The Chess Variant Pages

Mitosis Chess

Hi, my name is Alex Malphrus and I have an interesting chess variant to share called Mitosis chess. I'm afraid I don't have any diagrams. I'll do my best to describe everything though.


Mitosis Chess was created in February 2005 (by me, Alex Malphrus), and it derives its name from the fact that, like dividing cells in a living organism, each captured major piece in this game returns to the board as the two or three pieces it originally consisted of. I thought it would make for an interesting progression through the various stages of the game, with pieces becoming progressively weaker as the game goes on, so that the early game is a tactical showdown while later stages are more subtle and strategical. This variant has not been very thoroughly tested, although in the trials I have done, it seems to work all right. Any feedback on things I might have missed or other improvements would be great. There is currently no computerized version of this game, but if someone wants to try it, be my guest.


This game is played on a 9x9 square board (white spaces in corners), with one variation: each player has three extra spaces, which for White are equivalent to d0, e0, f0 and for black are equivalent to d10, e10, f10. These spaces are collectively referred to as the white base and the black base, respectively. No piece may enter the base from the main board.


White: King e1; General d1, f1; Queen c1, g1; Cardinal b1, h1; Chancellor a1, i1; Pawn a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2, g2, h2, i2

Black: King e9: General d9, f9; Queen c9, g9; Cardinal b9, h9; Chancellor a9, i9; Pawn a8, b8, c8, d8, e8, f8, g8, h8, i8


Except for the King, all starting pieces have combined powers of FIDE Bishops, Knights, and Rooks.

The King moves as in FIDE chess, but it cannot castle. The King is not royal (being in check or checkmate does not end the game) but it is a crucial piece to protect nonetheless. The King cannot be taken by any enemy piece that stands on an attacked square, which means that if a player's King is attacked, he/she can simply move a piece to attack the offending piece of the opponent and the King will be protected.

The Pawns move as in FIDE chess but may move up to three spaces on their first move. A pawn promotes only to a Rook, Knight, or Bishop when it reaches the opposing player's back rank. A pawn may be captured en passant if, on its first move, it moves more than one space and in doing passes an enemy pawn (this is a generalized version of standard FIDE en passant rules to allow for the extra space a pawn can travel on its first move).

The General is an extremely powerful piece that combines the movements of the FIDE Bishop, Knight, and Rook.

The Queen moves as in FIDE chess as a combined Bishop and Rook.

The Chancellor moves as a combined Knight and Rook.

The Archbishop moves as a combined Bishop and Knight.

The Bishop moves as in FIDE chess.

The Rook moves as in FIDE chess.

The Knight moves as in FIDE chess.

The General, Queen, Chancellor and Archbishop are collectively called the Major pieces while the Rook, Knight, and Bishop are the Minor pieces.

Now, the fun part. When a General, Queen, Chancellor, or Archbishop is captured, the player who lost the piece (not the one who captured it) receives on his/her base the pieces that the lost piece was a hybrid of. Thus, the loss of a Queen yields a Rook and a Bishop; the loss of a Chancellor yields a Rook and a Knight; the loss of an Archbishop yields a Bishop and a Knight; and the loss of a General yields a Rook, a Bishop, and a Knight. The Rooks, Bishops, and Knights yielded from these losses appear on the player's base; however, each base has a maximum capacity of three pieces, so if there are pieces left over from the last capture blocking the spaces in the base, the player must choose which pieces he will receive from the current capture. Because space in the base is limited, it usually behooves a player to get the minor pieces out of the base and into play as soon as possible. When the player does receive the pieces, they are received immediately after the capture, so the player can begin using them on his/her very next turn. The Minor pieces, when they are received, can be arranged in any order on the base. Nothing is yielded from the loss of Minor pieces.

By the way, I take no credit for the names of these pieces; I used names that players of chess variants seem to be most familiar with.


The object of the game is to eliminate the opposing player entirely. There is no "check" or "checkmate" per se; however, if a player captures the enemy King, it it quite advantageous because the side that loses its King automatically loses all of its Rooks, Knights, and Bishops (other pieces are left intact). Thus it is important strategically to protect the King, and because of this, the gameplay of Mitosis Chess retains a bit of the flavor of FIDE Chess. It is up to the players to determine whether a declaration of "check" is necessary, though my inclination is to not make this declaration.

If, towards the end of the game, it seems as though one player is chasing the other around the board (creating a virtually endless game), the player with superior force wins. If, for instance, one player has only one piece left, while the other player has two or more, the player with the most pieces wins. If the game gets down to one piece on each side, the player with the superior piece is the winner. For this purpose, pieces are ranked this way, from strongest to weakest: King (gets precedence even though not as strong), then General, Queen, Chancellor, Archbishop, Rook, Bishop, Knight. This ranking only applies in this situation. If a player is down to a final Pawn, the game must continue until that Pawn is captured or it promotes to a Rook, Knight, or Bishop, unless the other player has a Major piece or more than one piece, in which case the promoted pawn would still be worth less than the Major piece or multiple opposing pieces. To generalize the endgame rules, if it is still possible for either player to win, the game continues unless a player resigns. It might be useful to implement 50-move rule so that if fifty moves go by with no pieces being captured, the game goes to the player with the most pieces, or if both players have the same number of pieces, then it goes to the player with the highest-ranked piece from the list given above (if that is a tie, go to the next-highest piece and so on). The only time a draw takes place is when both players have the exact same army and neither player can make a capture (or has made one in the last fifty moves). One other thing: Minor pieces that have not yet left the base do not count towards victory conditions until they are moved out of the base, thus making it impossible for them to remain invulnerable during the endgame. These rules may seem a bit complicated, but actually they work rather well in practice.


It is likely that this variant will be criticized by some as having too many powerful pieces. This was actually my objective, and there is a method to the madness, as they say. In the early game, the board is so cluttered with powerful Major pieces that the relative value of the pieces is not very large, and players will be inclined and even forced to sacrifice these pieces. There is also the incentive of gaining two or three weaker Minor pieces whenever a Major piece is sacrificed, so it may even behoove a player to periodically sacrifice his/her best Major pieces. The powerful Major pieces allow tactical players to shine in the opening game; then as the Major pieces are traded for Minor pieces, more strategy comes into play. At this stage, Minor pieces are very valuable, especially since they do not yield any new pieces if they are lost.

Well, that's it. I'm sorry I don't have any diagrams, but I hope my descriptions make sense. You may do as you will with this variant. Thanks for your time.