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The Piececlopedia is intended as a scholarly reference concerning the history and naming conventions of pieces used in Chess variants. But it is not a set of standards concerning what you must call pieces in newly invented games.

Steward

Historical Notes

The idea of an omnidirectional pawn move dates back to a 1770 proposal attributed to Filippo Marinelli, published as The New Game of War, or Refinement of the Game of Chess*. Besides proposing an enlarged board and renaming all the pieces (including a distinction between white‐ and black‐square bishops), Marinelli takes exception to the orthodox pawns' inability to return to their initial positions “without being transformed into Queens, Couriers, Horses, Towers, or Rocks”. As such, his proposal suppresses promotion of pawns, here renamed ‘Fusiliers’; to “compensate” for this, he allows them “to move right, left, forward, and back from white to black and black to white”, and “to take before and behind itself, but only diagonally, i.e. from black to black and white to white”.

For problemists, the name ‘Fusilier’ stuck, at least in English: Jelliss' All the King's Men refers to it by this name; German problemists refer to it instead as the Kreuzbauer, or Cross‐Pawn.

Among variantists, however, it seems to have been reïnvented as the Steward by John William Brown, for Meta‑Chess. It features in a handful of the ‘compositions’ described in that book, including his own Centennial Chess and Thomas Havel's Jester Chess. These games also give it a pawn‐like initial double step apparently unused by Marinelli (who was probably aware of the rule in Orthodox Chess, it being established by the 16th century, but neither mentions it in relation to his Fusiliers nor uses it in the sample game he gives).

In contrast to Marinelli's usage, Brown deploys the Steward as a normal array piece, rather than a Pawn replacement; It also appears in this rôle in Fergus Duniho's Interdependent Chess, Erez Schatz's Treeleaders Chess, John Savard's Leaping Bat Chess (there named Walker), and Jean‑Yves Boulay's The Toddler (as Soldier).

The usage as a Pawn replacement has found some popularity, however, in games where the board or array does not suit simple forward motion: games of this type often simply refer to the stewards as pawns, though Gavin King's Motorotor distinguishes them as them Omnipawns, and Charles Gilman's Dream Chesses retain Steward. Gilman's Empty Cube Chess deploys them on the same principle, though more selectively — only for would‐be pawns located on an edge whose ‘forward’ move would otherwise be ambiguous — whilst Uri Bruck's Cross‐eyed Chess grants normal pawns this move whilst in the central region, with their normal move (adjusted for direction) outwith it.

Charles Gilman pioneered the use of the Steward as a Promotee, replacing his earlier use of the Wazir in this rôle: his University–River–Cathedral‐themed Irwell features it not only as an array piece, as in Brown, but also as the sole option for promoting a pawn; in this game it also has special powers involving ‘Coronation’, but its successor Aire, alongside several of his later games, features it in this rôle more plainly. This usage is extended by H. G. Muller in a couple of small variants inspired by Maka Dai Dai Shōgi: the Steward features, as Omni in Decimaka and as the eponymous Veteran of Veteran Chess, as the promoted form of not only the Pawn, but also some of the stronger pieces, by analogy with the large Shōgi's usage of the Gold General.

Related Pieces

The ‘Berolina’ Steward, inverting its moves and captures, is named Guardian by Lt Carl Obert in his 1880 Decimal Chess (see Pritchard, p. 130), where it also has an initial double step; it was later independently reïnvented under the same name by Duniho for Interdependent Chess (without the double step), and is also used under this name (as a promoted Berolina Pawn, preceding the analogous use of the Steward by nearly four years) in Peter Aronson's Hopgi. It is independently suggested as a Cannoneer for use in in expanded versions of PiRaTeKnIcS.

For larger variants such as Millenial Chess, Brown prefers the closely related Guard, which may make a two‐space orthogonal noncapturing move as well as the single‐step one. This piece is also known to German problemists as the Pfeilbauer (Arrow Pawn), or Person.

Extending both capturing and noncapturing moves in this way gives a piece proposed by Gilman in Diverging Further as the Satrap and first deployed some 14½ years later in some variants by ChessCraft user noahthegamer  — Chess+ as well as an apparent prototype — where it is called (somewhat confusingly) an Omni Pawn; these games grant this piece an initial triple step, corresponding to the pawn's/steward's double. Bob Greenwade's Desert Dust, later that same year, deploys it (again without triple step) under Gilman's name alongside its Berolina counterpart, there named the Ayatollah.

The stewardwise rider, moving passively as Rook and capturing as Bishop, appears (almost invariably alongside its Berolina counterpart) in a handful of games as part of the family of divergent compounds of Orthodox pieces. It also appears independently in Gilman's 4‐Linepiece Fusion and (exceptionally unpaired) Toyang Gnuqi Mitregi

The compound of Steward and Knight, perhaps surprisingly for such a specific combination, appears twice independently: once in Tom Hartley's Napoleonic Chess as the Dragoon (the Steward here called a Grenadier, contrasted with ‘Fusiliers’ as normal Pawns), and once in Veteran Chess as the Mounted Veteran, the Knight Promotee.

Movement

The Steward moves without capturing as a Wazir, and captures as a Ferz; i.e. it moves without capturing one step orthogonally, and captures one step diagonally.

The diagram denotes noncapturing moves with Green markings, and capturing moves with Blue.

Notes

The Steward is worth approx. 1.5 Pawns, similar to the Wazir and Ferz; as an orthogonal mover it is expected (presumably on account of difficulty of development) to lose a small but significant portion of this if it begins the game behind a pawn wall.

The Steward cannot inflict checkmate on a rectangular board with only assistance of its own King, and is thus a minor piece. A pair of them however, unlike its non‐divergent components and unusually for such weak pieces, is capable of forcing checkmate on a bare king with the help of their own king on boards up to 8×8. Try it!.

The related Guardian, though still minor, is even better at checkmating in pairs, being able to do so (provided, being colourbound, that they are on unlike shades) on boards up to 10×10; it can also force checkmate with the help of almost any other piece. Try it!.

The lack of positive correlation between the steward's usage as a pawn replacement and the presence of the initial double‐step move so characteristic of pawns is perhaps surprising at first glance. It might be explained, however, by such usage being correlated with a weaker sense of ‘forward’, which would in turn make such a double step less useful, whereas enhancing forward movement for short‐range pieces is far from atypical in larger face‐to‐face games.


*Translations mine, from the original French–German edition

Couriers, Horses, and Towers clearly refer straightforwardly to Bishops, Knights, and Rooks. The reference to ‘Rocks’ is less clear, though it may be a misunderstanding of the French loanword Roc (and/or its Italian counterpart), synonymous with (and cognate to) English Rook.


This is an item in the Piececlopedia: an overview of different (fairy) chess pieces.



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Author: Bn Em. Inventor: Philip Marinelli and John William Brown.

Last revised by Bn Em.


Web page created: 2024-02-02. Web page last updated: 2024-02-08