The Chess Variant Pages

Sacrifice chess

I first began playing this (very minor) variation on the FIDE rules in September 1998. The intervening months have yet to convince me one way or the other whether the additional move it allows would be plausible frequently enough to make the game's strategy sufficiently different from FIDE chess to be interesting. Any feedback would be appreciated.


The rules of FIDE chess stand with one change:

In addition to its other capabilities, a pawn may, as a move, capture itself. The self-capturing pawn is removed from the game exactly as if another piece had captured it.

In algebraic notation, pawn self capture can be written as any other capture. If the pawn on c3 captures itself, write c3xc3.


Obviously, this move will only be made when the positional advantages given to other pieces (primarily runners) from no longer being blocked by the removed pawn outweighs the one pawn material loss. Two months of playing with this rule have left me uncertain of how often this is the case.

Some of my experience with the rule has made me suspect the pawn sacrifice is seldom worthwhile -- perhaps the rule might come into play once every other game. Obviously, the pawn sacrifice introduces a new style of skewer attack, but it the only times in my games where it has been worthwhile to actually sacrifice the pawn is when the unveiled attack gives check or focuses more materiel onto a critical central square, and in doing so, forces one's opponent to retreat. Often, the threat of a pawn sacrifice attack is more valuable than actually carrying the sacrifice out.

Other experience indicates the rule dramatically changes the opening. 1.h2xh2 may be a good opening move, and even if not used on the first move, is worth considering towards the end of the opening if Black has not sacrificed his h-pawn. Sacrificing a-pawns may also be worth the rapid rook deployment.

Written by Robert Shimmin.
WWW page created: November 23, 1998.