The Chess Variant Pages

This page is written by the game's inventor, H. G. Muller.

Elven Chess

Elven Chess was conceived as a hybrid between orthodox Chess and the historical Japanese game of Chu Shogi, to allow a western Chess player to get a whiff of the latter. It was designed to be playable over the board with readily available equipment: one-and-a-half orthodox Chess sets plus an International Draughts set (checkers and board). The participating non-orthodox pieces can then be represented by placing pieces from the second Chess set (only a single Rook, Bishop and Knight, plus four Pawns are needed of each color) on the pedestal of a Draughts chip, reminding the player that in addition to the moves of its orthodox counterpart, it now also has all moves of an orthodox King. In other words, the pedestal indicates the piece is now the crowned version of the original piece.


graphicsDir= files=10 ranks=10 whitePrefix=w1 blackPrefix=b1 graphicsType=png squareSize=36 startShade=#FFF000 promoChoice=QNRB symmetry=rotate protected=9 counterStrike=9 pawn:::p:a3-j3 dwarf::K:c:a2,j2 knight:N::wh2:b2,i2 bishop:::b:c2,h2 rook:::r:a1,j1 elf::BW:dh:d2 goblin::RF:dk:g2 queen:::q:f2 warlock::KNADmabKcaKcabK:ln:e2 king:::k:f1
  • You can click on the pieces below to see their moves:
  • f0, e9: King
  • e1, f8: Warlock
  • f1, e8: Queen
  • g1, d8: Goblin
  • d1, g8: Elf
  • a0, a9, j0, j9: Rook
  • c1, c8, h1, h8: Bishop
  • b1, b8, i1, i8: Knight
  • a1, a8, j1, j8: Dwarf
  • a2-j2, a7-j7: Pawns


The Queen, Rook, Bishop, and Knight move identically to those in orthodox Chess. Pawns do nearly so, and in particular can do an initial double-step from the 2nd or 7th rank, and can be captured en passant immediately after that. The only difference with orthodox Chess is that they promote already on reaching the 7th rank, (2nd rank for black). They can only promote to pieces from orthodox Chess, and not to Warlock, Elf, Goblin or Dwarf. Kings also move as in orthodox Chess, and can castle under the usual restrictions of virginity, clear path and not passing through check. On castling they move 3 squares towards the Rook, however, as is usual on 10-wide boards.

The Goblin moves as Rook or King (the Shogi Dragon King, RF), and is represented by a Rook on a Draughts chip.

The Elf moves as Bishop or King (the Shogi Dragon Horse, BW), and is represented by a Bishop on a Draughts chip.

The Dwarf moves as King (but is non-royal, so really a Commoner), and is represented by a Pawn on a Draughts chip. (But this does not imply it adds anything Pawn-like to its King moves; in particular a Dwarf cannot make double steps, cannot capture e.p. and cannot promote.)

The Warlock moves as a King, but can (optionally) move twice per turn, and (optionally) use its non-last step as a 'hop', passing over a square occupied by friend or enemy without disturbing it. This means:

  • It can leap directly to any of the squares in the 5x5 area surrounding it (KNAD).
  • It can capture two pieces in one turn.
  • It can capture a neighboring piece, and go on to an empty square.
  • It can capture a neighboring piece, and return to its starting square.
  • It can effectively pass a turn by moving to a neighboring empty square and back.
The Warlock (which you might have recognized as the Chu-Shogi Lion) is represented by a Knight on two stacked Draughts chips, to highlight its special powers.


The aim is to checkmate the opponent King. It is not allowed to expose your King to capture, and stalemate is a draw.

There are two special rules to prevent easy trading of Warlocks:

  • When the Warlock captures the opponent Warlock, it becomes 'royal' for one turn, which means it must not be exposed to capture, not even to capture by a piece pinned on the King. A Warlock can only capture another Warlock if it would have been safe for a King to end up where the Warlock did.
  • When a non-Warlock captures a Warlock, the Warlock of the other side becomes 'iron' for one turn, i.e. it cannot be captured at all.
These rules together make it impossible for two Warlocks to be captured in subsequent moves.


  • This game is sometimes referred to as 'Chu Chess', to indicate its ancestry.
  • The Warlock is immensely powerful, due to its ability to capture protected pieces and get away with it. Anything approaching a Warlock will usually be annihilated. Initially it is more valuable than Queen + Rook, although the latter gain more in the end-game from the increased mobility they get on a near-empty board.
  • The crowned pieces are worth about 2 Pawns more than their normal counterparts.
  • The game can also be played in a more Shogi-like version, ('Elven Shogi'), where Pawns capture straight-ahead rather than diagonally, and promote only to Dwarfs, while Rook, Bishop and Knight can also promote, by putting them on a Draughts chip. A Knight on a single Draughts chip would then just move like Knight or King ('Spider', KN, still a quite strong promotion, as it acquires eight new moves rather than just four, as R and B do), and will not get any special double-move powers.

This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

By H. G. Muller.
Web page created: 2014-04-24. Web page last updated: 2014-04-24