Emerald Specter 104: SpecterChess Revisited

If you want to know why columns aren’t coming out like they used to then you should be aware that November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and I have decided to participate this year… that basically eats up the extra spare time I had to write a column.

So where is this one coming from? Well, the subject of my NaNoWriMo novel this year is basically SpecterChess. I started writing and came up with some wonderful ideas that I’d like to revisit on this site, and perhaps alter SpecterChess with… so, let’s not waste anymore time.

I have an issue finishing writing projects. No, really, I do.

Yes, I know that isn’t a surprise… that was sarcasm.

Anyway, I was challenged by my friend (and author) Jason Brick (of BrickCommaJason.com) to write something I “wasn’t married to as an idea.” I chose to write about someone who wants to set up a chess league and that basically meant I was writing about SpecterChess, in a nutshell. Along the way, though, something happened.

Some writers will tell you that they aren’t necessarily in control of their characters. Non-writers will be baffled by this statement but writers understand that sometimes the characters are really the ones who are in charge of the dialog, meaning they can sometimes start talking about stuff that you hadn’t expected them to talk about at all. Sometimes, even, they bring up subjects that are completely out of left field, and in my case they can actually unveil things you weren’t sure that you wanted to do.

My characters have done that very thing.

The character who came up with the idea for SpecterChess (it’s called ICE for International Chess Experience in the novel) pitched the whole idea to his friend and unbeknownst to me came up with some formatting changes that I didn’t really take into consideration when I launched SpecterChess. The biggest one is the “divisional breaks” I used for SpecterChess: my character broke them up more evenly and with a better overall vision for them.

As I write this, SpecterChess has 10 rate divisions that are between 100 and 200 Elo points apart (with no room for being at the top of the rating maximum and going over). I initially just named them after the weight classes that the UFC uses with the addition of the unified rules of MMA inclusion of Cruiserweight. Using the names and weights, I literally just added a “0” on the end of the weight to create an Elo maximum for each division.

Sounded good at the time.

My character, though, broke them up differently and excluded anyone above 2200. Why 2200? Well, the reasoning is that anyone above that rating will be focused on “traditional chess improvement” and wouldn’t really be interested in playing in ICE at all. These players would be the ones attending all kinds of tournaments and winning prize money.

The new “Rate Classes” are as follows (with the maximum Elo in parentheses): Kilo Rate (1200), Mega Rate (1400), Giga Rate (1600), Tera Rate (1800), Peta Rate (2000), and Exa Rate (2200). If someone won their division’s championship, and they were already at the maximum rating (or very close to going over), they are given a 50 Elo buffer to defend said championship. ONLY 50 Elo points and ONLY for championships. If you’re a non-champion player and you stray over the rating limit, you’re in the higher division.

Another caveat that I came up with, which I do not personally have the funding to do, was being paid a salary for playing in ICE. The salary varied based on rate division and would only apply to those who were “ranked” contenders. That means that the champion and the top 15 players under the champion are under salary, while the rest of the competitors are not salaried players. This gives anyone a reason to try to get ranked in their divisions and gives a reason for ICE, or in my case SpecterChess, a reason to be a draw to players.

On top of a salary, every win you achieve under the ICE (or in my case SpecterChess) banner would be a bonus of a flat fee (let’s use $25 for this example). Regardless of salary, you could earn an additional $25 per win (meaning the win over the opponent and not the win of individual games). There would also be bonuses for outstanding game/match and other possible bonuses.

The characters in the novel started by forming a single division first and expanding out from there. Now, I’ve only written into the beginning of their first event, so Tera Rate is the one they started with and they established a KO tournament in order to determine a champion and 15 ranked contenders. After another event of only Tera Rate competitors, they will be starting in on another rate division (I’m thinking “down” would be smarter to go with initially, so they’d be introducing the Giga Rate division next using that line of thinking).

When I use the word “tournament,” I am speaking specifically about KO tournaments. Chess is rife with round robins (it is THE norm) and the whole point of SpecterChess is to go back to match play.

Why match play?

Well, there is no scarcity in chess anymore. Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana (the two World Chess Championship 2018 players) have played each other more than 50 times already… where’s the mystery in that? Also, with only tournament play in chess, they haven’t gotten a chance at a long run of match play like they are about to enter. There isn’t really any match play other than the WCC.

Sure, that allows all kinds of kibitzers to download all their games and overanalyze things. I also agree that tournament play isn’t necessarily a bad thing. My concern is that with ONLY tournament play, chess is becoming more an endurance product than a player v player game. Players are more concerned with their overall tournament performance and less about “that one game they drew” early on.

My goal with SpecterChess isn’t to eliminate “normal” chess tournaments, it’s to add a feature for those who aren’t in some sort of contention for the WCC. I’m creating “chess competition for the rest of us.”

I’d like to play in tournaments, sure, but I’d rather concentrate more on a single opponent at a time with a focus on seeing if I can outmatch them rather than endure an entire tournament.

The last thing that ICE is doing that I hadn’t really considered before is game time. Each game is 15 minutes per player, meaning we don’t need to worry about achieving that “perfect game” in a traditional time control. It also eliminates the stress of needing to be spectacular at blitz chess, which in my estimation can be overrated as the alternative. With 30 minute games, players have their entire set of four games (per match) in a single day, leaving the multiple day event format in the dust.

SpecterChess would literally be like the UFC in that they’d only be happening on single days. 

I would like to thank my characters for coming up with most of this and though I’ll be altering SpecterChess’s format/rules in the near future, I wanted to point out that sometimes writing takes you in weird directions.