The Chess Variant Pages
Custom Search





Herculean Chess

Introduction

The idea behind Herculean Chess is to extend chess unto a 12x12 board while preserving the strategic richness of the original game. The rules are identical to chess except for a more flexible castling system, and the movement of the new pieces.

The new pieces are a natural extension of the standard pieces with powers to compensate for the bigger board. The ninja pawns are more mobile and powerful, the Flying Bishops and Flying Chariots more maneuverable, the Sorcerers longer reaching leaping pieces, and the Ferz Knight and Wazir Knight more dominant short range knights.

Setup

There are two versions of this game. Both are equally exciting, each with a unique pleasing symmetry of its own. In the second configuration, the Sorcerer Knights replace the Ferz Sorcerer and the Wazir Sorcerer while everything else is identical.
The first version provides the best gameplay while the second configuration is more experimental in nature.
First Configuration
herculean start position 1 Herculean Chess Main Configuration

Coordinates for white. (black mirrors white)

Rooks on a1, l1
Wazir Sorcerer on b1
Flying Chariots on c1,j1
Flying Bishops on d1, i1
Ferz Knight on e1
Queen on f1
King on g1
Wazir Knight on h1
Ferz Sorcerer on k1
Ninja Pawns on a2-e2 and h2-l2
Bishops on f2 and g2
Pawns from a3-l3
Second Configuration
herculean start position # 2 Herculean Board #2

In this board, the Sorcerer Knights replace the Ferz Sorcerer and the Wazir Sorcerer.

Coordinates for white. (black mirrors white)

Rooks on a1, l1
Sorcerer Knights on b1,k1
Flying Chariots on c1,j1
Flying Bishops on d1, i1
Ferz Knight on e1
Queen on f1
King on g1
Wazir Knight on h1
Ninja Pawns on a2-e2 and h2-l2
Bishops on f2 and g2
Pawns from a3-l3

Pieces

The Bishop, Rook, Queen and King move as in Orthodox Chess.

The Pawn

The pawn moves the same as in standard chess except that it can move forward 1,2 or 3 vacant spaces on its first move, or reserve the option to move forward two spaces on its second move if it moved only 1 space or captured from its strarting position.

The Ninja Pawn

The ninja pawn possesses slightly different modes of movement and capture depending on which half of the board it is on.
Movement:
The ninja pawn can always move 1 square up or 1 square sideways to an empty square regardless of where it is situated on the board.
When the pawn is situated in the lower half of the board (for White, rank 1-6 and for black 12-7), it can move forward multiple vacant squares (1-4 squares) to reach the middle of the board (rank 6 for White or rank 7 for Black). This move can be done at any time regardless of how many times the pawn has moved. Thus White can on each turn move from c2-c3, c3-d3 and d3-d6.
Once it passes the middle, the ninja pawn can only move 1 square forward at a time, or move 1 square horizontally.
Capture:
Like the standard pawn it can capture one square diagonally up, regardless of which half of the board it is on.
When the ninja pawn is on the top half of board (White after rank 6, Black before rank 7) , it can also capture one square horizontally.
There is no en passant. It cannot capture another pawn or ninja pawn en passant nor can any other pawn capture it this way.
Promotion: The ninja pawn promotes on the last row (rank 12 for white, rank 1 for black), to any piece. Promotion to a piece is mandatory so it would cease to be a pawn in the last row.

The Flying Chariot

The Flying Chariot possesses multiple modes of movement and capture.
  1. It can move along any clear orthogonal path like a rook.
  2. It can jump over an orthogonal adjacent piece like a 2 space leaper such as a war machine.
  3. It can jump over two adjacent pieces landing three orthogonal squares away. It can make this jump only if two pieces (regardless of color) lie between it and the target square. Note that it can NEVER jump 3 squares away if only one piece lies in between.
The Flying Chariot captures by displacing the enemy piece on the square it lands. Jumped over pieces are unaffected.
  1. Like a Rook, it can capture the first enemy piece it bumps into on a clear orthogonal path.
  2. It can also capture enemy piece two squares away by jumping an adjacent piece.
  3. It can capture enemy piece three squares away by jumping two adjacent pieces. Note there must be 2 pieces in between for the flying chariot to jump 3 squares away.
Flying Chariot  moves The Flying Chariot on d5 can move to all the squares in blue or capture all the enemy pieces shown except the queen.

It can capture the knight by moving to c5. It can also jump to b5 without capturing the knight. It cannot however capture the queen since two pieces do not lie in between.

It can slide one step to the right and capture the pawn at e5 or jump two spaces and capture the pawn at f5 or jump three spaces capturing pawn at g5.

The Flying Bishop

The Flying Bishop possesses multiple modes of movement and capture.
  1. It can move along any clear diagonal path like a Bishop.
  2. It can jump over one diagonal adjacent piece like an Alfil or Elephant.
  3. It can jump over two adjacent pieces landing three diagonal squares away. It can make this jump only if two pieces (regardless of color) lie between it and the target square. Note that it can NEVER jump 3 squares away if only one piece lies in between.
The Flying Bishop captures by displacing the enemy piece on the square it lands. Jumped over pieces are unaffected.
  1. It can capture the first enemy piece it bumps into on a clear diagonal path.
  2. It can capture enemy piece two squares away by jumping an adjacent piece.
  3. It can capture enemy piece three squares away by jumping two adjacent pieces.
Flying Bishop moves The Flying Bishop on d5 can move to all the squares in blue or capture all the enemy pieces shown in red squares.

It can capture the pawn by moving to e6. It can jump and capture pawn at f7 or jump and capture knight on g8.
It can jump over the black knight and capture the pawn at b3.
It can also slide towards b7 and capture the pawn.

The Ferz-Sorcerer

  1. It can move one diagonal step in any direction.
  2. It can leap to any path traced out by two diagonal spaces followed by one orthogonal square outwards (135 degrees angle).
  3. It captures on the square it lands. Leaped over pieces are unaffected.
Ferz-Sorcerer moves The Ferz-Sorcerer on d5 can move to all the squares in green.

It can also leap to all the squares in red.

The Wazir-Sorcerer

  1. It can move one orthogonal step in any direction.
  2. It can leap to any path traced out by one orthogonal square followed by two diagonally outwards (135 degrees angle).
  3. It captures on the square it lands. Leaped over pieces are unaffected.
Wazir-Sorcerer moves The Wazir-Sorcerer on d5 can move to all the squares in green.

It can also leap to all the squares in red.
*Note that the Ferz-Sorcerer and Wazir-Sorcerer both leap to the same square like a zebra.

The Ferz-Knight

  1. It can move one diagonal step in any direction.
  2. It can leap to any path traced out by one diagonal square followed by one orthogonal square outwards (135 degrees angle).
  3. It captures on the square it lands. Leaped over pieces are unaffected.

The Wazir-Knight

  1. It can move one orthogonal step in any direction.
  2. It can leap to any path traced out by one orthogonal square followed by one diagonally outwards (135 degrees angle).
  3. It captures on the square it lands. Leaped over pieces are unaffected.
*Note that the Wazir-knight and the Ferz-knight both leap to the same square like a standard knight.

The Sorcerer Knight

This piece is used for the optional second configuration.
  1. It can leap to any path traced out by one orthogonal square followed by one OR two diagonally outwards (135 degrees angle).
    Update: Alternatively, a weakened form of this movement can be used. The piece must slide along an unobstructed path of one orthogonal square followed by one OR two diagonally outwards. It can also reach the same destination square by an alternate path:
    One diagonal space followed by one orthogonal outwards (for the knight move) or two diagonal spaces followed by one orthogonal outwards (for the zebra move).
    Thus, there are TWO paths to the same square but if these are blocked it cannot move there.
    Note also that it cannot get one knights move away by moving two orthogonal and one perpendicular.
  2. It captures on the square it lands. Leaped over pieces are unaffected.
    If using the dual path version, there must be no pieces in its path.
Sorcerer Knight moves The Sorcerer Knight on d5 can travel to all the squares in green like a knight.
It can also go to all the squares in red.
The non-leaping version must have a clear path (1 of 2 paths) to these squares.
Knight move paths:
One orthogonal space and one diagonal space outwards
or One diagonal space and one orthogonal space outwards.
Zebra move paths:
One orthogonal followed by two diagonal spaces outwards.
Two diagonal spaces followed by one one orthogonal space outwards.

All Diags above shows smaller board than that used for game.

Rules

The rules in Herculean Chess are the same as in chess except for the following modifications :
  1. Pawn promotion: Pawns can promote to any piece (except the ninja pawn) on the 12th rank only.
  2. Pawn Movement: The pawn can move from its original position either 1, 2 or 3 vacant squares forward.
    A pawn, which initially moved forward 1 square or captured from its starting position, can subsequently at any time move forward 1 or 2 vacant squares. Once it reaches the center of the board (rank 6 for white, rank 7 for black), it can move forward only one square at a time.
    Some examples: the white pawn at g3 can start g3-g6 or it can move g3-g5 then g5-g6, or g3-g4 followed by g4-g6, or move g3-h4 to capture enemy piece at h4 followed by h4-h6 next time it moves.
  3. En Passant: If a Pawn moves two or three squares initially and passes an enemy Pawn on the 5th or 6th rank, it may be captured en passant by the enemy pawn. E.g. White pawn on a3 black pawn on b5. White a3 - a6 (or a5), the black pawn on b4 can capture it as if it had moved to a4.
    Similarly, black pawn on b6 instead and white plays a3-a6 then the black pawn can capture the white pawn as if it moved to a5. Note in this case the white pawn can still avoid the black pawn by moving to a4 instead.
    If a pawn slides forward 2 squares on its second move, it can also be captured en passant by an opposing pawn on the 6th rank. E.g. white pawn on a4 and black pawn on b6. White plays a4-a6, black pawn on b6 can capture the pawn en passant by moving to a5.
    Capturing en passant is optional unless it is the only legal move available. The capture must be made on the next move.
    Ninja Pawns cannot capture En Passant nor can any other pawn capture them in this manner.
  4. Castling: Unlike standard Chess, castling is flexible with the king able to travel 1, 2, 3,4 or even 5 squares towards the rook.
    There are 9 possible castling positions, the most extreme wing castling involves the king relocating to the b or k file. The choice of castling positions will depend on whether it is immediately necessary for the king to be tucked away at the wing or for the rook to be centralized.
    The usual castling criteria apply: No piece can occupy the spaces passed over by the king and castling rook. Cannot castle out of check. King cannot pass over or land on squares attacked by enemy, but rook can.
    1. 1 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King one space from g1-h1 and rook from l1-g1
      Black moves King one space from g12-h12 and rook from l12-g12
    2. 1 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King one space from g1-f1 and rook from a1-g1
      Black moves King one space from g12-f12 and rook from a12-g12
    3. 2 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King two spaces from g1-i1 and rook from l1-h1
      Black moves King two spaces from g12-i12 and rook from l12-h12
    4. 2 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King two spaces from g1-e1 and rook from a1-f1
      Black moves King two spaces from g12-e12 and rook from a12-f12
    5. 3 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King three spaces from g1-j1 and rook from l1-i1
      Black moves King three spaces from g12-j12 and rook from l12-i12
    6. 3 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King three spaces from g1-d1 and rook from a1-e1
      Black moves King three spaces from g12-d12 and rook from a12-e12
    7. 4 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King four spaces from g1-k1 and rook from l1-j1
      Black moves King four spaces from g12-k12 and rook from l12-j12
    8. 4 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King four spaces from g1-c1 and rook from a1-d1
      Black moves King four spaces from g12-c12 and rook from a12-d12
    9. 5 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King five spaces from g1-b1 and rook from a1-c1
      Black moves King five spaces from g12-b12 and rook from a12-c12

Notes

There are some key differences from standard chess:
  • The larger board and more pieces imply a much longer drawn out war between both sides.
  • The starting configuration is much safer so one side cannot aggress and charge very quickly. Since there are no weak points to hit immediately as in standard chess, White does not have an appreciable advantage.
  • Larger board and more pieces make it more difficult for even high level players to learn all opening variations several levels deep. Thus, more over the board play is guaranteed even at the highest levels.
  • The Ninja Pawns add a rich strategic dimension to pawn play.
  • The added stepping movement of the knights drastically improves their short range versatility.
  • Piece Values:
    The Flying Chariot and Flying Bishop are probably worth from ½ a pawn to a pawn more than the rook and bishop respectively.
    The Ferz-Sorcerer and Wazir-Sorcerer may be worth approximately the same as their Knight counterparts and perhaps slightly less if not equal to the bishop.
    The Queen, Rook and Bishop increase their power substantially relative to pawns especially when the board is less crowded.
    The Ninja Pawn is worth about one and a half to twice the value of a pawn.

Example Games

Click the View Button to see any of the games below:

Open Cut and thrust game


A blunder by black and white is a piece up throughout but then unexpectedly black capitalizes when white leaves the backrank vulnerable.


Black values the sorcerer-knight more than the bishop and exchanges accordingly. White however outplays black in the end and wins.



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 Charles Daniel.
Web page created: 2008-06-05. Web page last updated: 2008-06-05