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Fairy chess piece

A fairy chess piece or unorthodox chess piece is a chess piece not used in conventional chess, but used in certain chess variants and some chess problems.

Table of contents
1 Classification of fairy pieces
1.1 Leapers
1.2 Riders
1.3 Hoppers
2 Royal pieces
3 List of orthodox and fairy chess pieces

Classification of fairy pieces

Most fairy pieces fall into one of three classes, although it should be noted that some are hybrid pieces (see the Chinese pieces, for example, which move as riders, but capture as hoppers) and others do not fall into this scheme at all:


A leaper is a piece which moves a fixed distance and which can jump over any pieces between its departure and destination squares. A leaper's move is usually described by giving the number of squares it moves horizontally and vertically per move. For example, the knight in orthodox chess is a (2,1) leaper, meaning it moves two squares in one direction (horizontally or vertically) and one square in the other (note that it could also be described as a (1,2) leaper - there is no significance to the order of the numbers).

In shatranj, a forerunner to chess, the pieces which were later replaced by the bishop and queen were also leapers: the alfil was a (2,2) leaper (moving exactly two squares diagonally in any direction), and the fers a (1,1) leaper (that is, it can move one square diagonally in any direction).

Some leapers can chose between several different lengths of move - the king in orthodox chess, for example, which can move one square in any direction, could be considered a (1,1) or (1,0) leaper.

Leapers are not able to create pins, although they are often effective forking pieces.


A rider is a piece which can move an unlimited distance in one direction, providing there are no pieces in the way.

There are three riders in orthodox chess: the rook can move an unlimited number of (1,0) cells and is therefore a (1,0) rider; the bishop is a (1,1) rider; and the queen is a (1,1) or (1,0) rider.

The most popular fairy chess rider is the nightrider, which can make an unlimited number of knight moves (that is, 2,1 cells) in any direction (though, like other riders, it cannot change direction half-way through its move).

The names of riders are often obtained by taking the name of a leaper which moves a similar cell-size and adding the suffix rider. For example, the zebra is a (3,2) leaper, and the zebrarider is a (3,2) rider (though note that a knight (a (2,1) leaper) becomes a nightrider (without an initial K) not a knightrider.

Riders can create both pins and skewers.


A hopper is a piece which moves by jumping over another piece (this intervening piece is called a hurdle). Unless it can jump over a piece, it cannot move.

There are no hoppers in orthodox chess, although in xiangqi, the cannon captures as a hopper (when not capturing, it is a rider - the so-called Chinese pieces (see below) share this characteristic).

The most popular hopper in fairy chess is the grasshopper, which moves along the same lines as an orthodox queen, except that it must hop over some other piece and land on the square immediately beyond it.

Note that hoppers generally capture by taking the piece on the destination square, not by taking the hurdle (as is the case in checkers). An exception is the locust.

Royal pieces

A royal piece is one which cannot be allowed to be threatened with capture. If a royal piece is threatened with capture and cannot avoid capture next move, then the game is lost (this is checkmate). In orthodox chess, each side has one royal piece, the king. In fairy chess any other orthodox piece or fairy piece may instead be designated royal, there may be more than one royal piece, or there may no royal pieces at all (in which case the aim of the game must be something other than to deliver checkmate).

List of orthodox and fairy chess pieces

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