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by Nuno Cruz
Samarcanda is based on Mideast Chess, a
chess variant invented (and studied?) in California around the late
1960's. There are only two differences: the Cavaliers are replaced by
Nobleman (Crooked Bishops)
and the King has the ability to castle.
The Board and Pieces
The game is played on a checkered board with ten rows and ten
Each player has in addition to a normal set of pieces, two Zebras, two
Camels, two Castles, two Noblemen, and two extra Pawns.
The King, Queen, Rooks, Bishops and
Knights move as in the Orthodox Chess, but Pawns can
promote (when they reach the last row) to any of the starting types
of pieces other than Kings or Pawns. In castling the King
moves three squares nearer the Rook and the Rook leaps to the far
side of the King, with the usual restrictions applying.
The Castle (or Squirrel) moves as a
Knight, or can jump to any square that is horizontally, vertically, or
diagonally two squares away. So, a Castle on d4 can jump to b2, b3,
b4, b5, b6, c2, c6, d2, d6, e2, e6, f2, f3, f4, f5, or f6.
The Camel has a kind of
stretched Knight's leap: it jumps two squares straight and one
diagonally. So, a Camel on a1 can jump to b4 or to d2.
The Zebra has another
kind of stretched Knight's leap: it jumps one square straight and two
diagonally, so for instance from a1 to c4 or to d3.
The Noblemen move like Crooked Bishops,
which slide alternately on a pair of adjacent diagonal directions,
such as nw-sw-nw-sw-. There are eight possible paths for a Nobleman to
take (two for each Rook-wise direction), and it can reach half the
squares on each path via two different routes.
Ever since I encountered Mideast Chess I have loved the game. It has
all my favorite pieces in play, with the exception of the Crooked Bishop. I
removed the original Cavalier (over-powered in my opinion) and in its
place introduced the famous ZigZag mover studied by Ralph Betza. I
believe it is a good and fun game to play, with new pieces where the
forking abilities of some of them call out for whole new strategies
where caution is needed from the beginning!
Large Chess variants don't necessary mean Knight combined with Bishops and
A Zillions of Games file
for both of these games is available. You can download it here: