The Chess Variant Pages

Five Chess Variants by Philip M. Cohen

Philip Cohen is the inventor of many interesting chess variants that have not received enough attention. In addition, for years, Phil was the chess variant director of the Knights of the Square Table and did a great deal to help codify, popularize, and coordinate play in many chess variants. I personally owe him a great deal for his early advice and support as I first became interested in chess variants. And it also pleases me that one of the variants is co-authored by R. Wayne Schmittberger, to whom I am also grateful for his support in my chess variant and abstract game efforts.

General Rules

All of the following games are played by the rules of FIDE Chess, except where stated otherwise.

Cohen's Array

Cohen's Array is simple change to that leads to lively, interesting play. The Pawns start on the third rank. This one small change leads to a completely new type of opening play, not in small measure because of the ability of every piece to move from the start of the game.

Fast-Track Chess

Fast-Track Chess (1986) is another simple idea that significantly effects gameplay. A Pawn may promote if it makes a non-capturing move to the 5th, 6th, or 7th ranks. On the 5th, it may promote to Knight. On the 6th, to Knight or Bishop, and on the 7th, to Knight, Bishop, or Rook. All of these promotions are optional and they are not available if the Pawn made a capture. On the 8th, the Pawn must promote as in Orthodox Chess.

Cohen's Error Chess

Cohen's Error Chess (1977) came about due to a slight miscommunication over the rules of Columbia Cannon Chess. Yet Cohen's Error Chess is a fine game in its own right. Bishops, Rooks, and Queens move as usual, but must hop over exactly one unit of either color in order to capture. That is, rooks function as Chinese Chess Cannons; Bishops function as their diagonal equivalents (Vaos), and Queens function as omnidirectional Cannons. Knights move one or two squares orthogonally, and may leap to the second square (like a combined Wazir and Dabbabah); they do not have the (1,2) leap. Kings and Pawns are orthodox.

Ninerider Chess

Ninerider Chess (invented with RWS) (1979) is an interesting thematic game. Each type of rider from (0,1) (which is a Rook) to (3,3) is found in the game in exactly one piece definition. The Bishop is a combination (1,1) rider plus (2,2) rider. A (1,1) rider is an Orthodox Bishop, and a (2,2) rider may make any number of consecutive two square diagonal leaps in a single direction (also known as an Alfil-Rider). The Rook is a combination (0,1) rider (Orthodox Rook) plus (0,2) rider (Dabbabah-Rider), which allows it to make any number of consecutive two square orthogonal leaps in a single direction. The Knight is a (1,2) rider (Nightrider), which allows it to make any number of consecutive Knight leaps in a single direction. The Queen is a combination (0,3), (1,3), (2,3) and (3,3) rider. See the diagram below for an illustration of the Queen's move. Every piece can move in the opening and every piece is more mobile than it is in orthodox chess. Play is sharp and threats are immediate.
Nineriders Chess Queen's move
The second version of Ninerider Chess gives the (0,3) rider ability (consecutive three square orthogonal leaps) to the Rooks, and the (3,3) Rider (consecutive three square diagonal leaps) to the Bishops. The Queen, therefore, is reduced to a (1,3) rider plus (2,3) rider. The changes were made in response to concerns that the Queen might be too powerful and hard to visualize in the original game.

In Conclusion

Enjoy these games! I have.


Written by Michael Howe.
WWW page created: August 1st, 2002.