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Monster Chess

By Shamus
on Sunday Jul 11, 2010
Filed under:


At first I mistook this for a table scene. There weren’t any easily identifiable objects in the foreground to give a sense of scale. But it’s big:

Link (YouTube)

I am constantly impressed at how much effort nerds put into finding really, really inconvenient ways to play chess.

Comments (61)

  1. Randy Johnson says:

    I don’t think I could handle playing this game, myself. It takes way to long for the pieces to move for my personal level of hyper attentiveness

  2. X2-Eliah says:

    This might be the first time I’ve seen a video a)Submitted here by Shamus, or b)about Lego pieces, or c)about robots, that left me completely bored and unimpressed.

    It’s probably the rate of events and the awful drone of those engines.

  3. Will says:

    The ability of people to dedicate months or even years of hard labour and resources into doing something that has no practical purpose and is highly inconvenient as well should never be underestimated.

  4. joshua says:

    That looks to be one boring way to play chess.

  5. pnf says:

    Yeah, and after expending all that effort creating those machines, they then proceed to play really badly.

    I presume that it was a deliberate plan to achieve checkmate in eight moves, but I was too busy being flabbergasted by the play to appreciate the engineering.

    • ehlijen says:

      I think the main point was showing off how every logistics situation is handeled if you can’t lift the pieces over one another.

      It was less about making decent moves than about artificially creating situations that would call for funky programming.

  6. Gandaug says:

    I made it through about 1:30 of the video before I came here to post how bored I got. I suppose I’m fairly impressed with the game in its ability to be played in such a way, but mind numbingly bored with the the thought of actually playing in such a fashion.

  7. Marlowe says:

    I don’t think you get many True Nerds on your site, Shamus. No one has commented on the opening being played. They don’t know chess.

    Perhaps Monster TRUCK chess would suit the tenor of the times better?

  8. SatansBestBuddy says:


    Kinda reminds me of the time I got bored and made a chess board in Kohan.

    It actually worked pretty well, and a hell of a lot faster than that thing up there.

    Still, from an engineering standpoint, plus the raw time and effort put into this, it’s pretty impressive.

  9. Thadius Girth says:

    As for scale, those are LEGOs, so each pawn is about one foot high, perhaps a bit more.

  10. Mike says:

    Pawns can move backwards? I’ve never heard of that rule…

    • Sekundaari says:

      They aren’t actually moving backwards, or forwards, officially, they just make way for the knights that need to go past them.

      I’m even more impressed when they make the knights actually able to jump over other pieces.

      • Jabor says:

        I would be interested in seeing how the pathfinding copes with a knight capture in the middle of the crowded space :)

        The move ordering for piece return in the video seemed a bit … awkward.

  11. krellen says:

    After playing enough chess, the game itself becomes somewhat boring, so spicing it up with gimmicks seems like a natural progression.

    Besides, everything is better with robots.

    • Michael says:

      Except Lego chess it seems. That said, I find chess itself rather bland and boring personally. I’d much rather play something with more strategic options.

      • Low-Level DM says:

        I’m going to contest this purely on the principle of chess – “more strategic options” is something a bit hard to achieve over chess. Granted, lots of those options begin and sometimes end rather subtly, but I’d venture to contest that chess actually has _more_ strategic options than a lot of other comparable examples.

        • Factoid says:

          “Go” has more strategic options than chess, or pretty much any game ever made. The downside is that it takes a really long time and a good teacher to learn to play that game well.

          • Will says:

            Go has more tactical options. Strategic options don’t come into play in the game itself but rather between multiple games, so both games have exactly as many strategic options as each other.

            • Syal says:

              I thought strategy was about placing your troops, and tactics was what the troops would do.

              I don’t see what you mean by strategy only being involved between games.

              • Will says:

                In a military term (and the origins of the words), Tactics are concerned with the conduct of forces in a given engagement, while Strategy is concerned with how different engagements are linked.

                A game of Chess is basically an engagement; it is a battle between two equal sides, with the possibility of victory, defeat or stalemate. Players employ Tactics during the game as they move the pieces around, possibly switching to different tactics as the game progresses.

                Strategy only rears it’s head in multi-game terms; i believe Go titles are challenged via 5 or 7 consecutive games over several months. When that occurs, Strategy is employed to link the games together; for example a player may choose to deliberately use a weakened tactic in one game and throw that game in order to achieve an advantage in future games. Or a player may engage in psychological warfare between games, in order to weaken his opponent for the upcoming game.

                In the simplest possible terms, looking at a real-world perspective, Tactics is what the soldiers do when directly engaging an enemy, Strategy is what gets them to the place where they can engage an enemy in the first place. For example; managing supply lines, communication, army movements and scouting are four major factors of Strategy, none of which are present in a single game of Chess.

                There are also two other tiers of warfare: Grand Strategy, which deals with events on the scale of countries and political agendas, and Operations, which sits between Strategy and Tactics, and are the coordinated military actions of a state in response to a developing situation. D-Day is an example of Operation level planning.

                • Syal says:

                  Isn’t strategy how the tactical engagements are linked with regard to the overall goal? In that case, the places you focus putting troops in Go would be the engagements, that all build toward the goal of controlling the board. I guess it would depend on whether you’re trying to win the game, or the tournament; however, unless the tournament counts cumulative score instead of games, there would be very little strategy to winning, since every game would count equally.

                  It sounds like freedom of movement is part of strategy, which means cutting off your opponent’s movement would be strategic. (In Go, it would be cutting groups off from each other.) One could argue that was the point of both games.

                • Will says:

                  Go is a bit trickier due to it’s less restrictive nature in piece placement, but it’s more on the Operations level than the Strategic level.

  12. UtopiaV1 says:

    That must be amazingly difficult to program and engineer, what with all the grid-based way-pointing the pieces have to do, even when it’s not their turn. Seems a lot of effort has been put into something that will ultimately be used by lazy nerds such as myself.

    Reminds me of my Grandpa’s giant chess-board he had in his back garden, with big wooden pieces that he carved and painted himself. People do like to make their own chess sets.

  13. Syal says:

    I’m upset they didn’t show the transformation sequence when the pawn gets promoted.

    Also, all that king movement for captured pieces is going to make castling a far bigger pain than it needs to be.

  14. GM says:

    number one problem there is no way to see what is going on.
    nothing marked a1-12 or something and constantly changing cameras.

  15. Porschecm2 says:

    Being a big Lego fan, I saw this awhile back. What astounds me is the ridiculous amount of pieces needed to create a chess set of this size. If you want to see the scale of it, there’s any number of photos of it at the recent Brickworld convention in Chicago. Here’s one that gives a good sense of the size of it: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nannanz/4719976128/

  16. TehShrike says:

    I’m surprised nobody’s mentioned this – true chess nerds wouldn’t name robotic chess “monster chess” – the name is already taken by an actual chess variant! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monster_chess

    It’s a fun mid-tournament diversion.

  17. John Callaghan says:

    As Syal has mentioned, what happens when a pawn gets promoted? Do they have an extra set of pieces to replace it with, or do they build it from scratch when the replacement piece is requested? It looks like they might be happy to spend the time doing that…

    A better solution would be for each piece to consist of an LCD screen displaying its role. The robot pieces would then occupy less space, too.

    Hmmm… If only there was a way to make a chess set even smaller. Portable, even. Ah well, I can dream…

  18. somecrazyfan says:

    Do you realise the fact that Shamus posted only twice in the last 2 days?Maybe he’s sick!
    Maybe he was replaced!
    It is very unsettling.Owner of this site, whomever you may be, what have you done with Shamus?

  19. Oleyo says:

    as soon as the first piece moved I thought “I want a chess set with Dalek pawns.

  20. Bugbear says:

    “Exterminate! Exterminate! Exter… uh… I mean ‘Check’…”

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