The Chess Variant Pages Menu



NOTICE: This site is moving to a new server. So long as you see this notice, you are still using the site on the old server. There may be a short period of time when the site will be down or not functioning correctly, but it will be back up and running again in due time.



Shifted Square Chess

by Ralph Betza

 

The other day I was wasting time by playing Grandest Fleet, an ancient computer game which still ranks as one of the best such games ever. I marveled at how I was still able to enjoy it even after having played it thousands of times; for though it is clearly not so deep as Chess, at least when one gets tired of playing on one map one can choose a different map.

How sad it is, I thought, that in Chess we play always on the same map; and a bare nanosecond later I had conceived of Shifted Square Chess.

Actually, Shifted Square Chess is any form of Chess played on a Shifted Square Board. Well, almost any form of Chess. Cylindrical Chess does not work well with the Shifted Square.

The Single Shifted Square Board

When one plays any form of Chess on the Single Shifted Square Board, one square is removed from the normal playing area and one square is added at the edge of the normal playing area.

SSQ UAD

8   . * . * . * . *
7   * . * . * . * .
6   . * . * . * . *
5 Z A A A A A A A A Z
4 Z A A A A A A A A Z
3   * . * . * . * .
2   . * . * . * . *
1   * . * . * . * . 
  x a b c d e f g h z
The square can be removed from anywhere in the area marked A, and added anywhere in the area marked Z.

SSQ Example

Suppose that e4 is removed, and x5 is added; now the board looks like this:

8   . * . * . * . *
7   * . * . * . * .
6   . * . * . * . *
5 . * . * . * . * .
4   . * . * @ * . *
3   * . * . * . * .
2   . * . * . * . *
1   * . * . * . * . 
  x a b c d e f g h z
The square e4, marked with an @, is not a square at all. It is a hole in the board.

Holistic Rules

The hole where a square is removed requires special rules:
  1. Knights or other normal jumping pieces may leap over the hole freely. For example, a Knightrider can move from f3 to e5.

  2. Riders and single-steppers are blocked by the hole. For example, a Knightrider cannot move from f2 to d6 because of the hole at e4.

  3. In Dynamo Chess, or in Falling off the Edge Chess, the hole at e4 can be used to destroy pieces; likewise a Nemeroth Go Away! or a Repellor (seen in many Ultima variants) can use the hole as an oubliette.

Added Rules

The only special rule for the added square is that there is no special rule.

Therefore, a Pawn at x5 cannot advance except by capturing onto a6. This ruling follows the lead of F. V. Morley, whose book "My One Contribution to Chess" should be read by everybody.

The relevant text, on page 90, reads

"Admittedly, this provision of fair play involved each Rook's Pawn in a new risk. If by capturing a piece a Rook's Pawn got into the corridor, he might never get back to the Rook's file, and so never have a chance of becoming a Queen, unless by capturing something else he could return to the full field of play. But I felt the Pawn himself should be the judge of that risk. There ought to be free will."

 

SSQ Comments

At first sight, a hole at e5 seems to be to Black's disadvantage, but careful calm consideration reveals compensating advantages.

After 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. Nc3 Nf6, the move e4-e5 is not legal, and Black equalizes.

On the other hand, a hole at e6 would surely oppress Black, and that is why the zone marked A is so restricted.

Double Symmetrical Shifted Square

8   . * . * . * . *
7   * . * . * . * .
6 X B B B B B B B B X
5 Z A A A A A A A A Z
4 Z A A A A A A A A Z
3 X B B B B B B B B X
2   . * . * . * . *
1   * . * . * . * . 
  x a b c d e f g h z
To create a Double Symmetrical Shifted Square Board, first take away one square from A or B, then replace it in X or Z, then take and replace symmetrically.

"Symmetrically" means that if e3 is taken away and replaced by z4, then d6 must be taken away and replaced by x5. The point is that the symmetry guarantees fairness and therefore allows a wider taking zone.

Tirebiter Shifted Square Chess

A piece can be in two places at once if it stands on a square that exists in two locations on the board.

A full discussion of Tirebiter Shifted Square Chess, and of even stranger developments of the same idea, can be expected in the near future.

Summary

Chess is delicately balanced, and a very small change can have a wide effect on tactics and strategy. The Shifted Square Board allows you to play Chess on a board which is not very different from the usual board; on this new board, the challenges that await you may be larger than the change in the board would seem to warrant, but that is in fact the beauty and the joy of Shifted Square Chess.