The Chess Variant Pages

Jacks and Witches 84

By Antoine Fourrière


Jacks and Witches 84 is an adaptation of Bilateral Chess to meet the 84-square requirement.

It is played on a 12 x 8 board whose twelve innermost squares have been removed.
The four remaining central squares are teleporters.

Board and Setup



King (K): e1
Witch (W): d1
Lions (L): y1 j1
Can(n)ons (P/V): z1 i1
Rooks (R): a1 h1
Knights (N): b1 g1
Bishops (B): c1 f1
Jacks (J): two in hand
Pawns: y2 z2 a2 b2 g2 h2 i2 j2
King (K): e8
Witch (W): d8
Lions (L): y8 j8
Can(n)ons (P/V): z8 i8
Rooks (R): a8 h8
Knights (N): b8 g8
Bishops (B): c8 f8
Jacks (J): two in hand
Pawns: y7 z7 a7 b7 g7 h7 i7 j7

The Pieces

The King, Rooks, Bishops, Knights and Pawns move as they do in International Chess, although the Pawns have been relocated to the outward columns.
The Lion and the Can(n)on have already been described in Bilateral Chess (and probably won't fade away from my submissions).

  • The Lion is a weaker Murray Lion. It leaps neutrally two squares, orthogonally or diagonally, but captures like the King.

  • The Can(n)on is a flip piece. At the end of its move, it becomes (or stays) a Chinese Cannon, aka Pao, or its diagonal equivalent, aka Canon or Vao. It may also flip without moving.
    Before its first flip, the Can(n)on is set to move Rook-wise.

  • The Jack is a one-eyed Jack. It is a versatile Quadra-Pawn which may move only if its eye - the symmetric square on the same line - is free. It is parachuted as a move on one of the free central squares (c2 to f2, or c7 to f7). It moves (and captures) from its eye, as a Wazir if the Kings are on squares of the same color, and as a Firz otherwise, that is, the Jack is colorbound, like the reflecting Wazir, as long as both Kings are on squares of the same color.
    (With both Kings on d2 and d7, a Jack on a4 may leap to g3, g5, i3 or i5, provided h4 is free.)
    I would have liked to represent the Jack with the gif pictures of the Windmill, because I find that the whips of the Windmill depict well its changing path, but symmetric Jacks would close each other's eye.

  • The Witch doesn't kill. It moves like a Chess Queen. It is an Immobilizer with a Withdrawer, or perhaps non-Withdrawer, touch, for it drags behind itself any enemy piece it withdraws from (or doesn't, actually).
    (A Witch on z5, by going to c2, drags to b3 any non-Witch enemy piece which was previously immobilized on y6.)
    Immobilization and dragging are mandatory. Immobilization does occur also if it is the other piece which has moved adjacent to the Witch, and/or if that Witch is also immobilized.

Special squares

c3, c6, f3 and f6 are teleporters. Any piece may commute as a move from a teleporter to another free teleporter. (But capture or immobilization - and dragging - on or from a teleporter is permissible.)

Teleportation may give check, or fend it off, but there are two extra rules.
Exclusion rule: enemy pieces of the same type cannot occupy two teleporters.
(A white Knight on b4 may capture a black Knight on c6, but not when there is another black Knight on f6.)
Endgame rule: when a King reaches the starting line of its opponent, the teleporters are disabled (as teleporters, not as squares). Then a King can no longer escape mate by commuting back and forth (but the exclusion rule still stands).

A Pawn may reach - through capturing - a teleporter, and stay on - or return to - its cosy third line until the near-endgame. (And the exclusion rule prevents adverse Pawns to capture on other teleporters.)

A Bishop may switch color square via teleportation (or dragging, of course).

A Witch drags a piece on a teleporter by teleporting in the other direction. That piece isn't immobilized any longer. (And the Witch cannot commute if it would result in a violation of the exclusion rule.)

Other rules

The game is conducted by the rules of International Chess, except where noted otherwise. There is no castling. En passant applies. Stalemate (or perpetual check) is a draw.

A Pawn which has been dragged back to its starting line is again permitted a two-square advance.

A Pawn on the eighth line promotes into any non-royal piece, even if it is immobilized by a Witch (which may be immobilized back).

A Knight may jump somewhat over the inner frontier, for instance from c3 to b5.

The parachuting of a Jack may also give check, or - more likely - fend it off.

A Jack on the d- or e-file, and whose eye is open, may move as an inverted Wazir to its current position.

An immobilized piece cannot commit suicide. An immobilized Can(n)on cannot flip.

The play of the game

The game looks both very tactical, thanks to the Can(n)ons, the Jacks and Witches, and quite positional, of course because of the nature of the board, but also because of the exclusion rule.

White may choose to post his Knights on the teleporters, but it is unclear whether it is really the best position. And if it is, Black may occupy another teleporter with a Lion.

There is no law that prevents a Witch to drag a Jack on the other Jack's eye, or a Pawn on the two central squares of its starting line. Still, that may not be so easy.

King and Rook mates, as does King and two Bishops on squares of different colors, but King, Bishop and Knight looks like a draw.
King and Lion needs some friendly piece (not a bad Bishop).
King and two Can(n)ons (or Can(n)on and Bishop or Knight) doesn't mate.
King and Witch needs an enemy piece to prevent stalemate (neither a Witch, nor a Rook, which checks the King and cannot be taken, nor a Can(n)on, which simply cavorts around the Witch as soon as its King is freezed, but again, the Bishop is at a disadvantage because of the shape of the board).
Oddly, the King has now four ways to give mate: by discovery check, by "covery" check in front of its Can(n)on, by moving adjacent to its immobilized opposite number, and by switching square color to help its Jack on the other side of the board. (A Jack threatens a King on eight squares or not at all.)
Even more oddly, the only right-to-lifer of the board may drag a King to duodecuple mate (without promotion).

Further Thoughts

There are many ways to decide whether the Jacks move as mirror Wazirs or mirror Firzes, but none of them seems particularly logic. Well, at least the one I have chosen is mnemotechnic.

A 16x8 or 20x8 board would look somewhat contrived, but a 16x8 or 20x8 board with the same hole in the middle and the same teleporters seems a nice, balanced way to bring in a bunch of different pieces (and the Bishops would get more room).

The Immobilizer and the Withdrawer seem the most interesting Ultima pieces, maybe also because they act only on adjacent squares, like a Queen which would take as a King. They have already been used in non-Ultima variants, such as Thronschach or Chess on a Longer Board with a few Pieces Added. Perhaps there should be no Queen even on bigger versions, but only a second Witch, with a 5x4 central hole. That would already amount to five units which capture or immobilize their neighbors.
Anyway, a pair of Witches gives more diversity than one Withdrawer and one Immobilizer.
(Just the same, a pair of Rotated Chameoleapers, which would capture by leaping, as in Jumping Chess, but in a way that mimics the captured piece's rotated neutral move, with an own neutral move that coordinates with, say, any friendly Pawn, seems more interesting than one Chameleon, one Long Leaper and one Coordinator, whose neutral Queen moves are just boring.
A Rook would be jumped over diagonally, as in International Checkers, a diagonal Can(n)on would be jumped over orthogonally with a piece in-between, a Knight would be jumped over with a Knight's move - two solutions - and a Lion with a Lion's move - a draughtsman's take or its orthogonal equivalent -, a Pawn would be jumped over diagonally forward - only one square, unless it is on its starting line -, and a Jack's eye would also be jumped over the way the Jacks don't presently move.)

Written by Antoine Fourrière.
WWW page created: November 4th, 2002.