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Lion. Powerful piece from Shogi variant.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
H. G. Muller wrote on 2013-10-23 UTC
I largely agree. The Commoner promotion idea just seems to complicate things for no real purpose. It was only based on the logic that that the Commoners were 'Crowned Pawns', but to really follow that logic would also require them to do an initial double push, capture and be captured en passant, etc.

So I finally settled for a Chess-like version that allows only Pawn promotion, and only like in FIDE (i.e. to Q, R, B or N). No promotion to Lion, Crowned Rook, Crowned Bishop or Commoner. And mandatory on entering the zone (as deferring seems never useful), as in Makruk. That way the rules don't have to be complicated with deferral, or with possibilities for multiple Lions.

As to a Shogi-like version: promotion of Rook and Bishop is not that strong (both gain about 2 Pawns in value). And what you say about the virtual impossibility to prevent promotion of such sliders, is true. But it is in fact also true for Chu Shogi. Despite the many steppers that tend to hang out in the zone just because of their slowness, the game will at some point reach a phase where the board population has thinned so much that it becomes impossible to control the zone. I don't know if you have played or watched many Chu games yourself, but this is part of the essential game dynamics of Chu Shogi. In HaChu I take care of it by setting the end-game value of the unpromoted sliders just a fraction of a Pawn below that of their promoted version (the actual value being a weighted average of opening and end-game value based on the squared of the population density). So that actually promoting a Rook or Bishop is hardly worth anything, and won't be done at the expense of sacrificing other material because of horizon effect. If you cannot promote 'for free' now, just don't do it, because you can always do it later.

So this concern would in fact make the play very Chu-Shogi-like (and thus less Chess-like), which was exacty the idea. (But only as a 'next step', for Chess players that master the Chess-like version, and would be interested to move on towards Chu.) What I am most concerned about is the promotion of Knights. Imposing a one-Lion rule would complicate the engine (a laziness argument...), but also lead to very un-Chu-like tactics, where you would seek opportunities to sacrifice your Lion for Queen or (Crowned) Rook when you have a Knight that could safely promote. Allowing unconditional promotion to Lion would complicate the Lion-exchange rules (but real Chu Shogi has that complication too, so that is not really an argument) but would make Knights very dangerous pieces. It is true that in Chu Shogi the same holds for the Kylin, but Kylins make up a much smaller fraction of the board population there (1/46 in stead of 2/23), and are not as agile as Knights. Possible fixes are (1) don't allow Knights to promote at all, like +R, +B, Q, K, Lion and Commoner (2) only allow their promotion on last rank (3) only allow Knight promotion if both Lions are gone.

Greg Strong wrote on 2013-10-23 UTC
I don't really like the idea of commoners promoting and then further promoting, including to primordial commoners.  This would lead to two classes of commoners, something that has no parallel in chess and would be confusing.

I'm also not sure about your last idea of pedistal promotion - the promotion zone is only one move away for a rook or bishop and they would get a powerful promotion.  This would require constant guarding of the promotion zone, and unlike Chu I don't know if there's enough power to make that practical (and guarding empty squares is also not chess-like.)

I think the Grand Chess promotion rule would probably be the best in terms of playability.  Pawn automatic promotion to Queen is also not bad, or promotion to any piece except Lion.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2013-10-19 UTC
I programmed HaChu for a slight variation on Mighty-Lion Chess (without castling or e.p., and without the rule that protection by King for a Lion does not count), and had it play a few games in self play. These looked like reasonable games, not at all like a Lion-feeding feast. Now and then a Pawn got trampled by a Lion. So it seems not a major concern, even with the regular FIDE pieces. Worse, IMO, is the scarcity of trading opportunities for Lion against other material.

Castling was indeed intended to be the regular Capablance 3-step castling.

I did not know of the progressive promotion rule. It is an interesting option to encourage deferral. In Chu Shogi deferring Pawn promotion is pointles, as Gold is upward compatible with Pawn. For some other pieces it can make sense, but then they are not allowed to promote before they leave the zone again, unless they capture. (Yet they have a special rule that Pawns, which obviously cannot leave the zone, always promote on last Rank.) What I originally had in mind whas the same rule as I proposed for Mighty Lion: free choice but no Lion. The latter to avoid the possibility of having multiple Lions, with the resulting need to further complexify the rules on Lion trading. That argument still applies here.

The Grand-Chess rule of only allowing promotion to captured pieces would also achieve that, though. It would also provide an incentive for deferral and under-promotion. With the only hippogonal choice being the weak Knight, the latter would otherwise be just as uncommon as in Chess. For the game the promote-to-captured rule would probably be the best one; the only misgivings I have is that it modifies orthodox Chess in a way not towards Chu Shogi. A slight refinement could perhaps be the Great-Shatranj rule, that you always have the option to promote to the comparatively weak Commoner. In practice, this is a bit of a moot point, however. It is quite unthinkable that an opponent would allow any surviving promoted piece so early in the game.

Having the Commoner as fall-back option give me an idea for an unusual promotion rule that combines some of the rules you mention: Pawns can promote only (and always) to Commoner on the 8th Rank (and as deferring would be pointless, it is better to forbid it). This is sort of Makruk-like promotion. Commoners, however, can further promote to any captured piece when reaching 10th rank. This could also include the two primordial Commoners, and thus would introduce two concepts found in Chu Shogi: Pawns only promote to a not-so-strong piece, and pieces other than Pawn might also be able to promote.

To make it even more Chu-like, it might be better to eliminate promotion choice alltogether, and also have fixed promotion for the Commoner. This would then be Queen. In stead of promoting Commoners when they reach 10th rank they could promote when they enter the zone; both would be two moves away from the first (Pawn) promotion. On capturing in the zone they could also promote.

The concern is drawishness, however. In Chess Pawn endings, the first one to promote usually wins. Even if the other is just one step short, but and supported by King, you usually still can win (except for Rook and Bishop Pawns). But if the other would already have promoted to Commoner by the time you get your Queen, it becomes much more difficult to stop its promotion. And even KQKM itself would already be a drawn end-game when King and Commoner connect. On the other hand, due to the larger board it could be very unlikely that a Pawn is actually supported by the King, and when they are far apart it is comparatively easy to stop Commoner promotion and gobble it up with a checking fork. Perhaps this should also be tested in practice. Come to think of it, I am not so sure that KQKP can be won in Grand Chess when the Pawn is one step from promotion, due to the possibility for the King to protect the promotion square from deeper within the zone, when you stop attacking the Pawn. Another idle thought: even when you have the choice between Lion and Queen, the obviously weaker Queen will often be the better choice, because it can prevent the opponent from promoting his passer to a Lion. 

As to availability of pieces in over-the-board play, I don't think this should be a major concern in designing the rules. To play this game would require at least two Chess sets, even if just for the extra Pawns. Draughts chips could be used to 'decorate' the remaining pieces: Crowned Bishop and Rook would quite naturally be a Bishop and Rook placed on a pedestal. The Commoners could be represented by a Pawn on a pedestal, and a Lion (which is the ultimate super-Knight) by a Knight on a pedestal (perhaps a very high pedestal). This would leave all the usual associations Chess players have for the pieces fully valid, and extend them with a single universal new one: pedestal moves as King. (And it would also make it sort of logical that the 'Crowned Pawn' would be able to promote!) And it uses only half the pieces of the second Chess set, the other half (including Queen) remaining available for promotions.

This business with the pedestals actually does give me an idea. There could be two versions of this game, differing only in promotion rules: a more Chess-like and a more Shogi-like version. The latter would simply have every piece that moves into the promotion zone step on a pedestal. Rooks would become Crowned Rooks, Bishops Crowned Bishops, Pawns would become Commoners. Knights would become Lions! (But perhaps only if you don't have a Lion already.) They would have the role of the Kylin in Chu Shogi. Pawns (crowned or not) would no longer promote on last rank in the Chu version. Deferral would be pointless, except for the forced deferral when a Knight could not promote to Lion because you already have one. With the existence of this Shogi-like version, there would be no need to make the promotion rules of the Chess-like version more reminescent of Shogi. It could simply become free choice 8th rank, subject to the one-Lion rule. Which in practice means Lion (if available), Knight or Queen (the latter upward compatible with anything else). Commoners, being Pawns on a pedestal, would promote the same as other Pawns, so there would be no such thing as promotion to Commoner.

Greg Strong wrote on 2013-10-19 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I like this a lot.  It seems like a very reasonable intermediate step between Chess and Chu Shogi with a focus on the Lion.  In fact, I can't think of any way to make it a more reasonable intermediate step.

I like the choice of crowned rook and bishop rather than chancellor and archbishop.  As you mention, the latter don't occur in Chess or Shogi, and may be too powerful. (Actually, I think a Capablanca-type 10x8 game might well be better with crowned rook (dragon king) and crowned bishop (dragon horse) than with chancellors and archbishops.)

I also like the fact that the king, queen, crowned rook, crowned bishop, and commoners are all 'lion-proof' in the sense that they can't get igui captured because there is no safe adjacent square.  This might eliminate my concern about the lion's ability of baroque capture walking all over the 'normal' chess pieces (although I'd certainly still be testing that notion the first time I played the game...)

Castling - I'm assuming the king moves three squares left or right and the rook jumps over to the adjacent square.

Pawn Promotion - I like promotion at the 8th rank.  It not only invokes the promotion of Grand Chess, which the layout of this game reminds one of, but also of the deep promotion zone of (Chu) Shogi.  The real question is the promotion rule...  I see a few ways you could go.

Grand Chess style - promotion optional at 8th and 9th rank, mandatory at 10th, but only can promote to a captured piece for which it is replaced.  This has a certain elegance to it, and would be really nice for over-the-board play (if you happened to be using a set specifically designed for Chu Chess.)  On the other hand, it's not really like Chess or Chu Shogi, so it might not be a good choice on that basis alone.

Chess style - promotion to any non-pawn piece (knight, bishop, rook, crowned bishop, crowned rook, commoner, queen, lion.)  Obviously promotion to some of these types is probably pointless.  If you went this way, would it even be optional at 8th rank?  Would you ever really want to delay this decision badly enough to keep it a pawn?

Shogi style - promotion to a single type only.  I agree that to commoner is probably too weak.  Maybe promotion to a crowned rook?  If I had to pick a single piece that would probably be my choice.

Progressive style - this is what I did in Cataclysm, and for that game I like it, but it is neither chess-like nor shogi-like so I'm not really recommending it, but mentioning it for the purpose of completeness.  You could, for example, at 8th rank, optionally promote to commoner or remain a pawn.  At 9th rank, optionally to crowned rook or crowned bishop or remain a pawn.  At 10th rank you must promote to queen or lion.  Has the virtue of giving incentive both for promoting and for delaying.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2013-10-17 UTC

Inspired by Gregs suggestions for 10x10, I think I found an ideal setup for the next step from Chess to Chu Shogi. I call it Chu Chess. I did not want to use the RN compound, as it does not occur in Chu Shogi. Of the pieces that do, it seems Dragon Horse and Dragon King (Crowned Bishop and Crowned Rook) are the most suitable. They are just a small variation on Rook and Bishop, and as their pictograms also look similar to those, Chess players should not have much trouble handling them. The Crowned Bishop is similar in value to Rook, and the Crowned Rook an in-between for Rook and Queen. That strengthens the heavy end of the spectrum, to make life more difficult for the Lion. And it does provide better trading possibilities for the Lion than in Mighty-Lion Chess, namely L for Q + DK or DK + R + R, so that you are not stuck with it as much, and one Lion versus other material will be more common without the game being immediately decided. (Three-for-one trades are not as difficult with Lion as in ordinary Chess, as a Lion can capture two pieces, and could then be traded for a third.) Yet they don't disturb the ratio of Queen-class pieces to Rook-class pieces very much, if you count the Crowned Rook (to be called 'Crook?') as a bit of both.

The addition of those would make the piece spectrum a bit top-heavy, though. So I also wanted to add some Knight-class pieces. From the Chu pieces Gold would be a logical choice, but it is a bit frightening to Chess players because of its asymmetry. So instead I picked the Commoner, symbolizing the unification of all Generals and other steppers that are so abundant in Chu Shogi. It has a move familiar to Chess players.

I don't want it to be over-crowded, as Chu Shogi definitely is, so I don't want two full rows of pieces behind the Pawns. Yet 10x8 is too small to accomodate all the pieces I want. So 10x10 with a Grand-Chess-like sparsely-populated back rank seems an obvious choice. I don't want to disband castling, though, in my opinion that is a flaw in Grand Chess, where you have to march the King to a safe place in many steps, like in 'ranging Rook' games of (regular) Shogi. So I put the King on the back rank, ready to castle, making room for the Lion to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Queen in Chu-like fashion.

With castling the need for easy opening of the Rook files seems not so great, and the a-/j-file vacancies would even become a severe weakness after castling. They can be nicely filled with the Commoners. An extra Commoner as defender to make the King fortress more Lion-proof definitely would not be a luxory. On the side where you did not castle, the Commoner can be developed by playing up the Knight Pawn, and moving it out diagonally towards the center, putting the Bishop behind it afterwards. Unlike Knights, Commoners are 'Lion proof' when protected: the Lion cannot step next to them for an igui attack. The Rooks in the mean time are free to roam the back rank.

I thought about allowing promotion of some pieces, but that seems a little bit too un-Chess-like. I also thought about allowing the Pawn to promote to Commoner only, (In Shogi they promote to Gold, after all), but I am afraid this would make the end-game to radically different and drawish (when the first to promote has no way to stop opponent passers from also promoting, even if they still need 3 or 4 moves to do it). Extend the depth of the promotion zone to 3 ranks (including the initial Pawn rank, as in Chu) does seem a good idea, thoug, and again is reminiscent of Grand Chess.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2013-10-05 UTC
> The Shogi Lion's ability of baroque capture should allow it to just pick off the "normal" pieces one after another. 

I will have to check this out with an engine to see if this is a problem. Currently I have no engine that could play Mighty-Lion Chess under WinBoard, but it should be trivial to program HaChu to play a very similar variant that does not have e.p. capture and castling. This would be just a matter of adding an entry in a table with the new name, board size and a FEN-like string for the initial setup. (HaChu does know the Persian Pawn for Shatranj and Makruk, and even has a version that could do an initial double-push.)

My expectation is that the thing you describe would be prevented by the Lions neutralizing each other, by sitting face to face with an emppty square between them. This also happens in Chu games a lot, and this is why the rules to forbid their exchange are so important. There would be a no-go area between them, where everything would be instantly annihilated by igui.

But most Chess pieces can attack a Lion from a distance. The Chu-Shogi steppers might be effective for holding the Lion out, they are utterly powerless for attacking it. Chains of FIDE Pawns are much more immune for Lion attack than Chu-Shogi Pawn formations. The latter really have to remain completely flat to prevent a Lion from a contact attack in a corner. Two FIDE Pawns standing shoulder to shoulder only leave unprotacted squares beside them, which are easily devende by other pieces behind them. And even a single Pawn, when it is head to head with an enemy Pawn, cannot be attacked from ahead. So interlocked Pawn chains are safe.

Greg Strong wrote on 2013-10-05 UTC
Upon further consideration, I'm not sure adding a Shogi Lion to the standard mix of Chess pieces works very well.  The Shogi Lion's ability of baroque capture should allow it to just pick off the "normal" pieces one after another.  In the opening array, the pieces aren't vulnerable because the Lion can't get close enough, but as soon as they venture forth ...  Maybe they can move very slowly and defensively but it doesn't seem like that would be much fun (if I'm right about how it plays out.)  Even a larger board probably wouldn't solve the problem, although it might help.  If in doubt, I'm willing to give it a test in Game Courier.

This problem, if indeed there is a problem, doesn't exist in Chu Shogi because the board is much, much larger and there are a lot of pieces, including a ton of short range pieces that can keep the Lion away.

George Duke wrote on 2013-10-04 UTC
Shogi Lion(Shishi) reaches twenty-four squares within certain restrictions, the 24 close in, overlapping (Queen+Knight). Burroughs' Jetan from 100 years ago has three different pieces that must move two squares, the maximum for Shogi Lion: Jetan. Diagonally Padwar two steps, and orthogonally Warrior two steps, both free to change direction. Western Pawns could use more versatility against Shogi Lion, and those two Warrior and/or Padwar could be used as Pawn replacements, which can retreat to hem in Shogi Lion.

The third Jetan two-stepper, Thoat, goes one diagonally, one orthogonally either order and so reaches 12 squares, half of Shogi Lion's 24, but having at least twice the point value of either Warrior or Padwar -- since Thoat is a strict jumper. Why not strengthen Pawns one of the above ways, making them one or two chosen Jetan piece-types rather than Western Pawn of awkward en passant and artificial one-time two-step? Further just let Shogi Lion be the supreme piece by restricting all of Bishop, Rook and Queen to maximum of three spaces Jetan-like? This would be for the small boards 8x8, 8x10 launched by adding versatile strong Chu Shogi Lion to Western ware. The Queen, now having all her destinations close in duplicated by Shogi Lion, should just abdicate and become the second most powerful piece -- the way She does when Amazon's on board.

At least Chu Shogi of Shishi lacks ugly drops of conventionalized rules-ridden Shogi, and the above enhancing options for Pawn would keep the western look to all the rest of pieces as well in playable CVs. The key to the concept is just not to think of Jetan as having low-value pieces, but being each one good Pawn potential. All original Jetan pieces are better than dozens of Shogi-family pieces. The classic Jetan types are easily descriptive, not just exhaustive as that more than a hundred Shogi-variant piece-types could be characterized: piece-type production exhaustively for its own sake in the historical large shogis. Most of them from large shogis are not as much worth singling out for further study than the excellent versatile Chu Shogi Lion. (For follow-up, to place Chu Shogi Lion, there are near examples than already mentioned other comments CVs using Squirrel, Mastodon, Pasha...)

Antoine Fourrière wrote on 2013-10-03 UTC
Perhaps this theoretically reflectional setting might implement Greg's idea, with the added rule that the first Lion to move destroys its colleague and its mirror opponent. Once the two surviving Lions have left their starting squares, no Lion or Knight in its right mind would reach the four extra squares. But there is no need to destroy them. (Or you can use the Gustavian board or the 8x8 board analog to the Omega board, and destroy the extra squares.)

H. G. Muller wrote on 2013-10-03 UTC
Thanks for your suggestions.

@Joe: I did consider Seirawan-style gating for the Lion, but decided against it because it introduces yet another 'weirdness' from the POV of the naive Chess player. Your idea with the extra square is interesting, but it is not logically different from allowing a piece drop inside the 'Palace' (to speak in Xiangqi terms) and starting with the Lion in hand. (Well, OK, the rule that you can kamikaze-capture the Lion there makes it different, but in practice no one would be so foolish to allow his Lion to be taken by another piece, so that is a pretty moot point.) And if a resticted drop is going to be used to introduce the Lion, I would prefer restricting the drop to the back-rank.

I am in doubt whether the rule complication needed for introducing the Lion into the game is worth it, just to have a more aestethically pleasing array, with a uniform Pawn rank. Leaving out the third-rank Pawn give you a Rook on an half-open file immediately, which strategically would be a very large departure from FIDE. Especially in a mirror-symmetric setup, where the one to last moves his Knight away gets it soft-pinned on the Rook in a very nasty way. Indeed centro-symmetric setups appeal to me more, but on the down-side, they are a larger departure from FIDE. And the half-open Rook file then would point directly to the King side, making castling to either side unattractive.

@Greg: Using a non-8x8 board is a real discouragement for people to play it over the board. Here in the Netherlands 10x10 boards are common, because more people play interntational draughts here than Chess. So 8x8 and 10x10 boards are typically sold back-to-back. But in the rest of the World the situation is pretty dismal. So if possible at all, I would like to keep it 8x8.

@Antoine: I thought some more about the end-game problem, and it seems a real problem. Even without tablebases it is easy to see that KLPKL is much more drawish than FIDE KPK. Kings are safe from being driven to mate by the enemy Lion (and even from perpetual check) when they take shelter next to their own Lion, even in the middle of the board. And when the defending side parks his Lion next to the Pawn file in front of the Pawn, ready to igui it away when it comes in range, protected by its King, there is just no way to chase it away.

So it seems a bit of tweaking of the Lion-capture rules is needed. First I thought (inspired by Antoine's remark) of allowing distant LxL capture when only Pawns and Lions are left. But then I got an idea that accomplishes nearly the same in a natural way:

Forbid distant Lion x Lion capture during the entire game only if pseudo-legal recapture BY A NON-KING is possible. When you are then down to King + Lion, there is no way you can protect your Lion from being traded anymore. This will be enough to make advantages that are winning in FIDE also winning with a pair of Lions added. During the middle-game you would not normally want to use your King as only protector of your Lion anyway, so there seems little danger that this rule modification would lead to early Lion trading.

Greg Strong wrote on 2013-10-03 UTC

Upon further reflection, the rotational symmetry allows White to push the King's pawn but Black can't respond with the same move. (I'm not sure this is a balance problem, but people certainly wouldn't like it.) Here's another possibility that only swaps the Chancellor/Lion. It's not pure mirror or rotational symmetry, which I'm not sure has ever been done before, but I don't see anything wrong with it...

Alternate Game Courier preset

Greg Strong wrote on 2013-10-02 UTC

Here's my suggestion for a Chess with Shogi Lions:

Game Courier preset

It's a setup similar to Grand Chess but with a Chu Shogi Lion replacing the Archbishop, and with the Chancellor/Lion to the outside as the most powerful pieces should generally develop last. I also used rotational symmetry instead of mirror symmetry to make it even less likely that the like heavy pieces will be traded off (and since there's no castling in the grand chess setup, I see no real harm in rotational symmetry although many will probably find it aesthetically unappealing.)

The Queen, Chancellor, and Shogi Lion should all be of reasonably similar value, and with one of each of the three, it should lead to a variety of possibilities for unequal exchange.

Joe Joyce wrote on 2013-10-02 UTC
Hey, HG, I agree with Antoine and Greg about board sizes, but I do have a suggestion that while a bit gimmicky might work. Add an extra square behind each king, place the lion there, and when the lion moves or is taken, the square (and any taking piece) is immediately removed. Hm, that would screw up your chess engines, wouldn't it? The other "preserve 8x8" option is a drop, but I do not favor that approach.

Greg Strong wrote on 2013-10-02 UTC
Perhaps for inspiration, take a look at David Paulowich's Lions and Unicorns Chess.  It's 10x8 with the Knights on the second rank as you have done.  He didn't even feel it was need to put pawns in front of them (and as an excellent game designer, I'm sure he evaluated this closely before deciding on it.)  Of course, his Lions are HFDs rather than Shogi Lions...

I think you're probably on the track of something that could be an enjoyable game.  Personally, I'd explore a 10x10 board with pawns on the third row Grand Chess style, and probably only one Lion per side.


H. G. Muller wrote on 2013-10-02 UTC
Thanks for your feedback!

I am not sure if it is really a disadvantage to be stuck with the Lion until the end-game. Preventing the game from reverting to regular FIDE sort of forces this on us. I must admit that I don't know what consequences this has for the drawishness of end-games. It would indeed be bad if KLQKL would be a general draw. I guess I should investigate this by building some tablebases. (5 men on 8x8 is quite easy, and even 6 men might be doable on modern hardware, but my tablebase generator should be modified to take account of the Lion-capture rules, and the possibility to do hit-and-run captures.)

If KLQKL is generally won, then KLPKL might be generally won. And if small advantage can still be converted to wins even in the presence of Lions, there isn't any harm in the Lions always being there.

Your suggestions for wider boards are also interesting. I picked 8x8 so that it would be easy for people to play this over the board using standard equipment. (Dressing up one Knight with a rubber band, or putting it on a pedestal to identify it as Lion. Or just use any object of which there is a pair at hand, like a stack of Chekers chips or pepper and salt shakers in case both Knights are kept.) 

If the board were expanded to 10x8 I would rather add Shogi-like pieces such as Dragon (RF) or Horse (BW) than Capablanca pieces. E.g. put Lion next to King and Dragon next to Queen. Chess players would have to learn two new pieces rather than one, however, which is a bit at odds with the goal to lower the threshold. Even though I agree that it would likely give a much better game, both through the wider board making the short-range Lion less dominant, as well as offer more interesting trading probabilities for Lion vs other material (in particular Q+D).

My reason for not allowing promotion to L was to avoid complicating the Lion-capture rules by the possibility for there to be multiple Lions.

In any case, it seems essential to make some end-game tablebases, to check if this game would need tweaking of the Lion-capture rules to prevent it from being drawish.

Btw, what do you think about my defining of the protection of the Lion in terms of pseudo-legal recapture? In Chu Shogi this is natural, as exposing your King to capture is not illegal there, just stupid. But in Chess it would be illegal. So it is debatable whether a piece that can be recaptured only by a pinned piece is protected or not. Even in the FIDE game this gives rise to a subtlety: it would be protected against capture by a King, but not against capture by any other piece. For simplicity as well as conformance to Chu Shogi I treated the Lion the same as a King here: you cannot make distant LxL capture if a King could not have legally captured that Lion.

Antoine Fourrière wrote on 2013-10-01 UTC
I think that Joe Joyce is fundamentally right to imply that the Lion is merely too strong for FIDE Chess. (I agree that a mere FWDAN would offer no particular interest, though.)

Nevertheless, your second setup is better than your first one, and a third Knight on h2/h7 would be even better. 10x8 with two Knights and a Cardinal would be even better. Rotational symmetry - with Lions on the outer files - would be better. 12x8, with a Marshall, a Cardinal, a third Knight and rotational symmetry would be better. True, it would no longer be a modest variant.

The Chu Shogi restrictions are much more necessary on 64/80/96 squares than on 144 squares, but what is going to happen once the Queens - and the other compounds, should you add one or both of them - are exchanged? The players will be stuck with Lions until the endgame. Or perhaps you could allow a Lion exchange once the Queens - and the other compounds - have disappeared? Or you could disallow a Queen exchange on the same basis that you disallow a Lion exchange? That seems the least bad option to me.

All in all, I am afraid the game will remain flawed. I hope I'm wrong, because the Lion seems a great piece.

A minor idea on 8x8 is to allow a Pawn which has started on the third rank to step backwards while the Knights on a2/h2/a7/h7 move.

I don't see why the Pawns should be allowed to promote to Queens, but not to Lions, although it would make no practical difference.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2013-10-01 UTC

Mighty-Lion Chess

As a step-up towards Chu Shogi I have added a modest Chess variant of my own design to XBoard. Basically this just adds a Lion to FIDE Chess. The obvious thing for these type of variants, to replace the Queen by another 'master piece', seemed a bad idea, as it leaves no suitable trading partners for the Lions. To prevent the Lion from being all-powerful, it is in fact very important that there are enough other pieces to harass it. So the best thing seemed to replace a Knight by a Lion. And to not interfere with traditional King-fortress building, it seemed best to pick the Queen-side Knight for this.

The Chu-Shogi restrictions on Lion trading also apply in this game. (It is forbidden to capture a Lion from a distance with a Lion when it can be pseudo-legally recaptured, and after a Lion is captured by a non-Lion, the other Lion is immune to capture on the next half-move. Any non-Pawn can act as a 'bridge', connecting the Lions by its capture.) These rules are actually very convenient, as they prevents the players from quickly trading the Lions, to convert to an ordinary game of FIDE. Pawns promote as in FIDE, i.e. they cannot promote to Lion.

I am still in doubt if it wouldn't be better to switch to a setup that keeps both Knights, and just adds the Lion as a 17th piece:

What do you think?

Anonymous wrote on 2010-05-07 UTC
This move is not so complicated. Here is much easier description: it makes 2 king's steps, not necessary in stright line, possible to capture on either or both, possible to return to starting square, also may leap over piece, wich occupies arrival square of first step.

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