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It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2010-11-05
 By Steven  Streetman. Spartan Chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Steven Streetman wrote on 2010-12-12 UTC
Spartan Chess Set

For those who have asked about a traditional chess set to play Spartan Chess the Spartan pieces are in development and I am estimating the pieces will be available in a couple of months. I am planning on making the pieces available through a outfit like

Here are some sketches:

Steven Streetman wrote on 2010-12-12 UTC
From my studies I have posted an article on Spartan government on the Spartan Chess web site. Here is a portion of the article. You may view the complete article here: Spartan Government.

Spartan Government

A man argued that Sparta should set up a democracy.
--Begin with your own family.
----Lykurgus, King of Sparta

Spartan government is the strangest I've studied. It had elements of monarchy, aristocracy, oligarchy, democracy, a republic and the 1950s TV game show 'Queen for a Day'. It has, nevertheless been among the most stable and long lived governments the world has ever known.

MONARCHY - The Spartan Kings
---Hereditary rule by Kings

Sparta had two Kings, a 'dynarchy' for you linguists. The point of having two Kings was stability. Two Kings prevented problems that so often arose in monarchies when 'the only' King died, anarchy ensued and a civil war was held to determine the next King.

Spartan Kings ascended to the thrown from two Royal families, the Agid and Eurypantid. These families were not allowed to intermarry and could have been the stuff of a Spartan Romeo and Juliet story if there had been romance and literature in Sparta.

The Kings held military, political, and religious power. They led and trained the army (sort of) held seats on the Council (an otherwise elected and legislative body) and performed various religious and ceremonial duties. I imagine the ceremonial duties were ones akin to presiding over a contemporary 'arbor day ceremony,' but one where some poor small animal was slaughtered and its entrails examined.

Despite having a Monarchy, Spartan politics was, as you will see, dominated by bureaucracy. When things became just too deliberative, too mired in political red tape, about the only thing a King could to do unilaterally and by decree was assemble his 300 man bodyguard and march off to places like Thermopylae and then, very gloriously, die.

Spartan Kings were not very powerful, sort of like today's Queen of England.

View the rest of the article here: Spartan Government.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2010-12-21 UTC
I have bought two (cheap) identical wooden chess sets, with the intension to convert it to a Spartan Chess set. What I had in mind looks a bit like what you propose here, with a few small differences.

Steven Streetman wrote on 2010-12-22 UTC
H.G. I am very interested in seeing what you come up with in the way of a Spartan Chess set.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2010-12-23 UTC

The similarity with your design is that I also use a ridge on the helmet of some of the Spartan pieces. The design philosophy is based on universality of pieces amongst variants, however. So the King, being a orthodox FIDE King, is represented by an ordinary Staunton King. Similaly, the Warlord, having the same moves as the Archbishop of Capablanca Chess, uses the Staunton representation for this piece that has become more or less standard.

Arcbishops and Kings crowned with a cross might not fit very well with the context of Sparta, but neither do Bishops or crosses fit with the Persians. And I certainly did not want to make new representations for familiar pieces. So I decided to ignore such historic friction. Naming the pieces different is OK, but i want them tolook as famliar as possible.

For this reason I represented the General as a Rook with a King's cross, as it is, after all, a 'Crowned Rook'. The Lieutenants move Bishop-like (mostly diagonally), and the Captains Rook-like (orthogonally), so I have given them representations in which the Rook and Bishop are still recognozable. The rook has acquired a roof (for which I used the top of a Staunton Bishop) to distingush Captain from orthodox Rook, and the clipped bishop was 'Spartanized' by putting a ridge on its head, like was done to convert Pawns to Hoplites.

A photograph of the set (which has king height 64 mm):

(not yet finshed; I stil have to paint some of the pieces, and not all Pawns are converted toHoplites yet.)

Steven Streetman wrote on 2010-12-30 UTC
HG ... Your set looks great. The crests on the four finished hoplites on the left make me smile. This crafting is something I am not cut out for or I might have made my own set. Nice work! I have departed from the universal pieces approach to designing the Spartan pieces due to some practical experience I have had. There is a lot to be said for this approach and it's certainly what I am now using when playing face-to-face. I use pieces from a Capablanca set for the Spartans and thus use the Archbishop for the Warlord and either the Queen or Chancellor for the General depending on the preferences of who is playing. We play most weeks on Saturday night at a Game store here in San Diego. The game is set up at the front counter so there are quite a few folks that walk by and look. These people assume its orthodox chess and with a few of the right pieces removed there would be no way to tell that we were playing something different. There is quite a bit of confusion and for many this confusion is a turn-off. When they have looked at the game for several minutes and asked a question like, for example, Why is the black King still in check? The first thing I must explain is that we are not playing orthodox chess. That takes some doing and often starts the whole conversation off on the wrong foot. It seems to me they feel betrayed or ignorant but I am not sure. What I do know is that the reaction is not positive. So for the masses that would not know an Archbishop or a Chancellor if they saw them, one of my design goals is at-a-glance clarity and the clarity I am want is this: I want anyone who walks up and glances at the board to realize its not orthodox chess no matter how many pieces there are on the board. Hence I have departed from universality and there is a downside to this but it is, for me, a trade off. I suppose it's of a marketing decision of a sort rather than a chess decision. So, are you planning on playing against someone with your new Spartan Chess set?

H. G. Muller wrote on 2010-12-30 UTC

I understand your aim, but I wonder if the Spartan piece design you presented here can achieve it. It will be very hard to break people's preconception that you are playing normal Chess. They will always try to map whatever pieces you have on orthodox pieces, no matter how strange they are. If you have many of them they will assume they are normal Pawns, even if they were as different from Staunton Pawns as draughts chips.

I would have expected them to perceive it as unusual that there are two black Kings, though. If not, when they ask why you leave your King in check, the answer 'because even if he takes it I still have another one' (pointing out the other one) should satisfactorily explain it! :-)))

I would expect it to work better when you would put a sign explaining the Spartan pieces next to the board (with pictures of them,and how they move), below the text 'Spartan Pieces' in large lettering. (There is no need to fully explain the rules; the only purpose is tomake it clear at a glance that pieces are involved that move differently.) Then they will realize it is a variant before they actually look at the board position, as the sign attracts more attention. I think that should prevent them from feeling tricked. Of course the majority of Chess players will still pull down a curtain in front of their face as soon as they are realizing they are looking at a variant, so they might never take a look at the board at all. But it is pointless to target this group anyway.

I hardly ever play Chess myself. (Why would I, if I can delegate it to my computer?)The past 25 years I have done maybe 3 games of normal Chess, 2 games of the unspeakable 10x8 variant on a server that crashed before the game ended, and some 20 games of Superchess in the Dutch championship for that. (Because I worked together with the organizer / inventor of that in making Fairy-Max play it, I felt that I could not refuse to participate.) And 2 games of Shogi against a computer at moron level in the plane backfrom Japan. So I made the pieces mainly for display. But who knows...? Too bad San Diego is a long way from Amsterdam. (Although I did visit it once, attending a physics conference.)

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-01-04 UTC
I am broadcasting live Spartan Chess comp-comp games now at Currently ChessV is playing blitz games against Fairy-Max there. Some other engines are in the making. The idea is to have a tournament once they are finished and tested.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-01-05 UTC
I did some 4-men tablebase calculations to confirm what I already suspected: K+W or K+G each beat both K+B and K+N. K+R vs K+C is usually draw. K+K can draw K+Q, if the two Kings can connect before the Queen can fork them. I will do some 5-men later.

Steven Streetman wrote on 2011-01-06 UTC
RE: Broadcasting live Spartan Chess comp-comp games Very nice! The crowned rook is an improved, I think, chess-generalized representation for the General. The banner artwork, 'Thermopilae Marathon' is very appropriate depicting the spear-equipped Spartans, bathed in arrows, facing the Persian infantry. From your description: 'The Spartans start with two Kings, and lose when they leave all their Kings in check.' What a succinct and accurate way to say this. Wish I had thought of it. I am going to have to incorporate this into the next version of the rules :) If I understand what is going on Fairy-Max is playing Spartan and ChessV is playing Persian and Fairy-Max is winning, vary roughly, 2 games to 1. If this understanding is correct I imagine that you will be reversing sides at some point, having Fairy-Max playing the Spartans?

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-01-06 UTC
The matches are played with alternating colors. I have not analyzed yet how the Persians are doing relative to the Spartans. Now I switched to Playing ChessV against Catalyst, the first version of an engine made by Richard Albert. (He still has to implement a hash table, and work on the evaluation.) I hope to have more engines soon. There are two people working on one (not counting myself).

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-02-07 UTC
I have now started the 'official' tournament. Seven engines are participating:

1. Catalyst       (Richard Albert)
2. ChessV         (Gregory strong)
3. Fairy-Max 4.8R (H.G.Muller)
4. Nebiyu 1.1     (Daniel Shawul)
5. Oberon 0.04    (Pawel Koziol)
6. Sjaak 92       (Evert Glebbeek)
7. Spartacus 0.23 (H.G.Muller)

The games are broadcasted live at 

The first qualifier cycle has completed. Spartacus and Nebiyu faced 6-fold
time-odds in this cycle. This is needed to make their games with the others more
interesting and relevant. The results were:

Cross table, sorted by score percentage, Buchholz, SB

                              Sp Ne Ob Fa Ch Sj Ca
 1. Spartacus 0.23 / 6        ## =1 10 =1 11 01 11   75%   9.0 ( 66.0,  47.0)
 2. Nebiyu 1.1 / 6            =0 ## 11 11 0= 11 11   75%   9.0 ( 66.0,  44.3)
 3. Oberon                    01 00 ## 01 10 01 11   50%   6.0 ( 72.0,  28.0)
 4. Fairy-Max  4.8R           =0 00 10 ## 11 0= 11   50%   6.0 ( 72.0,  26.3)
 5. ChessV (Spartan)          00 1= 01 00 ## 11 10   46%   5.5 ( 73.0,  31.5)
 6. Sjaak 92                  10 00 10 1= 00 ## 11   46%   5.5 ( 73.0,  26.0)
 7. Catalyst 3                00 00 00 00 01 00 ##    8%   1.0 ( 82.0,   5.5)

After the second (last) qualifier cycle:

Cross table, sorted by score percentage, Buchholz, SB

                       Spar Nebi Sjaa Fair Ober Ches Cata
 1. Spartacus 0.23 / 6 #### =101 0111 =110 10=1 1111 1110   73%  17.5 (266.0, 187.0)
 2. Nebiyu 1.1 / 6     =010 #### 11=0 1111 1110 0=10 1111   69%  16.5 (270.0, 176.5)
 3. Sjaak 92           1000 00=1 #### 1=10 1011 0011 1101   54%  13.0 (284.0, 139.8)
 4. Fairy-Max  4.8R    =001 0000 0=01 #### 10=1 11=1 1110   50%  12.0 (288.0, 118.8)
 5. Oberon             01=0 0001 0100 01=0 #### 10=1 1111   48%  11.5 (290.0, 116.5)
 6. ChessV (Spartan)   0000 1=01 1100 00=0 01=0 #### 1000   31%   7.5 (306.0,  96.5)
 7. Catalyst 3         0001 0000 0010 0001 0000 0111 ####   25%   6.0 (312.0,  65.0)

Spartacus, Nebiyu, Sjaak and Fairy-Max went to the play-offs, which was run
without time odds. The final result (keeping the results of the qualifier) was:

Cross table, sorted by score percentage, Buchholz, SB

                              Spa Neb Sja Fai Obe Che Cat
 1. Spartacus 0.23            ### =10 011 =11 10= 111 111
                              ### 111 111 010 1   1   0     75%  22.5 (391.0, 289.8)

 2. Nebiyu 1.1                =01 ### 11= 111 111 0=1 111
                              000 ### 0=1 111 0   0   1     67%  20.0 (406.0, 243.5)

 3. Sjaak 92                  100 00= ### 1=1 101 001 110
                              000 1=0 ### 011 1   1   1     52%  15.5 (433.0, 188.5)

 4. Fairy-Max  4.8R           =00 000 0=0 ### 10= 11= 111
                              101 000 100 ### 1   1   0     43%  13.0 (448.0, 152.5)

 5. Oberon                    01= 000 010 01= ### 10= 111
                              0   1   0   0   ### 1   1     48%  11.5 (338.0, 131.5)

 6. ChessV (Spartan)          000 1=0 110 00= 01= ### 100
                              0   1   0   0   0   ### 0     31%   7.5 (354.0, 110.8)

 7. Catalyst 3                000 000 001 000 000 011 ###
                              1   0   0   1   0   1   ###   25%   6.0 (360.0,  73.5)

So Spartacus is the Spartan-Chess computer champion of 2011!
A PGN file with all games can be downloaded from .

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-02-12 UTC
I did run some 5-men Spartan end-games with my tablebase generator, and can confirm that the following endgames are all 'generally won' to white: moves to conversion: max typ K+Q+B vs K+W 44 10 K+Q+N vs K+W 45 10 K+Q+B vs K+G 33 18 K+Q+N vs K+G 39 18 'Generally won' means that with white to move it is virtually always won, except for the ~1% of cases where the initial position happens to be a fork or skewer against your K+Q. With black to move these are only won in about 35% of the cases, because in the remaining 65% the powerful black defender (W or G) will be able to capture either King or Queen in the initial position. The first two end-games can already be found on this site (calculate by McCooey, where Warlord is called Pegasus), those with the General are new.

Steven Streetman wrote on 2011-02-15 UTC
Here is the record of the shortest Spartan Chess game played face-to-face (that I know of).

1. c4 ... Hac5
2. b3 ... Hxc4
3. bxc4 ... Hc5
4. d3 ... Lf6
5. Na3 ... Le5
6. Nf3 ... Lc3#

Final Position:

By the way...
I consider c4, the first move played by the Persian in this losing game,
to be the strongest first move and consider e4, the most common in
orthodox chess, to be among the weakest. Some analysis to follow.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-02-15 UTC
Very nice. It shows the power of a jump. A diagonal slider can seldomly do this (except in fool's mate), but here it does not matter that d2 is defended several times. Blocking the check is not possible. I guess tactical motifs like this are what makes a pair of Lieutenants about equivalent to a Bishop pair. Something that much surprised me. Apparently the single non-blockable 2-square jump has nearly the same value as all distant moves of a slider, which can be blocked.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-02-18 UTC
There are some characters on this page that don't look right in either UTF-8 or Latin-1. In UTF-8, they show up as diamonds with question marks, and in Latin-1, they don't make sense. When you can, please update these characters to whatever they should be in UTF-8.

Steven Streetman wrote on 2011-02-18 UTC
Gah! I see what you mean. They were not like this at one point, now they are. Thanks for pointing it out. I will get right on it. Hmmm, sort of odd. I resubmitted the first section and all the offending characters were gone. When I resubmitted the second section, The Setup, the offending characters were back. It seems that what is not liked is '& nbsp;' (no space between & and nbsp;) which is used in HTML for padding spaces. I will figure a way to scrub this out of the submission. Scrubbing done. Still seems sort of odd. Is there a character or string of characters we use on this site for a non-breaking space?

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-02-18 UTC
It looks better now. It is strange that   should be causing any trouble.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-02-18 UTC
But look, it is. In my last message, I entered & amp;nbsp; without any space after the ampersand. It looked right in the preview, but it got transformed into an unknown character in the final version. This is something for David Howe to look into. [I'll look into it. -DH]

M Winther wrote on 2011-02-19 UTC
I have used & nbsp (with no space between & and n) as non-breaking space several times on this site. One can also use & #151 which is long dash (with no space between & and n), etc. Then it looks like this:   and this: — /Mats

Steven Streetman wrote on 2011-07-09 UTC
A few Spartan chess puzzles for your amusement and critique.
Shortly I will post their solutions or the refutation as it is easy to err on such puzzles.

Spartan pieces are labeled and move as follows:
h = Hoplite - moves 1 square diagonally and captures 1 forward
L = Lieutenant - leaps 1 or 2 squares diagonally, moves (no capture) 1 square horizontally
C = Captain - leaps 1 or 2 squares orthogonally
G = General - moves like a rook or King
W = Warlord - moves like a Knight or a Bishop
K = Spartan King - move exactly like an orthodox King

Puzzle #1
Black (Spartan) to move and mate in 3

Puzzle #2
Black (Spartan) to move and mate in 4

Puzzle #3
White (Persian) to move and mate in 2

Post your solution, comment or critique.

If you create a Spartan chess puzzle please post it and I will be glad to
post it to the official Spartan Chess website crediting you as its author.

Anonymous wrote on 2011-07-09 UTC
puzzle 1 f3-e3+ c1-b1 b5-b3+ b1-a1 e5-c3 mate

Anonymous wrote on 2011-07-09 UTC
puzzle 2 a5-a3+ a2-a3 b2-b1+ promotes if promote to RN, then a1-a2 b1-c3+ a2-a1 c3-a3 mate if promote to RK [aka: General], then mate.

Steven Streetman wrote on 2011-07-09 UTC
Mr. Anonymous ---------------------- puzzle 2 a5-a3+ a2-a3 b2-b1+ promotes if promote to RN, then a1-a2 b1-c3+ a2-a1 c3-a3 mate if promote to RK [aka: General], then mate. ---------------------- b2-b1 is not a correct Spartan Chess move. The hoplite, or Spartan pawn, moves diagonally and captures straight ahead. Since there is no enemy piece on b1 the hoplite cannot get to that square. Also there is no RN. There is the General=RK and the Warlord=BN. The solution is a bit trickier.

Steven Streetman wrote on 2011-07-14 UTC
Two more Spartan Chess puzzles.
The solutions will be posted separately in a day or so.

Spartan pieces are labeled and move as follows:
h = Hoplite - moves 1 square diagonally and captures 1 forward
L = Lieutenant - leaps 1 or 2 squares diagonally, moves (no capture) 1 square horizontally
C = Captain - leaps 1 or 2 squares orthogonally
G = General - moves like a rook or King
W = Warlord - moves like a Knight or a Bishop
K = Spartan King - move exactly like an orthodox King

Puzzle #4
Black (Spartan) to move and mate in 3

Puzzle #5
Black (Spartan) to move and mate in 2

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