Since 1850, chess games have had significantly more moves and have gone to a situation where about 10% of games draw to one where about a third of games draw. (The relative white v. black advantage has stayed constant).
Former World Chess Champion José Raúl Capablanca, concerned that the game of chess would die at the elite level due to "draw death" in which, like tic-tac-toe, any sufficiently good player can force a draw of the game, proposed a variant of chess in the 1920s while he was world champion.
In his variant, played on a 10x8 board, the knight was replaced by two other pieces on each side of the king, a chancellor with the power of a rook and a knight, and an archbishop with the power of a bishop and a knight. Needless to say, it never caught on.
My proposal aims to propose the most minimalist change to the game that would achieve ends similar to those suggested by Capablanca. I can imagine and would propose a similar variant that can be played with standard chess pieces on a standard chess board. I call it "Knight Rider Chess" (excuse the B television series pun). I have thought of it myself and have not located anyone who has proposed this variant, but have not determined if I am the first to do so. It is similar to absorption chess, cubic chess, and way of the knight. But, it is simpler and fits a heuristic more naturally than any of those variants.
The concept is similar to the idea of a pawn being promoted to a queen, and also is inspired by Capablanca chess. In this chess variant, a knight that captures the other player's piece could choose to make that piece a "rider" and have the powers of both the knight and the captured player. Basically, the knight is converted into a fairy chess piece, without having any fairy chess pieces in the starting layout.
Thus, a knight that captured a bishop could gain the powers of the archbishop in Capablanca chess (also called a princess), a knight that captured a rook could gain the powers of a chancellor in Capablanca chess (also called an empress), and a knight that captures a queen could gain the powers of a queen and a knight (a "royal rider"). A knight could not capture another knight, as this would add nothing to its powers. A knight could not capture a king, as that would end the game.
A knight would also be allowed to capture a pawn and gain the powers of a pawn. The initial option of a pawn to move forward by two spaces rather than one, and the power to be promoted to a queen would not be acquired by a knight. The power to move forward by one in the direction of the capturing knight's side of the board might be acquired, however, along with the power to capture on either diagonal of one space in that direction.
A knight could acquire only one "rider" at a time, with the captured rider sharing the knight's square on the board. One could experiment with the question of whether a knight could have the option of changing "riders" with a further capture, would be required to change "riders" with a further capture, or would be converted once and for all after having gained a "rider." The last of three options would be the "orthodox" variant, mirroring the notion of a promoted pawn that only changes its powers once.
At any rate, it is attractive that this simple "home rule" change that does not alter the pieces on the board any more than the queen promotion rule does, could shake up the game. Ideally, it would make draws less likely, by adding to the power of the pieces on the board late in the game, and thus, extend the time period when even elite chess play is interesting.
Hat Tip to Marginal Revolution.