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Shifting Chess

A chess variant created by David Howe.


This variation was inspired by those little puzzles with the shifting plastic squares, where you must relocate all the squares to their proper positions. My goal here was to create a chess variant that allowed players to shift the chess squares in a similar manner, while keeping the game as close to orthodox chess as possible. Unfortunately, I was unable to come up with a design for 15 2x2 sectors (i.e. just one blank area), and have the game remain balanced for both black and white.

The following board is the result, with corresponding rules (mostly regarding how to shift the squares). Having eight squares missing from the board makes for a rather cramped board. But, hopefully, the ability to shift areas of the board will make up for the reduced mobility of the pieces.


  • Rules are as in orthodox chess, with the following exceptions:
  • The board is split up into 14 2x2 sectors (see diagram).
  • Initial piece positions are as in orthodox chess.
  • For a player's turn, a sector (along with all the pieces on it) may be moved, instead of a normal piece move.
  • A sector may be moved by a player only if that player owns a majority of pieces on that sector. Sectors with the same number of white and black pieces cannot be moved.
  • A sector moves by shifting into an adjacent area that is unoccupied by a sector. A sector must shift either 2 or 4 squares.
  • A sector may never shift outside of the perimeter of the 8x8 board.
  • The initial two-square move for pawns holds for any pawn on the first or second row (even if the pawn has moved before).
  • Pawns promote on the eighth row, even if the pawn attains the row via a sector shift.
  • Areas that have no sector present are impassable. No piece may occupy or move across such an area (except via a sector shift).


Move notation for shifting sectors:

   IV |   |   |   |   |
      +---+---+---+---+  Shifting sector x to the left would be
  III |   |  <- x |   |  written as:
   II |   |   |   |   |     CIII-BIII
    I |   |   |   |   |
        A   B   C   D


The board should be relatively easy to make. Take a cheap, cardboard chess board, use an exacto knife and a straight edge to cut the board up into 16 2x2 squares, and put aside two of the 2x2 squares. Placing the squares on a smooth surface is recommended for optimum ease when shifting.

Written by David Howe.
WWW page created: October 7, 1997.