The first lidraughts variant on an 8x8 board!
Lidraughts was founded almost 2 years ago as a platform for draughts on the 10x10 board. It was aimed first and foremost at International draughts, and offered Frisian draughts as the only variant. Several other variants have been added since those early days, but all of them on a 100 square board. To add draughts variants on an 8x8 board has been the most frequent feature request since day one. But we always felt that Lidraughts needed more maturing as a platform for International draughts, before such a step could be considered. Until now.
One can always argue when mature is mature, but the growth of Lidraughts in 2020 is readily apparent. In the last 6 months we have seen a sixfold increase in the amount of players, and in the last 3 months there have been as many games played as in the 1,5 years before that! With some much anticipated features completed, such as the v2 interface and streamer integration, we think the time has come to broaden horizons, and welcome in the 8x8 crowd. Therefore we proudly introduce the first 64 square variant: Russian draughts!
Russian draughts is one of the most played variants on 64 squares, and one that is enjoyed by grandmasters of the highest levels. It falls under the umbrella of the FMJD together with the 64-variant Brazilian draughts. Since 1985 there are world championships organized by the FMJD, where some well known names from International draughts are regular visitors, such as Alexander Georgiev and Alexander Schwartzman.
The rules of Russian draughts have two major differences compared to International draughts. The first is that one can play any capture sequence, not necessarily the longest, as long as all possible captures are made. Second is that a man promotes when it touches the opponent's back row during a capture, and thus can continue the capture as a king. The complete rules of the game, including the drawing rules, can be found here.
The new variant is supported in all features of lidraughts, with the exception of computer analysis (Scan 3.1 only knows 100-square variants). You can use it in studies, on the analysis board, the board editor, in all game types, and in tournaments. Russian draughts will also be included in the regular tournament cycle with a Daily tournament (right before the Daily Superblitz), and the usual Weekly, Monthly and Yearly tournaments.
The usual notation for Russian draughts is algebraic, using the same coordinate system as in chess (a-h, 1-8). But it is also possible to show the same moves using the fieldnumber notation from International draughts. Therefore a setting has been added at preferences, where you can choose your preferred coordinate system:
Both Russian and Brazilian draughts tournaments are commonly played in two formats. Besides the usual 'go as you please' format where all games start at the initial position, there are tournaments where a random opening is drawn for every round. The players then have a mini-match with their opponent, in which they play both sides of that opening. The winner of each mini-match gets the tournament points for that round, decided by the combined score of both games.
We have brought this tournament format to lidraughts as well, although with a slight twist. Because Arena tournaments don't have a concept of 'rounds', a different opening will be selected randomly for every game. Also there are no mini-matches, but the usual Arena pairings that give a new opponent every game. Once traditional tournament formats such as Swiss are available on lidraughts, they will also have the mini-match system in its traditional form.
An alternative mode of play for Russian Arenas is to use the same opening for every game. Although less exciting, it may be useful to train specific openings or types of positions. And of course all options are available for the tournaments you can create yourself:
The openings come from the offical FMJD Drawing Table for Russian draughts. This is a set of 736 well balanced openings that is used in official over-the-board tournaments and championships. After a close look by FMJD officials there were even some improvements made, so these tables are state of the art and more balanced than ever! The full list of openings can be found in the board editor.
We planned a 12 hour Russian Inaugural Tournament on Sunday 21st from 14:00-02:00 CET (12:00-00:00 UTC), so that everybody can get to know the new variant. This tournament uses the FMJD opening tables, which means there is a random starting position for every game. In the spirit of Russian draughts, where the average game lasts 30 moves compared to 50 moves for international draughts, we chose a somewhat faster timecontrol of 2+2.
Plans for the future
As a bigger picture, we hope that lidraughts can become a place where both 64 and 100-square draughts variants can be enjoyed equally. So more draughts 64 variants will be added, although we plan to do this carefully, and step by step. There is no doubt that the next variant will be Brazilian draughts. This variant also falls under the FMJD umbrella, and is arguably the most widely played in the world. It is also the most accessible variant for International draughts players, because the rules for moving the pieces are exactly the same.
There will also be a set of tactics puzzles for Russian draughts, once enough have been entered. Alexander Krupko a.k.a. easykatochka is currently working on a collection of puzzles, which will be made available on lidraughts.org once completed. Special words of thanks must be spoken to easykatochka for his work on the puzzles, and for his help during the development of the variant. As an expert in the game he helped us understand all the rules and habits of Russian draughts, and helped get the variant where it is today.
One of the next things we will be working on is to have an A.I. for Russian draughts, so that there is also computer opposition and game analysis. There will also be more options for the coordinates trainer, to practice the new board size and coordinate system.
Official titles for draughts 64 will also be added, for those that want to show their title on their lidraughts profile. Both national and FMJD titles will be added as options to the title verification form. Keep an eye out for when this becomes available.
An update for the lidraughts app has been submitted to the Playstore and the App Store. It should be available soon, and will offer all the same possibilities for the new variant. Other improvements to the app include a full multicapture setting for analysis boards, more translations, and some bugfixes.