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This page is written by the game's inventor, Andy Thomas.

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American Chess:

In the following rules, a "Gauntlet" square will be referred to as "G."

There are 11 "soldier" (P) pieces; they are on each side's 4th rank, respectively; on the 1st through 11th files:


On each side's 3rd rank, there are 3 "artillery" (C) pieces:


On the "back line," or 1st rank respectively for each side, there are the following pieces, from side to side:

Armor Brigade (R)
Colonel (N)
Recon Battalion (B)
Missile (M)
3 Generals (Q)
Missile (M)
Recon Battalion (B)
Colonel (N)
Armor Brigade (R)


So the pieces on the board at the start are:


As in "western" or "international" (regular chess), blue (which would be the equivalent of "white" in regular chess) goes first, then red ("black" in regular chess). Each turn is comprised of one move per side.

Pieces move as in regular chess; one move per side per turn.

Pieces are captured as in regular chess; a piece ending its move in a square occupied by an opponent's piece, captures the opponent's piece.

How to win: Eliminate all opponent's Q pieces from the G. Check for victory, only at the end of each full turn. If blue has "won" red still gets one more move; only at the end of the full turn is victory checked for. If neither side has a Q in the G then the game is a draw; if both sides have a Q in the G (and the next turn is turn 50 or less) then the game continues; if one side has a Q in the G and the other has no Q in the G, then the game is over. If 50 full turns are played out, and both sides yet have at least 1 Q in the G, then the game is a draw.

If at some point prior to the end of the 50 turns, if both players agree to a draw then the game is over.

The Pieces:

One movement rule which applies to all pieces: As in regular chess and xiangqi, no piece can end its move in a square already occupied by another friendly piece (no exceptions).

A piece can always end its move in what was an empty square.

If a piece ends its move in a square occupied by an opponent's piece, this is a capture.

Soldier (P): P pieces can move 1 square in any direction, diagonal or orthogonal. In other words, P pieces move just like a king in regular chess. P pieces are the weakest in all of american chess. So even though they move like kings from standard chess, consider them to be the 'pawns (soldiers) of american chess.' P pieces are marked by a small, 8-sided cross pattern. The small, 8-pointed star indicates their 8-way movement capability, but only one square. The eleven P begin the game on a side's 4th rank, filling out all files 1 through 11.

Armor Brigade (R): The R piece is identical to a rook in both regular chess and chinese chess ("xiangqi," "chariot"); unlimited "orthogonal" (horizontal OR vertical) movement. Like in regular chess (and xiangqi), the R moves only through empty squares; squares devoid of either friendly or opposing pieces. It can end its move in either an empty square, or it can capture an opponent's piece. R pieces begin the game on a side's 1st rank, 1st and 11th files. R pieces are signifed by a cross indicating their orthogonal movement capability.

Colonel (N): An N "jumps" sort of like a knight in regular chess. The move in american chess is more flexible though; and (in certain instances) further-ranging. In regular chess the knight "jumps" in a 2:1 or 1:2 ratio. In American Chess the N simply jumps 2 squares, in any combination of diagonal/orthogonal. To see the choice of squares a N piece has in moving to, picture a "box" of squares around the N piece, yet 2 squares distant. If you had an N with enough room all around it (toward the center of the board), there would be a total of 16 squares of which to choose from. Try it, and you will see. Simply count 2 squares out, vertically or horizontally, then trace a path around the N piece, always maintaining the (any combination of orthogonal/diagonal) 2-square range. The move of the N is not blocked by any intervening piece. The N must jump 2 squares; not 1, and not 3 or more; it must end its move exactly 2 squares away from where it started. N pieces are signified by a "gull wing" symbol on their piece, and begin the game on a side's 1st rank at the 2nd and 10th files.

Recon Battalion (B): The B pieces move exactly like a "bishop" in regular chess. It can move any number of squares diagonally. There can be no intervening pieces - friendly or opposing - between the originating square, and the ending square. (B) pieces are signified by an "X" marking. This helps to remind how they move. For those familiar with military markings: Granted, this is an "infantry" symbol for a "cavalry type" of piece; But all of that aside, it better helps remind the beginner to american chess, how the piece moves. B pieces start the game on a side's 1st rank, 3rd and 9th files.

Missile (M): An M piece can move to any square on the board. Simply pick up the M and drop it where you want it to go. The only restriction is that an M piece cannot move to the opponent's "back line" (1st rank of opponent). Each side's "back line" is safe haven from the opponent's M pieces. M pieces are signified by a sort of "missile" character; in the case of the original version, a sort of diagonal 'diamond' shape. M pieces start the game on a side's 1st rank, in the 4th and 8th files.

General (Q): Just like a queen in regular chess. Unlimited orthogonal OR diagonal movement. Q pieces are signified by a large, 8-sided star on their piece; this large star indicates their "unlimited 8-way movement" (as opposed to the P pieces which have a small star indicating limited movement). They begin the game in the 5th, 6th, and 7th files of their side's 1st rank.

Artillery (C): A C piece moves like a Q; either diagonally or orthogonally. The C attacks much like a "cannon" in xiangqi, but with the additional capability of attacking diagonally. That is to say, a C piece attacks "a piece behind a piece" (the target and the screen, respectively). The screening piece can be either friend or foe. There can be only one screening piece; artillery doesn't attack over multiple screens. Note that unlike the "cannon" in xiangqi, the C piece in american chess can move and attack along a diagonal as well as orthogonal. In xiangqi the cannon attacks only along the orthogonal, much like a "modified rook" (chariot). In American Chess, think of the C as a "modified Q" piece. Just like in an attack along an orthogonal, the C piece requires a single screen along the diagonal. Keep in mind that the C - unlike similar pieces like the Q, R, and B - cannot capture a piece "directly." Instead, it requires a screen between itself and the piece being captured. Otherwise there are no range limitations on the capture itself, whether in distance to the screen or to the targeted piece/square beyond the screen. When simply moving (not attacking), the C moves as a Q; like the R and B combined into one. There are 3 C pieces per side, and they are signified by a dot, and begin the game on the 4th, 6th and 8th files of a side's 3rd rank.

Piece Promotion: Any non-Q piece which reaches the opponent's "back line" (1st rank) is automatically given general (Q) status. The exception of course is the M piece, which is not allowed to move to the opponent's "back line." In regular chess it is the pawn which can become any piece (usually a queen is chosen); in xiangqi the pawn gains extra movement capability by "crossing the river." In american chess, every piece except for the M gains a "promotion to general" if it reaches the "back line."

Piece ranking: Related to the idea of "promotion" is the "ranking" of the pieces; that is to say, their "powerfulness" or "value" in general. Even without the ability to attack an opponent's "back line," the M has to be rated the most highly. Here are the general rankings of the various pieces:

Missile (M)
General (Q)
Artillery (C)
Armored Brigade (R)
Colonel (N)
Recon Battalion (B)
Soldier (P)

In xiangqi the cannon is less powerful than the chariot. But with the artillery in american chess having the added diagonal capability, it should probably be thought of as "more powerful" than the R. In regular chess, the knight and the bishop are thought as roughly equivalent. In american chess the colonel gets the nod because of increased ability compared to its knight counterpart in regular chess.


Q: In order to fulfill its two-square move requirement, can a (N) piece move 1 off of its original square, then back onto its original square? A: No, a (N) piece must end its move 2 squares away from where it started; whether diagonally, orthogonally, or a combination of both.

Q: Can the Q, B, or R pieces move through friendly or opponent's pieces?

A: No. They move like their counterparts in regular chess; their movement paths must be clear. Just as in regular chess, these pieces can end their move by capturing an opponent's piece. These pieces are "on the ground" and don't (can't) "hop" or "jump" like N, C, or M pieces.

Q: Can the C piece capture an opponent's piece "directly" in the way that a Q, R, or B piece can?

A: No, the C piece moves like a Q when the C piece is not capturing. But when it captures, the C must "jump over" a screen.

Q: Can a Q move off of the G, onto the rest of the board?

A: Yes, a Q can move anywhere on the board. The key is that, each player must maintain at least 1 Q on the G in order to stay in the game. If either or both sides have no Q in the G at the end of a turn (at the end of red's move), then the game is over, win lose or draw.

A: Can the M really move to any square?

Q: Yes, anywhere except for the opponent's back line (opponents 1st rank). This is why the M is rated as the "most powerful" of all pieces.

Q: Can a piece be promoted to Q if said piece gains the opponent's back line, but is not on one of the G squares?

A: Yes, the entire opponent's back line (1st rank) is a 'promotion zone' for every piece except the M (which itself is precluded from ever moving there). At the end of each game turn, each player must have at least 1 Q piece somewhere in the G area of the board. But this has 'no effect' upon promotions.

The Computer Program: You can obtain an American Chess computer program, suitable for hotseat or email play, from the american chess website, linked here on this page. In the American Chess computer program, moves are made by typing in the file/rank (from) and the file/rank (to). For example, to start the game red could type in, k9k8 and it would move their R from k9 to k8. All moves - either blue or red - are done in this fashion. Simply type in the from then the to locations, all as one 4-character command.

The .exe file is 'achess.exe'

Other commands:

o open game: you can type in o + the name of the file to load. For example, othisgame would load a file which had earlier been saved as thisgame.

r reset: r sets the game back to turn 1, blue to move.

s save game: s + filename saves the game. For example, sthisgame saves the current position as the file, thisgame. Typing in plain "s" saves the game under the previously saved name. The default is "default.gam"

Once you have saved a particular filename, entering the 's' command will save it under that same name.

You can play by email if you 's' your filename after your move, then send that file as an email attachment to your opponent. In turn, your opponent can 'o' that same file and do their turn, and 's' and send it back to you, and so forth.

If you have trouble finding an online opponent, you can start up a game with the email address,; if you want to be blue, start up a game and save it after your first move, then send it to americanchess. If you want to be red, just let americanchess know; they will start up a game and send you the file.

You can email 'americanchess' about any questions regarding the game as well.

Making your own american chess game:

You can make your own game out of cardboard. Draw a board with 11 files and 9 ranks' of squares on a piece of cardboard. Make the squares, say, one inch. Shade in the middle 3 files a bit to represent the G. Then make, say, 3/4 inch pieces with symbols on them as you see fit. You can use red and blue marking pens. You can put a "star" on the backs of the "promotable" pieces so all you have to do is flip them over when they reach the back line. Or you could simply make an extra 4 or 5 general pieces per side and switch out 'promoted pieces' with their general 'replacements.' The prototype american chess game was made on the back of a cardboard apple box. It's like a miniature table. Some sheets of white paper were taped onto it, and squares drawn. Then carboard pieces were made up. You could also use blue and red poker chips with black markings on them. You could use the large poker chips with a board of say, 2" squares. Or you could use the miniature chips and smaller squares. It's easy to make your own american chess game!

This 'link page' is meant to provide a link to another website. Note that we have no connection to, nor bear responsibility for the linked sites.

By Andy Thomas.
Web page created: 2005-11-11. Web page last updated: 2005-11-11

See Also