Chess in another dimension: Variaschach

by André Schulz
1/29/2024 – Wouldn’t it be great to convert all your chess pieces into better pieces on every move? Markus Reinhardt’s Variaschach is actually based on this principle. But, of course, it’s not really that simple. Reinhardt himself presents his variation and plays a blitz game against GM Elisabeth Paehtz.

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The next dimension is here

In the 1960s there was once talk of the death of chess, and now it seems that the best players, especially Magnus Carlsen, understand the game so well that they only want to play with a short time control or with a different starting position. The invention of new chess variation is perhaps what we need.

The inventor of Variaschach is Markus Reinhardt, and the idea for this game came about rather by chance. Whilst playing chess with his sons, he thought about how chess could perhaps be made even more varied. And he found a solution.

The game starts from the usual starting position with the usual moves. But after each move, the piece changes to the next higher piece in value — the pawn becomes a knight, the knight a bishop, the bishop a rook, the rook a queen.

Do you end up with only queens on the board? Not quite, because when the queen moves, it turns back into a pawn, and the sequence starts all over again. A piece only retains its value on the back rank. And the king always remains the king.

To make the game possible in this form and to recognise the value of the piece, all possible pieces — pawn, knight, bishop, rook and queen — are printed on the different faces of a die. A red dot is printed on the sixth side, which plays a role in another variation of the game.

Elisabeth Paehtz was also at the ChessBase studio to record a FritzTrainer on a special line of the London System. She was happy to make herself available for an experiment — to play the first recorded Variaschach game while giving her opponent a time advantage of 5 minutes vs. 10 minutes.

During and after the game, there was also an opportunity to talk about her success at the European Women’s Rapid Chess Championship, where she won bronze, and about her curious victory over Lara Schulze at the Women’s Bundesliga. Elisabeth Paehtz had been outplayed by Lara Schulze and was then lucky that her opponent had the right idea at the wrong time.

Report on the latest rounds of the Women’s Bundesliga... (in German)

For all chess fans and readers of the ChessBase news site, Reinhardt has brought along another treat. For one month, starting on 25 January 2024, ChessBase readers will receive the game at a special price of 36.00 euros instead of 49.90 euros. Enter the discount code chessbase (all lower case) on the Variaschach website.

Incidentally, the experiment will continue at the beginning of February, again in new dimensions. Markus Reinhardt will meet the six-time world champion in chess-boxing in Cologne and document how Denno Probst and his team from Chessboxing Cologne train in a new dimension with Variaschach.

Interview and game (in German)

Video recording and production: Arne Kähler

The game

Reinhardt-Paehtz
Friendly game 10 vs 5 minutes, Hamburg, 23 January 2024

1. e2-e4N d7-d5N
2. Bf1-c4R Bc8-e6R
3. Rc4-a4Q Nb8-c6B
4. c2-c3N Bc6xa4R
5. Nxa4R c7-c6N
6. Ng1f3B f7-f6N
7. 0-0 Nf6xe4R
8. Bf3x4R Re6xe4Q
9. g3N Qe4xa4
10. Ng3-h4B+ g7-g6N
11. d2-d4N Bf8-g7R
12. Bc1-e3R Ng8-f6R
13. Nb1-a3B Nd5xe3B
14. fxe3N 0-0
15. h2-h3N Ng6-f4B+
16. Kg1-f2 Bf4xe3R
17. Kf2xe3 Bf6xd4R
18. b2-b3N Rd4xd1Q
19. Rf1xd1Q Rg7-g3Q
20. Ke3-e4 a4xb3B
21. Qd1xb3 Rf8-f7Q
22. b3-c4N (ill.) Qf8-f8
23. Bh5-c1R (ill.) e7-e6N
24. Rc1-g1Q (ill.) Qg3xg1Q
25. Nh3xg1B Ne6-g7B
26. Bg1-c5R Bg7xa1R
27. Rc5-d5Q+ Qd8xd5
28. Ke4xd5 Ra8-d8Q+
29. Kd5-e5 Qa8-d8Q+
30. Nc4-e3B Qd8-a8Q+
31. Ke5-e4 Qd8-e8
32. Ke4-d3 Qe8xe3
33. Kd3xe3 Nc6-e7B (time)
34. Ba3xe7R Qa8-d8Q+
35. Ke3-d3 Qf8xe7
36. a2-a3N e7-e5N+
37. Kd3-d4 b7-b5N
38. Na3xb5B a7-a5N
39. Bb5-e8E+ Kg8-f7
40. Re8-d8Q Qd8-e8+
41. Kd4xe5 Qd1xd8Q

In the excitement, Markus Reinhardt, who was playing with a clock for the first time, made three moves between moves 22 and 24 that were not in accordance with the rules, which went unnoticed and had no influence on the course of the game.

The rules of Variaschach (in German)


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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.
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