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Missing Ox Chess

Introduction

This is my attempt at a goal tackled every now and then in Chess variants: a large variant using twenty or more piece types all starting with different letters. The first step was to set a few boundaries to avoid ending up with just one more amorphous, random collection of pieces. I decided on pieces representable by 4 distinguishable FIDE sets on 4 FIDE boards; that alone gave structure in the form of 1 each of 8 piece types, 2 each of 12, and 8 each of 4. There was some leeway for inverting selected Rooks, but ultimately I did not use it. I also ruled out pieces specific to hex or 3d geometries. Next I decided to favour names predating my time on these pages over my own, and real words outside Chess usage over derived names. I failed to entirely avoid derived names, but kept them to a bare minimum. I also ended up using a fair few of my own piece names, but that was due to another part of my approach: grouping piece types as much as possible with relatively few one-offs. I also decided to use as many FIDE piece types as practicable, and in as FIDE-like locations as a giant board allowed. Ultimately I did not use the Knight as its name starts with the same letter as King, but the Nightrider seems a good substitute better matching the board size.

Suitable pieces starting with two letters, O and X, eluded me altogether. This inspired the variant's name, with some influence from the Missing Bat subvariant of Leaping Bat Chess (this was long before I renamed a piece Ox, ironically a component of the Bat, which did not happen until 2012). Looking back at that variant I notice that my extensive use of oblique leaps up to and including that of the Giraffe is reminiscent of it - perhaps something sank into my subconscious when I first saw it. Ironically I include a piece whose name has ox in it, but with other letters before and after. I conceived this game not long after Random Rodent Chess but decided to delay it to mid-2008 rather than draw attention to a reference to a then irrelevant future Chinese Year. I never got round to it, and so it appeared in that short overlap between the old Chinese Year and the new International Year. Not long after this variant, but during the new Chinese Year, I added the bona fide (note the lower case as it was much closer to Xiang Qi than to FIDE Chess!) Year of the Ox variant Yoto.

Setup

rnbcizhqktzjcbnr
dlemegdaudgemeld
sdfewevddvewefds
pyyppyyppyyppyyp
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PYYPPYYPPYYPPYYP
SDFEWEVDDVEWEFDS
DLEMEGDAUDGEMELD
RNBCIZHQKTZJCBNR

Pieces

Alphabetic order seems a more than usually appropriate one for this variant's pieces. Pieces do however form groups across that order. BKQR are symmetric FIDE pieces, CNZ are Straight riders of three oblique leapers, GLM are Giraffe compounds with the same three oblique leapers, DE are non-coprime radial pieces, FSVW are compound of BR with Doubly Bent pieces, HIT are non-FIDE pieces moving on all 8 radials, AJU are one-offs, and PY are divergent pieces. It is by chance that the colourbound pieces are, in their entirety, lettered B-F.
A=ANTELOPE, a piece making 4:3 leaps. The name was devised by problematists, and adopted by variant players as no alternative name had ever been devised for it.
B=BISHOP, a standard FIDE piece making any number of diagonal steps in the same direction through empty intermediate squares. Each player has 2 Bishops, one bound to dark and one to pale squares. The name dates from the piece's introduction to European Chess.
C=CAMELRIDER, a piece making any number of Camel leaps in the same direction through empty intermediate squares. Each player has 2 Camelriders, one bound to dark and one to pale squares. The name follows a convention for pieces making repeated oblique leaps.
D=DABBABA, a piece leaping exactly 2 squares orthogonally regardless of what is on the halfway square. Each player has 8 Dabbabas, 2 on each of the 4 Dabbaba bindings. The name dates from its use in Timur's Chess.
E=ELEPHANT, a piece leaping exactly 2 squares diagonally regardless of what is on the halfway square. Each player has 8 Elephants, 1 on each of the 8 Elephant bindings. Throughout Chess history the piece has been known by names meaning elephant. It is also sometimes called an Alfil, but outside Chess usage that is really a phrase - al meaning "the", fil meaning "elephant".
F=FOXHOUND, the compound of Bishop and Fox. It moves as the Bishop above, or takes two steps orthogonally with two 45° turns and an optional Bishop move in between. The two turns may be both left or both right or one of each, and must be on empty squares. Each player has 2 Foxhounds, one bound to dark and one to pale squares. The name means a dog bred to pursue foxes. It alludes to the Bishop under such foreign names as Laufer/Loper/Futar, meaning someone appointed to run with messages.
G=GAMEWARDEN, the compound of Zebra and Giraffe. It makes 3:2 and 4:1 leaps. Each player has two Gamewardens. The name refers to finding both animals after which its components are named in a typical African game reserve.
H=HALBERD, the compound of Harlequin and Alibaba. Both pieces move in the same direction as the Queen but the Harlequin is restricted to moving only odd numbers of steps and the Alibaba to moving exactly two. The name is a combination of those of its components as described above, and means a kind of pike, in the sense of a weapon.
I=INFANTA, the compound of the Rook below and the Elephant above. It makes any number of orthogonal steps in the same direction through empty intermediate squares, or moves exactly 2 squares diagonally regardless of what is on the halfway square. Each player has a single Infanta. The name alludes to the connection - perhaps genuine, perhaps apocryphal - between the phrases "Infanta de Castile", a Spanish princess, and "Elephant and Castle", an English public house.
J=JOKER, a piece with the same move as whatever type of piece moved last, except with any sense of "forward" swapped from the enemy's to their own. For example a White Joker moving immediately after a Black Pawn moves like a White Pawn. If the last move was by a Joker it imitates what that imitated, with the sebse of "forward" swapped back again. The name presumably echoes its use in card games (which also have Kings and Queens) for a special card of varying value.
K=KING, a standard FIDE piece moving one square along any radial. It must be kept out of Check. In Occidental Chess this piece has always had a name meaning king.
L=LOOKOUT, the compound of Knight and Giraffe. It makes 2:1 and 4:1 leaps. Each player has two Lookouts. The name refers to someone appointed to view the scene from a giraffe-like height, often in a military context.
M=MUEZZIN, the compound of Camel and Giraffe. It makes 3:1 and 4:1 leaps. Each player has two Muezzins. The name refers to someone appointed to summon from a giraffe-like height followers of Islam, a religion popular in lands with a tradition of camelry regiments.
N=NIGHTRIDER, a piece making any number of Knight leaps in the same direction through empty intermediate squares. Each player has 2 Nightriders. The name follows a convention for pieces making repeated oblique leaps.
P=PAWN, a standard FIDE piece moving one square forward, diagonally if capturing otherwise orthogonally. Each player has 8 Pawns. The name means a peasant conscripted to the infantry, reflecting military practice in mediaeval Europe.
Q=QUEEN, a standard FIDE piece making any number of radial steps in the same direction through empty intermediate squares. Each player has a single Queen. The name dates from the piece's introduction to European Chess.
R=ROOK, a standard FIDE piece making any number of orthogonal steps in the same direction through empty intermediate squares. Each player has 2 Rooks. The name is a transliteration of the Persian for a chariot, which the piece originally represented.
S=SHEWOLF, the compound of Rook and Wolf. It moves as the Rook above, or takes two steps diagonally with two 45° turns and an optional Rook move in between. The two turns may be both left or both right or one of each, and must be on empty squares. Each player has 2 Shewolves. The name means a female wolf, and alludes to my practice of naming Rook compounds with Straight radial pieces after kinds of human lady.
T=TANK, differing from the Queen in that when capturing it requires exactly one intervening piece. The latter may be Black or White and is not itself captured. Each player has a single Tank. The name refers to being the compound of Yang Qi's Cannon and Arrow, after something that I felt combined a cannon's strength and a bow-and-arrow's mobility.
U=UNG, a Curved piece making a series of 2:1 Knight or 3:1 Camel leaps but neither both kinds of leap, nor left and right turns, can be mixed within a single move. In every case 37° turns alternate with 53° ones. Each player has a single Ung. The name is Gnu backwards, an idea based on reversing the first three letters of oblique pieces for their Curved riders, punning on (h)orse and ro(h)se. It is the only piece name in the variant that is not a real word outside Chess.
V=VIXEN, the compound of Rook and Fox. It moves as the Rook above, or takes two steps orthogonally with two 45° turns and an optional Bishop move in between. The two turns may be both left or both right or one of each, and must be on empty squares. Each player has 2 Vixens. The name means a female fox, and alludes to my practice of naming Rook compounds with Straight radial pieces after kinds of human lady.
W=WOLFHOUND, the compound of Bishop and Wolf. It moves as the Bishop above, or takes two steps diagonally with two 45° turns and an optional Rook move in between. The two turns may be both left or both right or one of each, and must be on empty squares. Each player has 2 Wolfhounds. The name means a dog bred to pursue wolves. It alludes to the Bishop under such foreign names as Laufer/Loper/Futar, meaning someone appointed to run with messages.
Y=YEOMAN, a piece moving one square forward, orthogonally if capturing otherwise diagonally. Each player has 8 Yeomen. The name means the next social class above peasant. The piece's greater noncapturing mobility than the Pawn corresponds to the classes' relative powers in civilian life.
Z=ZEBRARIDER, a piece making any number of Zebra leaps in the same direction through empty intermediate squares. Each player has 2 Zebrariders. The name follows a convention for pieces making repeated oblique leaps.

Rules

Pawns and Yeomen both have a Eurofighter double-step initial move on their starting rank. This means that the steps of this move can be both capturing, both noncapturing, or one of each in either order.

Kings can Castle as follows:

Other piecethat piece moves toKing moves to
InfantaQueen squareHalberd Square
JokerTank squareKing's Zebra square
King's RookJoker squareKing's Camelrider square
King's ShewolfJoker's Elephant squareKing's Muezzin square
King's WolfhoundTank's Dabbaba squareKing's Gamewarden square
Queen's RookQueen's Zebra squareInfanta square
Queen's ShewolfQueen's Gamewarden squareInfanta's Elephant square
Queen's WolfhoundAntelope squareHalberd's Dabbaba square
In each case both must be previously unmoved, the rest of the path connecting them (a Wolf path in the case of Shewolves and Wolfhounds, otherwise a Rook path) must be empty, and no square passed through by the King may be in Check. In the Joker's case, Castling must immediately follow a move by an enemy Rook or Rook compound (Infanta, Queen, Shewolf, Vixen).

A Pawn or Yeoman entering the enemy camp may be promoted, and must be on reaching the far rank.

Check, Checkmate, and Stalemate are as standard.

Notes

Some of you may be interested in my process of selecting which piece to represent each letter. So here is a list of rejected ones with thei reasons.
A: Ace and Acme as I could not have both; Alibaba, which I judged too bound to have only 1 or 2 of; Anchorite, as I was not using Gryphon; Ancress, as I was not using Metropolitan; Arrow, as I was not using Cannon.
C: Cannon, as oblique linepieces also covered N and Z; and Cardinal, as I decided to use Camel-based pieces and couldn't have had the Canvasser and Caliph as well.
F and W: Ferz and Wazir, as too short-range; Fox and Wolf, as I decided to use their compounds to cover S and V as well.
G: Girafrider and Gryphon, as compounds with the ordinary Giraffe also covered L and M.
H: Harlequin, as preferred not to use it without Columbine and Clown; Harvester, as Reaper would clash with Rook; and Hood, as it was too short-range to have only one on so large a board.
I: Inquisitor, as having both that and Infanta would have violated having unique initials.
M: Marshal, for the same reasons as Cardinal; Metropolitan, as I had settled on the Giraffe compounds.
S: Sow, as Boar would clash with Bishop.
V: Vanguard, as I had not formally named the piece swapping its capturing and noncapturing moves. For that I am now settling on the derived Contravanguard.

While editing these notes to clear out names that are likely to bexome obsolete, I noticed one in the variant itself that already was, and substituted a different piece. The newcomer to the game is the Halberd, which was already in my mind after a spellcheck drew my attention that weapon and the man wielding it.



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By Charles Gilman.
Web page created: 2009-01-03. Web page last updated: 2015-01-10