In Elk Chess "Elks" take the place of the rooks. The Elk moves differently depending on the colour of the square. If positioned on a black square it moves like a Rook. If positioned on a white square it moves like a Knight. Castling is performed with an Elk instead of a Rook. The Elk's value is 4, that is, Knight + pawn, or Bishop + pawn. In regular chess the Rooks play a passive role in the first half of the game. The new Elk piece has part of the Rook's power, which can now be utilized early in the game. It is powerful enough to give mate to a lonely King. In variant "Elk Chess II" Elks take the place of the knights, instead.
The elk (amer. 'moose') has actually been trained for battle service, in the cavalry of Charles XII of Sweden (1682-1718). Elks are much faster and more powerful than horses. However, it proved a time-consuming and costly task to train elks so the project was abandoned.
The Elk is a very interesting piece for the tactician. Positionally, too, it could be quite dangerous because one can often sacrifice an Elk for a light piece (Knight or Bishop) to achieve positional ends. The Elk's image changes when it moves to a square with a different colour (it rotates). This makes it easier to understand the piece. To play this game on a regular board one can use a Rook. If the Rook is placed on a white square it is turned upside-down to show that the Elk is now moving as a Knight.
There is also a variant where Scorpions take the place of the pawns. The Scorpion has the additional moves of a Knight, but only in two forward directions: east-north-east, and west-north-west. There are no additional capture moves. The Scorpion's value is half the value of a Knight or Bishop, that is, 1.5. This means that a light piece can be exchanged for two Scorpions, a possibility which often occurs. In the endgame it could become very dangerous, and its value often increases.
The two oblique moves in the image are the Scorpions two extra movement possibilities. It can only capture like a regular pawn.
• You can download my free Elk Chess program here (updated 2006-07-17), but you must own the software Zillions of Games to be able to run it.
• Try playing Elk Chess by e-mail, against a human opponent, here.
• or try the alternative, Elk Chess with Scorpions instead of pawns, here.
• Don't miss my other chess variants.
© M. Winther 2006