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14 Crazy Chess Boards and Variations

The game of chess has been around in its current form for hundreds of years. It takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master, but it's not much of a spectator sport. Still, chess is so fascinating that considerable imagination has gone into making it more accessible and exciting for players, students, and spectators.

Wu Chess is a social networking site that marries hip-hop culture with chess. Founded by Chesspark and RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, members can learn from masters, play each other online, form chess clans, and discuss common interests. Chess Boxing combines the cerebral with the physical. Participants play 4 minute rounds of chess alternating with 3 minute rounds of boxing. It shows that boxers can be smart and chess players aren't weinies. Roller Coaster Chess isn't about winning the game; it's about managing to play at all (and get the photograph) on a roller coaster!

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To make playing the game more challenging without involving bodily risk, try 3-way Chess. You'll need three people to play, and there are places on the board that give you a choice of moves, but the rules are basically the same as regular chess. Other chess variants include 3d chess (which honestly has no limit) and Moebius chess (see a picture here). Or you can speed things up by playing blitz chess in a hurry.

The easiest way to make chess more interesting is to get a different chess set to play normal chess with. Continue reading for some of the oddest sets available.

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Light can make a chess set beautiful. Illuminated Onyx chess tables are table tops made from translucent stone. They appear as a regular table when unlit. The chessboard square only appear when the light is on! Available in several shades of natural translucent onyx.

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Daan Van Tulder designed this lighted chess set made of PMMA acrylic glass. LEDS in the board provide light, and the pieces are distinguished by transparent vs. frosted.

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The Alice Chess Set by Yasmin Sethi was inspired by the story of Alice Through the Looking Glass. The pieces all have the same mirror finish, but when they touch the chess board, the cover becomes transparent and the type of piece can be seen.

The Chessboard is made out of LightPoints a material manufactured by Schott, which is glass that has LED's embedded in it; the pieces are coated with Mirona, a Material that turns transparent when light shines through it. When the piece is placed on the board it completes the circuit and lights up the LED under it turning it transparent, like magic.

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MegaChess has traditional chess sets in a variety of materials and sizes (all large). The pieces range from 11 inches up to 12 foot inflatables. They also offer topiary frames so you can grow your potted shrubs into chess pieces!

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Here's a chess set that looks good enough to eat -and you can! Designer Biggles made cookie cutters in the shapes of various chess pieces. When you take your opponent's pieces, they could be gone forever.

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Drinking chess works along the same lines. Combining chess and a drinking game, you could either take a drink for a successful capture, or force your opponent to take a drink when losing a man. Which method you use would depend on whether you are wagering money on the outcome. You see these for sale all over near Christmas.

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Alternately designed chess pieces range from the whimsical to the truly tasteless. A subclass of chess sets are designed to resemble real people. Civil War sets often feature Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis as kings, with famous generals in other roles and foot soldiers in blue and gray as pawns.

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As another example of chess pieces designed to resemble real people, this set was created by Norma Jean Almodovar to illustrate the strategy in the OJ Simpson trial. Even the pawns are each modeled after a real participant! The trouble in playing with such a set is that you'd have to know who each piece represents and whether they were on the prosecution or the defense team.

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The Iraqi Quagmire chess set is another modeled after real people, although not a playable set due to the shape of the board. Hermann Mejía designed it for Mad Magazine.

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You can make a chess set out of just about anything, as long as you can identify the role of the pieces. Here's a set made of different sizes of magnifying loupes, designed by Chris Dimino. I found another hand made from nuts and bolts.

Chess set variations can be taken to ridiculous extremes. Crack Pipe Chess combines the idea of making chess pieces out of anything plus the idea of drinking chess taken to another level. It's from SkyMaul, a parody of the SkyMall catalog we all know and love. There is no limit to chess variations, but they all still take a minute to learn and a lifetime to master.

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Is There a Limit to How Many Balls You Can Juggle?
Carl Court, Getty Images
Carl Court, Getty Images

In 2017, a juggler named Alex Barron broke a record when he tossed 14 balls into the air and caught them each once. The feat is fascinating to watch, and it becomes even more impressive once you understand the physics behind it.

As WIRED explains in a new video, juggling any more than 14 balls at once may be physically impossible. Researchers who study the limits of juggling have found that the success of a performance relies on a number of different components. Speed, a.k.a. the juggler's capacity to move their hands in time to catch each ball as it lands, is a big one, but it's not the most important factor.

What really determines how many balls one person can juggle is their accuracy. An accurate juggler knows how to keep their balls from colliding in midair and make them land within arm's reach. If they can't pull that off, their act falls apart in seconds.

Breaking a juggling world record isn't the same as breaking a record for sprinting or shot put. With each new ball that's added to the routine, jugglers need to toss higher and move their hands faster, which means their throws need to be significantly more accurate than what's needed with just one ball fewer. And skill and hours of practice aren't always enough; according to expert jugglers, the current world records were likely made possible by a decent amount of luck.

For a closer look at the physics of juggling, check out the video below.

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'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
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iStock

Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

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