The Chess Variant Pages

Mulligan Stew Chess

By Peter Aronson


          Properly, the name of this game is 42-Square Swapping-Mage Teleporting-Assassin Dual-Color-Bound-King Limited-Double-Move Leaping-Pawn Chess -- but that's too long of a name except maybe as talking blues, so it's called Mulligan Stew Chess. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a Mulligan Stew is a stew made from bits and pieces of whatever might happen to be around. The game is exactly what both of its names say it is.

Board and Setup

          Mulligan Stew Chess is played on a checkered board with seven ranks and six files. Each player starts with two Kings, a Cardinal, a Rook, two Assassins and six Pawns on the board:


Additionally, each player starts with a Mage in hand, to be dropped whenever they decide.

General Rules

          The rules of Mulligan Stew Chess are identical to those of International Chess, except when noted otherwise. The goal of Mulligan Stew Chess is to capture both of your opponent's Kings. There is no checkmate or stalemate.

          The biggest difference between Mulligan Stew Chess and orthodox chess, is that each turn a player moves two pieces: one that starts the turn on a light square, then one that starts the turn on a dark square. The same piece may not be moved in both portions of the turn. If a player has no pieces that can move standing on a particular color of square at the start of their turn, they simply skip that portion of their turn.

The Pieces and their Movements

          Each side in Mulligan Stew Chess has two Kings, one Mage, one Cardinal, one Rook, two Assassins and six Pawns to start. They move as in the following table:

The King moves either one square diagonally, or in a jump of two squares orthogonally (jumping over any piece that may be in the way). Or, in other words, like a combination of a Ferz, and a Dabbabah.
Kings are color bound, and can only change color by being swapped by a Mage. There is no castling.
The Mage may either step one square in any direction (to move or to capture), or, it may swap places with any other piece of either side one, two or three squares away diagonally or orthogonally. Pieces between the Mage and the target do not block the swap move. If a Pawn is swapped to the back rank by a Mage's move, it does not promote at that time (but may promote later, see Pawn below).

A player's Mage starts the game off of the board. It may be dropped on any empty light square on the board on a player's light move, or dropped on any empty dark square of the board on a player's dark move. Once dropped, the Mage moves normally.

The Queen moves like a standard orthodox chess Queen. There are not any Queens on the board at the begining of the game, but they may be obtained by promoting Pawns (but never more than one per side may be on the board at a time).
The Rook moves like a standard orthodox chess Rook.
The Cardinal moves either like a Knight (jumping one square orthogonally, followed by one square diagonally outward) or like a Bishop (sliding diagonally any distance, but not jumping).
The Assassin may step one or two squares diagonally to capture (not jumping over a piece in the way), or it may teleport (jump) to any empty square on the board of the same color as it already occupies. An Assassin is color-bound, and may only change the color on which it travels if swapped by a Mage.
The Pawn moves like a standard orthodox chess Pawn except that there is no double-move or en-passant, and that it has a an additional move: if there is a piece in front of it (belonging to either side), and there is an empty space immeadiately past that piece, the Pawn may make an non-capturing jump to that empty space.
In the above example, the white Pawn could leap over the black Pawn to the space marked with the green circle as long as it was empty.

Pawns may promote upon reaching the last rank to any piece in the promotion pool, or may remain a Pawn. If a Pawn remains a Pawn upon reaching the back rank, or is swapped to the back rank by a Mage, it may promote on a later turn by making a promotion-only move. All that player does with that move is to replace the Pawn with the piece it is promoting to. Until a Pawn on the last rank promotes, it may not move or capture.

At the start of the game, the promotion pool contains one Queen, and nothing else. However, any piece of a player's that their opponent captures is added to the player's promotion pool, except for Kings and Pawns.


          Notations is pretty normal. Cardinals are C, Assassins are A and Mages are M. It is not normally necessary to distinguish between Assassins or Kings, since they exist on different colors, unless one of them is swapped onto the same color as another. The Mage's drop can be recorded as a normal move, since it only happens once and is not ambigious. The Mage's swap move is recorded Mto-location@swapped-piece from-location; for example, if a Mage on a7 swapped with a Pawn on c5, it would be Mb5@a7, or if a Mage on c2 swapped with a King on c5, it would be Mc5@Kc2. The other change is that + now indicates a King capture instead of check, and ++ now indicates victory by capture of the second King, and not by checkmate.

Example Game

          This game was played by Zillions of Games vs Zillions of Games. It was not a particularly good game, but it was short, which is a virtue when reading games, and shows most of the basic mechanisms of the game.

       White           Black

   1.  Mb3, Kc2        e5, Ma5
   2.  Md1@Kb3, f3     Cd5, d4
   3.  c4, Ka3         Ce6, Mc7@Ka5
   4.  e3, K:a5+       Cc5, P:a5+
   5.  Kc2, Aa3        Ae2, Cd3
   6.  Kc2, P:d4       a4, Ma5@c7
   7.  Ma4@d1, Ad6     C:b2, M:a4
   8.  Kc2, A:e7       Mc2@Ka4, R:a4++

Black's final turn is particularly interesting, where the black Mage swaps with the last white King on the light square move, and then the black Rook captures it on the dark square move. This game also demonstrates that when victory is by capture of all a type of piece, Zillions doesn't protect them very well until only one of them is left.


          I started to design this game practically the moment I agreed to being one of the judges of the 42-squares chess variant design contest. I wanted create a non-competing entry that would be a bit wild and crazy, that would say that any Chess variant, no matter how different would receive fair consideration. (This doesn't mean that conservative variants wouldn't be perfectly acceptable, of course.) So, Mulligan Stew Chess. I had a great deal of fun coming up with this, and I hope all of the contributors to the contest have fun coming up with their contributions.

          So, where did all of this stuff come from? The Mage came from the Modest Variant of the same name, by someone who delights in the nom de plume of Oliver Xymoron. It had to be toned down to operate reasonable sanely in a double move environment: the original Mage could swap position with any other piece on the board, and it would very easy to swap with an opposing King on a light square move, then capture it with a Rook or Cardinal on the dark square move. Poof!

          The double move pattern is pretty much identical to that of V.R. Parton's White and Black, except that Mulligan Stew Chess doesn't allow the same piece to move twice in a turn -- that would be too dangerous on such a small board (think particularly of the Mage). White and Black is often played with the white player making only one move on their first move, but experimentation doesn't seem to show a problem with allowing white to move twice on the first move of Mulligan Stew Chess.

          The leaping Pawns I borrowed from myself, specifically, from Toe-to-Toe Chess; however, they turn out to have been invented before, in L. Legan's game Fortresses (1913).

          The Assassin I made up myself, which doesn't prevent it from having been independently invented a dozen times over earlier. It was inspired by the flying Generals and Assassin in Köksal Karakus' game Al-Ces.

          The overall theme of Mulligan Stew Chess is mobility (well, that, and shoving every cool thing I could think of into the game). Games on small boards often suffer from constriction, but with teleporting Assassins, swapping Mages, leaping pieces, and two moves per player per turn, Mulligan Stew Chess does not seem to suffer from that particular problem.

          Thanks to Tony Quintanilla for playtesting!

Zillions of Games

          I have written an implementation of Mulligan Stew Chess for Zillions of Games (latest version of ZRF is 1.3). You can download it here:

Written by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: June 16th, 2001.