The Chess Variant Pages

This page is written by the game's inventor, Charles Daniel.

Pick the Piece Big Chess

Pick the Piece Big Chess is not just a game, but a family of games based on a 10x10 board with two empty slots per side that are occupied by pieces of the players' choice.

Players can either add a pair of pieces to fill the empty slots or use two different pieces to fill a1, a10 and j1, j10.

The rules are exactly as in orthodox chess except for flexible castling, three-step initial pawn move and extended en-passant rules. There is also an optional specification regarding dropping extra pieces.

In this game, the players get the chance to be very creative by coming up with their own chess variants based on the pre-determined rules and parameters.


Start Position for white. (black mirrors white)
Empty slots on a1, j1
Rooks on b1,i1
knights on c1,h1
bishops on d1, g1
queen on e1
king on f1


Recommended Game: Air and Trench Warfare

In this excellent game, use two ninja guards in the empty slots and drop one super cannon, one flying bomber and three ninja pawns during the game.

See description of pieces below:

The Ninja Pawn

The ninja pawn possesses slightly different modes of movement and capture depending on which half of the board it is on.
Movement: The ninja pawn can always move 1 square up or 1 square sideways to an empty square from any part of the board.
When the pawn is situated in the lower half of the board (for White, rank 1-5 and for black 6-10), it can move forward multiple vacant squares (1-3 squares) to reach the middle of the board (rank 5 for White or rank 6 for Black). This move can be done at any time regardless of how many times the pawn has moved. Thus White can on each turn move from e1-e2, e2-d2 and d2-d5.
Once it passes the middle, the ninja pawn can only move 1 square forward at a time, or move 1 square horizontally.
Capture: Like the standard pawn it can capture one square diagonally up, regardless of which half of the board it is on.
When the ninja pawn is on the top half of board (White rank 6 +, Black rank 5-) , it can also capture one square horizontally.
There is no en passant. It cannot capture another pawn or ninja pawn en passant nor can any other pawn capture it this way.
Promotion: The ninja pawn promotes on the last row (rank 10 for white, rank 1 for black), to any piece. Promotion to a piece is mandatory so it would cease to be a pawn in the last row.
Ninja Pawns are dropped on any empty square on that side's 2nd rank. It can be optionally pushed forward to the center on the same turn.
Super Cannon: Movement: When not capturing the super cannon moves like a rook. It can also jump over an adjacent friendly piece to land 2 squares away. Note that it cannot jump over an enemy piece in this manner.
Capturing: The Super Cannon like the Cannon in Xiangqi needs an intervening piece called the screen to make a capture. The screen can be either a friendly or enemy piece and must lie between the cannon and the enemy piece for a capture to take place.
With a friendly screen, the Super Cannon captures the enemy piece by leaping over the screen and landing on the target's square.
If the screen is an enemy piece then the firing mechanism of the Super Cannon is altered to destroy both its target and the screen at the same time! Thus, it takes out both enemy pieces after it lands on the target enemy piece's square.

Flying Bomber: When not capturing it moves exactly like a rook (1 or more squares orthogonally over a clear path).
It can also jump two squares orthogonally by leaping over an adjacent piece.
Capture: The flying bomber eliminates an enemy piece by flying over it, and landing on THE empty square immediately after it on a clear orthogonal path. It cannot capture if this square is occupied nor can it capture a second piece.
The exception to above: the flying bomber can capture by replacement any enemy piece that is 2 squares away. Thus, it can jump over a friendly piece to make a capture 2 spaces away. If, instead, there is one empty square between the Flying Bomber and the enemy piece, the Bomber can either capture by landing two squares away on the target's square or use the standard method of capturing by landing on empty square immediately after target.
If there is one enemy piece adjacent to it and another immediately after on same line, the flying bomber combines both capture mechanisms to makes a double capture as it lands 2 squares away. Note that when it makes this jump under above conditions capturing both pieces is mandatory.

Ninja Guard: It moves one square diagonally or leaps two square diagonally.
It captures by replacement when making above moves but also captures any pieces it jumps over. Thus it can capture two pieces.

See Birds and Ninjas for more info on the pieces above.


The rules in Pick the Piece Big Chess are the same as in chess except for using the new pieces and for the following modifications :
  1. Castling: The usual castling criteria apply: No piece must be in between the spaces travelled by the king and castling rook, cannot castle out of check, King cannot pass over or land on squares attacked by enemy, but rook can. A piece can be at j1, j10, a10 or a1.
    Unlike standard Chess, there are a total of 7 Castling positions for each side, the player must make the decision based on whether centralization of rook or king closer to wing is more desirable.
    1. 1 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King one space from f1-g1 and rook from i1-f1
      Black moves King one space from f10-g10 and rook from i10-f10
    2. 1 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King one space from f1-e1 and rook from b1-f1
      Black moves King one space from f10-e10 and rook from b10-f10
    3. 2 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King two spaces from f1-h1 and rook from i1-g1
      Black moves King two spaces from f10-h10 and rook from i10-g10
    4. 2 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King two spaces from f1-d1 and rook from b1-e1
      Black moves King two spaces from f10-d10 and rook from b10-e10
    5. 3 space transposition - King Side Castling White moves King three spaces from f1-i1 and rook from i1-h1
      Black moves King three spaces from f10-i10 and rook from i10-h10
    6. 3 space transposition - Queen Side Castling White moves King three spaces from f1-c1 and rook from b1-d1
      Black moves King three spaces from f10-c10 and rook from b10-d10
    7. 4 space transposition - Queen Side Castling White moves King four spaces from f1-b1 and rook from b1-c1
      Black moves King four spaces from f10-b10 and rook from b10-c10
  2. Pawn moves: A pawn situated on the lower half of the board can at any time move forward 1-3 vacant squares to reach the center of the board (rank 5 for white, rank 6 for black). Once the pawn reaches the center row, it can move forward only one square at a time.
  3. En Passant: If a Pawn moves two or three squares initially and passes an opposing Pawn on the fourth or fifth rank, the Pawn may be captured en passant. E.g. White pawn on a2 black pawn on b4. If the white pawn moves from a2 to a4 or a5, the black pawn on b4 can capture it as if it had moved to a3. Similarly, if the black pawn is on b5 instead and the white pawn moves to a5 from a2 then the black pawn can capture the white pawn as if it moved to a4. Note in this case the white pawn can still avoid the black pawn by moving to a3 instead.
    Capturing en passant is optional unless it is the only legal move available. The capture must be made on the next move.
  4. Pawn promotion: Pawns can now promote to: queen, bishop, knight, rook or to new pieces decided by players on the 10th rank only.
  5. Agreement between Players Players must agree beforehand which pieces they wish to use in the empty slots and/or which pieces and how many should be dropped.
  6. Dropping option is described below.

Reinforcements - Dropping pieces

Players also have the option to drop up to 5 pieces or more (author advises 5) of their choice during the game.
The rules are simple:
  • A piece may be dropped on any empty square in that side's back rank at any time.
  • Dropping a piece constitutes a move.
  • A piece can deliver check or checkmate when dropped.
  • A piece can block a check when dropped.
  • Ninja Pawns are dropped on any empty square on that side's 2nd rank. It can be optionally pushed forward to the center on the same turn.
  • Pawns/ninja pawns can promote to any piece in the game.
The players must decide beforehand which pieces they want to play with, for example, see author's recommendation.
For a more balanced game, it is advisable to use a few ninja pawns and other pieces rather than drop too many powerful pieces. The ninja pawns are unique because while they share many characteristics with normal pawns, they have additional powers that make them far more powerful.


Since Pick the Piece Big Chess is a user defined game, there are an infinite (or near infinite) number of configurations that can be chosen. A few interesting setups using some very unique pieces are illustrated below. The author suggests to drop 5 ninja pawns as shock troop reinforcements to any of the games below.

Suggested Games

  • Capablanca Game - The Chancellor (Rook Knight) is added to a1,a10 and Archbishop (bishop knight) added to j1,j10 to play another Capablanca setup. Alternatively the Chancellor can be added to the j file and the Archbishop to the a file.
  • Empty Space Game - Yup, just use the setup shown above. No pieces occupy the a and j file. Standard chess on a bigger board. It is quite an interesting game to try. You can get away from opening theory this way.
    You can also add two ninja pawns in the slots and also allow for dropping 5 more!
  • Super Cannons: Described earlier; add a pair of these to the a and j files, and drop 5 ninja pawns for a great game.
  • Super Loony Rook - Closely related to super loony cannon, this piece is described in the game Asylum Chess.
    A pair of these can be used.
  • Asylum Chess 2!: Add a pair of Mad Leaping Bishops to the slots, drop two super loony rooks and 3 ninja pawns ( or maybe add 5) for an insane game! See Asylum Chess for more on the pieces.
  • Insane Ninjas - Very similar to the insane ninja knight (see asylum chess) but without the knight's move. Thus, it can move 1 square or leap 2 squares diagonally or orthogonally. See insane ninja chess for more details of this piece.
    A pair of these will create an exciting game.
  • Insane Ninja Ice Queen - In this game a pair of insane Ninja Ice Queens are added to the empty slots.
    Essentially this piece moves exactly like an Insane Ninja, but it also freezes any enemy piece including the king in its vicinity.
    No piece may move into its range including another insane ninja ice queen.
    See Prison Break for more info on the freezing mechanism.
  • Leaping Ninja Guards - A pair of Leaping Ninja guards (from insane ninja chess) can be used.
  • Insane Ninja Game - Put an Insane Ninja on the a file and a Leaping Ninja Warrior on the j file. See Insane Ninja Chess for more info on insane ninja.
    The leaping ninja warrior is a ninja warrior, the orthogonal version of the ninja guard, combined with the camel leap.
    Unlike the leaping ninja guard, it is not a colorbound piece and compliments the insane ninja for this configuration.
    Ninja warrior on d4 can move or capture at any of squares pointed to by green arrow.

    It can also leap to and capture at any of the green squares.
    Additionally, if travelling to any green squares it can also capture any enemy piece it jumps over.
    It can leap and capture at any of the red squares.

    The Ninja piece family: - The ninja family of pieces are compound pieces built from the combination of the ferz, the elephant, the wazir or the dabbahaha. The camel and the zebra are also used for the leaping variety. In addition to combining their moves, however, they also possess a unique jump over and double capture capability. Like a single draughts unit they can capture a piece by jumping over. This capture is compulsory and in some cases this can prevent the piece from jumping forward as it may open up a battery against another piece.
    The Ninja warrior is an orthogonal piece, while the ninja guard moves diagonally. The insane ninja combines both movements.
  • Reverse Sorcerer spell - In this game, the sorcerer from Sorcerer chess swaps its one step orthogonal movement with the magician's diagonal step. Thus the sorcerer leaps like a zebra and moves 1 step diagonally in any direction while the Conjurer leaps like a camel and moves 1 step orthogonally in any direction
    So in effect Reverse Sorcerer=Zebra + Ferz
    Reverse Conjurer=Camel + Wazir
  • Gryphon and Anti-Gryphon Chess: - The Gryphon described here can be used on a1,10 and the Anti-Gryphon on j1,j10. The Anti-Gryphon moves one square orthogonally and then diagonally outwards i.e the exact inverse of the Gryphon. Dropping 5 or more ninja pawns per side may counteract these powerful pieces.
    The author advises to use the slightly weakened form: The Gryphon cannot just move one diagonal nor can the inverse version move just one orthogonal. Also, it is best for both the Gryphon and anti-Gryphon to be able to move like a knight on their first move. This would free them from their initial position easily.
  • Bison Chess - Use a pair of Bisons - those slightly awkward but very long leaping pieces!
  • Draughts Queen - like the Draughts King except it can also move orthogonally. Thus it can capture by flying over landing on ANY empty square after its victim, then turning direction and continuing until it cannot do so anymore. It is difficult to determine if the king is in check sometimes. Multicapture is optional. When not capturing it moves like a queen.
    Note - it may be seen during play that this piece is too powerful and results in an unstable game. So, rather than using a pair just use one and place it in the a file. Keep the j file empty or fill with ninja pawn and drop 5 more ninja pawns.
    Draughts Queen was the predecessor to the flying bomber. The author dismissed this idea as being silly, but retained the orthogonal direction fly over capture of one piece to create the Flying Bomber.
    There have been some other similar pieces that have not been properly analyzed (you can try them out here), but they too suffer from the same defect. The flying bomber, on the other hand, is a superbly balanced piece, and is one of the few fly over pieces that enhance the chess experience.
  • Flying Bombers Chess - Use this remarkable piece and you get flying bombers chess!

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 Charles Daniel.
Web page created: 2008-03-09. Web page last updated: 2008-03-09