Check out Alice Chess, our featured variant for June, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, David Paulowich.

Courier Chess VIII

The design process for this game began years ago with giving the elephants of Shatranj a more powerful move. Next I examined Courier Chess, which introduced interesting pieces like the Man (Commoner), and a pair of Couriers (Bishops) on a 12x8 board. That game was followed by Courier-Spiel and eventually led to our modern version of chess. I kept coming back to one thought: replacing the weak Ferz with a Dragon Horse (Bishop + Wazir) from Shogi makes the Commoner and two Bishops unnecessary. Which also makes the larger board unnecessary. So my Courier Chess VIII is played on an ordinary 8x8 board, checkered for ease of play with the diagonal movers.

[Edit: May 31, 2023] Switching to Set Group: Metamachy provides the symbols I want. Fergus [2023-03-11] raises the point that it would make more sense to call the (Bishop + Wazir) piece a "Courier" in this game. While the "General" has served me well from 2005 to 2007, it is time to retire that piece name.



White: King d1; Courier e2; Elephant e1, d2; Knight b1, g1; Rook a1, h1; Pawn a2, b2, c2, d3, e3, f2, g2, h2.

Black: King d8; Courier e7; Elephant e8, d7; Knight b8, g8; Rook a8, h8; Pawn a7, b7, c7, d6, e6, f7, g7, h7.


These are standard Shatranj pieces, with a few changes in the Rules section.

Courier - This piece (Betza notation BW) moves and captures along the diagonals like a Bishop. It also moves and captures on any adjacent square. See the movement diagram below. Jose Carrillo uses a very different set of pieces in his 2009 game Ajax Chess, including Bishops that can make noncapturing moves to orthogonally adjacent squares.

Elephant - This piece (Betza notation AmD) leaps like an Alfil or a Dababbah to an empty square. But it can only capture like an Alfil. See the movement diagram below. While the Dabbabah sometimes replaced the Alfil in India - see the Chaturanga page - use of the Alibaba piece came much later in history. See the Modern Courier Chess page for Paul V. Byway's twentieth century version of Courier Chess, with all of the modern pieces on the 12x8 board. Alibabas are placed between the Knights and Bishops, while the White center pieces are: Ferz-Queen-King-Ferz. Relevant articles from Variant Chess magazine are available at various places on the web.




In this game a King, which has never moved and is currently not in check, has the option of leaping two squares orthogonally to an empty square, like the Elephant does. It cannot leap over an enemy piece. It cannot leap over a square that is attacked by any enemy piece. "Riding the Elephant" seems an appropriate name for this rule.

As in Shatranj, a Pawn advances one square only and always promotes to a Courier of the same color. With a Courier that is far stronger than a Ferz, endgames are greatly changed.

Checkmate is a win and stalemate is a draw.


Pawn = 3, Elephant (AmD) = 5, Knight = 10, Rook = 15, and Courier (BW) = 16

provides a simple guide to endgame piece values. Additional suggestions:

Ferz = 5, Alibaba (AD) = 7, Modern Elephant (FA) = 9 and Commoner (FW) =12.

A King that has never moved in Courier Chess VIII has up to eight possible moves: the usual five plus three leaps. You begin the game with an impressive choice of 22 normal moves and one King's Leap, yielding 23 x 23 = 529 possible positions two ply deep. 1.d4 Nc6 2.Kd3 Gf6 3.e4 Gxd4 mate is an example of misusing the King's special leap move.

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 David Paulowich.

Last revised by David Paulowich.

Web page created: 2023-02-26. Web page last updated: 2023-05-06