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