An Introduction to Atomic Chess

Atomic Chess has been played on various Internet Chess Servers (ICSes) since at least November 27, 1995 when Klaus Knopper collected the rules describing the game and the rules were introduced to the German Internet Chess Server (GICS) by connex. In the years that have passed since it was first introduced online, Atomic Chess has fascinated players with its simplicity and complexity. Atomic Chess has a rich legacy and heritage associated with all the time that players have spent playing it on the various ICSes. The exact details behind its invention may never be known, but what is known is that it’s a whole lot of fun.

Rules of Atomic Chess

Atomic Chess is a variant of orthodox Western Chess. The equipment used and the opening position is the same. A few rules extensions are added to produce a quirky game whose unique attributes attract a wide variety of players. Those rules are as follows:

  1. Whenever a piece is captured, an explosion occurs on the chessboard around the exact square that the capture was made on. This explosion destroys the following chess pieces:
    1. The capturing piece
    2. The captured piece
    3. All other pieces except pawns on the 3×3 grid around the explosion
  2. All exploded pieces are immediately removed from the chessboard.
  3. An Atomic Chess game is won by causing the explosion of the opposing king. An atomic-mate may occur when the king cannot prevent his own explosion with any other move. Please note that this means that it is entirely possible to have what would be a checkmate in orthodox Western Chess, but this does not always mean that the game is over in Atomic Chess. Only a direct explosion or unpreventable atomic-mate will end an Atomic Chess game.
  4. Moves causing your own king’s explosion are NOT allowed. A king cannot capture another king, and as such, this rule allows for the two kings to move next to each other. This will not end the game.

Understanding Captures in Atomic Chess

FEN: 8/8/2pbn3/2RpP3/3NP3/8/8/8

Here we are looking at a sample position (which is impossible to achieve in Atomic Chess, but bear with me here – it’s still a good position to understand what happens with the various captures possible in this position). We’ll take a look at all the possible captures by White in this position:







Thus ends the very brief introduction to what Atomic Chess is. Read some of the other articles about Atomic Chess if this game interests you. There’s been robust developments in opening theory since 1996, and the endgame mating studies have been published since 2005. Formal and informal websites have come and gone throughout the years.

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