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Life, the Universe and Everything

By João Pedro Neto

          "You're really not going to like it," observed Deep Thought.
          "Tell us!"
          "Alright," said Deep Thought. "The Answer to the Great Question..."
          "Of Life, the Universe and Everything..." said Deep Thought.
          "Is..." said Deep Thought, and paused.
          "Forty-two," said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.

[From the "The Hitch Hikers Guide to Galaxy"]

-- In memory of Douglas Adams (1952-2001)


          Life, the Universe and Everything is a Chess variant inspired by the works of the late Douglas Adams. It is a double-move variant with unusual pieces on a board of (of course) 42-squares.

Board and Setup

          Life, the Universe and Everything is played on a checkered board with seven ranks and six files. Each player starts with a royal piece (Arthur Dent for white, Zaphod Beeblebrox for black), a Life, a Universe, an Everything, a Ford Prefect, a Wowbagger and six Marvins on the board:

Thinktank Chess initial setup.
7 |:w:| e |:u:| z |:l:| f |
6 | m |:m:| m |:m:| m |:m:|
5 |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
4 |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
3 |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
2 | M |:M:| M |:M:| M |:M:|
1 |:W:| E |:U:| A |:L:| F |
    a   b   c   d   e   f
Arthur Dent (A): d1
Life (L): e1
Universe (U): c1
Everything (E): b1
Ford Prefect (F): f1
Wowbagger (W): a1
Marvins (M): a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2
Zaphod Beeblebrox (Z): d7
Life (L): e7
Universe (U): c7
Everything (E): b7
Ford Prefect (F): f7
Wowbagger (W): a7
Marvins (M): a6, b6, c6, d6, e6, f6

General Rules

          The rules of Life, the Universe and Everything are identical to those of FIDE Chess, except when noted otherwise. The goal of Life, the Universe and Everything is to capture your opponent's royal piece or to leave them with no legal moves. There is no checkmate.

          The biggest difference between Life, the Universe and Everything and FIDE Chess, is that each turn a player must move two pieces: but they must be different pieces. On the first (and only on the first) move, white only moves one piece.

The Pieces and their Movements

          Unless otherwise noted, all pieces capture the same way that they move. Adjacent means diagonally or orthogonally adjacent.

Piece Description
Arthur Dent
Zaphod Beeblebrox
The Arthur Dent (A) or Zaphad Beeblebrox (Z) moves and captures as an Orthodox Chess King. Since victory is capture of the opposing royal piece (as opposed to checkmate), these royal pieces, however, may move adjacent to an enemy royal pieces.
The Life (L) may transmit movement and capturing powers from any adjacent piece of either colour, to itself or any adjacent friendly piece. However, a player cannot move opponent's pieces.

  • Life may choose which power to transmit between two or more different available powers.
  • Once a piece separates from Life, it does not retain any transmited power.
  • Life does not transmit the royal status of Arthur Dent or Zaphod Beeblebrox.
  • Life does not transmit the iteration ability of the Everything.
  • Life does not transmit the switching powers of the Universe.
  • Life only moves/captures if it transmits the power to itself, so one or more Life pieces alone cannot move or capture.
  • The act of transmission is not a move.
  • The act of transmission does not remove the power from the original piece.
The Universe (U), doesn't capture, but moves either like a FIDE King, or by changing positions with any non-royal piece of either colour. Swap moves cannot repeat the last board position.

  • If the Universe at last (first) rank swaps with a friendly (enemy) Marvin, this Marvin is promoted. The promotion is decided by the player that makes the swap.
The Everything (E) can move with the iterated power of any adjacent piece (of either colour).

  • When you iterate a Ford Prefect, you get a Chess Bishop.
  • When you iterate a Wowbagger, you get a Chess Rook.
  • When you iterate Arthur or Zaphod, you get a Chess Queen.
  • When you iterate a Universe, you get a non-capturing Chess Queen.
  • When you iterate a Marvin, the piece may move in the Marvin's forward direction like a noncapturing Rook, or capture an unbroken chain of enemy pieces in the Marvin's diagonally forward direction.
  • Life and Everything have no effect on each other...
Ford Prefect
Ford Prefect (F) is the Ferz, which moves and captures one square diagonally.
The Wowbagger (W) is the Wazir, which moves and captures one square orthogonally.
The Marvin (M) is the FIDE Pawn, which moves forward one, and captures one square diagonally forward. It does not have an initial double-move (and thus no en passant capture). Upon reaching the back rank they may promote to any non-royal piece.

Other Rules

          The above rules were numbered 1. through 6. in the original manuscript before a meddling editor got at them. The remaining rules were as follows:

7. There is no rule 8.

8. Rule 7 is wrong!

7. No, I'm not!

8. Oh yes you're are!

9. Both you of: SHUT UP!

Computer Play

          An implementation of Life, the Universe and Everything has been written for Zillions of Games. You can download it here:

The author really wants to acknowledge Bill Taylor for all the play testing and his insightful suggestions which greatly improved this game
Written by João Pedro Neto. HTML conversion by Peter Aronson.
WWW page created: March 19th, 2002.