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Avalanche Chess

This variant was invented in 1977 by Ralph Betza. It was frequently played in both NOST as in AISE, two past postal correspondence groups for Chess variants. In NOST, the game was one of the 20 most popular CV's, probably in its top 5. The game is mentioned in David Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Chess Variants and given its own chapter in his Popular Chess Variants. It is also described in R. Wayne Schmittberger's New Rules for Classic Games.

This game can be played via email on Richard's Play-By-eMail Server.

Below the description of standard avalanche chess, a description is given of a variant, designed by Alessandro Castelli, with the object of decreasing white's opening advantage.


The rules of normal chess are followed with these changes:

  • Each turn of a player consists of two parts. The first part is a move, legal with the orthodox chess rules. The second part of the move consists of moving an opponent's pawn a single space forwards (toward the player). This pawn move, called a 'push', is always a single space, and never a capture.
  • The first part of a move must be legal to the normal rules of chess. That means: one cannot place with the first part of a move ones king in check, or leave it in check, planning to undo the check with a pawn move.
  • The second part is obligatory, unless the opponent does not have any pawn that can be advanced.
  • When a player advances a pawn, such that this places his king in check, he loses the game (as this would imply that his opponent could take his king), even when he checks or mates his opponent in that turn.
  • When a pawn is advanced to the last rank, the owner of the pawn decides in what type of piece it is promoted. When this means a check to the player advancing the pawn, he loses, as in the previous rule.
  • There is no en-passant capture.


White has a large advantage. White's advantage is reduced in BALANCED AVALANCHE CHESS in which White had no pawn push on the first move.

Here are two sample games on Balanced Avalanche Chess, sent to me by Alessandro Castelli.

Salvadori-Castelli (GP91) 0-1

1. Nf3// Nf6/a3
2. Nc3/c6 d5/h3
3. d4/a6 Ne4/a4
4. Qd3/h6! Bf5/a5
5. Nh4/f6 Bh7/g3
6. N:e4/g6 d:e4/c3
7. Q:e4/e6 Bb4+/c4
8. Bd2/b6 B:d2+/f3
9. K:d2/h5 Qd6/b3
10. e3/c5 c:d4/b4!?
11. Q:a8/d3 Q:b4+/g4
12. K:d3/f5 Qb5/c5+?!
13. Kc2/e5?? Q:c5+/e4
14. Kb2/f4 Qb4+/g5
15. Kc1/b5 Qc3+//
16. Resigns

Castelli-Kustrin (GP91) 1-0

1. e4// e5/f3
2. f4/f6 h5/f5
3. Be2/d6 Qd7/g3
4. B:h5+/a6 Kd8/a3
5. Nc3/c6 Ne7/g4
6. Na4/a5 Qc7/b3
7. c4/b6 Nd7/d3
8. Nc3/c5 Bb7/g5
9. Nb5/g6 Nc6/h3
10. g:f6/d5!? N:f6/h4
11. Bg5/d4! g:h5/a4
12. Nf3// Ng4/f6!?
13. f:e7+// B:e7/b4
14. b:a5// b:a5//
15. Qd2// Qe6//
16. Rf1// Kd7//
17. Rb1// Bc6//
18. B:e7// Q:e7//??
19. Cb:d4//!! e:d4/e5
20. Rb7+// Ke6//
21. R:e7+// K:e7/e6
22. Qg5+// Resigns

Avalanche Reversed King/Queen Chess

Alessandro Castelli (email removed contact us for address) proposed a variant of Avalanche chess, named Avalanche Reversed King/Queen Chess, Avalanche II Chess, or Castelli's Avalanche Chess. Castelli is the International Champion and the Olympic Champion on standard Avalanche Chess.

In this variant, Black starts with the King on d8 and the Queen on e8. This artifice stops the threat: Qh5/f6+ and equilibrates the play.

Here is a sample game.

Castelli - Salvadori (grand Prix 1992)

1. Nf3/c6 d5/g3
2. d4/h6 Nf6/c3
3. Qa4/a6 Bg4/a3
4. Bf4/h5 a5/b3
5. Ne5/g6 b5/h3
6. Bg2/b4 b:a3/h4
7. Qb4/a4 ! Nfd7/e3
8. Qb7/c5 N:e5/e4
9. B:e5/c4 Qc6/f3
10. Q:c6/e6 N:c6/f4
11. B:h8/f6 a:b3/e5
12. B:d5/f5 ! N:d4//
13. c:d4/a2 !! b2//
14. B:c4/g5 b:a1=Q/d5
15. Bf6+// Kc8/d6
16. B:e6+// Kb7/d7
17. 00// !! Resigns

Text by Edward Jackman, Alessandro Castelli, and Hans Bodlaender. Philip M. Cohen pointed out an error in an earlier version. Opening text updated by Fergus Duniho in 2020.
WWW page created: 1995 or 1996. Last modified: February 27, 1997.
Mar 2000: D. Howe added link to Richard's Play-By-eMail Server.