The Chess Variant Pages


by John William Brown

The Centennial Chess board has 100 squares - one for each year of our now departing century. Such 10x10 games, often called decimal chess, have been the holy grail of game designers for ages. Many scholars felt that the move to a 10x10 board would be the next logical step in the chess's continuing evolution. Centennial Chess was created with this thought in mind. A number of experienced players now consider it to be the best decimal variant known to date. It is my sincere hope that you will come to appreciate the game as much as they have.

The Pieces

Centennial Chess uses the six standard FIDE Chess pieces: the King, the Queen, the Rook, the Bishop, the Knight and the Pawn; plus four new pieces which are described below:

The Steward is a 'quadra-pawn'. It moves as a Pawn in all four directions. The icon for the Steward is four small Pawns facing the four orthogonal directions. In play, two Stewards linked in mutual coverage make a formidable barrier to an up-the-center attack.

The Camel moves two squares orthogonally, followed by one square diagonally, leaping over occupied squares. The Camel's strength lies in its long stride. The Camel's weakness lies in its confinement to a single board-square color.

The Murray Lion was created inadvertently when chess historian H. J. R. Murray erred in describing the Chu Shogi lion in his 1931 classic, The History of Chess. Despite its unlikely origin, Murray's lion is in many ways more playable than its proper Chu Shogi counterpart. The Murray Lion may leap to the second square either orthogonally or diagonally - or it may move only to capture as a King.

The Rotating Spearman advances forward and retreats reward, any number of squares. It may capture on the advance but not on the retreat. Moreover, the Spearman may rotate at the close of a move (or merely rotate without moving). What it may not do is rotate prior to moving. When rotated, the Spearman advances and retreats diagonally. The Spearman's three allowable headings are shown at left.

The Rules

The rules for Centennial Chess are the same as for FIDE Chess, except for the following amendments:

  1. Each player moves two consecutive pieces until capturing. Upon capturing a player loses his two-move privilege for the duration of the game. A capture must be made on the first and only move of a turn.
  2. Both Pawns and Stewards have the option of advancing up to two squares forward-most on their first move.
  3. En passant captures are not allowed.
  4. When castling, the King will move to a vacated Bishop's square, the Rook will move to a vacated Lion's square. (See array below.)
  5. A Pawn reaching the 10th rank may promote to any piece.

The Board

The 10x10 square Centennial Chess array is shown below.


Click here for cut-out piece patterns.

Click here for pictures of a Centennial Chess board with pieces.

Click here to download Centennial Chess for Zillions of Games.

Piece Values

(adjusted for a 10x10 board)

Pawn= 0.6 Bishop= 3.1
Steward= 0.9 Murray Lion= 4.4
Camel= 2.5 Rook= 5.0
Rotating Spearman= 2.5 Queen= 9.1
Knight= 2.6 King= 2.1 (valued as fighting piece)

Playing Tips

  1. Try to form a pawn wedge up the center of the board while preventing your opponent from doing the same.
  2. Develop your pieces in the reverse order of their relative values.
  3. Place your Stewards on adjacent diagonals so that they are mutually protected.
  4. Rotating Spearmen are easily trapped. Do not develop them beyond the 3rd or 4th rank unless you can foresee a profitable exchange.
  5. Lions lack maneuverability but have excellent capture density. A Lion in the vicinity of a King is a force to be reckoned with.
  6. Vacate your 1st rank - except for King and Rooks - but delay castling until you have determined the safest place for your King. If you decide not to castle, move the King one square forward so that your Rooks may connect.
  7. Do not forfeit your two-move privilege without a good reason. Initiate capturing only if (1) your pieces are fully developed, (2) you can win appreciable material or (3) your opponent presents a serious threat.

Click here for Millennial Chess.

John William Brown is the author of Meta-Chess

John's e-mail address is (email removed contact us for address)

Correspondence Play

Below is an ASCII board for Centennial Chess and the log of a correspondence game played between Benjamin Good and myself. Note the characters used for the Rotating Spearmen and how their moves are indicated. (Thanks to Ben Good for his help in developing this notation.)

 10 |*R*|*C*|*M*|*B*|*Q*|*K*|*B*|*M*|*C*|*R*|
  9 |:::|*V*|*N*|   |*S*|*S*|:::|*N*|*V*|   |
  8 |*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*|
  7 |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
  6 |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
  5 |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
  4 |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
  3 |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |
  2 |   |:^:|:N:|:::| S |:S:|   |:N:| ^ |:::|
  1 |:R:| C |:B:| L |:K:| Q |:L:| B |:C:| R |
      a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j 

 1.f5,Nd4   e6,f6     Players begin by making 2 moves per turn.
 2.e4,Bh6   e5,g7
 3.Nf3,Bi5  d6,e6
 4.d4,Ld3   b7,d5
 5.Se3,Ce2  H6,Se7
 6.d:e5,    Se6,Sf7   White captures, losing his 2-move privilege.
 7.f:e6     f7:e6     Black captures, losing his 2-move privilege.
 8.e:d5     f5
 9.d:e6     Le8
10.L:f5     Nf8
11.0-0      N:e6
12.Nd4      g6
13.B:h6     Ce9
14.N:e6     P:f5
15.Nc7      Lg6
16.i5       \V\b8     Black moves Spearman and rotates left.
17.Nd5      P:d5
18.C:d5     Le5
19.Sf4      i7
20.Bg5      |V|c7     Black moves Spearman and rotates forward.
21./^/b2    b:a3      White moves Spearman and rotates right.
22.Kb1      Qc8
23.Rd3      Qf8
24.\^\i4    Bb9       White moves Spearman and rotates left.
25.Nf3      \V\c6     Black moves Spearman and rotates left.
26.c4       Nd7
27.Bi2      Cf9
28.g4       /V/i8     Black moves Spearman and rotates right.
29.\^\b2    P:g4      White rotates Spearman without moving it.
30.B:g4     /V/:d3+   Black moves Spearman but maintains heading.
31.Q:d3     Ch8
32./^/:a3   Q:a3      White moves Spearman and rotates right.
33.Bh4      Nc5
34.Qc2      N:b3
35.Qb2      Q:b2+
36.K:b2     L:c4
37.Cg6      |V|c6     Black moves Spearman and rotates forward.
38.Nd2      Lc2+
39.Ka3      /V/c5#    Black moves Spearman and rotates right.(#)

You may also see that game on Game Courier:

Written by John William Brown. HTML conversion by David Howe.
This variant is an entry in the 1999 Large Variant contest. Photographs of Centennial Chess.

WWW page created: February 24, 1999. Last modified: October 7, 1999.