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The Chess Variant Pages

Guard Chess, or Islandic Chess

A chess variant that has been (and perhaps still is) popular in Iceland is Guard Chess, also called Icelandic Chess.


The rules of orthodox chess are followed, but now a piece that is defended may not be taken.


Pieces that are only defended by a king may be taken.


The game is mentioned in Boyer's Jeux d'Echecs Non-orthodoxes, and again in The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants by David Pritchard. According to Boyer, the game can be lively, e.g., a piece can give mate, even if it is attacked many times and defended only once. On the other hand, it also appears to me that it is easier than in normal chess to force a draw: one could try to build a wall around the king of pieces that all defend each other and then has just to make sure there is always at least one legal move to play.


See, e.g., the position above. (Only the black pieces are shown.) No matter what white plays, he cannot take any black piece and he cannot attack squares g8 or h8. Thus, black can draw by repeating moves Kh8-g8 and Kg8-h8.

Written by Hans Bodlaender.
WWW page created: 4 Sep 2000. Last modified on: 4 Sep 2000.