Idea: Secret Pawn Chess

Everything is the same as in normal chess, except that before the game begins, you secretly pick two of your pawns, and those two pawns can, in addition to all of the normal pawn moves, move and capture like a king.

Before the game begins, each player should write down the starting file of their two super soldier pawns, to avoid any potential cheating.

I think it would add a interesting element of uncertainty to the game. Play would probably be much more cautious and exploratory. Plus, even if you discover one of your opponent’s super pawns, you have to keep track of it during play.

Who’s up for a game?


In the years since I first posted this, I’ve played a number of games of this chess variant. Here’s what I’ve found:

  • It’s delightful fun, because the element of hidden state adds uncertainty and surprise.

  • It’s easiest to implement by marking the bottom of the selected pawns with a small bit of tape. Small enough that you can’t see it / it doesn’t disturb the pawns as they stand normally. Then, when making a ‘secret pawn move’, you can easily prove that that piece was one of your original chosen two by picking it up and showing the bottom.

  • The opening of the game becomes much more careful. Now you have to worry about placing pieces adjacent to pawns!

  • Likewise, you have to carefully decide when to unveil the identity of your secret pawns. Make sure the advantage you gain is worth it because once our opponent knows where a secret pawn is, it’s usually pretty easy to deal with because it’s so slow.

  • In the endgame, secret pawns tend to be either amazing or useless, depending on their proximity to the action. They’re so slow that if they’re on the wrong part of the board, they’ll never be able help you create pressure and tactics; but if they’re on the right part of the board, their close-in nimbleness is unbelievably powerful.