Golden Era of Atomic Chess (1995-1999)

I consider atomic chess history to be divided into distinct eras, with their own related stories.  The first such era would obviously be the golden age of atomic chess, going by the traditional methodology of naming eras within history.  I date this period from between late 1995 throughout the end of 1999 with a little bit of overlap into the early part of 2000.  This period of time is about four years long, which is a tremendous amount of time, especially with the advent of the Internet.  Thousands of games were played during this time, theory was being created, and even the first computer engine able to play atomic chess was written during this era.

Milestones of this era:

  • 27 November 1995 – Atomic Chess is added to the German Internet Chess Server by connex after the rules were collected and described by Klaus Knopper (Knopper)

    • Statistics for Knopper     (Last disconnected Mon Aug 28 2006,  1:41 CEST):
               rating     RD     win   loss   draw  total   best
      Blitz     1778     46.8    306    308     39    653   1916 (23-Jul-95)
      Standard  2003    102.0     28     13      1     42   2145 (14-Jul-95)
      Lightning 1666    169.5     20      2      2     24   1748 (11-Dec-98)
      Wild      1810     62.2     46     26      1     73   1868 (29-Nov-95)
      Bughouse  1502    124.0     27     45      0     72   1589 (26-Jul-97)
      Atomic    1854     50.7    115     97     11    223   2045 (15-Aug-96)
      Suicide   1734    142.5      4      5      0      9
      Admin Level: Super User
       1: Hi!
       2: I'm Klaus Knopper from the University of Kaiserslautern.
       3: I created this server. You can find a short description
       4: about GICS at
       5: Please excuse if I do not reply your 'tell's immediately,
       6: because I'm usually busy. Rather send a message to me.
       8: "Justice always prevails...
       9:                - three times out of seven!"
      10:                                        -- Michael J. Wagner
    • Klaus Knopper even has his own entry on Wikipedia. You can check it out here.
    • While Knopper may have gathered the rules, the man that coded it into the server was connex:
    • Statistics for connex      (Last disconnected Fri Jan 11 2002, 14:06 CET):
               rating     RD     win   loss   draw  total   best
      Blitz     1734     51.2    161    406     42    609   1850 (18-Nov-95)
      Standard  1666     77.2     14     60      5     79   1666 (18-Dec-95)
      Lightning 1626    230.5      0      1      1      2
      Wild      1537     58.7     32     64      0     96   1549 (01-Mar-96)
      Bughouse  1776    202.5     14     12      0     26   1776 (29-Mar-96)
      Atomic    1411    127.0      3     14      0     17
      Suicide   ----    350.0      0      0      0      0
      Admin Level: Super User
       1: URL
       2: Email:
       3: My best games so far: Win against Vulture and FM lasker, Draw against FM 
      \   Solar and rooff
       4: I like JEVER and checkmating casals :o)
       5: 26 Years young, not married, but in love with the most wonderful grl of the 
      \   world
       6: I'm providing an online accessible DWZ-List at my Webpages. Have a look
       7: I'm playing chess at the SG Clausthal-Zellerfeld at board 7 in the 
      \   "Bezirksliga".
       8: I'm Proctor Miraculix at Xyllomer. ( 3000)
       9: nix
  • 01 March 1996 – Estimated start of work on the first Atomic-Chess playing engine, “Atomix” by Jonas Hoffman (JoelH) and Peter Schaefer (Nightrider).
  • 01 April 1996 – Estimated start of first opening book ever created for Atomic Chess – produced for use by Atomix(C).
  • 01 June 1996 – Estimated start of work on the Middle East Wild Internet Server (MEWIS) by Charles Steinhardt (ChSte), Oren Livne (Oren), and Eriol.
  • 20 September 1996 – Estimated launch of the MEWIS server.
  • 07 November 1996 – Michael Uhl (Pfiffigunde) completes a major upgrade on the Atomix opening book, adding several new variations.
  • 14 January 1997 – Rainer Grobbel (Grobi) becomes the first player ever granted an Atomic Master (AM) title at MEWIS – granted by the server, automatically.
  • 22 January 1997 – JoelH completes the final revision of the Atomix book, this becomes the first standard codex for Atomic Chess openings.
  • 01 Feburary 1997 – Estimated time that Vlasov wrote his ATOMIC-PAGE, introducing the game to countless others that found it on the Internet.
  • 01 June 1997 – Estimated 10,000th atomic chess game played on GICS by Atomix(C).
  • 11 June 1997 – Atomix’s last connection to the GICS server.
  • 01 August 1997 – Estimated downtime of MEWIS-1, the first version of the MEWIS server.
  • 15 April 1998 – Estimated return of MEWIS as MEWIS-2, the second version of the MEWIS server.
  • 16 April 1998 – Atomix makes a comeback on MEWIS-2 in two flavors, Atomix(C) for faster time controls and Ximota(C) for slower time controls.
  • 16 May 1998 – MEWIS Atomic World Championships Match 1 – MrNobody(AM) vs Ebenfelt(FM).
  • 08 June 1998 – MEWIS Atomic World Championships Match 2 – Grasdraaier vs MrNobody(AM).
  • 16 June 1998 – MEWIS Atomic World Championships Match 3 – Grasdraaier vs Javil(FM).
  • 24 June 1998 – MEWIS Atomic World Championships Match 4 – Grasdraaier vs MrNobody(AM).
  • 24 June 1998 – Grasdraaier crowned as the 1998 Atomic World Champion.
  • 29 November 1999 – TrojanKnight(C) goes 25-0 on MEWIS in atomic chess, foreshadowing a juggernaut to come.

The End of an Era…

lmost everything works off of cycles and as we can see here, after the 1998 Atomic World Championships (won by Grasdraaier), things sort of tapered off.  There wasn’t very much more being done with atomic chess.  The novelty of playing with a new variant had worn off for most people and they were getting tired of being beaten senseless by the more experienced players.  And during these early days, strong players avoided other strong players in their pursuit for a higher rating.  The only clear cut cases of non-ducking would be a few assorted players and of course, the Atomic Matches that took place on MEWIS.  And most of those players were scattered across several time zones.  Grasdraaier for example, is Dutch but Javil was living in New York at the time.  Of course, with time passing and with more and more players discovering Vlasov’s page – atomic chess was bound to have a renaissance.

But something to bear in mind is that during this time period, atomic chess was only available in two places on the Internet.  Two.  MEWIS (when it was up) and GICS.  And GICS was (and is) for mainly German players.  That’s a very small population of players that were exposed to this chess variant.  But you could feel a groundswell moving.  When people started to get the hang of the game and thought to themselves, “hey this is cool, why can’t I play this game at other servers?”  But back in 1999, both FICS and ICC didn’t have atomic chess.  If you had even heard of it, you were a player on GICS or MEWIS or heard about it from someone else.  Maybe you ran across Vlasov’s page somehow on the Internet, but for the most part, most people were completely clueless about this chess variant.

It’s worth noting that pretty much nothing happened for half of 1998 and almost all of 1999 until you look a bit in depth at the end of 1999.  Then you might have gotten a peek at an obscure program called Sjaak, written by Szygy and run as TrojanKnight(C).  TrojanKnight had been quietly playing on GICS since at least 1997 but didn’t really pick up on atomic chess until about 1999.  Then it went an incredible 25-0 on MEWIS, which served notice to the rest of us, although we didn’t really notice this until several years later.  And with this, ended the golden era of atomic chess, of the wild wild west years for atomic chess players – where flashy and unsound games were the norm and theory was chuckled at.

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