Chess variants you've tried

When I was younger and lived for chess, I read up on the history and discovered lots of variations over the centuries. The one we played most had pieces that were combinations of knight-bishop, and knight-rook. Just as the queen is a bishop-rook. Played on a 10x10 board, it made for a long game, but that was actually an advantage when players were mismatched, since the weaker player seemed to have hope for a long time, and could in fact win despite being several pieces behind.

Strip chess! :eek:

I’ve tried my hand at the commercial variants of 3-D chess.


The only one worth playing.

Martian Chess, from Chessmen of Mars by Burroughs.

And some of the medieval early versions.

Give Away, or something like that. The goal was to lose by forcing your opponent to take your pieces.

I can recommend Madrasi chess.
It allows weaker players to play a reasonable game against stronger ones and also encourages planning.

David Pritchard wrote the standard book.

So much fun! Bug house is about ten times more fun than standard chess.

I think I’ve heard of it as “suicide chess”, I forget the exact rules.

I’ve also played a version that had a checkers-like mechanic of not allowing any of your pieces to move backwards until you reached the row closest to your opponent with that piece. Everything moved normally otherwise… your bishops would move diagnally, your queen could move forward, diagnally, or laterally, etc., but nothing could move back at all until it was “kinged” by reaching the furthest row. It was fun.

I also remember “atomic chess” where when a piece was taken, the 9 spaces surrounding that piece would “explode” killing any pieces in the area. Fast game and odd, but still required strategy and was interesting.

Among the many fascinating things on the site of Ed the Pathology Guy is a vast collection of chess variants and simple applets demonstrating them against (fairly stupid) computer opponents. I’m fond of Absorption Chess, myself.

I made my own set, in the 70’s.

Also, I played Cubic Chess.

My seven year old son is a bughouse addict.

Monster Chess.

One side gets the full compliment of pieces and standard moves.

The other side gets only the king, which is a monster that can make two standard moves each turn. That means he can capture any piece and move back to a safe square in the same turn. The opponent needs both rooks and the queen to trap him.


Oops, I though you meant cheese variants. Sorry.

Ultima : Played with chess pieces on a regular chessboard. But if you think if chess as a game where each pice has a differnet way to move but the same way to capture (landing on an opponent), Ultima pieces have only a few different moves but each type of piece has a different way to do captures.

Looking-glass Chess: You have a second board representing the mirror world. A piece that moves on the real board disappears and reappears on the mirror board, and vice versa. However, a move must be legal on the board it is made. Fool’s mate in this variant runs something like:

  1. e4 d5; 2. Qe2 d5xe4; 3. Qb5. The Queen has reappeared on the real board and is giving check. 3. … Kd7; is not legal on the board on which it is made (as the King is still in check) even though it would result in the King escaping to the mirror board. Interposition is not possible as on completing any legal move (e.g. 3. … Nc6) the piece disappears to the mirror board!

I’ve played a kind of four-handed chess where each player has King, Bishop, Knight and Rook, plus four pawns, and sets up with the King in the left-hand corner of his side of the board.

Burmese Chess: The pawns are set up a3-d3, e4-h4 (for White) and h6-e6, d5-a5 (for Black). The pieces begin off-board and the players take turns to place them on-board. Nothing may be taken and no pawn moved until all the pieces are placed, and this must be behind their pawns. Once all pieces are placed, players can continue to transfer them freely in friendly territory instead of making regular moves - however, this ends once a pawn is moved or anything captured. There is (it need hardly be said) no castling. The Queen has the power of a fers, moving one square diagonally only. The Bishop is an elephant, having the Queen’s power or a one-square forward move (the same as sho-gi’s “Silver General”). Pawns promote (to Queen only) upon reaching either long diagonal. For a few weeks when I was at school we were playing this more than FIDE chess!

Replacing Chess: On taking anything, you immediately put it back on the board, but it can go anywhere you like. A popular tactic is to put powerful enemy pieces in the corner of the board and surround them with pawns so they can’t move. Again, there was a craze for this when I was a lad.

Unnamed variant (you could call it Subbuteo Chess I suppose): From the usual starting position, you take turns to flick your pieces at the opponent’s (note the possessive apostrophe :slight_smile: ). The object is to knock all the enemy pieces off the board.

I forget what we called this variant, but we played it many times and it is great fun:
2 teams playing on 2 boards. If you are white on board A, your partner is black on board B, and vice versa. Every time you capture one of the opponent’s pieces, your partner can choose to spend a move introducing that piece on his board, though not in a position where that piece directly threatens the opponent’s king. Watches set at 5 mins. When a player loses a game, his team loses.
And there is an alcohol-driven variation of this game. You lose a piece, you drink. Yay!

Haven’t played it yet, but I’ve been thinking off and on about a new variant I would call Zombie Chess. I have no idea whether it or something like it would actually work.

There are three players. One takes white, and a second takes black, and these two are trying to play a normal chess game. However a third player is in control of the zombies. What are zombies? Well (this is part I haven’t quite worked out he mechanics of yet) when a piece is killed, instead of being captured, it becomes a zombie, and reverts to the control of the third player.

The victory condition for the third player is just to make every piece remaining on the board into a zombie.

Victory condition for the other two players is as follows: The enemy king has been checkmated AND there are no zombies on the board.

What if a player’s king is turned into a zombie? In this case, if the player still has a queen, she is demoted to king. If there is no queen, then some non-pawn piece of that player’s choosing is promoted to king. If there are only pawns, then one of the pawns is promoted.

What if a player’s king is checkmated while there are still zombies on the board? Then that player loses and his pieces revert to the control of the checkmating player. The player who has lost now has the right to kibbutz passionately to her heart’s content.

Okay, a little chaotic I know. But that stands to reason. It’s Zombies!


(Also working on Vampire Chess and Werewolf Chess. For halloween.)

I sometimes like to play a variant wherein the two players get to set up their armies on the board in whatever formation they wish (each sticking to his own half of the board of course.) A screen or some other means is used to allow each to set up his formation without the other’s being able to see.

It’s not a great variant for depth, but it’s fun.


Screen Chess, as it’s known.

Kriegspiel is fun too - you need three boards, two sets and an umpire. White has only his own pieces in front of him, ditto for black, and the players see neither the other’s board nor the umpire’s. As a move is made it is transferred to the umpire’s board as long as it is legal there; otherwise the umpire says “You may not” and the player must play another move. Some variants require that the umpire inform the to-move player that a pawn capture is possible, others that the player must ask “Pawn captures?” and be told “No” or “Try”. The umpire also announces when a move has resulted in a capture, and if the to-move player is in check on the rank, file, long or short diagonal (from his king) or by a knight.

I have played one variant of Kaissa, Gorean Chess, which unfortunately is never described in full (as Jetan is in Chessmen of Mars) but has been reverse-engineered by many well-meaning Gor fans. It’s played on a ten-by-ten board with variant pieces, and the Home Stone, Kaissa’s equivalent of the King, begins off-board, must be placed on or before move 10, and cannot capture.

Strip chess? How do you concentrate?

3-D, I forgot I’d tried those. There was one I saw once on line that was a full 8x8 cube. But it cost too much and didn’t have a sample mode, just a neat demo of a few moves.