The Chess Variant Pages

A Featureless Expanse of Squares

The normal chessboard is a featureless expanse of squares, with nothing to make the terrain interesting: no hills, mountains, molehills, nor speedbumps, no pits, no rivers, no moats, no roads, no falling rock traps, no trees, no walls.

Who would ever play a game on such strategically uninteresting terrain? Well, I would, and so would you, for we know that in Chess, the Pawns create a kind of terrain by locking themselves into immovable formations; and yet, the idea of terrain features in Chess deserves some attention.

Xiang Qi has rivers and castles, and several historical games have citadels. Here are some new ideas.

Speedbump Chess

Imagine a speed bump between the 4th and 5th ranks; now, the long-moving pieces (Rook, Bishop, Queen, KnightRider, and so on) cannot go from one end of the board to the other in one turn, but must instead stop just before or after they cross the speed bump.

As a specific example, a Re1 trying to go to e8 must do it in two turns: first, it plays to e4 or e5, and then it may go to e8.

Notice that I allow you to continue as long as you start next to the speed bump. The reason for this is that otherwise it might be too easy to ambush the pieces trying to cross it.

The effect of this rule is to make the board seem a little bit bigger. For example, if you wanted to play Great Chess on an 8x8 board, this rule might help.


Suppose you play with the usual 8x8 setup in the middle of a 10x10 board; in order to keep the edge of the board from being too open, it would be natural to think of putting walls between @4 and @5 ("@" being the name of the file to the left of the a-file) and between z4 and z5 ("z" being the name of the file to the right of the h-file).

Walls can simply not be crossed by long-moving pieces. Jumping pieces ignore walls. Pawns, I suppose, simply climb over the walls. Kings cannot cross walls because it is beneath their royal dignity to climb over.

The effect of this rule is to allow you to add some empty space around the edge without at the same time making new open files that will encourage the early exchange of Rooks.


Hills are larger than speed bumps, but long-moving pieces are slowed down by hills much the same as by speed bumps. Short-moving pieces move faster when they go downhill.

Suppose that e4/e5/d4/d5 is a hill. A Re1 must stop at e4, but next move may continue to e8. A Pawn e4 may move normally to e4, or capture downhill by taking f5 and g6 in one move. A Pawn e5 may run downhill to e7, or it may choose to walk down hill and stop at e6.

The effect of this rule is that Knights and Pawns in the center become very strong.

Hope you like these ideas; more later.

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