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

FireFighter Chess

By Ralph Betza

Although the name "Firefighter" may sound a lot like "Tirebiter", in fact, this game has nothing at all to do with Tirebiter Chess.

Instead, it is about those brave and heroic men who fight fires and who rescue people from burning buildings. It is about those alarmingly large [1] and disturbingly strong-looking men who show up in the lobby of your office building [3] wearing more equipment than you could lift -- oxygen tanks, boots, hard hat, fireproof pants and jacket, and an axe[2] that seems larger than the average person.

The Strength of Firefighters

Even when they are small, they are very strong, so that they can carry all their gear plus a 300 pound unconscious person from a scene of peril.

Thus, even if a firefighter piece is a mere Pawn, it can still lift a big heavy Rook or Queen and rescue it.

Firefighters and Hoses

The archetypical image of the firefighters is of a team of men manhandling a hose that becomes stiff with hydrostatic pressure, requiring all their strength to control its throbbing power as it extinguishes fires with its mere liquid spurting. [4]

However, in some benighted nations, firefighters have been used to assail citizens who have exercized their right of peaceful assembly to remonstrate against excesses of the government; usually water cannons rather than hosemen, but this real-world application of the hose is used in Firefighter Chess, where a firefighter piece can squirt a piece away from itself.

Firefighters and Duty

When there is a fire, the firefighters drop everything to respond.

It is also thus in Firefighter Chess.

Firefighters and the Roman Emperor

Emperor Trajan refused to allow the formation of a volunteer fire company at Nicomedia because it could become a center of political resistance. Such associations will soon degenerate into dangerous secret societies.

Therefore, in Firefighter Chess, the firemen are hidden pieces.

The Rules of Firefighter Chess

Rule zero: except as specified by the following, the rules of Chess with Different Armies are applicable; and of course this means that if both players use the Fabulous FIDE army, the rules of FIDE Chess apply.

Each player has one piece or Pawn which, in addition to its ordinary move, is also a Firefighter. However, until the firefighter declares itself, it could be any piece! In other words, you do not have to choose which piece is your Firefighter until you want to make a Firefighter move. This rule is inspired by the Jester.

The Firefighter declares itself by making one of the three possible Firefighting moves: squirting, extinguishing, or rescuing. After declaring itself, a Firefighter retains the ordinary powers of the piece it started as, but also has the powers and the duties of a Firefighter; and of course, if a Firefighter Pawn is promoted it remains a firefighter -- becoming, for example, a Firefighter Queen instead of a Firefighter Pawn.

Firefighting Power: Squirting

Squirting pushes one adjacent piece of either color one square away. For example, a Firefighter at g7 could squirt a friendly or enemy piece from f7 to e7; or a Firefighter at g7 could squirt a friendly or enemy piece from f8 to e9 (but e9 is off the board so the squirted piece is effectively captured).

Squirting can cause a situation where multiple pieces occupy the same square. You may not move any pieces onto a square that contains only friendly pieces. When you capture on a crowded square, all pieces, both friend and foe, are captured.

Firefighting Power: Extinguishing

When a piece is on fire, squirting it extinguishes the fire but does not force the fiery piece to move away.

Firefighting Power: Rescue

If a Firefighter piece can use its ordinary move or capture power to go onto the same square as a piece which is on fire, it can rescue the piece: instead of moving the Firefighter, you move the rescued piece onto the same square as the Firefighter. If the rescued piece was an enemy piece, it joins the side that rescued it (it changes color; if it's a Pawn, its idea of "forward" changes).

Firefighting Duty: Fire! Fire!

If an enemy piece is on fire, and if you already have declared which of your pieces is your firefighter, and if none of your pieces or Pawns are attacked by enemy pieces or Pawns, it is your duty to make a legal move with your Firefighter which brings the Firefighter closer to either extinguishing the fire or rescuing the piece which is on fire; but you are not required to move your Firefighter to any square which is attacked.

This sounds like a complicated rule, but it's really very simple. The Firefighter must do its duty, but not at the cost of the game.

Think of the rule in Bridge, where if you expose your 3 of Diamonds you must play it "at your earliest opportunity". Sometimes it restricts your choices and makes you lose, but sometimes no harm is done; and this is the idea behind Firefighting Duty.

Compare with the rule of compulsion in the Game of Nemoroth: compulsion can win the game outright, but Firefighting Duty is not nearly so severe; and in order for the rule to be not so severe, the rule is written so that if any of your pieces are attacked you can ignore the fire.


Once per game, instead of moving a piece, you can set one of your pieces or Pawns on fire. (Setting your King on fire is legal but it is almost always a very bad idea.)

A piece which is on fire cannot move, and if you are stalemated while you have a piece on fire you lose the game.

Your Firefighter has no duty towards a friendly fiery piece. If this seems arbitrary, consider Crassus.

Your Firefighter can extinguish a friendly fire or rescue a friendly fiery piece.

The arson rule was created as a strategic counterweight to the power of the enemy Firefighter.

Example Game

In this example game, both sides use the Fabulous FIDE army.

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. Bc4 Nc6 4. Ng5 Bc5?

The Wilkes-Barre Counter Gambit may not be not a good choice in this game. However, it is a good choice for giving us an example of how the rules work!

5. Nxf7

This is effectively check because the Nf7 can declare itself to be the White Firefighter by squirting the Ke8 off the board; and that, of course, would be capturing the King and it would end the game.

Because e4 and f2 are attacked by Black, arson would not help at all.

Because both 5...Ke8-f8 and 5...O-O allow the Nf7 to squirt the King off, the only possible normal reply is 5...Ke8-e7, and the Queen is lost. Therefore, Black must in desparation try a defensive squirting!

If 5... Ke8 squirts N from f7 to g6, Black is doomed because White's arson will soon follow and will force the Black King to advance into dangerous territory; this will happen slowly, gradually, and gently, with the unusual characteristic of the play being that the greatest threat and forcing move W can make will be to arrange for none of Black's pieces to be attacked!

If 5...g7 squirts N from f7 to e7, the Ne7 can still squirt the Black King off the board.

Therefore only 5...Nf6 squirts N from f7 to f8 will do the trick, and when I study the position after that I suddenly realize that 5. Ng5xf7 was a bad move!!! The Nf8 is trapped!

Apparently, White should have played 5. Bc4xf7+, which forces Ke8-e7 (squirting the B to f8 allows it to capture c5), but does not lose the Queen! In that case, White would need to retreat the B from f7, just like in FIDE Chess, and the game would be complicated and undecided.

Designer's Notes

Squirting is a limited form of the power of the Go Away, a piece in the Game of Nemoroth.

Arson and Extinguishment are logical ideas from the theme of the game.

Rescue is also logical for the theme of the game, but is an unusual new idea which allows some pieces to change their allegiance.

I wrote a whole series of articles about multiple pieces on the same square: Crowd Chess 1, Crowd Chess 2, FIFO Chess and Multiple Occupancy Miscellany.

I wish the rules could be shorter, but I think you will find that the rules are very logical and appropriate to the theme of the game, and that this will make the rules easy to understand and follow.

[1] My next-door neighbor for 16 years of elapsed time was a retired firefighter, the best neighbor you could ever want to have; but he was not so large. Perhaps the boots and hat increase their apparent size?

[2] Perhaps the axe makes the firefighter seem larger than he is?

[3] Ten such giants showed up at 75 Wall Street in August 2001 in response to an alarm system problem; it is very likely that most of them died a month later.

[4] Freud was never a firefighter.

With all due respect to the heroes of the real world, I must have fun with my subject matter for I am a Jester.

Written by Ralph Betza.
WWW page created: June 7th, 2002.