The Chess Variant Pages

Spinach Chess

As we all know from already half a century old cartoons, Spinach can make you very strong. In this chess variant, most pieces can do special `strong' moves, called spinach moves.


The game is played on an 8 by 8 board, augmented by four extra squares: two below d1 and e1, and two below d8 and e8. Players have two kings, one queen, one chancellor, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and eight pawns. The setup is as follows:



Rooks, bishops, knights, pawns, and kings move as in orthodox chess, but they have an additional possibility: the spinach move. Kings may ignore check, and can be taken.

At the start of the game, both players have the right to make a spinach move. However, as soon as a player has made a spinach move, he loses the right to make another spinach move until after his opponent has made a spinach move. So, suppose white starts the game with a spinach move. Then, suppose black makes a normal move. White must make a normal move now. If black then makes a spinach move, then white can make again a spinach move, etc.

A spinach move consists of making a series of two or more normal moves with the same piece in succession in one turn. Only the last of these moves may be a capturing move. Also, a spinach move ends when a pawn promotes. So, for example, white can start making a spinach move with a knight, capturing (for instance) the black queen.

Note that queens and chancellors cannot make spinach moves.

Pawns promote on the last full row, i.e., on the row where in the starting setup the queen, rooks, knights, bishops, and chancellor of the opponent were positioned.

It is allowed to make a spinach move that ends on the square where the move started. One may not make an `infinitely long' spinach move. En passant capture is only possible with a normal move, not with a spinach move. Only pawns that made a normal move can be taken en passant.

Winning the game

The first player that takes both kings of the opponent wins the game.


Making too early spinach moves is not a good idea. For instance, if you use a spinach move just to win a minor piece, then your opponent has these moves as a threat against your kings and you have not: a distinctive disadvantage.

Probably, spinach moves should be used to take a king. If more pieces have been exchanged, then a spinach move could be used to promote a pawn or win other materials, but early in the game, only the threat of spinach moves should be used while a normal attack is launched, usually keeping your kings protected.


The game started when I wanted to design a chess variant with an Ubi-Ubi. This evolved to having the possibility to make a series of moves for other pieces, to the idea of forbidding to make such a powerfull move twice in a row without such a move made by the opponent in between. Having two kings was a logical next step. I then struggeled for a long time with the setup: I wanted a setup where no king could be taken with a spinach move on the first turn; where also all pieces were being guarded by another piece (i.e., it should not be possible to take an unguarded piece with a spinach move in the opening setup.) I thought for a long time how to do this, and found no good setup. My plan was not to use a queen, as a spinach move with a queen would be too strong. (Note that kings can make such moves too, but as they are royal, this is less of a problem.) My son Wim gave the solution: use stronger pieces, but do not allow to make a spinach move with them.

Also, I tried to keep the rules overall not too complicated, thus using not much non-standard rules and pieces except the chancellor, the two kings, and the spinach rule.

This is a submission in the contest to design a large chess variant.
Written by Hans Bodlaender. Thanks to Wim Bodlaender and David Howe for suggestions and questions that clarified the rules.
This variant is an entry in the 1999 Large Variant contest.

WWW page created: March 23, 1999. Last modified: May 8, 1999.