Alice Chess

by George Jelliss
From Variant Chess, Volume 3, Issue 24, Summer 1997, pages 69-71.
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Since this is one of the games nominated for our Championship Tournaments, and is one of my favourite games (though my results indicate that this is not because I'm successful at playing it), I was surprised to find that we haven't featured anything on it since VC7 five years ago, so I decided to remedy this omission immediately.

Perhaps I can quote from two recent letters in support of my view of the game. David Pritchard: “an undervalued variant in my opinion”. Paul Byway: “I think it a superb game. A single, simple change with profound consequences. The best sort of variant,” unfortunately for my case he goes on to say “but maybe too difficult for me. I've only played one game and that gave me nightmares!” It does take one into a chess dream-world where the logic is disturbingly different from normal and space is strangely distorted. The variant was of course inspired by Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there and is very appropriately named.


There is essentially only one rule-change from orthodox chess: (1) A second board is used, initially empty, and after a move, on either board, the moved piece is transferred to the square with the same coordinates on the other board. There are some supplementary rules to clarify the interpretation of this basic law:

(a) A move must be legal on the board on which it is made. In particular the king cannot escape to the other board by a move through check. There is a fool's mate game that illustrates this: 1. e4 d6 2. Bc4 Q×d2?? 3. Bb5 mate (1-0). I actually made this mistake against Alessandro Castelli, AISE Grand Prix 1995, on coming back to the variant after a long break, thinking that the king could escape to d8 on the second board, but d8 is controlled on the first board by Qd1, so Kd8 (or d7) would be a move through check. Note that the knight b8, bishop c8 and pawn c7 cannot stop the check by interposing, since they are immediately whisked off to the second board, and the black queen cannot interpose at d7 since its move is blocked on the second board by the pawn d6.

FOOL'S MATE: Black is checkmated!

(b) A move cannot be made if its destination square on the other board is occupied. The occupant may be of either colour. Some cases of this are illustrated in the following game, which David Pritchard describes as “none-too-brilliant”, from the tournament mentioned in the Isolated Pawns section: J. Rincon v G. Horn, Geneva CV Tournament, December 1996. 1. d4 Nf6 (this reply to d4 is practically forced because of the threat 2. Q×d7 ... 3. Qa4/b5/c6 mate) 2. Be3 Ne4 3. Qd3 d5?? 4. f3?? (Qb5 is mate! - it is only too easy to miss an Alice mate because it often just doesn't look like a mate at all) 4...Qd6 (although the d rank is clear on the first board Q-d5/4/3 are not allowed because d5/4/3 are occupied on the second board) 5. Qb5† Kd8 (Q-d7/c6 from the second board to the first stop the check but lose the Q) 6. Qg5† (the queen takes the underpass through d5) 6...Ke8 (Here the interpositions N/Pf6 would be valid defences) 7. Bf4? Qb4† 8. Kd1 Q×b2 9. B×c7 Nf2† 10. Ke1 Qc1‡ (0-1). (Nf2 ‘guards’ f2 against WK by its mere presence.)

(c) En passant capture is abolished. The inventor of Alice Chess, V. R. Parton, said nothing about the rule for en passant capture, but since the rule for orthodox chess can be interpreted in at least two different ways (does the capturing pawn have to be on the first or second board?) and is subverted by the fact that the square passed over may be occupied on the other board, it is usual to forgo it.

Having given ‘fool's mate’ here is ‘scholar's mate’: Gabriele Cornacchini v George Jelliss, AISE Grand Prix 1996. 1. e4 h5 2. Be2 Rh4 3. B×h5 R×e4† 4. Kf1 d5 5. Qe2 (thinking of 6. Qb5 mate) 5... Bh3 mate. (0-1). Superimposing the two boards shows an orthodox position where the Bh3 is attacked twice, its diagonal is blocked at g2 and the WK has a flight at e1; but the Alice interpretation is quite different.

SCHOLAR'S MATE: White is checkmated!

Here are two other shortish games.

Aldo Kustrin v George Jelliss, AISE Grand Prix 1995. 1. d3 Nf6 2. Bg5 Rg8 3. Bf4 g6 4. Nf3 Na6 5. Rg1 d6 6. e3 Qd5 7. Kd2 Nc5 8. Nc3 Qf5 9. B×c7 Q×f2† 10. Be2 Nb3‡ (0-1).

George Jelliss v Aldo Kustrin, AISE Grand Prix 1995. 1. g4 d6 2. Bg2 Q×d2 3. Qd7 Q×g2? (White can now force draw by perpetual check) 4. Qb5† Kd8 5. Qb6† Kd7 6. Qb5† Kd8 (6...Ke6? 7. Qf5‡) 7. Qb6† Draw by perpetual check (½-½).

In the AISE Information sheet for the 1996 Grand Prix every move is followed by /A or /B to indicate which board the moved piece ends up on, and some players also do this, but I consider it unnecessary. It does however help in some cases where pieces are moved back and forth between the two boards quite often. In the following longer games I use a compromise notation, putting in only /A to indicate the moves back to the first board.

Carlo Alberto Veronesi was the 1993 and 1994 AISE champion in this variant and has an AISE/ELO rating of 2183. Since Aldo Kustrin's rating is 1974 my own will probably be about 1980. The following are the four games I have lost to C.A.V. in the 1995 and 1996 AISE events, and my four games against Paul Yearout of the USA, who doesn't seem to have an AISE rating yet, but I think has played Alice Chess in NOST.

C. A. Veronesi v G. P. Jelliss, AISE Grand Prix 1995. 1. d3 Nf6 2. Nc3 e6 3. Qd6 Qg5 4. Qe5/A† Kd8 5. Bf4 (guarded by Qe5/A) 5...Qf5/A (guarded by Pe5/B) 6. Q×c7† Ke8 7. 000 a6 8. Nf3 Ba3† 9. Kb1/A Q×f2 (building up a nice attack, but should be defending)

10. Bd6/A Nd5/A 11. Qe5/A† Resigns (1-0) (11...Kd8 12. d4/A‡ or 11...Be7/A B×e7‡)

G. P. Jelliss v C. A. Veronesi, AISE Grand Prix 1995. 1. g4 e6 2. a4 Qh4 3. Ra3 Nc6 4. Re3/A† Kd8 5. d4 d6 6. Nf3 Bb4 (If 7 N×Q Ba5/A‡) 7. a5/A Qf6/A 8. Ne5/A (for 9. Qd7) 8...Bd7 Nd3 9. Bc5/A 10. Rc3 Rf8

11. h4? B×f2 12. Rb3/A Q×Bf1 13. N×Bf2/A Qg2/A 14. Rh2 Rf1/A† 15. Kd2 R×Qd1† 16. K×Rd1/A h5 17. R×b7 Kc8/A 18. Rb4/A Qg3 19. Rg2/A Rh1 20. Kd2 Qe1/A 21. Nd3 Ne5/A 22. Rf2 Nc4‡

C. A. Veronesi v G. P. Jelliss, AISE Grand Prix 1996. 1. d3 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Qd6 Ne4/A 4. Bf4 d5 5. Nf3 N×f2 6. h3 g6 7. R×h7 Qa5 8. Ng5/A (Now Black should defend, but tries an illusory attack)

8...Qb4/A† 9. Bd2/A (forced) Q×Bd2 (If the BQ could get back to b4 it would be mate, but the move is irreversible!) 10. Ne6 (for 11. Qd8‡) 10...Bd7 11. R×Bd7/A N×Rd7 12. Nc7/A† Kd8 (forced) 13. Q×Nd7/A Re8 (stops both 14. Ne6‡ and 14. Qe8‡) 14. Na6 Rh7 15. Qd6† Kc8 (forced) 16. Qc7/A‡ (1-0)

G. P. Jelliss v C. A.Veronesi, AISE Grand Prix 1996. 1. Nf3 d6 2. Rg1 e6 3. Rg3/A Bg4 4. R×g7 B×Nf3/A 5. g×Bf3 h5 6. Nc3? R×h2 7. d4 Q×Qd1 8. N×Qd1/A

8... Bb4 (threat Ba5‡) 9. a3 a6 10. a×Bb4/A R×Ra1 11. Bf4 Rhh1 12. Rg4/A Nf6 13. Rg6 Ne4/A 14. Rg8† Ke7 15. R×Cb8 R×Bf1 16. Resigns (0-1).

G. Jelliss v P. Yearout, AISE Grand Prix 1995. 1. g4 d6 2. Bg2 Nf6 3. Bf3/A d7 4. a4 N×g4/A 5. h3 N×f2 6. c3 Qf5/A 7. Bc6 Be6 8. d4 d5/A 9. Bg5 f6 10. Bh4/A h6 11. Nf3 g6 12. B×e7? R×Rh1 13. Bb5/A† Kf7 14. R×a7 Rg1/A† 15. Kd2 R×Qd1† 16. Ke3 Ng4/A‡ (0-1).

P. Yearout v G. Jelliss, AISE Grand Prix 1995. 1. d3 Nf6 (guarding d7/B against Q×d7) 2. Bg5 Rg8 3. Bh4/A Nc6 (guarding e7/B against B×e7) 4. Qd6 d5 5. e3 Be6 (anticipating the need for a guarded interposition at d7 after a White check along the a4-e8 diagonal) 6. Bb5Rg6 7. Ba4/A† Bd7/A 8. B×Bd7 N×Bd7/A 9. Q×d5/A Qc8 (guarding against Q×Nd7 and Q×b7) 10. Nc3 R1×g2! 11. Bg3 (trapping the R, but he is happy to stay where he is) 11...Rd8 12. Qe4 Qg4/A (13. Q×Rg2/A? Q×Qg2)

13. Rb1 (only the BNs prevent mates at b8 and a8) Rd4/A 14. b4? Rdd2! 15. Resigns (0-1). (threat 15...Rd1‡ though after 15. Ra/c1 Rde2† 16. N×d2 R×d2† the result seems by no means clear.)

P. Yearout v G. Jelliss, AISE Grand Prix 1996. 1. d3 Nf6 2. Nc3 c5 3. Qd2 Nc6 (To give a direct check to the king the checking piece must come from the other board, so it is necessary first to transfer forces to the other board) 4. d4/A Rb8 (This way of developing Rooks is common in Alice chess) 5. e3 g5 (This prevents the Bc1 coming to g5 or f4) 6. f4 Rb8-g8/A (guarding Pg5 on the other board) 7. Nd5/A h6 8. Nf3 g×f4/A (Inconsistent play on my part. Ne4 now looks better to me) 9. B×f4 Rg4 10. Be5/A Rh5 11. 000 (Perhaps judging that the activised Black force now being on the second board the king might be safer there. The BQ is now effectively ‘pinned’: 11...Q-c7/b6?? 12. Qd8‡)

11...Ne4/A 12. Bc7 Ra4/A 13. Ba6 Bg7 (The idea is 14...Rc4† 15. c3/Sc3 B×c3†) 14. Bb5/A Rc4† 15. Kb1/A Rf5/A 16. Ba5/A (Desperate measures now needed to save the ‘pinned’ queen) 16...R×Nd5 17. Q×Rd5/A Q×Ba5 (Threatening 18...Qa1‡) 18. a3 Qd2/A 19. Q×d7† Kf8 (I put these two moves in as an if...then clause, but it seems Paul may not have noticed the discovered check, so perhaps I should have kept quiet!) 20. Q×g7/A Qc3 (stops Qh8‡) 21. Rd8 Resigns (1-0). (if 21...Bd7/Be6/Nf6 22. Qg8/Re8/Qh8‡)

G. Jelliss v P. Yearout, AISE Grand Prix 1996. 1. Nf3 d6 2. c3 Qd7 3. Rg1 e6 4. Qb3 d5/A 5. d3 h6 6. Qb5/A† Kd8 7. b3? Ba3 8. Nbd2 Rh5 9. Rg5/A

9...Rc5/A! 10. Qb6† Ke8/A 11. Qe3/A† Qe7/A 12. Ne5/A R×Bc1 13. b4 (to stop Bb4‡) 13...Nc6 14. d4 Bb2/A 15. Rd1 Rb1/A† 16. Rc1/A B×c1‡

I hope these games give some idea of the possibilties of Alice play, though they are far from perfect.

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