The Chess Variant Pages

Half Chess

by John Groeneman, Richmond VA, 6/97

When I was a teenager in Denver, Colorado in the late 1960's, two friends of mine with half of a checker board did something almost obvious. I kind of wish I had thought of it myself, though I would not be surprised if it has been independently invented several times. Half Chess was discovered as much as it was invented. It's creators never had much of a sense of having worked to make it. We tried some variations and improvements, but finally decided it was some kind of gift from Caissa or something and left it alone. If Chess is wine, Half Chess is brandy. This is a wild game, exercise caution and count your fingers afterwards.

King h2; Queen h3; Rook h1, h4; Knight g1, g4; Bishop g2, g3.

King a2; Queen a3; Rook a1, a4; Knight b1, b4; Bishop b2, b3.

It is played with chess pieces, but not pawns, on a half board; 4 x 8 squares. One player's pieces are arranged R Q K R on the closest rank and N B B N on the next. As in regular Chess, the pieces are arranged mirror-image fashion across the board from each other. Other formalities, such as the proper placement of Kings and Queens on black and white squares or which player moves first is left up to the players. We played without castling. The object of the game and the movement of the pieces are otherwise the same as in Whole Chess.

Half Chess is a very intense but very playable game. In the limited space without pawns, it can become wonderfully complicated. Strategy is difficult if not impossible, this is a heavily tactical game. The balance of power in Half Chess is fairly sharp-edged and can change quite abruptly. Over and over again. Watch the Rooks, they are very tricky in the opening. Expect a game to last about half as long, but be at least as difficult, as a regular game of Chess. We played Half Chess together for a few years when we had no time for a full game of chess, or when we felt like it, until eventually we went our separate ways.

An applet

Hans Bodlaender made an experimental java-applet where you can play this game against yourself.

The program

Jari Huikari made computer program which can play halfchess variant against you. You can download it here.

Written by John Groeneman.
WWW page created: June 25, 1997. Last modified: August 22, 1999.