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This page is written by the game's inventor, David Fisher.

Gladiator Chess

In the sands of a 6x6 arena, gladiator pawns battle to the end ... their supporters empowering them and cheering them on until the victory is decided and none remain but the champions.

In this chess variant, pawns (gladiators) are restricted to the inner 6x6 square of the board. Non-pawns (supporters) remain on the outer 28 squares, and are unable to capture or be captured; their purpose is to empower the pawns in the middle of the board with their own movement abilities.

This is a kind of "battle" chess, in that victory is attained by capturing all of the opponent's defenders (in this game, all of their pawns).

(This variant was almost called Arena Chess, but that name was already taken ...)


The setup is similar to that of FIDE Chess, except that the two outer pawns are moved away from the edge of the board:


Each turn consists of two moves:

A pawn may only be moved if it is diagonally in line with a friendly non-pawn, without any intervening pieces - in other words, if it is a "bishop's move" away from a non-pawn. The pawn is moved in the same way that the non-pawn is normally moved in FIDE Chess.

Note that it is illegal to move a pawn to a square on the outside border; pawns must remain in the inner 6x6 area of the board.

If there is no possible pawn move available, that part of the player's turn is skipped, and a non-pawn move must be made which will potentially make a pawn move possible on the next turn (unless there is no place to move a non-pawn which makes this possible). If both players are unable to move a pawn for two turns in a row each, the game is a draw.

Victory is attained when all of the opponent's pawns have been captured.


Here is a possible board position towards the end of the game:

From this starting point, the black pawn at:

... and the white pawn at:

Assuming it is white's turn to move, white might take c5 with c4, and then free up d7 by moving the rook from a6 to c8.

Since f7 can now move like a knight (a2), black can reply by taking e5 with f7, and threaten d7 by moving the knight from a2 to a1.


Originally, the range of the non-pawn pieces was a queen's move rather than a bishop's move, but the challenge is more interesting if the range is restricted to diagonals only.


An obvious variation is to remove the central 6x6 "arena":

For want of a better name, the above variation is called Brawl Chess.

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By David Fisher.
Web page created: 2005-08-30. Web page last updated: 2005-08-30