In Elephant Chess Burmese Elephants take the place of the bishops, and the opening setup is different from regular chess. Crab-pawns (see below) are placed on the third row. There is no castling. The object is checkmate. The Burmese Elephant derives from Burmese Chess. It can move one step diagonally in any direction, or one step straight ahead. This piece is interesting. It has about the same value as a knight. Although it is a slow piece it also has an advantage: together with a king, or some other piece, it can sometimes give mate in the endgame. The bishop or knight can seldom achieve this. This has an impact in endings with pawns and light pieces. Unlike the bishop the Elephant can reach all squares of the board. Elephant Chess can be played with either of three pawn types (1) Crabs (2) pawns (3) Phalanx pawns.
In the main variant (above image), a Mammoth takes the place of the queen (in addition to the two Elephants). The Mammoth derives from Mammoth Chess and jumps two steps diagonally or orthogonally, or steps one square in any direction. On an 8x8 board I evaluate it to at least 6 points (a rook is 5 points). The Crab pawn (see below) can perform a form of knight jump. In an additional variant the Crab can only perform its knight-jump if it has passed the middle line.
The Mammoth jumps one or two squares, diagonally or orthogonally.
The Elephant steps one square on the diagonals, or one square ahead.
The Crab moves like a pawn. In addition it can jump to an empty square, west-north- west, or east- north-east. This is only allowed if the Crab is blocked, and, in some variants, only when the middle line is passed. The Crab appears in some Elephant Chess variants instead of the pawn.
Elephant Chess is slower than regular chess, and less tactical. Hence it is a more relaxed game. You don't need to be watchful all the time but can adopt a more strategical outlook. The opening position gives the Elephants a more advanced position, to compensate for their slowness. Early play on the wings is a plausible alternative. In the queen variant (instead of Mammoths) the queen can develop early as the risk of entrapment is smaller, but it can no longer attack along a diagonal aided by a bishop. The Elephant is an effective defensive blocking piece in the middlegame. But the endgame, when time is not so important, suits it better. Peripheral weaknesses around the king are now less dangerous. Don't be afraid to play on the wings. A regular chess set will do. Elephant Chess was invented by undersigned.
• You can download my free Elephant Chess program here (updated 2007-08-29), but you must own the software Zillions of Games to be able to run it.
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© M. Winther 2006