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The Chess Variant Pages

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Grand Chess. Christian Freeling's popular large chess variant on 10 by 10 board. Rules and links. (10x10, Cells: 100) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Aurelian Florea wrote on 2022-02-23 UTC

@Daniel Lee

Hello! Is there a way for someone to add new games to that website?

Daniel Lee wrote on 2022-02-23 UTC

You can add Pychess ( to the list of places to play both people and AI. We have regular scheduled tournaments (including in Grand Chess) as well as a top of the line AI in Fairy Stockfish (although note that the top strength is still diluted to make processing efficient)

Aurelian Florea wrote on 2021-12-12 UTC

Ok, It is Capablanca which I remember then. Thanks!

H. G. Muller wrote on 2021-12-12 UTC

I am not sure what exactly you are referring to. I never measured piece values explicitly for Grand Chess; I always assumed they would be equal to those of Capablanca Chess, as extra ranks behind the armies should not have much effect on game play. For Capablanca Chess the values are Q=950, C=900, A=875, R=500, B=350, B-pair bonus=50, N=300, P=100. There is a rather strong manifestation of the 'leveling effect', though: the super-pieces are effectively worth less when they face many lighter pieces. So sacrifycing one super-piece for R + minor or 3 minors ups the effective value of your remaining super-pieces compared to those of the opponent, which can give more than a Pawn in compensation (if you still have these super-pieces).

Aurelian Florea wrote on 2021-12-12 UTC

I don't seem to be able to find HG's piece values for this game. Can someone help?

H. G. Muller wrote on 2020-09-09 UTC

I see. That is currently not possible either. It is so much like the thing I mentioned first, that it would probably be easiest to combine such features: by default have some way to paste games into the diagram, but allow a way for the diagram description to define an initial value for that input element.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2020-09-08 UTC

I am not sure what you mean by that. You want to be able to paste the game back into the diagram, and then step through it with the navigation button?

I wasn't thinking of that, as such, though it's not a bad idea. I was thinking of including a game in the HTML used to define a diagram. This could be useful for showcasing past games.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2020-09-08 UTC

I am not sure what you mean by that. You want to be able to paste the game back into the diagram, and then step through it with the navigation button? Currently you can only step through the game you are currently playing (even after it ended), and the memory of it is erased as soon as you start a new one. I suppose I could add some text entry in the AI bar where one could paste a game so that the JavaScript can see it. I am not sure whether it is possible to attach a handler for Ctrl-V to the page as a whole, to trigger importing it from the clipboard. In any case I would have to add a SAN parser, but that should not be too difficult.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2020-08-31 UTC

My game against the interactive diagram. I played White and won.

  1. f5 Nh7 2. Nh4 Ng5 3. e4 Cf7 4. Nc4 Rag10 5. g4 Nc7 6. Bf4 h6 7. Ng6 Nce6 8. Nge5 Nxf4 9. Cxf4 Ch8 10. h4 Nf7 11. Nxf7 gxf7 12. Cxh6 Rg7 13. Rjg1 Rg8 14. g5 Cg7 15. Cxg7 Rxg7 16. f6 Rg6 17. d4 Rjg10 18. e5 R6g8 19. Bf5 d7 20. Rg3 e6 21. fxe7 Bxe7 22. Rf1 Rg7 23. Nb6 Bxa3 24. Nxa8 Be7 25. Rgg1 R10g8 26. Ra1 Qe8 27. Nc7 Qd8 28. Ra9 Ke10 29. Rxf9 Kxf9 30. Nd5 Ba3 31. Qa2 Be7 32. Qa9 Kg10 33. Ra1 Rg9 34. Qa10 Kf9 35. Ra9 Ke8 36. Qc10 Rd9 37. Qe10 Re9 38. Rxe9 Qxe9 39. Qxc8 Bd8 40. Bxd7

Is there any way to replay past games with the interactive diagram?

Greg Strong wrote on 2020-08-31 UTC

I made significant updates to this page. It was at least 15 years since the last updates. I updated the graphics, updated the information about which computer play and equipment options are available, added notes about the rules - history and implication, and edited the introduction to be more current. (The previous page said "Since it's conception in 1984 it continues to grow in popularity", which may have been true at the time, but I think it is fair to say that the popularity of Grand Chess has peaked, at least for the time being.)

The old page can still be accessed here:

Greg Strong wrote on 2020-08-02 UTC

Test of interactive diagram:

files=10 ranks=10 promoZone=3 promoChoice=*N*B*R*Q*M*C!P holdingsType=1 graphicsDir=/graphics.dir/alfaeriePNG/ squareSize=50 graphicsType=png pawn:P:ifmnDfmWfceF:pawn:a3,b3,c3,d3,e3,f3,g3,h3,i3,j3,,a8,b8,c8,d8,e8,f8,g8,h8,i8,j8 knight:N:N:knight:b2,i2,,b9,i9 bishop:B:B:bishop:c2,h2,,c9,h9 rook:R:R:rook:a1,j1,,a10,j10 queen:Q:Q:queen:d2,,d9 marshall:M:RN:chancellor:f2,,f9 cardinal:C:BN:cardinal:g2,,g9 king:K:K:king:e2,,e9

Kevin Pacey wrote on 2017-10-03 UTCGood ★★★★

In spite of what I see as the drawbacks of this variant (bishops clearly stronger than knights, marshalls able to be traded quickly if developed symmetrically, complex pawn promotion rules that I don't quite like), the game uses a square (rather than rectangular) board and there are no unprotected pawns in the setup, which are arguably improvements over Capablanca chess (although that game's setup allows for smothered and back rank mates, arguably good features to have). The fact that the rooks protect each other, so that there is no need for castling, is both a plus and a minus in my view (as is the fact the player's armies ranks have many empty squares in the setup - otherwise there could be 30 pieces per side, perhaps, as I tried in my own Sac Chess variant, which is a lot of pieces).

My tentative estimates for the piece values in this variant would be: P=1; N=3; B=3.5; R=5.5; C=7.5; M=9.5; Q=10 and the fighting value of the K=2.5 approximately (though naturally it cannot be traded). Note that I rate a N significantly lower on a 10x10 board than on a 8x8, 9x8 or 10x8 board (where I estimate N=3.5 in all cases) as the many extra excellent central squares available to a N on a 10x10 board are IMHO way more than offset by the rather large size of the board, which makes it harder for a N to cross from one side of the board to the opposite one. Also note that on the four board sizes I've mentioned, I've kept R=5.5 as a constant value, changing the value of a B as I felt appropriate for a particular board size(s), in relation to the value of a R.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
The whole point seems moot. You don't need 3 Queens to checkmate, and using a second one against a bare King is already embarrassing. The worst case I can imagine in FIDE that has any practical interest is KQKP where you can draw with Rook or Bishop Pawn on the 7th rank when the promotion square is covered by King, and the attacking King is far away. The trick is that with a Bishop Pawn the King can step into the corner, in stead of in front of the Pawn, because when the Queen captures it it would be stalemate. And with Rook Pawns you can force the King in front of the Queen, but you cannot use that to approach with your own King, as this would be stalemate.

I think in Grand Chess KQKP with the Pawn only removed one step from promotion and the promotion square covered by its King is always draw, no matter what Pawn you have. And not because of stalemate.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
Fair points, but I'm really talking about more extreme cases.

Is a stalemated king vs 3 queens a legitimate draw? I don't so.

The only counterargument to that is "gee well the other player shouldn't so sloppy as to let the king be stalemated." But to me thats a moot point. Dominant player shouldn't be obligated to give the weaker player a legal move.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
> I see little justification for a weaker player that has been trapped being awarded a draw in this case.

Well, this is a bit of a moot point, as you can also not force stalemate in KBK or KNK. Only KNNK turns into a win when stalemate is a win.

> Pawn vs bare king, or piece vs piece I would still award as a draw.

That is a bit funny, because KPK is really the only 3-piece case in FIDE where altering the stalemate rule would have practical consequences. Because the only way to avoid being trapped there for the weak side is to allow promotion. But it would not affect Grand Chess, because there KPK is always won, due to promotion before the last rank.

> Imperative of movement is already central to end games, why not enforce it for moving into check and losing a game?

Note that having no moves does not imply you would have moves if you can move into check. You can be stalemated even when moving into check is allowed (but losing).

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
Either way I would view mandatory promotion to RBN on the 9th/8th rank an improvement.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
Any game that uses the FIDE stalemate rule has something to do with stalemate.

I'm really referring to cases in which a side has no legal move while facing an army with much greater material. I see little justification for a weaker player that has been trapped being awarded a draw in this case. For me its a loophole and nothing more.

Pawn vs bare king, or piece vs piece I would still award as a draw.

Minor pieces vs king is a grey area but I think trapping the king in such cases is worthy of a win. Imperative of movement is already central to end games, why not enforce it for moving into check and losing a game?

H. G. Muller wrote on 2015-04-13 UTC
In Elven Chess I used a similar King and Rook placement as in Grand Chess, but indeed I conidered the absence of castling a mistake. The need for it remains, and there really is no reason to abandon it. So in Elven Chess I took Capablanca-style castling (the King moving 3 squares). That means you could castle on the first move, if you wanted. (But of course you should not want that, keeping the opponent in the dark about which side your King will take residence for as long as you can.)

I believe Grand Chess was invented before the computer era, and Freeling's games are designed for over-the-board play anyway, so I think the promotion rule cannot really be held against him.

I don't consider it a weakness of orthodox Chess that KBK and KNK are draws. And this has nothing to do with stalemate anyway.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-12 UTC

Does Freelings claim that Grand Chess is an inherent improvement of FIDE Chess stand up to scrutiny?

Removal of castling

Castling is an artificial but effective rule that serves more than one purpose-the ability to switch an immobile king to prevent lopsided enemy attacks, and increased ease of rook developement. Staggered rooks as an alternative accomplish the latter, a more centralised king on a more spacious board (mostly) negates the former.

Extension of material

The premise in conventional chess variant wisdom seems to be that the choice of the RB compound is arbitrary, and the RN/NB are the natural "missing" extensions. However the FIDE Queen is arguably the most conceptually fundamental piece in the game; its movement on an empty board can be described in 3 words; "it moves straight." The same certainly cannot be said of RN/RB.

K/B/R are restrictions, rather than fundamental building blocks. Similarly the knight is really a special case that subsets the more obscure 2-1 slider. It, and not the "mad Queen" is the true wildcard of FIDE.

Either way, the knight complements the FIDE array perfectly, and gives the ensemble a high degree of balance for such simple pieces - 8 pawns, 4 minor pieces, 2 major pieces, one 1 "master" piece, thats difficult to better, and in my opinion distributing its most obscure movement type in new combinations is not sound grounds for doing so.

In truth, the weakening of the knight move of a 10*10 board aids GC somewhat declustering the pieces and producing a clearer hierarchy, but not enough, and the final ensemble is undeniably lopsided.

I do feel that FIDE is missing a piece (and just one), but I would consider the 2-leaper (a piece so neglected among variants that it barely has a name) to be that piece. Its conceptually simple and bridges the gap between Queen and Rook almost perfectly, being in almost exactly equal power ratio to each.


FIDE is played on a lower base board (2 vs 10), with perfect 50% piece density.

Pawn promotion

This is where I feel Freeling makes a real mistep. The optional promotion of the 8/9/10th rank is slack and the restriction of promotion to a captured piece is an archaic throwback to precomputerised chess. Freelings defense of the unnecessary complications that arise (pawns on the 9th ranks can give check while immobile) by pointing to the case of pinned pieces in FIDE yet giving check is at best a case of two wrongs not making a right. Why not enforce promotion to the RNB and complete the (R, N, B) power set?

Stalemate, pawn first move and en passant

The primitive stalemate rule of FIDE is left unchanged (piece vs bare king still irrationally given as a draw), and convuluted pawn behaviour is left as it was.


I don't doubt that GC is still an excellent game and most likely the best of its type, but its just not a game that can be considered a clear forward step from FIDE. It extends in an abritrary manner, improves in some areas, loses in others and leaves other chess conventions unchallenged.

Freeling showed an ability to distill the chess paradigm to clear endpoints in Rotary, Shakti and Chad, but ultimately GC can't be considered in that group.

Johnny Luken wrote on 2015-04-12 UTC
HG Muller,

The KN is indeed underused, although the inclusion of such a compound then requires the RK and KB for a complete set, which no longer work as distinct unions.

One could consider the gryffon and unicorn to be RK/BK compounds, temporal rather than spatial though that may considered a stretch by some...

H. G. Muller wrote on 2015-03-25 UTC
The 'mounted' pieces RN and BN give Grand Chess a distinct Capablanca flavor. In my variant Elven Chess I tried to give a somewhat similar setup on 10x10 a 'Shogi flavor' instead, by using 'crowned' R and B (RF and BW). And also the Commoner, which could be considered a crowned Pawn. I did not use the KN compound, though, and it is also lacking from Grand Chess. Funny that this piece is so much less popular than other compounds of the orthodox pieces.

John Davis wrote on 2015-03-25 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
This is a favorite of mine for the rules and board size, more than being another Capablanca. I am making some sets to give away for Christmas. I am including extra pieces to be a variant basic kit. I will post my changes for my "Grand Chess and Beyond" on the respective pages of each game.

David Paulowich wrote on 2012-03-19 UTC

Jason makes some good points concerning 10x10 chess variant design. I prefer placing Cannons on the back ranks, as in Shako and Shatranj Kamil X. Now the White Rooks will either have to share the first rank with the Cannons or position themselves on the second rank.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-03-14 UTC
On BrainKing, Embassy Chess which uses the same setup as Grand, is more
popular and the smaller 10x8 board seems to work better for the 2 added
super pieces. Grand Chess' main distinction is the extra row behind just
for the rooks which is probably not as interesting as the creator thinks it
is. Generally, those rooks just back up stronger pieces in front of them,
or they are exchanged with other rooks on open files.

It's more interesting in normal Chess where a rook tries to get on an open
file by clearing other pieces out of the back rank than it is like this.

In short, the freedom of the rooks and the extra space for the King to move
around lead to less tension in the game which is not a good thing. 10x8
games with those 2 pieces like Janus Chess and Embassy (Bird/Capablanca)
play better on 10x8.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-10-19 UTC
Well, I don't see much reason to assume that the piece values in Grand Chess are very different from the very well established values in Capablanca and other 10x8 variants. It is true the board has two more ranks, but these are basically ranks where you don't want to go.

This would mean your values suffer from a gross uderestimation of the value of the Cardinal (BN), which in Capablanca is practically equivalent to the Marshall (RN). That there is logic in your system can be considered a drawback, as so far any logic in the practical values of pieces has been sigularly absent (or perhaps just not understood).

If I would have to guess in which direction the Capablanca values should be corrected for Grand Chess, the major factor I would take into account is the fact that the promotion zone is 3 deep, effectively cutting 1 rank off the board. This makes that you are more in a hurry with lateral movements to stop passers, which disadvantages pieces that cannot slide along ranks.

 FIDE 10x8  Grand(?)
N 325 300 -> 275
B 325 350 -> 325 (+50 B-pair bonus)
R 500 500
C     875 -> 850
M     900
Q 950 950

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