When I first heard of this variant, my immediate thought was something like “What? How can you violate the fundamental chess idea? The beauty of chess is in absolutely no random factor involved!”. Well, you can, and it is actually a great way to have fun, even if a master plays with a beginner. It’s precisely the random thing that helps even the odds.
Before we go through a sample game, let’s outline the rules of this variant.
- Take the king: There is no check or checkmate, it is allowed to move the king to a square attacked by the opponent’s piece. The goal is to capture the opponent’s king, which means to capture it like any other piece. Even a king can capture the other king.
- Roll the number: A six-sided die is rolled for every move. The number determines which piece can be used to make the move. 1 – pawn, 2 – knight, 3 – bishop, 4 – rook, 5 – queen, 6 – king. If it’s not possible to make a legal move with the particular piece, the player rolls again.
- Promote pawns: If a pawn is to be promoted (would advance to the last row), the player can move it even if the die does not show 1. However, he can only promote it to the piece chosen by the die roll – for example, if 3 is rolled, the pawn can be promoted to a bishop only. If 1 is rolled, the pawn can be promoted to any piece.
When played over-the-board, players usually roll the die several times before they can make a move. The initial position is a good example, as only pawns and knights are mobile, so the player keeps rolling until getting 1 or 2. This isn’t necessary when the game is handled by an application or a server that does all operations in the background, and only informs the player about the result.
To make it simpler, you and your opponent can agree that there are special rules for the first move – any odd number means a pawn, while any even number is a knight. And yes, if you have only a king left, no rolling is required.
Very well, let’s play! This time, I cannot take advantage of the otherwise great RPB Chessboard plugin to display interactive links, as it fails on “invalid PGN” due to the “no check” rule. But it’s not a big issue, I will comment the old-fashioned way.
1. ♘c3 (White rolled 2 and decided to pursue the easiest line in this variant – ♘c3-d5-c7-e8 to capture the king in the end. Of course, this can only work if they keep rolling deuces, while Black’s own rolls won’t allow them to capture the knight or move the king.)
1. … ♞a6 (And it is 2 for Black as well. They can follow a similar pattern – ♞a6-b5-c2-e1 – or stay on a6 to cover c7, as it increases the chance to capture the white knight.)
2. h4 (The die showed 1, so it’s a pawn to make a move with. Note that the rook on a1 became mobile after the first move, so the set of valid rolls now contains 1, 2, and 4. White chose the h-pawn to keep the options limited, as the pawn only frees the other rook.)
2. … h5 (As Black rolled 1 too, they decided to block the White’s alternative plan to advance the h-pawn and, if Fortuna smiles on them, wreak havoc on the base rank – h4-h5-h6-hxg7-gxh8♕. This kind of strategy isn’t unusual in Dice Chess, and such pawn blocking becomes a crucial part of a successful defense.)
3. ♘b5 (It is a deuce again, so White can follow the original plan. If the knight makes it to c7, Black would have a 50% chance to capture it with a knight or a queen, as the only other mobile pieces were a pawn and a rook.)
3. … ♜h6 (The number is 4 and Black is obliged to play with a rook. It wouldn’t make too much sense to make a move from a8 to b8, so the second rook it is. Furthermore, it prepares another possibility to protect the square c7 or launch a counterattack – see the diagram.)
4. ♘xc7 (White is lucky to roll another 2, and Black is on a verge of destruction. This is what makes Dice Chess so much fun, and a source of frustration as well.)
4. … ♛xc7 (Yes! The number 5, which became available after removing the black pawn from c7, saved the day. And Black’s position now allowed to move all pieces except bishops, so the valid rolls will be 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6).
5. ♘f3 (Only one white knight remains, so the roll 2 determined two possible moves – ♘f3 or ♘h3. White selected the first one, as it won’t block the rook from joining the central battleground.)
5. … ♞b4 (As the die seems in favor of rolling deuces, now it is Black’s chance of a revenge. The knight aims at c2.)
6. ♖h3 (The roll is 4. Just as we mentioned in the same situation of Black three moves ago, ♖a1-b1 would make little sense. White correctly activates the other one.)
6. … ♞xc2 (The die shows 2, so Black doesn’t have a better plan than the expected attack against the king. Note that, speaking of the chances, the other possible move ♞d3 is actually worse. Why? Let’s check the odds:
- 6. … ♞xc2: The knight can be captured by one piece (the queen) out of total four mobile ones (pawn, knight, rook, queen) – the odds are 1:4 or 25%.
- 6. … ♞d3: The knight can be captured by one piece (in fact it’s two but both of them are pawns) out of total three mobile ones (pawn, knight, rook) – the odds are 1:3 or 33%.)
7. b4 (Bad luck. White rolled 1 and must play with a pawn, so the black knight stays at its place, and the king capture threat is still there. However, it might have been better to choose another pawn. After b4, the queen-side bishop becomes mobile, which further decreases the chance to capture the black knight – now it is 1:5 or 20%. And note that it is legal for the white king to stay in “check”, as there are no checks in Dice Chess.)
7. … ♚d8 (Nobody feels comfortable being forced to make a totally pointless move. But the die is uncompromising, and the 6 on the top face doesn’t allow any other choice.)
8. ♘g5 (White rolls 2 and sees a new opportunity to attack the black king, who had to move to d8 in the previous move. On the other hand, they could have increased the odds of capturing the annoying black knight by attacking it from d4. It is often difficult to decide whether a counterattack or a reinforced defense is a better strategy.)
8. … ♛c4 (The 5 on the die orders the queen to move “somewhere”, and since it cannot capture anything or directly threat the white king, the player chose a field from where a future attack could be orchestrated. Perhaps ♛f4 would be slightly better, as the queen could have been ready to assault the weak point f2, protect f7, and had a chance to kill the white knight.)
9. ♖c3 (Good move. The roll was 4 and the rook helped strengthen the ramparts.)
9. … a5 (No luck this time. Another 1 and another pawn advance. Black has a backup plan to capture the white pawn – axb4 – and run to the first rank.)
10. ♗b2 (And White must face the consequences of liberating their bishop, as this move – forced by rolling 3 – doesn’t help anything. One of the fundamental strategies is to keep the piece mobility low until the imminent threat is neutralized.)
10. … ♞xe1 (“That’s it, man. Game over, man. Game over!” – Private Hudson and his famous quote from Aliens. The die of fate rolled the ultimate 2, ending the game.)
Pretty cool game, isn’t it? And I would say that Dice Chess is one of the few variants that can be played without an opponent. Just roll the die and try to win at both sides. 😎
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