14 Crazy Chess Boards and Variations

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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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July 15, 2008 - 3:09am
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