The Stanley Random Chess Files

Understanding l'échange de conseil and l'échange de couleur

Stanley Random Chess has developed many fascinating traditions over the course of history. This article introduces some of the traditional practices associated with the completion of every Set.

Under the tradition of l'échange de conseil, the board is turned around at the end of every Set (every ten moves), and both players switch sides in order to eliminate any seating advantage. For example, with the eleventh move, the First Set of play is officially completed (after move 10), and a game of SR Chess commences the Second Set of play. At this point the board is turned around, with both players switching sides to reduce any possible advantage due to seating position. Naturally it is impossible to implement this over the internet, and players can be slightly advantaged by this limitation.

To eliminate colour advantage, the French have developed a tradition where the players also exchange the black and white pieces after every Set. This tradition (referred to in SR Chess circles with the term l'échange de couleur) is said to eliminate any advantage that might be mentally associated with a certain colour. Note that the board and piece position does not change, but merely the colour of the player's pieces. Due to technological limitations, has not yet been able to implement "l'échange de couleur" at this point, but funding has just been received from the French government to allow a team of fifteen programmers to begin this important project.

Of historical interest is that the French "l'échange de couleur" tradition (exchanging colours at the end of the First Set of ten moves) became popular in England when the French SR Chess WGM Marie Antoinette Lautier married into the Stanley family in 1885. Marie brought the "l'échange de couleur" tradition with her to England, where it had an immediate influence on cricket. At that time, the French "l'échange de couleur" practice included stopping for a 40 minute tea break after the First, Second and Third Set. Both players were provided with tea and cucumber sandwiches, or - if their religious beliefs forbade cucumber sandwiches - milk and cookies. This practice was immediately adopted in cricket, and is still evident in the lunch and tea breaks common to modern day Test Cricket, although it is not common knowledge that this practice originates with SR Chess.

Former International cricketer Ian Botham is currently working on a book on the subject, entitled "Test Cricket's Silent Debt: The Influence of 19th Century Stanley Random Chess on Modern Cricket." I recently received an advance copy of his manuscript to scrutinize for historical accuracy. In the fifteen chapter, "On Uniforms", Botham notes that Test cricket's practice of wearing white clothing also originates with SR Chess, since French SR Chess players were expected to wear uniforms that matched the colour of their pieces. Botham argues rather persuasively that to be consistent with original SR Chess traditions, one cricket team should be dressed in black, as was originally the case with SR Chess, and that the two teams should exchange uniforms during the lunch and tea breaks, in the true spirit of the "l'échange de couleur" tradition. Botham believes the uniform exchange would also promote a greater harmony among players, particularly in international Test series between India and Pakistan. The idea certainly has merit, although it must be admitted that modern SR Chess no longer retains all these traditions about uniform. Note that no tea breaks may be taken once VH Conditions come into effect after the Third Set.

SR Chess GM Gregory Topov

Posted Tuesday - 2006-04-04 - 12:07:25 EST
by Staff Reporter Verdra H. Ciretop in Toronto
All Rights Unreserved - Loof Lirpa Publishing
Text may be freely copied & redistributed

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