Twilight Chess


Modern chess computers are now largely above the human level. The chess strenght of Rybka is an estimated 3200 elo (see ssdf and CCRL 40/40 rating lists) which has to be compared with the best human approx. 2800 (the top human, V. Topalov, is rated 2812 in July 08 Fide list). This state of fact is largely due to a combination of huge improvements in hardware and software.

The natural question is the following : can we design a game very similar to chess in which the human can beat the computer ? One proposition is Arimaa. My proposition is Twilight Chess.

The idea behind Twilight chess is twofold:

  1. Twilight Chess is really close from standard chess : actually all standard rules of classical chess apply, there is an addition of two new kind of moves. Hence, good chessplayers, to a large extent, may use their expertise in Twilight Chess.
  2. The number of legal moves of twiligh chess is many times the one of classical chess, thus making exploration much harder for computers. For human there is still this instinct of king-hunting that helps to "understand" a position.
  3. The extreme closeness of Twilight Chess and classical makes it almost trivial the transformation of a classical chess engine into a Twilight chess engine. It is interesting to study the relative impact, in terms of quality of play, of the new rules for both humans and computers. It could draw interesting discoveries in AI field.


The general idea of twilight chess is fairly simple : you can move any of your piece, but the king, into a twilight zone (warp moves), and any piece on the twilight zone may be moved to any empty square of the board (drop moves), but pawns on the last rank. More precisely, in a twilight chess game: It is important to notice that standard laws of chess apply, it answers a lot of questions like


A new stronger engine, Punica 2.0 has been made by P. Durand. It has been built over the first engine, Punica 1.0, and interface for twilight chess, Winboard_TC, have been developped by C. Anzio and A. Barjon. The engine is a direct modification of Fruit 2.1. The interface is an adaptation of winboard, based on crazyhouse variation. Both software interact through an adapted version of polyglot.

Double click on Winboard program which is already parameterised. In order to play to twilight chess, one has to select new variant in the File menu, and to select Twilight Chess.

If you want sources you can ask me to send you them by mail me at

Games can be saved and loaded from file using PGN notation. It is extended in the following way:

Positions can be saved and loaded from file using FEN notation. It is extended in the following way: A FEN record contains nine fields. The separator between fields is a space. The fields are
  1. Same as field 1 of classical FEN notation
  2. List of pieces outside the board. White in upper-case and black in lower-case letters. If all pieces are on the board then this field is empty.
  3. Same as field 2 of classical FEN notation
  4. Same as field 3 of classical FEN notation
  5. Same as field 4 of classical FEN notation
  6. Same as field 5 of classical FEN notation
  7. Same as field 6 of classical FEN notation
  8. Integer between 0 and 255. When written in binary this number indicates whether a pawn has the possibility to move two squares ahead (since a pawn on the second rank may have been warped and droped back and in that case it can no longer move two squares in a row). 1 means that the pawn can move two squares in a row, 0 that it cannot.
  9. Same field as 8th for black.

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