The Chess Variant Pages

Chess on a Longer Board
with a few Pieces Added

My goal for this variant was to create something close to FIDE chess, but add a few unique pieces to the mix to give it a fairy chess feel, while retaining the uniqueness of the standard FIDE pieces. I decided on adding three new pieces and keeping all the standard FIDE pieces.

In FIDE Chess, most of the pieces have unique properties:

  1. The King, of course, is the only 'Royal' piece.
  2. The Queen is the only piece that is a combination of two other pieces.
  3. The Knight is the only piece capable of leaping over other pieces.
  4. The Pawn is the only piece which moves differently than it captures. And the only piece able to promote.

To these unique pieces I will add three more unique pieces: The Wall, the only piece that occupies more than one square. The Withdrawer, the only piece that captures by a method other than displacement. And the Changeling, the only piece that changes how it moves throughout the game. Note that even with these new pieces, the King, Queen, Knight and Pawn still retain their unique properties. The added pieces are for the most part, not of my invention, but borrowed from the ideas of others.

The board is extended by two rows, making it 8 columns by 10 rows. Castling and pawn movement work as in FIDE chess, except that pawns promote on the second last rank, and may promote to a Changeling or Withdrawer in addition to Queen, Rook, Knight or Bishop.

Standard FIDE chess rules apply, except where noted.

The New Pieces

The Withdrawer (W)

The Withdrawer is from Ultima. It moves as a Queen, but does not capture by displacement. Instead, it captures by starting its move adjacent to an enemy piece, and moving directly away from it.

The Wall (VVV)

The Wall (mostly stolen from Ganymede Chess) is a two-square wide piece. It moves forward or backward as a rook, or one square orthogonally sideways. The Wall cannot leap, so all squares that the wall moves over must be free of friendly pieces.

Pieces may move over a friendly Wall if they are moving in a forward direction. Pieces may never move over an opponent's Wall (except for Knights which may always leap over Walls).

A Wall is captured if an enemy piece moves into one of the two squares the Wall occupies. A Withdrawer may capture a Wall by moving directly away from either of the two squares the Wall occupies.

Walls capture by moving into squares occupied by enemy pieces. If the two squares a wall ends its move in both contain enemy pieces, both enemy pieces are captured! A Wall cannot capture a Wall.

Unlike its Ganymede Chess counterpart, this version of the Wall cannot rotate.

The Changeling (hB/hhR)

The Changeling is a piece which changes each time it moves. It starts out as a Halfling Bishop (or absolute Halfling Bishop as mentioned in Ralph Betza's Halflings article). A Halfling Bishop can only move half the normal distance (rounded up) that a Bishop would be able to move from its current position to the edge of the board. The Halfling Rook moves in a similar manner in relation to the Rook.

After the Changeling finishes moving it changes to its alternate movement. So after the hB (Halfling Bishop) moves it becomes a hhR (Halfling Rook). After the hhR (Halfling Rook) moves it becomes a hhB (Halfling Bishop).

The idea for the Changeling was inspired by John William Brown's Flip Chess and Ralph Betza's Halflings article.

The Board

The board is 10 rows by 8 columns. The first rank is the standard array. The pawns, instead of being on the second rank, are placed on the third. The new pieces are placed in the second rank, with the Changeling (as hhB) on the two edge squares, the Withdrawers in the adjacent squares, and the Wall positioned directly in front of the King and Queen.

| r | n | b | q | k | b | n | r |
|hhB| w |   |vvv|vvv|   | w |hhB|
| p | p | p | p | p | p | p | p |
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |   |
| P | P | P | P | P | P | P | P |
|hhB| W |   |VVV|VVV|   | W |hhB|
| R | N | B | Q | K | B | N | R |

Example Diagrams

Figure 1
An example of how the Wall captures is shown in Figure 1. It can move to any of the squares marked by the green circles, or can capture both the black Bishop and Knight in a single move. Also note that the Black Knight is pinned by the White Rook.

Figure 2
An example of how the Withdrawer captures is shown in Figure 2. The White Withdrawer can capture the black wall by moving in either of the two directions away from the Wall (shown by the green circles). The Black Withdrawer can capture the white Knight by moving to any of the squares marked by the blue circles.

Play It!

You can play this game if you have Zillions of Games installed on your computer. Just download the following file and unzip it:


As Fergus Duniho noted, this is simply chess with some Fairy pieces added (this was before I named the game). I agree with that basic sentiment, although I don't see it as necessarily a bad thing. Certainly less exciting than some of the more innovative games being created, but still, I can't help but hope that with some degree of moderation I might come up with a successful and unique fairy chess variant.

Another comment from Fergus: the Knights can no longer move on the first turn. Before playing the game, I hadn't seen this diversion from the standard chess opening choices. I see no easy way to correct it, while retaining the basic setup. The pawns need to be on the third row, and the back row needs to be the standard array. I don't see this as a fatal flaw to the game, merely a small annoyance. For those who simply must be able to move their knights first, a kind reader has suggested an initial move option for the knight, allowing to make its first move also as a Camel.

The Wall is an immensely powerful piece, if it is able to make it through to the end-game. It can single-handedly mate an lone enemy King in 8 or fewer moves. I weakened it somewhat by not allowing it to rotate, and by limiting its horizontal movement.

Written by David Howe.
WWW page created: 8 April 2001.