The Chess Variant Pages

Ruddigore Chess

By Peter Aronson

(But it's all Ralph Betza's fault!)


          Ruddigore Chess was inspired by the comic opera Ruddigore, by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. It is a variant of Chessgi (Ruddigore has a "gi" in its name, only spelled backwards). Ruddigore Chess depicts the Loser-Take-All battle between the forces of Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd (white), and the forces of Sir Despard Murgatroyd (black) over who has to be the cursed Bad Baronet of Ruddigore. (If you are familiar with the piece, and wish to object that no such battle took place in it, and furthermore, Sir Ruthven didn't have any forces other than his faithful steward Adam Goodheart, well, I can't help it if G&S missed such an obvious crowd pleaser, can I?)

Board and Setup

          Ruddigore Chess uses the setup of usual Western Chess, except that the Kings are replaced by Baronets, and the Knights by Gentlemen.

General Rules

          The rules of Ruddigore Chess are identical to those of FIDE Chess, except for the changes described below.

Notes and Comments

          This game is mostly Ralph Betza's fault. Oh, I'm not entirely innocent, and John Lawson is in for a share of the guilt too, but it was primarily Ralph's fault. There was a bunch of chatter on the CVP comment system, involving Gilbert and Sullivan in general and Ruddigore in specific, and he threw out the germ of Ruddigore Chess: a Chessgi variant where you had to capture a piece a turn or sacrifice a piece, and where you could capture your own pieces.

          These initial rules produced a game that seemed to be more about self-capture and avoiding sacrificing your King than chess play, so I started fiddling. First, I strengthened the Pawns and Knights in the hope they would do something in the game. That didn't do it. So I changed the sacrifice requirement from every turn to every other turn (which made thematic sense, since Sir Despard Murgatroyd, when he was the Bad Baronet, did an evil deed every morning to get them out of the way, and then spent the afternoon doing good: even turns must be mornings), and restricted capture of friendly pieces to the Baronet, which was given extra capturing power to make its dark deeds easier. This seemed to work.

          This is not to say the result isn't a strange game. It is not every game in which it is good sense to capture your own Queen in order to make it more mobile! Also, sacrifices can be used to open attack lanes or even to create discovered check.

          Thanks to Ben Good and Tony Quintanilla for playtesting.

          When playing this game, instead of saying check, you may instead say "Beware! Beware! Beware!", and saying "Basingstoke" is to make an offer of a draw.


          Ruddigore Chess can be easily played with a normal Western Chess set.

Computer Play

          I have written an implementation of Ruddigore Chess for Zillions of Games. You can download it here:

Written by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: May 8th, 2002.