Howitzer Chess

introducing the Howitzer

Howitzer Chess

The Howitzer moves like a nightrider, that is, it can make continuous knight-moves in the same direction. But it cannot capture in this way. In order to capture it makes an orthogonal "cannon" capture-jump. It jumps over any piece and lands, like a cannonball, on the enemy piece farther back, provided that any intermediate squares are empty. Its value, it seems, corresponds to a rook. Other rules are the same as in standard chess, except for the possible promotion to Howitzer. The unusual H-shaped board makes it possible to introduce this piece without giving it undue advantage in the opening, thus avoiding monotonous opening strategies.


The nightrider moves gives the Howitzer an extreme mobility in congested middlegame positions. As it combines mobility with the power of the cannon capture, it is ideal for king-attacks in the middlegame. The Howitzer introduces new tactical motives in a traditional context. As it can only capture as a cannon, and not as a knight, this piece is easier to control. As it loses 'screens' for jumping when the pieces become fewer, it often becomes less valuable in the endgame. In opening and middlegame the Howitzer appears stronger than a rook, but in the endgame its value is, probably, less than a rook. The Howitzer cannot, together with the friendly king, give mate to the lonely enemy king.

The H-board gives the Howitzer several strategical alternatives. It can take up a position on the bishop file, or the knight file (after the pawn has moved), or it can remain in its position until castle, whereupon it can shoot down along the rook file. The extra corner squares (the trenches) are exactly what the majesty has always asked for. The notorious problem of the weak first rank, and the sudden rook mate, is thereby solved. The trenches affect the strategy greatly.

A cannon, like in Asian chess games, has always been missing in the Western piece set, while it clearly adds flavour to the game. The Howitzer is a form of cannon which is highly suited for this context. Compared with the Chinese Cannon, it is more maneuverable in congested situations, and thus it is more valuable. In Western chess, the development of the rook already causes problems. Introducing a rook-moving cannon could make matters worse. The Howitzer, on the other hand, immediately cooperates finely with the other pieces. In wartime, due to its mobility, the Howitzer is an highly effective weapon. Howitzer Chess, and the new Howitzer piece, were invented by undersigned, August 2006. The Scorpion (in the extra variant) derives from my Scorpion Chess.

Howitzers. Originally a compromise weapon, the howitzer used a medium-length tube to fire a mid-velocity projectile along a curved trajectory. By firing at a low angle, howitzers could achieve adequate range; at a high angle, they had the effects of a mortar. With modern artillery, differences between guns and howitzers are less distinct. Howitzers are now equipped with longer tubes and fire a variety of munitions at ranges formerly covered by field guns. Light howitzers usually are mounted on a wheeled carriage that can be towed by a small truck, airlifted by helicopter, or dropped from an airplane with a parachute. With advances in accuracy and lethality, these weapons are more efficient than heavy howitzers and field guns (from Funk & Wagnall's Encyclopedia).

Howitzer Chess piece movementHowitzers move like nightriders, but cannot capture this way. Instead they capture like cannons.

  You can download my free Howitzer Chess program here (updated 2006-09-16), but you must own the software Zillions of Games to be able to run it (I recommend the download version).

  Don't miss my other chess variants.

© M. Winther (August 2006).