Volume XIX, Number 18
July 22 - 29, 1993

By Bill Kirk

It has 64 pieces and is played on a field of 256 squares. Longtime chess players are turning up their noses at this weird variation on the traditional game, but that hasn't stopped its creator, Denis Hiebert, who lives right here in Sacramento. We caught up with the creative genius this week at his Barricade Chess Headquarters on G Street to find out more about why toy companies and chess purists alike apparently think Barricade Chess is too hot to handle.

According to Hiebert, he developed the idea of putting four standard Chess boards together during a vacation trip with his son several years ago in El Paso, Texas. However, it wasn't until 1989 that he added a rectangular barrier, for squares across and two squares deep, at the junction of the four boards.

"I basically needed a way to link the four separate game boards while adding a challenge not found in regular Chess," he said. Even after that alteration, the game got little notice until Hiebert nailed it up to cover the broken window of a vacant house where he was working as a handyman. "The thing started getting all sorts of attention, if only as a conversation starter."

Despite the centered "barricade," the game follows almost all the rules of standard Chess with two significant exceptions. First, there is a primary and secondary king for each player's double set of chess pieces. Second, only the primary king may be "checked," "checkmated" or "castled," leaving the secondary king to be more like a super pawn with limited value and utility. "I thought about calling the Crown Prince," said Hiebert, "except the different terminology tends to complicate the writing of the rules of the game."

As intriguing as Barricade Chess sounds, what are Hiebert's marketing prospects? "Last fall, I paid to have 250 copies of the game produced and have given away over 50 of them so far," he said, "including several which I sent last spring to toy and game companies as well as toy brokers." According to Hiebert, one national toy company returned the game unopened with a letter explaining that they receive over 8,500 game suggestions each year, none of which they use.

Neither has Hiebert received much encouragement from traditional Chess players, who seem to regard attempts to change their game as heretical. However, not content to rest on his iconoclastic laurels, Hiebert plans to send a copy of his game to Chess Master Bobby Fisher. "If this game were in the right hands, the possibilities boggle the mind," he said.

Although not optimistic, Hiebert remains hopeful that some of the games he has mailed out will, like seeds on fertile ground, eventually produce results. In the meantime, he is doing what he can to clearly establish himself as the creator of this strange hybrid in the event someone else attempts to market it.

Ever the pragmatist, Hiebert noted, "If nothing else, I have enough birthday and Christmas gifts in stock to last for years."

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Copyright © 1993 by the Suttertown News and 2002-2015 by billkirkwrites. All rights reserved