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This page is written by the game's inventor, Michael Nelson.

Forward Chess 

by Michael Nelson


Forward Chess is played on an 8x8 board with the usual FIDE Chess pieces in the normal setup.

All FIDE Chess rules apply except as follows:

  1. Pieces including Kings but excluding Pawns move and capture normally forward and sideways, but have only one backwards move: a non-capturing move one square straight backwards.
  2. Pieces are ranked (high to low) Queen > Rook > Bishop > Knight > Pawn. When a piece is captured, a piece of the next lower rank belonging to the capturing player is created on the square where the capturing piece started its move. When a Pawn is captured, no piece is created.
  3. Pawns move, capture, and promote normally. A pawn on the first rank cannot take a double step; a pawn on the second rank can take a double step, whether it is on its original square, was created on the second rank, or moved up from the first rank. En passant applies as usual. A pawn created on the eight rank does not promote automatically, but its owner can promote it in place as a move.
  4. Castling is not allowed.
  5. For the purpose of determining check, a capture and a resulting piece creation are considered to be a single move. For example a Knight on c3 pinned by a Bishop on b4 can capture a Queen on d5: the Rook created on c3 blocks the check.
  6. Stalemate is a loss for the stalemated player.
  7. Triple repetition is a loss for the player making the repeating move.
  8. A player moving his King to an unattacked square on the eighth rank wins immediately, even though the opponent could move his King to the eighth rank on his next move.
  9. Draws by agreement are illegal.
  10. If fifty or more consecutive moves by both sided have elapsed since the last capture of a pawn [the only irreversible change in this game] the player making the last pawn capture may claim a win.

Playing Tips

The pieces advance easily and can hardly retreat at all. This gives a move an irrevocable quality much more than in FIDE Chess. Excepting a one-square forward move, you can't go back where you came from. The farther a piece advances, the weaker it becomes. Yet you must move forward to capture and gain much-needed reinforcements.

There is a particular danger in having your army too far forward: if the enemy King can slip through your lines, he may well race to the eighth rank and the win, since you have no pieces that can move faster backwards the the King moves forward.

What all this means is you must move forward and stay back at the same time, which is a fairly impossible task. The tension in this game is really incredible.

About The Pieces

Queen: Still the big gun of the board. You have to be very careful with it: it's far easier to trap a Queen in this game than in FIDE Chess. The Queen gains relative value vs. the minor pieces but loses vs. the Rook. Another effect brings the Queen and Rook closer together: capturing a Queen gets you a Rook, but capturing a Rook only gets you a Bishop. When you lose your Queen, you won't see another one until you can promote a Pawn.

Rook: A bit stronger relatively than in FIDE Chess. The Rook's (and Queen's) "King interdiction" ability to prevent the enemy King from crossing a rank or file is more valuable than in FIDE Chess because of the ability to win by moving the King to the eighth rank.

Bishop: Gains vs. the Knight because the retreat move allows the Bishop to change colors, but loses the advantage back because capturing a Bishop gets you a Knight, but capturing a Knight gets you a Pawn.

Knight: It's forking ability becomes awesome in a game where pieces can't retreat easily. Knights should move forward early. Getting a Knight captured on your first rank can give the enemy a Queen instead of a Pawn.

Pawn: A bit stronger than in FIDE Chess: a Pawn attack on a piece that has a hard time retreating is quite potent.

King: More vulnerable because of the difficulty of retreating. It can be a winning strategy to lure the enemy King forward, but this can backfire if you leave an opening where he can break through to the eighth rank.


The modification of the pieces' moves is not value-preserving, so Forward Chess will not be playable with different armies using the standard armies from Chess With Different Armies. Different armies designed for this game might be possible. Both players using the same alternate army should be perfectly playable.

The Forward chess concept could be used in many different variants--the only requirement is that there is a clear definition of forward and backward in the game. A hex variant might be particularly interesting.


Forward Chess originated as a proof of concept for some ideas I had for the 44 Squares contest. I hacked the Chess ZRF to test the rules ideas and found that I had an interesting game in its own right. Primary influences were Peter Aronson's Feebback Chess and Fergus Duniho's Mortal Chessgi.

The idea of using piece creation rather than drops came about because drops were too useful for reinforcing the back ranks. Piece creation helps reinforce the back ranks but not nearly so powerfully as drops. I also like the two-edged sword aspect--sometimes you will want to capture an enemy piece and clear the starting square but you can't do it. This may cramp you quite a bit.

Winning by moving the King to the eight rank is found in several variants. I chose this rule to give a player behind in material some chances to win. This also eliminates some dull, drawn out endings. If a player moved his King past the enemy, it could take forever to move enough material back to mate.

Stalemate and triple repetition as losses and the new fifty-move rule were added to make a nearly drawless game entirely drawless.