Top Chess Variants

A phenomenal amount of chess variants are available to today’s players. In fact, the standard chess game familiar to everybody is itself a variant of previous standards. For instance, the queen used to be able to only move one space at a time in a diagonal direction. Some of the more interesting variants have been invented by chess experts and aficionados. They are often tested for approval by students of the game. Here then is a look at some of the more mind-bending chess variants available to players craving either more of a challenge, or simply something different.

Chess Variations Played with Standard Boards and Pieces

— Lord Dunsany’s Chess

Black sets up in normal fashion while White consists of 32 pawns. This has also been called Horde Chess, which is played with 36 pawns.

— Peasants Revolt

Black, the nobles, has the advantage in this game, setting up with a king, pawn, and four knights. White, the peasants, begin the game with just the king and eight pawns.

— Atomic Chess

This was introduced in 1995 on a German chess site. Any capture results in all pieces within eight squares of the capture, except for pawns, to be removed from play.

— Monster Chess

White’s king and four pawns take on Black’s entire army. However, White can move twice each turn.

— Plunder Chess

A capturing piece may take on the capabilities of the captured piece, but only for one move. This option can be used at the discretion of the capturer.

— Swarm Chess

Each player during his turn must move all pieces that can be moved.

— King of the Hill Chess

In this variety of the old child’s schoolyard game, D-4, E-4, D-5, and E-5 serve as the top of the hill. The mission of the two players is to be the first one to get their king to the top of the hill.

Many chess variants rely on using different board types, extra pieces, or even fairy pieces. Fairy pieces are nontraditional game pieces involving tokens with different abilities than traditional pieces. Here are some chess games that require more than just a change of rules.

— 3-D Chess

Believed to have been invented in 1851, 3-D chess took a huge leap in popularity when Star Trek episodes began showing the game being played in its televised episodes. The bottom board belongs to Black, the middle board is neutral, and the top board is White’s. Each side has two movable attack boards. The attack boards consist of 4 squares each and a player may only utilize his attack board if it contains no more than one piece.

— Alice Chess

Nearly one hundred years after its publication in 1865, this book spawned a popular, yet disorienting variation of chess which requires two boards. When one piece moves, it transfers through the so-called looking glass to the other board. Captures can only be made upon the boards where the pieces sit.

— Double Chess

This is exactly what it says. Play with double the armies on a double-sized board.

— Rollerball Chess

Inspired by the classic Jame’s Caan movie of the same name, a standard chessboard may be used, but the center part must be squared out leaving only a two-square lane ringing the board. This will mimic a rollerball rink. Each player sets up at opposite sides of the rink using just a king, bishop, two pawns, and two rooks. They move counterclockwise around the rink.

— Four Player Chess

Four players control four armies on a special board set up for four players.

— Bughouse Chess

This is another, albeit nuttier, way for four players to engage in a match. While a special board isn’t needed, two boards and two sets of pieces are required. Players team up, sitting next to each other, and play chess by the normal rules. However, when one player captures a piece, he hands it off to his teammate. This person can put it into play immediately, or set it aside in reserve to be used at his discretion. These matches are usually played with a time clock and can be chaotic; like a bughouse.

— Blindfold Chess

While the name may conjure up more of a parlor game played after too much drinking, the truth is this is one of the chess variants that require a high degree of skill, concentration, memory, and brain power. Neither player is allowed to see or touch the pieces. They must call out their move while a third party places the piece to the player’s desired square on the board. This game originated when superior chess masters were challenged to play an opponent while blindfolded. This particular variety of game has also been used by chess players to sharpen their game and knowledge of the chessboard.

Chess Variants Using Fairies

Chess fairies are like chess pieces in an alternate world. Some of their names are nightrider, camel, grasshopper, falcon, and centaur. Of course they all have different abilities than the standard chess pieces. The camel, for instance, can move like a knight, except it can go three spaces up or over, as opposed to the two spaces that limit the knight.

Fairies may be bought as their own original piece or can be represented by inverting or marking certain other pieces. They are not used to replace regular chess pieces in the traditional chess games, but are used in their own particular chess variants which require their presence.

Napoleon was an avid chess player who often referred to the battlefield as his chessboard. When considering a general for a particular campaign, Napoleon was often more concerned not with the general’s bravery, abilities, or strategic knowledge. What Napoleon wanted to know whether or not the general was lucky. Winning a chess match takes astonishing amounts of patience, concentration, intelligence, and yes, luck. Try out a couple of these chess variants to either challenge yourself, or just to add a little extra fun to chess night.

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