The Chess Variant Pages

Sac Chess


Here's a 10x10 variant maybe not so wildly different from chess, maybe computer-resistant to playing engines too, as far as giving reasonably skilled humans a chance against them. It's played on a large (10x10) board, which may help humans when vs. machines (e.g. as in standard 19x19 Go), and also the average number of legal moves per turn may be significantly greater than for chess, for instance.

Compared to the 'Grand Chess' 10x10 variant the start position is more orderly - there are no empty squares on both side's 1st/2nd rank (& start positions for the standard chess pieces are kind of retained). Fool's mate & a kind of Scholar's mate possible. The name for the variant was inspired by the initials of the last 3 pieces on White's 1st rank. The density of pieces to empty cells in the setup is 60%, in a way not less close to that of orthodox chess (50%) than, say, Glinski's Hexagonal Chess (40%).

Two Game Courier presets for play are available thanks to Carlos Cetina, with one being rules enforcing. Note that some links are provided in the Notes section, for further reference.


The White pieces are as follows (Black's are placed in a similar way):
a1, j1: Chancellors; b1, i1: Archbishops; c1, h1: Sailors;
d1, g1: Amazons; e1, f1: Missionaries;
a2, j2: Judges; b2, i2: Rooks; c2, h2: Knights;
d2, g2: Bishops; e2: Queen; f2: King;
a3, b3, c3, d3, e3, f3, g3, h3, i3, j3: Pawns.


There are 6 other piece types than in chess besides the standard 6 types:
Z = Amazon (moves like N or Q), a standard fairy chess piece;
C = Chancellor (moves like N or R), a standard fairy chess piece made
famous by Capablanca Chess;
A = Archbishop (moves like N or B), a standard fairy chess piece made
famous by Capablanca Chess;
S = Sailor (moves like R or K), a piece from Shogi (promoted Rook, or
'Dragon', in that game);
M = Missionary (moves like B or K), a piece from Shogi (promoted Bishop, or
'Horse', in that game);
J = Judge (moves like N or K), after a fairy chess piece (Centaur).


Castling occurs on the 2nd rank between the king & either rook, with
conditions as in chess. Pawns act standardly too (e.g. an initial 2-step
move & en passant capture allowed), the only difference is that they still
promote on the last rank, but any of the new types of pieces may be
selected, besides the types allowed in chess. Stalemate is a draw like in


A game that might delight a beginner is 1 version of a Fool's mate:
1.Pg3-g5 Pf8-f7 2.Ph3-h5 Qe9-i5 mate. Then there is 1 version of Scholar's
mate: 1.Pf3-f5 Pf8-f6 2.Bg2-d5 Nc9-d7 3.Qe2-g4 Nd7-e5 4.Qg4xg8 mate.

Here's a sample Sac Chess opening possibility, besides the Fool's mate &
Scholar's mate. It starts in a way like the Italian, Two Knights Defence,
Wilkes Barre variation in chess:

1.Pf3-f5 Pf8-f6 2.Nh2-g4 Nc9-d7 3.Bg2-d5 Nh9-g7 4.Ng4-h6 Bg9-d6 5.Bxg8+
Ai10xg8 6.Nh6xg8 Zg10xg8.

In my estimation Black has adequate compensation for his archbishop based
on his lead in development. Here's the position after Black's 6th move:

Now best may be 7.Pe3-e4 Pe8-e6 8.Pi3-i4 (to stop ...Bd9-h5). Black can win
back his pawn, but White can castle.

Here's my tentative estimates for the relative values of Sac Chess pieces:

P=1, N=3, B=3.5, R=5.5, Q=10, almost as in chess (note a 10x10 board
increases the scope of the long-range pieces). My estimates for the new
pieces in Sac Chess are:

Z=14 (just as Q=R+B+P in value, Z=Q+N+P in value)
C=9.5 (just as Q=R+B+P in value, C=R+N+P in value)
A=7.5 (just as Q=R+B+P in value, A=N+B+P in value)

Note a Z can mate unaided (and an A can possibly deliver mate to a K in a
corner), which alone may not make Sac Chess a draw with perfect play.

Also, I recall that a chess K has a fighting value of 4 (even though it
cannot be exchanged); this value in my view might be rather oddly expressed
(for lack of a known formula) as
chess K = 32 x (max. # cells chess K moves to [eight])
divided by
(# of cells on a chess board [sixty-four])
= 4;

similarly, a Sac Chess K has a fighting value of
32 x (max. # cells Sac Chess K moves to [eight])
divided by
(# of cells on Sac Chess board [one hundred])
= 2.5 approx.

S=7.25 (only half a king's moves are added to a rook to make a sailor, &
since Q=R+B+P in value, I'd say an S=R+(K/2-P/2)+P roughly in value, even
though it's not at all royal)
M=5.25 (only half a king's moves are added to a bishop to make a
missionary, & since Q=R+B+P in value, so M=B+(K/2-P/2)+P in value)
J=6.5 (just as Q=R+B+P in value, J=N+K+P in value).

To try to help put the above values into perspective, a P would normally be
worth 3 tempi in an open chess position, with 4 uncompensated tempi (or
4/3rds of a P) normally enough to be decisive (e.g. in the start position
for chess, or Sac Chess, White could execute Scholar's mate with 4 free
moves, or tempi). For no net offsetting compensation in position, 1/3rd of
a P would constitute a slight edge, 2/3rds of a P would be a large
advantage and an extra P alone is an almost winning advantage. This scale
of small to decisive advantages might similarly be used in assessing a
material or tempi advantage in Sac Chess, assuming the other side has no
net offsetting compensation in position (i.e. after weighing any positive
features for each side such as safer king, more solid pawn structure,
control of a significant open line or square, etc. - compare books on chess
strategy for ideas on such, if one considers them applicable).

Based on the above, a number of 1 for 1 piece trades could often prove
equitable in Sac Chess games, i.e. Q for C, A for S, R for M, or B for N.
Otherwise, there are many 2 for 1, 3 for 1, or 3 for 2 trades of pieces
(perhaps including pawns) possibly equitable in Sac Chess.

As in chess, pieces shouldn't be moved to squares where they are liable to
be exposed to convenient attack by less valuable enemy pieces or pawns, if
that then compels them to go to undesirable squares, or waste tempi due to
retreating. The queens may thus take a while to activate safely, especially
far from home, and that ought to hold true for many other valuable piece
types in Sac Chess, which should often be more at ease once some of the
correspondingly less valuable enemy pieces disappear from the board.

For more discussion of Sac Chess:

Note that Sac Chess Crazyhouse would be the same game as Sac Chess, except
it would be a crazyhouse version. A pawn may not be dropped on a player's
1st or last rank.  Whether or not a pawn has yet moved, if it is on a
player's 2nd or 3rd rank it may take a double step as would be the case in
standard chess, but the opponent also may capture it en passant as would be

A link about plain (8x8) Crazyhouse:

Note that Sac Chess Bughouse would be the same game as Sac Chess
Crazyhouse, except it would be a bughouse version. That is, with two teams
of 2 players, using two Sac Chess setups to start with, in bughouse

A link about plain (8x8) Bughouse:

Another link, which alludes to Sac Chess Crazyhouse & Sac Chess Bughouse:

Note: to accommodate those who dislike the queen being clearly inferior to
amazons both in their power AND in their number in Sac Chess at the start
of a game, I can suggest the following fairly natural idea for a modified
variant ('Royal Bevy Chess'), i.e. it has a similar setup and the same
rules as for Sac Chess. Namely, in the setup position for Sac Chess, switch
2 queens for the 2 amazons, and switch an amazon for the single queen. This
idea of having two queens and one amazon in a setup position may have first
been used in 'Alekhine Chess', which is somewhat similar to Sac Chess,
perhaps; here's a link to it:

My own preference to have the setup for Sac Chess as it is was decided by
my desire to stick to a basic compound piece "theme" by having 2 knighted
Queens (i.e. Amazons) just as there are two knighted rooks (i.e.
Chancellors), etc. That's as well as it being decided by my desire to have
the traditional 8 piece array for standard chess embedded in each player's
second rank, in conjunction with having two compound pieces on these ranks
that would not be able to swiftly trade each other off. That could happen
if each player moved such a piece so as to make a N-leap over the pawns on
their respective 3rd ranks, and if 1 or both of these compound pieces (if
placed symmetrically opposite each other) could move at the least like
rooks as well, possibly allowing a trade.

From circa 2016, here's part of a post by Dr. H.G. Muller, partly
re: Sac Chess:

"...I happen to host a package of WinBoard + Sjaak II at . In that package I have already
pre-configured WinBoard to start up with (a very recent version of) Sjaak
II as engine. It starts up playing a variant 'Sac Chess', which is defined
in the variants.txt file, but you can then switch it to another variant
through WinBoard's New Variant menu. So I would strongly recommend using
that package. If you put your own variant definition into the variant.txt
file of that package (not too much at the end, as that WinBoard has only
room for displaying nine engine-defined variants), you should see a radio
button for selecting it in the New Variant dialog."

Note that physical 10x10 boards are in modern use, e.g. try searching
"10x10 Draughts" on; there are some international sellers of
physical fairy chess pieces, at the least, but in a pinch improvised ones
can be made, e.g. using elastics around extra chess set(s') pieces, or even
using coins. As an aside, there might be a significant market for
manufacturers of assorted fairy chess pieces sold individually, and/or
packed as a customized set according to a customer's order. Some standard
chess pieces could be included; special orders might be made from scratch
for customers willing to wait for unique fairy piece(s). Here's a link to
one manufacturer of any sort of chess pieces (or boards, probably), in
China (though apparently 'customer' must be a company):

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By Kevin Pacey.
Web page created: 2015-10-26. Web page last updated: 2015-10-26