The Chess Variant Pages

Gothic Chess


Created by Ed Trice in 2000, Gothic Chess is a recent member of a long line of similar variants, including Carrera's Chess (1617), Bird's Chess (1874), and Capablanca's Chess (1920s). It is played with the same equipment as the three preceding games, and it is played by exactly the same rules as Capablanca's Chess, differing only in the initial arrangement of pieces. In fact, it is a direct descendant of Capablanca's Chess. Before he created the game now called Gothic Chess, Trice and others had set up the Gothic Chess Association to promote Capablanca's Chess, which they were calling by the name Gothic Chess. In a description of Gothic Chess from March 6, 2000, the game described as Gothic Chess is actually Capablanca's Chess. By September 30, 2000, the text was describing Trice's new game, but the graphic image still depicted Capablanca's Chess. Finally, by November 22, 2001, both the text and diagram matched the new game.

As in Capablanca's Chess, the game Trice invented in 2000 is played on a 10x8 board, and it extends the opening setup of Chess by placing a Chancellor and an Archbishop on each side of the King. In this game, the Chancellor, moving as a Rook or Knight, goes on the Queen side, and the Archbishop, moving as a Bishop or Knight, goes on the King side. The only modifications from the rules of Chess are that the King moves three spaces when castling instead of two, and besides being able to promote to any of the usual pieces, Pawns may promote to either of the new pieces. One of the most prominent differences between Gothic Chess and its predecessors is that all Pawns are protected in the opening array.


In 2002, Gothic Chess was granted United States Patent #6,481,716. In January of 2007, the US Patent and Trademark Office included this number in a list of PATENTS WHICH EXPIRED ON November 22, 2006 DUE TO FAILURE TO PAY MAINTENANCE FEES. In response to a jeffniles pointing this out, Trice had this to say:

When I was in Iceland in 2006 to negotiate terms for the Fischer-Karpov Gothic Chess match, and when another patent dispute was ongoing at around the same time (see Harac vs. Trice for more info), I signed a Power of Attorney transfer of the rights over to (you guessed it) my attorney. The fees were paid in my absence under the direction of his firm. The USPTO typically scans for checks written to them by patent owners, and in the absence of a direct match against a crossreference check of the patent numbers, the list you posted gets kicked out. It's by no mean comprehensive nor official. Mostly it's a means to get those on the list to contact them and say: "Hey, what the hell.... I paid you guys..." and the next iteration of the list comes out, etc., and so on.
Since their information technology is not very intricate, they have no means to incorporate Power of Attorney transfers into this schema, and since there was no match for "Trice" and "6481716", they made a mistake. There is no way for them to "manually" check this list, they assume those that don't write back were the ones who did not renew their patent(s). You can make all the noise you want, I'll be there to collect my royalty at the end of the day.
Incidentally, I was told by a colleague that the General Accounting Office indicates that the USPTO has at least 10% of their disseminated information in error. That's what, like an A- if a teacher assigned a grade to it?[*]

When someone called ChessHistorian brought up the same points on Wikipedia, someone called Mosquitopsu wrote:

If you query the database through their website, with the the patent number: 6481716, and application number: 09858361, it says that the patent has expired. It it still inaccurate, even though its been over year? [*]

This was in 2007, still less than a year after the alleged lapse in payment. Checking it in 2016, I entered the patent and application numbers, clicked on "Get Bibliographic Data" and read in the Status field, "Expired for non-payment on: 11/19/2006". I also went to From there, I entered the captcha, which brought me to a "Search for Application form." I checked "Patent Number" and entered "6481716". It identified it as "METHOD OF PLAYING A VARIANT OF CHESS" invented by "Edward A. Trice", and in the Status field, it said, "Patent Expired Due to NonPayment of Maintenance Fees Under 37 CFR 1.362". The status date given for this was "12-20-2006". Checking the "Transaction History" on this patent, the last transaction is "Expire Patent" on "12-20-2006". So, the United States Patent and Trademark office definitely reports that the patent has expired. While a list published in 2007 might be suspect, the status provided for this patent in 2016 should be the last word. Due to a lack of payment, the patent on Gothic Chess expired in 2006.

Prior to this date, the patent had been the subject of criticism from people who did not consider such a slight variation of pre-existing games worthy of a patent. In fairness to Ed Trice, he didn't just change the position of a public domain game for the sake of having something he could patent. As he relates in more detail here, he had been regularly playing Capablanca's Chess, and he eventually noticed the pattern that he usually won as White but not so much as Black, and he noticed that people in the Chess club he had been bringing Capablanca's Chess to were quickly losing interest in the game. So, he set out to analyze the flaws in Capablanca's Chess and come up with a better game that didn't have as much of a first move advantage for White.

But because of his treatment of critics and the measures he took to protect his intellectual property, Game Courier, this site's game server, dropped support for Gothic Chess in 2004, and Brainking, another game server, dropped support for it in 2005.[*] Brainking replaced it with Embassy Chess (2005), and Game Courier provided Grotesque Chess (2004), Schoolbook (2004), Embassy Chess (2005), Univers Chess (2006), and Victorian Chess (2007). Like Gothic Chess, these are all played on the same board with the same pieces, and each leaves no Pawn unprotected in the opening array. You may decide for yourself how comparable these are to Gothic Chess.


What may be most worthwhile about Gothic Chess is that quality equipment has been made available for it. While most Chess variants are amateur efforts you can play only with computer graphics or ad hoc equipment, Trice sold quality equipment for playing this game. In the early days, he sold pieces in the Arroyo style, shown here. These were a more streamlined variation of the Staunton designs. The Chancellor depicted a Knight on top of an inverted Rook, and the Archbishop wore a Bishop's mitre with a cross on each side. The King measured 3 3/8 inches high, and the pieces were light-weight plastic with felt bottoms.

The Arroyo design was eventually replaced by the Reykjavik design, currently being sold through the House of Staunton. Here are affiliate links for purchasing the equipment from the House of Staunton:

The Reykjavik Pieces
The Gothic Edition - Reykjavik II Series Chess Pieces - 3.75" King
The Board
Gothic Edition Wooden Tournament Chess Board
Both together
The Gothic Edition - Reykjavik II Series Chess Set and Board Combination

In this set, the Reykjavik Archbishop resembles the Arroyo Archbishop, but the Reykjavik Chancellor looks very different. The Reykjavik pieces are of higher quality, being made of wood and having a taller King, but they are also much more expensive. Fortunately for those who want quality Chess variant pieces without paying a lot for them, the House of Staunton also sells triple-weighted plastic pieces in nearly the same style under the name of Camaratta Chess:

Chancellor and Archbishop - 4 pieces
Camaratta Chess Kit with Black Natural Plastic Pieces
Camaratta Chess Kit with Black Natural Plastic Pieces

The Camaratta pieces differ just a little bit from the Reykjavik pieces. Most notably, the Archbishop has a bulb on top like the Chancellor and Queen both have. Here is a picture of Camaratta pieces side-by-side with the original Arroyo pieces for Gothic Chess:

Written by Fergus Duniho.
WWW page created: February 27, 2016