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Bird's chess

John Gollon, well known by chess variant enthousiasts for his book on chess variants, now unfortunately out of print, was working on a second book on chess variants. Also unfortunately, this second book was never published. Gollon has sent some materials from a draft of the book to Eric Greenwood (in 1976): the description given here is based on part of these writings by Gollon.

This game was invented by Henry Bird in 1874. Bird actually proposed several variants of the same idea: below you find the one that appeared in Gollon's manuscript. The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants mentions several other proposals. Bird published his ideas in the City of London Chess Magazine. This game is a predecessor of Capablanca's Chess; Capablanca probably was inspired by Bird's variant.


The game is played on a 10 by 8 board. Players have, in addition to the usual pieces, two additional pawns and an guard and equerry. The setup is as follows:

King f1; Queen e1; Guard d1; Equerry g1; Rook a1, j1; Knight b1, i1; Bishop c1, h1; Pawn a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2, g2, h2, i2, j2.

King f8; Queen e8; Guard d8; Equerry g8; Rook a8, j8; Knight b8, i8; Bishop c8, h8; Pawn a7, b7, c7, d7, e7, f7, g7, h7, i7, j7.

Another possible setup has the pieces of black in reverse to the pieces of white: in that setup, blacks queen is on the same row as the king, etc.

Movement of pieces

The guard has the combined moves of rook and knight. The equerry has the combined moves of bishop and knight. Pawns can promote to queen, guard, equerry, bishop, rook, or knight.

When castling, the king moves three squares in the direction of the rook, the rook jumps over the king to the adjacent square, so e.g., king to c1, rook to d1, etc.

Other rules are as in orthodox chess.


You can use some kind of Chess variant construction set that will let you make boards of different shapes and sizes. You might use a Rook and a Bishop from a larger Chess set to represent the Guard and Equerry, or you could buy specially made pieces.

Written by Hans Bodlaender, based upon material written by John Gollon, sent to Eric Greenwood in 1976, and sent to me by Eric in 1997, and some information from The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants.
WWW page created: September 1, 1997. Last modified: February 6, 2005.