Here’s a comprehensive list of various chess variants:
- Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess): The starting position of the pieces is randomized, except for the pawns, which remain in their usual positions.
- Three-check Chess: The objective is to be the first player to deliver three checks to the opponent’s king.
- King of the Hill: The objective is to move your king to the center of the board (e4, d4, e5, or d5) and hold it there to win.
- Atomic Chess: When a piece is captured, it explodes, taking adjacent pieces with it.
- Horde Chess: The player controlling the white pieces faces an army of black pawns and must checkmate the black king to win.
- Racing Kings: Both players try to be the first to move their king to the eighth rank.
- Antichess (Losing Chess): The objective is to lose all your pieces or get stalemated.
- Gothic Chess: A larger board with additional pieces and modified movement rules.
- Cylinder Chess: The board is wrapped onto a cylinder, allowing pieces to “jump” from one side to the other.
- No-Castle Chess: Like normal chess, but no castling allowed long or short.
- Capture Anything Chess [Self-Capture Chess Variant]: Capture Anything Chess, also known as Self-Capture Chess Variant, is a chess variant where players can capture their own pieces, introducing a unique dynamic to the game.
- Hidden Identity Chess: Hidden Identity Chess is a variant of chess where players conceal the identity of their pieces from their opponent, adding an extra layer of strategy and uncertainty to the game.
- Shogi: Shogi is a Japanese chess variant played on a 9×9 board where captured pieces can be reintroduced to the game as one’s own.
- Chaturanga: Chaturanga is a strategic two-player board game believed to be the earliest precursor of chess, originating in ancient India, where players maneuver their pieces to capture the opponent’s king and achieve victory.
- Chessgi: A combination of Chess and Shogi, with the armies of both games and their respective rules.
- Capablanca Chess: A variant named after Cuban World Chess Champion Jose Capablanca, with an enlarged board and additional pieces.
- Grand Chess: Another variant played on a larger 10×10 board with new pieces and altered pawn movement.
- Shatranj: The historical precursor to modern chess, played on an 8×8 board without castling, pawn double moves, or en passant.
- Bird’s Chess: A variant where the initial position mirrors that of standard chess, but with shuffled ranks.
- Los Alamos Chess: Played on a 6×6 board, lacking bishops and queens.
- Embassy Chess: Features an extra “embassy” zone where captured pieces can be reintroduced to the game.
- Janus Chess: Each player has two kings, and pawns have the option to move two squares forward on their first move.
- Knight Relay Chess: Players alternate moving their knights instead of making a normal move.
- Omega Chess: Played on a 10×10 board with two additional pieces: the wizard and the champion.
- Turkish Chess: A variant where each player has two extra pieces: the ferz and the dabbaba.
- Suicide Chess (Giveaway Chess): The objective is to lose all your pieces or get checkmated. Also known as Loser’s Chess.
- Atomic Horde Chess: A combination of Atomic Chess and Horde Chess, where the objective is to checkmate the black king while dealing with exploding captures.
- Fog of War Chess: Fog of War chess introduces an element of uncertainty by concealing the opponent’s pieces until they are revealed through direct observation or strategic positioning.
- Bughouse Chess: Played in teams of two, each player captures pieces and passes them to their partner to place on their board.
- Crazyhouse Chess: Similar to Bughouse Chess, but with the added rule that captured pieces can be dropped back onto the board as one’s own.
- Knightmare Chess: A variant where players have a deck of cards that introduce special moves and abilities to the game.
- Minishogi: A smaller version of Shogi played on a 5×5 board with simplified rules.
- Cylinder Chess 360: Similar to Cylinder Chess but played on a cylindrical board that wraps in all directions.
- Maharajah and the Sepoys: A variant where one player controls the king and three bodyguard pieces, while the other controls an army of pawns trying to capture the king.
- Dice Chess: Players use dice to determine which piece to move and where it can move.
- Grasshopper Chess: Introduces a new piece, the grasshopper, which moves like a knight but continues jumping in the same direction.
- Checkless Chess: The game is played without the concept of check, and players focus solely on capturing the opponent’s king.
- Extinction Chess: The objective is to achieve a situation where your opponent is left without any pieces belonging to a particular category: the King, the Queen, both Bishops, both Knights, both Rooks, or all pawns.
- Ice Age Chess: Pieces can slide until they encounter an obstacle, which causes them to stop immediately.
- Maharaja Chess: A variant inspired by Indian history and culture, played on a 10×10 board with new pieces and rules.
- Double Chess: Played with two sets of standard chess pieces on a larger 16×8 board, allowing two moves per turn.
- Double-Take Chess: Each player makes two moves per turn instead of one. All other rules are the same.
- Checkers Chess: Combines the rules of chess and checkers, where pieces can promote and capture in a manner similar to checkers.
- Ambiguous Chess: Rather than executing their move, each player simply indicates a free or occupied square they intend to move to, provided they have at least one eligible piece capable of reaching that square. Subsequently, the opponent decides which of the potential pieces will actually make the move to the designated square. If only one piece is capable of moving to the specified square, the opponent has no choice and the move can be immediately executed. It is important to note that castling is regarded as a king move. There are no checks or checkmates; victory is achieved by capturing the opponent’s king.
- Grid Chess: Grid chess, an innovative chess variant introduced by Walter Stead in 1953, is played on a grid board consisting of a 64-square chessboard divided into larger squares by grid lines, with the unique rule that each legal move must involve crossing at least one of these grid lines, and the most widely adopted arrangement divides the board into sixteen 2×2 squares.
- Archchess: Italian Chess scholar Francesco Piacenza proposed the early Chess variant known as Arciscacchiere in his book “I Campeggiamenti negli Scacchi,” later named Archchess by John Gollon, featuring a 10×10 board, additional pawns, a centurion that jumps two squares in a straight line or knight-like pattern, a decurion that moves one square diagonally, and modified rules for promotion, castling, and en passant, including pawns always promoting to queens when reaching the last row.
- Chaturaji: Chaturaji, a four-player chess-like game, was initially a game of chance where dice determined the pieces to be moved, described by Al-Biruni in his book India around 1030, and a diceless version of the game continued to be played in India until the late 19th century.
- Progressive Chess: Progressive chess is a unique variation of the game, where players are not limited to making just one move per turn, but instead engage in progressively longer series of moves. The gameplay commences with White initiating the game with a single move, followed by Black making two consecutive moves. White then responds with three moves, and Black continues the pattern by making four moves, and so forth.
- Alapo (Boring) Chess: A variant where pawns can capture both forward and diagonally.
- Eurasian Chess: A combination of Western chess and Xiangqi (Chinese chess), played on a larger board with mixed pieces and rules.
- Atomic Bughouse Chess: Combines Atomic Chess and Bughouse Chess, adding the explosive captures of Atomic Chess to the team-based gameplay of Bughouse Chess.
- Hostage Chess: Players can take prisoners, and the captured pieces can be reintroduced to the board as their own.
- Identity Theft Chess (Mind Control Chess / Traitors Chess): In this variant, whenever a pawn captures an opponent’s piece, it immediately transforms or “promotes” into that piece.
- Wizard’s Chess: Inspired by the chess variant depicted in the Harry Potter series, with animated chess pieces that battle and capture each other.
- Cross Chess: Played on a cross-shaped board, allowing for unique movement patterns and strategic possibilities.
- Monster Chess: Monster chess, also known as Super King chess, is a chess variant where the White side has only a king and four pawns to face off against all the pieces of the Black side, with the goal for both sides being to checkmate the opponent’s king; White makes two successive moves per turn, including the ability for the white king to move into and out of check, and various combinations of pieces can lead to a checkmate in this variant.
- Ultima: A three-dimensional variant played on multiple stacked boards, with pieces able to move up and down the levels.
- Koopa Chess: Inspired by the Super Mario video game series, incorporating elements from the games into the chessboard and pieces.
- Hybrid Chess: Mixes traditional chess with digital elements of the game.
- Gliński’s Hexagonal Chess: Gliński’s hexagonal chess is a variant of chess played on a hexagonal board with different piece movement and strategic possibilities.
- Active Chess: Developed by G. Kuzmichov in 1989. Active Chess uses a 9×8 board and introduces an additional queen and pawn. The game’s creators found that the optimal starting position places the second queen on the eighth or ninth files.
- Balbo’s Game: introduced by G. Balbo in 1974, features a uniquely shaped board with 70 squares and allows each player to command a full army, minus one pawn.
- Circular Chess: Circular Chess is another example in this category, which, as the name suggests, is played on a circular board composed of four concentric rings, each consisting of sixteen squares.
- Cubic Chess: By M. Schmittberger (1980) takes the game to a three-dimensional plane with a 8x8x3 board, where pieces move in three dimensions but the game is played primarily on the middle layer.
- Infinite Chess: Where the game board is theoretically unbounded. However, the pieces are typically placed in a finite zone immediately surrounding the king.
- Three-Player Chess: A family of variants involving three players.
- Four-Player Chess: A family of variants involving four players.
Fairy Chess: Fairy Chess is a variant of traditional chess that introduces imaginative and unconventional rules, creating a whimsical and enchanting gameplay experience.
FAQs – Chess Variants
What are chess variants?
Chess variants are modifications or alternative versions of the traditional game of chess, featuring unique rules, board setups, and piece movements that offer diverse gameplay experiences.
Why play chess variants?
Chess variants provide an opportunity to explore new strategies, challenge traditional thinking, enhance creativity, and inject freshness into the game.
Are there different types of chess variants?
Yes, there are numerous types of chess variants, including randomized starting positions (like Chess960), variants with altered objectives (such as King of the Hill), and variants with unique pieces or board configurations (like Cylinder Chess or Shogi).
Are all chess variants based on the 8×8 board?
No, while many variants are played on the traditional 8×8 chessboard, there are variants played on larger or smaller boards, as well as variants played on non-rectangular or three-dimensional boards.
Do chess variants require learning new rules?
Yes, chess variants usually have modified rules compared to traditional chess, such as altered piece movements, new win conditions, or additional gameplay elements.
Can I still play chess variants online?
Yes, there are online platforms and websites that offer various chess variants, allowing you to play against other enthusiasts from around the world.
Which chess variant is the most popular?
The popularity of chess variants varies, but some popular ones include Chess960, Three-check Chess, and variants like Bughouse Chess and Atomic Chess that are commonly played in chess communities.
Are chess variants recognized in official chess competitions?
While traditional chess variants are not typically recognized in official competitions, some variants have developed their own dedicated communities and organized tournaments.
Can chess variants improve my chess skills?
Playing chess variants can enhance your overall chess understanding by challenging you to think in new ways, sharpening your tactical and strategic abilities, and expanding your repertoire of ideas.
Are there educational benefits to playing chess variants?
Yes, chess variants can be used as educational tools to teach critical thinking, problem-solving, planning, and logical reasoning, making them engaging learning tools for both children and adults.
Where can I learn more about specific chess variants?
There are numerous books, websites, and online resources dedicated to specific chess variants, providing rules, strategies, and historical information to help you delve deeper into the variant of your choice.
Can I create my own chess variant?
One of the fascinating aspects of chess variants is the ability to create your own unique version by modifying existing rules or introducing new elements, allowing for endless possibilities and personalization.