The Chess Variant Pages

This page is written by the game's inventor, Antoine Fourrière.

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Antoine Fourrière wrote on 2013-10-05 UTC
Preview/Ramblings:     Chess with Elephants, Cannons and Camels.

I have been trying for some years to come up with my own version of a Next Chess solution of the Shako/Eurasian Chess/Mir Chess family (that is, a family of games with no-nonsense pieces, featuring essentially Western Kings, Pawns, Rooks and Knights, as well as orthogonal Cannons and either Bishops, modern Elephants or both). I am now rejecting compound pieces such as the Can(n)on, the Murray Lion or the Falcon, which I find too strong, in favor of the modern Elephant, the WD - called here a Machine -, the Korean Cannon, the Korean Vao, the Camel and the Zebra. All these pieces are convergent, have orthogonal and diagonal symmetry, and - the Vao excepted - are roughly worth a Knight. I find the Elephant, the Cannon and the Camel, which also appear - the Cannon being Chinese - in Jean-Louis Cazaux's Tamerlane 2000/Perfect 12/Metamachy, more enticing than their "hippogonally symmetric" counterparts, although I am unwilling to completely do away with the latter. I want to include the 64 Orthochess squares within my original setup, but whenever I try to come up with a 14x8 or 16x8 version, the Queens, instead of exchanging themselves, keep rampaging the outer ranks, so 12x8 - or perhaps 13x8 - is the limit. I want the Vaos, the Camels and the Zebras to be unable to threaten a fork and an exchange before a few moves. I certainly don't want the Cannons to get exchanged soon. I also wish to make 19th century opening style fruitful, so I prefer KP vs. K to be a draw, which bars Pawn promotion to Queen, Rook or even Machine.

Hence this probable setup:

   +---+   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+   +---+
8  | j |   | c |:e:| r |:n:| b |:q:| k |:b:| n |:r:| e |:c:|   |:j:|
   +---+   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+   +---+
7          |:::| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:|   |
6          |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
5          |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
4          |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
3          |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
2          |   |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:::|
   +---+   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+   +---+
1  |:J:|   |:C:| E |:R:| N |:B:| Q |:K:| B |:N:| R |:E:| C |   | J |
   +---+   +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+   +---+
     w   x   y   z   a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j   k   l 

wherein the (Korean) Cannons and the Camels - represented by J/j - are initially unable to move, with two rules:
1) The first Elephant's move - say i1-g3 - turns the moving player's other Elephant and the Elephant facing that other Elephant - here, z1 and z8 - into Machines, the first Cannon's move turns the moving player's other Cannon and the Cannon facing that other Cannon into (Korean) Vaos, the first Camel's move turns the moving player's other Camel and the Camel facing that other Camel into Zebras. Thus each player gets one Elephant, one Machine, one Korean Cannon, one Korean Vao, one Camel and one Zebra.
2) A Pawn hitting the eighth row may only promote to an Elephant, promote to a Camel, but on a Camel's starting square - thus choosing the Camel's square color - or die while turning an enemy piece - often a Rook - into a Cannon. Thus the game will often feature extra Elephants, Camels or Cannons.

(A Cannon may hop to a Camel's square - why not? - but it may not hop over or capture a Cannon, though it may hop over or capture a Vao. Similarly, thanks to mirror symmetry, an Elephant is unable to capture an Elephant before promotion. Ditto for Camels - and Vaos.)

I am not completely satisfied with the game as it is, though. There may lack some rule which would introduce infrequently a strongish leaper such as the HFD or the Great Elephant/Silver Elephant. There may lack also an occasional Commoner and I would certainly prefer 12 Pawns. But burying the Cannons beside two Pawns and two pieces on the y and j files seems ugly. Besides, the Commoner - or weaker types such as the Gold/Silver/Copper General, the Wazir and the Ferz - tends to remain passive until the endgame. It is also slightly unfortunate that the players may get an Elephant and a Camel - and a Vao - of the same square color. And perhaps the game should start with three Cannons, only one of which would become diagonal. On the other hand, the game already features 100 squares, 48 pieces and 12 piece types.

I guess (basing myself on Dave McCooey's result about KBCamel vs. K being a win on 8x8 and H.G. Muller's hints about nx8 being essentially similar to 8x8) that KPP vs. K is a win if both Pawns are able to promote to an Elephant and a Camel, but if I'm wrong, perhaps a Pawn should also be permitted to promote to a Knight while changing all enemy non-King pieces - including Pawns - to Knights, something you're willing to do only against a bare King.

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