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Stratomic Chess

Several Chess variants have been inspired by the atomic weapon apparition in warfare. Stratomic was described as the most interesting of them in the French book "Guide des échecs exotiques et insolites" which I authored (Jean-Louis Cazaux). It happened that Robert Montay-Marsais, the inventor of Stratomic, bought that book and wrote to me. He kindly sent me a copy of his booklet from which I was able to complete the existing Stratomic page in, as he asked me to do.

(Photograph of the set in commercialization by Robert Montay-Marsais. See below how to order)

The previous text was based upon a description by Bo Leuf. He has an interesting site at called Daynotes Mail Forum, where the text was copied from prior to this revision.

Stratomic, so-called the "21st Century Chess" was invented in 1972 (not in 1975 as reported in other sources) and described in a French booklet authored by Robert Montay-Marsais.

It is ordinary chess with the addition of an extra row and column all the way around, forming a 10x10 board :

Each player has a regular chess set completed by 2 Pawns and 2 extra pieces "N" which stands for the NUCLEA, a nuclear missile.

All orthodox rules and moves are kept standard. That includes castling and en-passant capture.

Pawn promotion is obtained on 2nd and 9th row respectively, not on 1st and 10th. Pawns can be promoted to any major type of pieces, including a Nuclea.

The Nuclea have two distinct modes of movement:

  1. Mobility -- the piece moves like a King, can capture and check in any direction, and can itself be captured by other pieces.
  2. Launch -- counts as a separate move. The launch is subordinated to some conditions. The Nuclea is moved to any other square on the board. It does not matter if this is occupied or not. The target square and the 3x3 neighborhood around are blown, i.e. all pieces there, friend and foe alike, are considered destroyed and thus removed. This includes the Nuclea itself which is consummated.

(diagram by Robert Montay-Marsais)

Exception: The King alone has immunity and survives if he stands on one of the 9 radiated squares. Thus, a Nuclea strike could be used to strip protective pieces assuming that this creates an immediate check or mate situation. (Correction versus the previous text : it was wrongly affirmed that Nuclea may not target the square occupied by the King itself. According to the booklet, it may.)

There are a couple of conditions attached to launching, however:

  1. To be launched, the Nuclea must not be under threat. (If an opposing piece has a direct line of attack, the assumption is that the launcher cannot be safely deployed.)
  2. Nuclea launch must follow "escalation" protocol, it cannot occur until the first capture of a major piece. (Capture of Pawns is possible without nuclear riposte. This detail was not correctly described here before, as it was neither in Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Chess Variant nor Cazaux's Guide des échecs exotiques et insolites.)

A variant proposed by Pierre-Eric Spindler in 1976, without the author consent who disapproves it, is that the 3x3 region becomes a contaminated zone, which a surviving King must therefore evacuate in the next move, or lose. (If the King is on an edge square, it can be agreed that this evacuation may take two moves to reach a safe square.)

Stratomic was presented at the 1999 French Chess Championship in Besançon.

Stratomic does have a mention in ''The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants'' (although with few minor inaccuracies).

Revised by Jean-Louis Cazaux upon informations and photographs sent by Robert Montay-Marsais. First version written by Bo Leuf. Diagram by Hans Bodlaender.

Robert Montay-Marsais lives in Saint-Raphael, France, where is active for the promotion of his game. Mail to me to obtain his address if you want to contact him.

This game, with the complete set, can be obtained from this distributor:

Maison des Auteurs de Jeu
35, Avenue Virgile Néal
Tel: 33 (0) 492 092 462 

WWW page created: December 7, 1999, revised on March 01, 2002.