Samhain Chess

in commemoration of the ancient Celts


The objective in Samhain (Samain) Chess is checkmate. Pieces move as in orthodox chess. The Scorpions move as pawns, but have two extra moves: two forward knight jumps to empty squares only (east-north-east and west-north-west). The Scorpion's value is 1.5. It has no initial double move. As the Scorpions are all located on the third rank, they can reach the fourth rank immediately anyway. Castling is allowed. Promotion rules are the same as in orthodox chess. In the first phase the players take turns to drop pieces on the board, either behind the Scorpion chain, or on a friendly Scorpion. In the latter case the removed friendly Scorpion must immediately be relocated to another empty position, that is, somewhere on the second rank. The two bishops must be dropped on different colours. The King and Rooks are initially placed on their standard positions. They are immobile until all pieces have been dropped. After all the pieces have been dropped the play begins.

imageThe Scorpion captures diagonally forwards. It can either step one square ahead, or jump west-north-west, or east-north-east. It's the same as a pawn, with the addition of the oblique moves (yellow).

A light piece equals two Scorpions. This means that the exchange of Knight or Bishop for two Scorpions is quite natural. Unlike in orthodox chess, a broken pawn chain is not a big defect while the Scorpion pawn chain is not static. The endgame is much more aggressive, while Scorpions, unlike pawns, are not easy to block. In Samhain Chess, drawish endgames won't occur often. You should give your King a protected position by castling. You can relocate the Scorpions so that they protect the King. If the King is placed on the opposite wing as the enemy King then the game is likely to be combative. Remember that relocated Scorpions on the second rank have no initial double move, so it takes longer to activate such Scorpions. In the opening phase, the same Scorpion can be relocated several times, by dropping pieces on it. The Scorpion pawn derives from Scorpion Chess.

In Celtic religion, Samhain (Samain) was one of the most important calendar festivals of the year. At Samhain, held on November 1, the world of the gods was believed to be made visible to mankind, and the gods played many tricks on mortals. Sacrifices and propitiations of every kind were thought to be vital, for without them the Celts believed they could not prevail over the perils of the season or counteract the activities of the deities. Samhain was a precursor to Halloween. In this chess variant the initial board is reminiscent of the world of the "mortals", and the descending pieces are like deities, who come down to earth causing perils, and playing many tricks.

There exists an alternative variant of Samhain Chess where all pieces, except Scorpions, are exterior. In this case castling doesn't exist, and the Rooks must be dropped on the first rank.

(Don't miss my other chess variants.)

You can download my free Samhain Chess program here (updated 2006-06-25), but you must own the software Zillions of Games to be able to run it.

© M. Winther 2006