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Apothecary Chess 1


This article is one of two twin articles about Apothecary chess. Apothecary chess aims to be the first couple out of a series of apothecary games. I've started the design of the two apothecary games with great thoughts in mind. First it was that in my opinion chess has become stale at grand master level. Second I like more games that enlarge the board and add a few pieces. Third I am thinking which can be the next incarnation of chess at the mentioned level. There are two variants from what I know which to some degree claim to try to be the next incarnation of chess, these being Grand Chess and Omega Chess(with it's variation omega chess advanced). I personally like them both. To me also come in mind Shako and Eurasian Chess. Renaissance Chess is out there for even bigger boards as I was introduced to Gross Chess during the design of my two games. Chess with different armies comes to mind, too, as an alternative but that's on a different path. Personally with these two games I'm attempting to take the best of both worlds from Grand Chess and Omega Chess. Also I've added a few of my own ideas, The way I have added my ideas give the name apothecary, as I mostly tinkered with things I had at hand, as old pharmacists used to do. An example is the way pawn promotion works in this game. .

During the development phase I kept in touch with the community trying to get feedback receiving help in several ways.

This particular game is called apothecary chess 1 and it is based mostly on omega chess with the advanced pawns start taken from Grand Chess. Many elements from advanced Omega chess are present. At the time I've started the design of the game I considered a flaw that the wizard and champions start to far away from the center of the board. In consequence I've put them on the back rank's four center squares. It turns out that then they were to close to the middle as the wizard was becoming instantly dangerous. In order to cope with that I decided to introduce hanging squares akin to Greg Strong's Brouhaha game. Now wizards and Champions start there. Also the introduction of the Bruhaha squares keeps the rooks connected as in Grand Chess. I'm considering that this game deserves two stronger pieces so the tinkering process produced the old griffin and aanca (aanca is not a major piece in the classical sense as king+aanca vs king is just a stalemate).

Apothecary chess 1 is a game on a larger than orthodox board that keeps the orthodox piece density providing a longer (hopefully not tedious) game with many tactics and a rich strategy.


The board is 10x10 with 8 brouhaha squares (more on them later) so 10x10+8. The ranks are numbered (0),1,2,3,...9,10,(11) and the files are denoted with a,b,c,...i,j. The parentheses stand for ranks that have only brouhaha squares.

There are 24 possible initial setups for this game. For the purpose of explaining the initial setup pieces are split in seven categories:

1. The king has a fixed start location f2 for white f9 for black.

2. Rook pieces are the two rooks of each player which also have fixed start locations, a1 and j1 for white and a10 and j10 for black

3. The major pieces (three of them Queen, Griffin, Aanca; are the three strongest pieces in the game). They are placed on the board according to two variables. The first is a binary variable (may be represented by a coin toss) which can take the values winged (false,0,tails) or grand classic(true,1,heads). If the variable is winged then the three major pieces occupy the b2,e2,i2 squares for white and b9,e9,i9 for black. If the variable is grand classic (a reference on how the pieces are arranged in Cristian Freeling's Grand Chess) then the three major pieces occupy the d2,e2,g2 squares for white and d9,e9,g9 squares for black. Either way there are three spots and three major pieces to fill those spots. For that we have the second variable with six possible values (3 factorial). A dice throw may decide where pieces go like below:

   1. from left to right Aanca,Griffin,Queen (nicknamed ladder-because pieces are on a ladder according to their values)

   2. from left to right Aanca,Queen,Griffin (nicknamed classic balanced-because the queen is in the middle and the two halves of the board are more balanced in strength)

   3. from left to right Griffin,Aanca,Queen (nicknamed horned unbalanced- because of the aanca way of movement and the two halves of the board are more unbalance in strength)

   4. from left to right Griffin,Queen,Aanca (nicknamed classic unbalanced- because the queen is in the middle and the two halves of the board are more unbalanced in strength)

   5. from left to right Queen,Aanca,Griffin (nicknamed horned balanced-because of the aanca way of movement and the two halves of the board are more balanced in strength)

   6. from left to right Queen,Griffin,Aanca (nicknamed reversed ladder-because pieces are on a reversed ladder according to their values)

4. The classic minor pieces are the bishops and knights. They start on the 2nd (for white) and 9th (for black) rank, never on the a or j files in the spots left free by the major pieces. They too have two ways of arranging that could be represented by a coin toss. The first way is named bishops in (true,1,heads) and means the bishops are in the positions closer to the king (c2,h2,c9,h9 in grand classic, d2,g2,d9,g9 in winged). The second way is named knights in (false,0,tails) and means that the knights are in the above mentioned closer to the king position. So two coin tosses and one dice throw means 2x2x6=24 possibilities.

5. The new minor pieces are the wizards and Champions. They start in the bruhaha squares which are temporary squares set outside the normal board. These squares are: d0,e0,f0,g0,d11,e11,f11,g11. The d and g files are always filled by wizards and the e and f files are always filled by champions.On the bruhaha squares the wizards receive the two forward (2,2) alfil moves and (3,3) threaper moves. Also on their bruhaha squares the champions receive the (4,0) forward move and the two (4,1) most forward moves. All the move abilities specific to the bruhaha squares are move-only, no capture. The other moves are like anywhere on the board.

6. The joker (jester,fool) piece starts in pocket. It may be placed on the board as part of a first move of any non-pawn non-new minor piece on the board by placing the joker on the just vacated spot by the just moved piece. This can be done up until turn 12 (including 12) by white and turn 18 (including 18) by black. This turn difference is done to balance the first move advantage.

7. Pawns fill the third rank of each player (3rd rank for white, 8th rank for black)

The starting positions are numbered from 1 to 24. A position is obtained through the formula 12xclassicminor+6xmajor+dicethrow. For example below we have initial position number 14.Notice the jokers in the pocket squares. Also notice the pink Bruhaha squares.



This game has 25 pieces per side of 11 different types (king and pawns included). From the perspective of strength the pieces are split in 5 categories:

1. Major pieces - they are the strongest in the game; there are 3 major pieces:

Queen- like orthodox chess queen on a 10x10 board

Griffin- moves one square diagonally and then towards outside orthogonal like a rook turning 45 degrees

Aanca- moves one square orthogonal and then towards outside diagonally like a bishop turning 45 degrees

2. Average pieces - just the rook

Rook- just an orthodox rook on a 10x10 board

3. Joker pieces

Joker (Jester, Fool)- Average piece in the opening;the strength of this piece is highly dependent on the opponents material. The joker (jester,fool) imitates the power movement and capture of the last piece moved by the opponent. Be careful as opposite to the advanced  omega chess fool, from which the concept is taken, the apothecary joker doesn't immobilize pieces .

4. Minor pieces- only the pawn is weaker than those pieces

Bishop- like an orthodox bishop on a 10x10 board

Knight- an orthodox knight with a zebra just move enhancement like in advanced omega chess (i.e. jump for movement and not capture three squares in one
direction and two squares in the perpendicular direction)

Champion- may step one square orthogonal or jump two squares away diagonally or orthogonal

Wizard- classic camel (a (3,1) leaper i.e jumps to all squares 1 square far in one direction and 3 squares far in the other) and ferz(steps one square
diagonally) compound

5. Pawns

Pawns - classic chess pawns on a 10x10 board from the point of view of movement and capture but that may promote starting the 8th rank according to piece categories. Pawns promote to any minor piece on the players 8th rank, any minor piece or rook at the 9th rank, and any minor piece,rook or any major piece at rank 10. Notice that pawns may never promote to joker.

King- Not in a category; an orthodox chess king on a 10x10 board- the royal piece of this game


By far the main difference between the rules of classic chess and the rules of apothecary chess 1 is that apothecary chess 1 has five instead of three possible outcomes:

1. win - obtained through checkmating your opponent which worths 1 tournament point

2. advantage - obtained through stalemating your opponent or having at least 4 points in the points counting process (see bellow) worths 0.75 tournament points

3. draw - obtained through double bare kings or through having at most 3 ahead points in the points counting process (see bellow) worths 0.5 tournament points

4. disadvantage- when your opponent finishes at an advantage still worths 0.25 tournament points

5. loss - you got checkmated

At any time players may give up (loss) or convene at a draw or advantage/disadvantage.

Point count occurs in two situations:

1. The 100 moves rule takes charge (akin to the 50th moves rule of orthodox chess but after 100 moves) i.e. 100 moves have taken place and no captures or pawn pushes happenned.

2. An position has been repeated three times.

When point count occurs points are awarded to each player for each non king piece the player has on the board. A major piece worths 9 points. A rook worths 6 points. A minor piece worths 3 points. A fool worths 5 points if the opponent has exactly more major pieces than minor pieces left on the board. It worth 4 point otherwise. A pawn on the 9th rank worth 7 points. A pawn on the 8th rank worth 4 points. A pawn not on the 8th or 9th rank worth 1 point. If one player counts at least 4 more points than it's opponent then the game end in an advantage for him. Otherwise a draw is awarded to both players.

There is no castling in this game. The en passant rule is as usual only that pawns have the double move from the 3rd to the 5th player's rank.


During the developement of the game I kept in touch with several persons including Greg Strong, H.G.Muller and Vickalan Reinhart. Especially to Greg and HG I owe a debt of gratitude for providing software that help me develop the game concepts. I have used HG Muller's Fairy-MAX to measure properly piece values, although that is still in the beginning phases. I have used Greg Strong's chessV in order to implement the weirder promotion rule and the joker piece, and test a bit the game.
Here are the proposed piece values as I used them in ChessV.
Pawn        800
bishop        3400
wizard        3600
knight        3800
champion    3900
rook        5750
aanca        7200
griffin        8000
queen        9000

These values are according to preliminary measurements and are subject to discussion. In the lower part of the spectrum they are better measured as I've put more time there.

The piece notations I advice are:
Pawn        P,p
bishop        B,b
wizard        W,w
knight        N,n
champion    C,c
rook        R,r
aanca        A,a
griffin        G,g
queen        Q,q
Joker        J,j
King        K,k

There are many ways of establishing handicap but as the inventor of this game I must advise against large handicaps. If the strength gap is to large than maybe you should choose different opponents. Here is a list of what I considered acceptable handicaps from smallest to largest accepted.
1. Move handicap- either white starts with two moves or black does two moves without capturing anything the first time when it is his turn (so it can preserve the 18th turn joker placement advantage)
2. Pawn handicap- a pawn is added to the handicap receiver's 4th rank. The closer the pawn to the middle of the board the larger the handicap.
3. Bishops vs 2 pawns handicap - The handicap giver removes a bishop but adds two pawns on the 4th rank. If those pawns are connected than the handicap is smaller, also if the pawns are closer to the middle of the board.
4. Rook vs 3 pawns handicap- same idea- The handicap giver removes a rook but adds two pawns on the 4th rank. Also the handicap receiver removes a pawn. Various pawn arrangements lead to various tunnings of this handicap.

I know usually in odds games pieces are not added but I like this way better. Time odds are also possible.

It has been pointed out that the griffin and aanca are a bit awkward to use but I managed to get used to them. For AI's is all the same thing.

The 24 initial positions are chosen from an uniform distribution for now. If the game becomes studied and more openings are found from certain initial positions then the probability distribution will be adjusted accordingly so the richer initial positions come up slightly more often.


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By Aurelian Florea.
Web page created: 2017-04-25. Web page last updated: 2017-04-25