Aside from Trekkies, no one has updated the game of chess in the 600 years since its modern form emerged from an Indian game called shatranj. But that didn’t stop the Florian Hauswirth, a member of the PostFossil design collective, from trying with their “Democratic Chess” set, which aims to turn “the sport of kings” into something more like Calvinball, where you can make up whatever rules you damn well please. (It’s certainly easier to become a Grand Master that way.)
The pieces in “Democratic Chess” are designed to function just like normal pawns, rooks, and such. But they’re also, so if you decide that the rules are just too darned restrictive, the pieces can fit and stack together to create more knights, queens, or bishops. As the press release puts it: “Pieces taken are not eliminated but stacked, thus creating new figures, which have more abilities. Democratic Chess increases the unpredictability of the game, creating totally new and surprising situations.” Checkmate, you say? Yeah well, I just sunk your bishop-ship with my checker-queen. Suck on that, Kasparov. (This also strikes us a good way to handicap a game of chess, between two unequally matched players.)
PostFossil’s creation may cause the lip of a traditional chessmaster to curl in contempt, and god help you if you try to bring “Democratic Chess” to the boards in Washington Square Park. Nevertheless, injecting a bit of modern anarchy into a game based on ancient feudal hierarchies strikes us as devilishly inspired. And hey, who’s to say that some pint-sized future genius won’t invent a new game that’ll endure for 600 years?