The Chess Variant Pages




Altair

By Roberto Lavieri

Introduction

Movement and General Rules

Board and Set Up

Pieces

Rules

Playing Tips

Computer Play

Introduction

ALTAIR is a modern game with an oriental flavor, with a degree of playability that is very enjoyable. There are three variants; all three should be considered to be at the same level. Although I thought **Great-Cannons Altair** as the principal variant at first, I prefer **Grand Bishops Altair**, and it is the reason it appears as the principal variant. The object of the game is to checkmate the enemy King. Each King is confined to the triangular 16 squares of the FORTRESS. You can also win the game if you reduce the enemy pieces to only TWO (the King and another piece). All pieces in this game are cannibals: they can take friendly pieces (enemy pieces too, as you may be thinking!) This fact may be used in some situations, but, obviously, you should use this rule only rarely, when it is desirable according to your position and purposes.

 

Movement and General Rules

The pieces in ALTAIR have strong movement capabilities, but they are not as powerful as capturing pieces. 

Many of the pieces (with exceptions) have the NON-CAPTURING **CH** movement, with this type of movement, the piece can go from a colored file to any other square on the next or previous parallel file of the same color. 

Many pieces also have the **H** non-capturing movement, moving as Rook over the horizontal colored line of squares. 

But each piece has its own capturing movements. 

There is a piece in this game that cannot capture, and it is the soul of Altair: THE REDUCER, an interesting and nice piece that can REDUCE the abilities of adjacent pieces, to only a ONE-STEP movement according to the piece's movement or method of capture. A REDUCER CANNOT be CAPTURED by an enemy piece other than the King or Mage. A Mage can capture the REDUCER only at distance; when adjacent it cannot capture the Reducer. 

The King never cannot be in-line with the other King, as in oriental variants.

 

Board and Set Up

 The Board is 9x9, with squares colored with three colors: yellow, brown and blue. There are two delimited zones of 16 squares each (lighter squares), called the FORTRESS for each King. The King is confined to the Fortress; it can't leave it. Many pieces have similar BASIC non-capturing movements (with a few exceptions):

1.- Change of horizontal rank: moving from one colored horizontal line of squares to the immediately following or the immediately preceding parallel line of squares of the same color. This is a non-capturing move, and the piece can go to ANY position in the new line. ("CH" movement)

2.- Moving over the horizontal line, with a FIDE-Rook movement. ("H" movement)

 

Pieces

Soldier

 

A Soldier moves diagonally forward or orthogonally forward and backward, and with the H movement. It captures by replacement, moving DIAGONALLY one position. When in the Fourth rank, it can move two positions forward. When in first or last rank (White and Black Soldiers), it can move with the "CH" movement. If there is an enemy Reducer adjacent, it loses it's "H" movement, but it can still move forward, backward and diagonally forward, or capture diagonally forward with only a one-step movement allowed in each case. A Soldier can't capture a Reducer.

Overtaker 

 

 

The Overtaker moves as a King without a King's capturing capabilities, and also has "CH" and "H" movement. It takes by jumping (like piece of draughts but in all directions), jumping an enemy piece diagonally. When adjacent to the enemy Reducer, it can't capture and can only move one square with a King's non-capture movement. The Overtaker can't capture the Reducer.

Diamond Warrior

 

 

The Diamond Warrior is a 1-square diagonal-leaper and 2-square (diagonal and orthogonal)-leaper when moving or capturing. It can leap over pieces and captures by replacement on the landing square. It can't capture the Reducer. It can move without capturing with "CH" movement.

 

Lion-Man

  

 

The Lion-Man moves and captures as a FIDE-King, or as a FIDE Rook or FIDE-Bishop with 2-square ranges. It moves without capturing with "CH" and "H" movements. If adjacent to an enemy Reducer, it only has the King's movement. The Lion-Man can't capture the Reducer. The Lion-Man is the most powerful piece of the game.

 

Grand-Bishop

 

 

The Grand-Bishop can move and capture diagonally as a FIDE Bishop. The piece is also leaps EXACTLY three squares diagonally moving and capturing (it can leap over pieces exactly three squares). It can move with "CH" and "H" movement without capturing. It also is capable of doing orthogonal one-step non-capturing movements. When moving diagonally, the Grand-Bishop captures a piece (friend or enemy) on the square its moving to, by replacement. When adjacent to an enemy Reducer, it has only it's one-step capabilities, moving and capturing. It can't take the Reducer. In the VARIANTS, this piece is substituted by the Grand-Cannon or the Grand-Rook in the board setup. 

Mage

 

A Mage moves and captures by replacement 1 square diagonally or 1 square diagonally plus a 45-degree turn and then slides orthogonally any distance. It can capture the Reducer if the Mage is attacking the Reducer and does not start adjacent to the Reducer (capture at distance). It can't capture friendly pieces at distance. The Mage is a powerful piece in this game, and it is one of two pieces that can capture the Reducer.

Reducer

 

A REDUCER moves as a FIDE Queen. It can't capture any piece. Instead of this, it has the ability of REDUCE the movement and capture abilities of adjacent enemy pieces. An enemy piece adjacent to the Reducer can only move or capture with ONE-STEP movement according to the piece capabilities. The Reducer can only be captured by the Mage when they are not adjacent, or by the King. It can't be captured by any other piece. It is a nice piece, and it is an important piece in the game.

King

 

The King is the royal piece. It can't leave its own FORTRESS (16 lighter squares on each side; there are two Fortresses, the white and the black. The White King is confined to the white Fortress, and the Black King can't leave black Fortress). The King can't ever be in a VERTICAL line with the other King, as in Xiang Qi. It moves and captures one step in any direction inside the fortress. It can't be affected by the REDUCER. The King is one of the two type of pieces in the game that can capture the Reducer (the other is the Mage).

Grand-Cannon

  

 

A Grand-Cannon moves and captures as Cannon in Xiang Qi, but it can do "CH" non-capturing movements. If adjacent to the Reducer, the Grand-Cannon only retains the ability to move one square. It can't capture the Reducer.

Grand-Rook

 

A Grand-Rook moves and captures as Rook, but it has additionally the non-capturing "CH" movement. If adjacent to the Reducer, the Grand-Rook only retains the ability to move one square. It can't capture the Reducer.

 

Rules

Win condition: Checkmate the opposing King, or reduce the enemy pieces to only TWO.

 

Playing Tips

  • Material advantages are not as important as in Western Chess, but they are a little more important than in Xiang Qi. 

  • Use the Reducer well. It is a great piece, although it can't capture. 

  • A suggestion: (as in Xiang Qi) don't leave your King alone unless you are sure about what are you doing. You can lose the game quickly in some situations, or you could be forced to a DRAW by repetition. 

  • The Lion-Man is the most powerful piece of the game, but all the pieces are designed around the concept of relatively powerful pieces, including the Soldiers. Major pieces have great movement capabilities, but they are not extremely powerful as attacking pieces. 

  • You may take your own pieces in some situations where you can attack two or more important enemy pieces with the capturing cannibal, or in some brutal attacks against the King. 

  • The game dynamic may appear a little strange at first, but once assimilated it is really enjoyable and tactics are usually cool.

Computer Play

Now you can play ALTAIR if you have installed on your computer a registered version of ZILLIONS OF GAMES. You can Download the ALTAIR ZRF and graphics at the link below. (Author: Roberto Lavieri)