The Chess Variant Pages

Cavalry Chess


          Cavalry Chess (also known as Magician's Chess) is a variant of Orthochess designed by Frank Maus in 1921. Cavalry Chess adds some sort of jumping move to all of the Orthochess pieces, resulting in a game with a great deal of power on the board. According to Pritchard, the game enjoyed a fair bit of popularity in the US at one time, with tournaments and matches played. Today, it seems almost unknown.

General Rules

          The rules of Cavalry Chess are identical to those of Orthochess, except when noted below. The board and setup are as usual, and so are not shown here.

The Movement of Pieces

          In general, each piece in Cavalry has jumping moves added to their basic Orthochess moves, and the King is additionally enhanced.

          The King's move is extended to two squares in any direction (including through, but not into check), and additionally, the King may also jump like a Knight.

In the above diagram, black circles indicated squares slid to, and white circles indicate squares lept to. Note that since Kings have a range of two, a piece between two Kings is pinned.

          The Cavalry Chess Queen may, in addition to moving like an Orthochess Queen, may leap like a Knight, making it effectively an Amazon.

          The Cavalry Chess Rook may, in addition to moving like an Orthochess Rook, may also leap like a Knight, making it effectively a Chancellor.

          The Cavalry Chess Bishop may, in addition to moving like an Orthochess Bishop , may also leap like a Knight, making it effectively a Cardinal.

          The Cavalry Chess Knight may, in addition to leaping like an Orthochess Knight, may leap like Camel (a (1,3) leaper) or like a Zebra (a (2,3) leaper).

As can be seen, this is a very powerful piece. In the center of a seven by seven board it can move to all squares that a Queen can not.

          The Cavalry Chess Pawn combines the usual moves of the Orthochess Pawn, including double-move and en-passant capture, with the forward leaps of a Knight. From the second rank it can move like so:

Where a green circle indicates a square that can be moved to with a noncapturing move only, a red circle a square that can be moved to with a capturing move only, and a white circle a square that can be lept to capturing or not capturing. Probably en-passant captures can only be made with the normal Pawn capture move.

Sample Game

          The following game played as part of a tournament in 1924. I. Denton played white, black was played by a player simply identified as Professional.

     White       Black

  1.  ee3         ee5
  2.  Nge2        Nge7
  3.  dd3         dd5
  4.  Nd4         Nd7
  5.  g3          g6
  6.  b3          Qe6
  7.  dc5!        b:c5
  8.  b:c5        N:c5
  9.  Ne:c5+     (resigns)
At which point black would have been down a Queen at best. The final position:



           Early on, Fianchetto (flank) openings were common. Later, the Gruer Attack (1. dd4, 2Qe2), named after the Californian Chess Champion, and the Denton opening (see the sample game above) were used. The principle endgames were analysed as well, the outcome the same as in Orthochess -- the ending K+R vs K being one of the hardest.

Magic Chess

          In 1925, Maus game up with a variant of Cavalry Chess which he called Magic Chess. The only difference was in the Pawn's forward Knight's moves, which were noncapturing when wide (one square forward and two to the side), and capturing only when narrow (two squares forward and one to the side). Maus apparently didn't like his new creation much, saying that Magic Chess was "deadly dull, lacking all the vivacity of Cavalry Chess."


          The pieces in this game have an incredible amount of power for a game on an eight by eight board. In particular, the King, Queen and Knight would be very powerful pieces even on a ten by ten board or larger. This is an extreme game, and almost certainly not to everyone's taste.

           And yet, this game obviously received a lot of attention at one time. Was it because there weren't as many competing Chess variants at the time, or did it have some other appeal? And what happened to it? Marseillias Chess originated around the same time, and is still played. Did its players exhaust Cavalry Chess' potential, or simply gravitate to newer games? It does seem like many Chess variants go through a period of popularity, then fade away.

Cavalry Chess vs. Cavalier Chess

Written by Fergus Duniho

Conceptually, this game is very similar to my own game Cavalier Chess, though it is completely unrelated, as I was ignorant of it when I created Cavalier Chess. Both games increase the power of the pieces mainly with additional Knight moves, hence the very similar names. Yet they are also radically different from each other. Cavalry Chess just soups up the power of each piece, whereas in Cavalier Chess I didn't make the pieces as powerful as I could have, because I determined through playtesting that really powerful pieces would hurt the game. For example, I originally replaced the Queen with an Amazon (as Maus did in Cavalry Chess), but I judged that it was too powerful. I also tried replacing the Pawns with Chess Knights, but they merely wiped each other out, clearing the way between the other pieces. I found Chinese Chess Knights much more interesting as Pawn replacements, because they could block each other, something like Pawns do, and unblocking them would sometimes create extra threats. In contrast, I find the Pawns in Cavalry Chess much too powerful. They make forward movement very difficult, because a row of Pawns covers the entire two ranks in front of them. Considering that Pawns are the soul of Chess, as I think Philidor once said, I had to replace them with just the right pieces. I think I succeeded with Chinese Chess Knights, though I don't think Maus succeeded with these super Pawns. I also tried to keep the same balance of power in Cavalier Chess as there is in Chess. Maus has not done this with Cavalry Chess. I replaced the Knight with a Nightrider, which remains less powerful than the pieces replacing the Rook and Bishop, and all new pieces remained less powerful than the Queen (which I didn't change). Maus changed the Rook and Bishop into the same pieces as I did, but he replaced the Knight with a terribly powerful piece that throws off the whole balance of the game. Once it has the opportunity to safely check the enemy King, there is little the King can do to get away from it. Checkmate, and maybe some heavy piece loss along the way, will soon follow. Still, Cavalry Chess may have some appeal if approached from a different perspective. If you approach it like a game of Chess or even Cavalier Chess, you will easily be frustrated. But if you approach it with the strategy of safely checking the enemy King with your Knight before he can do the same, it might be an interesting challenge for awhile.


          Ed Friedlander has also implemented this game as an applet.


          This information is based on the description in Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Chess Variants.

Zillions of Games

          There is an implementation of Cavalry Chess (including Magic Chess) for Zillions of games. You can download it here:

It uses Fergus Duniho's Abstract Chess Pieces to represent movement capabilities of the Cavalry Chess pieces as best as possible.

Written by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: June 25th, 2001.