The Chess Variant Pages

Golem Chess


Peter Aronson and Ben Good


          The Golem piece is described in a small, cryptic entry for an Ultima variant called Bogart's Chess in Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Chess Variants. All the entry says is that the Golem only moves up to two squares, it captures by replacement, and that it must be captured twice to be removed from play. In Golem Chess, the Queens are replaced by Golem pieces, as we interpret them.

General Rules

          The rules of Golem Chess are identical to those of FIDE Chess, except that the Queens are replaced by Golems, and Pawns may promote to Golems in addition to Knights, Bishops, Rooks or Queens.

The Golem

          The Golem moves two squares in any direction, like a restricted Queen.

|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
|:::| * |:::| * |:::| * |:::|
|   |:::| * |:*:| * |:::|   |
|:::| * |:*:| G |:*:| * |:::|
|   |:::| * |:*:| * |:::|   |
|:::| * |:::| * |:::| * |:::|
|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
          The Golem captures as usual, but capturing a Golem is different. If a piece other than a Golem captures a Golem, the capturing piece is removed from play, and the Golem is replaced by a Half-Golem of the same ownership as the Golem. A Half-Golem moves one or two spaces in any direction, like a Golem, but captures and is captured normally. If a Golem captures an opposing Golem (but see restrictions below), the captured Golem is completely gone, but the capturing Golem becomes a Half-Golem.

Restrictions on Golem Capture

          There are restrictions on Golem (and Half-Golem) capture, designed to reduce the chance of Golems being exchanged. They are based on the restrictions on capturing Lions in Chu Shogi. The restrictions are:

  1. A Golem or Half-Golem may not capture an opposing Golem or Half-Golem if the opposing Golem or Half-Golem is two squares away and defended by a piece on its own side.
  2. If your opponent has on the immediately proceeding turn captured a Golem or Half-Golem of yours, you may not capture a Golem or Half-Golem belonging to your opponent, except with a Golem or Half-Golem of your own, subject to rule 1 above.
  3. A Golem or Half-Golem may always capture an adjacent Golem or Half-Golem.
  4. As an exception to rule 1 above, you may capture a defended Golem or Half-Golem two squares away with a Golem or Half-Golem if it is the only legal move you have.
Note that these rules are still in effect, even if either or both sides has more than one Golem or Half-Golem due to promotion.

Sample Game

 1. d4      Nc6     2. Nf3     d5      3. Nc3     Nf6
 4. e3      Bf5     5. Be2     e6      6. O-O     Bd6
 7. Nf3     Bg4     8. f3      Bh5     9. g4      g5
10. Ng2     Bg6    11. h4      h6     12. h5      Bh7
13. Bd2     Rg8    14. Be1     a6     15. Bf2     b5
16. a3      e5     17. d:e5    B:e5   18. Gd2     Ge7
19. Bd3     B:d3   20. c:d3    Bd6    21. e4      d4
22. Ne2     Ge5    23. b4      Be7    24. Gb2     O-O-O
25. Rc1     Rd6    26. Bg3     G:g3   27. N:g3=H  Nd7
28. Kh1     Ne5    29. Ne1     f6     30. Rc2     Hh3+
31. Kg1     Kb7    32. Rh2     Hg3+   33. Kh1     Ka7
34. Rg1     Hf4    35. Rf2     Rd8    36. Gc2     Nf7
37. Ng2     Hg3    38. Rf1     Bd6    39. Ne1     Hh3+
40. Kg1     Bg3    41. Rg2     B:e1   42. R:e1    H:f3
43. Rf1     H:f4   44. R:f4    g:f4   45. K:f2    Ne5
46. a4      N:g4   47. R:g4    R:g4   48. a:b5    a:b5
49. Gb3     Ne5    50. Ga3     N:d3+  51. Kf3     Rg3+
52. Ke2     Kb8    53. Ga5     Rg2+   54. K:d3    Rg3+
55. Kd2     Rg2+   56. Kd3     Rg3+   57. Ke2     d3
58. Kd2     Rg2+   59. Kc3     Rc2+   60. Kb3     Rb2+
61. K:b2    Rg8    62. G:c7+   Ka8    63. Gb7++


          This Chess variant actually came out of a discussion of Ultima variants between the authors. Peter Aronson had described all of the variant Ultima pieces he had found in Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, Ben Good commented that only the Golem seemed particularly interesting, and they discussed just what "captured twice" meant. Once they had the above rules, Ben commented the resulting piece could be used with FIDE Chess, although it might be rather dominating. This in turn led Peter to create Golem Chess to try it out, and Ben then proposed the adding the capture limitation rules from Chu Shogi.

          According to Jewish legends, a Golem is a man made of clay, animated by mystical forces. The word golem comes from the Hebrew word gelem, meaning raw or unformed material.

Other Golem Pieces

          All sorts of other Golem pieces are possible and interesting, of course. Harder to capture Golems, for example, such as triple or quadruple Golems that have to be captured three or four times, are possible (although this idea if extended far enough eventually turns into Ralph Betza's Hitpoint Chess 1). Differently moving Golems are also possible, of course. A R2 Golem might be more restrained than the Q2 used in this game, or a Knight-moving Golem would be a weakened version of an Iron Knight. A full Queen-moving Golem would almost certainly be too strong, since a King may not capture it, and it can not be defended against except by another Golem.


          Golem Chess can be played with a normal Western Chess set, using rubber bands or checkers to distinguish Golems from Half-Golems from Queens (if present due to promotion).

Computer Play

          An implementation of Golem Chess has been written for Zillions of Games. You can download it here:

Written by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: March 12th, 2002.
WWW page revised: March 15th, 2002.