6- Winning the game
In Chess 99, where it is legal to leave one’s king in check, one can easily conceive of a scenario where a player would capture their opponent’s king while their own king remains in check. To claim victory in such a situation – while having one’s king under direct attack – does appear altogether inappropriate and so Chess 99 declares that this is actually a draw.
To win the game in Chess 99, a player must not only capture the opponent’s king, but they must do so while their own king is not in check.
Capturing the opponent’s king with one’s own king in check is a draw.
A player in a position to capture the opponent’s king is always permitted to call a draw.
Note that it would be considered unsporting for a player to capture their opponent’s king knowing that their own king remains in check, or becomes in check as a result of the play, and that the game is actually a draw. In such a situation, a player would be expected to simply call a draw. Should a player proceed to capture the king nonetheless, the opponent is always permitted one last move to capture this player’s king and make it perfectly clear that this game is a draw.
Draw game due to a discovered check:
Black plays the queen to e2. In standard chess, white is checkmate and has lost the game. Not so in Chess 99 where white may capture the queen, a move that is permitted even though their king remains in check following the play. The pawn could well capture the white king but in doing so would expose its own king to a check and the game is a draw.
Note that the above situation does present some similarities to an old rule of chess which stated that one can ignore the check from a piece covering check. Under that rule, the white king above would not be in check from the pawn since the move (to capture the white king) would expose the black king to a check and is therefore illegal.
First move advantage:
There are other rationales for the above rule. The first one has to do with the fact that in the game of chess, the player who makes the first move has been shown to somewhat benefit from being “one step ahead”. Compiled statistics since the 19th century have demonstrated that white – who always plays first – does win slightly more often than black, a fact that is generally known as the “first-move advantage”. Although most players believe that a perfectly played game would end in a draw, some still insist that white’s first-move advantage should in principle be sufficient to force a win. And this is how the argument is usually presented: “Assuming a perfect play by each side, white will checkmate black as black is about to checkmate white but since the game is over as soon as white checkmates black, white wins the game.”
The same argument would be stated somewhat differently in Chess 99 since the goal is to capture the opponent’s king, but the principle is exactly the same: “Assuming a perfect play by each side, white will capture the black king as black is about to capture the white king.” But in Chess 99, such an outcome would not be a win for white since their king – about to be captured – is obviously in check. The game would be a draw. Perfect games may well not be the norm in the world of chess but it is hoped (it remains to be demonstrated) that this rule will even out the chances a little.
And there is one more rationale behind this rule. It allows a player to answer a check with another check, an option that may be a definite advantage to the player currently in an inferior position. In standard chess, there are three ways by which one can get out of a check situation: one may capture the checking piece, block the checking piece, or move the king to a square where he is no longer in check. In Chess 99, there is a fourth way out and that is to check the opposing king. Such a situation is called a “double-check” and is effectively a standoff between the two players. The opponent could call a draw at this point but should they choose to save their king instead – a likely option if they are in a superior position – this player may do the same and the game continues.
It is important to realize that the possibility of a double-check is only beneficial to the player who is currently in an inferior position. A player who is in a superior position – and expects to win the game – could not resort to this tactic because the opponent would, in all likelihood, call a draw. In other words, the player in the superior position who is in check must absolutely deal with it. The player in an inferior position is thus given a tactical advantage over their opponent since they have the option to answer a check with a check of their own.
White plays the paladin to e8 and attacks both the black king and the black queen all at once. Under the rules of standard chess, black must rescue the king and thus sacrifice the queen. The game is lost for black.
Under the rules of Chess 99, black has another option and that is to attack the white king. Black does so by playing the queen to c5 and both kings are now in check. White does have the option to call a draw at this point but if they elect to save their king instead, then black may do the same and the game continues. Black has managed to rescue the queen in the process.
King vs King:
White plays their king to f5 moving in to capture black’s last pawn. Black could play Kd4 to protect the pawn but the move will be immediately followed by Ne4 and forced to make a move, black can no longer protect their pawn. The game seems lost for black.
Black plays Kf4 and the two kings are now checking each other! If white were to capture the black king, they would find themselves in check from the pawn and the game is a draw. If the white king retreats to avoid capture, then black captures the knight and the game is a draw from lack of material. White can no longer win this game and calls a draw.
Here is an example of an endgame involving multiple successive double-checks. White has just played 49. Pe9+ and black is now effectively “checkmate”. Since black has no way out of this check, there is only one remaining strategy for them and that is to check the white king. And do so relentlessly!
Black answers with 49... Rc2!+. Both kings are now in check (as indicated by “!+”) and if white is to win this game, they must first find a way out of it.
The game continues with white playing Kf1 to escape check but it is then followed by a series of seven double-checks accompanied by four captures along the way. (Click on the right arrow to see the play unfold.)
50. Kf1+ Pg2!+ 51. Kg1+ Pxi3!+
52. Kf1+ Ph2!+ 53. Ke1+ Pxf3!+
54. Kf1+ Pg2!+ 55. Kg1+ Pxh3!+
56.Kh1+ Qxe4!+ 57. %
On the last move, white is finally checkmate. With black still in check, white calls a draw.
A “double-check” should not be confused with “twin-checks”. A double-check is a situation where both kings are in check at the same time. Twin-checks are checks delivered on a single king by two pieces simultaneously. The most common form of twin-checks involves one piece moving to deliver check while at the same time revealing a discovered check from a piece it had been blocking.