Check out Chess with Different Armies, our featured variant for July, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Hans Bodlaender.

Pick-the-team chess

Many people think that chess is a simulation of warfare. However, it actually is a highly stilized form of `tag' by teams. There are two teams of players, and when a player tags a player of the other team, that player is out of the game. The team that first tags the captain of the other team wins.

Usually, the abstract form of tag called chess is played by two teams that are the same, and are also fixed at the start of the game. However, remember the team sports games we played as children? Then, two captains were chosen, and the captains got to choose the other members of the teams - alternatingly, the captains chose one player from those that were not yet assigned to a team.

Unfortunately, chess teams were never picked in this way and my skills in ball-sports were not so large, so I always had the experience to be among those that were chosen last ...

This game is my submission to the contest to design a large chess variant. First, I wanted to do something based on Ralph Betza's csipgs-chess, but after some pondering, I came upon this variant. There are a few possible variants thinkable of the implementation of the idea below - but let's take the variant below as submission for the contest.


The game is played on a ten by ten chessboard. The game starts with an empty chess board. The game has two phases. In the first phase, the pieces are picked. First, white chooses a piece. Then, black chooses two pieces. Then, white chooses two pieces, etc: white ends this phase with picking one piece. As soon as a piece is picked, it must be placed on the board, with the following rules: No piece may be moved until all pieces are placed.

In the second phase, white starts. Players move alternatingly a piece, like a normal game of chess (with fairy pieces.) The player that mates his opponents royal piece wins the game; stalemate, repetition of moves, etc., are as in chess.

The pieces

There are two versions of the game. In the first version, a list of pieces given here is used. In the second version, which is probably (even) more fun, lists of pieces created by the players are used.

Version One

There are fourty different pieces in this game:
  1. King. This piece is royal: it may not be placed in check; when mated, the opponent has won. It moves like a normal chess king.
  2. Royal knight. This piece is also royal: it may not be placed in check; when mated, the opponent has won. It moves like a knight.
  3. Queen.
  4. Rook.
  5. Knight.
  6. Bishop.
  7. Chinese Nightrider. This piece can make one or more moves like a chinese knight in the same direction. A chinese knight makes a normal knight move, but the first square passed over (orthogonally) must be empty.
  8. Pao. Make non-capturing moves like a rook, but must jump over exactly one piece to make a capture.
  9. Camel. Makes a 1,3-jump.
  10. Knight-camel. Piece that can move both as camel as as knight.
  11. Cardinal. Piece that moves like a bishop or a knight.
  12. Chancellor. Piece that moves like a rook or a knight.
  13. Ferz. Moves one diagonally.
  14. Wazir. Moves one orthogonally.
  15. Murray Lion. (See link.)
  16. Alfil. Jumps two diagonally.
  17. Knight-alfil: piece that can move as knight or as alfil.
  18. Dabbabah. Jumps two orthogonally.
  19. Blocking prince. Moves one square in an arbitrary direction, but cannot take and cannot be taken.
  20. Grasshopper. (See link.) Moves on queenlines to first square after the first piece it jumps across.
  21. Pawn.
  22. Chinese Pawn. Moves and takes one square straight forward.
  23. Berolina Pawn. Makes non-capturing moves one square diagonally forwards, and capturing moves one square straight forwards.
  24. fF-Pawn. Moves and takes one square diagonally forwards.
  25. Mecklenberg Pawn. Like pawn, but promotes on 8th row.
  26. Mecklenberg Chinese Pawn. Like chinese pawn, but promotes on 8th row.
  27. Mechlenberg Berolina Pawn. Like berolina pawn, but promotes on 8th row.
  28. Mecklenberg fF-pawn. Like fF-pawn, but promotes on 8th row.
  29. Defending pawn. Moves like pawn, but has in addition {\em defense move}: a non-capturing move one or more squares straight backwards (like non-capturing rook, but only backwards.)
  30. Defending Chinese pawn. Like Chinese pawn, with the same defense move like a defending pawn, i.e., it also can make a non-capturing rooklike move in backwards direction.
  31. Defending Berolina pawn. Like Berolina pawn with defense move.
  32. Defending fF-pawn. Like fF-pawn with defense move.
  33. Japanese spear. Moves like rook, but only forwards: not vertically and not backwards.
  34. Arabic spear. Can make a capturing move like a bishop but only forwards, and a non-capturing move like a rook, but also only forwards.
  35. Berolina spear. Can make a capturing move like a rook but only forwards, and a non-capturing move like a bishop, but also only forwards.
  36. Diagonal spear. Moves like bishop, but only forwards.
  37. Fish pawn. Like a pawn, but can also make capturing or non-capturing move one square backwards.
  38. Chinese fish pawn. Like a Chinese pawn, but can also
  39. Berolina fish pawn. Like a Berolina pawn, but can also make capturing or non-capturing move one square backwards.
  40. fF-fish pawn. Like a fF-pawn, but can make capturing or non-capturing move one square backwards.
Pawns that are on the first or second row can make a non-capturing double or triple step, and pawns that are on the third row can make a non-capturing double step. In such a case, the pawn goes two or three steps in the direction it can make non-capturing moves. So, a white pawn on b1 can make a non-capturing move to b2, b3, or b4: it can move to b3 if b2 is empty, and it can move to b4 if b2 and b3 are empty. Assuming all intervening squares are empty, a white berolina pawn on e2 can make a non-capturing move to d3, c4, b5, f3, g4, or h5, and a white chinese pawn on e3 can make non-capturing moves to d4, c5, f4, or g5. When they reach the last row, a pawn can promote to any of the pieces in this game, except any of the royal pieces (king or royal knight), or any type of pawn.

When a spear reaches the last row, it cannot be moved anymore, and becomes (pretty) useless. A spear does not promote.

There is no castling.

Variant two

Every player makes a list of twenty pieces, with the following conditions: The game is played with all pieces of both lists. (Note that a player can choose pieces from his own list and from the list of the opponent.) It is recommended to play with this set of pieces two games: each player plays white in one and black in the other.


Inspiration for this variant came from many different games, including csipgs-chess, variants where one selects oneselves the army at the start of the game using a point-system, Different Augmenting Knights, and several others. The fF is in Ralph Betza's notation for pieces.


Fourty different pieces is probably too much. Perhaps, the game would be better with kings and pawns already fixed, played on an 8 by 8 board, with 14 additional pieces to choose from. The game has not yet been tested. I expect that some games can be over quickly: it seems not hard to make fatal errors in the opening setup.

I first wanted to use a knightrider, but the problem is that these can give unpleasant forms of check too early in the game.

The rules make that the setups will usually have the weaker types of pieces in the front, and the stronger pieces on the back row.

The game (version 1) is implementable in Zillions, although it'll be lots of work with the fourty different types of pieces :-(.


Of course, this game is also nice to play on an eight by eight board. A variant, called Pick a team chess, or, in short Patch is played as variant two, but now players make lists of 16 pieces instead of twenty.

Another variant, called Easy patch is played on an eight by eight board by letting players choose a list of seven pieces. Standard chess pawns and kings are placed on their starting positions as in a orthodox chess game, and then the game proceeds with the fourteen chosen pieces as in Pick-a-team chess.

Patch and Easy Patch are not submitted to the large variant design contest (but are probably nice games.)

Written by Hans Bodlaender.
This variant is an entry in the 1999 Large Variant contest.

WWW page created: March 9, 1999. Last modified: May 8, 1999.