Check out Symmetric Chess, our featured variant for March, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Fergus Duniho.

Univers Chess


Univers Chess is probably my least original game ever. Most of the credit goes to Dr. Bruno Violet. Univers Chess is a 10x8 adaptation of Universal Chess, a 10x10 game Dr. Violet created in 1928. That game included the full set of Chess pieces plus the two pieces most commonly known as Marshall or Chancellor (R+N) and Cardinal or Archbishop (B+N). It had two different setups, and both setups had every Pawn protected at the beginning of the game. The game is described in Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, but it says nothing about what the castling rule was. Univers Chess borrows the more symmetrical of the two setups used in Universal Chess, and it uses the same flexible castling rule used in Grotesque Chess. The name is obviously derived from Universal Chess, but it is also named for the Univers font, a sans serif font of the grotesque family. In this way, its name reflects that it belongs to the same family of games as Grotesque Chess. This family of games extends back almost four centuries to the 1617 game Carrera's Chess, includes the 1874 game Bird's Chess, the 1920s game Capablanca's Chess, and some more recent games, such as Grotesque Chess, Embassy Chess, and Aberg's Capablanca variation.

I am adding this game to what might already seem like an overglutted family, because the setup used in Universal Chess brings together advantages that have not been brought together by any other known game in this family. Univers Chess is currently the only 10x8 game with these pieces that places the Knights and Queen in the same positions relative to the King as they are in Chess and keeps all Pawns protected in the opening array. This gives the game a more Chess-like feel while avoiding the flaws caused by unprotected Pawns. All other games in this family do no more than one, and sometimes neither. Carrera's Chess and Aberg's variation, which happen to use the same setup, place Knights and Queens in the same relative position to the King, but they leave a Pawn unprotected on each side. Grotesque Chess and Embassy Chess both leave all Pawns protected, but Grotesque Chess places the Knights too close to the center, and Embassy Chess places them too far away. Bird's Chess and Capablanca's Chess both place the Knights too far away and leave a Pawn unprotected. Additionally, the Paladin (B+N) is placed beside the King, which gives a King Pawn opening much the same effect it has in Chess. As for the Bishops, their placement near the Rooks allows them to attack the center of the board much like fianchettoed Bishops.


8  | r |:b:| n |:m:| q |:k:| a |:n:| b |:r:|
7  |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |
6  |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
5  |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
4  |   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|
3  |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |:::|   |
2  | P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:|
1  |:R:| B |:N:| M |:Q:| K |:A:| N |:B:| R |
a   b   c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j

A/a = Paladin, M/m = Marshall










Univers Chess uses all the pieces of Chess plus two more, known as the Paladin and Marshall. All pieces from Chess move as in Chess, except that flexible castling is allowed and Pawns have two more promotion options. Just as the Queen is a compound of Rook and Bishop, the Marshall is a compound of Rook and Knight, and the Paladin is a compound of Bishop and Knight. Together, these three pieces comprise all the compounds of two minor pieces.


Aside from differences in board, pieces, and setup, Univers Chess is played like FIDE Chess with the following differences:

  1. When a King castles, it may move two or more spaces toward the Rook, and the Rook leaps over the King to the closest space the King has just passed over, so that King and Rook end up adjacent to each other. The usual castling conditions from Chess apply. A King may not castle from or through check, all spaces between the Rook and King must be empty, and neither piece may have moved before.
  2. When a Pawn promotes, it may promote to a Knight, Bishop, Rook, Queen, Paladin, or Marshall.


Marshall Chess

The same as Univers Chess except that Marshalls replace the Paladins, so that each player has two Marshalls instead of one, and Pawns may promote to Marshalls but not to Paladins.

Paladin Chess

The same as Univers Chess except that Paladins replace the Marshalls, so that each player has two Paladins instead of one, and Pawns may promote to Paladins but not to Marshalls.

Computer Play

If you have version 2.0 of Zillions of Games installed on your computer, you can play this game. Download file:

You can also play this game by email, using the web-based Play by Mail system on this site.


Photograph of Univers Chess

The extra pieces are black and natural colored Chancellors and Archbishops from the Musketeer Chess variant kit. You can order it or the black and white versions from ebay here:

Buy on ebay:
Musketeer Chess Variant Kit - Chancellor & Archbishop - Black & Natural
Buy on ebay:
Musketeer Chess Variant Kit - Chancellor & Archbishop - Black & White

This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

By Fergus Duniho.

Last revised by Fergus Duniho.

Web page created: 2006-02-03. Web page last updated: 2023-02-20