Thursday 17 September 2020

Damn the torpedoes

 A new paper on chess variants is creating a bit of buzz in the chess world. It is a joint research paper between the Alpha Zero team and Vladimir Kramnik, and investigates what effects changing the rules of chess have on the game.

To do this they let Alpha Zero learn how to play 11 different variants and then looked at things like win/draw/loss rates and whether the rule changes actually changed how the game was played (ie how often a 'special' move was utilised)

After a quick scan of the paper, a couple of things stood out. Firstly, when chess engines of equal strength play each other, lots of draws occur. Secondly, almost all the rule changes increased White's winning advantage, especially 'Torpedo Chess', where pawns could 'double move' at any time. This rule change resulted in the most number of decisive games, even beating out 'stalemate = win'.

The paper is available here and apart from the technical findings, contains a number of annotated games for each variant.

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