The Chess Variant Pages

Passed Pawns, Scorpions and Dragon

(More Falcon Chess Variants)

The Passed Pawns line-up requires a player's pawn row to be positioned at least one rank in advance of opponent's, both symmetrically about the midline of the board. If the board consists of an odd number of ranks, the separation is at least two rows. In all cases, a move 'PxP' is impossible. A pawn ordinarily cannot move until its same-coloured and same-filed piece has moved first. The exception is when Pawn captures piece from the Pawn's starting square itself.

What are the best piece mix and initial array for different-sized game boards?

For square board 6x6, there are free castling and promotion to Rook, Knight or Bishop in two steps (no Pawn double step), and this configuration works best:

6  *  *  *  *  *  *
5  R  N  B  B  N  K
4  p  p  p  p  p  p
3  Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp
1  *  *  *  *  *  *
   a  b  c  d  e  f

These 6x6 and 7x7 chess "miniatures," without forced wins, require strategic balance between protecting King and bringing pieces back over to attack. For square board 7x7, White pawns go north as usual and there is obligatory promotion after two steps (but three moves at minimum) to Rook, Knight, Bishop or Falcon. Free castling optionally to rank 1 or rank 7: for example, Black King castles to c1 (or c2), Rook to d1 (or d2); King b1, Rook c1; and so on.

7  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
6  R  N  B  K  N  B  F
5  p  p  p  p  p  p  p
4  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
3  Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp
1  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
   a  b  c  d  e  f  g

For 8x8 best array, see Passed Pawns Chess.

The next higher square board size, 9x9 version has no Queen yet and all the pairs of atomic pieces Rook, Knight, Bishop and Falcon together with King. Pawn promotes after three squares. There is never a Pawn two-square move in Passed Pawn variations. Free castling option allowed to ranks 2 or 8. For example, White King may castle to d8, Rook e8; or b8 and c8; or c7 and d7; etc.

Note that even Knights cannot safely begin attack immediately. Notice also that the castling becomes a more serious component of strategy when player has a choice to castle 'away' one rank and of squares in two different ranks.

9  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
8  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
7  R  N  B  F  K  F  B  N  R
6  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p
5  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
4  Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp
2  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 
1  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
   a  b  c  d  e  f  g  h  i

For 10x10, see Passed Pawns Chess for that decimal Falcon Chess game. The Passed Pawns variant on 10x10 also works best with this "advanced Free Castling" to the rank next over, at option, described in the following paragraph for 11x11.

In the best 11x11 configuration, shown in the diagram, promotion occurs in four squares to Rook, Knight, Bishop, Falcon, that is, to any one of the four basic chess pieces. Free castling is an option to ranks 3 and 9, so that White King goes to any of f8, f9, g8, g9, h8, h9, i8, i9, j8 or j9 with that rook, and the rook over to the adjacent (orthogonal) square; and so on with the other rook. The King and Rook cannot have moved, and there must be a clear, direct path for each to its castling square. Of course King cannot be, move through or end up checked.

11  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
10  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  * 
 9  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 8  R  N  B  F  K  S  Q  F  B  N  R
 7  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p
 6  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 5  Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp
 3  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 2  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
 1  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
    a  b  c  d  e  f  g  h  i  j  k


The Scorpion(S) is a new game piece introduced here for the first time. The piece is a logical extension of Falcon-like move to four squares rather than Falcon's own three squares. To review, Falcon slides three squares to reach squares leaped to by Zebra or Camel. (same as saying squares reached by Buffalo) Falcon follows any of six patterns OOD, ODO, DOO, DDO, DOD and ODD, where 'O' is orthogonal (one square rook-like or straight, rectilinear) and 'D' is diagonal. (one square bishop-like or oblique, slant) Falcon does not jump like Camel or Zebra (or Buffalo) and so must have a clear path, and none with a ninety-degree change of direction allowed. Necessarily then each square Falcon can reach has three possible pathways, and intervening pieces of either colour may reduce it to two or one, or even thwart the move altogether in not making path available at all.

Thus Falcon and Scorpion are sliders and cannot jump, or leap. While Falcon is the 'three-square three-way' game piece, Scorpion is the 'four-square four-way' game piece. In the above 11x11 Passed Pawns variant, each side has one Scorpion. By way of describing its move, the Black Scorpion on f4 may reach square b3, for ex., by moving four steps along the pathway to e3 to d3 to c3 to b3, a four-square pattern DOOO. Scorpion slides to squares at opposite corner of rectangles of squares of sizes 2x5, 3x5 and 4x5 from its starting square. Or in other words, Scorpion moves to those squares within a 9x9 set of squares from its centermost square that are not reached by Queen, Knight and Falcon.

More specifically, Scorpion's fourteen patterned moves are oddd, oodd, oood, odod, oddo, oodo, odoo, dooo, ddoo, dddo, dodo, dood, ddod and dodd. 'o' represents an orthogonal step of one square, and 'd' stands for diagonal step of one square. Any two orthogonal or three orthogonal or two diagonal or three diagonal steps in any one of these particular movement patterns must 'point' in the same direction. Any change of direction from orthogonal to diagonal, and from diagonal to orthogonal, is by forty-five degrees. Each of the squares Scorpion moves to in the four-square advance has four possible paths. One, two or three of the pathways may be blocked, and yet Scorpion can perform a move by any one pathway. In the case indicated above from 11x11 Passed Pawns initial position, when Scorpion moves from f4 to b3, in fact there is just the one route available, because of intervening pieces. As a further example, also in the above 11x11 game's initial position, although one poten tial pathway is blocked, Scorpion has fully three pathways from f4 to b1: f4-e3-d3-c2-b1, f4-e3-d2-c1-b1 and f4-e3-d2-c2-b1. Any one of them by itself validates the move from f4 to b1.

In practice, Scorpion moves even become second nature by one's simply visualizing squares four away from a departure square. Thus, making the move can be automatic without having to dwell on the specific alternatives.

It is not necessary to have a Passed Pawns set-up in order to utilize the Scorpion game piece. The Courier Chess (8x12) game board size is also well-suited for Scorpion. Imagine the White pawns are temporarily removed from their row on this 8x12 board with array shown in the drawing. Then the Scorpion on e1 can reach any of a2, a3, a4, b5, c5, d5, f5, g5, h5, i4, i3 and i2. Scorpion cannot reach a5 or i5 because at least one square advance in its four-square move must be orthogonal, as a look at the fourteen patterns show in 'o' and 'd' notation. Likewise, Scorpion cannot reach e5 because at least one step must be diagonal. Instead, if only pawn f2 is removed and the other pawns remain in place, then Scorpion can reach only squares f5, g5, h5, i4 and i3; so there must always be a clear unimpeded, legal pathway to a given square four steps away.

7  Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp Bp
6  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
5  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
4  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
3  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *
2  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p  p 
1  R  N  B  F  S  K  Q  D  F  B  N  R
   a  b  c  d  e  f  g  h  i  j  k  l


In this Courier Falcon Chess game (8x12), the ninth piece type (with R, N, B, F, Q, K, Pawn the usual seven, and Scorpion making eight) is named the Dragon(D), one for each side. The Dragon is the 'five-square five-way' game piece, a further derivative in the logical sequence. The Dragon moves from a starting square in the very center of an 11x11 block of squares to those squares not reachable in one move by Queen, Knight, Falcon or Scorpion. In other words, the Dragon slides to squares on the perimeter of 11x11 set of squares that Queen does not reach. They are squares at opposite ends of 2x6, 3x6, 4x6 and 5x6 rectangles of squares from a departure square. Each square the Dragon slides to is attainable by five possible routes from these thirty permutations: odddd, ooddd, ooodd, ooood, odooo, odood, ododo, ododd, oodoo, oodod, ooddo, ooodo, oddod, odddo, oddoo doooo, ddooo, dddoo, ddddo, doddd, doddo, dodod, dodoo, ddodd, ddodo, ddood, dddod, doodd, doodo and doood. Each p air of orthogonal and each pair of diagonal steps (of one square each) within a move pattern must be in the same direction either as a direct continuation or as a vector-like displacement.

The diagram shows the mutually-exclusive squares that types of pieces move to by this logical, additive or 'building-out' method of adapting rules of movement. Q is Queen, N is Knight, F is Falcon, S is Scorpion, and D is Dragon.

As one example, in the Courier Falcon Chess initial array, removal of pawns g and h makes possible White Dragon's on h1 having its five pathways to d6: h1-g2-f3-e4-d5-d6, h1-g2-g3-f4-e5-d6, h1-g2-f3-f4-e5-d6, h1-g2-f3-e4-e5-d6 and h1-h2-g3-f4-e5-d6. If any one, two, three or four of these five happen to be blocked by intervening pieces, the move from h1 to d6 may still be performed so long as at least one of the routes is available.

11  Q  D  D  D  D  Q  D  D  D  D  Q
10  D  Q  S  S  S  Q  S  S  S  Q  D
 9  D  S  Q  F  F  Q  F  F  Q  S  D
 8  D  S  F  Q  N  Q  N  Q  F  S  D
 7  D  S  F  N  Q  Q  Q  N  F  S  D
 6  Q  Q  Q  Q  Q  X  Q  Q  Q  Q  Q
 5  D  S  F  N  Q  Q  Q  N  F  S  D 
 4  D  S  F  Q  N  Q  N  Q  F  S  D
 3  D  S  Q  F  F  Q  F  F  Q  S  D
 2  D  Q  S  S  S  Q  S  S  S  Q  D
 1  Q  D  D  D  D  Q  D  D  D  D  Q

Each letter represents both a piece and square in the following way. X is the starting square, on which a piece is first positioned. The 11x11 group around and including that central square can be part of a larger board or just a schematic to show the differing moves of all the pieces. From the square X as departure square, Queen can move to squares marked Q, Knight to those marked N, Falcon to those marked F, Scorpion to those marked S, and Dragon to the ones marked D.

Using this method of developing pieces, all the squares within a field are reached, and no square has more than one sort of piece reaching it from among basic types. In this sense, there is no overlap in role or function for movements of chess pieces.

As already suggested, an 8x12 board is sufficiently large to include Dragon and Scorpion without difficulty. (They cannot reach the opposite pawn row from the start; they do not appear to support a forced early mate etc.) However, seven or eight types of pieces are much preferred for game boards of under about 100 squares. So, a better design in this 8x12 game is to replace the Dragon with another Scorpion, and to reserve the Dragon piece for a board size about 10x12.

The first topic has been Passed Pawns chess variations, but the subject also begins to develop the new Scorpion and Dragon as "fairy chess" pieces, with moves logical outgrowths of the Falcon's movements themselves. Falcon itself is one of the four proven fundamental game pieces, co-equal with Knight, Bishop and Rook. The Scorpion and Dragon as novelty pieces require game board sizes of at least 8x12 and also more or less special rules (for a future topic) in the spirit of chess "variants."

Written by George William Duke.
WWW page created: July 19, 2003.