The Chess Variant Pages


by Fergus Duniho

Brief Description

Smegi is my second submission to the 40 square Chess variant contest. It is played on a 5x8 board that is derived from the regular 7x8 Smess board. Pieces are the same as in Smess. The object is to checkmate the enemy Brain. As in Shogi, captured pieces change sides and may be dropped back on the board.


Shogi and the discontinued Parker Brothers game Smess® are as unalike as Chess variants get. Smess is a simple game for Children. Arrows on the squares show where pieces can move. There are only three kinds of pieces, and all that's required to win is to capture a certain piece. Shogi is so complicated that even Zillions of Games, which is very good at other Chess variants, cannot play it well. There are lots of different pieces in Shogi, and captured pieces can be dropped almost anywhere on the board.

Smegi combines elements of Smess and Shogi in a game that is more sophisticated than Smess but less sophisticated than Shogi. The board and the game pieces come from Smess. Smess is normally played on a 7x8 board. By removing two files from the Smess board, I made a 40 square board for Smegi. The files I removed were the b and f files. I also switched the a and g files to keep the board checkered.


Board and Pieces

Smegi is played on a 5x7 board derived from a 7x8 Smess board. This board has arrows on each square. The arrows on a square indicate which directions a piece may move from that square. Ninnies and Brains move one space at a time, and Numskulls move in a straight line any number of spaces. The object is to checkmate the Brain.

BrainThe Brain moves one space in any direction the arrows point. It may not move into check.
NinnyThe Ninny moves one space in any direction the arrows point.
NumskullThe Numskull moves in a straight line any distance in any direction the arrows on its starting square point. The Numskull moves like a Queen except that the arrows determine which directions it can move.

The pieces are colored Blue and Red. The setup goes like this:

Brain c1; Numskull b1, d1; Ninny a2, b2, c2, d2, e2
Brain c8; Numskull b8, d8; Ninny a7, b7, c7, d7, e7


Blue moves first. Each player moves one piece at a time, as in Chess. When a player captures a piece, the captured piece changes sides and belongs to the player who captured it. On any subsequent turn, a player may drop a captured piece onto the board. This counts as a move and is done instead of moving a piece already on the board. A player may drop a captured piece only on a square which is defended by one of his pieces. A defended square is one which a piece already on the board could move to.


A player wins by checkmating the enemy Brain. Stalemate results in a draw.

Equipment and Logistics

I'm not going to recommend cutting up a Smess board for playing the game. Look at my Smegi Photographs for one way to put together a Smegi board.

I have also prepared some image files you can print out and use as a board. There is a color image for color printers and a greyscale image for black and white printers. I recommend loading the image into a graphics program, such as Ultimate Paint, and printing it out with a "Stretch to Fit" option, or its equivalent, selected. This will rescale the image to cover most of the space on a sheet of paper.

If you don't have the option of loading the image into a graphics program first, which may be the case if you don't have your own computer, you may use the browser to print out a board. The image will print out in different sizes on different printers, and I cannot control what size it will print out for you. But to help you get a large enough board, I have included pages which show the board at different degrees of magnification. Look at each one with "Print Preview" and print the one which best fits the whole page.

Another possibility is to draw your own board. Details on making your own board are given on my Chess Construction Set page.

If you have a Smess set, you can use the pieces from that. Otherwise, you might use Pawns for Ninnies, Rooks for Numskulls, and Kings for Brains. If you use Smess or Chess pieces, you should have extra pieces available. When a player captures a piece, you will need to switch it with the same piece of your own color.

Another possibility is to use reversible pieces, such as cardboard Shogi style pieces. These could be reversible by the shape alone, as Shogi pieces are, or have Blue and Red images on alternate sides.

Playing on the Computer

I have developed this game by writing a file which lets [an error occurred while processing this directive] Zillions of Games play it. You can download this file from

I have recently improved the Zillions script for Smegi, so that the computer now plays considerably better than it used to. When you have pieces off the board, you will notice that you're only allowed to drop one of the Numskulls and one of the Ninnies. This is to reduce the number of moves Zillions has to generate, and it has no real effect on what moves you can make, since dropping one Ninny or Numskull is the same as dropping any other. A few seconds thinking time may now be sufficient to get Zillions to play a challenging game.

Written by Fergus Duniho
This is an entry in the contest to design a chess variant on a board with 40 squares.
WWW Page Created: Wed Aug 25, 1999. Last Modified: Sat May 20, 2000. ´╗┐