The Chess Variant Pages

Bilateral Chess

By Antoine Fourrière


A lot of players feel - rightly, in my view - that it is a pity that neither International Chess nor Chinese Chess see the confrontation of the two most enjoyable pieces, namely the Queen and the Cannon. So, they devise bigger and bigger boards. And, like in Chinese Chess, they lose the closed openings that are one of the charms of the game of Western Chess.

In fact, openings are a lot of fun. Maybe learning the whole theory has become unpalatable, but why should we do away with everything? I even wish to retain the f7 weakness, and the unguarded Rooks.

The Knights aren't nearly as effective on a 10x10 board. Of the possible replacement pieces, the Camel is too awkward, and the Gnu too strong. Omega Chess does better, with its Champions and Wizards, but it doesn't feel right to end up with six short-range leapers.

As for the Cannon, why should it move Rook-wise and not Bishop-wise? To the European Chess player it looks obvious that there is no logical explanation. But can we really stomach two Chinese Cannons and two of their oblique counterparts? No? Then how about using instead the Leo? No, the Queen should keep its preeminence. For that reason, and also for the sake of symmetry, I don't wish to include Griffons, Gnus, Marshalls or Cardinals.

Moreover, on a 10x10 board, the Pawns have too much ground to cover for promotion.

And a better player than myself would find other grievances.

Board and Setup

Bilateral Chess is played on a 12 x 8 board. (Yes, all chessboards are bilateral, but that one may be more bilateral than most others.) The columns are labeled y, z, a to j. (Thus, e4 retains its current meaning.)


King (K): e1
Queen (Q): d1
Lions (L): y1 j1
Rooks (R): a1 h1
Can(n)ons (P/V): z1 i1
Bishops (B): c1 f1
Knights (N): b1 g1
Wizards (W): y2 j2
Elephants (E): z2 i2
Pawns: a1 b1 c1 d1 e1 f1 g1 h1
King (K): e8
Queen (Q): d8
Lions (L): y8 j8
Rooks (R): a8 h8
Can(n)ons (P/V): z8 i8
Bishops (B): c8 f8
Knights (N): b8 g8
Wizards (W): y7 j7
Elephants (E): z7 i7
Pawns: a7 b7 c7 d7 e7 f7 g7 h7

The Pieces

The King, Queen, Rooks, Bishops, Knights and Pawns move as they do in International Chess, but there are four new pieces: the Lion, the Can(n)on, the Elephant and the Wizard.


The game is conducted by the rules of International Chess, except where noted otherwise. Castling is unaffected.

A Pawn may promote into one of the four new pieces. If an adverse Elephant pushes a Pawn to promotion, it is the owner of the Elephant who chooses how to promote it. (I would bet on an Elephant rather than on a Queen.)

The Play of the Game


Pz1/ means that the Can(n)on was a Pao (moves on Rook-lines) and shifts to a Vao (moves on Bishop-lines), whether it was already in z1 or not. Vxe5 means the Can(n)on takes diagonally in e5 and remains a Vao. (Otherwise, it would be Vxe5/.)

Exg3 means that the Elephant has gone in g3 to push a piece.

Wxd6 means that the Wizard has killed or paralyzed a piece in d6. (The spell depends of their relative positions. If the two Wizards are still in play, it will often be necessary to specify the Wizard's column.)

L means Lion, of course.

Written by Antoine Fourrière.
WWW page created: September 14th, 2002.