C. George Boeree

I have always disliked the weakness of pawns in chess, and their common use as gambits.  They deserve better!  So I would like to suggest this modest variation:  replace the pawns with "superpawns" or what I like to call hobbits.  These sturdy little fellows can move one space orthogonally forwards, sideways, or backwards, and take one space diagonally forwards or backwards.  You will think twice about sacrificing a hobbit!

If you would like a more dramatic variant along the same lines, may I suggest the 9 by 9 version shown below.  On the first rank, we have a rook, knight, bishop, queen, king, a second queen, bishop, knight, and rook;  On the second rank, we have nine hobbits.  This is my own favorite because it combines everything I like best:  18 powerful pieces and the wide-open spaces of the 9 by 9 board.  If you enjoy the middle game of chess more than the end game, this is one to try!

In either form, I would suggest not permitting the promotion of the hobbits:  They are strong enough as it is.  You might also want to agree on a rule forbidding "stalling," i.e. moving a piece in one turn, and returning it to its former space in the next.  A king under check should be the one exception.

If you prefer not having all bishops on the same color squares, I suggest a simple rule:  In place of a regular move, a bishop and his neighboring knight may switch positions -- a sort of bishop-knight "castling."  It should be restricted to pieces which have not yet been moved, but I think it would be interesting to allow both sets of bishops and knights to switch (at separate times, of course), if the player wants.

One more interesting variation:  "Simultaneous 9 by 9 Hobbit Chess."  Like Diplomacy and Diplomacy Chess, both players write down their move and reveal them simultaneously.  The two pieces are moved accordingly. The moves must be legal, of course, but the pieces may pass through the same squares.  If both land at the same square, both are removed.  The king may actually move into check, since he is not thereby necessarily lost.  But beware: The king may indeed be lost if he moves into a square simultaneously with an opposing piece!

[We all know that chess players are pretty serious folk, and wouldn't be caught dead being silly.  Silly people would have wizards instead of kings -- Gandalf versus Sauron!  The white queen would be elvish -- Galadriel or Arwen?  The black queen would be Shelob, of course, the giant spider.  Bishops would be dwarves and dragons.  Knights would be men -- Aragorn and Boromir, perhaps -- and the frightening Nazgül.  The white rooks would have to be ents, the black rooks trolls.  And of course the pawns would be hobbits and orcs -- and the white king's pawn would be Frodo himself!  But that would be silly, wouldn't it?  Yeah.  Forget I brought it up.]

See Hans Bodlaender's Chess Variants pages for many more interesting games!