The Chess Variant Pages



More Halflings

Halfling pieces, as we have seen, are distance-moving pieces that move half as far as their normal counterparts, rounded up; and there are two kinds of halfling, relative and absolute.

Additional types of halflings are also possible.

For example, there is the Floor Halfling, that moves up to half as far as the corresponding normal piece, rounded down. You could not make a piece that had Floor-Halfling powers and no other powers, because it would be unable to move to the edge of the board (except when moving from one edge square to another). A Relative Floor Halfling could never make a capture! However, a Floor Halfling power could be combined with a more normal power to make a reasonably useful piece.

In addition, there is the Anti-Halfling, as per http://www.chessvariants.com/d.betza/chessvar/pieces/anti-r un.html In essence, an anti-halfling can move to all the squares a Rook could reach but which a Halfling cannot reach. It is a whimsical power, of course.

Halfling Chess

It is obvious that the rule of Halfling movement immediately defines a game that must be named Halfling Chess. Knights still move as they always did (one step Knightwise), the Rooks, Bishops, and Queens are Halflings of the same type.

By special decree of the Chess Variants Rules Supreme Court, Castling is legal, and the Pawns, if they have not yet moved, may make a two square advance, as in Chess. The plaintiffs argued that these moves were special cases, not to be counted as distance moves for the purposes of halving, and the majority of the Court concurred.

It is amazing how a simple and obvious chess variant often turns out to have subtle ramifications when you examine it closely.

For example, in Halfling Chess, after 1. e4 e5, the normal and natural 2. Nf3 is subject to the theoretical objection that one is developing too powerful a piece too soon, which will make it subject to later harassment from weaker pieces -- and therefore the theoretically correct move must be 2. Bf1-c4. In fact, since the only weaker piece in this game is the Halfling Bishop (which is worth approximately 1.5 Pawns), the objection is not so acute.

Because Halfling pieces have trouble reaching the edge of the board, the shortest possible game of Halfling Chess that ends in mate is with 1...Nc6 2...Ne5 and 3...Nd6 or ...Nf6; and the shortest mate not given by a Knight is 1 d4 e5 2 Qd2 Ke7 3 Qf4 Ke6 4 Qe5.

After 1 e4 e5 2 Bc4, the B at c4 does not attack f7; in order to do so, it would need to go to d5 first, but then ...c7-c6 would chase it away. Therefore, a reasonable opening might be 1 e4 e5 2 Nf4 Nc6 3 Bc4, threatening Bc4-d5 -- and in fact it is a disruptive threat which makes me wonder if 1...Nc6 isn't simply a bad move!

Instead, one might try 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6, and after 3 Ne5 Ne4 4 Qe2?! Nf6 5 Nc6??, Black is not in check because the Q can't go that far and can simply eat the N. So, 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nf6 3 Ne5 Ne4 4 d4 d5 5 Bd3 Nf6 6 O-O Bd6 7 Nf3 Be6 8 Re1 Bg4 9 Nf3-d2, neither player is getting any advantage. The open file is unimportant, and advancing with Knights first simply loses time when the Bishops drive the Knights back.

Given the pattern of the way the Halfling Bishop moves, a finchetto development seems attractive; it may turn out to be tactically useful to be able to move to the edge of the board. 1 e4 e5 2 g3 d5?! 3 ed5 Qd5 4 Bg2 attacks the Q, but the Q does not attack the B; or 1 e4 e5 2 b3 Nf6?! 3 Bb2 Ne4 4 Be5 d6 5 d3 might be good for W.

The pieces move in the same directions, but with different lengths of movement; and the game is completely different.

Different Armies

If a chess army has 31 buy points, then the fact that the FIDE army has 25 of those 31 points invested in distance-moving pieces means that it will be weakened greatly when transformed to a Halfling army. Instead, the Clobberers have only 9 points of distance movers (the Bishops in the NB and the two BDs), the Rookies have 11 (The Rooks in R4 and RN), the Nutty Knights have 11 or 12 (three pieces use the forwards and sideways moves of the Rook), and the Forward FIDEs have 21 points of distance movement; therefore, although the normal versions of these armies are equal in strength, the Halfling version swill not be so equal. However, the Rookies and the Knights should still be equal to each other, and so at least one pair of armies for Halfling Chess with Different Armies is defined.

Halfling Values

A Halfling is worth half as much as a normal piece.

The statement in the previous page, which said they were worth 0.6 to 0.66 as much as a normal piece, was incorrect, and was caused by incorrect figures in the short rook page. (http://www.chessvariants.com/d.betza/chessvar/pieces/short rook.html)

A Halfling is worth half as much as a normal piece.

Interesting Halflings

Halfling Crooked Bishop

Although I at first underestimated the value of the Crooked Bishop, it's really worth about as much as a Rook. Here's an interesting way of looking at it: it moves to roughly one and one-half times as many squares as a Rook; however, the first square it moves to is duplicated in all directions, so subtract the value of the Ferz, roughly one-third of a Rook; the result is one and one-sixth of a Rook, but since it's a colorbound piece, let's call it even.

Once you understand the value of the zFF (crooked Bishop), then it becomes clear that in my example analysis on the page that introduced the Crooked Bishop, I got bad results because I was using it incorrectly. Save it for the endgame! Once the board opens up, the Crooked Bishop will spread fear and terror everywhere among the enemy ranks.

A Halfling Crooked Bishop is therefore worth half as much as a normal Rook; in other words, it's a piece that's worth about 2.5 or 2.25 Pawns.

Halfling Rose

A Halfling Rose move to all the squares a Rose can move to! The only difference is that it cannot go past the halway mark and return to its starting square, and therefore it does not attack most squares as often. The normal Rose attacks every square it can reach at least twice -- once clockwise and once counterclockwise -- and also attacks half of the square it can reach four times, where the circles intersect. The Halfling Rose still attacks twice the squares where the circles twice, of course.

The Halfling Rose should not be used on an 8x8 board, of course; but the Rose and the Halfling Rose will be popular pieces when Hans holds his contest to design a chess variant on a board of 169 squares.

Halfling Relay

If you play a form of Relay Chess with normal pieces, but the relayed power is always a Halfling power, the effect is to make the relay power less strong. The reason you might want to do this is that the simplest game of Relay Chess, where the rules would allow all pieces to relay their powers to all other pieces, is a bit much, a bit out of control, certainly not to everybody's taste; and besides, nobody likes games where the Pawn at h2 can start by capturing the Pawn at h7. Halfling Relay Chess solves that problem.

See also


Written by Ralph Betza
WWW page created: March 8, 2001. Last modified: March 16, 2001.