Chess can become a new brand in Belarus. Mikalaj Tamaszevicz, creator and co-author of the idea, told budzma.org about the idea of creating a souvenir, the directions of its development and the main differences.
- Where did the idea of ancient Belarusian chess come from?
- When I worked for the newspaper “Zvyazda”, I organised a quiz called “Zvyazdarynachka”. And for this quiz I wanted to find information about ancient Belarusian chess - ancient pieces, their names, so people would try to guess what it was. And suddenly I came across an interesting image on the Internet: a 9x9 board, in the centre a white-red-white flag and pieces. As it turned out, this article was published by Ales Astrowski, professor of the Grodno State Medical University. I contacted him to find out more about it - I'm really interested in what kind of chess our ancestors played. But he said he invented it in 2000. So there's no historical platform in this chess game, apart from the names of the pieces. In his chess there were only the basic touches - the unfinished rules - but the names of the pieces were already different and a new piece, kniažyč, had been introduced. We met and decided to work together on this chess, a 50/50 authorship, so to speak. The main idea belongs to Ales, I did the rest.
- Is it still ancient chess?
- No, it's a new one, but this chess is made according to Belarusian realities, because our princely families fought for power, and it is enough for us to seize the throne, as it has happened more than once in history. For example, that's how Alhierd's son Jahajla took the throne from Kiejstut. Unlike classical chess, this is not murder. And I try my best to stress that. When we play, almost no one ever checkmate.
- What is being done to popularise this chess?
- As soon as I saw chess, I thought about how to "lay it out". First I developed a physical model. We made one pyramid board, though it can be called a pyramid conventionally - the difference in the height of the cells is about 2 millimetres. And then it occurred to me that we should make a computer model. We had to make it so that people could download this chess game and play it online with each other. And we made such a computer game. There is no computer intelligence yet, but the development is already underway, it will come soon. Maybe someone will help us to make these pieces and boards, to organise tournaments. Ales even has ideas about how to run tournaments, before we can afford it at our own expense.
If we talk about PR, we're doing it ourselves: yesterday I wrote an article in Wikipedia. The programme has been translated into English, Lithuanian, Polish and German. We need to make a presentation in Belarus.
- How do ordinary chess players feel about your chess?
- Of course, in different ways. There are two strands - the conservatives, most of whom wonder why we need it. But there are also the innovators. There's the Hexagonal Chess Federation, which is a new unconventional chess, quite a few of such games are in the world.
The federation doesn't know about our chess yet. And the Belarusian chess player Aliaksandr Paulovich, master of the International Hexagonal Chess Federation, is writing an encyclopaedia and a book called "60 Chess Games". I met with him, we had a talk and he really liked the concept of our chess. He promised to write about our invention in his books. But he suggested that we should not call them "Belarusian chess" because that name already exists. We consulted with Ales Astrowski and came to the conclusion that we would not change the name. After all, it is an invention of Belarus and it can become a brand of the country.
- Tell us about the computer model.
- We started working on it with the designer Aliaksei Kulbitski somewhere at the end of June and finalized it in November. Visually, it is designed in a historically modern style. I came up with the music myself, something medieval in theme, and recorded it with Artsiom Bagaslauski. At first it was just an electronic board, 2D - it's better for understanding and approaching classic chess miniatures, and 3D might come later.