Chess variant

From Academic Kids

A chess variant is any game derived from, related to or similar to chess in at least one respect. The difference from chess can include one or more of the following:

  • Different board (larger or smaller, another board form, e.g. hexagonal or circle)
  • Fairy pieces, different from those in chess
  • Different rules for capture, move order, game goal etc.

The national chess variants like xiangqi and shogi are traditionally also called chess variants in western world. They have many similarities with chess and share a common ancestor.

In the context of chess problems, chess variants are called fantasy chess, heterodox chess or fairy chess. Some chess variants are used only in chess composition and not for playing.

To experts of chess variants, chess, shogi, xiangqi, and other chess-related games of great popularity are merely special cases in a theoretically unlimited universe of possible arrangements involving boards, pieces, rules, and so on. Hundreds of chess variants have been devised. With the recent creation in 1998 of Zillions of Games, a computer program which enables non-experts to quickly design and playtest chess variants using an AI opponent, the total number has been increasing constantly and rapidly. This growth is likely to continue for years.


Chess-derived games

These chess variants are derived from chess by changing board, rules or adding new pieces.

Chess with unusual rules

These chess variants have the same pieces as chess, but some rules for moving, capturing etc. are changed. The board shape and game goal can be also different from those in chess.

  • Alice chess: played with two boards. A piece moved on one board passes "through the looking glass" onto the other board.
  • Andernach chess: a piece making a capture changes color.
  • Archon: success of piece capture depends on the strength of the attacking piece (with better chances for more powerful piece).
  • Atomic chess: any capture on a square results in an "atomic explosion" which kills (i.e. removes from the game) all pieces in any of the 8 surrounding squares, except for pawns.
  • Avalanche chess: each player moves an opponent's pawn after their move.
  • Checkers chess: normal rules of chess are followed, however, pieces can only move forward until they have reached the last row.
  • Checkless chess: where players are forbidden from giving check except to checkmate.
  • Circe chess: captured pieces are reborn on their starting squares.
  • Compact chess: In Compact Chess, you play on a 6×6 board whereby the bishops are moved to replace the king and queen's pawn. All standard chess rules apply, including castling.
  • Crazyhouse: captured pieces change the color and can be dropped on any unoccupied location. There are two variations of this chess variant, known as Loop Chess and Chessgi.
  • Cylinder chess: played on regular 8x8 chessboard with the same pieces, start position and rules as for standard Chess. The only difference is that A and H columns are "connected". Thus a player can use them as A column would be next to H column (and vice versa).
  • Dark Chess: you see only positions attacked by your pieces.
  • Extinction chess: you win by extincting a type of piece of your opponent. That is, you win if you capture your opponents king or queen, both his rooks, bishops or knights, or all his pawns.
  • Fischer Random Chess: the placement of the pieces on the 1st and 8th rank is randomized.
  • Grid chess: the board is overlaid with a grid of lines; for a move to be legal, it must cross at least one of these lines.
  • Hexapawn: a simple chess variant played only with pawns.
  • King's Corner chess: like Fischer Random Chess, the placement of the pieces on the 1st and 8th row are randomized, but with the king in the right hand corner. Blacks starting position is obtained by rotating white's position 180 degrees around the boards center.
  • Knightmare Chess: played with cards that change the game rules.
  • Kriegspiel: each player does not know where the opponent's pieces are but can deduce them with information from a referee.
  • Madrasi chess: a piece which is attacked by the same type of piece of the opposite colour is paralysed.
  • Marseillais Chess: after the first turn of the game by white being a single move, each player moves twice per turn.
  • Monster Chess: white has the king and four pawns against the entire black army but may make two successive moves per turn.
  • Multiple move chess: players make multiple moves each turn according to a few special rules to keep the game fairly traditional.
  • Patrol chess: captures and checks are only possible if the capturing or checking piece is guarded by a friendly piece.
  • Pion coiff: you need to deliver checkmate with a pawn to win.
  • Progressive chess: (a.k.a. Scotch Chess) the first player moves once, the second moves twice, the first moves three times, etc.
  • Suicide chess: (a.k.a. Giveaway Chess, Take Me Chess, Losers Chess, Antichess, Must Kill) capturing moves are mandatory and the object is to lose all pieces.
  • Three Checks Chess: you win if you check your opponent three times.
  • Three-dimensional chess: several variants exist, with the most popular being "Tri-D Chess" from the television series Star Trek.
  • Quiz bowl chess: you must answer trivia questions in order to move a piece. If a question is answered incorrectly, the turn is forfeited.

Multiplayer variants

These variants arose out of the desire to play chess with more than just one other person.

  • Bughouse chess: (a.k.a. Tandem Chess, Siamese Chess, Swap Chess) two teams of two players face each other on two boards. Allies use opposite colours and give captured pieces to thier partner.
  • Djambi: can be played by four people with a 9x9 board and four sets of special pieces. The pieces can capture or move the pieces of an adversary. Captured pieces are not removed from the board, but turned upside down. There are variants for three players or five players (pentachiavel).
  • Forchess: a four-person version using the standard board and two sets of standard pieces.
  • Four-handed chess: can be played by three or four people and uses a special board and four sets of differently colored pieces.

Chess with unusual pieces

The most pieces in these chess variants are taken from chess. The game goal and rules are also very similar to those in chess. However these chess variants include one or more fairy pieces, which move differently then in chess.

  • Baroque chess: (a.k.a. Ultima) most of the pieces move like queens. They are named after their unusual capturing methods; e.g., Chameleon, Immobilizer, and Coordinator.
  • Capablanca chess: a few game variations played on a 10×8 or 10×10 board with two new pieces: Chancellor (Rook+Knight) and Archbishop (Bishop+Knight).
  • Dragon Chess: uses three 8×12 boards atop one another, with new types of chess piece.
  • Gothic Chess: is a commercial chess variant played on a 10x8 board with a Chancellor and an Archbishop as new pieces. It was patented in 2002 by Ed Trice. It is similar to Capablanca Chess.
  • Grand chess: is a popular chess variant played upon a 10x10 board. It was invented in 1984 by Christian Freeling. It is related to Capablanca Chess.
  • Janus Chess: played on 10×8 board with a fairy chess piece, (Bishop+Knight) named a Janus.
  • Maharajah and the Sepoys: black has a complete army, white only one piece - Maharajah (Queen+Knight).
  • Omega chess: played on a 10×10 board with a four extra squares, one per corner. Also, there are two fairy chess pieces used.
  • Ultima: Another name for Baroque chess.

Games inspired by chess

These chess variants are very different from chess and can be considered as an own abstract board game and not as a chess variant.

Chess-related national games

These games have developed independently from chess, from origins that may well reach back to some common proto-chess game. Nonetheless, they are potentially definable as chess variants (with some possible difficulties). The popularity of these chess variants may be limited to their respective places of origin (as is largely the case for shogi), or worldwide, as is the case for xiangqi which is played by overseas Chinese everywhere. These games have their own institutions and traditions.

Chess variants software

Aside from the Zillions of games scriptable search engine, some program authors have created stand-alone applications that are capable of playing one or more variants. These "dedicated" programs tend to be much stronger than their Zillions counterparts.


In addition to individual chess variants with popularity, large collections (generally acknowledged to be of respectable quality) have been created by several inventors.

See also

Fairy chess pieces


External links

nl:Schaakvariant ru:Варианты шахмат zh:象棋變體


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