There is a situation that arises occasionally, where each player goes on a rampage through the other player's pieces (often using a queen), never stopping to recapture or defend. It usually ends when either there is no more material to safely capture, or with check.

Is there a term for this kind of war on two fronts?

4 Answers 4


If each of the marauding pieces is itself en prise during most or all of the sequence, it can be called a desperado; see for example the Bogolyubov-Schmid game cited in Wikipedia's article on "Desperado (chess)": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desperado_(chess)#Bogolyubov_versus_Schmid

  • Ah, I wasn't thinking of that kind of situation, but useful to know, thanks. Commented May 13, 2021 at 21:59
  • Good answer on what an individual portion of this tactic would be. There is nothing established in Chess that I'm aware of to refer to this occurring multiple times in a row, but I think it's too specific to be terribly relevant for a naming convention anyway. Commented May 18, 2021 at 15:23

The late Xavier Parmentier, a very succesful chess teacher, writer, and a leading figure in the French chess community for decades, focused on those lines in his calculation exercices and wrote about them in his book "Les secrets de l'initiative aux échecs" (literally: Secrets of Initiative in Chess), and probably in other works.

He dubbed them "supermarket variations" (les variantes supermarché) : each player grabs what he wants on the shelves without interfering in their opponent's captures.


It would be an example of repeated Zwischenzugs, where instead of making the expected move (a recapture), each player makes an intermediate move—capturing a different piece.

Zwischenzug is a general expression applying to any intermediate move; I don’t know if there is a more specific term for the scenario you describe.


I agree with @DavidH, the best technical description is multiple (consecutive) zwischenzugs. As for a more specific term, I don't know an established one either, so maybe it's time to invent one. I propose to call the scenario you describe a caterpillar (line), after the famous picture book by Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. According to Wikipedia:

The book features a very hungry caterpillar who eats his way through a wide variety of foodstuffs before pupating and emerging as a butterfly.

I've used this image in teaching, and it tends to work very well, especially if it's a pawn who does most of the capturing. Here's one of my favorite examples:

[Event "Stuttgart simul"]
[Date "1958"]
[White "Tal, Mihail"]
[Black "NN"]
[Result "1-0"]
[FEN "2r1k2r/1p1bppb1/p2p1np1/q3n1p1/3NP2P/2N1BP2/PPPQB3/1K1R3R w k - 0 15"]
[PlyCount "7"]
[Source "Schach 10/1994, p. 69"]

1. hxg5 Rxh1 2. gxf6! Rxd1+
3. Nxd1! Qxd2 4. fxg7! 1-0

That former h-pawn turned out to be a very hungry caterpillar indeed. Black resigned just when the beautiful butterfly was about to emerge on g8.

  • Thank you! This example only lasts two full moves, as 3. Nxd1 is a recapture. I realise I should probably also have added "series of captures by the same piece" to the definition, but this example mostly is that too. Commented May 17, 2021 at 22:22
  • 2
    Aside: that's such a beautiful structure with white's knights and bishops at the end. A 4 piece circle of protection. Commented May 17, 2021 at 22:29
  • Without commenting on your proposed 'caterpiller' name, I'll just point out that the Desperado tactic pointed out in another answer is essentially an established more specific sub-type of your reference to a Zwischenzug [called in Italian Intermezzo, or in English often "in-betweener]. Commented May 18, 2021 at 15:22
  • Yes, I've read that answer, and I am aware that some kinds of zwischenzug can be described as desperado moves. But the question was about situations that do not necessarily involve any desperado moves at all. For example, in the Tal game above, 2. gxf6 is clearly not a desperado (the pawn on g5 wasn't even attacked), and neither is 4. fxg7 (the bishop on g7 was undefended). The only moves in the whole sequence that might arguably be called desperado moves are 2... Rxd1 and 3... Qxd2, but even that is questionable, because they capture pieces of equal value.
    – Arne
    Commented May 18, 2021 at 21:56

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