A new chess variant

With Steven Brams, an American game theorist, Ismail devised a radical but easily implemented solution to the perceived white bias in chess. Their system, dubbed “balanced alternation”, allows black to make two moves after white’s opening move, with white then taking the next two moves before reverting to standard play.

By giving black a double riposte to white’s opening, Ismail argues that the imbalance would be sharply reduced and “render chess fairer than any other reform of which we are aware”.

…Other players questioned whether chess really needs to be fairer, given the number of draws at elite level. When AlphaZero played itself in last year’s experiment, 98 per cent of the games ended in draws. “More draws? What a bore!” said a leading chess writer.

Ismail acknowledged that the chess world “can be very conservative”. He added: “I do expect a backlash at a proposal like this, but I hope open-minded players will want to give it a try.”

Here is more from The Times of London (gated).  You will note that my pet proposal for reforming chess also introduces a kind of color equity, though it is not motivated by that goal.  To limit the import of opening preparation and to minimize the number of draws, we should randomize the initial opening moves, but within reason, with an average value clustered around 0.00, and with a focus on non-drawish lines.  So some games would start with 1.b4 d5, which is “playable” for White, though few players would move as such in a major tournament.  Most of the randomizations shoul be fairly sharp variations, and so the randomization would allow the Petroff and Berlin to surface only one out of every 768 games.


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