In fairy chess a Gnu moves like both a Camel and a Knight. A Camel moves three squares in one direction (either horizontally or vertically) and then one square perpendicular to that direction. A Gnurider is a combination of a Nightrider and a Camelrider. A Nightrider is a fairy chess piece that moves like a knight but can continue moving in the same direction. A Camelrider does the same thing as a Nightrider but moves like a Camel. I also know that an Actress combines the movements of a Gnu and a Queen. Finally, I'm aware of the Amazonrider, which combines the movements of a Queen and a Nightrider.

However, I don't know if there is a piece in fairy chess that combines the movements of a Gnurider and a Queen. Does such a piece exist, and if so, what is it called?


1 Answer 1



The question can be answered quickly: as far as I can see, there is no flavourful name today for the piece termed "gnurider-queen".


So: should there be a flavour name, apart from "gnurider-queen" itself?

My response is a bit long, but I don't think we've had a post on naming fairy units, and there's certainly points to be made.

Need to distinguish between two domains for fairy pieces:

(1) in chess variants, 
(2) in chess problems. 

Despite substantial overlap, innovation has taken the two domains in different directions.

For the first domain, I normally consult https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fairy_chess_pieces, which importantly includes the source of creation where known.

For the second domain I use https://pdb.dieschwalbe.de/pieces.jsp, but there's several other lists around. Since pdb also contains a problem database, one can immediately find published problems using the piece. For example the query https://pdb.dieschwalbe.de/search.jsp?expression=piece%3D%27gnu%27 shows that today there are 314 problems with a gnu.

Gnurider+queen combines 4 basic riders: nightrider, camelrider, rook & bishop. The problem world recognizes very few pieces that are a combination of even 3 basic leapers or riders. One rare example is squirrel, combining the powers of dabbaba (0,2), knight (1,2) & alfil (2,2). The query https://pdb.dieschwalbe.de/search.jsp?expression=piece%3D%27squirrel%27 reveals 15 squirrel compositions.


There is no actress in PDB. Turning to Wikipedia, the piece featured in a chess variant called Overkill Ecumenical Chess by Charles Gilman https://www.chessvariants.com/rules/overkill-ecumenical-chess. I've encountered his work before: a prolific inventor of names most of which have not been used anywhere. (The name "actress" comes from a sequence of many related Gilman piece names beginning with the letter A.) He doesn't seem to have published recently.

If a piece is highly specific, like this, is there any point to giving it a private name, particularly before it has any use? If I had a fairy problem to publish, why not just call it a “gnurider-queen”. That way people know immediately what it does. If it does catch on as a piece type, then it can be named more explicitly soon enough.

And indeed this is shown by the fact that someone has recreated this piece for Stockfish without knowing of Gilman's energetic activity...

Glass Cannon

This comes from Stockfish Fairy Playground, although I can't find a complete list of their fairy units. The name seems completely inappropriate however. There is nothing fragile about this piece, it doesn't operate like a Chinese cannon, and it doesn't have the musketeer chess ability so it's a flavour fail. The "designer" probably picked a random figurine from those available, and gave the first name that came to mind.


"Gnurider-queen can be reached from another direction: gluing a camelrider onto a nightrider-queen. Knight-queen has numerous pre-existing names, but perhaps the leading one is Amazon. The interpretation of Amazonrider is obvious, although we need to realize that a queenrider is just a queen. (In mathematical terms we would say that the operator "rider" is idempotent: rider-rider = rider.)


Paradoxically, premature naming acts as a barrier to adoption, because people encounter the name without being able to know its meaning, or as here with Glass Cannon simply reinvent the concept and give it a new name, leading to later confusion.

My own feeling is that basic leapers should all be given names (e.g. knight (1,2), camel (1,3), reindeer (4,7)). Existing widely-known combinations (e.g. queen, gnu, amazon) should be respected. But other more exotic units should first be named descriptively (e.g. gnurider-queen) with a view to encouraging their more widespread use.

This is similar to the approach in chemistry, where we named all the elements (e.g. silver, xenon), and some of the compounds (e.g. salt, benzene), but all compounds can be named descriptively in a more or less systematic way, based on atoms or known named compounds (e.g. carbon tetrachloride, hydrofluoric acid).

While that approach may work, it's dull. Felicitous combinations of powers should be given felicitous names. In this case though, I think the functional gnu-queen is brief and flavourful in its own right, evoking a picture of "queen of the gnus".

A gnu-queen on d5 can already access 39 squares of the board. Riding the gnu part only gives another 8, all conditional on intervening squares being empty. Amazonrider also subsumes the major part of gnurider-queen. So even if someone makes a gnurider-queen problem to prove a point, there's no point in a flavour name, as the piece is unlikely to occur more generally.

  • 2
    I found Actress at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fairy_chess_pieces#A although it's probably a recurrent idea also mentioned elsewhere under different names, such as Glass Cannon at youtu.be/dSsT-khARVA Commented Jun 17 at 6:23
  • 2
    A correction to my comment: the name glass cannon is actually (what I remembered) from a viewer's comment to the video above, because the icon used happens to look like a cannon. The video author didn't give it a name (sometimes just calling it "cannon"), and asked viewers what name it should have. Other commenters also named it Mortar among other things. I searched the Betza notation for Actress (QNL/QNC) and found this, but I didn't find anything searching for what would be the notation for Gnurider queen (QNNLL/QNNCC). I wonder if there are better ways to search for powerful fairy pieces. Commented Jun 17 at 12:35
  • 2
    A correction to my comment: the notation used in the video description is actually F0W0NC. Still, I found no results for Gnurider queen F0W0N0C0. Commented Jun 17 at 12:50
  • 1
    Thanks for the detailed answer! I understand what you're saying about the gnu-queen's moves. I'm just really interested in how cool and different fairy chess pieces can be, even if they're not super useful in a game. It's fun to think about how these pieces could be used in new chess puzzles or games. Do you think there are any situations where a gnurider-queen could make things more interesting or challenging compared to the Actress?
    Commented Jun 17 at 15:08
  • 2
    @HTTYDTHW I don't know of a puzzle that uses a gnurider queen, perhaps because the default 8x8 board isn't really big enough for it. But you might like this puzzle involving a (sorta) knightrider queen: puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/74037 Commented Jun 17 at 15:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.