Of the making of these games there need be no end, and I have no doubt that many other varieties have been proposed and perhaps played, of which we have been spared the knowledge....
â€”H.J.R. Murray, A History of Chess
Play Scirocco against the computer through Jocly
Scirocco is a chess variant played on a 10 by 10 board. It was invented in 1998 and 1999 by Adrian King (your humble author), and revised in 2001, and again in 2009. The original Scirocco was a submission for the the contest to design large chess variants.
I revised the ZRF for Scirocco in 2001 at the urging of Kerry Handscomb, editor of Abstract Games magazine, who wanted a game that better lent itself to the construction of a physical set for over-the-board play. The complex promotion rules for some of the pieces in the original game required the addition of several pieces that would start off-board, along with some kind of reminder to use the quirky rules when promoting the affected pieces. Since that revision, every piece promotes just one way and follows the same promotion rule. Each player starts out with two additional pieces, an Alfil and a Dabbaba. After some playtesting, I think the new starting position results in a smoother game, entirely aside from the simpler promotion rules.
Unfortunately, laziness and other distractions prevented me from posting the 2001 revision until late 2008.
In late 2008 and early 2009, inspired by some comments by John Smith, I did some experiments with the Dervish and Harpy, and adjusted their moves to make each of them a little stronger. The Dervish now relays a limited Firzan move, as well as its original Alfil and Dabbaba moves, to adjacent pieces (the limitation is that the relayee must end its move adjacent to the Dervish). The Harpy, which was difficult to position so that many pieces could take advantage of its Knight relay, now relays as a Q3 instead of a Knight. Lest this change make it too strong, it also moves as a Q3 instead of a Queen, as it did originally.
The 2009 revision also loosens up the initial array, allowing players to swap each pair of pieces across the vertical midline of the board, as long as the overall array has either rotational or mirror symmetry. This is the same rule as in Scirocco's larger cousin Typhoon. The ZRF still contains the older fixed arrays as an option.
I still describe the older rules here for those who are interested, but they appear in italics in a smaller font.
Principles I Tried to Follow in Designing Scirocco
I designed Scirocco to satisfy my own taste in chess variants. Some of the principles that I like are:
- Too many powerful pieces on the board, at least at the start of the game, make the game too fast and tactical.
- A wider variety of pieces makes the game more interesting, because a wider of variety of situations can develop.
- If pieces have a finely graded range of values, figuring out what to exchange for what is an interesting problem.
- An 8 by 8 board is small.
- Making stalemate a win for the player who gives it reduces the number of draws. That is good, because draws are boring.
- If (almost) every piece promotes instead of just Pawns, the game will probably be less drawish, because of the increased power on the board in the endgame. Also, the ending will be more tactical, with more potential for surprising endings.
- If promoting a piece is optional, and the promoted piece's abilities are not a strict superset of its unpromoted abilities, then sometimes it may be better not to promote a piece when you can. This kind of choice adds interest to the game.
- Every piece except the Pawn has a move that is the same forwards and backwards, and left and right. (In some variants, like Shogi, pieces have asymmetric moves).
- Each player has only one of each kind of piece, except for the Pawns, Guards, and the eponymous Scirocco.
- The initial density of pieces on the board is 54%, not much more than the 50% of Orthochess.
The Inspiration for SciroccoScirocco's direct roots (although they may not be immediately obvious) are in Courier Chess, Christian Freeling's Grand Chess, and Chu Shogi. Indirectly, a number of the Scirocco pieces are derived from Timur's Great Chess, or Tamerlane Chess. The immediate inspiration for Scirocco was the following sentence in the entry for Courier Chess in D.B. Pritchard's The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants:
The Courier (believed then to be the strongest piece) moved as the modern B...
When I saw this I thought, What if the Courier were indeed the strongest piece in Courier Chess? You could change the move of the Courier to make it stronger, and perhaps reduce the strength of the true strongest piece in Courier Chess, the Rook.... Pursuing these ideas farther, the Courier evolved in my mind into the Scirocco, the shape of the 12 by 8 Courier Chess board changed to the 10 by 10 Scirocco board, and I added various pieces that I hope will make an interesting game.
To me, Scirocco has a sort of â€œantiqueâ€ feel, like the chess variants from the medieval Islamic world. I named the game (and the most important piece in the game) for the wind that blows from the Sahara into Europe because that wind seemed like a good emblem for the Arabic influence that brought to Europe the game of Shatranj, which evolved into the modern Orthochess.
A Gentle Plea for Unnecessary ComplexityOn first glance, the profusion of pieces in Scirocco may make the game look absurdly complex (then again, if you're a Chu Shogi player, it may look ridiculously simple). It is true that I put more different kinds of piece into this game than most chess inventors do, and I blatantly defied D.B. Pritchard's advice in his Encyclopedia entry for â€œDesigning a Variantâ€:
An elegant game combines minimum rules with maximum strategy.... Many inventors assume that making a game more complicated will make it better but usually the opposite is true.In my defense, I'd like to say to the following:
Although the number of types of piece in the game is large (36),
it is not so difficult to learn the moves of the pieces as you
There is a fair amount of symmetry in the initial array, and there
are some obvious patterns in the ways in which pieces promote.
Furthermore, I use (and encourage the use of) flat, Shogi-type
pieces displaying small diagrams showing how each Scirocco piece
moves, so that it is hard to make a mistake.
In a sense, I have followed Pritchard's dictum, in that the concept I
wanted to realize in Scirocco was the interaction of a large number of
different kinds of pieces.
I think I have done this with a minimum of distracting extra rules;
the complexity inheres in the moves of the pieces, and not in
exceptions to more general rules (like the castling move or
2-step initial Pawn move in Orthochess).
Finally, if a game is playable, who cares if it's minimal?
This is, after all, an entry into a contest for large
chess variants; if you want something small, play
one of the various species of 5 x 5 games called Minichess.
If you want something austerely elegant,
play Christian Freeling's
Or better yet, play Go.
I don't think it's a big drawback for a large chess variant to require a few minutes of study before you learn the moves. Great Chess is one of the Great Mysteries of the human mind, and there's nothing wrong with having to go through a bit of an initiation. I say, revel in the pointless intricacies of the universe.
SetupScirocco is a game for two players, called Blue and Tan. Blue moves first.
Each player's first three ranks look, in words, something like this:
Ch a1; A b1; St c1; N e1; C f1; De g1; Go h1; D i1; Wa j1;
Pr b2; Sc c2; K d2; W e2; F f2; Co g2; Sc h2; Ma i2;
P a3, b3; Gu c3; P d3-g3; Gu h3; P i3, j3
Ch j10; A i10; St h10; N f10; C e10; De d10; Go c10; D b10; Wa a10;
Pr i9; Sc h9; K g9; W f9; F e9; Co d9; Sc c9; Ma b9;
P j8, i8; Gu h8; P g8-d8; Gu c8; P b8, a8
or like this:
Wa a1; D b1; Go c1; De d1; C e1; N f1; St h1; A i1; Ch j1;
Ma b2; Sc c2; Co d2; F e2; W f2; K g2; Sc h2; Pr i2;
P a3, b3; Gu c3; P d3-g3; Gu h3; P i3, j3
Wa j10; D i10; Go h10; De g10; C f10; N e10; St c10; A b10; Ch a10;
Ma i9; Sc h9; Co g9; F f9; W e9; K d9; Sc c9; Pr b9;
P j8, i8; Gu h8; P g8-d8; Gu c8; P b8, a8
In fact, you can use a variety of initial arrays. Blue first places the Kings and Commoners, thereby determining whether the overall setup has mirror symmetry or rotational symmetry. Tan then chooses how to place each pair of pieces, where a pair are two pieces shown in the above diagram on the same rank but on files an equal distance from the vertical centerline of the board. For example, the Chariot and Wagon constitute a pair; for Blue, one on a1 and one on j1, and for Tan, one on a10 and one on j10. Tan can place either the Blue Chariot or the Blue Wagon on a1, but (because the placement of the Kings and Commoners has already determined the overall symmetry of the setup) placing one Chariot or Wagon fixes the placement of the others.
The complete list of exchangeable pairs is Chariot-Wagon; Alfil-Dabbaba; Goat-Stork; Camel-Knight; Firzan-Wazir; King-Commoner; Marquis-Priest; and the Dervish, which is paired with an empty space.
For example, if Blue places both Kings on the g file, the setup has mirror symmetry, and two pieces of the same type must go on the same file. If Tan puts the Blue Chariot on a1, then (by mirror symmetry) the Tan Chariot must go on a10, and the two Wagons on j1 and j10. Similarly, if Tan puts the Blue Alfil on b1, then the Tan Alfil goes on b10, and the Dabbabas on i1 and i10, and so on.
Here is an example of a mirror-symmetric setup, as opposed to the rotationally symmetric setup at the top of the page:
Because there are eight pairs of pieces whose positions can be exchanged (exchanging the two Scirocchi has no effect), there are 256 different initial starting arrays, although half of them are effectively identical to their mirror images, because all Scirocco pieces have moves with right-left symmetry.
In previous revisions, only the setup shown above or a mirror image of it
Tan chose the setup used by each player.
there were 4 possible initial configurations altogether, which were
known by the piece starting out in each player's lower-left corner:
The setup for the original 1999 version was the same, except that the Alfil and Dabbaba were absent; they appeared only as the result of promotions.
PiecesHere is a summary of the pieces used in the game. Their moves are described in a notation that I hope will not be too obscure (at least to those familiar with other chess variants), but if it is not clear, each piece is described in detail below.
|Piece||Abbreviation||Abilities||Promotes to||Promoted Abbreviation||Promoted Abilities|
|Pawn||P||forward W (moving) + forward F (capturing)||Tadpole||Ta||W (capturing) + F + (3,0) leaper|
|Guard||Gu||W (moving) + F (capturing)||Zebra||Z||Z|
|Priest||Pr||F + N||Duke||Du||N + R4|
|Scirocco||Sc||W + B|
|Vulture||Vu||B (moving) + R (capturing) + W + F|
|King||K||W + F; royal||Emperor||Em||W + D + A; royal|
|Wazir||W||W||Zag||Za||F + A + hop-capture over orthogonally adjacent pieces|
|Firzan||F||F||Zig||Zi||W + D + hop-capture over diagonally adjacent pieces|
|Commoner||Co||W + F||Wildebeest||Wi||N + C|
|Marquis||Ma||W + N||Abbot||Ab||N + B4|
|Chariot||Ch||R4||Octopus||Oc||F then R outwards; can move but not capture as F|
|Stork||St||W (capturing) + A||Queen||Q||R + B|
|Camel||C||C||Squirrel||Sq||D + N + A|
|Dervish||De||D + A; also, adjacent friendly pieces can move as F, D, or A, provided that they land adjacent to the Dervish||Harpy||Ha||Q3 (moving); cannot capture; relays to friendly pieces on squares a Q3 can reach the ability to move as N|
|Goat||Go||F (moving) + D||Lioness||Li||W + F + D + N + A|
|Dabbaba||D||D||Genie||Ge||Q3 + capture by igui on adjacent squares|
|Wagon||Wa||R, but not to orthogonally adjacent space (blockable there)||Spider||Sp||W then B outwards; can move but not capture as W|
Note that none of the initial pieces is as powerful as a Rook. I wanted to get away from the every-piece-an- Amazon feel of many modern chess variants, and encourage a more contemplative and less tactical opening than such games lead to. Ralph Betza's DemiChess is another recent variant with a similar aim (by someone who is a far better chess player than I am).
The Pawn, Guard, and Scirocco all have special promotion rules, as explained below.
In alphabetical order:
The Abbot moves and captures like a Knight, or like a Bishop, but not farther away than 4 spaces.
The Abbot is based on the frequently invented combination of Knight and Bishop. Since Grand Chess was a part of the inspiration for this game, I thought I should have a Knight + Bishop piece in the game somewhere, but I seemed to have too many strong promoted pieces, so I limited the range of the Bishop movement. The Knight + Bishop combination is called the â€œCardinalâ€ in Grand Chess, and I thought I'd keep the ecclesiastical theme in the Abbot's name (as well as the Priest's).
Promotes to Bishop
The Alfil is a (2,2) leaper; that is, it leaps 2 spaces diagonally, ignoring any intervening piece.
The Alfil is a piece of ancient lineage, being the predecessor to the modern Bishop, to which it promotes in this game.
In the old revision, the Pawn promoted to an Alfil, and then the Alfil to a Dabbaba.
The Bishop moves the same as its Orthochess equivalent; that is, it moves when not capturing diagonally any number of clear spaces, and captures by moving diagonally across any number of clear spaces to the first space occupied by an opposing piece, which the Bishop replaces.
In this revision, the Bishop is a promoted Alfil, but in the old revision, the Bishop was a promoted Zebra, and was also able (as an exception to the usual promotion rules) to promote back to a Zebra.
Promotes to Squirrel
The Camel is a (3,1) leaper; that is to say, it leaps directly to any space that could be reached by moving 3 spaces along any rank or file, and then one space at right angles. It is thus a sort of extended, colorbound Knight.
The Camel is exactly the sort of piece I wanted to showcase in Scirocco: fairly weak, but not worthless (it's worth a little less than a Knight). The Camel's movement geometry is also different from that of every other unpromoted piece, so that it can attack without being attacked.
Promotes to Octopus
The Chariot moves and captures like a Rook, but not farther away than 4 spaces.
The Chariot is one of the 2 Rook-like pieces I derived by reducing the strength of a Rook, so that the Scirocco could claim to be the most powerful piece on the board (at least initially).
Ralph Betza has conducted some experiments with this piece.
Promotes to Wildebeest
The Commoner (known in some games as the â€œMannâ€) moves and captures exactly like a King, but is not royal (capturing it does not end the game).
This piece is retained from Courier Chess, although I moved it away from the King in the initial layout to make the layout more symmetric.
Promotes to Genie
The Dabbaba is a (2,0) leaper; that is, it leaps 2 spaces orthogonally, ignoring any intervening piece.
The name â€œDabbabaâ€ was used for various unorthodox pieces in medieval Islamic chess variants. The move we generally associate with this name today is the one from Timur's Great Chess. The word â€œdabbabaâ€ means a kind of war machine; its English translation is â€œsowâ€, but I have no idea what it looks like.
To discourage you from trading away this weak piece too quickly, in the new revision, I made it promote to the powerful Genie. Strategy in this game often consists of figuring out a way to escort the Dabbaba to the promotion zone.
In the old revision of this game, the Dabbaba was a part of the complex promotion sequence of the Pawn.
Promotes to Harpy
The Dervish moves and captures 2 steps orthogonally or diagonally. It leaps any intervening piece without capturing or being blocked by it. In addition, any friendly piece on any of the 8 adjacent squares may move or capture as a Firzan, Dabbaba, or Alfil, but only to a destination that is also adjacent to the Dervish. That is, a friendly piece can leap to the opposite side of the Dervish, or an orthogonally adjacent friendly piece can move one step diagonally around the Dervish, clockwise or counterclockwise. Thus, if you have a Dervish on g5 and Pawns on f4 and h5, the Pawn on f4 may leap to h6 (or make a normal Pawn move), and the Pawn on h5 can move to g6 or g4 (or make a normal Pawn move to h6, if empty).
A piece cannot promote on a turn when it uses the Firzan-, Dabbaba-, or Alfil-like move relayed by a Dervish; it can promote only when moving under its own power.
A dervish is a Muslim ascetic. Dervish orders are known for their whirling dances (to induce a trance-like state). The movements of the adjacent pieces around and across the Dervish reminded me of whirling, whence the name.
Before the 2009 revision, the Dervish did not relay the Firzan move, only the Dabbaba and Alfil moves.
The Duke moves and captures like a Knight, or like a Rook, but not farther away than 4 spaces.
The Duke is to the Marquis as the Abbot is to the Priest; it extends the one-step move to a 4-step ride. However, I made the Marquis promote to the Abbot, not to the Duke, so that the promoted Marquis wouldn't be a superset of the Marquis (meaning there might be situations where you would decline promotion). Hence the Priest promotes to the Duke, not to the Abbot.
The Knight + Rook combination is called the â€œMarshallâ€ in Grand Chess, and I thought I'd give this piece a vaguely military sounding name. â€œGeneralâ€ sounded too much like â€œGenieâ€, and is also the translation of â€œFirzanâ€. The two-character abbreviation for â€œColonelâ€ would have been identical to that of â€œCommonerâ€. I settled on â€œDukeâ€; the name is hard to confuse with that of other pieces, and was originally a military title, from Latin dux, meaning â€œleaderâ€.
The Emperor moves and captures one or 2 steps orthogonally, or 2 steps diagonally. When moving 2 steps, it leaps any intervening piece without capturing or being blocked by it. In other words, the Emperor moves as a Wazir, Dabbaba, or Alfil.
The Emperor is more difficult to catch than a King, especially if it is in the middle of the board. However, it is vulnerable to attacks from diagonally adjacent squares, so it is not always wise to promote a King to an Emperor.
Promotes to Zig
The Firzan, also known variously as â€œFersâ€, â€œFerzâ€, or â€œFarzinâ€, moves and captures one step diagonally.
The Firzan (Arabic, from the Persian word for â€œgeneralâ€) was present in the oldest forms of chess of which we are aware, but has been replaced in Orthochess by the Queen. The Firzan is also present in Courier Chess.
Existed only on the old revision of this game
The Frog moved and captured as a Commoner or as a (3,0) or (3,3) leaper; that is, it could move to an adjacent square, or leap to a square 3 steps away orthogonally or diagonally (ignoring any intervening pieces).
The Frog was the end point of the old revision's promotion sequence of the Pawn. It has been discarded entirely in the new revision, because it was overly strong for a regular Pawn promotion; its replacement is the similar but weaker Tadpole.
The Genie moves and captures as a Queen, but not farther away than 3 spaces. In addition, the Genie can capture an opposing piece on an (orthogonally or diagonally) adjacent square without moving.
The Genie is generally the most powerful piece in the game because of its ability to capture a protected piece without exposing itself to harm. However, it is not always easy for the Dabbaba to survive the journey to the promotion zone, so the Genie appears only in some games.
In the old revision, the Scirocco promoted to a Genie, but only after an orthogonal move.
Promotes to Lioness
The Goat moves and captures by leaping 2 steps orthogonally (like a Dabbaba); it may also move one square diagonally, but not to capture. When moving 2 steps, it leaps any intervening piece without capturing or being blocked by it.
The Goat is a weakened form of Kirin, a piece from Chu Shogi. The Kirin can capture as well as move one step diagonally. I wanted to add the Kirin for a bit of Chu Shogi flavor, but I already had too many 8-fold leapers, so I toned it down a bit and gave it a less exotic name.
Promotes to Zebra
The Guard moves without capturing one step orthogonally, or captures one step diagonally. It is a sort of omnidirectional Pawn.
The Guard's Pawn-like nature allows it to participate in a Pawn chain, but unlike an easily blocked Pawn, it can get up and leave if it becomes bored.
In the old revision, the Guard, along with the Pawn and the Scirocco, had special rules governing its promotion. The Guard promoted to a Zebra in the usual way; however, the Zebra also promoted to a Bishop, again subject to the usual promotion rules. That Bishop, however, was entitled to promote back to a Zebra (again, only under the standard promotion conditions), which could then promote back to a Bishop, and so on. Although I'm partial to unnecessary complexity, this was unnecessarily unnecessary.
The Harpy moves like a Queen up to 3 steps, but cannot capture by itself. However, any friendly piece on open Queen-lines up to 3 steps away from the Harpy is temporarily granted the additional power to move and capture like a Knight (as long as it starts its move a 3-step Queen's move away from the Harpy); pieces that can already move like a Knight are not affected. A piece cannot promote on a turn when it uses the Knight's move relayed by a Harpy; it can promote only when moving under its own power.
The Harpy is kin to the Knight in Knight-Relay Chess, but unlike the Relay Knight, a Harpy is not immune from capture.
The Harpy's usefulness varies, depending on how many pieces you have left. It is quite powerful if you can promote it early while you still have several Pawns and other weak pieces that can benefit from the additional Knight moves.
Before the 2009 revision, the Harpy moved as a Queen, but relayed the Knight's move to pieces a Knight's move away. Because fewer pieces benefited from the Knight relay, it was a distinctly weaker piece than the current Harpy.
Promotes to Emperor
The King moves and captures one step to any of the 8 orthogonally and diagonally adjacent squares. Capturing the opposing King or Emperor wins the game (by convention, the game more commonly ends with checkmate, an unstoppable threat to capture the King or Emperor. However, note that the victory conditions for Scirocco are different from those of Orthochess).
The King has moved the same way for almost a millennium and a half, so why mess with success?
Promotes to Rook
The Knight is a (2,1) leaper; that is to say, it leaps directly to any space that could be reached by moving 2 spaces along any rank or file, and then one space at right angles.
The Knight is a piece retained from the earliest known forms of chess. I placed it towards the center because it seemed a little difficult to develop from the wings on the 10 by 10 board, where it starts out in Grand Chess, but it isn't particularly easy to develop from its back-rank initial position in Scirocco, either.
The Lioness can leap to any square a King could reach in 2 moves; that is, it is a combination of Wazir, Firzan, Dabbaba, Knight, and Alfil.
The Lioness is inspired by the Chu Shogi piece called the Lion. In addition to moving like the Lioness, the Lion can make 2 full King-type moves on a single turn, with the ability to capture pieces on both parts of the move, or to move back to the starting square. This seemed like too much power to put on the board in Scirocco, even in the endgame, so I used the weaker (but still impressive) Lioness, which is worth roughly as much as a Queen.
The promotion of Goat to Lioness also has a Chu Shogi origin; in Chu Shogi, the Kirin, which inspired the Goat, promotes to a Lion.
Promotes to Abbot
The Marquis moves and captures like a Wazir or a Knight.
The antecedent of the Marquis is the Marshall (Rook + Knight) of Christian Freeling's Grand Chess, but the Marshall is much too powerful (worth nearly as much as a Queen) to be a starting piece in Scirocco.
The Octopus moves one step diagonally, then like a Rook orthogonally, but only in a direction away from its starting square. That is, it cannot reach an orthogonally adjacent square. It can both move and capture on the Rook-like part of its move, but it can only move without capturing to the diagonally adjacent square. That means that the closest square on which it can make a capture is a Knight's move away.
The name â€œOctopusâ€ for this piece comes from a copy of some unpublished material on a game concept called â€œGeneralized Chessâ€ by the great game inventor Wayne Schmittberger, forwarded to me by Edward Jackman. It wasn't clear from Wayne's description whether his Octopus could actually move one space diagonally or had to move at least as far as a Knight, so I split the difference and allowed the Scirocco Octopus to move like a Firzan but not to capture like one.
The ultimate ancestor of the Octopus is probably the Giraffe of Timur's Great Chess. Timur's Giraffe moves differently from the piece we usually know today as the Giraffe; Timur's Giraffe moves like the Octopus, but must move a minimum distance of 4 steps, i.e., at least as far as a modern Giraffe's move.
Promotes to Tadpole
The Pawn moves one step straight ahead when not capturing, or one step diagonally forwards (left or right) to capture. Unlike the Orthochess Pawn, the Pawn in Scirocco does not have the option of making a 2-step move.
The Pawn promotes to the Tadpole, which is powerful enough to be useful in the endgame, but not overwhelming.
In the old revision, the Pawn promoted to the Alfil, which is worth barely more than a Pawn. The Alfil in turn promoted to the Dabbaba, which is scarcely worth more than the Alfil. The Dabbaba, promoted to the Frog, which was reasonably powerful.
The reason for the Pawn's long promotion sequence was that although I wanted it to promote to a piece strong enough to make a difference in the endgame, it didn't seem fair to promote the Pawn to a piece too far out of proportion with the Pawn's own strength. So I made the Pawn first go through the ritual of promoting to Alfil and Dabbaba before it could become a Frog. Subsequent playtesting has shown that the current rules are just as entertaining but easier to understand.
Promotes to Duke
The Priest moves and captures like a Firzan or a Knight.
The antecedent of the Priest is the Grand Chess Cardinal (Bishop + Knight), just as that of the Marquis is the Grand Chess Marshal.
The Queen moves and captures like a Rook or Bishop, as in Orthochess.
The promotion of the Stork to the Queen was inspired by the Chu Shogi Phoenix's promotion to Free King. In Chu Shogi, the Free King moves just like an Orthochess Queen, and the Scirocco Stork was derived from the Phoenix.
The Rook moves the same as its Orthochess equivalent; that is, it moves when not capturing orthogonally any number of clear spaces, and captures by moving orthogonally across any number of clear spaces to the first space occupied by an opposing piece, which the Rook replaces.
The Rook has moved the same way since the earliest forms of chess, but it was too powerful as an initial piece for Scirocco.
Promotes to Vulture
The Scirocco, for which the game is named, is the most powerful of the pieces initially on the board. The Scirocco moves and captures one step orthogonally or any number of steps diagonally, that is, as a Wazir or Bishop. This is the same as the move of the promoted Bishop (or Dragon Horse) in Shogi; the Dragon Horse also exists as an unpromoted piece in Chu Shogi.
The Scirocco, like the Pawns and Guards, is unusual among the pieces in this game in that each player starts off with more than one. I figured that if I wanted to model my game after Courier Chess, then as in that game, I should have a setup where there were twin stars of the show (the 2 Scirocchi) arranged symmetrically about the center.
When I first started play-testing this game, the Scirocco promoted to a Genie. However, Genies dominated too many of the endgames. Giving the Dabbaba the Genie promotion and promoting the Scirocco to the weaker Vulture seems to result in more endgame variety.
In the old revision, the Scirocco (like the Pawns and Guards) was also governed by unusual promotion rules. Like any other piece, the Scirocco could promote only at the end of a move that started or ended within the promotion zone, but in the case of the Scirocco, the promotion allowed depended on the kind of move the Scirocco made. After a diagonal move, the Scirocco promoted to a Vulture; after an orthogonal move, to a Genie.
The Spider moves one step orthogonally, then like a Bishop diagonally, but only in a direction away from its starting square. It can both move and capture on the Bishop-like part of its move, but it can only move without capturing to the orthogonally adjacent square. That means that the closest square on which it can make a capture is a Knight's move away.
The Spider is the diagonal counterpart of the orthogonal Octopus, and like the Octopus, was taken from an unpublished piece by Wayne Schmittberger.
The Squirrel moves and captures as a Dabbaba, Knight, or Alfil.
The Squirrel is among the many interesting pieces that appears in Anthony Dickins's A Guide to Fairy Chess. Dickins ascribes its invention to N. Kovacs of Budapest.
Promotes to Queen
The Stork moves and captures by leaping 2 steps diagonally (like an Alfil); it may also capture one square orthogonally, but not move there without capturing. When moving 2 steps, it leaps any intervening piece without capturing or being blocked by it.
The Stork is a weakened form of Phoenix, a piece from Chu Shogi. The Phoenix can both move and capture one step orthogonally.
The Tadpole moves and captures like a Firzan or like a (0,3) leaper. It can also capture like a Wazir. It is a toned-down version of the Frog, which was the promotion of the Pawn in the earliest versions of the game, but which wound up dominating too many endgames.
The Vulture captures like a Rook and moves without capturing like a Bishop. It may also capture like a Firzan and move without capturing like a Wazir, so that it can both move and capture on adjacent squares.
Promotes to Spider
An adjacent-space restriction similar to the Wagon's is also found in the Talia, or Scout, in Timur's Great Chess (the web page translates â€œTaliaâ€ as â€œPicketâ€). However, the Talia moves as a restricted Bishop, rather than a restricted Rook.
I wanted a weakened form of the Rook so that the Rooks would not steal the show from the Scirocco. Of all the spaces a Rook can move to, the immediately adjacent spaces are probably the most important (at least until the board opens up), so removing the ability to reach an adjacent space makes the Wagon weaker than the Rook by more than you might expect. I chose the name â€œWagonâ€ because its meaning is similar to â€œChariotâ€, the original name of the Rook; wagons are generally less maneuverable than chariots, so the name seemed appropriate.
Promotes to Zag
The Wazir moves and captures one step orthogonally.
The name â€œWazirâ€ (Arabic, â€œvizierâ€, meaning a government minister or adviser), like the name â€œDabbabaâ€, was used for pieces with different moves in different medieval Islamic chess variants. The Wazir's move in Scirocco is the one commonly used today, and is the same as in Timur's Great Chess.
The Wazir in Scirocco has sufficiently low mobility that it is seldom worthwhile advancing it, and it often winds up as a defender of the King in the endgame.
The Wildebeest moves and captures like a Knight or Camel.
The Wildebeest, also called the Gnu (â€œgnuâ€ being another word for â€œwildebeestâ€), is among the pieces described in Anthony Dickins's A Guide to Fairy Chess. Wayne Schmittberger liked the piece well enough to name a chess variant, Wildebeest Chess, after it.
The Zag moves and captures like a Firzan or Alfil; in addition, it may leap an orthogonally adjacent hostile piece to capture it, provided that the space immediately beyond (where the Zag winds up) is empty. The Zag may not move orthogonally when not capturing, however.
I made up the name and the move of this piece especially for this game. The Zag is the diagonal counterpart of the orthogonally moving Zig.
Because of its long reach, the Zebra is fairly weak as leapers go; it has relatively few squares on the board from which it exercise its full power.
The Zig moves and captures like a Wazir or Dabbaba; in addition, it may leap a diagonally adjacent hostile piece to capture it, provided that the space immediately beyond (where the Zig winds up) is empty. The Zig may not move diagonally when not capturing, however.
I made up the name and the move of this piece especially for this game. The Zig is the orthogonal counterpart of the diagonally moving Zag.
A piece may promote at the end of any move it makes that starts or
ends (or both starts and ends) in its owner's promotion zone.
Blue's promotion zone is ranks 8 through 10, or Tan's home
territory; Tan's is ranks 1 through 3, Blue's home territory.
Promotion is always optional.
Even when you move a Pawn onto the 10th rank, you are within your
rights (if not in your right mind) not to promote it.
Promotion cannot occur when a piece moves using a movement capability
relayed by a Dervish or Harpy.
If a piece to which a movement capability could be relayed
already has the movement capability in question (as in the
case of a Goat leaping orthogonally over a Dervish), the piece is
considered to be moving under its own power, and may promote if its
move starts or ends within the promotion zone.
If a Dervish located within the promotion zone relays
a move to another piece,
the Dervish does not thereby gain the right to promote on
You lose the game (and your opponent wins) if any of the following
Your King or Emperor is captured.
Your King or Emperor is bared; that is,
your only remaining piece is the King or Emperor.
Unlike the usual version of this Bare King rule,
there is no provision for a draw if you can immediately bare
the opponent's King or Emperor;
as soon as you are down to one piece, you lose, period.
It is your turn and you have no legal move.
It is not, strictly speaking, illegal to move your King or Emperor
It is certainly foolish, though.
Note that these rules make stalemate a loss for the stalemated player,
not a draw.
The Bare King rule means that when you are reduced to 2 pieces, both
are effectively royal.
You can move your King into what looks like check if it captures
your opponent's next-to-last piece, since you win the game before your
opponent can recapture (the Zillions file
I made doesn't
permit this, since it thinks the game ends with checkmate rather
than actual capture of the royal piece,
but fortunately, this situation is rarely important
It is illegal to make a move that causes
a given game situation to occur a 3rd time in
the same game.
Two game situations are considered the same if the same types of
pieces are in the same places and it is the same player's turn to move.
Specifically, repetition does not result in a draw; one player
must make a move that leaves the cycle of repeating moves.
When a player is to move but
has no move that would not cause an illegal repetition,
that player loses the game.
As an example of this repetition rule,
consider how it would apply to a trivial game played on a 2 by 3
board, with rules the same as Scirocco except as specified.
The game starts with a White King on a1 and a Black King on b3;
in this microscopic chess variant, there is no Bare King rule
(so the game is not already over at the beginning).
This game must proceed as follows:
1. K-b1 K-a3
2. K-a1 K-b3 ; 2nd occurrence of initial position
3. K-b1 K-a3
At this point, the move 4. ... K-b3 would recreate the initial position
again; this would be the 3rd occurrence of that position, so the
move is not legal.
If this variant allows a King to move into check, Black must do so
(with 4. ... K-a2 or 4. ... K-b2), in which case White will capture
the King and win on the next move; if this variant does not allow
moving into check, then Black has no legal move, and loses immediately.
If you have read the above rules carefully, you will realize that any
game of Scirocco played to the bitter end cannot result in a draw.
Even if neither player is checkmated or reduced to a single royal
the repetition rule ensures that the game will end, because the number
of possible board positions is finite, and each position cannot occur
more than twice.
When no more positions are available, the player whose turn it is will
Players may, however, agree to a draw if they are so inclined.
It is conceivable that both players may be reduced to a small number
of weak but highly mobile pieces, so that the repetition rule must be
invoked to determine who wins the game.
For example, each player might have an Emperor and a Harpy.
In this case, the 2 sides can wander aimlessly about the board for
an astronomical number of moves before the repetition rule finally cuts
off one player or the other, and figuring out
which player will lose is an
absurdly difficult proposition (I think. I haven't actually tried to
prove this; there may be some mathematical shortcut that makes the
winner in this case obvious).
In such a case, unless the players are particularly pigheaded, they
should agree to the draw.
I'm not going to pin down exactly when agreeing to a draw is advisable,
but if I hear of anyone playing a game of Scirocco that lasts
thousands of moves, I will be very disappointed.
Scirocco has not been extensively play-tested.
In fact, I have played it only against
Zillions (and I have let Zillions play
However, so far, the game seems to play pretty much the way I envisioned
It will, however, be interesting to see how 2 human players do with
the game, since Zillions definitely does not play the way a human
Scirocco typically opens with both sides advancing their weak pieces
(Pawns, Guards, and Firzans) to try control the middle ranks of the
The Dervish plays an important role by giving these pieces a little extra
The center files appear to be less critical than in Orthochess,
probably because there are more files, and because so many of the
pieces are short-range and would not gain mobility by being in the exact
center of the board.
The opening may see an exchange or two (the Camels are often exchanged
in the rotationally symmetric setups), but exchanges don't usually begin
in earnest until after around move 20.
By this time, stronger pieces will have been moved in to back up the
weak pieces advanced in the opening.
The midgame consists of a long series of positional posturings and
occasional exchanges (of pieces that are close in value, if the players
are both good).
Eventually (somewhere around move 50 to 80 or so)
the board has been significantly cleared, and one or both players can
make a breakthrough into the promotion zone.
Zillions plays a pretty good middlegame (much better than I do, if
I crank its thinking time up; but then, I'm a pathetic chess player).
However, Zillions doesn't seem to have much of a sense of the value of
promotion, and rarely sacrifices material to achieve a breakthrough.
A human player who hasn't lost too much material in the middlegame
can take advantage of this weakness in Zillions to
make an early breakthrough with a strongly promoting piece
to mate the computer's King.
Acquiring a Genie, Lioness, or Queen is often decisive.
I hope that a game between 2 competent, aggressive human players
will often end in a tight mating race.
If some decent players are willing to try the game, then we'll see.
Most games of Scirocco seem to last around 100 moves, give or take a
couple of dozen.
Games ending in bared King (or bared Emperor) and games ending in
mate both occur pretty frequently.
Most of the types of moves in Scirocco do not present any problem
for conventional chess notation.
Some possible points of difficulty:
Simple moves: Because the abbreviations of many piece names are
2 characters, it looks less confusing to me to use a dash
consistently between a piece abbreviation and the piece's
Wa-a7 rather than
but leaving out the dash does not actually introduce any
Relayed moves: These can be recorded as normal moves; it should
be obvious from context when a move was relayed.
Promotions: You can record these as
or Shogi-style as
since it is always obvious from context what a piece promotes to.
Igui captures: I suggest using the
x! notation usual
for Chu Shogi;
Gex!c6 for a Genie capturing a Pawn on c6.
Hop-captures: This can be notated as a normal capture or normal move,
since there is no ambiguity (a Zig or Zag always winds up one square
beyond where the capture occurred);
however, a notation showing both the capture square and destination
Zixd4-e5) may avoid momentary confusion
in the mind of a reader.
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 Adrian King.
Unlike the usual version of this Bare King rule, there is no provision for a draw if you can immediately bare the opponent's King or Emperor; as soon as you are down to one piece, you lose, period.
2. K-a1 K-b3 ; 2nd occurrence of initial position
3. K-b1 K-a3
Waa7), but leaving out the dash does not actually introduce any ambiguity.
=promoted or Shogi-style as unpromoted
+, since it is always obvious from context what a piece promotes to.
x!notation usual for Chu Shogi; e.g.,
Gex!c6for a Genie capturing a Pawn on c6.
Zixd4-e5) may avoid momentary confusion in the mind of a reader.
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.
Last revised by H. G. Muller.
Web page created: 2009-01-01. Web page last updated: 2023-02-13