The Chess Variant Pages

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Ribbon Boards

I have recently made some checkered Chess variant boards out of Christmas ribbons. The ribbon is 2.5 inches wide and made of acrylic. There is a felt surface on one side and a smooth plastic-like surface on the other. I made the boards by weaving different-colored strips of ribbon, stapling ribbons together along the edges of the board, then cutting off excess ribbon with scissors. For the time being, I have no photographs, since I don't have a camera.

I made two boards for myself. One was an 8x8 3-color board for Cavalier Chess. The other was a 12x12 2-color board. I chose the size 12x12, because it was as large as I would ever want for any Chess variant, and it can be folded into smaller sizes. One of the nice things about a ribbon board is that the natural places for it to fold are along the borders between ranks and files. This is because this will be a border between two separate ribbons. With the addition of some strips of a third color, the 12x12 board can be used for Omega Chess or even Grand Cavalier Chess. For the former, the strips cover unused spaces on the 12x12 board. For the latter, they are interwoven into the 10x10 center of the board, and the sides are folded in.

While a 12x12 board can be folded into various sizes, the one drawback of folding it is that this introduces some unevenness around the edges of the board. Some edge and corner spaces will be slightly elevated and tilted. But in tests I did with light, full-size, felt-bottom pieces, the pieces did remain standing, even on the corner spaces. So it's only a slight inconvenience. But if this does bother you enough, you can always make boards for any smaller size you desire. The materials are inexpensive, and a new board can be made in an hour or two.

Tools and Materials

Wide Christmas ribbons of the same width but in different colors. 2.5 inches seems to be a standard width. I used the colors red, green, and white, since these are the standard Christmas colors and so are the easiest colors to find Christmas ribbons in.

Stapler and many extra staples. I used a mini stapler that I bought in a dollar store, but a full-size stapler should also do.

Scissors. The scissors that worked best for me were a pair of craft scissors with teeth, but regular scissors will also cut ribbon.

Yard stick, meter stick, or measuring tape.

Paper weight. A measuring tape can double as a paper weight.

A table with enough space for the full board. If you must work with a smaller space, you can fold strips while working. That's what I did, and it worked out fine. But it is still best if your workspace is at least wide enough.

[Optional] Sewing Machine

How To Make a Two-Color Checkered Board

Decide on the dimensions of the board you want to make, then cut as many strips as you need for the board. One color will be used for all the ranks, and the other color for all the files. Your number of ranks and files will determine how many strips of each color you need to cut. Cut each strip longer than you will actually need it. A space longer than you need should be good enough to spare you the need to extend any strips. Once you're finished, you'll be able to trim off any excess length.

Take a strip of each color and cross them perpendicularly to each other near one end of each ribbon, such that they fully overlap. Make sure that the felt side is on the top of each ribbon. Make sure that they are at right angles to each other. You can do this with something that you know to be at right angles already, such as a business card. Place it in the corner between the two ribbons and make sure it is a good fit. Once you know that the ribbons are positioned correctly, press down on them to hold them in place, then staple them along what will be the edges of the board. Use two staples on each edge. Since this first space will be a corner space, staple both of the outside edges.

Going along one of the two strips, continue to place strips of the other color on or under it, running parallel to the strip you already stapled to it. They should all be felt-side up. Alternate between over and under. Before stapling each new strip, make sure that it runs parallel and adjacent to its neighbor, that it is at a right angle to the strip you'll be stapling it to, and it is on top if its neighbor was under and vice versa. Until you get to the last strip, use two staples for each new ribbon, placing them along what will be one edge of the board. When you get to the end strip, use four staples, two on each side of a corner.

Now that you have all the strips of one color stapled to a single strip of the other color, weave the remaining strips of the other color into them. All should be felt-side up. Be sure to alternate which colors go on top for each new strip. As well as you can, make sure each new strip runs parallel and adjacent to its neighbor and is at a right angle to the strips it will be stapled to. It is most important to make sure of this at both ends before stapling. Once you are ready, place a paper weight on one end, press down on the other end, and staple it. Then remove the paper weight, press down, and staple.

Once you get to the last strip of your board, staple it along its ends first, as you have been doing for previous strips. Then staple it to all the strips it intersects along the remaining unstapled edge of the board.

Once the board is all stapled together, trim off any excess length of ribbon along the edges of the board.

If you have a sewing machine and know how to use it, you may continue by sewing the edges of the board and then removing all the staples. This will allow you to place it on a carpet without any staples getting caught. But you don't have to do this last step, and I haven't done it myself. If you don't complete this last step, avoid placing the board directly on carpets and rugs. I have a giant plastic checker board, thinner than a tablecloth, that I can place on the carpet before placing the ribbon board on it. It is a light, folding board that I picked up at a dollar store.

How to Make a Cavalier Chess Board

Cavalier Chess is played on a three-color board. Following the instructions given above, replace one of the colors with two. For example, if you would normally use white and green for a two color board, use red and green for the dark squares instead of just green. Continue to use white for all the light squares. Cut half as many green strips as you would normally need, and cut an equal number of red strips. If you initially need an odd number, then cut one more strip of one of the two colors. Use the red and green strips just as you would the green strips, but also be sure to alternate between them.


While making my 12x12 board, I found out that some of the white strips weren't long enough, but only after they were all stapled in. So that I wouldn't have to start over, I cut some extensions and stapled them to the white strips underneath green spaces. I made sure both sides of each extension ran parallel to the sides of the strip I stapled it to. I trimmed off excess ribbon from the extensions and from the original strips, so that there would be no overlap except under the green spaces, where the overlap and stapling would be hidden.

Written by Fergus Duniho
WWW Page Created: 27 October 2004.