The Chess Variant Pages

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This page is written by the game's inventor, Bob Greenwade. This game is a favorite of its inventor.

Vanguard Chess

Vanguard Chess is a new variant played on a double-size board (actually the equivalent of four standard boards), with three rows of pieces on each side to open. These include several types of fairy pieces, as described herein.

This Variant is inspired somewhat by the Chess on a Really Big Board variant (scroll down to "Two Sets, Four Boards," or see the Wikipedia article), which also uses fairy pieces on a 16x16 board. There are also influences of certain other variants that use a large board with multiple starting rows (such as Chess 256 or Terachess), though as far as I'm aware this is the only one with three rows.

The logic of the pieces is to, as much as possible, only add those whose names suggest someone or something that might actually be in an army, relying mainly on the Wikipedia article on Fairy chess pieces. Most of them should make perfect sense in that context.


As stated above, this game uses all the same pieces as standard Chess, plus several fairy pieces, on a 16x16 board.

The back row's setup for White is:

Black sets up the back row in reverse order.

Both sides set up the second and third row identically:

Graphic of setup

The Interactive Diagram below can help you play it. The only rules not covered are those concerning Royal promotion, but that's not that significant right now.


files=16 ranks=16 promoZone=1 promoChoice=*Q holdingsType=1 graphicsDir=/graphics.dir/alfaeriePNG/ squareSize=50 graphicsType=png royal=10 royal=21 pawn:P:fmWfcFifmR4:pawn:a3,b3,c3,d3,m3,n3,o3,p3,,a14,b14,c14,d14,m14,n14,o14,p14 morph=N knight:N:WNC:knight:b2,o2,,b15,o15 bishop:B:B:bishop:e1,l1,,e16,l16 rook:R:R:rook:a2,p2,,a15,p15 queen:Q:Q:queen:h1,,h16 princess:Pc:BN:cardinal:g1,,g16 chancellor:C:RN:chancellor:k1,,k16 falconer:F:FADCG:bird:d1,m1,,d16,m16 nightrider:Nr:NN:nightrider:b1,o1,,b16,o16 prince:Pr:FN:knightferz:j1,,j16 soldier:Sl:fsmWfcFifmR4:champion:e3,f3,g3,j3,k3,l3,,e14,f14,g14,j14,k14,l14 morph=H wizard:W:FafsFafsafFudFudNudC:moon:f1,,f16 berserker:Br:KNADcaKmcabK:man:c2,n2,,c15,n15 archer:A:mF3caibN:archer:e2,f2,k2,l2,,e15,f15,k15,l15 bowman:Bo:nNafsafmpafzcabmpafzK:cannon:g2,j2,,g15,j15 lancer:L:N2ncDncH:lance:d2,m2,,d15,m15 helepolis:H:RcamfRidaufmRsb(caf)14R:benthero:a1,p1,,a16,p16 general:Gn:BnDD:general:h2,i2,,h15,i15 sergeant:Sg:fFfW3smW:sergeant:h3,i3,,h14,i14 morph=L spy:Sp:W2N:thief:c1,n1,,c16,n16 king:K:K:king:i1,,i16


The pieces from standard Chess all move as in that game, with the exception of the Pawn (see below), and the exclusion of Castling.

Each of the listings below includes the symbol and number per player in the header.

Overall, each player will need:


The Archer can slide up to three squares diagonally without capturing, or rifle capture (that is, capture without moving) in a Knight-like manner.

Archer moves


The Berserker moves like a King, but can move twice times in one turn, enabling it to (potentially) capture two enemy pieces at once. It also can leap to any space in the second circle out.

This is essentially the same as the Lion in Chu Shogi, renamed to fit this game's concept.

Berserker moves


As in standard Chess, the Bishop can move diagonally any distance.


The Bowman (working as a more advanced Archer) moves like a non-leaping Knight. If that move doesn't capture an enemy piece, and an enemy piece is another Knight's move away in the same direction, then the Bowman may "advance capture" that piece (see Notes).



The Chancellor combines the moves of the Rook and Knight.

Chancellor moves


The Falconer can leap to any same-colored square within three spaces.

Falconer moves


The General moves diagonally like a Bishop, or slide an even number of steps orthogonally. Note that, while this makes the General color-locked, it doesn't jump over spaces of the other color; all spaces in the path must be free.

General (piece) moves


The Helepolis (named for a movable siege tower used by the ancient Greeks) moves like a Rook, but can capture enemy pieces in its path without slowing down. Moving sideways or backward, it can take as many as are there (it basically just runs them over; those things were around nine stories tall!), but forward it can only take one (otherwise it'd be too powerful in a game).

Also, on its initial move, it can jump over one friendly piece, so long as it's moving forward.


As in standard Chess, the King can move one space in any direction. If threatened (in Check), the King must move to an unthreatened space, or some other measure taken to relieve the situation (such as blocking or capturing the attacker with another piece); if that is not possible; it's considered to be in Checkmate.

If the Prince is on the board, the opponent must wait until the next move (or later) to capture the King, at which time the player's Prince is then promoted to King; however, there may be ways (see below) to save the King. If the Prince is not on the board, the opponent wins.

Also, Castling is not used.


To help it deal with the larger board, the Knight takes on the move of the Teutonic Knight, or Ordensritter: it can move one space orthogonally, or leap (1,3) like a Camel as well as its normal (1,2) leap.l


The Lancer can make a jump like a Knight, and optionally a second identical jump if the first space is unoccupied. It can also slide two or three spaces in any direction, but only to capture.

Lancer moves


The Nightrider moves like a Knight, but can continue to move in a straight line as long as the landing spaces are free.

Nightrider moves


The Pawn moves as in standard Chess, except that its opening move may be up to 4 spaces, and En Passant is not used.

Upon reaching the far row, the Pawn promotes to Knight.


The Prince can move one space diagonally, or like a Knight. A Royal piece, the Prince as well as the King must be captured for victory. If the King is captured while the Prince is on the board, the Prince becomes the King.

Prince moves


The Princess combines the moves of the Bishop and Knight. If the Queen is captured while the Princess is on the board, the Princess becomes Queen.

Princess moves


As in standard Chess, the Queen combines the moves of the Bishop and Rook.


As in standard Chess, the Rook can move orthogonally any direction. However, Castling is not used.


The Sergeant can move or capture 1-3 spaces forward, or one square diagonally; it can also move, but not capture, one square sideways.

Upon reaching the far row, the Sergeant promotes to Lancer.

(Note that this is quite different from the usual Sergeant fairy piece.)

Sergeant moves


The Soldier moves like a Pawn (including moving up to 4 spaces on the opening move), but can also move (but not capture) one square sideways.

Upon reaching the far row, the Soldier promotes to Helepolis.

Soldier moves


The Spy can move one or two spaces orthogonally, or jump like a Knight.

Spy moves


The Wizard can move one space diagonally, and optionally turn 45 degrees to move one or two spaces orthgonally further from its starting point. (Note that this is somewhat different from the usual Wizard fairy piece.)

Also, this Wizard can swap places with any friendly piece sitting on a square to which it can move (which is why those spaces are shaded green in the diagram).

Wizard moves


The basic rules of Chess are followed, with a few exceptions to allow for the larger board and larger armies (all noted above, but summarized here):

  1. Castling and En Passant are not used.
  2. Both the King and the Prince must be captured (or in Checkmate) for victory. If the King is captured first, then the Prince immediately becomes King. The game ends when the King is in Checkmate, without a Prince on the board; or if the opponent can get both the King and the Prince in Checkmate simultaneously (see below).
  3. If the Queen is captured and the Princess is still on the board, the Princess immediately becomes Queen.
  4. Pawn pieces promote upon reaches the far row as follows: Pawns become Knights, Soldiers become Helepolises, and Sergeants become Lancers.


Rules for Checkmate, and the victory that comes with it, are a little complicated. Victory only comes when both the King and Prince are captured or in Checkmate.

As noted above, if the King is in Checkmate while the player's Prince is on the board, the opponent is expected to capture the King on the next move (though that may be delayed); that act immediately promotes the Prince to King.

However, the player's own next move can be anything. The King can be Rescued if the player can maneuver the opponent into freeing the King. For example, he could put the opponent's King in Check (but not Checkmate, though see below). In the case, the opponent must address the Check before capturing the King (with one exception, below). If the player can force a move that lets him take the King out of Checkmate (and then out of Check), then the King is Rescued.

If the player, with his King in check and his Prince still on the board and not threatened, can put his opponent's King into Checkmate when the opponent's Prince is not on the board, the player wins.

It may also be possible (though very rare) to have both the King and Prince in Checkmate (essentially, a "Double Checkmate"). The Prince would be considered in Checkmate if the King is in Checkmate; the Prince is also under attack and cannot move to a safe space even if it's promoted to King (when it can move to adjacent orthoganal spaces, which it cannot do as Prince); and a move to capture one does not free the other.


The following optional rules may be implemented, if both players agree before the match starts:


Given the large board size, large number of pieces, and presence of two Royal pieces (King and Prince), this game takes somewhat longer to play than standard Chess.

Some tactics worth noting, that I've seen from the Interactive Diagram's AI:

  1. Moving the Pawn in front of the Berserker frees the Nightrider, which can then move to the opponent's side of the board.
  2. If the Wizard's first move is to g4/g13, its second can be to switch places with the Queen, freeing that piece into the board. (The same type of thing can also be done with the Queen's Falconer, or anything on the second row from the King's Bowman to the Queen's Knight.)

Advance Capture

The Bowman's "Advance Capture" is the accepted technical term for when a piece makes a capture further along in its path than it actually mmoves.

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 Bob Greenwade.

Last revised by Bob Greenwade.

Web page created: 2023-05-30. Web page last updated: 2023-08-06