The Chess Variant Pages

Abecedarian Big Chess (ABChess)

Design-your-own chess armies on a big board
by Glenn Overby

It's All In The Name...

Abecedarian, of or pertaining to the alphabet. There are 26 different pieces (but all are not used in a given game), one for each letter from A to Z.

Big, of great size, power, or amount. With 121 squares instead of 64, 44 pieces on board instead of 32, and 26 piece types instead of 6, this is big.

Chess, a boardgame played by two players where the object is to capture the opponent's king, or trap it so it cannot avoid capture.

Army Building
Pieces: A-F
Pieces: G-M
Pieces: N-S
Pieces: T-Z
Rules and Stuff

What's It All About?

For more than a thousand years chess players have experimented with adding different pieces to the game. Often the board was enlarged to let new pieces coexist with the old.

In recent years, there have also been several attempts to permit players to pick balanced teams within certain limits, so the forces and setups are not necessarily identical. Some of these have been inspired by modern wargames, and several proven designers have attacked the project.

Abecedarian Big Chess, or ABChess, does all of this. Twenty possible pieces are added to the six we know in orthodox chess. Nineteen of those 20 pieces have been used before, often with a history from 50 to several hundred years. The familiar King and hybrid Pawn (newly christened Yeoman) acquire some features of their Oriental counterparts.

The ABChess board is larger, to permit more of these pieces to come into play for each side. The point values given to each piece reflect the larger board.

Much has changed in ABChess. But the game is, at its heart, still chess. The object is still checkmate. Pieces step, ride, and leap. They (almost always) land on the foe's space to capture.

ABChess provides variety...there are millions of setups. A system of rote openings is not possible. Creativity is valued. New tactical principles are ripe for discovery. Yet the things that give chess its enduring popularity are not sacrificed. Many of the new pieces use venerable ideas in new ways. The fortresses and river, familiar in other parts of the world, are exotic in the West and fundamentally change (and speed up) the endgame.

On to Setup

Written by Glenn Overby II.
WWW page created: November 5, 2002.