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Congo, invented by a seven year old in 1982, in little more than an hour, went on to become the second most popular Chess variant at the games club 'Fanatic' at Twente University, the Netherlands.

Congo takes pride of place on the cover of David Pritchard's 'The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants' (G&P Publications, P.O. Box 20, Godalming, Surrey GU8 4YP, UK. - ISBN 0-9524142-0-1).

You can download this MindSports applet, which is tailored to save games played in the Pit, offline.

The applet shows the board with the pieces in initial position. There are two players, black and white. White begins. Players move - and must move - in turn.

  • The object of Congo is to capture the opponent's Lion. There's no rule against a Lion moving into check: it is simply captured. Since players must move on their turn, this effectively makes stalemate a win.

The Lions
  • The Lion is the proverbial King of this jungle. With one exception he may not leave his 3x3 castle. Inside he moves and captures as the King in Chess.
  • The mutual check rule: If Lions face one another along an open file or diagonal, both are in check and the player whose turn it is can capture his opponent's Lion and win. This is the exception mentioned above.

The river
With the exception of the crocodile, that cannot drown, and the Lion, that cannot enter the river, pieces are subject to the following:
  • A piece that ends its move in the river must leave it next turn or drown.
    A drowned piece is removed at the end of the turn. The piece may not have moved at all, for instance because its Lion had to move out of check (!), or may have moved within the river, or even, in the Monkey's case, out of and back into the river. In the latter cases any captures made are legal.

Example endgame
Sorry, you need a Java enabled browser to view the Congo Player! In the diagram the white Lion cannot move to the d-file because it will be captured. Anticipating that the zebra moves as the knight in Chess, white must NOT move b2-c4+, because the black Lion would move to the c-file, pinning it in the river where it would drown, and thus drawing the game. As it is, the game is won: in Congo a Lion and any piece, including a pawn, always wins against a bare Lion.

  • The Zebra moves as the Knight in Chess.
  • The Elephant moves one or two squares along ranks and files.
    The two-square move is a jump to the target-square, unaffected by intervening pieces of either color.
In the diagram the elephant can capture the black pawn.
Two elephants leapfrogging a file, are known as the elephant roll.

  • The Giraffe may move and capture jumping to the second square along ranks, files and diagonals. The move is not affected by intervening pieces of either color. In addition the giraffe may move, but not capture, using the king's move in Chess.
    The circled squares are the ones onto which the giraffe may move, but not capture.

  • The Crocodile moves as the king in Chess. When on land it also controls the file towards the river, including the river square.

  • Inside the river the crocodile controls the whole length of it.
    Crocodiles cannot drown.

  • The Monkey moves like the King in Chess and captures a piece by jumping over it along rank, file or diagonal to the square immediately beyond, which must be vacant for the capture to take place.
    A monkey may - but is not obliged to - make multiple captures in the same turn. During a multiple capture it may visit a square, including river squares, more than once, but it may not jump the same piece more than once.
    The drowning rule only applies if it ends its move in the river.
    The monkey jumping the Lion terminates both the move and the game, as illustrated in the diagram.

Congo pawns are very logical in their forward movement, less so in their abilities of retreat. Yet, here it is:
  • A Pawn moves and captures one square straight or diagonally forward. Across the river it may retreat one or two squares straight backward, but it may neither capture nor jump a piece in doing so.
  • A pawn promotes to Superpawn upon reaching the back rank. A superpawn has the additional power to move & capture one square sideways. It may now also retreat in a diagonal direction, and this ability no longer depends on its position with regard to the river.

External links

Congo © Demian Freeling
Java applet © Ed van Zon