A game of kings and bored undergrads

The tension in the air is palpable. In a show of royal charity, or perhaps a patience alien to us commons, the queen waits, her alert gaze focused on her adversary. Her finely chiselled features appear unperturbed, yet the trained observer might notice a tiny wrinkle on her forehead, the only outward sign that the battle of wits she is now engaged in will decide the fate of a kingdom.

Judging from the strain visible on his normally serene face, her foe is equally absorbed in his thoughts. Years of strategic military experience fail him now as he searches desperately for a way to remain unconquered. His choices are limited, he realises. They boil down to two avenues - both of escape. The possibility of resistance has long since disappeared from his mind. If he can evade capture for long enough, he may yet survive to fight again.

In a higher dimension, two bespectacled youths, considerably less royal in appearance, survey the situation from a different angle. The tension is still perceptible, but it seems to have a different source here - the overpowering tedium of the endgame.

"Would you move the damn piece already?", grumbles one of them, his fingers clutching the ever-present guitar, seeming as though they'd like to strangle the opponent.

"I'm thinking. There's a way out of this. I can feel it", I answer, staring at the chess-board without enthusiasm.

"You've got all of two possible moves. It's checkmate either way, dude. Just give it up and we can all go do something fun"

I sigh. Logic has emerged victorious.

"I resign", I announce, causing a minor tremor as the chessmen are swept off the board unceremoniously and into the bag that serves as their temporary home.

It is at this moment that inspiration strikes - a way to make the game of chess accessible to those with active social lives. My idea brings scepticism at first, but after a few rapid-fire matches, we know that it's a winner - and thus, the game of 'Chooker' is born.

Chooker is a variant of chess that can be played with any normal chess-set (good luck if it's magnetic, though). If you're wondering about the name, 'Chooker' is 'Chess + Snooker', and I suppose that's it in a nutshell. It's played by flicking chess-pieces against each other using only your index finger and thumb. It's turn-based, just like chess and promises to use a minimum of your brain's capacity. We haven't codified the rules of the game yet, but here's the basic gist:

  1. You can choose any of your own pieces as a 'cue-piece' to flick or strike against your opponent's pieces.

  2. Any of the pieces that have fallen due to the impact of a player's strike (even the player's own pieces) must be removed from the board. These pieces are considered to have been captured. The only exception to this rule is the cue-piece, which need be removed only if the impact has thrown it outside the board. If the cue-piece has fallen inside the board, it may be placed upright again, on one of the squares that it has fallen in.

  3. White plays first.

  4. The game ends when all of a player's pieces (not just the king) have been struck off the board, and the other player is declared the winner.

  5. The points gained by the winner correspond to which of his pieces are still on the board at the end of the game. A pawn gets you 1 point, a bishop or knight gets you 3, a rook gets you 5, a queen is 7 and the king is worth 10 points. So if you have a pawn and a queen left at the end of the game, you get a total of 8 points.

  6. In the case of a tie (that is, if the last strike removes all of the pieces from the board), then a 'chook-out', similar to a penalty shoot-out, is used to decide the winner. The chook-out works like this: Each player places a pawn on his side of the board, and the other player tries to strike the other pawn off using his. The best of five tries is taken, after which the game goes to 'sudden death' mode.

Chooker turned out to be a grand success in the weeks that followed. We organised an all-hostel tournament complete with league matches and a knockout round - the entire tourney lasted around an hour. Well, I won the inaugural Chooker Hostel Cup, but I put it down to luck - not to mention an abundance of free time on my hands :P

(Credits: Incidentally, the 'other' player is Ashwin Aryan, my friend at college - a bad-ass guitarist and vocalist, and co-inventor of Chooker)

11 spilt beans:

Anonymous June 30, 2009 at 10:06 PM  

"You've got all of two possible moves. It's checkmate either way, dude. Just give it up and we can all go do something fun"

I swear this is the bottom line of me selecting a stupid career.
Amazingly well written. Your words inspire me. Keep writing, aneev. For there's no better thing than feeling better through a few words.

Cabin-boy Dave July 1, 2009 at 10:01 AM  

Nicely taken out of context, Anamika :D

But who knows, even a stupid career could turn around completely given the right circumstances.

And thanks! Your words inspire me to write too! You should try out Chooker - I'm sure you'll enjoy it :)

Ashwin July 1, 2009 at 10:01 PM  

first things first i appreciate that you are actually advertising our game... hehe...
secondly... thanks for giving me the my side of the credits for the game...
now... should we sit down n talk about business??? :P

Cabin-boy Dave July 1, 2009 at 10:58 PM  

Business? Sure, man! Let's start the Indian Chooker League. I'm buying the Chennai Castler-kings!

Chooker is destined for big things, I'll bet. And they'll call us the Crooked Cooks of Chooker :)

Keep reading the Loony Bean, man!

Ashwin July 2, 2009 at 12:56 AM  

ahh... my dear friend... u see... i aint bothered about it being famous or anything... im talking bout shares friend... how about 70-30?? thats 70 me n 30 u btw... :P

Cabin-boy Dave July 2, 2009 at 11:35 AM  

Well, considering that there'll be nothing to split unless the game does get famous, and that I control the publicity, I think 70-30 the other way round is fair? :P

Tickled pink July 5, 2009 at 12:08 PM  

hi Aneev
YOu 've described the game in a terrific manner.Very nicely wriitten. You've made it sound so interesting that I wanna try my hands at this hybrid variety of game.Waise... m not that good in chess so what are my chances in chooker?

Cabin-boy Dave July 5, 2009 at 4:30 PM  

@ Abhilasha: Heh, thanks! You don't have to be good at chess to play chooker. It helps if you're good at carroms, though :P

If you have any more questions about how chooker is played, please feel free to ask :D

Tickled pink July 5, 2009 at 7:08 PM  

Hey Aneev
Ya m good at carrom but my father is a real champ.So I gues he'll be more interested in playin chooker.When he'll return I'll show him your descriptions.Meanwhile I'll be in a lookout for it.

Blue Moon July 6, 2009 at 9:28 AM  

Marvellous Aneev. I loved the way you presented your ideas. You are really gr88888 in explaining the game. I am thrilled after reading it. I too play chess, & would love to learn this new style of playing it. I would be waiting for your response on my posts.

Till then, take care & good luck for next posts.

btw thanks for your appreciation(in your previous post)


Dave July 6, 2009 at 12:18 PM  

@ Abhilasha: I'm sure your father will enjoy the game. It's a fun way to relax between games of chess or carroms :)

@ Manjari: I hope Chooker finds a larger following in the days to come. There's nothing complicated about the game really. Just make sure you avoid using a magnetic chess-board :P

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A thoroughly confused blogger with imagined Multiple Personality Disorder and delusions of usefulness. Yeah, he has issues.