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STRATEGY IN OMEGA CHESS


INTRODUCTION

Strategies in OMEGA CHESS remain basically the same as in traditional chess; it is important to establish territory, to control the center, to develop one's pieces quickly, and to avoid structural defects such as doubled pawns, isolated pawns, and bad bishops. Where OMEGA CHESS differs is in the scale of operations, the change in relative values for the pieces, and the heightened tactical possibilities provided by the new pieces.

SCALE OF OPERATIONS

Clearly, since OMEGA CHESS is played on a 10 by 10 board with four additional corner squares, events unfold on a grander scale than in regular chess. As well, having a spatial advantage in the center is not as important as in traditional chess, provided one has a compensating advantage on the wings and sufficient space in the center to provide easy transit for the major pieces.

RELATIVE VALUE OF THE PIECES.

The traditional values assigned to the pieces as a rule of thumb for trading pieces assumes a value of 1 point for a pawn and ranks the rest of the pieces accordingly.

Traditional Chess
pawn 1 point
knight 3 points - slightly less than 3, actually
bishop 3 points
rook 5 points
queen 9 points
king well, a king can't be traded so it doesn't fit into this system for ranking purposes, but in the endgame, when the king is less vulnerable to attack, the king is assumed to be somewhere between a bishop and a rook in strength.

OMEGA CHESS
pawn 1 point. Despite its increased power a pawn remains at 1 point because this is a relative scale. It is important to note that a pawn that has moved only one square on its initial move takes two more moves to get to the fourth rank. This introduces a new element of timing when considering pawn moves in the opening, and also adds a new tactical element to the game; using early forays to induce pawn moves in order to slow down the opponent's structural setup.
knight 2 points - perhaps a bit more, since it still doesn't seem good policy to exchange a knight for two pawns, but the increased size of the board means it takes longer for a knight to cross the board, hence the devaluation.
bishop 4 points. This is a hard call since the size of the board increases the range and power of the bishop. A bishop might even be worth more than 4 points but it is still hampered by the restriction to squares of one colour.
rook 6 points. This seems a fairly easy value to assign. Exchange sacrifices in OMEGA CHESS take on a different character, since the rooks exert a lot of power in an open middlegame. It has been pointed out that rook+king vs king cannot force mate because of the extra corner squares, but it must also be noted that the increased number of pieces and pawns means that it takes longer to get down to that situation, and as the material decreases, the power of the rook increases.
queen 12 points. This is contentious. It is clear that fortress type positions can be set up fairly easily with rook bishop and pawn, and that rook bishop and two pawns may give advantage over a queen, but analysis based upon reduced material situations is not as valid as in traditional chess for reason given above. However, it has been demonstrated that the queen alone can force mate without assistance from the king.
wizard 4 points. Perhaps a bit less. Because of unfamiliarity with this piece, and with the champion, players new to OMEGA CHESS tend to over- (or under-) value the new pieces. However the wizard has a nice balance, having great range which is offset by its restriction to a single colour. I wouldn't value it as highly as a bishop, but close.
champion 4 points. This piece I find to be a bit more powerful than the wizard but again I wouldn't value it as highly as a bishop.
king Again, in the endgame, when the king is less vulnerable to attack, the king is somewhere between a bishop and a rook in strength.

NEW TACTICAL POSSIBILITIES

An important feature of Omega Chess is the changed tactical nature of the game provided by the new pieces. The wizard and the champion are both leapers, like the knight. Positions that in traditional chess would be fully blockaded now find themselves vulnerable to sudden and devious infiltrations. Staid, conservative play which has become the bane of international chess events is not as sound as it once was. Omega Chess breathes new life into the game, and gives it an added measure of suspense as the players are left constantly on their guard. For an example of the sudden, sharp tactics in Omega Chess, see the game illustrated in our Sample Games page.

NEW ENDGAME CONSIDERATIONS

It doesn't take long for players new to OmegaChess to realize that in an ending with a Rook and King against a King, there is no mating possibility if the lone King can escape to one of the four Wizard's squares. Indeed, it is soon realized that one player can have two rooks, a bishop and a wizard and still have no way to win if the bishop and wizard attack the same coloured squares and the lone King is in a Wizard's corner of the opposite colour. This leads to the inevitable question of what combinations of reduced material can deliver mate.

To begin with, it is interesting to note that a lone Queen (without benefit of assistance from her royal husband) can force mate. As well, two Rooks find it easy to mate provided the enemy King is not in a Wizard or Champion starting square. But a King and Rook vs. King cannot force mate. (see diagram)

King & Rook vs. King In the illustrated position, White is obliged to check the enemy King back to the edge of the board, since Black isn't going to go there voluntarily. 1. Rd8+ Ke9 (attacking the rook) 2.Ke7 Kf9 3.Kf7 The White King must pursue the enemy King because when Black gets to i9, the White King wants to be on h7, controlling i8 so the rook can check on d9, forcing the King to j8, followed by Re8 - Kj7, Rj8# 3...Kg9 (Not 3...Ke8 because of 4.Rd6 Kf8 5.Rd8 mate) 4.Kg7 Kf9 Now it is safe for the Black King to double back. If the Rook was on e8, then it could just retreat along the file and deliver mate next move. Or if it was on any other rank, it could now move to the e-file, but as it is the Rook would be vulnerable to capture.

So, what other combinations of reduced material can deliver checkmate? Two Bishops can deliver mate fairly easily, as can two Knights, although in the latter case the task of herding the enemy monarch into a corner requires a lot of patience..

Of the material combinations with the OmegaPieces, two Champions mate easily and so do a Champion and a Knight. A Bishop with a Wizard on the opposite colour squares can also force mate although the technique is involved since the enemy King has to be driven into the same coloured corner as the Bishop. However two Wizards can't force mate. A Rook in combination with either a Knight or a Champion can force mate easily and, provided the enemy King is not on the wrong coloured Wizard's square, (or corresponding Champion's square) then both Rook & Bishop, and Rook & Wizard are also easy wins.

In the remaining combinations of material, Bishop and Champion, Champion and Wizard, Bishop and Knight, and Knight and Wizard, the requirement for winning is that the enemy King be kept out of the "wrong coloured" corner since the Knight alone, or the Champion alone cannot oust his majesty. Having met this requirement, the mating technique for Bishop and Champion, and Wizard and Champion are fairly straightforward, while the technique for Bishop and Knight is somewhat trickier. As for Knight and Wizard, it is possible to set up positions in which the enemy King is corralled, leading to checkmate, there doesn't seem to be a way of forcing these positions.