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Gala, also knows as farmer's chess was a game, played in some farmers villages in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It might be played very occasionally in some places, but mostly is extinct in its original location. The game probably comes from the middle ages.

The game has been first mentioned in game books written by R. C. Bell (e.g., Bell's The Boardgame Book. The description here is from The World of Games by Jack Botermans and Pieter van Delft (Facts on File, ISBN 0-8160-2184-8), a translation of the Dutch Een wereld voor Spelletjes. This book also gives a description how to make a very nice looking Gala board and set.

See also:


The game is played with two players on a board of ten by ten squares. Four corners of four by four squares are distinguished from the middle part, which is in the shape of a cross ( + ).

Each player has eight pawns, five rooks, five bishops, and two kings.

The opening setup is as follows:

King a1, j1; Rook a3, b2, c1, i1, j2; Bishop a2, b1, h1, i2, j3; Pawn a4, b3, c2, d1, g1, h2, i3, j4.

King a10, j10; Rook a9, b10, h10, i9, j8; Bishop a8, b9, c10, i10, j9; Pawn a7, b8, c9, d10, g10, h9, i8, j7.

Lines separate four 4 by 4 corners from the middle part, consisting of the squares on rows 5 and 6 and/or on columns e and f.

The lines on the board, separating the corner parts from the middle plus- shaped part are called deflection lines.

Movement of pieces

In general, for the movement of pieces, it matters whether the piece has crossed a deflection line: after crossing such a line, its movement capabilities change. Also, in general, there are restrictions when a piece can take a piece of the opponent. Where I refer to `usual' pieces, I mean the movement of such pieces in chess.

Kings move as usual kings (except they have restrictions on when they take, and an additional teleportation power): they move one square in an arbitrary direction. Additionally, when a king is on one of the four squares in the middle of the board, it may be moved in one move to any empty square on the board with the exception of those squares that contain a piece in the opening setup. (Thus, for instance, a king on e5 can be transported to b4 when it is empty, but never to a4.) Kings can only take when moving over a deflection line.

A rook moves as a usual rook when in a corner of the board, and as a usual bishop in the middle of the board. It is also possible to combine these moves in one turn, so for instance, a rook can move d1 - d2 - d3 - d4 - d5 - e6 - f7. (It is not clear whether it is possible for a rook to move over two deflection lines in one turn. I would assume that this is possible.) Rooks can only take in moves where they move over a deflection line.

Bishops are just the opposite of rooks (with an additional small difference in the taking rules): they move as usual bishop on the corner parts, and as a usual rook on the middle part. Again it is possible to combine such moves; a bishop on b1 could move: b1 - c2 - d3 - e4 - e5 - e6 - e7, etc. It is not totally clear whether a bishop may pass more than one deflection line in one turn, but I would assume that such moves indeed are possible. Bishops only take in moves where they pass the deflection line, but not when they move only one square in rookwise fashion. (So, a bishop on e2 may not take on d2.)

Pawns move diagonally towards the middle of the board until they are in the middle part or in the corners of the opponents side of the board. It is allowed to move two squares if the deflection line isn't passed with the first move of the pawn. So, for instance, the white pawn on a4 can move only to b5, but the white pawn on c3 can move to d4 or to e5. When the pawn is in the middle part or the 4 by 4 corners at the opponents side of the board, then it may move one square in an arbitrary direction. When a pawn is moved back to a corner of the owning players side of the board, it can only move diagonally forward again. Pawns only can take in the move after they have crossed a deflection line.

Winning the game

When a player threatens a king of the opponent, he says: Gala. The opponent must defend the king, if possible. Otherwise, the player takes the king of the opponent.

One wins the game by taking both kings of the opponent.

When only two kings of different players are left on the board, the game is a draw.


The rules in my books were somewhat open for different interpretations, so the description above may contain errors. Anybody having more information on the precise rules (e.g., is the description in Bell's Discovering Old Boardgames, Shire Publications, 1973, more clear?), please contact me.

Written by: Hans Bodlaender, with thanks for Michael Kamenski for drawing my attention to this game, and to Jay Griffith for noting a grammatical error.
WWW page created: February 11, 1997. Last modified: August 12, 1998.