Check out Chess with Different Armies, our featured variant for July, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Gary Gifford.

Little River Chess

This is my second entry for the 45/46 contest. This board uses 46 cells. It was derived by taking a 9x6 board and deducting extra cells from the edges. The central row is a river. The river has many moods, ranging from shallow, to gentle flowing, wild, and misty. Each type of river has its own significance (see rules and notes). Win by checkmating or by stalemating your opponent. Two notes of importance: (1) The game is loosely based on Chinese Chess. (2) Adding significance to the river, as opposed to it having it serve only as a piece of scenery, was prompted by Charles Gilman. Prototype Preset is here: /play/pbm/play.php?game%3DLittle+River+Chess%26settings%3DLittleRiver


As in the above diagram.


As seen in the diagram.  Each side gets the following:

Note: The 4 color squares (on each side where we find the Kings) are the "Palaces."  Kings cannot leave their palace. 

****** No pieces, friendly or enemy, can enter a palace.*****
****** River Aspect - see rules ******* 

KNIGHTS: (2) Move as do Western (Fide) Knights. When Knights make their first move they have no choice but to move to B3 and E3 for White; B7, E7 for Black because of the palace rule.

WAZIRS: (2)  Represented as plus (+) images signifying their movement. Move up or down, left or right 1 space.  No diagonal move.

ROOKS: (2)As in Western (Fide) chess.  Rooks can check across rivers.

KINGS: (1) As Western (Fide) Kings.  They are confined to their 4-square palace. A King cannot face the enemy King across an open file.  This is as in Chinese Chess.

PAWNS: (4) These are NOT Western pawns.  They are PROMOTED CHINESE PAWNS at the very start of the game.  This means they can move 1 space forward, 1 space left, or 1 space right.  They are like a Wazir with no backward movement.  These pawns have no promotion.  They capture as they move (straight forward, or to the left or right)... they cannot capture diagonally.


Win by checkmating or stalemating your opponent.  You can check the enemy King with a piece right next to his palace... he cannot step out to take a piece.

No pieces, friendly or foe can enter a palace.  They cannot pass through a palace... BUT they CAN CHECK THROUGH a palace.

Kings cannot face each other across an open board.  A King that would have no choice but to move in line with the other is either checkmated or stalemated.

As in Chinese Chess, repeating the same moves back and forth is not permitted.  If a player has no good move, other than to repeat (for example he would lose a piece or be checkmated) then, as in Chinese Chess, the other player must break the repetition. 


            ***   R I V E R    A S P E C T S   ***

IMPORTANT - Both players must agree on the state of the river prior to playing.  Misty River is determined by the players themselves, so they must be perfectly clear with each other as to their river's nature.

Players play the game with one of the following river aspects. Note that with option 4, Misty River, players can agree on their own river effects.

Capturing in a river... with possible exception of the 4th river aspect (where players decide how they want the river) you can capture within a river only when landing directly on the enemy piece.  You cannot, for example, enter a rook into a river and then float up or downstream to capture a piece... but you could move the rook into the river, capture a piece when doing so, then possibly float the rook up or downstream (depending on the river aspect used).


1)              S h a l l o w   R i v e r  

In Shallow River the water is calm, quiet, and very shallow.  The river squares behave as normal squares.  Pieces can stay in this river for as long as they want.  The river squares are like normal squares.

In the Shallow River version, pieces leave the river in a normal manner.  Thus, Knights would leave by a normal Knight move.

In the Shallow River version pieces can return to their side of the board.  But in Gentle and Wild Rivers, pieces entering the river from the south must exit on the north side, and visa versa.  Once on the other side of the river, they can cross back (except for pawns).


2)             G e n t l e   R i v e r  

Pieces do not stay in the gentle river. After a move is completed, we will never see a piece in the river.  In Gentle River, a piece or pawn stepping into the river must either (a) immediately [on that same turn] step out of the river onto a VACANT space on the opposite side of the river, or (b) float up stream or down stream and then immediately [on that turn] step out onto a VACANT space on the opposite side of the river.

If there is no vacant space, pieces stepping into the rive immediately drown and are removed from the game. 

Note: A Rook entering this River must either (a) continue straight on through as a legal rook move (for one or more spaces), or (b) float up or downstream and then move out onto one vacant square on the opposite side of the river.

Note: When traveling from the south and heading north, a piece goes to the north side of the river when exiting, and visa versa.

Note: A Knight can leap over the river, or if he lands in a river he must step out one space on the opposite side [if vacant] or float up or down stream and then step out (orthogonally only) onto a vacant square on the opposite side of the river.

IMPORTANT - Knights step out of a river one space orthogonal only. (Players may use Misty River, if desired, to change this aspect).

Remember: In Gentle River pawns and pieces step out onto vacant squares only.

Once on the other side of the river, pieces can cross back (except for pawns).


3)                W i l d   R i v e r   

In Wild River pawns and pieces entering a river must either (a) stay at that spot in the river or (b) float to any other vacant spot (without passing through any pawns or pieces).  

Pawns and pieces must stay in the river on the turn they entered it.  And they must exit that piece on their next turn or loose it to the wild river.   They could move a different piece, of course, but then piece in the river instantly drowns.  Exists are always to the opposite side of the river from point of entry (enter south, exit north --- or, entering from the north, exit to the south side.

On exiting the wild river, a player CAN (a)CAPTURE an enemy piece OR (b)move onto vacant shoreline (but only on the opposite side in either case).  If a piece in the river cannot move out of the river when required (for example a king is in check) then that piece drowns and is gone from the game.  If already in the river, it could not, for example, even move to block a check unless that blocking move resulted from moving it out of the river.  

Note that a piece can enter the river and then float up or down stream to block a check.

Note that you can move a piece or pawn into the river, capture a piece when doing so (on the river square point of entry), then float your piece downstream or upstream.  

A Knight can never capture a piece when stepping out of a river one space (use Misty River, aspect 4 if you want to change a river rule).  

IMPORTANT - Knights step out of a river one space orthogonal only. (Players may use Misty River, if desired, to change this aspect).

Once on the other side of the river, pieces can cross back (except for pawns).


4)               M i s t y    R i v e r 

When the river is misty players simply agree on their own set of rules for the river and abide by them through out the game.  You may want to mix and match from the above river types.  You can have a calm river for 10 moves, then have a wild river for the rest of the game, etc.  Another idea is to use dice to determine a random positioning of a piece in the river (i.e. it can float to files A-F, depending on a dice roll of 1-6). Or use a dice every so many moves to determine the nature of the river.


A special thanks to Charles Gilman who wrote that more could be made of my original river which is now the Shallow River.  I had been thinking of adding the gentle river concept.  Anyway, Charles Gilman's comment made me rethink the river aspect.  And, of course, he is right.  A river should have some significance.  And I thought of my days camping along the Grand River in Ohio.  Sometimes you could walk across, others you could not walk, but could canoe easily up or down stream.  Some days she was a raging fury, others enveloped in mist and fog... and so, I have come up with a few river options, thanks to Charles' prompting.

Charles stated, "...Perhaps there could be a limit on how long a piece can stay there?"  He also referenced these first three games and mentioned Xianqi elsewhere in his comment of 10-7-07. 

  Congo (by Demian Freeling (Christian Freeling's son))*
  Trapdoor Chess (by Ralph Betza)
  I'm a Wazir, Get Me Out of Here (by Charles Gilman)
  Xianqi (Chinese Chess)

  *Congo includes a river with drowning. Demian Freeling invented it 
   in 1982, when he was only 7 years old!

Last updated: 7 October 2007

Note: While trying to clarify river rules, it is possible that I failed to make something clear.  If so, please notify me so I can reword text. Over the next few days I will likely work on making things as clear as possible in fewer words. gkg

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 Gary K. Gifford.
Web page created: 2007-10-04. Web page last updated: 2007-10-04