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Subject: Fairy chess symbols added to Unicode rss

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Frederic Heath-Renn
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Apologies if this has been posted elsewhere. The latest version of Unicode includes the addition of a number of heterodox chess symbols, including some for pieces used in fairy chess and chess problems (including 'neutral piece' symbols which remind me of Paco Ŝako).

Here is what I think is the original proposal for adding these symbols, which includes some interesting historical background (and a namecheck of one 'Christian Freeling' - hmm, that sounds kind of familiar )
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Joseph DiMuro
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You mean, they are actually adding symbols to Unicode that AREN'T emoji? surprise

Here are the new fairy chess symbols. A good assortment, I think.
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David Bush
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It's nice to see Xiangqi pieces. Overall, the assortment seems somewhat unimaginative. They have "neutral king" etc. but no purely "neutral piece," like a salt shaker, used in salt shaker chess. (But maybe a salt shaker can be found elsewhere in Unicode?) Or a protean piece, which takes on the movement of whatever it captures. How many people will use these symbols, I wonder.
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Garth Wallace
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Hi! I'm the guy who proposed the heterodox chess piece characters*. A salt shaker is, in fact, already in Unicode as of last year (though it wasn't intended to be used as a chess piece—I think it may be an emoji). If the set appears unimaginative, it's because it was limited by Unicode's inclusion criteria to symbols that were already in common use in text (that is, in running text like figurine notation, not merely in diagrams). I'd originally wanted to propose more symbols from variant games—in fact that was my main focus at first—but the proposal ended up being mostly for the symbols used by fairy chess problemists for the simple reason that problem composers publish their work with solutions written in notation, frequently figurine notation, so there is a wealth of examples; variantists rarely record their games, and AFAICT never in figurine notation, so there were no published examples of them I could point to. There are definitely symbols used for chess variants (as on chessvariants.org), but only in diagrams, which Unicode considers 2D graphics and not text. The first public draft of the proposal included a belled-cap "joker" piece symbol, and shatranj pieces, but ultimately the only variantist-type symbols I could justify were the knighted compounds (and then only because they've been adopted by some problem publishers).

*The xiangqi pieces were actually encoded last year, and I had nothing to do with those.
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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gwalla wrote:
If the set appears unimaginative, it's because it was limited by Unicode's inclusion criteria to symbols that were already in common use in text (that is, in running text like figurine notation, not merely in diagrams). I'd originally wanted to propose more symbols from variant games—in fact that was my main focus at first ...


Thanks for your work on Unicode and on commenting.

Out of curiousity, what would you have included if it weren't for this policy? (It might be of use to custom font and 3D piece makers who will be limited by time and expectation of their work being used.)
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Garth Wallace
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mlvanbie wrote:
Thanks for your work on Unicode and on commenting.


Quote:
Out of curiousity, what would you have included if it weren't for this policy? (It might be of use to custom font and 3D piece makers who will be limited by time and expectation of their work being used.)

I didn't really have a particular set I was trying to include from the beginning, since part of the research was to determine what would be feasible. The ones I thought would be the most generally useful, the knighted compounds, did get accepted. The first draft included shatranj pieces, in hopes of at least getting dedicated fers and elephant symbols, but they requested that those be removed from the proposal. Cannons are a popular borrowing from xiangqi into Western variants (though a font could assign "Western-style" shapes to the xiangqi piece characters, so you could consider it already encoded).

Any estimate of which symbols would be most useful would be mostly guesswork, since there doesn't seem to be much hard data on which variants are more popular (other than the other national relatives of chess such as xiangqi and shogi, which I don't consider "variants" per se).

Custom font makers looking to support chess variants should probably look at what other fonts have done in that regard. Nishiki-teki, which has a great number of things in its Private Use Area, includes symbols for Tamerlane chess (including the individualized pawns), Courier chess, Westernized xiangqi and shogi, less common compounds, and some other random pieces. It mostly follows the lead of Quivira, a font that AFAICT is no longer under development, which in turn took a lot from the "Alfaerie" graphic set on chessvariants.org; it also includes some of the characters from my first draft that didn't make it to the final.
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Thanks for that, I learned a lot from those fonts (not all of it related to Chess characters).
 
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