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Tips :: Playing "Wild" Chess Variants

ICC offers a number of chess variants. All of them are grouped under the rating category of wild, except for bughouse, which has its own rating category. Some of the variants have their own rules, such as losers chess, bughouse, and kriegspiel. Others are material odds-games. The rest are played under normal chess rules, but with a different starting position.

To send out a seek request for a wild games, use seek time inc w#. For example, for a 5 minute w17 game, use seek 5 0 w17.
Actually, for losers, kriegspiel, and bughouse, instead of using the wild number, you can specify the type of game by using the name in match commands (not seeks). For example, match wendigo 5 12 kriegspiel.

There are best lists and rankings maintained for wild ratings. To see the top wild players, use: best w. To see your wild rank among active players, use wildrank. Also, you can use wildrank player to show the wild rank of player.

Channel 89 is a channel devoted to the ICC Wild Bunch. To join it, use +ch 89.

Losers Chess -- Wild 17

Currently, the most popular chess variant on ICC is "losers chess" where the object is to lose all your pieces, or get mated. Captures are compulsory--if it is possible for you to make a capture, you must. If you have more than one capture available, you can choose which to make. The king retains its function--it can't be captured, and checks must be honored. If you try to make a non-capture when you have a capture possible, ICC will indicate that you made an illegal move, even though the move appears to be legal. Read the ICC help file "help wild17" for more information.
In addition, there is a special Wild 17 channel, channel 117. Use +ch 117 to join the channel Also, there is a tournament series for wild 17 players, the League of Losers. Read the ICC helpfile "help LOL" for more information.

Giveaway Chess -- Wild 26

Giveaway is similar Loser's: you must capture if you can, and the object is to lose all your pieces or to have no moves left. But in Giveaway, the king is just like any other piece; it can move into check and be captured, and you can even promote pawns to kings. See help Giveaway.

Bughouse -- Wild 24

Bughouse is a four player chess variant. It is also known as "siamese chess," "partners chess," or "double speed chess." Teams of two play against each other, on two boards. When a player captures a piece on one board, it is "passed" to his partner on the other board. On any given move, you can either make a normal move, or "drop" a piece. You can only drop pieces that you have in hand, from your partner's captures.

To play bughouse, you need to first find a partner. The command to use is partner player. There is a special bughouse channel, channel 24. Use +ch 24 to join the channel. This is the best place to try to find a partner, or potential opponents. Also, the bugwho command lists all current bughouse teams, and players seeking partners. To place your name on the list seeking partners, use the command set wild 24. To remove yourself from that list, use set wild 0. Bughouse games have their own rating category; rating changes are based on the ratings of all four players involved.

When you are playing, it is advisable to also observe your partner's board. Use set unobserve 0 and follow partner. Pieces that a player has available to drop will be shown on the side of the board. Simply drag the piece from the side of the board to the square where you want to drop it.

For more information about bughouse, read the ICC help files "help bughouse" and "help bug-pointers". The latter gives some useful information about bughouse strategy. King safety becomes paramount. Dropped pieces can lead to long, sacrificial attacks, almost out of nowhere. Also, communication between partners is key. The team that can control the timing of exchanges will often win the game. The team that is ahead on the clock also has a strong advantage. To facilitate communcation, the ICC command ptell message will send message to your partner.

Crazyhouse -- Wild 23

Crazyhouse (wild 23) is like two-player Bughouse. When you capture a piece, it becomes a piece of your color that you can place later. On your turn, you can either make an ordinary chess move, or place one of the pieces in your holding (e.g. "N@g5"). You can't put pawns on the first or eighth rank. Promoted pawns revert to pawns upon being captured. You can drop in check or checkmate. See help Giveaway.

Kriegspiel -- Wild 16

Kriegspiel is a chess variant where you cannot see your opponent's pieces or moves, and he/she cannot see yours. Therefore, you have to guess where your opponent's pieces are, to plan your strategy. The server will tell if you if a move is illegal, and you will have to try a different move. Also, the server will inform you if you are in check, and what type of check it is. Also, if it is possible for you to make a pawn capture, the server will inform you. You can type px to make it, if you only have one. To play kriegspiel well, it's important to keep track of how many pieces you have captured, and try to find the location of your opponent's pieces, especially the king! Be aware of early mate possibilities, too.
There is a special ICC kriegspiel channel, channel 116. Use +ch 116 to join it.

Note -- kriegspiel should be played with a long time control, with increment, because timestamp will not compensate for moves where you need to wait for the server to tell you your move was an illegal one.

Atomic Chess -- Wild 27

In this variant, whenever there's a capture, all pieces (but not pawns) in a one-square radius are also destroyed. You may not make a move that would destroy your own king. Check and checkmate are not recognized; just capture or destroy your opponent's king. See help atomic.

Shatranj -- Wild 28

Shatranj is an ancient precursor to chess. There are 'Elephants' instead of bishops. An Elephant (also called Alfil) only can move exactly two squares on a diagonal, but can do so whether or not there is a piece in the way. Instead of the mighty queen, there is a 'Fers' (also called Counselor or General). A Fers can only move one square diagonally. Castling is not possible, and pawns are not allowed to make a double-step on their first move. When a pawn reaches the last rank, it promotes, but only to a Fers. The King is on the d-file and not the e-file in the initial position. The game is won if you (a) checkmate your opponent, (b) stalemate your opponent or (c) take the last non-king piece of your opponent. In this last case (bare king), however, your opponent is allowed to make one more move and if he can take your last non-king piece as well, the game is a draw. See help Shatranj.

Three Checks and You Win -- Wild 25

A simple game...just check your opponent three times, and you win! A double-check only counts as one.

Shuffle Chess -- Wild 1 to Wild 4

Wild variants 1 through four are shuffle chess -- the initial arrangement of the pieces is determined by the server. The "randomness" of the position varies, depending on the wild type:

  • Wild 1 -- The standard set of pieces is used. The white king starts on e1 or d1; the black king starts on e8 or d8. Rooks are in their usual position, and castling is allowed. Bishops are always on opposite colors.
  • Wild 2 -- The standard set of pieces is arranged randomly on the first and eighth ranks. Black's arrangement always mirrors white's. Castling is not allowed.
  • Wild 3 -- The set of pieces is randomly chosen and arranged (one king per side, of course). Black's arrangement always mirrors white's. Castling is not allowed.
  • Wild 4 -- The set of pieces is randomly chosen and arranged, subject to the constraint that the bishops must be balanced. Black's arrangement does not necessarily mirror white's. Castling is not allowed.

Fischer Random Chess -- Wild 22

This is also a type of shuffle chess, and was invented by Bobby Fischer. The usual set of pieces is arranged randomly on the first and eighth ranks, with bishops on opposite colors, and the king between the two rooks, and Black's arrangement a mirror of White's. Castling O-O puts the king at g1 (g8 for Black), the rook at f1 (f8). Castling O-O-O puts the king at c1 (c8), rook at d1 (d8). See help Fischer-random.

Odds Chess -- w10 to w14

ICC offers several wild variants for practicing "odds" chess.

  • Wild 10 -- handicap of pawn & move
  • Wild 11 -- handicap of knight
  • Wild 12 -- handicap of rook
  • Wild 13 -- handicap of queen
  • Wild 14 -- handicap of rook (a-pawn on a3)
Odds games cannot be played rated. ICC also allows you to play time-odds games. For more information, read the ICC help file "help odds-games".

The Rest

All the other wilds follow the same rules of normal chess, but have a different starting position.

Wild 5

The starting position may look normal, but actually, the board is reversed. Your pieces are on the 8th rank, and your pawns on the 7th, only one move away from promotion! As a result, the only legal moves to start are knight moves. Don't be confused about when it's your turn. Your pieces will start out on the opposite side of the board from you. Some players find it easier to use flip and have their pieces on their side, but their clock on the opposite.
Warning: don't fall for a quick 3 move checkmate! Your pawns don't protect the central squares, remember.

Wild 5 Starting Position
Wild 7

Here, both sides start out with a king and three pawns. Since the pawns can't interact with each other, only your king can be used to stop your opponent's pawns, and vice-versa. The game usually hinges on who can stop their opponent's pawns, but keep their own pawns from being stopped.

Wild 7 Starting Position
Wild 8

The starting position is the normal position, but the pawns start on the 4th rank, instead of the 2nd. After the usual early pawn captures, the position is apt to become wide open.

Wild 8 Starting Position
Wild 9

Wild 9 is one of the more unusual wild variants. Instead of the usual king bishop, you start out with 2 kings! One king is just a normal piece, while the other is the one that must be checked and mated. However, their roles can change, as the game progresses! As you sweep the board from the bottom left, starting with a1 to a8, then b1 to b8, etc. until h8, the first king that you reach is the one that must be mated. The second king (if it is still on the board) is just a normal piece.

Wild 9 Starting Position
Wild 18

Power chess! Both sides start out with 7 queens, instead of the usual pieces.

Wild 18 Starting Position
Wild 19

This is a very tricky endgame. King, Knight, Knight vs. King & Pawn. Normally, KNN isn't able to force mate, but by stalemating the king, and forcing black to make pawn moves, mate can be forced!

Wild 19 Starting Position

Loadgame & Thematics -- Wild 20 & 21

ICC offers two special types of wild, for playing from a specified position. Wild 20 allows you to use the loadgame command to specify the starting position. Or, you can specify the position with the loadfen command, which uses FEN notation. See the help file "help loadfen" and "help loadgame" for more information.

There are several computers run by ICC that take advantage of the loadgame command to allow you to practice special positions. There are 4 endgame computers, KQkr(C), KQkn(C), KRkn(C), and KBNk(C) that allow you to practice some tricky endgames. They use endgame tablebases, so they will put up perfect defense! Also, they will let you know how close you are to succeeding, via the kibitz command. They will also allow takebacks and give hints. See their finger notes on ICC for more information. Use the ICC command play kqkr to play KQkr, for example.

Wild 20 can be played rated, but it's not recommended. Your opponent could conceivably load any position on move 1, including completely unfair ones. You can use abort on move 1 to abort a game immediately.

Wild 21 is a special variant of wild 20. It is used for the Thematic tournaments. These are tournaments where the opening is pre-arranged. The opening that will be used is the one that is currently stored in thematic %0. To see this position, use spos thematic %0. This will generally be changed from week to week by the Thematic tournament managers.

Random Wild -- Wild 29

Selects another wild variant at random, but not one of the odds games. It weights the more interesting games somewhat more. The game will be rated in the category of the wild selected (if the game is a rated game).