Zanzibar

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Caution: this chess variant needs more play testing. It may evolve yet

 

An incredible depth, an impressive complexity, a fascinating game

A new video on Zanzibar board and pieces

Presentation

Zanzibar, a big island of Tanzania, the place of an old sultanate with a rich history. A name that evokes a link with the Arab civilization when their boats were trading all along the coast of East Africa from the Red Sea to Madagascar.

The idea driving the elaboration of Zanzibar was to fill the void squares of the Metamachy setup. Like Metamachy, Zanzibar uses the dozenal 12x12-square board and all pieces from that game.

In order to decide which pieces to add, the following principles have been observed:

  • Add pieces with medium power. Introducing new high power pieces is always tempting but too many of them really spoils the game.
  • Add pieces which present a strong link with pieces existing in historical chessvariants.
  • Avoid complex moves, especially the compound moves such as pieces that moves as two or more standard pieces. On the opposite, favor moves that give a recognizable personality to the pieces.
  • Complement as much as possible the pieces already used in Metamachy, for instance looking for orthogonal counterparts of diagonal pieces and vice-versa.

Two Zanzibar games are proposed. Zanzibar-XL is the is full version. Zanzibar-S is the smallest version and is detailed on the bottom of this webpage.

Zanzibar-XL is a real challenge. There are 80 pieces of 19 different types, 40 for each player: 1 King, 1 Queen, 1 Eagle, 1 Lion, 1 Marshal, 1 Cardinal, 1 Rhinoceros, 1 Buffalo, 2 Princes, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, 2 Camels, 2 Rooks, 2 Cannons, 2 Elephants, 2 Giraffes, 2 Crocodiles, 2 Machines and 12 Pawns.

There is a choice of 288 different starting setups. Black chooses the setup and White makes the first move.

The goal is to checkmate the opposing King.

 

1 of the 288 possible starting positions for Zanzibar-XL

Setup rules

At the beginning Pawns, and all pieces which come as pairs (Elephants, Cannons, Rooks, Camels, Knights, Giraffes, Bishops, Crocodiles, Princes, Machines) are placed on the board. 

Setup of fixed starting pieces at Zanzibar-XL

Then, Black freely decides where to place his King, Queen, Eagle and Lion on squares f1, g1, f2 and g2. After this, Black decides where to place his Marshal, Cardinal, Rhinoceros and Buffalo on squares e1, h1, e2 and h2.

Then, White put his pieces symmetrically in mirror (if Black King is on f1, White King goes on f12) and makes the first move.

This agreement balances the advantage of White starting to play with Black choosing the setup.

As pieces are placed in mirror symmetry, positions of Kings on f squares are exactly equivalent of positions of King on g squares. Then, it can be demonstrated that it exists 288 different starting positions:

    • The King can be on f1 or f2: 2 choices
    • Then, the Queen has a choice of 3 positions: beside the King, beneath the King or diagonal to the King.
    • Then, the Eagle has a choice of 2 remaining positions.
    • Then, the left place in the center is for the Lion.
    • Then, the Marshal has a choice of 4 positions.
    • Then, the Cardinal has a choice of 3 remaining positions
    • Then, the Rhinoceros has a choice of 2 remaining positions.
    • Then, the left place is for the Buffalo.
    • 2x3x2x4x3x2x = 288


(Pieces were not tainted yet. Also in
video here)

Zanzibar-XL

Moves

Pieces from Metamachy

King: moves 1 step in every (8) directions on a not attacked square. The King is in check if it is attacked by one or several enemy pieces. It is forbidden to play a move letting his King in check. There is no castling in Zanzibar.

At his first move, the King may jump to a free square at two squares' distance. For instance, from f2, it can jump to d1, d2, d3, d4, e4, f4, g4, h4, h3, h2 or h1). It does not matter if the square jumped over is occupied or not; however, the jump is forbidden if that intermediate square is threatened by an enemy piece. When jumping like a Knight, at least one of the two intermediate squares must be free of threat (e.g., if jumping from f2 to h3, either g2 or g3 must not be under attack). The King's jump is not permitted if the King is in check. This rule, which was once prevalent in medieval European chess, replaces castling.

Queen: slides to any square along the file, the rank or a diagonal on which it stands.

Eagle: moves one square diagonally and then, slides away of an indefinite number of squares vertically or horizontally. It is authorized to go only one square diagonal. It can not jump and the unobstructed path must start with the diagonal movement. This piece is almost as powerful as the Queen and is inspired by the Giraffe from Tamerlane's Chess and the Aanca (a mythical giant bird praying elephants, mistaken for a gryphon) from Alfonso X's Grande Acedrex.

Lion: moves as a King (a single step move in any direction), or may jump to a position two squares away, jumping in any orthogonal or diagonal direction, or jumping as a Knight. (Inspired by Chu Shogi, the most popular variant of the Japanese Chess, where the Lion has the same range but is more dreadful as it can move twice in a turn).

Rook: moves to any square along the file or the rank on which it stands.

Bishop: slides to any square along a diagonal on which it stands. Note that it always stays on the same color of square.

Knight: jumps to the opposite square of a 2x3 rectangle. No matter what the intermediate square contains. Note that it always change the color of square at every move.

Camel: jumps to the opposite square of a 2x4 rectangle, like an extended Knight. No matter what intermediate squares contain. It is also described as a (3,1) leaper. Note that it always stays on the same color of square. A well known piece from medieval Muslim great Chess like Tamerlane's Chess.

Cannon: exactly as in Shako, it is borrowed from Xiangqi. It moves without taking like a Rook, but it takes by going in a straight horizontal and vertical line and jumping over exactly one piece. When a Cannon takes a piece, there must be exactly one piece between the original and final square of the Cannon's move - this piece may be of either color.

Elephant: exactly as in Shako. It moves one or two squares diagonally. When an Elephant moves two squares, no matter what intermediate squares contain. Note that it always stays on the same color of square. The Elephant moves as the combined Alfil and Firzan (Ferz) from Shatranj, two pieces which were also present in mediaeval Chess and have disappeared with the birth of modern moves for the Bishop and the Queen.

Prince: a non-royal King who moves and captures one square in any direction, but without being hindered by check. It has been inspired by medieval games like the Courier chess , an old chess variant, played in Germany, where it is called "Man". Like the Pawn, he can also move without capturing to the second square straight ahead.

Pawn: can move straight forward one or two square from any position on the board, without capturing. It captures one square diagonally forward.

Pieces specific to Zanzibar (and beyond)

Giraffe: jumps to the opposite square of a 3x4 rectangle, like an extended Knight. No matter what intermediate squares contain. It is also described as a (3,2) leaper. Note that it always changes the same color of its square. That piece is found in Alfonso X's Grant Acedrex. The same pattern, but without jumping, is found in Janggi, Korean Chess, for the Elephant. Under the name of Zebra, it is also a fairy piece used by problemists for compositions.

Crocodile:  it is the diagonal counterpart of the Chinese Cannon. It moves like a Bishop (which was named Crocodile in Grant Acedrex) and needs an intermediate piece between itself and its victim to capture it. The Crocodile jumps the intermediate and takes the victim on its square. The intermediate is left unaffected. (Also known as Vao by problemists).

Machine: it is an orthogonal counterpart of the Elephant as it moves one or two squares orthogonally, jumping over the first square if it is occupied. Then, it combines the moves of old Dabbaba and Wazir found in ancient Muslim Chess variants. The word Dabbaba designated a siege machine at war in Arabic, hence the name given for this piece.

Marshal: it combines the move of Rook and Knight. It can be found in many, many chess variants since Carrera, Bird, Capablanca and many others like Grand Chess or Gothic Chess. (under many other names: Champion, Guard, Empress, Concubine, Chancellor, etc. The later is sometimes preferred, however it is confusing since Capablanca used it once for R+N and once for B+N. It is an Elephant in Seirawan Chess).

Cardinal: it combines the move of Bishop and Knight. It can be found in many, many chess variants since Carrera, Bird, Capablanca, Modern and many others like Grand Chess or Gothic Chess. (under many other names: Centaur, Minister, Equerry, Janus, Archbishop, Princess, Chancellor, etc. It is a Hawk in Seirawan Chess).

Rhinoceros: moves one square vertically or horizontally and then, slides away of an indefinite number of squares diagonally. It is authorized to go only one square in line or column. It can not jump and the unobstructed path must start with the orthogonal movement. This piece is inspired by the Unicorn of mediaeval Grant Acedrex. It is a counterpart of the Eagle.

Buffalo: combines the leaps of the Knight (2,1 leaper), the Camel (3,1 leaper) and the Giraffe (3,2 leaper).

Other rules

Pawn and Prince Promotion: A Pawn or a Prince reaching the last rank of the board is immediately replaced by an "chief" piece: Queen, Eagle, Lion, Marshal, Cardinal, Rhinoceros or Buffalo. Promotion to any other type of piece is not allowed. It is permitted to promote a Pawn or Prince to a type of piece already present on the same side; however; it is considered "good etiquette" to avoid choosing a piece which is not captured yet, if possible. Note that a side Pawn must take at least five moves to reach promotion by taking double steps (rows 3 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 12), which is the same number of moves required for a pawn in standard chess (rows 2 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8). A central Pawn could even be promoted in four steps (rows 4 - 6 - 8 - 10 -12).

En Passant capture: Any time a Pawn or Prince takes a double step and passes through the capture square of an opposing Pawn, that Pawn may capture the Pawn or Prince as if it had only moved one square. This en passant capture must be made in the immediate move following the double step. Only a Pawn may capture en passant; the Prince does not have this option.

End Of Game: The end-of-game rules, checkmate, stalemate, etc., are identical to standard chess.

 


Zanzibar-S

For those who are frightened by the complexity of Zanzibar in its -XL version, there is a moderate version named Zanzibar-S.

Here, there are only (!) 72 pieces of 17 different types, 36 for each player: 1 King, 1 Queen, 1 Eagle, 1 Lion, 1 Rhinoceros, 1 Buffalo, 2 Princes, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, 2 Camels, 2 Rooks, 2 Cannons, 2 Elephants, 2 Giraffes, 2 Crocodiles, 2 Machines and 10 Pawns.

In Zanzibar-S there is no Marshal and Cardinal

Pawns can only promote to Queen, Eagle, Lion, Rhinoceros or Buffalo when reaching the opposite side of the board.

Like for the -XL version, Black chooses the setup and White makes the first move.

Zanzibar-S set-up

At the beginning Pawns, and all pieces which come as pairs (Elephants, Cannons, Rooks, Camels, Knights, Giraffes, Bishops, Crocodiles, Machines and Princes) are placed on the board. 

 

Setup of fixed starting pieces at Zanzibar-S

Then, Black freely decides where to place his King, Queen, Eagle and Lion on squares f1, g1, f2 and g2.

After this, Black decides where to place his Rhinoceros and Buffalo on squares e1 and h1.

Then, White put his pieces symmetrically in mirror (if Black King is on f1, White King goes on f12) and makes the first move.

This agreement balances the advantage of White starting to play with Black choosing the setup.

As pieces are placed in mirror symmetry, positions of Kings on f squares are exactly equivalent of positions of King on g squares. Then, it can be demonstrated that it exists 24 different starting positions:

    • The King can be on f1 or f2: 2 choices
    • Then, the Queen has a choice of 3 positions: beside the King, beneath the King or diagonal to the King.
    • Then, the Eagle has a choice of 2 remaining positions.
    • Then, the left place is for the Lion.
    • Then, the Rhinoceros has a choice of 2 remaining positions.
    • Then, the left place is for the Buffalo.
    • 2x3x2x2 = 24.

 

1 of the 24 possible starting positions for Zanzibar-S


Zanzibar-S ready to play


Pieces Value

Zillions gives these average values, normalized to 5 for the Rook :

Pawn: 1.1 ; Giraffe:2 ; Camel: 2.2 ; Elephant: 2.4 ; Knight: 2.5 ; Machine: 2.8 ; Crocodile: 3.3 ; Bishop: 3.4 ; Prince: 3.7 ; Cannon: 4.9 ; Rook: 5 ; Cardinal: 5.8 ; Rhinoceros: 6 ; Buffalo: 6.7 ; Marshal: 7.4 ; Lion: 7.6 ; Eagle: 7.8 ; Queen: 8.2

A maybe more realistic estimate would be:

Pawn: 1 ; Giraffe: 2 ; Camel: 2 ; Elephant: 2.5 ; Knight: 2.5 ; Machine: 3 ; Prince: 3; Crocodile: 3 ; Bishop: 3.5 ; Cannon: 4 ; Rook: 5 ; Cardinal: 6 ; Rhinoceros: 6 ; Buffalo: 7 ; Marshal: 7.5 ; Lion: 7.5 ; Eagle: 8 ; Queen: 9

These values are just given for a very rough estimate. A lot of players would disagree and give less or more points to several piece. Never mind, make your own scale and be the Sultan of Zanzibar. 


You can play Zanzibar if you own Zillions-of-Games.

You can play Zanzibar-XL and -S if you own Z-o-G. Download this zip-file: cazauxchess.zip


Find Zanzibar-XL and Zanzibar-S in the Chessvariants pages


 

Un tablier de 12 x 12 cases.

Un total de 72 à 80 pièces, de 16 à 19 types différents :

Rois Dames, Fous, Cavaliers, Tours, Pions mais aussi Aigles, Lions, Chameaux, Éléphants, Princes, Canons, Cardinaux, Maréchaux, mais encore Girafes, Crocodiles, Machines, Buffles et Rhinoceros.

288 manières différentes de les disposer au départ !

 


 

Diagrams made with the fantastic Chess Board Painting Tools provided by Musketeer Chess

 


 

 

 

Thanks to Paul Rappoport for his discussion and corrections

01/04/2020

(modified 15/06/2020)