The Chess Variant Pages Menu


By JR Schmidt
(email removed contact us for address)

An entry into the 1999 Contest to Design a Large Chess Variant

A Globe Shaped Chess Game

Webball News

"He would make outrageous claims, like he invented the question mark"

Dr. Evil describing his father in AUSTIN POWERS

/ / / / /
03 May 1999

Hello Everyone! Webball is now an official entry (#35) in the Contest to Design a Large Chess Variant. I am excited for 3 reasons:

** The games look like a lot of fun! (Have you reviewed them and voted yet?)

** I am already starting to meet some of you, and get offers to play games by email.

** And, I am especially excited because I have finally come up with a notation for Webball that I really like!! This was my 4th or 5th attempt to invent a notation for such a weird chessboard. By labeling each of the 12 voids with one of the characters {*, #, +, ?, or $}, I believe I have come up with a notation that is elegant, intuitive and easy to use.

I still am not happy about posting the Webball web page without GIF diagrams. I will draw them as soon as I can get on a computer with drawing software!

/ / / / /
01 May 1999

Promises Promises

I was unable to make GIF diagrams to help explain this game. I will do so as soon as possible. I will also try to build a java applet Game Viewer for this game, and improve this web page. In the interim, I will mail paper copies of illustrations for this game to anyone, anywhere in the world, who asks by email to (email removed contact us for address)


Geometry and Layout of the Game Grid

The playing surface for WEBBALL is called the GAME GRID or the GLOBE. The WEBBALL game grid can perhaps be visualized as a "globe shaped spider web." It is modeled after the dodecahedron, which is a geometric solid with 12 flat surfaces. Each side of a dodecahedron is a pentagon (a 5 sided polygon). If there is a game store in your area which sells unusual shaped dice, look at a 12-sided die (you may even wish to buy one) and you will be looking at a dodecahedron. The WEBBALL game grid runs in paths along the edges of the pentagons where they join with other pentagons. In the middle of each pentagon are holes where no piece can move.

At each of the 5 corners of any pentagon on a dodecahedron, that pentagon joins with 2 other pentagons. So each "corner" of a dodecahedral solid is formed by the intersection of 3 pentagonal flat surfaces. There are 20 of these intersections on a dodecahedron. In WEBBALL, each of these 20 3-way intersections is called a NODE. A network of paths join the nodes together, corresponding to the edges where 2 pentagons intersect each other. The paths are 3 squares in width as they wind around the Webball globe. The inner of the 3 tracks is called the SPINE. Inside the paths are the 12 VOIDS, which no piece can move to, corresponding to the pentagons themselves.

Each space or point in the game grid is called a SQUARE, in conformance with traditional chess terminology. At the center of each node there is a hexagonal (six sided) square called the NODE SQUARE. All the other squares are four sided. Each of the 6 four sided squares sharing an edge with a six sided node square is considered to be directly adjacent to the node ("orthogonal" in conventional chess terminology). As you circle the perimeter of the six sided node square you will find six squares in between the six orthogonal squares just mentioned which are considered to be diagonal to the node. It turns out that the squares can be checkered light and dark, alternately, so that it is easy to visualize the orthogonal and diagonal movement.

Each of the six sided node squares has three neighboring nodes which it is closest to. Any two nearby nodes are connected by a four sided square. This forms a connecting path one square wide between all of the nodes on the game board, which is called the SPINE. Each of the squares along the spine, both the six sided node squares and the connecting four sided squares, have two additional squares orthogonally adjacent to them, one on each side. These additional squares form what are called RINGS which separate the voids from the spine. Each square on a ring has the spine on one side and a void on the other side. Thus the globe is surrounded by a web of paths 3 squares wide, with Y shaped intersections and holes in the middle. The rings and the spine can be considered analogous to files on the conventional chessboard.

Notation and Game Grid Orientation

In order to facilitate notation, and also to help orient players as they play on this very weird playing board, both the nodes and the voids on the WEBBALL game board are labeled.

The 20 nodes are named as follows:

The node at the top of the game board is labeled {N} for North. The node at the bottom is labeled {S} for South. (In this description of WEBBALL I will sometimes use angle brackets {} for the names of nodes or squares to avoid ambiguity.)

Node N, like every other node, has 3 nodes that connect with it. Looking at the globe from the top down, with N in the center, and going counterclockwise, the 3 nodes joining node N are labeled {A}, {D}, and {J}. Again going counterclockwise, the 2 additional nodes joining {A} are {B} and {C}, {D} is joined to {E} and {F}, and {J} joins {K} and {L}. These nodes are refered to as the NORTHERN HEMISPHERE.

 *** The Northern Hemisphere ***
       Node and Void Labels

             (W)         (Y)
               .   {?}   .
                .       .
                 F     E
                / \   / \
               /   \ /   \
       {$}    /     D     \    {$}
             /      |      \
            /  {#}  |  {*}  \
           /        N        \
          /       /   \       \
         /       /     \       \
(V).....K-------J       A-------C.....(Z)
                |  {+}  |
                |       |
        {?}     L-------B     {?}
               .         .
              .    {$}    .
            (R)           (Q)
The bottom half of the globe (SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE) is labeled in a similar fashion. Looking from the bottom up, with S in center, again going counterclockwise, the 3 nodes joining node S are labeled {P}, {U}, and {X}. Still going counterclockwise, the other 2 nodes joining {P} are {Q} and {R}, {U} joins {V} and {W}, and {X} joins {Y} and {Z}. (Note that counterclockwise in the North is the opposite direction from counterclockwise in the South.)

 *** The Southern Hemisphere ***
       Node and Void Labels

            (E)           (F)
              .    {?}    .
               .         .
          {$}   Y-------W   {$}
                |       |
                |  {#}  |
(C).....Z-------X       U-------V.....(K)
         \       \     /       /
          \       \   /       /
           \        S        /
            \  {+}  |  {*}  /
      {?}    \      |      /    {?}
              \     P     /
               \   / \   /
                \ /   \ /
                 Q     R
                .       .
               .   {$}   .
             (B)         (L)
Other node linkages are, going latitudinally, {B} to {L}, {C} to {E}, {F} to {K} in the North and {Q} to {Z}, {R} to {V}, {W} to {Y} in the South. Linkages crossing the EQUATOR are {B} to {Q}, {C} to {Z}, {E} to {Y}, {F} to {W}, {K} to {V}, {L} to {R}.

The 12 voids on the Spiderball globe are also labeled. The 3 voids closest to the North Pole are labeled "star" {*}, "sharp" {#}, and "plus" {+}. Of the 6 voids close to the equator, 3 are a little farther North, and are each labeled "question" {?} (or "question mark"). The other 3, which are a bit farther South, are each labeled "dollar" {$} (or "dollar sign"). The 3 voids closest to the South Pole are also labeled "star" {*}, "sharp" {#}, and "plus" {+}.

These labels for the voids are not unique. However, each location on the game grid is next to either 2 or 3 voids which have 2 or 3 different labels. This allows us to use a system for notation that I think is really neat and simple to use. I like it much better than any other system I came up with. [NOTE: The old notation I posted April 30, {A1}, {B12}, {N3}, etc., is no longer valid.]

Each six sided node square is labeled with the same letter that identifies that node {N, S, A, B, C, etc.}. The four sided squares joining 2 node squares together are labeled with two letters, combining the labels for the two nodes, such as {NA}, {BQ} or {XZ}. The letter "N" is always first in any two letter combination. The letter "S" is always last. Otherwise, the two letters are written in alphabetical order. These two conventions take care of all of the squares along the spine.

Each square along a ring is labeled by combining the label for the adjoining square along the spine with the label for the void inside that particular ring, such as {N#}, {L+} or {FW$}. The lexical order of the five label characters for voids is {*, #, +, ?, $}.
 *** Example of Notation System for Squares on the Game Grid ***

                                     |    |      |
                                     |    |      |
                                   /      |        \
                     {#}          /       |         \           {*}
                                 /        |          \
                                N#_       |          N*                   C*
           K#                  /   \      |         /  \                  / \
          /  \                /     \___  |  ______/    \                /   \
         /    \              /          \ | /            \              /     \
        /     JK#---J#----NJ#             N              NA*----A*----AC*      \
       /     /       |       \    ______/ | \_______     /      |       \       \
      /     /        |        \  /        |         \   /       |        \       \
     /     /         |      ___NJ--       |           NA_       |         \       \
    K     /          |     /       \      |          /   \      |          \       C
   / \   /           | ___/         \     |         /     \___  |           \    /  \
  /   \ /            |/              \    |        /          \_|            \  /    \
K?    JK-------------J               NJ+--N+----NA+           _A-------------AC      C?
  \   /             /|\              /             \          / |\__           \    /
   \ /            _/ | \_           /               |        /  |   \__         \  /
   JK?          _/   |   \_        /                |      _/   |      \__      AC?
     \       __/     |     \__    /                  \    /     |         \_    /
      \     /        |        \  /                    \  /      |           \  /
        --J?         |         J+                      A+       |            A?
            \        |        /                         \       |          /
    {?}      \       |       /           {+}             \      |         /        {?}
             JL?----JL-----JL+                           AB+----AB------AB?
               |     |     |                              |     |        |
               |     |     |                              |     |        |
              L?-----L-----L+                             B+----B--------B?

The Pieces

Each player has 22 pieces, as follows:

1 King [K]
6 Ringers [R]
3 Mega-ringers [M]
3 Knights [N]
9 Pawns [P]

The pieces are set up as follows:

King at {S}
Ringers at {PS*, PS+, US*, US#, XS#, XS*}
Mega-ringers at {S*, S#, S+}
Knights at {PS, US, XS}
Pawns at {P, P*, P+, U, U*, U#, X, X#, X+}

King at {N}
Ringers at {NJ#, NJ+, ND*, ND#, NA*, NA+}
Mega-ringers at {N*, N#, N+}
Knights at {NA, ND, NJ}
Pawns at {A, A*, A+, D, D*, D#, J, J#, J+}

I put white on the bottom so no one would have the double disadvantage of being on bottom and moving last.


Same as standard chess. One space orthogonally or diagonally. Cannot move into check, etc. Standard chess rules apply for check, draws, checkmate, etc.


The Ringer can move one space laterally (orthogonally) from a ring to the spine or from the spine to a ring, or two spaces laterally from the ring across the spine to the opposite ring. Also it can move any number of spaces around a ring, or travel along the spine in a partial circle parallel to a ring, providing the spaces are empty. It is NOT allowed to circle completely around and come back to the space it started from (in effect making no move at all). When moving along the spine, it must "turn" the same direction each time it passes through a node square. If it turns to the right, it must keep turning right at every node square it passes through, making a clockwise journey. If it turns left, it must continue turning left at every node square, making a counterclockwise journey.


The Mega-ringer moves the same as the Ringer, except that, when traveling along the spine, it may turn either left or right at any node square (if the squares beyond are empty), winding its way to any point along the spine anywhere on the board, if the necessary squares are empty.


Moves the same as the standard knight.


Pawns may make non-capturing moves one square orthogonally, either laterally between the spine and adjacent squares on a ring or vice versa, or along the spine or a ring in either direction. They capture by moving to any diagonally adjacent square. This rule for pawn movements prevents the headache of trying to remember a rule defining "forward" and "backward" movement. Pawns may promote to any piece besides king when white pawns get as far North as {A, D or J}, or when black pawns get as far South as {P, U or X}.

This variant is an entry in the 1999 Large Variant contest.

Written by JR Schmidt.
WWW page created: April 30, 1999.
Game name changed on December 16th, 2003 to avoid conflict with trademark after request by trademark holder. Changed by Peter Aronson, Senior Editor.