The Chess Variant Pages

Melbourne Chess 


Christchurch Chess

By Charles Gilman


When citing Beryl, Diana and Elena as precedents for my Oxford-set Isis being played on a small board, I noted the counter-example of Alice Chess being played on two FIDE boards. This inspired me to consider whether some other meaning of Alice springs to mind to suit two boards, and recalled an Australian place name. As Australia and its (relative) neighbour New Zealand were, as modern nations, founded by descendants of travelers from one side of the world to the other, this led me to see the two-boards concept as "bipolar".

Many cities in both nations have British place names, which helped me fully formulate the bipolar theme of a notional 8x8x8 board on which pieces must end all moves on the top or bottom level. To prevent Rooks and Queens being over-powerful (particularly in 4-player versions) I remove the edges of the middle two notional levels. Several inter-board moves follow automatically, examples of which use the notation a-h for the files of one board, i-p for those of the other, and 1-8 for the ranks of both. Rooks not on the edge of a board can move to the same cell of the other board e.g. b2-j2. Bishops on an edge but not a corner can move to the same cell of the OPPOSITE EDGE of the other board e.g. c1-k8, and boards should be orientated so that this move preserves Bishops' cell colour. Rooks on an edge and Bishops on a corner have no inter-board move. Queens are a straight combination of the two. As Knights gain no inter-level move I add the Unicorn move to make CAVALCADES, as featured in my piece article Diverse Directions and some versions of my fully 3d variant Tunnelchess. These can move from the corner of one board to the OPPOSITE corner of the other e.g. a1-p8. Kings cannot change board; nor can Pawns until promoted to Bishop, Cavalcade, Queen, or Rook. Castling, Pawn double moves, and en passant follow FIDE rules. These are my generic Bipolar Variant rules. The next stage was to add further features alluding to individual place names. As it happens two of the British original towns are in areas where I have family connections, curiously equidistant from Oxford on the Mercia (north) and Wessex (south) sides.

Melbourne Chess
The original Melbourne is in the area where my father grew up, south of what is now the city of Derby. Melbourne is best known for its 2nd Viscount, William Lamb, being Britain's prime minister when Victoria Saxe-Coburg took the throne. Echoing this combination of heads of state and government, the Australian state of Victoria has a capital named Melbourne. To reflect the start of six decades of a female ruler the variant's King is initially just a Prince (the title of Victoria's consort Albert S-C), an ordinary capturable piece moving exactly like a King. Pawns cannot be promoted to Prince or Queen. When EITHER of the pair is captured, however, the remaining one behaves exactly like a King. Furthermore the rest of the army go into mourning, reflecting the official displays of mourning following the death of each. This is represented by ALL that army's long-range moves being reduced to one cell demoting Rooks, Bishops, and Cavalcades - and restricting promotion of Pawns - to Wazirs, Ferzes, and Knights. This binds the pieces to whichever board they are already on.

Christchurch Chess
The original Christchurch is in the area where my mother grew up, where the Hampshire-Dorset border's southern end bisects the Channel coast. The name suggests a special importance of the church, as represented by the Bishop in English-speaking Chess circles. It occurred to me that this could be reflected in the Bishops controlling the diagonals. Thus a King or Queen can make a diagonal move (including between edges of opposite boards in the Queen's case) only from an opposite-colour call to a Bishop of the same army. Thus capturing a player's only LIGHT-square Bishop prevents that player's Queen from moving (and giving check) along DARK-square diagonals. Pawns can however be promoted to Bishop, either to replace captured Bishops or as spares, as well as to Cavalcade, Queen, or Rook.

Further variants
On the one hand versions of the above can start with different arrays. In the examples below, inverted pieces represent third and fourth armies.

On the other hand anyone with links to other original towns should feel free to design their own themed bipolar variants with appropriate credits. Such towns include Auckland (usually prefixed by an inspiring Bishop) and Newcastle (complete with a neighbouring Wallsend) in England's far north, Perth still further north at the very heart of Scotland, and a pair of Wellingtons (I kid you not) some distance west of my parents' respective formative areas. Lest anyone question the last, note that Wellington is NOT the name of a famous general, it is the name of the place OF which a famous general, Arthur Wellesley, was Duke. Note also that conversely Nelson IS the name of a famous admiral, but NOT of an original town. Nelson in Lancashire was named Marsden until the 19th Century, when it was renamed AFTER the (by then late) admiral. THAT Nelson has never had any kind of lord, although Nelson in New Zealand had as its the physicist Ernest Rutherford.