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In November of 1999, Mark E Hedden wrote to us:

Here is my contribution to your excellent Chess Variants Pages. Enjoy!

GANYMEDE CHESS

INTRODUCTION

I have had this idea in my head for a long time, but it has gone through many changes. The idea was to have a large chess variant with many weird pieces, but one which wouldn't seem too different from orthodox chess. The direct ancestors of this game are Ralph Betza's Chess on a really big board, Centennial Chess, and Adrian King's Typhoon. However, Ganymede Chess borrows ideas from almost every chess variant I could find. And if you are wondering why I called this variant Ganymede Chess, I have a good reason for that. I got the name after I read Adrian King's wonderful game of Jupiter. Now, my variant, while large, was on a 12x12 board, and was thus smaller then Jupiter. So, I named it Ganymede, after one of Jupiter's moons. Ganymede is rather large for a moon, being a bit larger than Earth's moon, but is still not as gigantic as the planet Jupiter.

SETUP

r g o i b q k b i o g r   12
www . d n . . n d . www   11
p p p p p s s p p p p p   10
. . . . . p p . . . . .   9
. . . . . . . . . . . .   8
. . . . . . . . . . . .   7
. . . . . . . . . . . .   6
. . . . . . . . . . . .   5
. . . . . P P . . . . .   4
P P P P P S S P P P P P   3
WWW . D N . . N D . WWW   2
R G O I B Q K B I O G R   1

a b c d e f g h i j k l

White: King, g1; Queen, f1; Bishops, e1, h1; Nightriders, d1, i1; mini-roses, c1, j1; Griffons, b1, k1; Rooks, a1, L1; Walls, a2-b2, k2-L2; Dragons, d2, i2; Knights, e2, h2; Spearmen, f3, g3; Pawns, a3, b3, c3, d3, e3, f4, g4, h3, i3, j3, k3, L3.

Black: King, g12; Queen, f12; Bishops, e12, h12; Nightriders, d12, i12; mini-roses, c12, j12; Griffons, b12, k12; Rooks, a12, L12; Walls, a11-b11, k11-L11; Dragons, d11, i11; Knights, e11, h11; Spearmen, f10, g10; Pawns, a10, b10, c10, d10, e10, f9, g9, h10, i10, j10, k10, L10.

PIECES

The king, queen, bishops, knights, rooks, and pawns all move the same way as their counterparts from F.I.D.E. Chess. However, each of them promotes. Their promotions, along with all the other pieces, will be listed below.

Gnu: The gnu is the promoted form of the knight. It moves either as a knight or as a camel. In other words, it moves either as a (2,1) or a (3,1) jumper. This piece is fairly strong in closed situations. In more open situations, it is less powerful. Over all, it is worth a small amount more then a bishop. It is written as NL in Ralph Betza's funny notation.

Cardinal: The cardinal is the promoted form of the bishop. It moves either as a bishop, a wazir, or a (3,0) jumper. This piece can be very powerful in many endgame situations, especially because it has gotten rid of the bishop's awful colorboundness. It is worth about as much as a rook. It is written as BWH in Ralph Betza's funny notation.

Fort: The fort is the promoted form of the rook. It moves either as a rook, a ferz, or a (3,3) jumper. On such a large board, the difference between it and a rook is difficult to notice, but once one starts forking you, you'll begin to notice. It is worth about 6 pawns. It's move is RFG in Ralph Betza's funny notation.

Frog: The frog is the promoted form of the pawn. It moves as either a non-royal king, or as a (3,0) jumper. It is not a very powerful piece, but once you have several of them out on the board working together, you will have a tremendous advantage over someone who doesn't. It is written as HK in Ralph Betza's funny notation.

Empress: The empress is the promoted form of the queen. It moves as either a queen or a knight. This piece is incredibly powerful, in fact, once you have promoted a queen to an empress, you have secured a major advantage. It has incredible forking power, and can mate without even the help of a king! This piece is QN in funny notation.

Griffon: The griffon is a piece that has been used in several other chess variants. It's move is a slightly complex one. It moves one space diagonally, and then it moves any number of spaces orthogonally away from it's starting square. Here is a diagram of it's move:

. . + . + . .
. . + . + . .
+ + + . + + +
. . . G . . .
+ + + . + + +
. . + . + . .

It is a rather powerful piece, worth almost as much as a queen, or about 7 pawns. It's move is written as tAFRA in funny notation.

Roc: The roc is the promoted form of the Griffon. It moves either as a Griffon or as a dabbabba-rider. A dabbabba-rider is a piece that keeps on jumping 2 space orthogonally. In other words, it reaches all of the orthogonal squares an even number of spaces away from it. The roc is a very powerful piece, worth about as much as a queen in normal chess. It is written DDtAFRA (I think) in funny notation.

Nightrider: The nightrider is a piece that has appeared in many chess variants. It moves by making any number of consecutive knight moves in one direction. The nightrider is unique in that it is useful in that it is useful in both closed or open situations. In closed situations, it's leaping ability and forking power makes it useful. In open situations, it's long range and it's forking power make it powerful. It is worth about a pawn more then a rook. It is written NN in funny notation.

Moonrider: The moonrider is the promoted form of the nightrider. It moves either as a nightrider or as a (2,3) jumper. This piece can be very powerful, especially considering the fact that it can move in 16 different directions. It has incredible forking power, so be sure to keep your Queen (or Empress) away from it. It is written is NNJ in funny notation.

Dragon: The dragon is an interesting piece. It is not incredibly unusual, but it has not been used in many chess variants. It moves as either a limited Alfil-rider, or as a camel. What this meens is that it either jumps 2 spaces diagonally, and then can either stay there or jump two more spaces in the same diagonal direction, or it can move as a (3,1) jumper. One of the reasons that it is slightly unusual is that it is a short-ranged, colorbound jumper. It is fairly weak, worth about as much as a knight, but it can still be useful. It's move is AA2L in funny notation.

Flying Dragon: The flying dragon is the promoted form of the dragon. It is another piece that is uncommon, to say the least. It moves as either a bishop or a camel. It, like the dragon and bishop, it's colorbound, but it's jumping ability and forking power makes it powerful. I would suspect that it is worth a bit less then a rook. This move is written as BL in funny notation.

Spearman: The spearman is a wonderful piece from centennial chess. It is so wonderful because its move varies, but you control the variation. It can both move and capture in the three forward directions, and can move without capturing in the three backward directions. However, it has three settings. It's first setting is the vertical one. It can move vertically forward or backwards only. It's second setting allows it to move forward-right or backward-left diagonally, and it's third setting allows it to move forward-left or backward-right diagonally. It starts out on the first setting, and rotates AFTER making a move, or can also rotate without moving. The spearman is not a very powerful piece, worth about two pawns, but its long range and low-value makes it hard to block. I have no idea how you would write its move in funny notation.

Pikeman: The pikeman is the promoted form of the spearman. It moves the same way as a spearman, but doesn't have to rotate. The only real problem with it is that it can not capture backwards, and this fault makes it worth only about as much as a bishop. It's funny notation name is fBbmBfRbmR.

Wall: The wall is, as far as I know, a piece that is unique to Ganymede chess. In fact, it is (again, as far as I know) the only representative of a whole genre of pieces: Pieces that take up more then one square. This is why the wall is so unique. It takes up two whole squares, instead of the usual one. It is an extremely interesting piece. One of the reasons this is so is that it can capture two pieces during the same move, but it can also be threatened much more easily by multiple pieces. It would also be extremely difficult to develop. Because of this last fact, I gave it a rather powerful move, the ability to move like a rook. This is normally a powerful move, but it is made more so because this is the easiest for it to take two pieces. Also, I gave it some rotating ability. It starts out by taking up two squares horizontally, but you can rotate it so that it takes up to vertical squares. Also, there are many ways to checkmate the opponents king in the endgame king and wall vs. lone king. Figuring out the value of this piece would require extensive playtesting, but from what I have done, it is worth about a pawn more than a rook. Also, I made the wall one of the few pieces that do not promote. I have no idea how to describe this piece in funny notation.

Mini-rose: I got this idea from Ralph Betza in his article about various kinds of roses. He called this piece a circular king, which is a pretty good description, but I prefer the term mini-rose, because it more reflects the fact that this is a shorter range version of the rose, or circular nightrider. I don't know how to describe this piece, so I'll let the following diagrams do it for me:

. . 4 3 . . .
. 5 . . 2 . .
. 6 . . 1 . .
. . 7 O . . .
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . .

It does this in all four directions, so that it's total move is like this:

. . x x x . .
. x x . x x .
x x x x x x x
x . x O x . x
x x x x x x x
. x x . x x .
. . x x x . .

Confused? Don't worry. Just look at it several times, and you'll get it. I would estimate that it is worth about 5 or 6 pawns. Also, remember, it CAN NOT jump (this would make it extremely powerful). It can easily checkmate a lone king by itself. It is written qK in funny notation, and is, with the wall and the king, one of the three pieces that doesn't promote.

PROMOTION

In this game, like Shogi and its variants, most of the pieces promote. However, promotion is a much bigger issue in this game than in Shogi, because in Shogi, the promoted pieces are just barely worth more than their non-promoted forms, but here, they are worth substantially more. Often, the fate of the game can rest on the promotion of a Queen or a Griffon. The pieces promote differently from the pawns in Ganymede. The pawns promote upon reaching the rank where the majority of the enemy pawns start on, while pieces promote by reaching the last rank. Why did I do this? First of all, because it is hard enough to promote a pawn in the first place, and secondly, because all the promoted pieces are very strong, and I don't want to make it too easy to promote them.

CASTLING AND PAWN MOVES

In Ganymede Chess, when you castle, the king switches places with the Griffon, and the rook movesto the mini-roses location. This makes it so that castling queen side is actually a viable option. Also, there is no en passant in Ganymede Chess, because I have always thought of it as an annoying little rule. However, unlike in most large variants, where pawns have a special first move rule, in Ganymede Chess, they do not. The pawns move forward up to 2 squares on their first move, just like in F.I.D.E. chess. I did this because the two center pawns are already a space forward than the other pawns, and so they only need to move forward 2 spaces. Also it lengthens the game slightly, which is nessescary with all these powerful pieces.

STRATEGY

Promotion is key. As I have said before, if you can safely promote a queen to an empress, or a griffon to a roc, then you have definitely secured an advantage. Also, pawns can often be ignored; you want to try to develop as many pieces as possible without moving the pawns, because with the powerful starting pieces, many pawn moves can create gaping weaknesses. One of the problems is that the moves of the mini-rose and nightrider are NOT instictive, and so you will often be surprised by sudden moves by them. Also, a tip for working with frogs: coordination is key. Several frogs working together are much, much more powerful then several frogs separated individually, and should be considered a potentially dangerous threat. For walls, you must use them carefully. Their power to capture several pieces simultaneously is a great advantage, but you must watch out, for they are easy targets for enemy pieces, especially jumpers. It is generally wise to wait until the late middlegame or early endgame before you develop your walls.

SAMPLE GAME

1. g6; g7
2. S-g5\S\; N-g9
3. f6; gxf6
4. S(f)xf6\S\;

r g o i b q k b i o g r   12
www . d n . . . d . www   11
p p p p p s s p p p p p   10
. . . . . p n . . . . .   9
. . . . . . . . . . . .   8
. . . . . . . . . . . .   7
. . . . .\S\P . . . . .   6
. . . . . .\S\. . . . .   5
. . . . . . . . . . . .   4
P P P P P . . P P P P P   3
WWW . D N . . N D . WWW   2
R G O I B Q K B I O G R   1

a b c d e f g h i j k l
White has a lead in development, and also controls a bigger chunk of the center then black does. Also, because of the location of black's g9 knight, queenside development's going to be weird for black.
4. ...D-h8
5. S-h4|S|; j8
6. B-b7; B-l8
6. NN-g2; G-j9
7. NN-e7; NN-j10

r g o i b q k . . o . r   12
www . d n . . . . . www   11
p p p p p s s p p i p p   10
. . . . . p n . . g . .   9
. . . . . . . d . p . b   8
. B . . I . . . . . . .   7
. . . . .\S\P . . . . .   6
. . . . . . . . . . . .   5
. . . . . . . S . . . .   4
P P P P P . . P P P P P   3
WWW . D N . . N D . WWW   2
R G O I B Q K . . O G R   1

a b c d e f g h i j k l
They are both developing the kingside pieces, in a rush to castle that direction. However, while black is going to win the race to castle, white is generating some threats on the queenside. It could get messy here!
8. B-g3; 0-h11
9. N-g4; 0-0
10. D-h6; f7!

r g o i b q . . . r k .   12
www . d n . . o . . www   11
p p p p p s s p p i p p   10
. . . . . . n . . g . .   9
. . . . . . . d . p . b   8
. B . . I p . . . . . .   7
. . . . .\S\P D . . . .   6
. . . . . . . . . . . .   5
. . . . . . N S . . . .   4
P P P P P . B P P P P P   3
WWW . . N . . . D . WWW   2
R G O I . Q K . . O G R   1

a b c d e f g h i j k l
Since black has safely castled, he is looking to open up the position even more, and also to break up white's dangerous center.
11. gxf7; Nxf7
12. D-f4; Dxe7
13. Sxe7|S|

r g o i b q . . . r k .   12
www . d n . . o . . www   11
p p p p p s s p p i p p   10
. . . . . . . . . g . .   9
. . . . . . . d . p . b   8
. B . . S n . . . . . .   7
. . . . . . . . . . . .   6
. . . . . . . . . . . .   5
. . . . . D N S . . . .   4
P P P P P . B P P P P P   3
WWW . . N . . . D . WWW   2
R G O I . Q K . . O G R   1

a b c d e f g h i j k l
Black should have taken the Nightrider moves ago. I told you it wasn't a great game. However, white shouldn't feel too depressed about the trade. Nightrider for Dragon is bad, but not that bad. But, what happens next really SHOULD depress white.
13...Sxg4
14. hxg4; D-f6
15. W-(c2-d2); N-g6

r g o i b q . . . r k .   12
www . d n . . o . . www   11
p p p p p s . p p i p p   10
. . . . . . . . . g . .   9
. . . . . . . . . p . b   8
. B . . S . . . . . . .   7
. . . . . d n . . . . .   6
. . . . . . . . . . . .   5
. . . . . D P S . . . .   4
P P P P P . B . P P P P   3
. . WWW N . . . D . WWW   2
R G O I . Q K . . O G R   1

a b c d e f g h i j k l
Black is now two or three pawns ahead, plus he has some pieces well into white's territory, and they show no signs of coming out, while white's advanced Bishop and Spearman are just easy targets for black's pawns and undeveloped queenside pieces. This is all of the game I'm going to show here, but I will do a little analysis. After white moves his dragon, Black should moving his rook to h12, supporting the assault, followed by kicking the advanced bishop and spearman with his pawns, and then forming a queenside pawn mass and advancing on white while his pieces guard the center. This game shows how quickly the advantage can change hands in a large chess variant such as this, and also teaches you to watch out for the unusual moves of pieces like the dragon.

POSTSCRIPT

Thank you for reading this page on Ganymede Chess. I will accept, nay, appreciate, any and all feedback you could give me. My e-mail adress is (email removed contact us for address) cago.avenew.com


Written by Mark E Hedden.
WWW page created: November 29, 1999. Last updated: December 30, 1999 (sample game).