-Glass, which has garnered the greatest favor and has the greatest following.

Alice Chess is intriguing in that it employs two chessboards with only a slight, but important change to the standard rules of chess. The game draws on the aspect of Through the Looking Glass where Alice is transported through the mirror into an alternate world which is portrayed on the chessboards by the after-move transfer of chess pieces between the two boards.

So the rule is straight forward. Move a piece on a board of your choice, but the piece moved jumps to the other board, where the square must be open, to facilitate the move.

As simple as a transfer rule is, it takes some time to get your head around as a player. Normal strategies for defending your king go out the window, and in attacking you must consider two boards as a running king pops from one board to the other with any move.

The game, for having the same movement as regular chess, does come off as a very new experience. The game tends to be quicker than regular chess, likely in part to not having the experience to plan ahead as much. In that regard, you have to avoid getting too into thinking through moves too much or the game could bog down.

This is one that chess players should at least try as it offers something unique without having to learn a range of new rules. Grab your chess set, an extra board that we all tend to have, and go exploring through the looking glass.

Thanks to Adam Daniels for spending time exploring this game with me.


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