The Chess Variant Pages

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featured variant for October, 2023.

This page is written by the game's inventor, H. G. Muller.


Makromachy was designed as an attempt to make a huge chess variant that would not take excessively long to play. With very large armies it usually takes a lot of moves to trade away enough pieces to break through the opponent's defenses and take on his King. Strong pieces tend to be traded faster than weak pieces because they don't take so many moves to engage the opponent, so in the later game phases one often deals with large armies of weak pieces, which grind away each other at slow pace. Large variants also suffer from a relative scarcity of Pawns, and by the time the opponent is weak enough to survive the journey to the promotion rank, they could all be eliminated, losing promotion as a quick way to decide the game.

To address these issues Makromachy incorporates four uncommon features intended for accelerating the game: 'Flying pieces', which can jump over arbitrary many opponents to capture or check, make the Kings vulnerable even in the opening phase. Furthermore, the strongest, very destructive piece is subject to a special rule that prevents it from being easily traded out of the game, so that it is likely to survive into the game phase where hosts of weak pieces have to be cleared away to make progress. The slowest leapers have been given an extra 'air lift' non-capturing move, which can bring them to where the action is in a single move. Finally there is a 'second wave' of pawn-like (and thus promoting) pieces in the rear guard, where they are less likely to perish in the heat of battle.

The 2x56 pieces are placed on a 14x14 board. The resulting high piece density and relatively small distance between the armies, as well as the forward placement of non-sliding pieces, also contribute to faster encounter and more intense battle.



Each player has 56 pieces of 24 different types. Pieces on blue background can promote, those on yellow background can block moves of the 'flying' pieces on bright yellow.

pawn steps one square straight ahead to an empty square, or diagonally forward for (e.p.?) capturing only, slides to the 2nd or 3rd square straight ahead to an empty square if it has not moved yet
warrior steps one square straight ahead to an empty square, or diagonally forward for (e.p.?) capturing only, slides to the 2nd square straight ahead to an empty square, or makes a backward knight's jump for capturing only
zebra makes a (3,2) leap
camel makes a (3,1) leap
elephant steps one square diagonally, jumps to the 2nd square diagonally, or slides diagonally towards a piece, stopping just before it.
knight makes a (2,1) leap, or slides at least 3 steps diagonally towards a piece, stopping just before it.
champion steps one square orthogonally, jumps to the 2nd square diagonally or orthogonally, or slides orthogonally towards a piece, stopping just before it.
vao slides diagonally to an empty square, or jumps over the nearest piece diagonally to capture the next piece on the same diagonal
cannon slides orthogonally to an empty square, or jumps over the nearest piece orthogonally for capturing the next piece on the same line
bishop slides diagonally
rook slides orthogonally
dragon horse slides diagonally, or steps one square orthogonally
dragon king slides orthogonally, or steps one square diagonally
rhino steps one square orthogonally and from there can continue to slide diagonally outward
griffon steps one square diagonally and from there can continue to slide orthogonally outward
archbishop slides diagonally, or makes a knight's jump
marshall slides orthogonally, or makes a knight's jump
queen slides in all 8 directions
archer steps one square orthogonally, or jumps to the 2nd square diagonally
bat slides diagonally, or jumps over arbitrary many pieces diagonally for capturing only
raven slides orthogonally, or jumps over arbitrary many pieces orthogonally for capturing only
eagle slides in all 8 directions, or jumps over arbitrary many piecesin all 8 directions for capturing only
terror slides in all 8 directions, makes a knight's jump, jumps to the 2nd square diagonally or orthogonally. Can also capture on any of the 8 adjacent squares, and then move on to an empty square (but not to where it started its move)
king steps one square in all 8 directions, or castles with a Dragon King to any square on the back rank according to 'fast-castling' rules (see below)



The Terror is capable of 'hit-and-run capture', which often enables it to eliminate protected foes with impunity. It has to stand next to a victim to do that, so that it is not too easy to threaten two pieces at once in this way in the end-game. Moving away the single piece that is attacked is often the only remedy.

The 'air lift' moves of the Knight, Elephant, and Champion are a bouncing version of Grasshopper moves: instead of landing immediately behind the nearest piece along their path, they bounce back from the latter, to land immediately in front of it. When properly planned, this can save you a lot of moves for getting these slow-moving pieces where you want them.

White can already threaten mate in one with his first move, by opening the diagonal to n9 for his Bat. But there is little advantage in this, as 1... m10 is an easy remedy as well as a healthy development move. Black has to remain attentive for this, though, and when he would push up his m-Pawn more than a single square too early he could get badly punished.

The two central files are vulnerable to frontal Cannon attack, as they contain 3 juicy targets that can be skewered by a Cannon, and the Pawn in front of those acting as a mount cannot leave the file. The players should give high priority to curing this weakness in their opening play, by placing low-valued pieces in front of the 'noble' pieces to shield the latter. The Zebras and Elephants are suitably placed for this, and will then be protected by Archers, while the Vaos can also be easily brought to their defense as well.

The flying pieces are placed such that they form a shield for flying attacks for the most-valuable ('noble') pieces behind them. Those with orthogonal flying captures are shielded from each other by Archers or (for the Eagle) a Bat, so they cannot be traded immediately. Bat attacks on the more valuable nobles should be a concern when the latter are still smothered (or can be skewered), but can initially only happen from squares that can be easily controlled by Pawns or minor pieces.

Beware of attacks from a battery of Ravens or Eagles on your back-rank pieces, which could easily result in a smothered mate. Initially these pieces are well protected, and the protection by the Warriors will be likely maintained a long time. But when you develop the other pieces (in particular Champion) too carelessly, that might become their only protection, which is not sufficient against a flying battery.

Some opening ideas are b5, c6, Cc4, Ec5, Nd5 in the wings, or g6, h6, Zg4, Eh5, i6, Zi5 in the center. In a later stage e7, Rd2 can clear the path for the development of the Griffon (over e2) and after that the Rhino (over f1)

Only castle after you have made arrangements for securing your King fortress against flying attacks! E.g. diagonally with a Bat, and vertically with an Archer.

The Warriors are set up so they can be used as a conventional pawn shield for a castled King. The real Pawns are placed too much forward to fulfill this role in a large variant like this.

The ban on capturing protected Terrors applies to Terrors to prevent their trading. It also applies to Eagles that want to capture a Terror, mainly to prevent perpetual chasing of a Terror by an Eagle, as the Terror would likely not want to be traded for an Eagle.

Perpetual checking by an Eagle is prevented through the rule that even a first repetition is forbidden here. It also prevents claiming of a draw when the evading player happens to repeat first. Eagle checks can go on for a long time even without repeating, and this rule also prevents you would have to go through the cycle twice. Even then, stalling progress by long sequences of novel checks can be easy in some game stages, and to prevent that such otherwise pointless checks can result in a 50-move draw, these are not counted.

The flying pieces were borrowed from Tenjiku Shogi, but the elaborate ranking there of what can jump over what has been simplified. Dragon Horse, Dragon King and Archer are also pieces that one usually only finds in large Shogi variants (the latter under the name Phoenix). The Champion was borrowed from Omega Chess. The anti-trading rule for Terrors is borrowed from Chu Shogi (where it applies to the Lion). Fast castling was borrowed from Wide Chess. The Terror was inspired by the Cyberpiece from Radioactive Queen Chess.

The Warrior is a novel piece designed especially for this variant. It was made to move faster than a Pawn, but cannot exploit this before the Pawn in the same file is gone. The backward captures were added to drive up the value without making it easier to promote, so that a Pawn protected by a Warrior doesn't become impervious to capture by a minor (as Pawn protected by Pawn would be). But these moves also come in very handy for better (and more lasting) protection of the back-rank pieces.

The other pieces are all commonly used in many other chess variants. In particular the large variants designed by Jean-Louis Cazaux (Zanzibar-XL, Gigachess, Terachess). The value spectum of the pieces was made similar to that of orthodox Chess, by including a good number of minors.

The Champion was chosen because of its capability to protect many back-rank pieces, and to jump over the wall of Warriors on 2nd rank, so it can develop without compromising the latter. Note that the Champion in general cannot force checkmate against a bare King on 14x14.

The Eagle would be almost unstoppable in perpetually attacking some other piece, and forcing a draw that way. The only targets that for which protection is not an adequate defense against such attacks would be King and Terror. For the King this is solved by forbidding the Eagle to repeat a check, and not counting non-repeating Eagle checks in the 50-move rule. For the Terror it is solved by banning capture of a protected Terror by an Eagle outright.

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 H. G. Muller.

Last revised by Ben Reiniger.

Web page created: 2023-04-21. Web page last updated: 2023-07-26