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This page is written by the game's inventor, Ralph Betza.


Amontillado is a variety of sherry, and sherry is an augmented wine with a distinctive taste, sometimes described as a nutty taste, which is made only in Spain (imitation sherries made in other countries are not at all like the real thing).

In Spain, one drinks Fino, the driest variety of sherry, but elsewhere it may be hard to find; and so I happened to be gazing at a bottle (alas, not a cask) of Amontillado when it occurred to me that "amontillado" sounded a bit like "augmented" (no, it doesn't mean that), and my mind wandered.

The KnightRider

The KnightRider is a venerable piece that moves like a Knight, and then if the square it landed on was empty, the KnightRider can continue moving in the same direction. In other words, the KnightRider has exactly the same relation to the Knight as the Rook to the Wazir.

Experience has shown the Rook and KnightRider to be of roughly equal value on the 8x8 board, and so it is strange that nobody (as far as I can remember) has pointed out that a piece combining the powers of Bishop and KnightRider must be as strong as a Queen.

On a 16x16 board, the KnightRider must be significantly more powerful than the Rook; conversely, on a 2x2 board, the Rook is infinitely more powerful than the Knight.

The Halfling KnightRider

A Halfling piece moves half as far, rounded up, as the corresponding normal piece.

In general, the value of a halfling piece is half the value of the corresponding normal piece; however a Halfling KnightRider is obviously worth much more than half a normal KnightRider, and the reason is obvious: the 8x8 board is a bit too small for the KnightRider, and it often cannot move more than one Knight-move in a given direction; and therefore the KnightRider is not worth as much more than a Knight as it would be on a larger board.

The Halfling KnightRider can always make any move a Knight could, and so it suffers relatively little loss of mobility from being a Halfling. It is worth more than a Knight, and less than a KnightRider; in fact, it is very much in the range of being worth half as much as a Queen.

However, there is more than one way to make a half Knight, and therefore there is more than one way to make a half-KnightRider.

The CrabRider

The Crab moves like a Knight, but in only half as many directions, narrowly forwards and wide to the rear.

The CrabRider moves like a Crab, and then if the square it reached was empty it can continue in the same direction, just as the KnightRider which we discussed a few paragraphs ago.

The Crab is worth half a Knight, the CrabRider is worth half a KnightRider, and since a KnightRider is worth a Rook, a CrabRider is worth half a Rook.

However, a CrabRider on a1 attacks the square d7, and can capture an enemy Pawn on the first move of the game. I don't like this.

The BarcRider

Barc is Crab spelled backwards, and the Barc is a backwards Crab. The Barc moves like a Knight, but in half as many directions -- wide forwards and narrow rearwards. For example, a White Crab on e4 could move to c5, g5, d2, or f2, but not to d6, f6, c3, or g3.

A BarcRider moves like a Barc, then if the square it landed on was empty it can continue in the same direction, just the same way that a Bishop makes one Ferz move and then mat be able to continue in the same direction.

Transparently, the BarcRider is worth half a Rook, even though it is worth slightly less than a CrabRider; they both fall within an acceptable margin of error.

The Hasdrubal

If we take a piece that is worth half a Rook, perhaps a tiny bit more, and add to it the powers of a different piece that is itself worth half a Rook, or perhaps slightly less, the resulting piece that combines the two powers must be worth a Rook.

Therefore, a piece that combines the powers of the Halfling Rook with the BarcRider is worth as much as the standard FIDE Rook. I have chosen to name it the Hasdrubal, in honor of Hasdrubal Barca; it seems appropriate that any piece that includes the Barc or the BarcRider in its composition should be named after some member of the Barca family.

A note to those who are ignorant of Chess history: the Bishops are the elephants, and the depiction of Rooks as elephants is incorrect.
Notice that the BarcRider part of the Hasdrubal is not a Halfling. This may seem a bit off, but we are, after all, looking for a slightly nutty flavor.

The Hamilcar

By adding the powers of the Halfling Queen to the BarcRider and the Crab, we derive a piece that is worth as much as the FIDE Queen.

It is named after Hamilcar Barca.

The Hannibal

Named after the most famous member of the Barca family, the Hannibal combines the powers of the Halfling Queen with the Halfling KnightRider. It is expected to be worth about as much as the FIDE Queen.

Amontillado Chess

The land where Hamilcar and Hasdrubal and Hannibal met so many successes is today the land where Amontillado is made.

Amontillado Chess allows you to play Chess with different armies, and the Amontillado armies are each as strong as the standard boring FIDE Chess army. In fact, the rules are exactly the same as in FIDE Chess, except that the game uses different pieces, and there are more possible pieces than you would use in one game.

Therefore, before starting the game, each player chooses an army from the list below.

During the game, any Pawn that is promoted can choose to be promoted to any non-royal piece that was on the board at the start of the game (this rule is also true in FIDE Chess).

And here is the list of Amontillado pieces:

Amontillado Knights

Any of the Knight substitutes found in Augmented Half Chess may be used in Amontillado Chess.

Amontillado Bishops

The Amontillado Bishop combines the power of the Dabaaba and the Halfling Bishop. No other type of Bishop is permitted.

Amontillado Rooks

There is no choice, because the only available Rook is the Hasdrubal.

Amontillado Queens

Either the Hannibal or the Hamilcar may be used.

Amontillado Remarks

Amontillado Chess is an interesting game in its own right, but for me the chief question is whether the Amontillado armies are in fact equal in strength to the FIDE army; but because this cannot be determined without extensive playtesting I can only hope that it will prove to be so.

The Amontillado armies are easy to learn to use, easy to become accustomed to (except perhaps the nutty bit that the BarcaRider is not halfling in nature), move in familiar directions, with no fantastic or exotic rules; and thus, Amontillado Chess is an augmented chess that is at once sweet, and dry, and slightly nutty.

Written by Ralph Betza.
WWW page created: April 3, 2001.