Check out Chess with Different Armies, our featured variant for July, 2024.

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

Ataturk Chess

When the war hero Kemal Ataturk led the "young Turks" to form the new Turkish government after the demise of the Ottoman Empire, a most unusual provision was put into the new state's constitution.

In order to retain a secular government, the military has the constitutional right to remove any elected government it deems to be too religious! That's right, a military coup is part of the constitution!

This unique institution has inspired Ataturk Chess.


Each turn, each side may either make a normal chess move or may, subject to the following restrictions, overthrow its government.

Overthrowing the government is simply a matter of naming one of your pieces other than a Pawn as your new King; however, you may not overthrow your government when you are in check, and in addition you must rotate the title.

Even a Bishop may become King. For the sake of playability this game does not attempt to emulate exactly the relevant provisions of the Turkish constitution.


No piece may be King twice until all pieces have been King at least once.

Royal Behavior

A royal piece may neither move onto nor cross a square that is attacked by the other side. This rule already exists in FIDE Chess, where Castling across an attacked square is forbidden.

Suppose that White, on the first move, names her Queen as her new royal piece. (This is not a good move, but is chosen to create the desired example position.) The short notation for this will be 1. Qd1++, and the long notation 1. Qd1++(Ke1--).

Now the game proceeds 1...f6 2. e4 g5; whether or not these are good moves is left to the discretion of the reader.

In this position, Qd1-h5 is legal but it is obviously neither check nor checkmate because, although it is a glorious thing, I ween, to be a right-down regular royal Queen, the square g6 is attacked and so the Royal Queen cannot reach e8.

After 3. a3 h6 4. Qd1-h5, is it check? No, because the Royal Queen cannot cross the attacked square at f7.

Can Black play Ke8-f7? No, because f7 is attacked by the royal Queen before the move, even though the Kf7 would not be attacked after the move. Notice that this rule for the behavior of royal pieces means that when an undefended non-royal Bishop gives check at a distance to a royal Bishop, the royal Bishop cannot capture it.

Continuing with 4...a6 5. Bc4, the move Bc4-f7 would in fact be checkmate: Ke8xf7 would be illegal because the royal Q at h5 defends f7.

Better than 5. Bc4 would be 5. Ra1++, which is checkmate because the Qh5 is no longer royal.


The obvious reason to change Kings is to avoid a mating attack, but the rules of Ataturk Chess are designed so that one may sometimes change the government for strategic reasons rather than from necessity.

Because this change costs a tempo and also restricts your choice of future changes, it is not something to be done lightly.

Some Pawnless Endgames

In my opinion, the only way that Ataturk Chess could fail to be playable would be if it were too difficult to checkmate a Royal in the endgame.

Royal Queen

The Royal Queen is easily checkmated by King plus Rook, or by two Bishops and a King as long as you know the following trick:

 . * . * . * q *
 * . * . * . * .
 . * . * . * K B
 * . * . * . * .
 . * . * . * . *
 * . * . * . * .
 . * . * . * . *
 * . * . * . * .
White has royal Kg6 plus Bh6; Black has royal Qg8. White to play is not in check because the royal Q cannot cross g7. The winning move is 1. Bh6++!, and now the only legal move is Qg8-h8, when 2. Kg6-g7 finishes the story. (The other Bishop was needed during the process of confining the Queen to a corner.)

With three minor pieces (and no King) versus the royal Queen, confinement is easy but checkmate is impossible.

Royal Chancellor

King and Rook cannot checkmate a royal Chancellor because its Knight move can be used to jump over the Rook's interdiction.

King and two Bishops have a more interesting time against the royal Chancellor, but even when one of the Bishops is made royal there is no way to confine and checkmate the royal Chancellor. The reader should examine this endgame, as it is interesting.

Therefore it seems that the Chancellor should not be used in Ataturk Chess.

Royal Bishop

Here is a charming checkmate in which White has a royal Knight at e6 plus a royal Bishop at e4, while Black has nothing but a royal Bishop at e2.

 . * . * . * . *
 * . * . * . * .
 . * . * N * . *
 * . * . * . * .
 . * . * B * . *
 * . * . * . * .
 . * . * b * . *
 * . * . * . * .
White to play wins by 1. Nd4 Bf1 (1...Bd1? 2. Bf3 checkmate) 2. Bf5 (releasing the stalemate) Bg2 3. Bc8! Bh1 4. Bb7 mate, or 3...Bf1 Bh3 mate.

With Black to play, the shortest win is 1...Bd1 2. Ng5 Be2 3. Bc2 Bf1 4. Bd1 Bg2 5. Be2 Bh1 6. Bf3 mate.

Different Armies

One should be able in principle to play Ataturk Chess with different armies, but in practice there is danger because some royal pieces are harder to checkmate than others.

Before trying a game, one should study whether it is possible to checkmate a royal HFD or a royal Cardinal with a reasonable amount of material; and if not, try another different army instead!

Other Games

Ataturk Tripunch Chess may be interesting. Imagine a royal Combine, such a powerful piece but limited by the code of royal behavior!

In Ataturk Momentum Chess, pieces that are in motion (by momentum) should not be allowed to become royal; and when you overthrow the government, the moving pieces still move.

Other restrictions on eligibility include Ataturk Alice, new royal must be on same board; Ataturk Colorboundmost, must be same color; Ataturk Archoniclastic, must be same color square (same augmentation state).


Although I have emphasize the endgames because I think they are unusually interesting, the midgames should not disappoint you.

The important rule that "you may not overthrow your government when you are in check" means that many sacrificial mating attacks will still work. Without this rule, the midgames would be dull.

Warm Spit Chess

The name of John Nance Garner would today be scarcely remembered had he not said that the vice presidency of the USA "ain't worth a bucket of warm spit".

We all would like our names to be remembered after we're gone, but being remembered in this way, it seems to me, ain't worth, well, you know.

The game of Warm Spit Chess is based on the vice presidency. Each player always has two royal pieces; the King is always the King, but the Vice-King can be changed according to the rules of Ataturk Chess.

At the start of the game, your Queen is your viceregal piece, and you will wish to change that as soon as convenient.

Written by Ralph Betza.
WWW page created: April 9, 2003.