The Chess Variant Pages




Treeleaders Chess

By Erez Schatz

Game description:

Treeleaders chess is played on a 9X10 board. The game is played with two non-similar armies, and as such, either black or white may start. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent's Treeleader piece. The player that stalemates his opponent wins the game.

The Board:

    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
10  |:r:| w |:v:| f |:t:| nr|:v:| w |:r:|
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
9   |   |:d:| cb|:::|   |:::| cb|:d:|   |
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
8   |:p:| p |:s:| p |:cs| p |:s:| p |:p:|
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
7   |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
6   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
5   |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
4   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
3   | P |:P:| S |:P:|CS |:P:| S |:P:| P |
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
2   |:::| A |:M:|   |:::|   |:M:| A |:::|
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+
1   | C |:G:| B |:L:| T |:NB| B |:G:| C |
    +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

      a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h   i

 

The Pieces:

Treeleader (T): Moves like a non-capturing queen, but it can't move through check. It can only capture a piece that is located on an adjacent square, orthogonally or diagonally (Like a FIDE King).
The Treeleaders cannot face (or "see") each other.

Pawns (P): Same as FIDE chess.
Sergeants (S): Move one square forward or diagonally forward. Can only capture diagonally forward (Like the Pawn).
Stewards (CS): Move one orthogonal square in each direction and capture diagonally in any direction.

White: Treeleader e1; Paladin f1; Murray Lion d1; Cannon a1, i1; Gnu b1, h1; Bishop c1, g1; Archer b2, h2; Nahbi c2, g2; Steward e3; Sergeant c3, g3; Pawn a3, b3, d3, f3, h3, i3.

Paladin (NB): Leaps like a Knight or moves like a Bishop.
Murray Lion (L): Leaps two squares orthogonally or diagonally either as a capturing or a non-capturing move, or it can also move, only to capture, to any adjacent square.
Cannon (C): Moves like a rook, in a straight orthogonal line but can only capture by jumping over a piece, as long as the intervening squares are empty.
Gnu (G): Leaps like a Knight (on a 2+1 "L") or like a Camel (on a 3+1 "L").
Bishop (B): Same as FIDE chess, both bishops only move on white squares.

Archer (A): Moves, without capturing, n squares in any orthogonal direction, where n is either 1, 2, or 3, and then it moves 3-n squares in a direction perpendicular to the first direction. The Archer can capture from a distance a piece located up to 3 squares in any orthogonal direction as long as all intervening squares are vacant, the archer can either move or capture, but not both. The Archer can move anywhere on the board, but cannot capture a piece that is located on the opponent's first 4 ranks (rank 7-10).
Nahbi (M): Moves two squares diagonally, and then one square orthogonally, in that order. It can also leap over an orthogonally adjacent piece as a non-capturing move

Black: Treeleader e10; Nightrider f10; Fallen d10; Rook a10, i10; Wizard b10, h10; Vampire c10, g10; Bowman b9, h9; Crooked Bishop c9, g9; Steward e8; Sergeant c8, g8; Pawn a8, b8, d8, f8, h8, i8.

Nightrider (nr): Leaps several consecutive Knight-leaps in the same direction, as long as any of the squares it lands on are empty.
Fallen (f): Leaps two squares in any direction or move one square diagonally
Rook (r): Same as FIDE Chess.
Wizard (w): Combines the moves of the Camel, a 3, 1 leap and the Ferz, one diagonal square in any direction.
Vampire (v): Only leaps diagonally, over exactly one piece. It can land on any empty square following the piece it leaps over, as long as the intervening squares are also empty. The vampire can capture a piece located in an orthogonally adjacent square. This is a distance capture, as the Vampire cannot capture by displacement. The Vampire can capture, move without capturing, or move and capture. Both Vampires are restricted to the black squares.
Bowman (d): Moves like a horse, or a non-leaping knight, either one orthogonally and one diagonally, or one diagonally and one orthogonally, as long as both squares are empty. The Bowman can move and capture from a distance a piece which is located one knight move away on the same direction. The Bowman can move anywhere on the board, but cannot capture a piece that is located on the opponent's first 4 ranks (rank 1-4).
Crooked Bishop (cb): Makes one or more successive diagonal steps, but must make a 90 degree turn every step, and must be moving away from the starting square.

Additional rules:

A Treeleader can castle with the appropriate Rook piece (Cannons for White, Rooks for Black). Castling is the same for both sides: The Treeleader moves two squares in the direction of the rook-piece which moves three squares in the direction of the Treeleader. All FIDE rules concerning castling apply.

Pawns and Sergeants are allowed an initial double move and can be captured en-passant. Sergeants can make an initial double move either forward or diagonally forward. Pawns and Sergeants promote to Stewards immediately upon reaching the opponent's first rank. Stewards do not promote.

The story of Treeleaders Chess:

"The fearless leader of the trees
He stands erect to every challenge
And all his enemies know this
His bite is much worse than his bark is..." - Old nursery rhyme

"I will not be afraid of death and bane
Till Birnam forest come to Dunsinane." - Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act I, Scene III

Let me tell you a story.

The planet that has allowed us to live on it has existed for millennia in a chaotic state of constant turmoil. During the age of chaos, eons before Man was even a distant thought, there existed primeval forces of immense, almost godlike power, who walked the earth, and waged battle.
The battle was fierce, as the earth itself shook and volcanoes spewed lava that burned the armies of the battling entities, forcing them to surrender. In their defeat, the entities merged with the Earth, and became dormant for millions of years.
All the while their influence was leaking to the minds of men as it nurtured old tales and mythologies.
And so it was, that in the dawn of the third millennium of the Common Era, the last remains of the entities, the personifications of what we know as Good and Evil, or Light and Darkness, were to take shape in a mystic forest on the edge of reality.
Those two entities took on the form of ancient towering trees, tall and formidable. In answer to their call, many forces came and joined them in preparation for the fight. The forces of good stood erect in their shining white armours, and looked upon the hordes of evil in their black outfits.
The greatest battle for the fate of Earth itself, was about to take place.

The Pieces:

The pieces' names and descriptions have been assembled from various chess variants, both classical and modern. I have attempted to give credit for the creators and origins of the pieces, and mistakes or errors will be gladly corrected.

The royal piece in this game is called the Treeleader.

The Treeleader (T):

Looks like a giant walking tree, so big and wide that it could be mistaken for a small collection of trees in various heights. It is capable of moving very fast, although its attack is very slow and very limited. The myth of the Treeleader is said to have influenced J.R.R Tolkien in creating the Ents, and it could be said that the children's tale that originated from the nature of the Treeleader was the one that haunted Shakespeare's Macbeth.

The Treeleader moves like a non-capturing queen, but it can't move through check. It can only capture a piece that is located on an adjacent square, orthogonally or diagonally (Like a FIDE King). The Treeleaders cannot face (or "see") each other. A Treeleader can castle with the appropriate Rook piece (Cannons for White, Rooks for Black). Castling is the same for both sides: the Treeleader moves two squares in the direction of the rook-piece which moves three squares in the direction of the Treeleader. All FIDE rules concerning castling apply.

The White Army:

The White army includes warriors and units that represent great virtues in history and myth:

Paladin (NB):

"...and if ye be of prowess and of worthiness then ye shall be a Knight of the Table Round." - Knights of the Round Table

The Paladin looks like a great Knight, riding on a fierce war horse.
The Paladin is the holiest of knights. It is pure in spirit and form and is known to lead great armies by faith and charisma alone. In representing the virtues of fortitude and faith, the Paladin combines the chivalry of the knight and the holiness of the priest. The paladin could be found under the names Archbishop and Cardinal in many different variants, like in Christian Freeling's Grand Chess.
The Paladin is a compound piece that leaps like a Knight or moves like a Bishop.

Murray Lion (L):

"Will a lion roar in the forest, when he hath no prey?" - Amos 3:4

The Murray Lion looks like a chariot carried by war-trained lions.
The lions attack everything that gets in their way, and those who survive the lions fall prey to the sword of the rider. The lion is the symbol of strength among many civilizations throughout history, and was engraved on many royal crests. This piece was accidentally invented by chess historian H.J.R. Murray when he incorrectly described the Lion from the Japanese variant Chu Shogi. The result became what was later called the "Murray Lion" by John William Brown which in this game represents scholarship and human ingenuity.
The Murray lion leaps two squares orthogonally or diagonally either as a capturing or a non-capturing move, or it can also move only to capture to any adjacent square.

Bishop (B):

"...whether the pious or holy is beloved by the gods because it is holy, or holy because it is beloved of the gods." - Socrates

Throughout history, the soldier-priest occupied a key position in the army. As a religious representative the soldier-priest functions as a motivator, spiritual guide, counselor, and undertaker. In the past, many kings relied on the clergy as a moral base. During the crusades, there were many who joined the religious knight orders for reasons of religion and to help the needed. The most famous of those orders were the Templars and the Hospitallers.
The Bishop moves and captures like in FIDE chess, on a diagonal line. True to their vows, both Bishops are restricted to the white squares.

Gnu (G):

"I'm a gnu - spelt G-N-U
Call me bison or okapi and I'll sue
Nor am I in the least like that dreadful hearty beast" - Flanders & Swann, The Gnu Song

The Gnu is a combination of the horse and the camel and looks like a giant horse-like beast.
Cavalry units have served as the elite force of the armies, riding on specially bred horses and camels, the horsemen have been feared and praised as they have served as the strike force in the battle. The knights were the elite soldiers, stronger and better trained, both in battle and in education than the common soldier. The mounted soldier, or the knight, has become a symbol of many virtues.
The Gnu leaps like a Knight (on a 2+1 "L") or like a Camel (on a 3+1 "L").

Cannon (C):

"Cannon to right of them, Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them, Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell, Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell, Rode the six hundred..." - Alfred Tennyson, Charge of the Light Brigade

The invention of gunpowder wrote a new page in the history of warfare. Riflemen were easier to train and were deadlier than the regular melee weapon-based troops. However, rifles, or muskets were less reliable in the early days and as so were used as a defensive weapon in closed areas rather than as an offensive weapon for open ground battle. The invention of the cannon created the first combat-effective gunpowder weapon, and was so successful that it is considered to be one of the most significant inventions in the chronicles of war. The Cannon is included here as a tribute to the way human invention is being used to gain the upper hand in battle, as in many cases it is the better inventor or tactician who gains the victory.
This piece originated in Chinese Chess.
The Cannon moves like a rook, in a straight orthogonal line but can only capture by jumping over a piece as long as the intervening squares are empty.

Nahbi (M):

"Empty and dark shall I raise my lantern,
And the guardian of the night shall fill it with oil and he shall light it also." - Gibran Khalil Gibran, The Prophet.

This piece looks like a man wearing a long white or gray robe (Called "Galabi'a") and holding a staff.
The Nahbi (Arabic for Prophet) is usually considered as the founder of many religions, a man who unites diverse tribes and nations under a single faith. Most religions were based on social ideas and were created to improve the lives of those who chose to follow the prophet.
This piece takes its name and description from Uri Bruck's Nahbi Chess.
The Nahbi moves two squares diagonally, and then one square orthogonally, in that order. It can also leap over an orthogonally adjacent piece as a non-capturing move (This is called the leap of faith).

Archer (A):

"In the hands of the English the bow had become, in the form of the longbow, the most deadly and formidable weapon of its time. Every English boy was trained to use it and was taught to bring every muscle of his body to bear upon it ... The result was that arrows were discharged with great rapidity and accuracy and with such strength that they were effective in the matter of penetration at astonishingly long range." - J.W.Fortescue, Military History

The archer wears very light armour, usually made of leather, and carries a long bow, also called English Bow.
This weapon demanded both accuracy and skill from the archer, as well as strength and agility. Therefore an archer needed a long period of training and was, alongside the knight, one of the only specialized soldiers. Archers were the first line of defense either in open ground combat, or in siege. Those skilled warriors have helped eliminate many attacks with a rain of arrows. With the rushing attack being the usual tactic, a well-trained archery unit could cause serious losses to the enemy and win the battle. The legend of the archer has been made most famous with that of Robin Hood.
This piece takes its name and description from Uri Bruck's Nahbi Chess.
The Archer moves, without capturing, n squares in any orthogonal direction, where n is either 1, 2, or 3, and then it moves 3-n squares in a direction perpendicular to the first direction. The Archer can capture from a distance a piece located up to 3 squares in any orthogonal direction as long as all intervening squares are vacant, The archer can either move or capture, but not both. While being very effective in defense, the Archer is useless if it attempts to rush and attack. As such, the Archer can move anywhere on the board but cannot capture a piece that is located on the opponent's first 4 ranks (rank 7-10).

The Black army:

For every hero, there has always been a villain.
Some say that both sides compliment and balance each other, and together they create the equilibrium that is the nature of existence.
The Black army represents the dark side of war, and many of its units can be seen as vile or corrupted counterparts of those in the white army.

Nightrider (nr):

"...when the Horseman suddenly turned into a skeleton, threw old Brouwer into the brook, and sprang away over the tree-tops with a clap of thunder" - Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Nightrider looks like a Paladin but wears black and carries a banner of evil symbols.
The dark knight has been famous across many myths as the leader of many demon or evil armies. Its great black stallion can leap great distances, often landing in the middle of the enemy's army, spreading fear and fire. This mythical Knight has found its place in many works of fantasy and mythology such as The Lord of the Rings, and Moorcock's Eternal Champion Saga. The Nightrider is also referred as the personification of Wrath, one of the seven deadly sins.
This piece was invented by the British chess problem composer T.R. Dawson.
The Nightrider can make several consecutive Knight-leaps in the same direction, as long as any of the squares it lands on are empty.

Fallen (f):

"In utter darkness, and thir portion set;
As far remov'd from God and light of Heav'n
As from the Center thrice to th' utmost Pole.
O how unlike the place from whence they fell!" - Milton, Paradise Lost

The Fallen looks like a skeleton rider surrounded by black hounds.
The greater the hero is, the heavier are the trials and tribulations that he or she must undertake. Not everyone can face those and retain their virtue. There are those who turn their back on their beliefs, morals and values and become fallen heroes. Those who become Fallen turn against their former friends, comrades, even families as they succumb more and more to their own dark side.
The Fallen can leap two squares in any direction or move one square diagonally.

Vampires (v):

"I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;" - Lord Byron, Darkness

The Vampire is extremely pale, wears a black cape over a black suit and flashes a mighty set of fangs.
The legend of the Vampires, children of the dark, as they've been called, has found a place in western mythology since the dark ages and is still very popular today. The Vampire, while weakened by its aversion to light, is a deadly opponent who sucks the blood of his victims. Stories have linked them to the first killer, Cain, and they represent everything that is unholy and are said to be the followers of the antichrist. The common myth claims that religious symbols such as the cross can deter and frighten vampires, although a stake through the heart tends to be a more effective method.
This piece is similar in concept to the Assassin from Infantry Chess.
The Vampire can only move diagonally, and must leap over exactly one piece. It can land on any empty square following the piece it leaps over, as long as the intervening squares are also empty. The vampire can capture a piece located in an orthogonally adjacent square. This is a distance capture, as the Vampire cannot capture by displacement. The Vampire can capture, move without capturing, or move and capture. As worthy of a being of darkness, the Vampire is restricted to the black squares, and can only capture pieces located on white squares.

Wizard (w):

"Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger." - J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings.

The wizard, or the Battle Mage, is a deadly adversary, as it controls magic in the battlefield. Many warriors who rely on strength and skill have fallen prey to the summons and wizardry of the Battle Mage. While not mighty in strength, the Wizard can cast his spells to far places and diminish an approaching army before he is within their reach. Skilled in the black arts of magic, those wizards create pacts and alliances with many demons that assist them in the battle field, often in reward of the souls of the opponents, although sometimes it is the wizard's own soul that is used in the bargain.
This piece takes its name and description from Daniel Macdonald's Omega Chess.
It combines the moves of the Camel, a 3, 1 leap and the Ferz, one diagonal square in any direction.

Rook (r):

"When there is dust rising in a high column, it is the sign of chariots advancing; when the dust is low, but spread over a wide area, it betokens the approach of infantry." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The rook looks like a siege tower, combined with a battering ram.
This piece took many faces and forms, from the ancient chariots, to the modern day tanks. The Rooks, although heavy and slow, have always acted as the vanguard of the attack force, and were used both as a key ingredient of the artillery force, and in the front of the strike force. However, the greatest enemies of these war machines have always been the lone soldier. There's a direct line from the biblical soldiers who threw boulders at chariots to the Anti-Tanks special units.
The Rook moves and captures like in FIDE chess, on an orthogonal line.

Crooked Bishop (cb):

"Bishops move diagonally. That's why they often turn up where the kings don't expect them to be" - Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

The Crooked Bishop wears a black priest's gown, with religious symbols on it.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And throughout history, there hasn't been a more definite power than the power of the religious leader. There have been those who have abused the power given to them as representatives of God, and misguided armies who were moved by the power of faith alone. Call it Crusade or Jihad; there have always been those who justified the foulest of wars in the name of religion.
The Crooked Bishop makes one or more successive diagonal steps, but must make a 90 degree turn in every step, which also must be moving away from the starting square.

Bowman (d):

"...He makes himself a magnificent iron cross-bow, overlain with copper, inlaid with gold and adorned with silver. He makes arrows whose shafts are formed from the oak and whose heads are made from the tall pine-tree. On the arrows he puts feathers plucked from the swallows and the tails of sparrows. Then he sharpens the heads and dips them in the black, poisonous blood of hissing snakes" - The Kalevala

The Bowman looks like a simple foot soldier in leather armour carrying a crossbow.
While usually considered in the same group, the Bowmen had nothing to do with the elegance and professionalism of the Archers. Bowmen were ranked just above the lowest foot soldier, and were given the crossbow as a simple way of creating a lethal artillery force. The crossbow, being the first known "point and click" instrument, didn't require much training and was easy enough to use.
This piece takes its name and description from Robert Price's Quantum chess.
The Bowman moves like a horse, or a non-leaping knight, either one orthogonally and one diagonally, or one diagonally and one orthogonally, as long as both squares are empty. The Bowman can move and capture from a distance a piece which is located one knight move away on the same direction. Like the Archers, the Bowmen were useless in attacking the enemy's base, castle or camp. Therefore, the Bowman can go anywhere on the board, but cannot capture a piece located on the opponent's first 4 ranks (ranks 1-4).

Both armies have 6 Pawns, 2 Sergeants and 1 Steward.

Pawns (P): Move and capture like FIDE pawns.

Sergeants (S): Move one square forward or diagonally forward. However, they can only capture diagonally forward (Like the Pawn).

Stewards (CS): Move one orthogonal square in each direction and capture diagonally in any direction.
This piece takes its name and description from John William Brown's Centennial Chess.

Pawns and Sergeants are allowed an initial double move and can be captured en passant. Sergeants can make an initial double move either forward or diagonally forward. Pawns and Sergeants promote to Stewards immediately upon reaching the opponent's first rank. Stewards do not promote, but should receive a warm appraisal in their service record.

Notation:

I attempted to keep the orthodox notation of the pieces where possible, and also use the first letter of the piece. However, some pieces are notated differently, for several reasons:
The Paladin is "NB" as in Knight-Bishop, the Nahbi is M according to Uri Bruck, the creator of the piece. Stewards are "CS" as in "Centennial Steward",
Bowmen are "d" since D looks somewhat like a bow.

Notes:

Originally, the Black Pawns, Sergeants and Stewards were called Peons, Grunts and Axemen - this was later dropped to avoid confusion.
The inspiration behind this variant is an old PC game called "Archon". This classic computer chess variant uses two different armies based on mythological creatures. This game also served as inspiration for my Duel Chess variant.
The Treeleader piece was influenced by the Queen and King from Fergus Duniho's "British Chess".
The Treeleader song was written by Uri Bruck, who is also guilty of reading SMS notes in the middle of the night.