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This page is written by the game's inventor, Aurelian Florea. This game is a favorite of its inventor.

Grand Apothecary Chess-Classic

This game is part of the apothecary series, a series of games created by myself with the purpose of finding new ideas in chess and habituating people with progressivelly larger boards. Unlike earlier versions this game it does not wish to be a replacement of regular chess for advanced players.


The board is 12x12 with 8 brouhaha squares. The ranks are numbered (0),1,2,3,...,11,12,(13) with the parentheses standing for brouhaha squares only. There are in total 576 initial possible setups. For the purpose of explaining the initial setup pieces are split into 7 categories:

  1. The king - the royal piece of the game. Always starts on  g1 for white and g12 for black.
  2. The regular pawns almost fill up rank 3 for white and rank 10 for black. The exception are the the a and l files where regular pawns are placed on the fourth rank.There are also 2 pawns on rank 4 on the f and g files.
  3. The berolina pawns occupy the fields a3,l3,c4 and j4 for white, respectively a10,l10,c9 and j9 for black
  4. The main board fixed pieces. They are four rooks at a2,b1,l2 and k1 and two cannons at a1 and l1 for white. For black four rooks at a1,b12,l11 and k12 and two cannons at a12 and l12.
  5. On the brouhaha squares there are two jokers at e0 and h0 for white and respectively e13 and a13 for black. Also on the brouhaha squares at f0 and g0 and respectively at f13 and g13 there are two caliphs for each player.
  6. The fields e1,f1,h1 for white and e12,f12,h12 for black are designated  as the back rank heavy piece area and are occupied in the initial position at random by a queen, an unicorn and a thunderbird. for each respective player. That leads to 6 possibilities.
  7. The fields f2,g2 for white and f11,g11 for black are designated are designated as the front rank heavy piece area and are occupied in the initial position at random by a dragon and a firebird.There are 2 possibilities. 
  8. The fields c1 and d1 are occupied randomly by a knightrider and a mameluke for white. Also for white a mameluke and  a knightrider are placed symmetrically on i1 and j1. In the same way said pieces are placed for black on c12,d12,i12 and j12. There are again 2 possibilities.
  9. At rank 2 for white and 11 for black between files b and e and h and k inclusively lies the area where the light pieces are. They are arranged in pair symmetrical to the middle of the rank. There are 4 such pieces which are arranged randomly on the right side and then symmetrically on the left side of the rank. These pieces are: the bishop, the vulture, the knight, and the siege elephant.This leads to 24 possibilities..
That means that in total there are 576 possible initial positions. One sample is shown below.


files=12 ranks=14 symmetry=none holdingsType=1 promoZone=4 promoChoice=!P!X*N*B*L*E*Z*R3*Y3*F3*J3*D2*Q2*I2*T2*U2 graphicsDir=../graphics.dir/alfaerie/ whitePrefix=w blackPrefix=b graphicsType=gif squareSize=54 hole::::a1-l1,,a14-l14 pawn:P:mfW*fceF:pawn:b4-k4,f5,g5,a5,l5,,b11-k11,f10,g10,a10,l10 berolina:X:mfF*fceW:berolinapawn:a4,l4,c5,j5,,a11,l11,c10,j10 king:K:KisO3isO4isjO2isjO3:king:g2,,g13 rook::::a3,l3,b2,k2,,a12,l12,b13,k13:1 queen::::f2,,f13:1 bishop:B:B:bishop:c3,j3,,c12,j12:2 knight:N:NmZ:knight:b3,k3,,b12,k12:1 mamluk:L:WL:/graphics.dir/alfaeriemisc/compounds/%camelwazir:d2,i2,,d13,i13:1 siege elephant:E:FAH:/graphics.dir/alfaeriemisc/good/%elephantferzrook:e3,h3,,e12,h12 cannon:Z:mRcpR:cannon:a2,l2,,a13,l13 knightrider:Y:NN:nightrider:c2,j2,,c13,j13:1 caliph:H:BL:/graphics.dir/alfaerie/%camelbishop:f1,g1,,f14,g14 vulture:F:afafafsKafsafafKafafraflKafaflafrKafraflafKaflafrafKmA:bird:d3,i3,,d12,i12 joker:J:fI:fool:e1,h1,,e14,h14 Dragon:D:FyafsF:dragon:f3,,f12 Thunderbird:T:WB3afafyasfF:/graphics.dir/alfaerie-fpd/%thunderbird:h2,,h13 Unicorn:U:BNN:unicorn:e2,,e13 Firebird:I:FR2afyasfW:/graphics.dir/alfaerie-fpd/%firebird:g3,,g12 symmetry=mirror shuffle=:B:N:E:F,QUT,DI,:L:Y maxPromote=2 royal=3

The King moves like an orthodox chess King and it is the royal piece of this game.

The Pawn moves like an orthodox pawn. It can promote at the furthest 3 ranks for each player. On the rank closest to the player it promotes to either bishop, knight, cannon,  siege elephant or mameluke,  On the next rank the pawn can also promote to rook, joker, knightrider, vulture or caliph.  At the furthest rank the pawn may also promote to queen, dragon, unicorn, firebird and thunderbird. But also, in order to promote, the player must have the required piece in reserve. In reserve enter all lost pieces by the player allong with (from the beginning of the game) 1 queen, 1 rook, 1 knightrider, 2 bishops, 1 knight and 1 mamluk.

The Berolina Pawn is a reverted pawn that moves to the 2 forward fields and caputures ahead. Promotion rules are the same as with the regular pawn.

The Queen is an orthodox chess queen.

The unicorn is a knightrider+ bishop compound piece.

The Dragon is a bent rider. It starts the move like a ferz and may stop here or continues toward outside like a rook.

The Thunderbird is a bent rider. It starts with a diagonal move of exact 3 spaces (it can stop here  or in the intermediate squares) and then continues towards outside like a rook. It may also move as an wazir.

The Firebird is a bent rider. It starts with and orthogonal move of exact 2 spaces (it may stop here or in the intermediate square) and then continues towards outside like a bishop. It may also move as an ferz.

The rook is an orthodox chess rook.

The knightrider is a knight that may continue by repeating the first move.

The joker does not  have a move of it's own. Instead it copies the last move of the opponent.

The caliph is a bishop and camel (3 1 leaper) compound.

The cannon is the cannon from Xiangqi. It moves like a rook but captures by hoping over a piece called platform.

The bishop is a regular chess bishop.

The Vulture is a path mover akin to the falcon piece in falcon chess, but it's destinations are the 41&43 squares away from the piece. It may also jump withouth capturing 2 squarez diagonally.

The knight moves and captures like a regular knight but it can also move (but not capture) with a zebra (3,2) leap.

The siege elephant steps on step diagonally or jumps two steps diagonally or jumps three steps orthogonally..

The mameluk steps 1 step orthogonally or leaps like a camel (3,1).


By far the main difference between the rules of classic chess and the rules of grand apothecary chess-classic is that grand apothecary chess-classichas 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 extra 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 150 moves rule takes charge (akin to the 50th moves rule of orthodox chess but after 150 moves) i.e. 150 moves have taken place and no captures or pawn pushes happened.
2. An position has been repeated three times.

With the purpose of explaining the points count pieces are split into 5 categories:

1.Heavy Pieces: Queen, Dragon, Unicorn, Firebird and Thunderbird - they worth 9 points in the points count.

2.Average Pieces: Vulture, Rook, Knightrider and Caliph- they worth 6 points in the points count

3.The joker - worth 5 points if the opponent has exactly more heavy pieces than non-heavy pieces, 4 points otherwise

4. Light pieces: Bishop, Knight, Cannon, Mameluk and sSiege Elephant - they worth 3 points in the points count

5.  Pawns: Regular Pawns and berolina pawns- they worth 1 point in the points count

In this game there are 4 different castling moves for each side of the king.

1. Long Rook Castling- King slides 3 squares on the bottom rank and the rook jumps imideatly on the other side of the king

2. Short Rook Castling- King slides 2 squares on the bottom rank and the rook jumps imideatly on the other side of the king

3. Long Cannon Castling- King slides 4 squares on the bottom rank and the cannon jumps imideatly on the other side of the king

4. Short Cannon Castling- King Slides 3 sqaures on the bottom rank and the cannon jumps imideatly on the other side of the king

The usual castling restrictions apply.

The en passant rule is as usual only that pawns may move an arbirary number of squares until the middle of the board. The 50 moves rule becomes a 150 moves rule. The brouhaha sqares disapear after they have been vacated. Captures may happen on the brouhaha squares and that preserves them.

At the beginning of the game the joker does not inherit any move because there have not been any moves. That means white cannot move it's joker at the first move. Black may imitate the move made in the same turn on it's first move.

A joker imitating a pawn has only the regular moves, no double step, no enpassant and no promotion even if that pawn has promoted the last move.


When beginning the design of this game I wanted the piece to fall clearly into 3 categories light, average and heavy with respect with there importance in exchanges. This was done in the previous 10x10 apothecary games to favor dynamically balanced endgames (meaning equal endgames where the material is different, example from chess: B+2P vs R and other things that are the same). Now at the end of creating the 12x12 game I don't see why was that a priority because in a such large game it is very unlikely to have rook and pawns endgames. But the deed is already done and lessons will be used in the design of future variants. The light and average pieces were also (with exceptions) selected do be as different as possible. The heavy pieces less so as I considered that each set of stronger piece would give the game the name as in my 10x10 games. I don't know if this was a happy choice also. And that is it with my self criticism. From now on I'll explain why each piece type was considered.

The bishop and the rooks where not changed themselves as they are considered by me to be emblematic pieces that needed to be in the game. Moreover the rooks receive 4 spots for being such right pieces for chess. So this game has four rooks. I could not do that for bishops also as there was just not enough space.

The knight if left just with it's usual powers loses strength to the bishop. As I wished for the two to be as strong I had enhanced the knight with just move powers (just move so that it's flavor it's not lost).In this game the just move ability is zebra meaning the full piece in Betza is written NmZ. I had taken this kind of enhancement from the omega chess advanced game, this being the piece that inspired the concept of enhancing the knight. I had first used it for the apothecary classic game and kept it for the grand apothecary classic game as it covers well the area around the knight and provides speed which the knight now needs on bigger boards. Early tests with Fairy Max showed this piece on a 10x10 board to be three quarters of a pawn stronger that a bishop. On a 12x12 board the 2 pieces are definitely closer in value.

The two pure leapers of the game are the siege elephant (FAH) and the mamluk (LW). As all the leapers in the grand apothecary games these are one piece with two leaps on four direction and one in other four direction (the siege elephant) and a piece with half the king's moves and some elongated knight move (the mamluk). The pure leapers are seen by me as a natural inclusion in the game.

Not much I find there is to be said about the cannon. It is the Chinese chess piece in a western environment. It is a different concept (a hopper) from the other pieces of similar strength (bishop, knight and pure leapers). I chose it because by being visibly different it adds flavor to the game.

I thought the nightrider to also be a natural addition to the game, for a rook strength (average) piece, but it seems in the end it is to much of a trouble maker. I kept it though in the final version in an attempt to try to see if it works out. Anyway I'm working on 12x12 games where it will most likely not be present. To reach a rook strength piece maybe a maorider compound with something weak (like a ferz) is better.

The vulture takes it's concept from falcon chess where the falcon is a 31&32 destination path mover. The vulture (name proposed by HG Muller) is a 41&43 destination path mover in the same way. My idea was that the falcon is a long path mover (with paths longer than a knight jump) of approximate (a bit stronger) rook strength. I wanted something similar. This game already has leapers that leap 3 and something squares away so I went for a 4 and something destination path mover. The vulture is weaker than a falcon because it can be blocked on more occasions, and also because it's longer destinations (although this is undone by the larger board) and so I decided to add a leaping non-capture move to ease the vulture movement and opening development without affecting it's already tremendous forking power. So in this game I have added a just move alfil jump. Why 41&43 destination path mover and not a plain 41&43 leaper, as the leaper would be easier to view. Well, the ability to block the piece makes the game more strategic than tactical as players need to open up lines before using the forking power of the vulture. There are also enough leapers and I prefer leapers to stay in the light pieces groups so that their forks of stronger pieces (even if defended matters). To me rook strength pieces and above, need to be able to be blocked as they enter later in the game anyway, they can fork less defended pieces, and must (to be useful) fork undefended pieces. So a strong leaper (and stronger than an equivalent path mover) seems a contradiction. As the leaping part is designed to fork as much as possible and the strong part is usually related with forcing issues on the board and delivering checkmate.

At some point I have decided to introduce something rook strength initially on the brouhaha squares. As this game does not have (besides the bishop) any colorbound piece I have decided to use the caliph for that. Although, to be honest, not my favorite piece and one somewhat close in properties to the mamluk I think this is an ok addition to the game as it is different enough from the pieces of similar strength.

Two classic by now heavy pieces are used here: the unicorn and the Dragon (named griffin more often a pieces that starts moving like a ferz and then continues like a rook). Because of it's role in Grande Acedrex it receives a classic stamp. The unicorn is used in more games than it's component part- the nightrider, and it is quite beloved by variantists earning it a classic stamp also.

As the higher success of my apothecary chess modern game by comparison to the apothecary chess classic game suggests, bent riders seem to be more popular then the Capablanca pieces, besides the dragon in this game I have decided to use more bend riders here. I have chosen for the the names Thunderbird and Firebird as suggested by the community. Fergus Duniho was kind to provide pictures for them. As they are bend riders that bend later weakening them in the process I have added them the missing king moves so they lack the weakness of being vulnerable by king 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 Aurelian Florea.

Last revised by Aurelian Florea.

Web page created: 2021-01-29. Web page last updated: 2021-03-29