The Chess Variant Pages




By Rook Or By Crook

By Jeff Rients

Introduction

By Rook Or By Crook is played on a hexagon-shaped board of 42 trapezoidal cells. Each side has 7 pieces: 2 Pawns, a King, a Queen, a Bishop, a Rook, and a Crook (described below). The goal is either to mate the opponent's king or eliminate all the opponent's other pieces, leaving the king bare. A bared King can change a loss to a draw if on his very next move he can bare the enemy King.  The 50 Move rule of orthodox chess applies.

Board and Setup

The central hexagon is NOT a space, no piece may move into or through it.  (My prototype board has a hole cut out to make this point clear.)


From top to bottom the opposing armies are arranged thusly:

BLACK

Pawn
Rook
Queen
King
Bishop
Crook
Pawn

WHITE

Pawn
Rook
Queen
King
Bishop
Crook
Pawn

The Pieces

The King moves and takes exactly as in orthodox chess, to any adjacent cell. The Queen moves and takes as the King (though she does not suffer the burdens of check and mate, only the movement and capturing is similar).  Neither castling nor pawn double steps are allowed. (And capturing en passant does not exist.) Pawns do not promote.

The Rook and Bishop have more limited movement and capture capabilities than in orthodox chess, acting as a Wazir and a Ferz, respectively.

Pawns have increased movement and capture capabilities because they are able to travel in either direction around the hexagon, forwards and backwards. As mentioned above, the pawn does not receive an initial double move nor does it promote.

The Crook, represented by an inverted Rook, has the movement and capture abilities of the Rook as described above (i.e. one space orthogonally). In addition the Crook may make a singular Knight's move, complete with leaping capabilities. Once the Crook has made its Knight's move it is flipped over. It is treated as a Rook (that is to say, as a Wazir) for the rest of the game.

After any of the above moves, the Crook would be flipped and continue the rest of the game as a Rook.

Designers's Notes

The shape of the board was directly inspired by circular variants such as Byzantine Chess.  It was only after some initial struggles with a circular board that I hit upon the simplicity of using a hexagon.  With a budget of only 42 spaces I determined to use only a single "row" of seven pieces per side.  The expanded powers of the pawns were a direct growth from this decision.  Since they no longer served as a screen in front of the other pieces, I decided that they needed to be able to attack both clockwise and counter-clockwise in order to be useful.  This expansion of powers puts pawns on a fairly equal footing with the other pieces.  (I find the treatment of pawns in Byzantine Chess to be inelegant at best.  I would rather beef up their abilities then send them off to collide with one another.)  The changes in both board and pawn powers made promotion far less necessary than in chess games with forward-only pawns trudging towards a final destination.

The aforementioned lack of a pawn screen led to the trimming of the powers of the Rook, Bishop, and Queen.  I did not want White's opening move to be to careen across the board and make an immediate capture.  A certain fascination with historic pieces such as Chaturanga's Counselor and Elephant certainly contributed to this decision as well.  The bare king rule was also an historical touch, being directly borrowed from Shatranj.

The Crook evolved out of a desire to have a leaper available, but to keep it as low key as the cut down Queen et al.  The choice of a mutated Rook with a single Knight's move was intended to be an interesting variation on castling, hence no standard castling is allowed.  The name Crook came from combining Knight and ROOK to produce Krook, which was changed to Crook to make annotation of a game less confusing.

If anyone plays any games, please feel free to email me with feedback.

Zillions of Games

There is an implementation of By Rook or By Crook for Zillions of games. You can download it here:

For simplicity of implementation and compactness, it uses a topologically equivalent cylindrical board with the top connected to the bottom.



Written by Jeff Rients.
WWW page created: October 23rd, 2001.