The Chess Variant Pages

Recapitulative Chess

Charles Gilman


Recapitulation is the process of starting again from the beginning, so this is a game that starts from the beginnings of Chess and gradually becomes more like the FIDE game, through the mechanism of promotion which has changed little through the games. Perhaps it should more accurately be called Recapitulative European Chess, but versions leading to most of the Oriental standard games would be more difficult as these have very different promotion rules.

The Pieces

The array has Elephant and a Ferz instead of the modern Bishops and Queen, like the games ranging from Chaturanga to early European Chess. However, the old pieces are promoted to the modern ones into which they evolved - Elephant to Bishop on reaching the enemy Pawn rank, and Ferz to Queen - on the enemy Pawn rank. Pawns are promoted on the far rank, to any modern piece. Initially I considered having nine ranks and all promotions on the far rank, but realised that this was an unnecessary complication. Pawns cannot make an initial double move while an unpromoted Elephant or Ferz of either army remains on the board (i.e., until all remaining pieces are valid FIDE ones), and Castling is also subject to this restriction in addition to the usual ones. This may make for interesting tactics, for example holding back from promoting if castling is to the enemy's advantage but not one's own. Checkmate can happen at any stage in the game, although no doubt it is easier at some stages than others.

There is a theory, to which John Ayer drew the attention of regular readers, that the Rook itself evolved from the piece now known as the Dabbabah. There may be no more in it than a justification for the more recent changes, but if it did happen it was long before the game reached Europe. In an alternative starting with Dabbabahs for (and promotable to) Rooks the extra restriction on castling would effectively be a complete ban. It would theref ore be better to drop it and instead allow Dabbabah promotion to Rook through castling as well as by reaching the enemy Pawn rank.


So far, so simple. However, there is potential for promoting to produce variant armies - either by giving FIDE pieces game-specific features or by bringing in additional non-array pieces. An example of the first in to allow the "win by marriage" of Doug Chatham's Bachelor Chess, as there is after all no modern Queen in the array, but only once every Elephant or Ferz is promoted or captured of course. Examples of the second are promotion to the army of Bird's, Capablanca's, and Carrera's Chess, and those of Duke of Rutland's, Eurasian, Modern Kamil, Tutti Frutti, Wildebeest, Yang Qi, and even my own Ecumenical Chess. The two could even be combined in the manner of my Bachelor Kamil! So many possibilities, and all on the long-standing 8x8 board! The best rule for extra promotions is that Pawns follow the same rules as the game from which the promotee army is derived, Elephants become any colourbound piece (e.g. Camel, Caliph), and Ferzes become any other piece (e.g. Marshal, Cardinal, Gnu). The last-mentioned piece gives a case of what another Charles nearly sang: Shi (the Chinese for Ferz) may be the beauty or the beast!

Armies without all FIDE pieces often have some corresponding extra piece. Thus in promotion to a Mongolian Chess army the Ferz becomes a mixed-range piece, as do the Pawns. In promotion to a Poison Chess army Rooks become Harpies on reaching OR passing the enemy Pawn rank, and the Ferz (but ONLY the Ferz) becomes a Doctor. Armies retaining the ancient pieces, such as Courier and Timur's (Tamerlane) Chess would be more problematic, as there would be no "redundant" piece to promote to the new ones and they would all have to come from Pawns.

Editor's Note: This game resembles a less extreme, but more historical version of Köksal Karakus's game Primitive Chess.
Written by Charles Gilman.
WWW page created: February 16th, 2004.