LaoTzu Chess

(Under Construction)

Inspired by the great philosopher LaoTzu, this variant combines three previous variants into one game that further simulates the fog of war.

Note: this is TisztaBolondokhaza with fog of war (just like Sun Tzu Chess, but different fog of war concept is in place, less squares are visible here)

 

Game rules

The pieces are initially set up according to DoubleFischerRandom rules (random setup, black and white have different starting positions).

The pieces you capture become yours, and can be dropped on the board (as in CrazyHouse). You can drop them on any visible square, including checking the King. Pawns cannot be dropped on the 1st or 8th rank, and if a promoted pawn is captured, it reverts back to a pawn, so be sure you know which Queen you are hunting!

The board is partially hidden. The following visibility rules are in place:

  • all your pieces are visible,
  • squares available to your pieces (squares where your pieces can move, or capture) - including attacked enemy pieces, if any - are visible,
  • you can see which pieces you have taken (and have at hand).
  • you can see which pieces your opponent has taken (and has in hand).

Opponent moves are displayed as question marks (however, they are appended with '+' and '#' for check and mate).

The game is ended with mate, except fog of war, all CrazyHouse rules apply.

 

Lao Tzu fog of war examples

To make visibility rules more clear, here are a few examples.

The board on the beginning of the game (white player view):

 

????????/????????/????????/????????/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNNBBKQR

Some game after a few moves (white player view), note squares discovered by bishops but also g4 hidden due to the knight presence):

 

????????/???????p/??????1?/??1?p1?1/2P3?1/1P4N1/P1BPPPPP/BNR1QKR1

Deep in the game (again, white player view). White just dropped Nc7:

 

1q???r??/?1?N???1/1pB?p2?/?P4??/1NP?1?2/2P5/P1Q2nPP/1K2R3

Note that to truly evaluate the position, you should also consider pieces at hand (Material tab)

 

Hints

Limited visibility impacts not only player knowledge, but also the game tactics, since material can only be dropped on visible squares. Many strategies that work in CrazyHouse or Sun Tzu won't work here. For example, you are not able to drop a sequence of connected pawns into unseen territory. You dropped a pawn on e6? Nice, but neither f7 nor d7 are visible, so you can not drop anything there. Sacrificing a pawn or piece to reveal or disorganise the opponent's position rarely works - as the created or discovered weak squares are covered by the fog of war immediately after the sacrificed piece is captured.

Compared to Crazyhouse (or Sun Tzu), it is less advisable to hold on to captured pieces, better to drop them sooner. There are two reasons for this: first, dropped pieces can be used to make critical squares visible to you. Second, your opponent will likely not know which square you have dropped onto, thus making their knowledge of the position less accurate.

Because Lao Tzu uses Double Fischer Random setup, each game needs to be approached differently. Before you make your first move, get a feel for your position and try to envision how you are going to develop your pieces in as logical and orderly fashion as possible. Generally you want to get your bishops to useful diagonals quickly as it's the best way to see what your opponent is up to early on. Other important things to consider are determining which direction is best to castle. Often it's the opposite side from which you moved your pawns in the opening to let your bishops and queen out.

After several moves of development, you will start to see activity of your opponent. Generally, capturing a piece of even strength is beneficial for several reasons. One is that it gives you information about their surrounding pieces while they do not have the luxury. If that piece is defended (which it should be), they will often have no better play than to recapture immediately. The result is free information without loss of tempo.

Information is absolutely vital in this game. Being able to see more squares than your opponent is a key advantage. Certain tricks to keep in mind while playing Lao Tzu:

  • The King always starts between the two rooks. If you manage to see an enemy Rook on G8 early in the game, you know with certainty that his King is not on H8.
  • After castling, the position will always look like that of standard chess; in that the King will always move to the C or G files with the corresponding Rook next to it.
  • Bishops always start on opposite colors. So if you capture one of them, make a note that they only have a dark-(or light-)squared Bishop on the board.
  • After your opponent has moved, always move back a step and see what changed on the board. If you see no difference in your line of sight, etc., open the Material tab and see if they added a piece to the board.

Note minor visibility controversy related to en-passant.

 

Advanced tactics

  • Get into your opponent's head. Try to imagine what he would do on his turn. If you saw he added a pawn to the board but couldn't see where, determine where the most likely place is and play accordingly. His rating is sometimes an important factor in choosing the right move. It is similar to poker, in that you should not play too fancy against weaker opponents and instead stick to solid, more straightforward play. (See game 3rd level thinking below)
  •  

 

Example games

King walks - interesting long game heavily commented by both (strong) players

Counter-attack in the fog - thanks to the fog of war, black manages to turn around the very difficult game. Note moves 35, 36, and 37 for black.

3rd level thinking - In a game of two very strong players, White seizes a strong initiative and Black is forced into a constant defensive mode. Black has managed a desperate but potent counter attack, and at this point in the game, the players know where most of each other's pieces are. Here, Black has two legal moves: K-E8 or K-F8. K-E8 loses immediately to [email protected] whereas the latter gives Black some escape squares. Because Black is aware that White is an excellent player who would logically assume Black would play K-F8 with hopes of finding a way out and/or buy some time, Black plays the 'inferior' move hoping White would play a move that would continue the attack with checks. The result is that it buys Black the single tempo he needs to force mate himself.

More games welcome


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