Counterplay
September 20, 2007
Last move wins
Editor, Chess Life:

Here is a rules change that should make chess a viable game in its present format for a long time. Why not stipulate that the person making the last move wins? This does away with the artificial requirement that grandmaster draws are not allowed. This assures that the players really have to play out the draws. This would allow time forfeits to remain the same. However, it would mean that a player who stalemates his opponent wins. In time scrambles, this could get wild.

The only exceptions: 1. The side with material against a bare king cannot lose on time; 2. It is a draw in the event of bare kings; 3. Every piece against a bare king can either checkmate or stalemate; however, it is clear that the bishop is far more valuable than a knight; 4. The score of the game must be accurate, and, if done electronically, the side who achieves a three-fold repetition is automatically given a draw without having to claim it. This will have a ripple effect in simple endings.
 
Richard Moody, Jr.
Schoharie, N.Y.

We receive a steady stream of letters proposing rules changes, more than on any other subject. This one we almost dismissed right away until we saw the writer’s name—when the idea comes from someone with a proven history of thinking of chess in a fresh way, it must be taken seriously. (Moody came up with a new third move in the ancient King’s Gambit, a move Kasparov called “perfectly playable.” See www.chesscafe.com/text/leval04. txt) So we sent Moody’s letter to David Kuhns, chair of the USCF rules committee, for his thoughts:

David Kuhns responds:

Any change like this would fundamentally change the entire strategy of the game, and change endgame theory completely.

It is so different that I would classify it as a “variant”.

This variant would not be ratable in the current system.

I do not think that it would make the game any more “viable,” just different. The game in its current form has been viable for a very long time (about 800 years now), and will remain so.

There are many ideas to reduce the number of quick draws, all of which have failed. I am very skeptical that this would work. But, that being said, I will not dismiss the idea out of hand.

“Last move wins” is the rule in checkers (stalemate wins). Even at that about 95% of tournament checker games are draws.

Xiang Qi (Chinese Chess), has the stalemate=win rule, and repeating a position is not allowed unless forced (thus no three-fold repetition rule). It has very few draws.

I think that I would adopt that (no repetition allowed) as well, rather than it being an automatic draw.

What if no progress is being made for a very long time (our current 50-move rule)?

I would be interested in the results if you were to try it in a tournament setting (unrated), and with strong players (those that would normally have a high percentage of draws). Their feedback would be invaluable.

See also
Encyclopedia of Chess Variants by David Pritchard. Some of those are very playable, indeed with the exception of those tested in time (Xiang Qi and Shogi, for example), though they will always remain in the background.

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