The game of “Anteater” is one I have used for a couple of years in teaching chess. I wanted to post it online after seeing a similar game in a chess instruction book. Additional fun games for teaching chess to groups of young people can be found at my blog. These include "Magnetic Sumo Kings" and "Pawn Battle: Rules and Strategies." I have also written a multi-part series on teaching chess to kids: see parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, along with "Mating Patterns: Bishop and Rook" and "More Bishop and Rook Mates."
The game of “Anteater” pits the Queen against eight pawns plus two moves (or “tempi,” meaning units of time). This game has a lot to teach us about the power of the Queen, the relative value of the pieces, and the trade-off between time and material.
The set-up for the board is shown below:
- The pawns and the Queen move as in regular chess and begin on their normal starting squares.
- Black moves first and is given TWO moves to begin the game. After that, players take turns and make one move each turn. (If you find that the anteater Queen keeps winning, experiment with giving Black THREE moves to start, which might actually be a winning advantage with best play by Black).
- If the Queen (the anteater) gobbles up all of the pawns, then White wins.
- If any one of the pawns (the ants) makes it safely to the other side of the board, without being captured, it becomes an anteater and Black wins.
- The ants need to work together and support each other, forming “pawn chains,” in order to help make it to the other side.
- Usually some ants need to be sacrificed to the anteater in order for a small team to advance quickly.
- The anteater can attack two pawns at a time in order to win one by force. We call this tactic a “fork,” since it’s “a two-pronged attack.”
- In the end, zugzwang (forcing the opponent to make a bad move) is a key tactic.