Well over a thousand years old, chess is more than the strategy game par excellence. It is a cultural symbol for the triumph of intellect over impulse and references to politicians playing games of chess with their opponents continue to fill headlines. Chess was the proving ground for artificial intelligence and there are dozens of computer chess games that range from elegant teaching and tournament tools to battlefields of warring chess pieces, complete with explosions and clashing melee weapons. There are also erotic chess games where opposing pieces engage in an entirely different type of conflict resolution.
But, aside from superstar Bobby Fischer’s 1996 960Chess—which randomized the starting position of pieces into one of 960 possible set-ups — there have been relatively few attempts to refashion the venerable old game’s basic rules. Super X Chess does just that, by allowing pieces to combine and take on the moves of both pieces, essentially creating nine new “superpieces.” Whether combining pawns with each other or with Knights, Castles, Bishops and Rooks — or merging two of those pieces — the result is that the tempo and ages-old chess strategies need to be reconsidered. In the words of the developer, “Systemic space creates new emergent properties to the system from the relationships of its lower-level components. It's what makes everything - atoms, water, love, interactivity, games, life - possible. Systemic emergence can be speculated to be behind the existence of all matter and energy. If this is true, then you have a chance to experience and understand more about the secret sauce behind the reality, life and love by playing Super X Chess. “
Behind the broth of word soup is the reality that in a game of Super X Chess, all the memorized openings and classic endings are less relevant because the nature of the newly combined pieces upends the cart. Combined pieces have unique strengths, but are countered by the fact that there are less overall pieces for defense, thus creating a new set of balance issues that must be considered. The baby wasn’t entirely dumped out with the bathwater, however, and a number of traditional rules still apply in Super X Chess.
In terms of presentation, Super X Chess is pretty bare-bones, with and overhead 2D view and an isometric 3D view, but with none of the fancy chessboard options common to more fully-featured programs. There is a tutorial, the expected challenge level adjustment slider, and games may be played according to traditional rules, 960Chess rules, or Super X rules. There is also local and online multiplayer. I am no master and therefore no judge of the game’s AI, but it seemed fair and to reflect the chosen ratings.
There is probably a reason that chess has withstood fundamental changes over the centuries, and that reason might be its near-perfect balance of offensive and defensive strategies and how it appeals to gamers at all levels of expertise. Still, there is an intimidation factor and a perception that beyond the basics, winning requires a lot of memorization and the ability to think many moves ahead. Super X Chess removes that particular barrier and although the Super X rules are not going to permanently revolutionize the game, they do serve to sweep the cobwebs off the dusty shelf of rote, memorized and uninspired play.