My father was a world class chess player and, as such, I never stood a chance playing against him. (It’s a measure of his single-minded dedication to the game that he found it profoundly difficult to allow anyone to win, even when playing his grandchildren.)
As a consequence – never winning and never having a chance of winning – my early passion for the game evaporated over time. I just lacked the strength required to win, and playing against an international standard player didn’t help.
Discovering Really Bad Chess reignited my love of the game. An iOS app, developed by Zach Gage (@helvetica on Twitter), it turns the game upside down, breaking all the rules in the process. I discovered it via John Gruber via Jason Snell, who both wrote glowing reviews. As Snell puts it:
[The game] puts a clever spin on chess by seeding the board with a totally random collection of pieces.
Whilst the allocation of pieces seems arbitrary – “Try 8 Knights, 4 Bishops, and 3 pawns… why not?” – it is in fact heavily weighted. Snell summarises one of its innovations nicely:
Ranked mode lets you play increasingly difficult boards – you start with a huge power advantage over your computer opponent, and the advantage slowly shifts until you’re trying to defend while underpowered.
This fundamental reimagining of the game completely alters its dynamic and I’ve been enjoying playing it as a result. As its creator, Gage states:
Chess is one of those games I always wished I enjoyed, but its commitment to beauty, elegance, and perfect balance always turned me away. Really Bad Chess removes these boring restrictions and flips chess on its head.
The game itself offers lessons we can learn from and apply in a wider context. The history of chess stretches back thousands of years – it’s rules are set in stone – and yet, here’s a version of the game that questions those rules, toying with them to create something similar, but entirely new.
Just because something exists it doesn’t mean you can’t rethink it.
Ask yourself, what might you reimagine? There’s plenty of room in the world for more than one execution of an idea. If you make an idea your own, who knows what you might achieve.