The Chess Variant Pages

Charge of the Light Brigade


The idea for this game was born during a discussion on the value of the Capablanca Archbishop, and the empirical fact that 8 Knights beat 4 Archbishops on a 10x8 board. Charge of the Light Brigade then came up as a counter-example for that this would imply that the Archbishop is worth at most 2 Knights: the fact that 3 Queens lose to 7 Knights more often than not is by no means proof that a Queen is worth less than 2.33 Knight.


  • e1, e8 Kings
  • b1, d1, g1 Queens
  • a8-d8, f8-h8 Knights
  • a2-h2, a7-h7 Pawns


All pieces move as in orthodox Chess.


As no Rooks participate, there obviously is no castling.

White Pawns can only promote to Queen, black Pawns only to Knight.

Otherwise all rules are as in orthodox Chess.


The fact that the odds in this game favor the Knights is one of the most spectacular examples that the strength of an army cannot simply be calculated by adding the value of the individual pieces. From orthodox Chess it is well established that a Queen is worth almost exactly 3 minors. So on the face of it, black is two minors behind. Yet they are the superior army here.

The explanation is that strong pieces devaluate in the presence of opponent weaker pieces, because they can never move onto squares covered by the latter, as that would expose them to a 1-on-1 trade for a highly inferior piece. When a Queen balances 3 Knights on 8x8, 3 Queens would balance 9 Knights when spread out over a 24x8 board, as each Queen would face 3 Knights there, the other Knights being a safe distance away. But when collapsed onto an 8x8 board, each Queen is suddenly also harrassed by the Knights that were fighting the other two Queens. That makes the effective value of the Queens only about two Knights.

What makes that really bad here, is that white has no way to solve that problem. It is almost impossible to force 2-for-1 trades, with so many Knights that can easily keep each other protected twice at all times.

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By H. G. Muller.
Web page created: 2015-02-27. Web page last updated: 2015-04-05