In a handicap game in chess , the weaker player is given a predetermined material excess weight or a special draw advantage . This is to compensate for the different playing strengths of the opponents. There is also the option of specifying a time by setting the reflection time differently .
Handicap games were popular in the 18th and 19th centuries when chess was often played for bets. Therefore, a method was needed that would increase the incentive for such encounters from the perspective of the weaker player. Since then, the game of guidelines in chess has lost its importance. The basic principle is also used in other board games . Game guidelines are used especially in Go .
By the middle of the 19th century, a level system had been established which roughly divided chess players into classes. In this way, a function of today's Elo number was partially fulfilled, in that in a time when there were no chess tournaments, the players had an opportunity to mutually assess their playing strength. The most famous levels were:
- Pawn and move : The weaker player has White, Black plays without the pawn f7.
- Pawn and two moves : In this case White can start with two moves, Black plays without a pawn f7.
- Knight requirement : The stronger player has white and plays without the queen knight b1.
- Tower Default : The stronger player has white and plays without the ladies tower a1 (partially allowed White to a farmer a field advance).
- Queen's handicap : White plays without a queen . This beginner level was of little practical importance.
The system was not to be regarded as fixed, there were numerous deviations in the levels. There was the additional option of specifying more than two initial moves (the middle of the board could not be exceeded with free moves) or of specifying rook and knight. Even the blind chess can be considered as a special form of the default game.
If a player who was given a rook won several times against the stronger player, he moved up to the next category with a knight handicap, etc. At the highest level he competed against a master without handicap. What is striking is the phenomenon that some masters concentrated entirely on the default game. A famous case is Alexandre Deschapelles , who went so far as to refuse the game without any guidelines, with a few exceptions.
Formally, the levels of the handicap game each correspond to an independent chess variant , with the exception of the changed starting position and, if necessary, the right for White to make several moves in a row at the beginning, all chess rules remain in force.
The question of whether the right to castling does not apply without the rook or not was controversial. However, the possibility of a king's jump from e1 to c1 (given the queens rook) was rejected by authorities such as Howard Staunton and the Handbuch des Chessspiels as a violation of the rules of chess. The questionability of the special rule is confirmed by an anecdote from the 19th century. A master explained the move Ke1 – c1 to his stunned opponent by saying that he was castle with the “ghost” of his tower. In the next game, Black played Bg7 – a1 and back, apparently pointless. When White moved Ke1 – c1, his opponent claimed that he had eaten the spirit of the rook. The dispute can still be traced into the 20th century. In 1916 a reader in the chess magazine Chess Amateur made do with the argument that the “king's jump” existed before castling was introduced. Another reader summarized the opposite position with the play on words you can't castle without a castle (one cannot castle without a tower, whereby “castle” stands for tower or fortress and castling).
Decline in the default games
The practice of handicap games was so widespread for centuries that textbooks contained sections on the handicap game with notes on special openings.
In the second half of the 19th century, however, the handicap games began to decline. There are multiple reasons for that. First and foremost, the chess masters lost interest in it, partly because the level differences between the players began to weaken and there were enough playing partners of their own ability available. The growing interest of amateurs in modern opening literature also played a role. In addition, the opinion prevailed that the special strategies in the handicap games - the often incorrect "entangling" by the handicap player and the attempted exchange of pieces by the player who received the handicap - are not suitable for improving one's own playing technique. In any case, the handicap game got more and more out of fashion without disappearing completely from chess.
In recent times a renaissance of handicap games in competitions between chess programs and human players can be observed, as the former are increasingly proving to be superior in the fight between man and machine . In March 2007, the Rybka program played a match over eight games against Jaan Ehlvest , in which Rybka each played a pawn with white and won with 5.5-2.5. Four months later, the Estonian grandmaster faced Rybka again. He now had white in all games, and the opening book of the program was limited to three moves. That fight ended 4.5-1.5 in favor of Rybka. In August 2007 Rybka finally won a match with pawn handicap against the American grandmaster Joel Benjamin with 4.5-3.5. In this case, the program played alternately with white and black.
In modern chess, instead of the historical forms, a time handicap is sometimes used, and only in blitz games . The stronger player then has one or more minutes less available.
- Cf. u. a. Howard Staunton, in: The Chess Tournament, pp. XIII-XIV
- Cf. u. a. Tim Krabbé : Chess peculiarities: strange, intelligent and amusing combinations , ECON, Düsseldorf 1988, ISBN 3-612-20336-3 .
- See also AW Mongredien in Chess Amateur , August 1923, pp. 352–353. Reprinted by: Edward Winter : Chess Notes, Item 6035 . March 15, 2009
- Edward Winter: Chess Notes, Item 6029 . March 8, 2009
- Sarah's Chess Journal: The Romance of Chess - A Perspective on the Art of Odds-giving (English)
- GM Ehlvest versus Rybka engine
- Overview of the handicap game at Chessvariants.org (English)
- Sarah's Chess Journal: The Romance of Chess - A Perspective on the kind of odds-giving (English)