The Chess Variant Pages

Check out Marseillais Chess, our featured variant for February, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Ralph Betza.

Double Hammer Chess

In Double Hammer Chess, all pieces can participate in a Double Hammer capture.

Double Hammer Capture

To make a double hammer capture, two pieces move sideways towards an enemy piece which is between them; both pieces occupy the square where the captured piece used to be, and an enemy capture will slay both at once.

Double Hammer Example

1. 1. h4 d5 2. a4 d4 3. h4+a4:d4 Qd8:d4

Both White Pawns land on d4 as they capture the inimical intruder, and then Black's Queen captures both at once for a net advantage.

Double Hammer Raisin

The raison d'etre of 2ham is to show how the codified rules of multiple occupancy assist in designing new variants.

Lacking well-defined rules for crowded squares, one might well have designed a game in which the 2ham capture was made by moving a2-c4 and h2-e4 thus capturing d4; but this would be so powerful! The powerful new move would aid the defense too much and produce a somewhat boring game.

Instead, one finds in multiple occupancy a ready cure, right off the shelf, that not only puts both capturing pieces at risk of being captured in return, but also puts them on the same square as their victim, which makes recapture more easy and natural.

With this quick fix, the game becomes an interesting battle between the power of the center and the power of the edges.

One more example: White has Kd5 and Ph5, Black to play has only Kf4, and White wins because 1...Kg5 gets hammered.


When we look at a chess notation such as "h4+a4:d4", perhaps we make the mistake of thinking that those eight characters tell the whole story of the move. As a reminder of how wrong a thought that is, I will tell a small part of the story, a small part of what we miss when we boil a move down to a short and cryptic "h4+a4:d4".

It was a sunny day in August when the first game of the Double Hammer World Series was played. The stadium was full of fans and anticipation, the announcers yammered, the steel drums hammered, the cheerleaders cheered and did a funky dance, all under the benevolent and watchful eye of the Goodyear Blimp.

When Porchezza Vacca of the Tennessee Hams team played 2...d4, her opponent Spuds Sweeting, playing for the Carolina Yams, leaped to his feet and with a long exhalation brought his hands up and around in a picturesque swoop and grabbed one Pawn in each hand, shoulders up, elbows out, palms down.

Making a Bruce Lee sort of noise as he inhaled, Spuds swung his arms out and up until both the Pawns were directly over his head as he stood on tiptoe. Then making with his voice a noise like a freight train blowing its whistle right before it runs you over, Spuds brought down both Pawns in a forceful circle, Double Hammering the captured Pawn with such force that the slow motion replay on TV showed some powder flying off the Pawns, and --

I fear I must digress here for a moment to talk about some of the showbiz aspects of the game. Every newbie Double Hammer player age 11 has learned in the locker room how to do the powder trick with a little sand and talcum. Every experienced player age 12 knows, because the Coach has drilled ad nauseam, that when you do the Spuds Swoop, you slow way down just at the last instant, and pull your punch so you don't break your darned hand and spend the rest of the season on the disabled list.

Back to the action.

Pincering the captured Pawn between his own Pawns, Spuds jerked his arms upwards, and threw it over his shoulder, long and high. A clever flick of the wrists at the last moment imparted a picturesque end-over-end rotation to the flying Pawn, and the world's most expensive television cameras captured every glint of the sunlight on the burnished plastic as the captured Pawn arced and twirled high through the afternoon sun. The judges were already flashing scores of 9.9 or higher.

Meanwhile, there was pandemonium on the sidelines! The cheerleaders are professionals who know their game, so at the first sign of the Swoop they had shifted their location and had started to set up for a funky dance; but Spuds had outfoxed them! Spuds, a lefty, had thrown the Pawn over his right shoulder, and now it spun directly towards them.

Chessplayers, like bridesmaids, believe that catching the thrown thing means you will soon be mated. Therefore they all panicked and tried to flee the area of impending impact. One, however, tripped over an advertent foot and lay splayed on the sward directly in the path of the onrushing Pawn. The camera in the Blimp captured the sprawl in grisly soft core detail, as the Pawn landed and came to rest erect on its weighted base right on the cheerleader's chest, right between the, uh, well, that is, between the pom poms.

The judges went wild and gave Spuds a pluperfect score of 11.0 out of a possible 10.0, which created the expression about "turning it up to eleven".

Porchezza won the game, but her contract was dropped for dull play. Eventually she became a mezzo and was famous for her spooky portrayal of Azucena.

Spuds' contract was renewed at an increased rate, and he went on to a great career and the Hall of Fame. As a manager, he led the Brooklyn Scammers team to an unprecedented streak of one consecutive championship.

Jerry Cherry, the cheerleader in this scene, was so disgruntled that he formed the Cheerleaders Liberation Movement, which went from consciousness raising to cheer-ins under the slogan "we're here! we cheer! get used to it!" Later he ran for President on the platform "Rah! Rah! Sis Boom Bah!"; nobody could argue with that proposition and so he would have won if the votes had been counted.

Bread Sauerkraut, the peanut vendor in Section C, had been a star NFL quarterback just the year before; but the sudden popularity of Double Hammer Chess had led to the collapse of the football market, leaving Brett jobless. Inspired by Spuds, he studied the new game and eventually rose to semi-stardom on the minor league Morocco Mariocas.

Ferdinand Studgeley, the cameraman on the Blimp, had a difficult childhood but --

But. This is not a Victor Hugo novel of 256 volumes. Not even he could tell the whole story of the event, with life histories of all fifty thousand fans at the stadium. Well, maybe if he had had a word processor he might have been able to do so.

I have told enough to make my point. My point, in case you have forgotten, is that the notation does not tell the whole story of the move. I hope that you will remember this the next time you read the score of a chess game, or perhaps even the next time you see a laconic K in a baseball box score.