Article Index

Bashni
The Russian word Bashni or Bashnya (Towers) refers to the oldest column checkers game and the ancestor of all modern stacking games that are based on the implied method of capture. According to Russian sources, Bashni appeared in the Saint Petersburg region two hundred years ago. Its first written reference comes from a letter of the Checkers historian David Ivanovich Sargin to the Chess master Chigorin in 1885. The letter famously states that the combinations of Bashni are so complex that it is difficult to work them out even in correspondence play.

The beginner will feel the same if he is trying to calculate moves in a game of Bashni. Bashni offers an explosion in tactics compared to its ancestor. However, important patterns in combinations will appear quickly, that once understood, will help to cut many a Gordian knot.

A guiding observation is that Bashni games do not last longer than Shashki games, although all pieces remain in play and pieces can be subject to multiple captures during a game. A reason for this is that there are far more captures in Bashni than in Shashki. Especially, multiple captures feature more prominently. This also means that there are more forced moves in a Bashni game. Both players will make more sacrifices than in Shashki because they see or hope that sacrifices will be only temporary. This feature gives Bashni its typical sharp and aggressive gameplay.

However, most highly tactical games need an overarching strategy because one just cannot do all calculations and there is more to the game in the first place. Bashni is no different. A good approach for the game, especially for the first moves, is to adopt a defensive strategy. One should keep one’s own back row intact and attempt to make the one or other important backwards capture, because the resulting stack will be less exposed for some time.

As already mentioned, a stack is stronger than the same number of single men. However, depending on position, there may be a tipping point: a stack can grow too tall, especially in Stapeldammen but to a degree in all variants. Tall stacks by their very existence mean reduced mobility.

The wild combinations of Bashni may give the opponent the chance for promotion quicker than expected. A king is stronger than a man. However, kings are easier to feed, and if the stack gets lost due to a capture, a very strong stack for the opponent may result. Brute force goes a long way in figuring out the tactics, but it takes experience and creativity to deal with a Bashni position.