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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

Basic Knightmare Chess Endings #1: The Princess 01/23/2018

Knightmare Chess, a 1998 offering from Steve Jackson Games, didn’t catch on, probably for reasons like:

1) Chessplayers hated insane card-based abilities that made Knightmare Chess too much unlike chess; and

2) Non-chessplayers figured they didn’t stand a chance against chessplayers (before giving the hugely unbalancing card-based abilities a glance).

Perhaps Knightmare Chess’ time has arrived. Chess variants are more popular than ever, especially since online chess servers began enabling enthusiasts of obscure variants to find and play with like-minded folk.

Card games are in again, after the glut of the 1990s — when a new card game appeared in game stores every week, and no one had the money or the time. Magic: The Gathering is still boss, my favorite old game NetRunner is a success in its new (lesser) incarnation, Dominion is a favorite at my brother’s house, and I’ve embraced South Park: Phone Destroyer.

The classic chess textbook Chess Fundamentals by world champion Capablanca said the first thing the new player should do is familiarize himself with the power of the pieces by learning to checkmate with them. Meet the princess (card text*).
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The princess moves like a queen, but is limited to one or two squares. This makes her value on the pawn scale about 6, when you think about it this way: The king and the knight each have eight choices while in the center of an empty chessboard; the princess’ one-square moves makes her like a king, and her two-square moves are the same range as a knight, but to the same-colored square rather than an opposite-colored square.

Since her pawn value is about 6, then the princess (more powerful than a rook) ought to be able to aid her king in checkmating the other.
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1. … Qe4+!
Played with the Princess card, placing her at f4.

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2. Kg1 Qxh1+ 3. Kxh1 Ke3 4. Kg2 Ph4

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5. Kg1 Kf3 6. Kh1

6. Kf1 Pf2#.

6…Ph3+ 7. Kg1 Pg2#

In fact, the procedure is exactly like the clunky “keep the queen a knight’s distance away from the enemy king, cutting off one  rank or file with each move” — the only difference between the queen and princess for the purposes of this checkmating routine is that the queen can make a long cutoff move.

* Play this card when your king and queen are on adjacent squares. A princess appears on an unoccupied square adjacent to the queen. A princess moves like a queen but only one or two squares at a time. A player may have only one princess in play at a time. Play this card immediately after your move.

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