Introduction to Fairy Chess (Chess Variants)

Fairy chess is a fascinating area of chess composition where some rules of chess are altered to create new variants of the game.

It stands as a testament to the imaginative possibilities that chess, often considered a strictly logical game, can offer.

The term ‘fairy chess’ was introduced by Henry Tate in 1914, and since then, it has been synonymous with the unconventional exploration of chess.

Thomas R. Dawson (1889–1951), often referred to as the “father of fairy chess,” played a critical role in the development of this field.

He invented many fairy pieces and introduced new conditions, expanding the horizon of what was possible within the framework of chess.

Dawson was also the problem editor of the Fairy Chess Review from 1930 to 1951, contributing significantly to the spread and popularity of fairy chess.

The Scope of Fairy Chess

While the term “fairy chess” may sometimes be used to refer to games, it is more commonly applied to problems where the board, pieces, or rules are tweaked to express an idea or theme impossible in orthodox chess.

It’s a playground for chess enthusiasts to think outside the standard box of chess rules and come up with creative, interesting scenarios.

Variations on chess intended to create complete, playable games, on the other hand, are typically referred to as chess variants.

This distinguishes them from fairy chess, which focuses more on problem-solving under altered rules rather than creating a new game.

How to play Faerie Chess

Types of Changes in Fairy Chess

The beauty of fairy chess lies in the diversity of changes that can be made to the traditional rules.

Let’s look into some of the most common types of changes seen in fairy chess problems.

New Stipulations

The alterations most used by fairy chess players, like Thomas Dawson, are new stipulations about mate instead of a direct mate stipulation.

These new stipulations add an extra layer of complexity and challenge to the game, pushing players to think in different directions than they would in standard chess.

Many new stipulations were invented over the years, and some have become established within the fairy chess community.

Selfmates and checkmates, in the 21st century, are often considered to be orthodox, not fairy, stipulations.

However, there are many other types of stipulations, such as reflexmates and various types of seriesmovers, that add a unique twist to the game.

New Conditions

New conditions in fairy chess encompass all changes of rules, including rules for captures, checks, checkmates, and general movement abilities.

These changes can drastically alter the nature of the game, creating new strategic considerations and requiring players to adapt their playstyle.

Some of these new conditions have become established, including Circe chess, Madrasi chess, Andernach chess, monochromatic chess, patrol chess, Einstein chess, and Descartes chess.

Each of these variants introduces unique rules and constraints that make the game more challenging and interesting.

New Chess Pieces

One of the most exciting aspects of fairy chess is the introduction of new chess pieces.

Conventional chess pieces are generalized into fairy chess pieces, such as the grasshopper, nightrider, and cannon.

These pieces operate differently from traditional chess pieces, and they introduce novel strategies and tactics into the game.

The Most ANNOYING Chess Piece! | Fairy Chess

Different Boards

In fairy chess, even the board itself is not immune to change. The standard 8×8 chess board can be varied to other sizes like 10×10 or 8×10, or even unusual board shapes.

One can also use different geometries, such as cylinder (vertical and horizontal), anchor ring, or torus, and others.

These variations on the board create new spatial relationships between pieces and add yet another layer of complexity to the game.

Combinations of Changed Rules

It’s not uncommon to find fairy chess problems that combine some of these changed rules.

A problem might incorporate new pieces, stipulations, and a different board, for example.

This blend of changes creates a multifaceted challenge that tests a player’s flexibility and creativity in chess strategy.

Fairy Chess in Competitions and Albums

Fairy chess has found its place even in world championships and the FIDE Albums.

Entries in these prestigious events and compilations are divided into eight sections: directmates (2-movers, 3-movers, and more-movers), endgame studies, selfmates, checkmates, fairy chess, retro, and mathematical problems.


Fairy chess, with its unique stipulations, conditions, pieces, and boards, offers a fresh perspective on the timeless game of chess.

It encourages creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, and a deep understanding of the game’s mechanics.

Whether you’re a seasoned chess player or a newcomer to the game, diving into the world of fairy chess can provide a fun and challenging way to enhance your skills and deepen your appreciation of chess.

FAQs – Fairy Chess

What is Fairy Chess?

Fairy Chess is a variant of traditional chess that introduces new rules, pieces, and board configurations, offering a fresh and imaginative twist on the classic game.

How does Fairy Chess differ from regular chess?

Fairy Chess differs from regular chess by introducing unique pieces, altered movement rules, and special conditions that add complexity and creativity to the game.

What are some common examples of Fairy Chess variants?

Some popular Fairy Chess variants include Alice Chess, where pieces can change size and move differently based on their position on the board, and Circe Chess, where captured pieces are reborn on their starting squares.

Can I use regular chess pieces in Fairy Chess?

While it’s possible to adapt regular chess pieces to certain Fairy Chess variants, many variants have their own specially designed pieces that enhance the gameplay and take advantage of the new rules.

Are there specific rules for Fairy Chess, or is it customizable?

Fairy Chess can be highly customizable, allowing players to modify existing rules or create entirely new ones to suit their preferences.

Some variants have established rulesets, but the flexibility to experiment and invent is a defining feature of Fairy Chess.

Is Fairy Chess suitable for beginners?

While Fairy Chess can be enjoyed by players of all skill levels, it may present a steeper learning curve for beginners due to the additional rules and unique piece movements.

Starting with simpler Fairy Chess variants or gradually introducing new elements can help ease beginners into the game.

Can I play Fairy Chess online?

Yes, there are online platforms, chess engines, and computer programs that offer Fairy Chess variants, allowing you to play against AI opponents or other players from around the world.

Are there Fairy Chess tournaments or communities?

Yes, there are communities of Fairy Chess enthusiasts who organize tournaments, discuss strategies, and explore new variants.

Online forums, social media groups, and dedicated websites are great places to connect with fellow Fairy Chess players.

Can Fairy Chess improve my regular chess skills?

Playing Fairy Chess can enhance your strategic thinking, problem-solving abilities, and creativity, which can positively impact your regular chess gameplay as well.

It can broaden your understanding of different tactical possibilities and train you to think outside the box.

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