The Chess Variant Pages

Truffle Hunt Chess

By Charles Gilman

Often my piece articles have raised criticism for introducing pieces (or names) not used in any variant, so here is an idea that came from an idea for a piece in advance of the article covering the piece type. It began when I considered part-symmetric radial leapers with a coprime element (Wazir, Ferz, or their forward-only version) and a non-coprime one (Dabbaba, Elephant, or theirs). This is simple enough where the radials are different, e.g. a Silverelephant with 5 Waffle moves and a Goldtusk with 6, but how about where they are the same - a Wazir or Ferz that can also continue a second cell forward? Then I recalled that in Chinese tradition the euphemism for pig means "long-nosed general". General means a piece moving one cell in a range of directions, and long-nosed  suggests extending forward moves. As a bonus the pattern of moves do suggest a pig's head with the snout sticking out the front, and a boar's snout close-up with tusks sticking out! So I decided on SOW for the enhanced Wazir, and BOAR for the enhanced Ferz. The Boar has 6 moves to the Sow's mere 5, but like the Bishop is confined to half the cells. Graphically the ordinary Wazir and Ferz can represent them until David Howe comes up with a suitably porcine pair of images!

The variant uses two FIDE sets distinguished by size, one board, and 35 dice! 32 dice mark the number of truffles on the cells of ranks 3-6 (on the board if small enough else to the side in a 4x8 matrix), 2 mark the number in each player's store, and the other is rolled to determined the pig pieces' success at finding truffles. Initially the end ranks are filled with the usual pieces in INACTIVE form, represented by small 1st-rank pieces, and they cannot move in that form. The Pawn ranks have Sows, represented by large Pawns, in front of the four major pieces and Boars, represented by small Pawns, in front of the four minor ones. This has some justification as a King and Sow can checkmate an enemy King e.g. White King c7 or c8, White Sow a6, Black King a8. How easy it is to achieve this checkmate is another matter! The middle 4 files have 6 truffles per cell initially.

When a Sow or Boar enters a cell with truffles one roll is made to determine whether a truffle is found and, if one is, a second to determine whether it is eaten there and then. If a truffle is found the number remaining is reduced by one. For a Sow the roll for "Yes" is 5 or 6, for a Boar 6 only, reflecting the sexes' relative abilities in this field and the Sow's need to feed future or current piglets. Truffles found but not eaten are retrieved and added to the player's store, up to a maximum of 6. These can then be used to ACTIVATE the pampered masters at the end of a move - 3 for a minor piece, 4 for a Rook, 5 for a Queen, 6 for a King. ACTIVE pieces have their FIDE moves, and activation is marked by replacing the piece from the small set with a corresponding one from the large one. In this variant Sows and Boars (to which the terms active and inactive do not apply) can leap each other and inactive pieces, but not active ones. Active Knights have full leaping powers.

A captured Sow or Boar is not removed from the game but retrained and put in the capturing player's RESERVE. This is represented by removing the Pawn and putting one of the same size and opposite colour in reserve, and there are enough spare Pawns for all eventualities. An active piece captured by a Sow or Boar is returned inactive to its own player's reserve. Any other captured 1st-rank piece is removed from the game. A piece in reserve can be reintroduced in place of a move, anywhere on its array rank, subject to neither player exceeding one Bishop and four Boars on the same colour. A 1st-rank piece is introduced inactive, but can immediately be activated by reducing the store of truffles appropriately.

There can be other Food Hunt variants based on any number of themes. Lewis Carroll's second Alice story inspires two ideas. One is a BUTTERFLY HUNT CHESS, with ordinary Wazirs and Ferzes as Aged Aged men (hence both their wisdom and their slow progress!). Whether amounts found and eaten should vary between the two is questionable. The other is an OYSTER HUNT CHESS, with a WALRUS and CARPENTER. The name Walrus suggests to me a forward-only Waffle, both from verbal similarity and suitability to something with strong teeth but very vestigial limbs. It would have to be promotable - promotion to Goldtusk (add full Wazir move) optional on the 7th rank and compulsory on the 8th, and demotion back to Walrus optional on the middle 4 ranks and compulsory on the 2nd. Demotion may be desirable because a Goldtusk cannot hunt Oysters. Carpenter suggests a compound of Knight and Dabbaba. Of the FIDE pieces the Knight requires the most carpentry, and there are many other examples of wooden horses (e.g. hobby, rocking, vaulting) as well as wooden war engines; if Homer is to be believed the two categories overlap! Carpenter also fits into a quartet of names - with the KANGAROO of Outback Chess, CASBAH = Camel + Dabbaba, and CARIBOU = Camel + Elephant - to extrapolate to other oblique directions (e.g. Zerpenter, Zengaroo, Zesbah, Zeribou for the 3:2, 5:1 pair). The Carpenter has the array position of the Sow but the skill and voracity only of the Boar, and the Walrus vice versa, again reflecting the Carpenter's checkmating ability e.g. White King b6, White Carpenter a6, Black King a8 or b8. In this variant neither can leap an active piece radially, but Carpenters can always leap obliquely.

MINING CHESS with Goldgenerals and Silvergenerals is a possibility, with inactive pieces feeling underdressed rather than underfed! SHRIMP HUNT CHESS with Flamingoes would need four extra ranks, both to avoid a checkmating array and to give them access to all cells. NUT HUNT CHESS with Squirrels would be a still bigger departure from FIDE Chess even on an 8x8 board, because the Squirrel is so strong a piece.