The Chess Variant Pages

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This page is written by the game's inventor, Robert Hancock.

Imperial Hex Chess

By Robert F. Hancock, copyright 2005



This game was designed with no prior knowledge of any other hexagonal chess variants (except Chinese Checkers, if that counts!). After playing some games with a friend, I decided to look on the Internet to see if anything similar existed, and was surprised to find over 40 different hex chess games described. Glinski's version seems to have gained the most acceptance, but to me the moves are too complex and difficult to visualize during a game in progress. The King, Queen and Rook seem to have far too many moves, and the Bishop's move doesn't really correspond with my idea of diagonal movement.

The main reason for inventing this game was that I find real chess a little frustrating in the slowness with which the game starts. A typical game of chess spends the first 20 moves maneuvering Pawns, Knights and Bishops to gain a slight advantage in position or material, with the Queen and Rooks taking little part in the game. Early development of the more powerful pieces is dangerous because they can be easily trapped and captured by weaker pieces. In Imperial Hex Chess weaker pieces are unable to capture a stronger piece unassisted, and a simultaneous attack by two weaker pieces is required to capture a more powerful piece. This allows the Queen and other major pieces to be developed much earlier with less danger of becoming trapped. It also means that checkmate must often be given from a double check position, but with several powerful pieces operating this is not too difficult to achieve. Additionally, there are no long end games with a King and one piece against a lone King, these are nearly all draws, since the Kings can not threaten each other and the other piece ( unless it is a Queen ) can not capture the King alone. There is only one end game that is not a draw, King vs. King and Queen, which can be completed very quickly.


The board has 75 spaces, 25 of each colour, and the spaces are numbered A1 to M9 from White's end. A1 is always a Blue space, A2 White and A3 Red.

Starting Position

Each side has 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Dragons, 2 Elephants, 2 Knights, 2 Guards and 8 Pawns, which are placed as shown at the beginning of the game. Note that each King has a Dragon on its left and an Elephant on its right in the first row. The two pawns on the front ( 5th ) row are "scouts". The side to play first is decided by tossing a coin, and whichever side is to move first places these two pawns in any symmetrical arrangement on the front row. The other side can then make their own placement prior to the first move. ( This is to cancel out the advantage of being first to move. ) A Pawn on its fourth row has the option of moving one or two spaces, whether or not it has moved previously. If it moves two spaces, it can be captured en passant.

The Moves

Object of the Game

The game can be won by checkmate; trapping the opponent's King so that it can not escape capture on the next move. If the King has no legal move which will leave it safe from capture, but it cannot be captured where it is, the game is a stalemate. If one side has insufficient forces to bring about the capture of the King, it is a draw. A King and a Queen are the minimum required to obtain checkmate against a lone King. A King can not legally move to a position where it could be captured on the next move.

Rules for Capturing

In Imperial Hex Chess, the capture of pieces is governed by a hierarchy. The Ranking of the pieces is as follows:

  Highest level : King = Queen ( a King may capture a Queen and vice versa )

Second level : Dragon = Elephant

Third level : Knight = Guard

Fourth level : Pawns

Any piece may capture an equal or lower level piece unassisted, but cannot capture a higher ranked piece unless it is simultaneously being attacked by a second piece. Any two pieces are sufficient, thus two pawns can capture a King, provided they both attack it together. However, if an opposing piece has just made a capture itself on its last move, then it forfeits its protection against lower pieces for ONE MOVE ONLY, and can be taken on the next move by any piece.

An example : Black Dragon has just captured a White Elephant, which was guarded by a single White Pawn. The White Pawn may then immediately capture the Black Dragon unassisted. But if the Black Dragon is not recaptured by the Pawn on White's next move, then it regains its immunity to capture by the Pawn.

Note that this means the King cannot legally capture any piece which would leave him exposed to capture by a lower ranked piece on the next move.

Points of Note

At the beginning of the game the Guards occupy Red and Blue spaces only. Guards remain on the same colour spaces throughout the game, therefore there can not be a Guard on a White space, unless a pawn has reached a white space on the 11th row and has been promoted to a Guard. Only Guards and Knights can "jump" over obstructing pieces.

Approximate Relative Power of the Pieces

King = 6

Queen = 30 [ = 15 Pawns ]

Dragon = 20 [ = 10 Pawns ]

Elephant = 18 [ = 9 Pawns ]

Knight = 8 [ = 4 Pawns ]

Guard = 6 [ = 3 Pawns ]

Pawn = 2

Checkmate and Stalemate

The King is in check when it is attacked by two hostile pieces simultaneously, or by a Queen alone. The check can be removed by capturing or blocking one of the attacking pieces if possible. If this is not possible, the King is forced to move. When in check the King must move to a space which is not under the control of any hostile piece, regardless of its power ranking. The King can not capture one of the attacking pieces if this would leave it vulnerable to capture on the attacker's next move.

(This rule only applies to the King, other pieces under attack can retire to a space which is controlled only by a weaker hostile piece). If there is no legal move available, the King is checkmated.

Stalemate occurs when the King is not in check but is forced to move, and has no legal move which would not place it in check or expose it to capture.

Optional Rule Variations

Pawn promotion : On reaching the 11th row, a Pawn has the option of becoming a Knight or Guard, or proceeding to the 12th row and becoming a Dragon, Elephant or Queen.