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March 2017
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East Devon Congress – Out For A Duck! (14.03.2017.)

In his Encyclopaedia of Chess Variants, David Pritchard records that one of the most creative inventors of chess variants was Vernon Rylands Parton (1897 – 1974) whose most lasting invention was Alice Chess, based on Alice in Wonderland.

Vernon’s father ran a small private school in Cannock, Staffordshire. Both father and son and the school itself, referred to in the town simply as “Parton’s”, are described by a former pupil, Arthur Hopcraft in his autobiography, “The Great Apple Raid” (Heinemann – 1970 – pp113-116). My father also attended the school and got his taste for chess directly from Vernon c. 1917, and passed it on to me in the early 1950s. Like many others, my father and I both found bog standard chess enough to be going on with, without complicating it further.

Not so with Congress Secretary, Dr. Tim Paulden, who is himself entering the crazy world of Parton, not only embracing existing variants but inventing his own. He used the occasion of this year’s congress to launch Duck Chess on an unsuspecting world. The game requires a standard chess set, plus a duck! Tim researched the market for suitable ducks, testing their dimensions and quackability. Having found one, he order a significant number in small plastic bags together with an explanatory card, which reads thus:

Duck Chess is an exciting and absorbing new chess variant invented in 2016 by Dr. Tim Paulden (Exeter Chess Club).

The basic principle of the game is simple: in addition to the usual pieces, the two players have joint control of a small rubber duck which acts as a “blocker (i.e. nothing can move onto or through it). A player’s turn always consists of two actions (a) making a standard chess move and (b) moving the duck to any empty square on the board. There is no concept of “check” or “checkmate” – you must capture the enemy king to win!

For full rules and examples of play, go to www.duckchess.com.

Tim (left) shows Jack Rudd how it all works.

Tim makes a telling move before moving the duck with a hiss and a quack.

Max French of Millfield School takes over and a small and curious crowd starts to build up.

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