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Courier chess

Courier chess is an old chess variant, played in Germany during the middle ages. The game disappeared almost everywhere at the end of the middle ages, but was played for a long time still in the famous German chess village Ströbeck. Even there, the game is not played anymore now. The game is described in Murray's history of chess, Gollons book, Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, and some other books on the history of chess. Gollon mentions this variant as "considered especially interesting by the author", i.e., by himself.

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The board and pieces

The game is played on a board with twelve rows and eight columns. The board is checkered, but there is no fixed rule on what color the left-hand-corner square must have.

Players have twenty-four pieces: twelve pawns, a king, a man (counsellor), a queen, a schleich (spy or smuggler, also translated as fool), two couriers, two bishops, two knights and two rooks.

Opening setup

The opening setup is as follows:

King f1; Queen g1; Rook a1, l1; Knight b1, k1; Bishop c1, j1; Courier d1, i1; Man e1; Schleich h1; Pawn a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2, g2, h2, i2, j2, k2, l2.

King f8; Queen g8; Rook a8, l8; Knight b8, k8; Bishop c8, j8; Courier d8, i8; Man e8; Schleich h8; Pawn a7, b7, c7, d7, e7, f7, g7, h7, i7, j7, k7, l7.

The game starts with moving three pawns and the queen in a particular way, such that the following position arrives:

King f8; Queen g6; Rook a8, l8; Knight b8, k8; Bishop c8, j8; Courier d8, i8; Man e8; Schleich h8; Pawn a5, b7, c7, d7, e7, f7, g5, h7, i7, j7, k7, l5. >

With this position, the game really begins.

Movement of pieces

The king, rook, and knight move as in the orthodox chess game.

The courier moves as the modern bishop.

The bishop (in courier chess) jumps two squares diagonally, so like the elephant in Shatranj (which undoubtly also is the origin of this type of move.)

The queen moves one square diagonally.

The man moves one square in an arbitrary direction, so like the king (but without being hindered by check etc.)

The schleich moves one square horizontally or vertically.

Pawns move as pawns in orthodox chess, but cannot make a double move from the second row. The promotion rule for this game is not known, but most likely, the rule is that a pawn promotes to queen (with the movement of a queen in courier chess) when arriving at the last rank.

Other rules

Object of the game is to mate the opponent. The rule on stalemate is not known; it is very likely that sometimes the game was played with stalemate a win for the stalemating player, sometimes the game was played with stalemate a draw.

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WWW page created: 1995 or 1996. Last modified: March 14, 2000.