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Shock Troops

Introduction

Shock Troops or ST Chess is a variant that uses the standard 8x8 board, and normal chess pieces set up in the standard configuration. During play each side has the option instead of making a regular move or to drop one of two pieces into any vacant space in the back rank.
The two pieces introduced this way are the War Knight and the Elephant Knight.

The War Knight makes either an orthogonal step or leaps 2 squares horizontally or vertically. Similarly, the Elephant Knight makes either a diagonal step or leaps 2 squares diagonally.
In addition to their unique moves, both pieces can also move like regular knights. They capture by displacement like any other piece.

Each side can also drop one of two Ninja Pawns into an empty space on the second rank, and optionally push it forward.
Ninja Pawns move and capture like regular pawns, and also move 1 space laterally. They can also capture 1 space sideways on the enemy half of the board. Like Pawns they promote to any piece.
They cannot or do not capture by En-Passant, however.

Setup

Shock Troops Start position
black ninja pawn black ninja pawn
Shock Troops Start position

One War Knight and One Elephant Knight to be dropped in empty space from a1-h1 for White or a8-h8 for Black


2 Ninja Pawns to be dropped (and optionally moved) in empty space from a2-h2 for White and a7-h7 for Black.
black ninja pawn black ninja pawn

Pieces

The War-Knight Moves like a knight or jumps one or 2 squares orthogonally. It can hop over any piece carrying out these moves. Capture by displacement only.

The Elephant-Knight Moves like a knight or jumps one or 2 squares diagonally. It can hop over any piece carrying out these moves. Capture by displacement only.

The Ninja Pawnwhite ninja pawn black ninja pawn

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. It can also make an initial double step just like the regular pawn.

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 rank 5 or greater +, Black rank 4 or less) , 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, to any piece. Promotion to a piece is mandatory so it would cease to be a pawn in the last row.

Dropping: 2 Ninja Pawns can be dropped (1 per turn) into an empty space on the 2nd rank by either side during the course of play. The Ninja Pawn can be optionally pushed forward (1-2 spaces) towards the middle during the same turn.
It cannot make a capture on the same turn as the drop.

The War Knight and Elephant Knight are compounds of ancient very well known elements: the Ferz, Alfil, Warmachine, and Wazir. They were also used in Grand Shatranj under different names.

Sub Variants

There are a number of sub-variants using this system. A very interesting sub-variant involves the War Drone and Elephant, which both move exactly like the War Knight and Elephant Knight respectively, minus the knight movement. This reduces the power on the board and might be a preferred variant for some players.

Of course, if the ninja pawns are not to everyone's taste, both sides can play without them.

Another interesting variant is to use the Chancellor and Archbishop instead. Note that this would make it very similar to Seirawan Chess especially if used without ninja pawns, but with a more logical dropping mechanism.

Rules

As in orthodox chess win by checkmate only. Draw by stalemate, 3 move repetition etc

A piece from the reserve can be dropped in empty space of back rank during a turn. The drop takes up a move and no piece can be moved on the same turn.

Ninja Pawns are dropped unto an empty space on the second rank. They can be optionally pushed forward on the same turn.

Notes

I developed this variant as a response to Seirawan Chess, which I believe suffers from a few flaws. I believe the dropping mechanism it uses of allowing a move and a drop of the heavy pieces, the Chancellor and Archbishop, during the same turn tend to favor the player starting first and results in less than ideal play. It seems that that game could have at least used the improvement of requiring the player to drop the piece on the next turn. Since ST chess uses slightly weaker pieces, there is no need to limit when the piece enters the game.

Such considerations as when the pieces should be allowed to enter the game require a lot of play testing and feedback. It is clear that it is more flexible to allow them to enter at any time, and there does not seem to be any valid reason to limit the dropping to the initial stages of the game.

I have been reluctant to experiment too much with the 8x8 boards simply because of the abundance of superb standard chess and the shuffle chess varieties. Adding new pieces seems almost like defacement, but nonetheless the gameplay is quite interesting.

I had to, however, demonstrate that the use of slightly less powerful but still formidable jumpers as a very viable and possibly superior alternative to the Seirawan Chess setup. Not to mention the use of ninja pawns, which adds a subtle change to the gameplay.

Orthodox chess players may not welcome these changes to what they see as and what may very well be the perfect game. Of course, it is always better to present any chess variant as an alternative chess based game rather than as some "improvement" that all players must play instead. In fact, the whole notion of finding the "next" chess, an idea that regrettably even I was fascinated with, is probably the most foolhardy scheme anyone can attempt to undertake.

So despite my enthusiasm for this variant and my other variants as well, I have come to realize that chess - the standard 8x8 type - may well be the most fascinating game of all. It seems to have even gained in popularity a bit in recent years.

Nonetheless, the exploration of different board sizes and new pieces is entirely justified and must continue. For who knows what lies within these parallel universes! All that is required is a substantial amount of testing, play and research within any one of these new systems, and an entire new faction of chess can flourish.

I am certain though that any variant including Fischer Random would never replace Chess in the new future, but 100 years from now? Who knows? !


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By Charles Daniel.
Web page created: 2009-08-10. Web page last updated: 2009-08-10