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Orphic Chess (with Elks)

This page contains one or more presets for playing game online with Game Courier, an online server for playing Chess variants by correspondence.

The objective is checkmate. Pieces and pawns move as in orthodox chess, except that castling doesn't exist. Promotion rules are the same as in orthodox chess. All the pawns are positioned on the third rank, while the rest of the pieces are in the reserve. In the first phase the players take turns to drop pieces anywhere on the board, or on a friendly pawn. In the latter case the removed friendly pawn must immediately be relocated to an empty position, but not beyond the fourth rank, and not on the first rank. The two bishops must be dropped on different colours.

Before the friendly King has been dropped, pieces and pawns may only make capture moves. Hence, in this stage, the pieces cannot move to empty squares. The King can be dropped at any time and anywhere (unlike in Orphic Chess with Rooks there are no restrictions of drop square).

As long as the King has not entered the board, the pieces are very vulnerable. On the other hand, it is risky to drop the King early, especially since the Elks are such dangerous drop pieces. Since the pawns are placed on the board from the start, the dropping phase is shorter than in other drop variants. Thanks to the pawn relocation procedure, there is great freedom in the placement of the pawns, anyway. This also implies that the pieces in the reserve have recourse to the positions where the pawns are located. You are not allowed to make a pawn-relocation if in check.

The Elk moves differently depending on the colour of the square. If positioned on a black square it moves like a Rook. If positioned on a white square it moves like a Knight. The Elk's value is 4, that is, Knight + pawn, or Bishop + pawn. It is powerful enough to give mate to a lonely King.

As the Elk alters between Rook moves and Knight moves the piece image in the preset will be different depending on square colour. This will make it easier. If the Elk stands on a black square, it is denoted by ER (that is, Elk-Rook). If the Elk stands on a white square, it is denoted by EN (that is, Elk-Knight). Use small characters for black.

The following preset makes a reasonably good validity check of Elk moves, etc. Moves are automated, including the 'en passant' moves. Pieces can be moved by pointing and clicking. When promoting a pawn, it will automatically turn into a Queen. Should you prefer another piece then you must type it manually (e.g., add N a8; capture a7). (On the big graphical board: in case you want to promote to an Elk you must use the internal syntax N.R and R.N.) For black, use small piece-letters.

One move only is not automated: when dropping a piece on your own pawn, you must not forget to relocate the removed pawn by an additional drop, separated by a semicolon. Type, for instance, "N i7-f3; add P f2". When promoting a pawn, type, for instance, "P a7-a8; add Q a8"

For convenience, the bishops in the reserve are positioned on coloured squares. It's not allowed to drop a bishop on another colour than its colour square. The preset performs some checks, but the players should be alert to this rule. Note also that you are not allowed to make a pawn-relocation if in check (because it is a double-move). The preset does not enforce this particular rule, so the players must be aware of this.

According to the dictionary, 'orphic' means mystic, oracular, or fascinating, entrancing. This is an apt description of this game. It is hard to come to grips with. This game is very tactical, and fast.


Orphic Chess (with Elks) (big graphics)

Orphic Chess (with Elks) (small graphics)






See also Orphic Chess (with Rooks)

You can download a Zillions implementation here.

See also my other Game Courier presets.




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 M Winther.
Web page created: 2006-06-22. Web page last updated: 2006-06-22