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Deviants take note: on 4 January in Hastings, the British Chess Variants Society was formed and a new respectability was created for the previously disorganised world of deviant forms of chess.

The various fields of interest of the new society are well illustrated in its own journal "Variant Chess" which appears four times a year (subscription pounds 8.00). The current issue contains articles on Losing Chess, where the object is to lose all your pieces, where the rules specify mandatory capturing, Cylinder Chess, where you play on a normal board but imagine it wound round into a cylinder with the a-file and h-file joined, and Progressive Chess in which White plays one move, then Black two, White three and so on. No checks allowed before the final move of any.

Like most chess fanatics, I had played all these versions when I was at school, but never realised how much they had been analysed and developed as valid forms of the game. Here are some examples of the sort of things deviancy can offer that straight chess cannot. First, a game of Losing Chess won by a computer program.


Black: R Salvadori

1 e3 b5 2 Bxb5 c6 3 Bxc6 Nxc6 4 b4 Nxb4 5 a4 Nxc2 6 Qxc2 Qc7? (the losing move!) 7 Qxc7 Rb8 8 Qxd7 Rxb1 9 Rxb1 Kxd7 10 Rb7 and Black resigned because of 10...Bxb7 11.Ke2 Bxg2 12.Bb2 Bxh1 13.Bxg7 Bxg7 14.e4 Bxe4 15.d4 Bxd4 16.Kd2 Bxf2 17.Nf3 Bxf3 18.Kd1 Bxd1 19.h3 Bxa4 20.h4.

Apparently, 1.e3 is thought to be the best opening move (all other moves of central pawns have been shown to lead to a forced loss), though 1.b3, 1.b4, 1.g3 and 1.g4 are also well considered.

For real deviation, however, I can recommend Progressive Cylinder Chess. Try this game - remember, the number of moves per player goes up by one each time, and the edges of the boards are joined so, for example, the f1-h3 diagonal continues along a4 to e8.

White: G Cornacchini

Black: G P Jelliss

1 g4 2 g5, Bxd2+; (the bishop emerges seamlessly from h6 to a5 and continues on its way) 3 Bxd2, Ba4, Bxf7+;

4 Kxf7, Nf6, Ne4, Nxd2;

5 Qxd2, Qxd7, Qxc8, Qxd8, Kd2; 6 h5, hxg4, g3, gxf2, fxg1=Q, Rxd8+;

7 Kc3, Na3, Nb5, Nxc7, Raxg1, Rf1 mate.

For further information about the British Chess Variants Society, contact GP Jelliss, Top.Floor, 63 Eversfield Place, St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex, TN37 6DB.