The Chess Variant Pages

Spinal Tap Chess

By David Short


"This is Spinal Tap" character Nigel Tufnel would certainly approve of this chess variant, noting of the files and ranks: "they go to eleven!!", thus SPINAL TAP CHESS is an illusionary improvement over other well known 10 by 10 chess variants.


Spinal Tap Chess is played in all ways exactly as F.I.D.E. Chess, except where specified otherwise.

Board and Setup

                         SPINAL TAP CHESS

              a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j   k
        11  |*R*|*S*|*W*|*V*|*Q*|*K*|*M*|*W*|*V*|*S*|*R*| 11
        10  |*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*|*Cr|*Cr|*Cr|*P*|*P*|*P*|*P*| 10
         9  |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |  9
         8  |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|  8
         7  |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |  7
         6  |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|  6
         5  |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |  5
         4  |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|  4
         3  |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |  3
         2  |:P:| P |:P:| P |:Cr| Cr|:Cr| P |:P:| P |:P:|  2
         1  | R |:S:| W |:V:| Q |:K:| M |:W:| V |:S:| R |  1
              a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j   k
Note that in the above ASCII diagram, BLACK pieces are surrounded by **asterisks**.

King (K): f1
Queen (Q): e1
Minister (M): g1
Rooks (R): a1, k1
Squires (S): b1, j1
Vicroys (V): d1, i1
Wizards (W): c1, h1
Crabs (W): e2, f2, g2
Pawns (P): a2, b2, c2, d2, i2, j2, k2
King (K): f11
Queen (Q): e11
Minister (M): g11
Rooks (R): a11, k11
Squires (S): b11, j1
Vicroys (V): d11, i11
Wizards (W): c11, h11
Crabs (W): e10, f10, g10
Pawns (P): a10, b10, c10, d10, i10, j10, k10

The Pieces

Unless otherwise noted, all pieces capture the same way that they move.

ROOK (R) = moves as a standard chess Rook, any number of squares horizontally or vertically.

SQUIRE (S) = moves as a standard chess Rook, any number of squares horizontally or vertically, or like a Ferz, one square diagonally. This is the same piece as the Dragon-King from Shogi, where it is the promoted form of the Rook.

WIZARD (W) = moves like the Wizard from Omega Chess, combining the moves of a Camel (like an extended knight in a 1-3 pattern) and a Ferz (one square diagonally). The Wizard is colorbound.

VICEROY (V) = moves as a standard chess Bishop, any number of squares diagonally, or like a Wazir, one square horizontally or vertically. This is the same piece as the Dragon-Horse from Shogi, where it is the promoted form of the Bishop.

QUEEN (Q) = moves as a standard chess Queen, any number of squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally.

KING (K) = moves as a standard chess King, one square in any direction. The object of this game is to checkmate the enemy king.

MINISTER (M) = moves like the Wizard or a Rook; that is, in a (1,3) jump, one step diagonally, or any number of squares vertically or horizontally.

PAWN (P) = moves and captures like a standard chess Pawn, except that like an Omega Chess Pawn, it may move one two or three squares on its initial move. They may be captured en passant by other Pawns or by Crabs after moving two or three squares.

CRAB (CR) = moves captures like the Pawn (one square diagonally forwards, initial move of two or three) but in addition to being able to move one square forwards like a standard chess pawn, may also move one square forwards diagonally in either direction on any move. This is similar to the Crab from Cannons and Crabs.

(In the above diagram a black dot indicates a square to which either a capturing or non-capturing move may be made, and a green dot a square to which only a non-capturing move may be made.)

Special Moves

PROMOTION: Upon reaching the last rank, a Pawn or Crab may promote to any piece (other than Pawn or Crab or King) used in this game -- the only exception being that a player may not have more than one Queen on the board at any time. Therefore, if a player's Queen has not already been captured, a Pawn or Crab must promote to either a Rook, Squire, Wizard, Viceroy, or Minister.

CASTLING: The King may castle with either Rook or either Squire. All intervening squares between the King and the piece it is castling with must be vacant, neither piece may have previously moved, the King may not castle while in check nor may move on to or over a square controlled by an enemy piece. If the King is castling with a Squire, it may do so regardless of whether the Rook next to the Squire has moved yet or not, or regardless of whether any other piece of either color is in the Rook's starting square. When castling with the Rooks, the King will move four squares towards the Rook and the Rook "jumps" to the other side of the King. When castling with the Squires, the King moves three squares towards the Squire and the Squire "jumps" to the other side of the King. So for instance, when castling kingside with the Squire, the King would move to i1/i11, and the Squire would move to h1/h11. When castling queenside with the Squire, the King would move to c1/c11, and the Squire would move to d1/d11. When castling kingside with the Rook, the King would move to j1/j11, and the Rook would move to i1/i11. When castling queenside with the Rook, the King would move to b1/b11, and the Rook would move to c1/c11.

THE BATTLE MOVE: Once during the game, at any point during the game, each side may make the "BATTLE MOVE"! The BATTLE MOVE involves moving two or more that player's Pawns or Crabs one square forwards (for Pawns) or one square forward or diagonally forwards (for Crabs). A player may not make the battle move while in check unless doing so places one (or more) of their Pawns or Crabs in a position where it interposes the opposing piece's check.

The BATTLE MOVE may be used to promote not more than one Pawn or Crab to a new piece by moving it to the last rank. Obviously, only Pawns or Crabs which can make a legal move may be moved during the BATTLE MOVE. All of the moves made during the BATTLE MOVE must be NON-CAPTURING moves!!

Computer Play

An implementation of Spinal Tap Chess has been written for Zillions of Games. You can download it here:

Written by David Short. HTML conversion by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: March 13th, 2002.