The Chess Variant Pages

This page is written by the game's inventor, Sam Trenholme.


Schoolbook is my take on 8x10 chess with the rook + knight and bishop + knight pieces added. While a number of different opening setups using these pieces and board have been proposed, I have not been completely satisfied with any of them. My goal, in designing Schoolbook, was to come up with an 8x10 opening setup with the following characteristics: There are two opening setups which meet this criteria. I chose the one where white's queen is left of his king, since this allows a right-side castle to be done more quickly, and since this preserves the traditional idea of having a "king side" and a "queen side".

The name "schoolbook" comes from the recent tradition of naming 8x10 chess variants after fonts.


Schoolbook chess' opening setup is as follows:

For people who can not see the image, the ASCII version of the setup is as follows:

- - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - - -
p p p p p p p p p p
r q n b a k b n m r
(Lower case pieces are white; upper case pieces are black)


Names of the pieces

R: Rook. Moves as a Chess rook; the only difference is in how this piece may castle.

Q: Queen. Identical to a chess queen.

N: kNight. Identical to a chess knight.

B: Bishop. Identical to a chess bishop.

K: King. Moves a a Chess king; object is to checkmate this piece. The only difference is how this piece castles.

A: Archbishop. Has the combined moves of a knight and bishop.

M: Marshall. Has the combined moves of a knight and rook.

Value of the pieces

A lot of research has been done in determining the values of the pieces in 8x10 chess variants with the rook + knight and bishop + knight pieces. Schoolbook is able to utilize the fruits of this research.

Here is a table of four different derived values for the pieces, obtained from three different chess variant playing computer programs and one other source.

Pawn 1.0001.0001.0001.0001.0001.000
Knight 2.5003.0532.3623.0003.0773.529
Bishop 3.2503.5002.8593.3003.5354.118
Rook 4.7005.8154.2625.0005.7775.588
Queen 8.7509.6177.0609.0009.31211.18
Archbishop 6.5006.8585.1276.8006.61210.29
Marshall 8.2508.8706.6598.7008.85410.59

The ChessV numbers were obtained by looking at the source code for ChessV. The SMIRF values, derived by Reinhard Scharnagl for his SMIRF chess computer program, were obtained from this web page. The Zillions of Games' values were obtained by looking at the values of pieces by right-clicking on them after loading a fresh Schoolbook zrf file, and before moving any pieces. Aberg's figures come from right here on the variants server. Nalls's figures come from a document on his web page (PDF document). Muller's figures come from this comment.

The figures generally agree on the following:

  • A bishop is about a half-pawn more valuable than a knight.
  • Two knights are worth more than a rook.
  • An archbishop is worth more than two knights.
  • A marshall is worth more than an archbishop.
  • A queen is worth more than a marshall.
  • Two rooks are worth more than a queen.
  • A marshall is worth more than a rook and knight.
  • A marshall is worth more than two bishops.
  • A rook and knight are worth more than an archbishop.
The verdict is still out on some other exchanges:
  • A rook and bishop vs. a queen.
  • A rook and bishop vs. a marshall.
  • A bishop and knight vs. an archbishop.
  • Two bishops vs. an archbishop (Two bishops are probably worth more).


Castling comes from Fergus Duniho's Grotesque Chess: The king may castle two or three squares towards the rook on the right hand side, and two, three, or four squares towards the rook on the left hand side. The rook leaps over the king to land besides the king. The king can not castle out of, through, or in to check. Both the king and rook that the king castles with must not have previously moved.

The name of the rook + knight piece in Schoolbook is called the "marshall". The name of the bishop + knight piece in Schoolbook is called the "archbishop". Pawns may promote to become a rook, knight, bishop, archbishop, marshall, or queen, regardless of the number of pieces already on the board.

The notation used for this game is standard algebraic opening, where the lower left corner is square a1, the upper right corner square j8, and 'A' signifies the Archbishop and 'M' signifies the Marshall. When no piece name is specified, a pawn is assumed to move. For example, f4 is the move that moves the King's pawn to the forth rank. When castling, only the King's move is noted, such as "Kh1" to signify that the king has moved to h1 and the rook to g1. In order to minimize the confusion between "i" and "j", the I file is always upper case in notation.

The rules are otherwise as in FIDE chess.


The opening

The opening of Schoolbook hs many similar themes to the opening of FIDE chess, since both games have the knights and bishops in the same position relative to the king in the opening setup. There are, however, a number of differences. For example:
  • Any opening that is dependent on the queen pawn (which has become the archbishop pawn in Schoolbook) being protected by the queen will not work in Schoolbook. This makes the center game, the center counter (Scandinavian game), the Scotch game, and so on not translate to Schoolbook. For example, the Schoolbook version of the Scotch just loses a pawn without compensation: 1. f4 f5 2. Ng3 Nd6 3. e4?? fxe4
  • The "Queen's gambit" does not translate to Schoolbook; this "gambit" depends on Black's queen rook being undefended in the opening array.
  • The Schoolbook equivalent of the Nimzovich defense (1. f4 Nd6) is more feasible here than it is in FIDE chess, since this defense delays white making an immediate e4 move.
  • Openings that take advantage of the weakness with the king bishop pawn in FIDE Chess do not work in Schoolbook. For example, the Damiano defense is feasible in Schoolbook chess: 1. f4 f5 2. Ng3 g6 3. Nxf5?? gxf5 4. Ai5+ and now black can defend nicely with either Ag7 or h6 (since Af5+ is not a legal move), and white gets no compensation for the lost knight.

    While this change removes many of the opening traps enjoyed in FIDE chess, this is offset by the increased power of the pieces in Schoolbook chess.

One good opening position for white is as follows:

Black's goal is to stop this kind of opening setup. Considering the tactical power of all of the Schoolbook pieces, Black has many options to try and equalize.

For example, the following moves stop 1. f4 from being followed by 2. e4: Nd6, Af6 (Problem: blocks Black's f pawn), Ad6 (Blocks black's best developing square for his queenside Knight), f5 (the King's pawn opening Schoolbook-style), d5 (Schoolbook's version of the Sicilian), and Ng6 (Schoolbook's version of the Alekine).

Since Schoolbook has a higher branching factor than FIDE chess, rote memorization of openings is not as fruitful in Schoolbook as it is in FIDE chess. Since the general themes in Schoolbook are the same, players who understand the concepts behind a good opening in FIDE chess will feel right at home playing Schoolbook.

Fool's mates

The shortest possible game in Schoolbook is the following fool's mate: 1. f3 Ad6 2. Bf2?? Axh2#

David Paulowich found the following 4-move mate that mates with a bishop: 1. e4 g6 2. f4 Kg7? 3. Bf2 Kh6?? 4. Bi5#

Intellectual property claims

I make no intellectual property claims whatsoever with this (such as it is) invention. Note that the diagrams uses a piece set based on a font that is only free for non-commercial use. I have made an attractive set of chess diagram pieces which I can use without worrying about intelectual property claims; these pieces can be seen here.

Playing Schoolbook Chess

One can play Schoolbook Chess for free using Greg Strong's excellent ChessV program.

While Smirf does not implement Schoolbook's castling rules, it is possible to get the Schoolbook opening position in SMIRF by selecting a new CRC game, and selecting position number 27621.

For people who own the commercial program, I have made a Zillions of Games rules file that allows one to play Schoolbook chess here.

I have also made a Game Courier preset which is available here.

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 Sam Trenholme.
Web page created: 2006-02-16. Web page last updated: 2006-02-16