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

Tilting the Balance Chess

I just finished the excellent Harry Turtledove's excellent novel, _Tilting the Balance_, and it inspired me to create a Chess Variant.

I am sure there have been several kinds of "atomic bomb chess", but none, I hope, very much like this.

The Rules

0. The rules are the same as FIDE chess, except for rule 1.

1. Once per game, as long as there are at least 16 pieces on the board, each player may set off one atomic bomb on any square of his first three ranks (instead of making a normal move); the bomb destroys that square, all adjacent squares, and any pieces on those squares.

Clarifications to the Rules

If both Kings are blown up, the game is a draw.

Knights can jump over a corner of the crater, but not land in it.

Pawns, Rooks, Bishops, and Queens cannot fly, and are blocked by the crater.


This should be a playable form of bomb-chess, for two main reasons; first, the bomb has to be in your own territory, and second, there must be a lot of pieces on the board. The first thing makes it tricky to profit from the bomb, the second means that there is some urgency to go Boom! when you get near a piece-count of 16.

You might also set off the bomb just so you can hide behind your crater.


Here is a little sample game I made up:

1. e4 g5?! 2. d4 f6

Inviting White to lose his Q with 3. Qh5+ (****)g6:h5h7g5f6!

And that's that; it's a very short sample game! Notice the notation for the bomb explosion; "(****)g6:h5h7g5f6" means "explodes on g6, capturing pieces at h5, h7, g5, and f6".

Here's another sample game:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 d5?! 3. ed5 e4 4. Ne5 (****)d6:e5c7d5

Now what about this position? Black has won a piece for two Pawns (counting the Pawn at e4 as lost, for it surely must be), but the bomb crater blocks the center of his position and cramps all his pieces. His Queen, for example, won't be able to develop until it can move sideways first. Of course, the White d-Pawn looks pretty useless as well, because the crater blocks it, but since White still has his bomb in reserve, he would seem to have enough compensation.

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