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Universal Chess

Introduction

The idea of this variant has been floating in the atmosphere of the chess ideas since some time ago and belongs to that kind of logical ideas that sooner or later someone would give the decisive step towards its precise definition.

Richard Hutnik is unquestionably the great precursor in this road since he has been exposing and discussing in his IAGO Chess System the main elements that forms this variant.

In 1998 I walked into the path of Universal Chess in a manner quite unusual and unexpected when I proposed the Cetina Random Chess variant, which was born like a criticism of Fischer Random Chess.

After 10 years of practicing my randomly proposal, I made the adjustment in the bishops that led to Cetran Chess 2, which is practically the "antechamber", the "door" of the Universal Chess.

Definition

Here, we will understand for Universal Chess a chess variant whose two main characteristics are:

1) the set of pieces is OPENED: it can be so numerous as the number of pieces invented and is formed by one piece [one unit or one specimen] of each one of the existing piece's type;

2) the setup is determined at random and both armies may be settled asymmetrically, mirror-symmetrically or reversed-symmetrically, according to the players liking.

These two points are the essence, the core of the universality of this variant. The size and shape of the board is something secondary and unessential, in such a manner that we may play an universal chess on rectangular, triangular, hexagonal or circular boards of the more diverse sizes: 8x8, 9x8, 9x9, 10x8, 10x10, etc.

Likewise, the fact of dropping pieces during the game is secondary; it's a consequence of that the number of pieces available is very large in relation with the available spaces on the board in which they would be placed to form a setup.

Setup

Like a first test, a first approach, I propose to playtest two presets with an 8x8 board: one with a set of 24 major pieces [not counting pawns], let's name it UC-24; and other with a set of 73 major pieces [not counting pawns], let's name it UC-73.

UC-24

UC-73

The starting position is determined by hazard in both boards. The game is played on the left board. The pieces placed on the right board must be dropped during the game. See the mechanics of the dropping below in the Rules Section.

Pieces

King - Standard king.
Queen - Standard queen.
Amazon - A compound of queen and knight. It may move each time [or turn] like queen OR like knight.
Chancellor - Also known as Marshall. It may move each turn like rook OR like knight.
Archbishop - Also known as Cardinal. It may move each turn like bishop OR like knight.
Amazonrider - A compound of queen and nightrider; it may move each turn like queen OR nightrider.
Chancellorrider - A compound of rook and nightrider; also known as marshallrider; it may move each turn like rook OR like nightrider.
Archbishoprider - Also known as cardinalrider or unicorn: a compound of bishop and nightrider; it may move each turn like bishop OR like nightrider.
Knight - Standard knight.
Nightrider - It can make a move like a knight, but then can continue to move in the same direction. Thus, it can make one or more successive knight-leaps, all in the same direction: the spaces visited by all but the last jump must be empty.
Rook - Standard rook.
RF - A compound of rook and ferz better known as dragon king; it may move each turn like rook OR like ferz.
BW - A compound of bishop and wazir better known as dragon horse; it may move each turn like bishop OR like wazir.
Crooked Bishop/Wazir - A compound of crooked bishop and wazir; it may move each turn like crooked bishop OR like wazir.
NW - A compound of knight and wazir; it may move each turn like knight OR like wazir.
NF - A compound of knight and ferz; it may move each turn like knight OR like ferz.
NG - A compound of knight and guard; it may move each turn like knight OR like a guard [guard=non royal king].
Gryphon - It steps one space diagonally then slides like a rook.
Aanca - It steps one space orthogonally then slides like a bishop.
Squeen - A compound of queen and sissa; it may move each turn like queen OR like sissa.
Sissa - It moves each time as rook AND bishop following a movement pattern of the form nR+nB or nB+nR, where n is any whole number.

nR+nB means "first n squares like Rook followed by n squares like Bishop";

nB+nR means "first n squares like bishop followed by n squares like rook".

Then, if for instance n=5, sissa MUST MOVE 5 squares as rook followed by 5 squares as bishop or viceversa.

There is no restriction on the movement direction of the second stage respecting to the first.

Sissa doesn't leap. All squares it passes by must be empty.

ND - A compound of knight and dabbabah; it may move each turn like knight OR like dabbabah.
NE - A compound of knight and alfil or elephant; it may move each turn like knight OR like alfil.
The dragon icon represents a piece conceived by David Paulowich that initially he named it "chainsaw" but recently [December 2008] he is thinking to change its name to "dragon". It is a strong piece. The following diagram shows its way of movement, a compound of rook (red hollow squares) and spotted gryphon (red "X"):

Rose - A circular nightrider.
Dancing Horse - It is an ubi- ubi limited to ONLY two leaps. It may move and capture like standard knight, and also may make two consecutive knight leaps, the second leap in ANY direction respecting to the first. Jeremy Gabriel Good called this piece at 2007 "knightzee".
Paovao - A compound of cannon and vao.

The following 7 Rococo's pieces move according to the original game, EXCEPTING the restrictions about the edge squares, that is, at this variant they may move freely on the whole board.

Chameleon - It moves passively as an Orthodox Queen. To capture, it mimics the powers of its intended victim. For example, it leaps over a mount to capture a Pawn, withdraws from Withdrawers, approaches Advancers, leaps over Long Leapers, and swaps with Swappers. By the same token, an enemy King standing adjacent to a Chameleon can be captured by the Chameleon. Chameleons can freeze Immobilizers but cannot capture them (but when next to an Immobilizer do not freeze any other pieces). A Chameleon next to a Swapper may capture it (and itself) by mutual destruction.
A Chameleon can use multiple types of capture in the same move. Consider a white Withdrawer on a1, a black Chameleon on a2, a white Long Leaper on a3 and a white Advancer on a5. The Black Chameleon by leaping over the Long Leaper to a4 would also capture the white Withdrawer by moving away from it, and the white Advancer by approaching it (for purposes of approaching and withdrawing it doesn't matter if the move is a slide or a leap). Swaps with Swappers may be combined with other captures.
Long Leaper - It moves as an Orthodox Queen and captures by overtaking. It takes possession of a single intervening piece by leaping to a vacant square somewhere beyond it. It may capture additional pieces, along the same line, if a vacant 'landing square' lies somewhere beyond each enemy piece. A Long Leaper may never jump over a friendly piece, jump over two or more pieces in a row without any empty spaces between, or move to an occupied square.
Swapper - It moves as an Orthodox Queen without capturing, or may swap position with any piece (of either side) an unobstructed Queen's move away. A Swapper may capture an adjacent piece and itself at the same time by mutual destruction. Mutual destruction may not be used when immobilized. If a Swapper swaps with an opposing Swapper or Chameleon, on the following turn the two pieces may not swap back. They may swap again once any other move is made.
Withdrawer - It moves passively as an Orthodox Queen. In order to capture, the Withdrawer must occupy a square adjacent to an enemy piece. To complete the capture, it must move one-or-more squares directly away from the enemy piece. These captures are part of movement, and are not optional -- you can not move a Withdrawer directly away from an opposing piece and not capture it. A Withdrawer may never move to an occupied square.
Advancer - It moves passively as an Orthodox Queen. In order to capture, the Advancer must move to a square adjacent to an enemy piece. If the next square in the direction it moved from the square the Advancer stopped on is occupied by an opposing piece, that opposing piece is captured. (This is capture by approach.) These captures are part of movement, and are not optional -- you can not move an Advancer next to an opposing piece in the line of movement and not capture it. An Advancer never moves into an occupied square.
Immobilizer - It moves as an Orthodox Queen but does not capture. An enemy piece standing adjacent to an Immobilizer may not move while the Immobilizer is present. Black and white Immobilizers, occupying adjacent squares, are each frozen until the other is captured. An immobilized piece other than a King may 'commit suicide' by removing itself from the board (usually to open a line of attack). This counts as a move for the player removing the piece. The Immobilizer may never move to an occupied square.
Cannon Pawn - It moves without capturing two ways: either a single step in any direction, or, it may leap over an adjacent piece of either side to the empty square just beyond. It capture in the second way they move, by leaping over an adjacent piece (the mount), landing on the opposing piece just beyond the mount. If a Cannon Pawn makes a move by itself (rather than being swapped) that lands it on a square on the rank where the opposing King started, then it may promote like if it were a standard Pawn.
Woody Rook - Moves like a Dabbabah, or a Wazir. Text notation: WR.
Warmachine/Ferz - Moves like a Dabbabah, or a Ferz.
Waffle - Moves like a Wazir or an Alfil. Text notation: WA.
Elephant/Ferz - Moves like a Elephant/Alfil, or a Ferz.
Bede - Moves like a Bishop or a Dabbabah. Text notation: BD.
Charging Knight - Moves like a Knight for its four forward moves, or moves like a king sideways and backwards. Text notation: CN.
Fibnif - Moves like a Knight for its two longest forward and backward moves, or a Ferz. Text notation: FN.
Fad - Moves like a Ferz, an Alfil, or a Dabbabah. Text notation: FA.
Colonel - Moves like a Rook forwards or sideways, or a Knight in a knight's four foward moves, or a king. Text notation: CO.
Half-Duck - Moves like a Dabbabah, or like a Ferz, or can move three squares Rookwise (jumping over obstacles). Text notation: HD.
Charging Rook - Moves like a Rook forward and sideways, or moves like a King backwards. Text notation: CR.
Short Rook - Moves like a Rook, but only up to 4 spaces. Text notation: SR.
Falcon - A piece patented by George W. Duke. It is a compound of camel and zebra but with the condition of never leaping; it is a SLIDER. You can see a detailed explanation of this piece here: Falcon Chess.
Siege Engine - It moves 1 square orthogonally or leaps 3 squares orthogonally. David Paulowich uses this piece in Rose Chess XII calling it War Machine.
Elephant/Siege Engine - A compound of elephant and siege engine: it may move 1 square orthogonally or leaps 3 squares orthogonally or leaps 2 squares diagonally.
Elephant/Dabbabah - A compound of elephant/alfil and dabbabah: it moves (with or without taking) two squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally. It `jumps', i.e., it can move regardless whether the intervening square is occupied or not.
Dabbabahrider - It may make any number of successive leaps like dabbabah.
Elephantrider - It may make any number of successive leaps like elephant/alfil.
NQ - It moves forwards like knight OR backwards like queen. As queen it cannot move sideways.
QN - The inverse of the before piece. It moves forwards like queen OR backwards like knight. As queen it cannot move sideways.
NR - Knight forwards OR rook backwards. As rook it cannot move sideways.
RN - Rook forwards OR knight backwards. As rook it cannot move sideways.
NB - Knight forwards OR bishop backwards.
BN - Bishop forwards OR knight backwards.
BR - Bishop forwards OR rook backwards. As rook it cannot move sideways.
RB - Rook forwards OR bishop backwards. As rook it cannot move sideways.
War Elephant - This colorbound piece slides 1 or 2 squares like a ferz. It may change direction during its move. It may not jump. It may not make a null move (move off and then back onto its starting square). A capture immediately ends its move. This piece is used by David Paulowich in Opulent Lemurian Shatranj.

The following 12 pieces are used by Joe Joyce in Atlantean Barroom Shatranj, Lemurian Shatranj, Grand Shatranj and Great Shatranj. Those marked with an asterisk are original designs by him.

Shaman[*] - This colorbound piece (also called the Bent Shaman) is an inclusive compound of alfil and ferz. It may step 1 square diagonally and/or jump 2 squares diagonally, for a maximum of 3 squares moved per turn. It may: step 1 square; or jump 2 squares; or step 1 and jump 2 squares; or jump 2 squares then step 1 more square, always diagonally. It may change direction during its move.
Hero[*] - This piece (also called the Bent Hero) is an inclusive compound of dabbabah and wazir. It steps 1 square orthogonally and or jumps 2 squares orthogonally, for a maximum of 3 squares per turn. It may: step 1 square; or jump 2 squares; or step 1 and jump 2 squares; or jump 2 squares then step 1 more square, always orthogonally. It may change direction during its move.
Jumping general - Moves as the elephant or dababba. It may move 1 square or leap 2 squares orthogonally or diagonally.
Zigzag general[*] - A bent 2-step rider. Moves twice as the jumping general. It may move 1 square or leap 2 squares orthogonally or diagonally, then may do any of the 4 possible move types again. Thus it may move 1, 2, 3, or 4 squares in a turn. It may change directions between its first and second step. Null moves are not allowed.
Minister[*] - Moves like the knight, dababbah, or wazir. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares orthogonally, or jumps in the standard knight's "L".
High priestess[*] - Moves like the knight, alfil, or ferz. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares diagonally, or jumps in the standard knight's "L".
Twisted knight[*] - A bent 2-step elephantrider. Moves twice as an alfil or ferz. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares diagonally, and then may do either again. It too can move 1, 2, 3, or 4 squares in a turn. It may change directions between steps. Null moves are not allowed.
fleXible knight[*] - A bent 2-step dababbarider. Moves twice as a dabbabah or wazir. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares orthogonally, then may do either again. It too can move 1, 2, 3 or 4 squares in a turn. It may change directions between steps. Null moves are not allowed.
Oliphant[*] - A double elephantrider. Moves twice as an alfil or ferz. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares diagonally, and then may do either again. Thus it may move 1, 2, 3, or 4 squares. It must move in a straight line.
Lightning warmachine[*] - A double dababbarider. Moves twice as a dabbabah or wazir. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares orthogonally, then may do either again. It also can move 1, 2, 3 or 4 squares. It must move in a straight line.
Sliding General - This piece is a combination of 2 guards. It slides 1 or 2 squares. It may not jump. It may change direction during its move. It may not make a null move [move off and then back onto its starting square]. It captures by landing directly on an opposing piece and ending its turn.
Guard - A nonroyal king: it may make one step in any direction like wazir or ferz.

Rules

In general, all the rules of FIDE chess apply, including castling that here is adapted to the new circumstances and is renamed as CORNERING.

The CORNERING may be made by the king and any piece placed on the nearest corner to him; this piece on the corner may be even any dropped one. Both the king and the cornered piece should not have been moved previously.

If the king falls on the corners, of course, there is no need of any cornering.

If falls on b1/b8, then he will remain there and the piece on the nearest corner [a] will leap to c1/c8.

If falls on c1/c8, he will remain there and the piece on the nearest corner [a] will leap to d1/d8.

If falls on d1/d8 or e1/e8, the king may cornering with the piece placed at either corner by walking two steps towards it, and then the piece leaping the king to the adjacent square to him; exactly as in FIDE chess happens.

If falls on f1/f8, he will remain there and the piece on the nearest corner [h] will leap to e1/e8.

If falls on g1/g8, he will remain there and the piece on the nearest corner [h] will leap to f1/f8.

Mechanics of dropping

As a compensation for White's first move advantage, Blue will have the oportunity of making the drops before than White, making them [in the case of the UC-24 version] thus:

1st: the piece on A8 in any turn between the 6 and 10 (including 6 and 10)
2nd: the piece on B8 in any turn between the 11 and 15 (including 11 and 15)
3rd: the piece on C8 in any turn between the 16 and 20 (including 16 and 20)
...
8th: the piece on H8 in any turn between the 41 and 45 (including 41 and 45)
9th: the piece on A7 in any turn between the 46 and 50 (including 46 and 50)
10th: the piece on B7 in any turn between the 51 and 55 (including 51 and 55)
And so on.

White must make his drops thus:

1st: the piece on A1 at any turn between 7 and 11 (including 7 and 11)
2nd: the piece on B1 at any turn between 12 and 16 (including 12 and 16)
3rd: the piece on C1 at any turn between 17 and 21 (including 17 and 21)
...
8th: the piece on H1 at any turn between 42 and 46 (including 42 and 46)
9th: the piece on A2 at any turn between 47 and 51 (including 47 and 51)
10th: the piece on B2 at any turn between 52 and 56 (including 52 and 56)
and so on.

That is, players have some flexibility to choose both the turn and the square in which the piece will be dropped. The square must be any unoccupied square of the player's first row or home row. But the dropping itself is MANDATORY; the extra pieces must come into the game NECESSARILY. This may be done at the same time that any one normal, regular move.

Pawns are FIDE pawns and must promote when they reach the opponent's home row or first row in this manner:

The first promoted pawn will be promoted by the last piece of the dropping order.

The second promoted pawn will be promoted by the penultimate piece of the dropping order.

And so on following the inverse order.

Due to the presence of powerful pieces like the amazonrider, chancellorrider, archbishoprider and nightrider it's possible that the preset generates certain starting positions in which White checkmates Blue in the first turn or, viceversa, Blue checkmates White [in the case of asymmetric setups]. In those cases the starting position would be cancelled by applying the following rule:

PREGAME RULE: If the preset generates any particular position such that White checkmates Blue (or viceversa) in the first turn or could capture any undefended pawn, then White will have to pass and Blue will have to delete that log, then proceeding to generate a new setup.

Notes

  • All kind of suggestions, comments and criticisms are welcomed.

  • Very much thanks to Jeremy Grabiel Good for having made the following two important suggestions:

    1) The convenience that in this variant were possible castling.

    2) Blue should have the possibility of making the drops before White to compensate White's first move advantage.

    Play Universal Chess at Game Courier

    Review past games of Universal Chess played at Game Courier



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    By Carlos Cetina.
    Web page created: 2009-07-11. Web page last updated: 2009-09-29