My club has recently been playing the variant Etchessera. For those unfamiliar, this variant allows you to build an army consisting of a King and up to 39 points worth of pieces according to the following system:

  • Pawn - 1pt
  • Knight - 3pt
  • Bishop - 3pt
  • Rook - 5pt
  • Queen - 9pt

While I realize that the relative point values are often listed differently, and can change based upon what other pieces remain, we were wondering if there should be a clear winner between the standard chess army and one consisting of 4 queens and 3 pawns.

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Through our own games, the match-up appears to still be about equal provided the classic army plays defensive openings and forces a few trades. However, my club is a very small sample size and I was looking to see if this has ever been explored elsewhere.

  • How do you decide the initial position of the nonstandard army? Who moves first? Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 16:15
  • Pawns can be placed in any of the first 3 rows. Any other piece must be placed in the back row. White moves first unless black used less points to construct their army.
    – J Smith
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 17:19
  • pawn on first row OK? What's the rule on double-move (or even triple-move) privileges? Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:29
  • The complete rules can be found at etchessera.com/rules.html While it doesn't explicitly say, we've interpreted them to read that it is possible to place pawns in the first row. Also, we understand that a pawn can move two squares on its first move from any location. Triple moving is not allowed.
    – J Smith
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 20:50
  • 1
    Thanks. Seems that you're playing a saner version of what's on that website, only the standard six chessmen. Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 21:36

2 Answers 2


A clarifying comment says "Pawns can be placed in any of the first 3 rows. Any other piece must be placed in the back row. White moves first unless black used less points to construct their army." So the position I gave earlier doesn't work, but since Black is allowed to move first with fewer than 39 points there's still a forced win:

[FEN "1b1qkqq1/8/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR b - - 0 0"]

1. Qxf2+ Kxf2 
2. Qh4+ g3 
3. Qgxg3+ hxg3 
4. Qxg3#
  • 1
    That's really interesting! Thanks for sharing.
    – J Smith
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 18:50
  • 2
    I imagine knowing this this will lead my club to start the classic army setup with a few pawns already pushed to mitigate this. But I guess that's the nature of asymmetrical build-your-own army games.
    – J Smith
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 19:01

In the specific position you show, I can well believe that the classical army has an advantage: I've read that a second Queen tends to be redundant and thus worth less than the first, so I'd expect a third and fourth Queen to continue the pattern, assuming that the opponent's King is not in immediate danger. But if you can array your fantasy-draft army anywhere you want in the first few rows you can win by force even with fewer than 39 points:

[FEN "q3qr1k/b4q2/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR w - - 0 0"]

1. Nf3 Qaxf3
2. gxf3 Qxf3
3. d4 Qxf2+
4. Kd2 Qee3#

It even works with Re8 instead of the Qe8 (though the mate takes a few moves longer).

  • 1 f3 lasts a bit longer; if Black doesn't have an immediately forced mate after Bxg1 or Qxf3 or Qf4 then add a Bd8 to the initial position to make sure (1 f3 Qaxf3 2 Nxf3 Qxf3 3 gxf3 Bh4#). Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 16:42
  • Thanks. This variant doesn't allow you to place major pieces (non-pawns) in anything but the back row for that reason. Consequently it takes at least a turn or two to setup for this. During that time, White would have to form a sufficient defense.
    – J Smith
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 17:17

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