The Chess Variant Pages

Hole Chess


Gary K. Gifford © Dec. 2003


I developed "Hole Chess" after reading about Chess Variants' 44 Square Contest in December of 2003. After creating several boards and several gaming schemes I focused on one of the boards that, aside from having 44 squares, also had two holes. I experimented with different pieces and different piece arrangements… finally settling on a somewhat simple concept of having a Queen, Rook, and Promoted Shogi Bishop. These three pieces could move and capture in the manner of their traditional counter parts, but in addition emit sort of a "tractor beam" which could pull a targeted piece into a black hole. I added a King and five Pawns to each side. "Hole Chess" was born.


The object of the game is to capture your opponent's King, checkmate your opponent's King, or to make your opponent's position so unbearable that he or she decides to resign.


There are two players, Yellow (light) and Red (dark); however, other colors may be used. Each player starts with a King, Queen, Rook, PS-Bishop, and 5 Pawns. Refer to the following diagram for the initial setup.

Pieces can be captured in either of two ways: (1) as in traditional Western Chess, (2) by drawing a targeted piece into a hole. In the sample game, at the end of these instructions, the Red King gets sucked through a hole on the 11th move.

Hole Chess setup

Board Note

A board with holes cut into it and then placed over an open box provides a nice setup in which pieces that are sucked into a hole actually fall through a real hole. This provides play more in tune with the original game concept.

Piece Note

A Western Queen, Rook, and Bishop can be used as pieces in Hole Chess. However, I did create different graphics for those pieces for two reasons: (a) these pieces have the "tractor beam" type action, thus if someone wanted to add them to another game which had normal Queens, Rooks, and Bishops there would be a need to distinguish them from those standard pieces. (b) The PS-Bishop is really a Shogi Dragon Horse (a "promoted Bishop which moves like a King or a Bishop). I did not want to use the Horse image or the Japanese Horse character, as they have been confused with Knights.

Piece Movement and Capturing

King – the Yellow King starts on d1 and the Red King starts on d10. The Kings move as in western chess and are free to roam the board. Kings can be checkmated as in western chess, but unlike western chess, Kings can be captured. Therefore, there is no stalemate. In what would be a stalemate [as in western chess] the Hole Chess King would have to move into (or be exposed to) the enemy line of fire, causing instant defeat. A King can move next to the enemy King. However, the enemy King would then capture it and end the game.

Pawns – the 5 pawns start on the player's third rank, i.e., b3 through f3 for Yellow and b8 through f8 for Red. They move and capture in the same manner as traditional chess pawns. Thus they can move two spaces on their first move. The central pawns (on d3 and d8) can only move when capturing diagonally (c3 x c4 or c3 x e4 for Yellow or d8 x c7 or d8 x e7 for Red). This is because the central pawns are located directly behind a hole. They cannot advance two spaces as they'd fall through the hole. It is illegal to move onto a hole, unless being pulled into one while being captured.

Pawn en passant still exists in Hole Chess. Thus a pawn moving from f3 to f5 could be captured en passant by a pawn on e5 or g5.

If a pawn reaches the opponent's third rank it must promote to a Queen, Rook, or PS-Bishop.

The Two-Action Rule

The PS-Bishop, Rook, and Queen have two actions for a given turn, providing that they are the piece to be moved. One of the two actions can be declined for a move, but never both.

Action 1: The piece moves and possibly captures, as in Western Chess; or as in Shogi for the case of the PS-Bishop (which moves like a King or Bishop).

Action 2: The piece targets an opponent's piece in its direct line of fire and, as long as a single hole exists in line between the attacker and the target piece, the target is drawn along the line of attack until it falls through the hole, and is thus eliminated. Action 2 cannot be performed if two holes exist between the attacker and the target.

For the piece making the move: either action or both actions can be completed on the same turn. In other words, capture is not mandatory, unless it is the only legal move. Also, a piece can stay where it is and initiate action 2.

Because of the Two-Action rule, it is possible to capture two pieces in one turn, i.e., one capture with action 1 and a second capture with action 2.

PS-Bishop – (Promoted Shogi Bishop) PS-Bishops start on e2 for Yellow and on c9 for Red.
Action 1: They move and capture as would a King or a Bishop, just as does the promoted Shogi Bishop.
Action 2: See Two-Action Rule.

Rook – The Rooks start on c2 for Yellow an on e9 for Red.
Action 1: They move and capture as a western chess rook.
Action 2: See Two-Action Rule.

Queen – The Queens start on d2 for Yellow an on d9 for Red.
Action 1: They move and capture as a western chess queen.
Action 2: See Two-Action Rule.

Hole Chess - A Sample Game played 12 Dec. 2003

Yellow     Red
1.  c4     e6
2.  e4     Qg6
3.  b5 ?!  Qe8 / @b5

@b5 indicates that a target at b5 was pulled through a hole.
That was action 2 for the Queen (Qe8 was action1).

4. Rc3     b7
5. Rb3     Bb8   (we use the letter "B" for the PS-Bishop)
6. Be3     f7
7. Qb4!    …..  Threatens 8. Qb5 / @e8 winning Red's Queen
7. ……      Qd9
8. Bg5     Kc9 ???  This gives Yellow a forced win.

Hole Chess sample game
9. Qd6/@d8+ ….

With the pawn sucked into the hole, Yellow's PS-Bishop gives a nasty check
to the Red King.

9. ……    Kd10
10.Qxb8+ Qc9  Forced
11.Qd6/@d10  . . .The Red King gets sucked into the hole.  Yellow Wins.

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Written by Gary K. Gifford.
WWW page created: January 3rd, 2004.