Atomic chess is a chess variant with a special “explosion” feature. Standard rules of chess apply, but all captures result in destroying surrounding white and black pieces other than pawns and removing them from the board. There is no check or checkmate, the objective is to have the opponent’s king exploded.
A good way to learn a new game is to observe other people play it. Let’s go through the Atomic Chess game that was played on BrainKing.com in 2003.
1. ♘f3 (The first move selection is a highly sensitive matter in Atomic Chess, and an early change of a knight can quickly finish the game. Black must immediately counter the apparent threats or lose.)
1. … f6 (The only response to avoid ♘g5 and ♘e5 at the same time. Any other line leads to a significant material loss to avoid the king explosion. For instance: 1. ♘f3 e5 2. ♘g5 f5 3. h4! (The tempting 3. ♘f7?? would be a suicide: 3. … ♛h4 4. g3 ♛d4! and White cannot avert the explosion on d2 or f2.) 3. … ♝c5 4. d4 ♝b6 5. ♘f7 ♛e7 6. ♘d6 ♚f8 7. ♘xb7 and the explosion destroyed four black pieces (a rook, a knight and both bishops), while White only sacrificed a knight.)
2. ♘c3 (The Two Knights Attack. White threatens to advance to e5 and demolish Black’s fortress.)
2. … ♞h6 (A very tricky reaction. Now the expected 3. ♘e5? would be met with surprising 3. … e6! and although White could follow up with 4. ♘xc7 to blow up the black queen, bishop and knight simultaneously, they would be lost after 4. … ♞g4, as it’s not possible to prevent 5. … ♞xf2 that would kill the white king.)
3. g4 (Prevents 3. … ♞g4.)
3. … c6 (Now it’s necessary to counter the other knight’s possible advance.)
4. e4 (White prepares to play 5. e5 and cripple Black’s defense structure.)
4. … e5 (The forced countermove. Also frees the black bishop diagonal.)
5. ♘g5 (White decided to administer a breakthrough, as 5. … fxg5 would destroy the black knight on h6 too, and could dangerously weaken the king-side.)
5. … ♞f5 (An interesting resolution. Capturing the knight by either pawn would destroy the white one as well. Remember that pawns are immune to the explosions, so the other pawn would stay on the board unharmed. Besides that, the black knight, if ignored, could get dangerously close to the white base.)
6. ♘f7 (Threatening 7. ♘xd8 and boom! There is no doubt that knights are the most powerful pieces in Atomic Chess. And the king cannot capture the knight, as a suicidal explosion would be against the rules.)
6. … ♛b6 (White must avoid 7. … ♛xf2.)
7. d4 (The only one. 7. ♗e3 would only cause 7. … ♞xe3.)
7. … ♝b4 (Note that 7. … exd4 would lose the game after 8. ♕xd7.)
8. ♘d8 (A big explosion alert! The field b7 becomes the crucial point of the strategy.)
8. … ♛a5 (Saves the queen, but the other pieces next to b7 are doomed.)
9. dxe5 (The first explosion in the game. White destroyed the black knight and opened the d-file, so Black faced the immediate threat, 10. ♕xd7.)
9. … O-O (Yes, it’s possible to castle in this variant. Black king made it to safety, at least for now.)
10. ♘xb7 (However, other black pieces weren’t that lucky. KABOOM! Five pieces destroyed – a black pawn, bishop, knight and rook + the suicidal white knight. But despite the huge material advantage, White cannot drop the guard for the slightest moment, as any unexpected breakthrough of the remaining pieces could instantly reverse the odds.)
10. … ♜e8 (Black attempts to activate the rest of their forces.)
11. ♗b5 (The queen is getting surrounded. The bishop is safe there, as a capture would destroy the queen.)
11. … d5 (Tries to open the e-file and kill the king with the rook.)
12. a3 (If the black bishop doesn’t move, axb4 will destroy four pieces at once, including the black queen.)
12. … dxe4 (Black tests White’s focus. 13. axb4?? ♜xe1 and only a crater would be left at the former king’s place.)
13. ♗e3 (But White doesn’t get fooled. Black is running out of moves.)
13. … ♜d8 (The last try to do something.)
14. ♕d7 (And this is the end. Black must capture the queen or their king will be blown up by 15. ♕xg7 (or 14. … g6 15. ♕xh7) And after the black rook explodes, killing the white queen, White will exterminate the rest of the black pieces by axb4 and win the game with a huge material advantage).
Atomic Chess has gained popularity in recent years, particularly online, where it has a growing community of players and has even been featured in several chess tournaments. It is known for being a very dynamic and exciting variant of chess that requires players to think creatively and adapt to changing board states quickly.