The Stanley Random Chess Files - No. 7

Historical Origins of Stanley Random Chess

The origins of Stanley Random Chess have been the subject of debate by scholars for century. In his last article, GM Topov provides some personal insights on this controversial subject.

Contrary to popular belief, the origins of Stanley Random Chess are in fact evolutionary in nature. Although I am a fierce opponent of Darwin's theory of evolution and do not for a moment give any credibility to the absurd notion that the origins of man lie in apes, the same cannot be said for Stanley Random Chess. Historical records now confirm that the name of this classic game originates with primates. Irrefutable evidence supporting this hypothesis has emerged as a result of the ground-breaking research of Dr. Bill Goldman and Dr. Simon Morgenstern, recently published in "Uncovering and Exposing the Stanley in Stanley Random Chess (University Press, 2001).

Until recently, it was incorrectly supposed that Stanley Random Chess owed its humble origins to a monkey famously known as "Stanley," who first gained international prominence as the lowest rated personality in the world-famous Chessmaster software. He has an ELO of 1, and his moves are entirely random. The official Chessmaster documentation records his abilities as follows:

"As a young chimp, Stanley wandered onto a game preserve in Africa where he met a boy named Justin. The two became fast friends. Stanley has shown Justin many chimpanzee pastimes like climbing trees and how to find the best bananas. In return, Justin has taught Stanley some human things, like how to program a VCR and how to play chess. Stanley absolutely refuses to play chess unless he gets to wear Justin`s propeller hat. Stanley knows how to move the pieces, but doesn`t really understand how to play chess."

This is the Stanley that many uninformed players previously supposed to be the origin of Stanley Random Chess, but this conclusion is the result of the mistaken belief that SR Chess is a recent phenomenon and merely a variant of Simplified SR (Common) Chess. Following concentrated studies of the Stanley family in early Britain, recent scholarship has become convinced that the relationship between these two forms of chess is in fact reversed, and that SR Chess is the original form of the game from which Common Chess developed as a simplified form of the game. Naturally this eliminates any notion that the history of SR Chess began with a modern software primate.

Goldman and Morgenstern provide solid evidence that the name "Stanley" originates with Sir Thomas Stanley (d. 1459), a descendant of William the Conqueror who excelled in SR Chess from an early age. Recently discovered ship logs confirm that William the Conqueror's pet monkey, named Stanley, accompanied him on the ship that arrived at Pevensy Bay on August 28, 1066, leading up to the Battle of Hastings. Following the success of the Norman Invasion and William's subsequent coronation, King William's beloved pet Stanley was known to accompany him on his tour through England. Following the death of Stanley, William assigned the name as an honorary title to one of the local families that had proved his strongest ally, from which time they became known as the Stanley family.

The first mention of the game itself is found in historical accounts of the Ferrers family in 1137. The Stanley family apparently learned the game of SR Chess when they assumed the Earl of Derby title from the Ferrers in 1485. The Stanley family quickly developed a passionate love for SR Chess, and actively promoted the game, hosting annual tournaments for the Stanley Cup. In 1892, the Stanley Cup was sadly donated by the rebel Sir Frederick Arthur Stanley, from which time it was used as a trophy for amateur hockey in Canada. Frederick T. Stanley, who in 1843 founded The Stanley Works, at that time a bolt and door hardware manufacturing company located in New Britain, was responsible for popularizing SR Chess in America. Directors of his company (now renowned for making fine hand tools and industrial tools) are still known to play SR Chess in board meetings today.

Until the 20th century, the game was simply known as Stanley Chess. When the popularity of the simplified form of the game (now known as Simplified SR Chess, or Common Chess) overtook the traditional form of the game, the original regulations that strictly governed the sequences and patterns of the original game (previously common knowledge) gradually were forgotten by the general chess playing public. To players of Common Chess not familiar with the body of laws that governed legal patterns and sequences, the unique play of Stanley Chess appeared obscure and "random", and so the game acquired the unfortunate designation "Stanley Random Chess" or SR Chess. Originally intended as an insult, the name has stuck, although it is a misnomer and SR Chess is certainly not random. The original form of the game is far more advanced and complex than Simplified SR (Common) Chess, and experts are agreed that the additional rules that govern move sequences and patterns lead to more creative and imaginative play than the adulterated and simplified form of the game that is commonly played around the world today.

It is regrettable that much of the traditional SR Chess rules and terminology are unfamiliar to chess players today. This is the sad consequence of the Great SR Chess Purge in the mid-nineteenth century, which involved the systematic cleansing of SR Chess materials from libraries and schools, as a result of high ranking leaders developing a fierce antagonism toward the game. Sadly, this accounts for a great deal of the general public ignorance about SR Chess, and the popularity of its inferior and simplified variant, Common Chess.

Recent times have seen the beginning of an acknowledgement of Common Chess's origins in SR Chess, and a renewed appreciation for SR Chess. In honour of William the Conqueror's pet monkey, the original Stanley, software developer UbiSoft has added a Stanley Random personality to its Chessmaster program, although this personality is not very competent at the game, and SR Chess rules are not enforced for human players.

Since its humble beginning, SR Chess has experienced rapid growth and flourished especially in the late medieval era. But despite an evolutionary journey of progress from the original Stanley and the Stanley family, the game is yet to receive the universal recognition it richly deserves. In particular, the rise of Simplified SR (Common) Chess led to SR Chess seeing a significant decline in the number of players over the last few centuries. With the advent of playing opportunities on the internet, there is good reason today for optimism about renewed growth and appreciation for the original form of the game.

SR Chess GM Gregory Topov

This was GM Topov's last published article about Stanley Random Chess, prior to an unfortunate injury at the hands of escaped primates at the New York City Zoo. He has since recovered, and although retired from tournament play, continues to be active in research. Stanley Random Chess today owes much of its popularity to GM Topov. Under his influence it has an active presence on the internet, notably the excellent web-based email chess server

Posted Thursday - 2004-12-02 - 10:29:22 EST
by Staff Reporter Verdra H. Ciretop in Toronto
All Rights Unreserved - Loof Lirpa Publishing
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