Where I did put some effort into chess was in problems. The idea that people could put together puzzles to be solved caught my attention for a little while longer than chess itself did. Trying to work which moves to make to force checkmate focused my attention.
What really caught my attention was fairy chess and fairy chess problems. My copy of Five Classics of Fairy Chess by T.R. Dawson is well worn and well read. Somehow it really helps that chess problems be presented in a barely post-victorian manner.
What is fairy chess you ask? Well... chess is a game played by a set of rules. Some so basic we take them for granted.
- There is a board of a certain size. 64 squares in a square with 8 rows and 8 columns.
- There are certain number of certain pieces that move in certain specific ways with specific abilities and limitations. The knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces.
- The moves themselves alternate between white and black. Each player moves one piece on their turn. (With the exception of castling).
- Capturing is performed by moving one of your pieces on top of one of your opponent's pieces.
- There is a fixed goal - to win and not to lose. This forces the rule that kings can't be moved into mate.
All of these rules are well known and well understood. This is what chess is. But what if you decided to change one or more of those basic rules? After all they are just conventions and rules of the official game of chess.
That's where fairy chess comes in. The term fairy is meant as in whimsical or a flight of fancy. Chess problems with altered rules and expectations are sometimes just called fairies. Fairy chess tends to focus on chess problems in which the rules have been changed. What changes can be made? Pretty much take the list above and tweak it.
- Change the size of the board. Limit the squares that can be used in the problem.
- Add new pieces with new moves and abilities. From grasshoppers to nightriders, from generalized leapers to all sorts of exotica.
- There are problems called helpmates where your goal is to help your opponent put you in mate as soon as possible.
And the list goes on and on. As I mentioned fairy chess was, and still is, interested in chess problems. Altering chess itself to give a slightly new game also has a long history. The two seem to overlap a great deal. What one person calls a variant another may call a form of fairy chess.
If you want to explore many variants with new boards, pieces, and rules, the best place to go is The Chess Variant Pages. Start at the main index page and start exploring. There is 3D chess, one dimensional chess, recognized variants, and so much more. I apologize in advance if you end up spending hours looking into and then trying variant after variant. Have fun.