Birds and Ninjas - a Brand New Horizon for Chess!

In 1400 AD, the Queen sparked the modern revolution of chess. Now in the new millennium, the Bird with its dual capture mode is poised to make a similar impact.

Update! The future of chess at least in the large board sense may go towards games like Asylum Redux and Octopus Chess. The twisting movements of the snake rook, snake bishop, sorcerer snake or the octopus is probably even more intriguing than that of the flying bomber!
I highly recommend all new users to check out: Asylum Redux, Octopus Chess, Zig Zag Madness or Venomous first.

Birds and Ninjas is a game that breaks new boundaries. With its larger board space and diverse multifaceted pieces, this chess variant's new strategy and tactics stimulate the mind differently from its glorious predecessor.

The game is similar to orthodox chess except for the following major differences:

The ninja guards, the bishops and the knights together make up 3 pairs of minor pieces that work well together to counterbalance the major pieces: the queen, the rooks, and the flying bombers.

Board Setup

Birds and Ninjas start position 1 Birds and Ninjas main Start position

Coordinates for white. (black mirrors white)
Flying bombers on e0, f0
Ninja Guards on a1, j1
Rooks on b1,i1
knights on c1,h1
bishops on d1, g1
queen on e1
king on f1
Ninja Pawns can be dropped to a1-j1,e0 and f0.

The second position can also be tried.

The harmonizing effect
Orthodox chess has one pair of jumping pieces(the knights), two pairs of sliding pieces (the rooks and bishops) plus one very powerful sliding piece: the queen. In Birds and Ninjas, the sliding pieces are harmonized with two pairs of leaping pieces (the ninja guards and knights), and a pair of dual jumper/slide pieces: the flying bombers. The flying bomber, however, adds a distinctive flavor to the game: it flies over the enemy to capture! In the strictest sense, it is not a slider, but a short-range jumper and a long-range flier.
The Ninja Guard compliments the Knight in very much the way the Bishop does in the 8x8 chess board.

Why wait? Dig right in, discover more and play the game!


The Bird’s (Flying Bomber’s) Moves

*The flying bomber's shape resembles a bat, hence the iconographic symbols used. However, the flying bomber is also referred to as the "Bird" - a common nickname given to fighter planes. The choice of name is left to the player.

The flying bomber's odd combination of long-range and short-range moves makes it a deadly weapon against an unsuspecting opponent.

Standard Move: For a successful bombing, there must be an empty square immediately after the first enemy piece on the same line.

Special Move: the Helicopter Landing

This is a special maneuver that enables the bird to fly over the adjacent square, (jumping over, if occupied by friendly piece or eliminating if occupied by enemy piece) and land like a helicopter on a square exactly 2 squares away, capturing if possible on this square. It can capture two pieces in this manner.
Essentially, it combines its standard move with that of a two space orthogonal jumper.
This peculiar short-range prowess in more detail: The 2 square range helicopter move/capture is identical to the Dabbabah except for the double capture.
It is easier to remember the flying bomber moves as a combination of the standard move with the move of the Dabbabah - a leaping move two squares in any orthogonal direction.

Flying Bomber moveset
diag 1 (sideways rook rep. flying bomber)
Diag. 1: The flying bomber on f4 is posing multiple threats to black's pieces.

It is threatening to destroy the black bishop on f7 by moving f4-f8.

Using its special 2 square helicopter capability, it is threatening the black rook on d4 by moving f4-d4 (flying over its own piece and bombing/landing on d4). It cannot land on any squares beyond d4.

This same short-range prowess gives it the ability to threaten f4-h4, flying over and bombing pawn on g4 and landing/bombing rook on h4. Note that the bomber cannot move to g4 by capturing the pawn, it must eliminate both the pawn and the rook. If there was no rook on h4 then the bomber can just capture the pawn by moving f4-h4.

Note that the bird IS giving check to the king because it is exactly 2 squares away, and the bird can land on f2.

However the bird is not threatening the knight on f1 since it is more than 2 squares away and there is no empty square beyond it. If the king moves, the knight will not be under attack either.
Flying Bomber moveset 2
diag 2 (sideways rook rep. flying bomber)
Diag 2: Here the Flying Bomber is hampered by Black’s Pieces.

It is not checking the king at d7 because there is no empty square behind it (and it is not exactly 2 squares away from it). The rook on d8 is pinned, because moving it would enable the king to be captured. However, the king can simply move away and the rook on d8 is not threatened because there is no empty square beyond it.

The rook on e4 is adjacent to the flying bomber and threatening it. But the Flying Bomber cannot do anything because the white pawn occupies f4 and the bomber needs an empty square after its target. If f4 was an empty square, the bomber could capture the rook, and if there was another enemy piece on f4 instead of the white pawn, then the bomber could have captured both pieces.

The Flying Bomber does attack the pawn on d2. It can fly d4-d1 OR move d4-d2 to eliminate the pawn. Because it is 2 squares away, the bomber can land on the same square as its target.
Flying Bomber moveset diag 3
diag 3 (sideways rook rep. flying bomber)
Diag 3: Here the black Flying Bomber is threatening white’s pawns at d4 and a7.

However, the white bishop is defending both pawns (colored squares).

To make matters worse the bishop is also attacking the bird!

The Ninja Guard’s Moves

The Ninja Guard is a color bound piece that can move one or two steps diagonally. It can leap over a diagonally adjacent friendly piece to land exactly 2 squares away (a two-space diagonal leap). It can capture on any square it lands, and additionally it can can capture an enemy piece that is diagonally adjacent by jumping over it. It can capture two pieces (the first immediately adjacent to it, and the next right after) in its path on a diagonal by jumping over the first one and capturing the second piece on the square it lands.
Ninja Guard’s moves The Ninja Guard on d4 can capture all the pieces in the diagram.
It can capture the pawn on b6 by jumping over the knight at c5.
It can capture the knight on c3 by moving to c3 or by jumping over the knight and landing on b2.
It can capture the rook on e5 by moving to e5 or it can capture both the rook and the pawn by jumping over to f6.

For simplicity, the above diagrams showed a standard 8x8 chessboard, and not the actual 10X10 board space used by Birds and Ninjas.


The Ninja Pawn

white ninja pawn black ninja pawn The ninja pawn possesses slightly different modes of movement and capture depending on which half of the board it is on.

The ninja pawn can always move 1 square up or 1 square sideways to an empty square regardless of where it is situated on the board.

When the pawn is situated in the lower half of the board (for White, rank 0-5 and for black 11-6), it can move forward multiple vacant squares (1-3 squares) to reach the middle of the board (rank 5 for White or rank 6 for Black). This move can be done at any time regardless of how many times the pawn has moved. Thus White can on each turn move from e2-e3, e3-d3 and d3-d5.

Once it passes the middle, the ninja pawn can only move 1 square forward at a time, or move 1 square horizontally.

Like the standard pawn it can capture one square diagonally up, regardless of which half of the board it is on.
When the ninja pawn is on the top half of board (White rank 6 +, Black rank 5-) , it can also capture one square horizontally.

There is no en passant. It cannot capture another pawn or ninja pawn en passant nor can any other pawn capture it this way.

Promotion: The ninja pawn promotes on the last row (rank 10 for white, rank 1 for black), to any piece. Promotion to a piece is mandatory so it would cease to be a pawn in the last row.

The ninja pawn is not present at the start at the game and is dropped by the player into the drop zone, which are the 2nd row squares (row 9 for black, 2 for white). For example, the drop zone for white is a2-j2 and for black a9-j9.
The square must be vacant to drop the pawn. You can drop a pawn to check or to checkmate the opposing king A maximum of 4 ninja pawns (1 per turn) can be dropped by each side during a game.
After dropping a pawn, the player can optionally move the ninja pawn forward 1 or multiple squares towards the center on the same move. A capture or a side move is not permitted during the drop, so the player can just drop a pawn, or drop a pawn and move it 1-3 vacant squares towards the center.

In diagram, the black ninja pawn can go from e9-e6 or any other square in between or d9 or f9. The white pawn at f7 cannot capture it en passant

Lets say the white ninja pawn went from e3-f3 , it still has the option of shooting forward to the middle (f5) regardless of how many moves it made before. e.g. it can go e2-e3, then e3-f3 . It can now (see diagram) go f3-f5 if unobstructed.

The white ninja pawn at h9 can capture the bishop at i9 in addition to being able to go to g9 or to promote by going to h10.


The rules in Birds and Ninjas are the same as in chess except for the following modifications :
  1. Castling: Unlike standard Chess, castling is flexible with the king able to travel 1, 2, 3, or 4 squares towards the rook.
    There are 7 possible castling positions, the most extreme wing castling involves the king relocating to the b or i file. The choice of castling positions will depend on whether it is immediately necessary for the king to be tucked away at the wing or for the rook to be centralized.
    The usual castling criteria apply: No piece can occupy the spaces travelled by the king and castling rook. Cannot castle out of check. King cannot pass over or land on squares attacked by enemy, but rook can.
    Castling Positions below are for board #1:
    1. 1 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King one space from f1-g1 and rook from i1-f1
      Black moves King one space from f10-g10 and rook from i10-f10
    2. 1 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King one space from f1-e1 and rook from b1-f1
      Black moves King one space from f10-e10 and rook from b10-f10
    3. 2 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King two spaces from f1-h1 and rook from i1-g1
      Black moves King two spaces from f10-h10 and rook from i10-g10
    4. 2 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King two spaces from f1-d1 and rook from b1-e1
      Black moves King two spaces from f10-d10 and rook from b10-e10
    5. 3 space transposition - King Side Castling
      White moves King three spaces from f1-i1 and rook from i1-h1
      Black moves King three spaces from f10-i10 and rook from i10-h10
    6. 3 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King three spaces from f1-c1 and rook from b1-d1
      Black moves King three spaces from f10-c10 and rook from b10-d10
    7. 4 space transposition - Queen Side Castling
      White moves King four spaces from f1-b1 and rook from b1-c1
      Black moves King four spaces from f10-b10 and rook from b10-c10
    8. Any other piece can occupy j1, j10, a10 or a1 during castling.
  2. Pawn Movement: The pawn can move from its original position either 1, 2 or 3 vacant squares forward.
    A pawn, which initially moved forward 1 square or captured from its starting position, can subsequently at any time move forward 1 or 2 vacant squares. Once it reaches the center of the board (rank 5 for white, rank 6 for black), it can move forward only one square at a time.
    Some examples: the white pawn at f2 can start f2-f5 or it can move f2-f4 then f4-f5, or f2-f3 followed by f3-f5, or move f2-g3 to capture enemy piece at g3 followed by g3-g5 next time it moves.
  3. En Passant: If a Pawn moves two or three squares initially and passes an enemy Pawn on the 4th or 5th rank, it may be captured en passant by the enemy pawn.
    E.g. White pawn on a2 black pawn on b4. White pawn moves a2 - a4 (or a5), black pawn on b4 can capture it as if it had moved to a3.
    Similarly, black pawn on b5 and white pawn moves a2 - a5, then black pawn can capture the white pawn as if it moved to a4. Note in this case the white pawn can still avoid the black pawn by moving to a3 instead.
    If a pawn slides forward 2 squares on its second move, it can also be captured en passant by an opposing pawn on the fifth rank. E.g. white pawn on a3 and black pawn on b5. White plays a3-a5, black pawn on b5 can capture the pawn en passant by moving to a4.
    Capturing en passant is optional unless it is the only legal move available. The capture must be made on the next move.
  4. Pawn promotion: Pawns can now promote to: queen, bishop, knight, rook, ninja guard or flying bomber on the 10th rank only.
  5. The optional ninja pawn drop rule is highly recommended.
    Note that En Passant does not apply to ninja pawns .

Strategical Considerations

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There are many more ideas to explore in Birds and Ninjas. Take a look at the whole family of sub-variants within Birds and Ninjas.

Alternate Start Position

Birds and Ninjas start position 2 Birds and Ninjas Alternate start position
Coordinates for white. (black mirrors white)

Rooks on a1,j1
Knights on b1,i1
Bishops on c1, h1
Ninja Guards on d1 and i1
Queen on e1
King on f1
Flying Bombers on e0,f0.

Here too, there are a total of 7 Castling positions for each side, the player must make the decision based on whether centralization of rook or king closer to wing is more desirable.

Click here to see starting position #1

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Click here to play using Alternative Start Position

Click here to play using Alternative Start Position #2

View Game Logs of Birds and Ninjas

The pieces in middle of the board (at ChessVariants) will clear once the preset is started.

Explore Subvariants and other game design ideas within this game here

*see the Ninja Pawn Drop Rule for an enhanced playing experience.

*see the extended landing flying bomber for slightly different moveset.

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If you would like to email the chess variant inventor directly:

Posted by: observer on 2008-02-03 20:03:45     Rating: Excellent
Hey guy,
Notwithstanding your altercation on I think you have worked hard on these variants. The bird thing reminds me of a checker piece.
Now with respect to you argument over there - think about this would they not be an opening database for this game, and if enough people play, you get the same issue: people looking up openings in the database.
So good luck - Try to get the game to be on some where maybe we can try a game ..
Posted by: tomtom232 on 2008-02-02 20:31:13     Rating: Poor
this is the worst variant of chess I have ever laid eyes upon...its even worse than suicide chess.
Posted by: dutchgambit on 2008-02-02 18:55:52     Rating: Poor
it sucks IMHO
Posted by: SwissGambit on 2008-02-02 18:22:32     Rating: Poor
This will go the way of other bigger-board variants like Capablanca Chess.
Posted by: kim on 2007-10-12 15:07:27     Rating: Excellent
The new pieces are interesting..But like the prev poster said, I need to play it live!
Posted by: john on 2007-10-01 18:46:43
I'll play it maybe if available on freechess, but I chess is enough for me.
Posted by: on 2007-09-21 21:49:54
Thank you for your interest. This is not a commercial variant, so anyone can technically start up a live server, sell products and make a profit out of it. I do believe many would be interested, but I will not be invested financially in any endeavor.
Posted by: John Doe on 2007-09-21 21:45:06     Rating: Excellent
Are you going to market this game, like Omega Chess? I would like to play it live not by correspondence.