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Novo Chess

In 1937 a book on a game called Novo Chess appeared in the Netherlands. The author, L. J. Weijden, probably was also the inventor of the board game described in the book. The book was distributed by Uitg. N.V. Mij. tot Expl. v.h. Limburgsch Dagblad and costed then 40 cents.

Novo Chess is a complicated chess variant: on a board of 8 rows and 12 columns, each player has several pieces, all taken from the warfare. We see the airplanes, submarines, spies, and even medical service. The board is marked with railroads and water squares.


The game is played by two players who move each turn one of their pieces, following specific rules.

The board

The board is made of eight rows and twelve columns. It is shown below.

Squares a1, a2, a3, a4, a5, a6, a7, a8, b6, c5, d4, e3, f4, g5, h6, i5, j4, k3, l1, l2, l3, l4, l5, l6, l7 and l8 are water squares. Water influences the movements of most pieces.

The marked lines (e.g., across b2, c3, d3, and e2) are railroads


General g1; General staff f1; Military Engineering e1; Red Cross h1; Artillery d1; Tank unit i1; Motor unit c1; Bicycle unit j1; Airship b1, k1; Submarine a1, l1; Ship with airplane a2, l2; Cavalry b2, k2; Infantry (pawns) c2, d2, e2, f2, g2, h2, i2, j2. Black:
General f8; General staff g8; Military Engineering h8; Red Cross e8; Artillery i8; Tank unit d8; Motor unit j8; Bicycle unit c8; Airship b8, k8; Submarine a8, l8; Ship with airplane a7, l7; Cavalry b7, k7; Infantry (pawns) c7, d7, e7, f7, g7, h7, i7, j7.

Movement of pieces

The General

The General is the most important piece of the king. Like a chess king, the game is lost for the player that ha lost his general. Generals however are not affected by `check', so it is legal (although unwise) to move a general to a position where he can be taken.

Generals have only limited movement capabilities: the only thing they can do is to switch places with the general staff, but only if the general staff is on a square adjacent to the general.

The General Staff

The General Staff can switch places with the general when it is adjacent, but also it can go to all squares that are adjacent to the general when the general is at an adjacent square, or it can move one square in an arbitrary direction.

Military engineering

The Military Engineering (`Genie' in Dutch) is a strong piece.

It has two capabilities: moving and taking, and more `passively': making it possible for other pieces to enter or pass certain squares. (These units can, e.g., build bridges across rivers.)

For its `building capabilities', it covers the squares in horizontal and vertical direction, i.e., in rookwise directions. Its influence is up to the first square which contains a piece of the opponent: note that the engineering units influence is not hindered by friendly pieces.

The covering of the military engineering unit als makes it possible for other pieces of the player to enter squares which are usually not possible for them. When the unit covers a water square, then all pieces, also friendly pieces that usually may not enter water squares, may enter this square, and when it covers a land square, also friendly pieces that usually cannot enter land squares may enter that square. However, when such a piece wants to leave such a square, it must also be covered by a military engineering unit, otherwise it cannot be moved.

A military engineering unit moves like a rook (either when moving without or with taking), but it may also pass squares that contain an airplane, airship or submarine. (These are considered to be either above or below the unit.)

The Medical Service

The Medical Service (or `Red Cross') unit moves horizontally and vertically, (similar to a rook: it may not pass other pieces, except in special cases.) The Red Cross unit may not leave the first three rows at the players own side of the board. It cannot take pieces of the opponent, but it also cannot be taken. It may pass squares that contain airships and airplanes (as these are considered to be `in the air', while this unit is on the ground), and when it passes a water square with help of the military engineering unit, it may pass submarines.

The Red Cross unit can be used to heal friendly pieces. For this purpose, the unit is considered to cover the following squares:

  • If it is not on the first row, then it covers the squares up to a piece of the opponent in horizontal and vertical directions.
  • If it is on the first row, then it covers vertically the squares up to a square with a piece of the opponent, and horizontally the squares up to the first square containing any piece (either friendly or enemy.)

When it covers a square with a friendly piece, and that piece is taken, then the player may put back another friendly piece on its first row, according to the following rules:

  1. The replacement must be of a lower rank. For this purpose, the ranks are: General Staff 10, Military Engineering 9, Airship 8, Artillery 7, Ship with airplane 6, Tank unit 5, Motor unit 5, Bicycle unit 4, Airplane 4, Submarine 3, Ship without airplane 3, Cavalery 2, Infantery 1, Spy 1.
  2. The replacement is taken from the pieces that were taken by the opponent. When no suitable lower rank replacement is available, the taken piece replaces itself.
  3. The owning player parachutes the piece on an empty square on the first row. When no square on the first row is available, it is placed on an empty square on the second row.
  4. The piece may not be placed such that it attacks a piece of the opponent.
  5. The parachuting does not count as a move.


The Airship is a large kind of airplane. It moves diagonally, but is never hindered by other pieces. It takes by moving to a square containing a piece of the opponent.


The Artillery moves like a rook, but it also can move over other pieces. There are two exceptions:
  1. The artillery cannot move across an occupied square that is adjacent to its own position. (This is because `the angle in which must be shooted would be too steep'.) However, it can take on that square.
  2. The artillery cannot move to a square directly after an occupied square. (For a similar reason.)
The artillery may not enter water squares, except when helped by the military engineering unit. However, as it can fire across water, it can move over water squares. When an enemy piece is in its range but at a water square, it can be taken by the artillery which then moves to the square directly before the water square.


The Ship moves like a queen, but it may only be on water squares, except when helped by the military engineering unit (see the description of that piece.)

Ships are not hindered by air units or submarines.

Airplanes and ships with airplane

A ship with airplane moves like a ship. The airplane is carried with the ship. However, the airplane also may leave the ship.

When an airplane moves without the ship, it makes a move like a knight.

Airplanes are never hindered by other units in their movement. They also may land on a ship, but a ship may never contain more than one airplane.


A submarine moves similarly like a ship: like a queen but only on water (again, except when helped by the military engineering unit). The submarine is not hindered in its movement by other units, even not by other submarines.

Tank unit

A Tank unit moves more or less like a rook, i.e., in horizontal or vertical direction. It may not pass or enter water squares, except when helped by a military engineering unit. It cannot pass other land pieces, but it can pass squares with an air unit and it can pass with help of the engineering unit a water square with a submarine.

Motor unit

A Motor unit is also a land unit, i.e., it cannot pass water squares except when helped by the engineering unit, and it cannot cross other land pieces.

It has the following possible movements:

  1. It can move two squares horizontally or vertically and then one square diagonally in the same global direction. (This means it has moved three squares in one orthogonal direction and one square in the other orthogonal direction.)
  2. It can move one squares diagonally and then two square horizontally and vertically in the same global direction. (This means it has moved three squares in one orthogonal direction and one square in the other orthogonal direction. This is similar as above, but may be usefull to go around unpassable squares.)
  3. It can move two squares diagonally and then one square horizontally or vertically in the same global direction. (A movement of 3 squares in one orthogonal direction and 2 in the other.
  4. It can move one squares horizontally or vertically and then two square diagonally in the same global direction.

Bicycle unit

The Bicycle unit moves diagonally, but only one or two squares. It is a land unit, and hence cannot pass other land units and it cannot pass or enter water squares, except when helped by the military engineering.


The Cavalry is also a land unit, and is affected by water and other land units just as the other land units.

It always moves exactly two squares horizontally or vertically.

Infantery or pawn

The Infantery, or just pawn moves like a normal pawn from chess, except that it has no double first step: it moves without taking one square vertically forwards, and it takes one square diagonally forwards.

When the pawn moves to the last row, it promotes to a piece that was taken. The pawn is a land piece.


The Spy is an exceptional piece. While no other pieces may belong to the same square (except ships that can carry airplanes), spies must be on a square which also contains another friendly piece.

The rules are not entirely clear about what pieces spy on what other pieces - I would assume that a spy follows the influences of the piece which it accompanies.

A piece that is spied upon may not move to those squares where it could have moved to that are closest to the opponents side.

A spy can be moved to any other piece of the player. This costs one move.

When the piece that accompies the spy is taken, the spy also is taken.

General rules

Except for the spy and ships with airplanes, there are never two pieces on the same square.

Land pieces may, except when noted otherwise, not enter water squares. See the military engineering unit rules for the only exception.

Land pieces have an additional movement possibility: land pieces that are one square vertically below or above a water squares and that cannot not cross the water by a normal movement, may move without taking one square diagonally to another square that is adjacent to a water square.

Water pieces may not enter land squares - the only exception is again described at the section of the military engineering unit.

Land units may not pass squares with another land unit, except when noted otherwise. Neither may they pass squares with a ship.

At four sides of the board, we see railroad tracks. The following pieces can use railroad tracks: pawns, cavalry, motor units, byclicle units, engineering unit, red cross, general staff. Tanks, artillery, airplanes, airships, ships, submarines and the general may not use the railroad tracks.

Pieces may only use the railroad tracks at their own side of the board. Movement over railroads can be done instead of a normal move: when on a square with a railroad, the unit can move to another square of that railroad (i.e., not necessarily following the normal movement of that unit, across an arbitrary number of squares, which is, due to the size of railroads at most three squares); or a piece that would end a normal movement on a square with a railroad can continue by additionally moving along that railroad.

Winning the game

The game is won by the player that takes the general of the opponent. One must say check when one attacks the general of the opponent: failing to do so makes that one may not take the general in the following move.


This complicated war game appeared in a time when Europe was on the footsteps of World War II. There are no reasons to believe that it gained much popularity.
Written by Hans Bodlaender.
WWW page created: October 1, 1999.