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Laser Chess

Laser Chess is a chess variant, first appearing in a program from Mike Duppong in 1987. With this program, he won a first prize in a programming contest for the Amiga. Later, Peter Venable made a version for this program for MSDOS. That version is described below.

See also:

  • LaserChess.org. Link to website with newer Laser Chess and Advanced Laser Chess program, instructions, and history.

The Laser Chess program by Peter Venable runs in MS-DOS. The version of the program, which I found on a download side, allowed to play two people to play against each other, but I did not see an option to play against a computer player.

Laser Chess is, in fact, a chess variant. The main feature of the variant is that players have a laser. Other pieces have mirrors. When one shoots the laser, it reflects at mirrors, and finally may hit one or more pieces that blow up. The demo program allows two players to play against each others; I expect (but do not know) that the full version has the possibility to play against a computer opponent.

The graphics are quite nice, see the following screenshot:

You can also download the shareware program from our website:

Below, you find the description of the game from the help file; placed here with permission of Peter Venable.

Laser Chess

(c) 1993 Peter Venable

Lost in the mists of time, wise men of old developed the world's greatest game of all time: Chess. Now, as a new era dawns, The Game of Kings has graduated to a new level...

Deeply rooted in tradition, yet infused with the hottest modern technoloy, LASER CHESS gives its players the best of both worlds.

As in Chess, the goal of each contender is to capture the opposing King - check mate. But now a new weapon has arrived, revolutionizing the entire game! The Laser has the power to wield destruction from across the board. But there's more! To accommodate this new ability, each of the other pieces has been equipped with mirrors and other tools to help control the Laser's deadly power.

If you are unfamiliar with Chess, you may find it easier to learn it before moving up to Laser Chess. However, knowledge of Chess is not required. A little experimentation and practice will get you playing in no time. Before your first real game, you may want to try moving pieces around and firing the Laser, just to get a feel for the game. Then start a new game using the Load Game icon, which looks like a disk with an arrow pointing away from it.

Pieces in Laser Chess move just as in Chess. Many pieces have reflective surfaces which cause the laser to bounce. Others have even more special properties. For a demonstration of each piece's mobility and response under Laser fire, see the demonstration labeled `Piece Demo' in the Help menu. It allows you to select a piece, then shows which spaces it may move to, followed by a demonstration of its response to Laser fire.

There are, however, a few even more special pieces. The knight, for example, is a beam splitter. When it is fired upon, it can split the beam into two. Combining these can let you destroy many pieces with a single shot. Another special piece is the queen. If her eyes are facing in the direction from which a Laser beam hits her, the beam skips beyond her and any piece right behind her.

As in Chess, during a player's turn he or she may move a piece. If he/she has a Laser, he/she may fire instead. But, there is one more action that can be taken. Before moving or firing, a player may rotate one of his/her pieces. This is important because each piece's orientation determines which way a Laser beam will bounce (or if it will destroy the piece) when the piece is hit. Rotation does not affect a piece's motion, however.

In Laser Chess, there are three different types of pawn. Each acts like a pawn, moving forward only, being able to move two squares on the first move, capturing diagonally, capturing En Passant style, and being promoted to a better piece when it makes its way across the board. However, each type reacts differently to Laser fire. One type, the triangle pawn, reflects at a 90ø angle when hit from either of two sides, and dies when hit from any of the other sides. The shield pawn, which looks like a man, cannot reflect the Laser, but can defend himself with his shield, if it points in the proper direction. If shot from any other direction, he dies. The third type of pawn, the `super pawn,' reflects Lasers from three directions, and is vulnerable from only one. As previously mentioned, if any pawn reaches the far side of the board, it is transformed into the piece of the player's choice. Also as in Chess, pawns may move two spaces on their first move. If one does this and passes an opposing pawn in the process, the opposing pawn may capture it on the next move just as if it had moved out only one space. This is called En Passant, which is French for `in passing.'

If, when a pawn advances to the far side of the board, the player chooses to promote it to a Laser, that player may have more than one Laser. Normally, the Laser is fired by pressing the Fire button on the side of the screen. However, if there is an additional Laser, the player must select the Laser he/she wishes to use, and then press the Fire button.

As in Chess, a player may castle by moving his/her King two spaces to the side, and the Rook (also called a Castle) will move to the other side of the King. This may only be done if there are no pieces between the King and Rook, and neither has moved yet. Also, the King must never move from, through, or into check. Check means that an enemy piece is poised to attack the King. However, Laser fire is not counted when the program determines Check.

As in Chess, if a player cannot make a legal move, Stale Mate is declared and the game is a tie. Stale Mate (technically a draw, in this case) is also declared when nothing is left but the two Kings. Other situations may be practical draws not detected by the program, in which case the players may just agree that no win is possible. If a player is reduced to a single piece, the King, the opponent has only 20 moves with which to Check Mate that King. After 20 moves, a draw is declared.

In Chess, one player normally has black pieces, and the other white. Since Laser Chess has full color pieces, they are identified by small pink or green marks in the corner of the square the piece occupies.

If you want to save a game in progress, select the button that looks like a disk with an arrow pointing toward it. Type a name for the game and press Enter. Or, you can select a game from the list shown, and it will be replaced by the current game. To load a saved game, select the button that looks like an arrow pointing away from a disk, then select the file you wish to load.

The actual mechanics of moving are very simple. A piece may be selected by moving the mouse onto it and clicking. Then, if you want to rotate the piece, click the rotation buttons until the piece is properly oriented. If the piece you want to move is different from the one you rotated, select that piece. Then click on the spot you want to move to. If you wish, you can fire your Laser (if you still have one) instead of moving a piece. Just click on the Fire button. You can fire after rotating. If you don't have a mouse, or prefer not to use one, just use the arrow keys and press Enter instead of clicking the mouse.

Strategy hints:

  • Use your Laser carefully. Before firing, make sure you aren't about to destroy your own piece! Also, check that you don't destroy a piece that indirectly protects you from hostile fire.
  • Use the enemy pieces as well as your own in planning your shots. But be careful, because your opponent can move them unexpectedly.
  • Use all your pieces, not just the Laser. Pieces can capture each other, and you never know when you might lose your Laser.
  • Try to get control of the center of the board. Move out some pawns. Develop your position.
  • Here's a sneaky trick: Rotate a piece and then fire, in the same turn. This can be a good trick because you can make your shot go in a different direction than your opponent expects. Rotating your Laser works for this, too.

System requirements: EGA or VGA graphics. Mouse recommended.

    Files:    LASER.EXE - main program
              LASER.PXL - main graphics file
               LOGO.PXL - title graphics
           LASERANM.PXL - animation graphics
              LASER.TXT - instruction file
                  *.SAV - saved games (optional)

Comments are also welcome. My Internet address is (email removed contact us for address) .edu

Have fun!


Main text written by Peter Venable. Introduction written by Hans Bodlaender.
WWW page created: March 11, 1997. Last modified: December 5, 2000.