Pawn Blackhole Chess

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Origin and concept

The original concept was to rotate all movement rules by 45° relative to tradition. In practice this meant royalty is unchanged, and rooks would move like bishops and vice versa, so for simplicity those retain their original movement, and only pawns and knights have new movement rules.

Like traditional chess, this variant is played by two players, and uses a standard board and pieces, but with a new starting layout, the pawns on the board are all drawn towards the center (hence "pawn blackhole") where they skirmish, leaving the outer ring open for stronger pieces


Starting corners!

Pieces are setup in corner groups

Royal pieces start in the corners with queens diagonal to each other on white and kings diagonal on black. The queen should in the right corner from a players perspective. Each royal faces towards the center of the board, making "in front" be along the diagonal.

In front of each royal is the rook (on the same colour as the royal), then to the royal's right is a bishop, and left is a knight.

Then on each grid edge of that corner 4x4, are pawns.


Pawns move forward on the diagonal (two for opening), and always move towards the center according to the quadrant they are in. As they cross into an enemy quadrant, their "forward" diagonal alters to continue their march to the center. Pawns are also colour-locked except when they attack, which is now on traditional grid, and valid in all FOUR directions. This is the only way a pawn can move away from the center. A pawn that reaches ANY edge of an opponents quadrant (14 total target squares in two player) may be promoted. Note that it has to battle every outward step of the way to earn it! Each player has two pawns which can theoretically be promoted in as little as two moves (pawns on the players own edge, taking sideways twice towards the enemy). Other pawns have a longer fastest-theoretical path to promotion, depending on their starting position.

Knights still move "forward two and across one" but now along the diagonal, meaning each knight is now colour-locked, and can move much further - three moves from corner to corner (five in traditional chess). I note that "forward two and one across" on the diagonal is equivalent to an on-grid move of "three and one" (compared to regular chess being "two and one"). Within the chess variants community, pieces that move this way are known as "camels".

Royalty, rooks and bishops move as per traditional chess

There is no castling or en passant move.

Four player variant

With suitable colour distinction, this game easily expands to four players - one per corner with all players having a king only on their royal corner, and no queen. Pawn promotion now available on 21 enemy backlines.

Players are eliminated when their king is checkmated, and their pieces disposed of by prior agreement in one of three ways:

  • all players pieces removed from the board immediately
  • players pieces (except the checkmated kind) remain on the board as motionless obstacles that may be "taken" by other players to be cleared, but pose no threat.
  • the pieces of the first player to be checkmated remain till a second checkmate occurs, and are then removed (leaving only one "dead" players pieces at a time)

Winning is last player standing.


  • Each royal is flanked by a piece that is colour-locked opposite to the starting piece of that colour.
  • Originally titled simply "Blackhole Chess", it was renamed to avoid a clash with Blackhole Chess on, in preparation for submission to that site.

Gameplay style

Pawns gravitate towards the center skirmish, leaving stronger pieces to circle as best they can at the edges



Adam Corbally (and others?) came up with the core idea of splitting the two sides into the four corners, and rotating all movement rules by 45°. Nemo refined this (eg: returning rooks and bishops to their original behaviour since they only swapped, developed promotion rules, and kept the idea alive - resulting in this page)

Similar variants

Neither Nemo nor Adam (as far as Nemo knows) were familiar with any of these

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