Hexagonal chess

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Game components and basic line-up (based on the Gliński variant)

The names Hexagonal chess , Hexagonalschach or hexagonal chess are available for a number of chess variants that have been developed by various authors. As with the classic chess game , the variants of hexagonal chess are also strategic board games in which the players take turns moving pieces on a board according to set rules. At the beginning of a game, the figures are arranged in a given starting position and differ in their movement possibilities. The aim is to attack the opponent's pawn, known as the king , in such a way that he is no longer able to defend himself by hitting (removing) the attacking pawn, protecting the king with his own pawn, or allowing the king to move to a non-attacked square. This is known as checkmate and means the end of the game when the attacking player wins.

What the different hexagonal chess variants have in common is a game board consisting of hexagonal fields instead of a square board with a division into 64 squares and an edge length of eight fields as in the classic chess board . In most variants, the playing field is made up of 91 hexagons, which are arranged in the shape of a regular hexagon with an edge length of six fields each. Instead of the two colors of a normal chess board, the fields of a hexagonal chess board have three different colors. Hexagon chess can be played with two or three participants, depending on the variant.

Gliński's hexagon chess

Scheme of a game board. Fields of the same type are colored accordingly.
Line-up of the characters in the Gliński variant

The best known and most popular hexagonal chess variant was designed in 1936 by the Pole Władysław Gliński . Today it is mostly referred to as Glińskis Hexagonal Chess and is organized by the International Hexagonal Chess Federation , among other things in the context of world and European championships. The number of active players is estimated at around half a million people, mainly in Central and Eastern Europe . The most successful player to date is Marek Maćkowiak from Poland , who has not only won two European championship titles but also two previous world championships.

In this variant, the set of figures for both parties consists of nine pawns , two knights , three bishops , two rooks , a queen and a king . The game board is made up of 91 fields and has the shape of a regular hexagon. The movement possibilities of the figures are divided into orthogonal and diagonal trains. An orthogonal train runs along fields that each have a common edge, while in a diagonal train the fields are not directly adjacent, but only connected by a line. While an orthogonal move on an immediately adjacent field changes the field color, a piece always remains on the same color with a diagonal move. The orthogonal moves correspond in the logic of the game to the horizontal and vertical moves of the normal game of chess.

The king can move orthogonally or diagonally to the squares right around him. The tower's ability to move is restricted to orthogonal moves in all directions and with any distance, analogously to this, a runner can only move diagonally. The queen combines the moves of the tower and the runner. The knight first moves two squares orthogonally away from his starting square, and then another square in an orthogonal direction to the left or right onto a square that is not the same color as his starting square. The pawn moves orthogonally around one square in the direction of the opposing side of the board, but when capturing a piece it moves orthogonally by 60 degrees to the left or right of its position. As in the normal game of chess, the first time a pawn moves, he can be moved one or two squares from the basic position. There is no castling in Glinski's hexagon chess . A stalemate is scored at 0.75 for the stalemate to 0.25 points for the stalemated player instead of 0.5 to 0.5 as in standard chess.

Although Gliński developed the game as early as 1936, it didn't become popular until the early 1970s. Gliński, who had lived in Great Britain since 1946, introduced the game at a press conference in December 1973 and published two books on the rules and theory of the game in 1973 and 1974. In 1976 the British Hexagonal Chess Federation was founded and the first British Championship was held. A year later the first official country competition took place between Great Britain and Poland.

Marek Maćkowiak

On August 18, 1980, the International Hexagonal Chess Federation (IHCF) was founded. The first European championship in hexagon chess took place in London (Great Britain) in the same year , the second four years later in Warsaw (Poland), the third in 1986 in Poznań (Poland) and the fourth in 1989 in Tatabánya (Hungary). After Gliński's death in February 1990, the organized hexagonal chess movement almost came to a standstill. Nevertheless, from December 1990 to January 1991, the first World Cup took place in Beijing (China). Since the reorganization of the IHCF in August 1996 and the change of headquarters to Budapest (Hungary), increased activities and an increase in popularity have been recorded. In 1998 the fifth European championship was held in Tatabánya and the second world championship a year later in Rowy (Poland).

List of previous world and European champions
  • EM 1980: Marek Maćkowiak (Poland)
  • EM 1984: Laszlo Rudolf (Hungary)
  • EM 1986: Laszlo Rudolf (Hungary) and Marek Maćkowiak (Poland)
  • EM 1989: Laszlo Somla (Hungary)
  • World Cup 1991: Laszlo Rudolf (Hungary) and Marek Maćkowiak (Poland)
  • EM 1998: Sergej Korchitsky (Belarus)
  • World Cup 1999: Marek Maćkowiak (Poland)

Variant of McCooey

Line-up of the figures in the variant by McCooey

Another hexagonal chess variant was developed in 1978/1979 by Dave McCooey in collaboration with Richard Honeycutt . Her goal was to transfer the tactics , strategy and style of play of standard chess as much as possible to a hexagon variant. In the variant by McCooey, the regularly shaped 91-field board is also used. Compared to Gliński's hexagon chess, however , the line-up of pawns in the basic position is more compact and there are no unoccupied spaces between the pieces. The two outermost fields of the two baselines remain free on each side. The knights stand in front and the rooks directly next to the queen and the king. With this arrangement there are only seven pawns on each side. The number of other pieces is identical to that of Gliński's variant, as are the moves of the pieces with the exception of the pawn. This moves diagonally when capturing a piece, as McCooey believes that this corresponds more to the conditions in normal chess. In this variant, the middle pawn can only be moved one space forward on the first move. As with Gliński's hexagon chess, there is no castling. A stalemate is rated at 0.5 to 0.5 points.

The similarities between McCooey's variant and Gliński's hexagonal chess are remarkable, as McCooey and Honeycutt say they designed their version without knowledge of Gliński's rules. This can be taken as an indication that most of the identical game principles in both variants represent the optimum for a chess variant on a hexagonal game board. In particular, the field numbering and the resulting notation are identical in both variants; they follow a herringbone pattern with the f-line as the axis of symmetry, whereby the a-line extends to a6, the subsequent lines rise one field each to the f-line and then fall back to six fields up to the l-line.

Hexagon chess according to Schafran

A variant proposed by the Soviet geologist Isaak Grigorjewitsch Schafran in 1939 already differs from the first two variants in terms of board format. While the side lines consist of six fields, the baselines only have five fields each. The playing field, which consists of 70 instead of 91 fields, is therefore not a regular hexagon. The number of pieces corresponds to the rules of Gliński's hexagon chess , but the basic position differs significantly from Gliński's version. The moves of the pieces correspond to the rules of Gliński, except for the pawns. As in the McCooey variant, these hit diagonally and on the first move may be moved to the square that is closest to the center line from their home position. In contrast to the variants of Gliński and McCooey, castling with king and rook and en-passant moves with pawns are possible, as in normal chess . A stalemate is counted as a tie.

Another difference to the above variants arises from the notation; In Schafran, the designation of the fields is linked to the lines and the orthogonals falling from left to right, thus reminding of a diamond pattern, in contrast to the herringbone pattern of the variants by Gliński and McCooey.

Potentials of the figures

King and pawn

The king remains the central figure in the game. If he moves one step both orthogonally and diagonally, he can pass an orthogonal diagonally without being in check. This means that neither the queen nor the rook can push him to the edge on their own. The king gains “power”, so to speak, and thus has a stronger potential than in standard chess. Another special feature is that the king needs one and a half times as many moves to the opposite edge of the field on the way from one corner of the playing field to the opposite corner than if he only moves diagonally. If he moves from one edge of the field to the opposite, he needs twice as many moves orthogonally as diagonally. In standard chess, on the other hand, the type of moves (orthogonal or diagonal) from edge to edge does not affect the minimum number of moves.

There are variants of hexagonal chess in which the king cannot move diagonally and is thus "partially disempowered"; he corresponds to the "vizier" from fairy tale chess, just hexagonal. In such cases the king is significantly weaker than even in standard chess and can even be pushed into a corner by a queen alone and then checkmated there.

The special role of the king means that usually no rating is given for him in pawn units. At least in the endgame and especially when mating with only one heavy or a few light pieces, when the king is actively involved in mating the opposing king, the king is also assigned a strength on the order of a light piece.

The pawns remain the weakest pieces on the field. With them, however, the phenomenon of the different numbers of trains between diagonal and orthogonal connections has an even more intense effect and, depending on the variant, very different effects. A McCooey & Honeycutt pawn can “break through” from the basic position in five moves to the opposing baseline, but only needs seven moves to do this. A Gliński pawn, on the other hand, needs almost twice as many moves to reach the opponent's baseline when only capturing as when simply pulling. The extent to which this is advantageous or disadvantageous depends on the particular situation in the lot. However, depending on the variant, it also requires different tactical considerations as to whether you prefer to move or capture with a pawn. In contrast, in standard chess, the number of moves from the starting square to the conversion square is always the same for a pawn, regardless of whether he just moves, just captures or performs both in any combination.

Heavy figures

The queen is also the strongest piece on the field in hexagonal chess. With it, the king cannot be pushed to the edge of the playing field or into a corner if the king can pass an orthogonal diagonally without being in check. But if the king is already in a corner, he can be checkmated with the queen alone. So the queen not only remains the strongest piece on the field, she also has a greater potency than the queen in classic chess.

The tower remains the second strongest figure in the game. With one alone, a king cannot be blocked at an angle of the square if the king can pass an orthogonal diagonally without being in check. You need at least two rooks to block one half of the playing field for the king, in standard chess one rook is sufficient. On the other hand, two rooks can cover each other if the king is to be pushed to the edge of the field or into a corner with them. That is not possible in classical chess. The qualities and values ​​of the rooks have changed, but are comparable to those of standard chess.

Light figures

You need three bishops with different squares in order to create an effective barrier for the opposing king in hexagonal chess, because each bishop can only reach about a third of the squares. The king and two bishops checkmate a single king only in exceptional cases. In addition, there is an even more pronounced dependence of the possible moves on the respective position of the individual bishop than in orthogonal chess.

In hexagonal chess, the knights are a little stronger than the bishops. Two knights, who can also reach every square on the chessboard, are sufficient to checkmate. Their other qualities correspond to those in the classic game of chess, especially with regard to their position on the field.

In the endgame, three bishops are stronger than two jumpers, these are stronger than two bishops and these are stronger than the combination of bishop and jumper.

Quantitative evaluation of the figures

In the second half of 1992 edition of the magazine "Variant Chess", the hexagonal chess master Mirosław Miodoński published a table with quantitative evaluations of the chess pieces on hexagonal fields. This shows a considerable disagreement about the value of jumpers and bishops, while the values ​​of the other figures are much less disputed.

author king lady tower Jumper runner Farmer
W. Gliński - 10 5 4th 3 1
R. Slawiński 4th 14th 10 4.5 2.2 1
R. Filutek 3 11 7th 3 4th 1
J. Roczniak 2.34 6.66 4.46 2.30 2.60 1.00
M. Miodoński 10 35 23 8th 12 2-7

While Gliński in his "First Theory of Hexagonal Chess" shifts the value of knight and runner to the preferences of the player and the respective situation, Miodoński recommends exchanging a knight for a runner in the opening and in the middle game, because he does not consider the slightly greater strength of the knight than the bishop in the endgame to be decisive for the game.

Different endgame configurations

As in orthogonal chess, there are also other typical endgames in hexagonal chess. However, their results differ in part from the results to be expected in orthogonal chess. The different variants are listed below:

  • King and rook defeat king and knight; there are no fortress moves and a negligible number of positions with perpetual check
  • King and rook defeat king and bishop; there are no fortress moves and no eternal chess
  • The king, knight and bishop only checkmate a king in exceptional cases; this is tedious in modern chess, but possible
  • King and queen do not defeat king and rook; 4.3 percent of the positions end in eternal check, 37.2 percent result in fortifications

Hexagonal chess by Brusky

General and basic position

Brusky's hexagonal chess, init config.PNG

This variant was invented by Yakov Brusky in 1966. The playing field consists of an irregular hexagon with 84 fields; only the opposite parallel sides are of the same length. In contrast to the variants presented so far, the playing field is on one side. The pieces move like in Glinski, with the exception of the pawns, of whom ten are on the board. In contrast to Glinski, the basic position of both parties is not reflected on the center line, but through the center of the board, so that the kings are not on one line; Stalemate is a draw and, in contrast to Glinski, results in half a point. Castling is also allowed under the same conditions and notations as in orthogonal chess. By relocating the basic rows, the diagonally moving figures (women and runners) do not attack each other directly in the starting position. As in common algebraic notation, each individual field is identified by a combination of letters and numbers. The rows are horizontal and are identified by the numbers 1 to 8; the lines are at an angle of 30 degrees to the vertical and are defined with letters from A to L.

The moves of the peasants

Brusky's hexagonal chess, pawn moves.PNG

The pawns move one step forward on a line or from the starting position a double step forward; they take one step forward diagonally, but only one step forward vertically in the starting position. A pawn in the starting position has four squares to move and three to capture; this applies to all farmers in their starting position, with the exception of marginal farmers. En-passant hitting is also permitted under the usual conditions. A pawn who has already moved, on the other hand, only has two spaces to move and two spaces to capture. Due to the position of the playing field (lying on one side), each pawn has as many silent moves as there are strokes to the conversion field, in contrast to the variants shown above.

The illustration shows: The white pawn on the starting square c2 has four options for moving (green points) and three for capturing (red points). The white pawn on i3 has only two options for drawing and two for capturing. The white pawn on g5 and the black pawn on h6 block each other's movement. But if the black pawn moves on f7 to f6 or f5, then White can capture this pawn, either directly or en passant, 1.… f7 – f5 2. g5xf6 ep

If an opposing piece blocks a pawn in one direction of movement, then the other direction of movement is also blocked. But if it is one of his own stones, he can still move to the free field.

Three-person chess according to Wellisch

Wellisch three-hand-chess.PNG

As early as 1912, the Viennese engineer Siegmund Wellisch presented his variant of a chess game for three people in the “Schachzeitung”. He chose red as the color for the third party. He also designed a regular hexagonal board with 91 fields for this purpose, but the edges lay horizontally in front of the players as in standard chess. For this, Wellisch implemented significant changes in the selection and quality of the figures. Only the tower moved orthogonally as far as desired. The king, like a vizier, took a step orthogonally in any direction. The king and rook swapped places for castling. For the sake of simplicity, the pawns moved and struck one square orthogonally, but there was no initial double step. Wellisch defined for the jumpers that they “jumped” over the circle of orthogonally reachable fields that surround them in any direction into the first diagonally reachable field, that is, they actually took a step diagonally like a heel . The lady combined the moves of rook and heel / jumper. Wellisch, on the other hand, completely dispensed with runners.

Other variants

There are a number of other hexagonal chess variants that use the regular 91-field board as well as different game boards, such as with 67, 80 or 84 fields, which sometimes result in different board shapes. The board for Galachess by Mathew B. Harrer (1980) made up of 67 hexagonal fields, for example, does not have a hexagonal, but an approximately rectangular shape, while Richard Hazlewood's (1986) design, which consists of 64 fields, is a diamond . The rules of the different variants vary accordingly in the number and arrangement of the figures as well as their possible moves.

The 'Echexs' with a regular 217-field board with nine fields edge length offers six people the opportunity to play along. As with McCooey, the figures are set up in the corners, but they are drawn as with Glinski. McCooey has also developed the particularly small version Mini Hexchess, which is played in pairs on a regular 37-square board with a reduced set of pieces (king, one rook each, one bishop, one knight, five pawns).

In some variants, new pieces that are not included in the classic chess game are also used. As early as 1864, for example, a variant was marketed under the name Hexagonia , whose board consisted of 125 fields and where each player played with a king, two cannons, four knights and eight pawns. In addition, several designs use the hexagonal shape of the game board to have three players, such as the three-person chess by Siegmund Wellisch mentioned above and developed specifically for this purpose.


Web links

Commons : Hexagonal chess (after Gliński)  - collection of images, videos and audio files