Chess + Poker = ???

Today I write about a new game that involves chess and poker.

Today’s the day. The biggest chess tournament that I attend annually - The BUCA (British Universities’ Chess Association) Tournament. This tournament consists of various universities all across Britain, including Leeds, Bristol and Exeter playing in teams of four players to win the title of the BUCA Champion. The University of Warwick goes well out of their way each year to send the most teams to this tournament and without fail, arise triumphant as the BUCA champions.

It so happens that this year, Warwick Chess decides to send out 9 teams to the BUCA tournament. To put this into perspective, most universities send out about 4-5 teams. The University of Warwick somehow ends up making up about 20% of the entire players of this tournament. I so happen to be in one of these 9 teams - the second to last team… it’s evident that I’m not the greatest chess player in our chess society (Which is why I’ve become an arbiter… for future tournaments).

At the tournament, they provide players with an analysis room. This is basically a room where players can go through their games that they’ve written down on their scoresheets and learn about where they blundered (made a mistake) and how to improve by looking at what the opponents did. In the analysis room this year, there is a very strange large chessboard on a very elevated table - completely separate from the other chessboards on regular sized tables. Around this chessboard was green felt and surrounding that: black leather table edges. To complete the look, there was black cloth under the table. Almost immediately, this very strange table caught my attention. Unfortunately, the first round of the chess tournament begins before I get the chance to explore this strange setup.

During the introduction speeches and rules and regulations that are stated before each round (normally consists of “Make sure your phone is off”, “Please be quiet outside of the playing area”, “Whenever you’re ready, you can play”) a man announces that he’s set up a game in the analysis room. I notice that this man is not a man that I’ve seen before. They’re definitely not an arbiter - arbiters normally wear very formal clothing (a suit), whereas this guy was wearing the most casual clothes that you’d normally wear on a Saturday. He goes on to explain that whenever we want (after we’ve finished our games), we can meet him in the analysis room to learn more about choker.

Choker

Excuse me? What? My ears must have heard something wrong. Did he just say “choker”? Are my ears deceiving me? What on earth could this strange thing called choker possibly be about? When I think of the word choker… well, let’s just say you already know what I think when I think of the word choker. If that little explanation wasn’t enough, the name surely was something that grabbed my undivided attention.

After my two chess games are complete for the first round, I head over to the analysis room to find the man holding some playing cards over the “fancy table”. Seated at the table were two players from the tournament and upon closer inspection, there were a number of poker playing chips on the table. The man notices that I am completely bewildered by whatever was going on at the table and begins to explain the game that is: choker.

Choker is a game that takes the complexity of Chess and combines it with the strategic plays of Poker. Chess + Poker = Choker.

The game is rather complex, but once you’ve got the hang of it, it’s pretty simple. Basically, the game starts with a chess board, and a deck of specially made playing cards - instead of numbers, they consist of chess pieces (A pawn, a knight, a bishop, a rook or a queen). Each player is dealt 2 cards and a betting phase takes place (just as you would in poker, with poker chips. Folding, raising, calling are all permitted). After the first round of betting, each player is given 2 more cards and the second betting phase takes place. After that, 1 more card is dealt to each player and the final round of betting takes place.

After the final round of betting has finished, the placement phase begins. Both players use a preset chess clock set to 2 minutes (This means that each player must complete all of their moves for the entire game within 2 minutes. If you run out of time, you lose the game. (For perspective, 2 minutes is incredibly fast for a chess game.)). The players can use the cards in their hand to place the desired pieces onto the board in turn. For example, if a player’s hand consisted of 2 pawns, 2 bishops and a rook, they could use up a card to place that piece on the board. However, the timer already starts! This means that not only do you have to play all of your moves for the game, you also have to place the pieces on the board within the 2 minutes as well!

What this results in, is this bizarre game where each player has very odd pieces in very strange locations and a massive rush to beat the opponent in order to win the bet! Luckily, I happen to be “okay” at poker, and am very good at very fast chess and manage to grasp the concept very quickly. I enjoy many games and have a lot of opportunity to talk to this man hosting this “mini-game”.

It so happens that this man is not just some random man. They are the sole creator of this game choker. He worked for many years, getting in contact with the game company Queenside Games Ltd to perfect his concept of chess with poker. He managed to create an app to allow players to play each other online, which is currently in beta (as of the time of this blog post). He managed to get this concept heard to all sorts of players - chess grand-masters and poker experts alike.

The man was kind enough to give away one of his special packs of choker playing cards for free (after I downloaded the app). After exploring this very entertaining combination of chess and poker, I’m very excited to get to know this man in person and to proudly state that I’ve beaten the creator of choker at his own game.

I look forward to playing this game with my friends (Considering that the requirements to play the game are the custom playing cards, a chess board, a chess clock and some poker chips) and introducing the rest of the chess society to this weird, but wonderful game.

For more information about choker, you can find information about it on their website.

Written on February 23, 2019