The Chess Variant Pages

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This page is written by the game's inventor, Charles Gilman.


Anglojewish Chess was a variant on a highly conventional board of hexagons forming a larger hexagon. Its distinguishing feature was the use of Curved hex linepieces, which I named based on a Jewish theme. One of the names has changed since. This inspired the Jewish army in Armies of Faith 2. That variant's pieces, except for the Fortnight which was also dropped in the progression to Armies of Faith 3, became the basis of both players' armies in Star of David 2 Level Chess, a variant on two triangular levels pointing in opposite directons. This inspired me to wonder about a variant using a star-shaped 2d hex board, and as the title suggests, here is that variant.

The board is a single six-pointed star, and as such perhaps a less obvious Star of David than the 3d variant, which suggests the internal lines. Nevertheless it is the best that can be managed in 2d. 3 Rabbis were sufficient to cover one level in AOF2 and AOF3, but the number was doubled to 6 to cover both levels in the all-Jewish SD2L. One SD2L subvariant replaced the Fortnight with a single unbound Cohen, but the other substituted the Sling, which shares the Rabbi's binding, and so had 6 of these as well. Returning to one level allows a reversion to 3 Rabbis, with the same number of Slings. This avoids the need to enlarge the horizontal dimensions even with the vertical one halved. This halves the 74-cell central Drum to 37 cells, while retaining the 6 corner bits.

The pieces included the basic set from basic AJ Chess, plus those additional SD2L pieces still meaningful on a 2d hex board. Relative to SD2L this meant having the Finch, and both Cohen and Sling. It also meant losing the King (which would have clashed with the General anyway), Knight, and Pawn. For a Pawn substitute suiting a star-shaped 2d board I settled on a modified Wellisch-orientation Point funnelling into the central file. Brokers and strictly Glinski-orientation Points could have run out of moves prematurely. I also found room for only a single Rook.


This board's geometry turns on its central file, the orthogonal connecting the Rook starting cells. Each player has their own ranks, defined as folded at the central file to go half-forward in both directions. No piece can move from an outer 6-cell triangle to another without going through the central triangle, either in successive moves (the only option for Sennights) or in the same move. Paradoxically each player's ranks apply to the entire enemy camp but not really to the triangular corners in its own.


The POINT moves one rank forward orthogonally. This means along either its file or the half-forward orthogonal toward the central file. The latter move prevents the outer Points getting stuck in their corners. Once a Point reaches the central file it can move only along that file. There are 9 Points aside, the two outermost being there to make the outermost six files less of a refuge than would otherwise be the case. Note that a threat between Points is mutual if and only if they are on the same file.
The ROOK moves any distance through empty intermediate cells along any orthogonal. It is the same piece as on rectilinear boards. There is one Rook aside.
The FINCH makes up to 4 orthogonal steps through empty cells, turning either 60° left at each intermediate cell or 60° right at each intermediate cell. As with the Rose of square-cell variants, a move never mixes left and right turns. There are two Finches aside. The Finch is named in honour of Finchley, a major locality within the Barnet borough where AJ Chess is set, as well as being a bird by analogy with Rook.
The RABBI makes up to 5 steps along hex diagonals through empty cells, again turning either 60° left at each intermediate cell or 60° right at each intermediate cell. In this variant I up the steps from the usual 4 to 5 to allow Rabbis to pass indirectly from, for example, the General and Cohen array cells of the same cell, which they are barred from doing in a single step. Each player has one Rabbi bound to cells dividing by 3 with remainder 2 (e.g. 14, 23, 32, 41, 44), one to cells with remainder 1 (e.g. 13, 31, 34, 43), and one to cells with remainder 0 (e.g. 12, 21, 24, 42). The Rabbi is of course the most widely-known Jewish religious title.
The SLING moves any distance straight along root-3, in this case hex, diagonals. All intermediate cells must be empty except when capturing, which requires exactly one intervening piece, which may be of either army and is not itself captured. Each Sling is bound to one in three cells. Each player has one Sling bound to cells dividing by 3 with remainder 2, one to cells with remainder 1, and one to cells with remainder 0. The name is after a weapon as weak compared to the Arrow as that is compared to the Cannon, those being its root-2 diagonal and orthogonal counterparts.
The SENNIGHT is the root-7 oblique leaper. It moves to the closest cells that cannot be reached from the same start in a single Finch or Rabbi move, and having reached such a cell, goes no further in that move. It cannot be blocked. There are two Finches aside. The name means a seven-day week, which Jews were first to give a major religious significance. Until Christianity became the Roman Empire's official religion, ethnic Jews were the main group observing such a week in Europe. Its use for a root-7 leaper puns on the 7 and the more familiar Knight piece.
The COHEN or KOHEN combines the Finch and Rabbi moves. There is one Cohen aside. Its name is a rank in the historic Jewish priesthood. The former spelling is the more familar, but the latter is sometimes used for the ancient priest to distinguish from the surname widespread in modern Jewish society. For knowledge of the ancient meaning I am indebted to Leo Rosten's books on language.
The Jewish GENERAL (Ge) moves one square orthogonally only (to be consistent with shortening other ranges) and must be kept out of check. This piece also occurs in the Wellisch hex variant. The name is of course a pun on "Jewelled General", the name for the King in Shogi, but the piece is really more akin to the General in Xiang Qi. I have always imagined a Staunton-style purpose-built General piece as a King minus its Christian cross (a Grandduke would substitute a saltire and an Emperor a cross of eight limbs).


All Points except the centre one have an optional double-step noncapturing move along their file, but not 2 files inwards. They can be captured En Passant by an enemy Point if one is suitably placed on the next file out, but not the same file. The question of centre Points capturing En Passant never arises as they never leave that file.

There is no Castling.

A Point that can no longer move as a Point must be promoted to a stronger capturable array piece - usually, I suspect, to Cohen or Rook. There may be circumstances where underpromotion is worthwhile to prevent stalemate, and a Sennight or even a Sling may occasionally pose a more immediate threat than a Curved linepiece.

Check, Checkmate, and Stalemate are as usual.


Piece numbers just exceed those of Shogi, but can be represented fairly simply by 2 distinguishable FIDE sets (say by size). The most obvious substitution is large King/Rook as themselves, small Rook as Cohen, large Queen/Bishops as Rabbis, small Queen/Bishops as Slings, large Knights as Finches, small Knights as Sennights, and a mixture of Pawns as Points. One option for the last would be to use all the large Pawns, and one small one for the central Point, marking out its inability to leave its rank until promoted. The spare Rooks can be used for a second Rook/Cohen by promotion, or inverted to improvise a third piece of some other type.

Note that although each Cohen's Finch starts En Prise to an enemy Sling it is also guarded by the Cohen itself, which the exchange will bring into a position from which it can break camp. Note also the results of moving either Sennight to the destination two files in. It may then threaten three enemy Points but two are guarded by the piece directly behind them and the enemy can both guard the third with a Finch and threaten the Sennight where it is in a single move.

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By Charles Gilman.
Web page created: 2008-06-07. Web page last updated: 2016-03-15