Chess Variants

SchemingMind.com does not only support traditional 'Standard' Chess; several chess variants which use the same board and pieces can also be played. Some of these are very similar to Standard Chess (for example with different starting positions), some are different games in their own right, but all are great fun to play!

If you want to learn more about chess variants, we can highly recommend two great books (clicking the links will take you to the Amazon pages where you can purchase the books).

The Classified Encyclopedia of Chess Variants by David Pritchard and edited posthumously by John Beasley (ISBN: 978-0955516801). A single comprehensive guide to chess and all it's extended family of board games. Popular Chess Variants, again by David Pritchard (ISBN: 978-0713485783). This guide covers new and exciting games that can be played on a standard chessboard, as well as variants from the Far East such as Xiangqi and Shogi.

Another great resource for information about chess variants is the ChessVariants.org web site.

Listed below are the chess variants that you can play on SchemingMind.com - many of these are described in more detail by the resources listed above.

Chess960

Many chess masters valued the challenge of playing chess with a non-standard setup as a way to break out of the opening play doldrums. Chess960 (Fischer Random Chess) plays like Standard Chess with the exception of a randomly generated opening setup of pieces behind the 8 pawns.

As a result, castling may appear perplexing yet is possible with the caveat the pieces will move to how they would had they been arranged in standard chess. When a legal castle is available to you, the castling icons will appear on your icon bar (O-O and O-O-O) and it is recommended you use these instead of trying to move your king. You may also type in the castling move.

More information on Fischer Random Chess is available on ChessVariants.org

Alice Chess 1

Alice Chess is played on two standard chess boards (A and B), with one set of standard chess pieces. The game starts using the Standard Chess start array on board A, board B starts empty.

After each move, the piece is also moved to the corresponding square on the opposite board. Moves must be legal on the board on which they are made, and you can only move if the destination square is vacant on the opposite board. You can't move through check, even if that move would transport your king to the opposite board.

Castling is allowed (both king and rook are transported), en-passant is not allowed.

There is more information about Alice Chess on ChessVariants.org, there's also an interesting piece on the BCVS site here.

On SchemingMind.com Board A is displayed in the normal place, Board B can be seen by selecting the 'Alice' tab in the right hand panel. The analysis board shows both boards superimposed on each other.

Alice Chess 2

Alice 2 is similar to Alice 1, however the black pieces start on Board B.

All Queens

No point in wasting time with slow knight moves: For the truly power hungry, you can have your King and seven Queens and battle to a bitter pawn endgame, unless you're savvy enough to force checkmate before then.

Atomic Chess

Pieces explode when capturing knocking out any adjacent pieces of both colours (including the taken piece!) Pawns are ony destroyed when capturing or being captured, otherwise remain intact, so use them as shields and don't always make every capture. You can castle but may not want to given the limited mobility of your King in the corner.

Kings cannot capture because they would explode so mates can be had with just a Queen, but most often games result in the Kings being exploded so watch for any threat that comes close to pieces adjacent your king. Checks are allowed but if you are under threat of an impending explosion your check is useless. Knights are quite sneaky in this game.

Kings can be side by side as they cannot capture each other, that is a good way to force a draw if possible.

More information on Atomic Chess is available on ChessVariants.org

Atomic960

Atomic Chess, but with a random Chess960 starting position.

Pieces explode when capturing knocking out any adjacent pieces of both colours (including the taken piece!) Pawns are ony destroyed when capturing or being captured, otherwise remain intact, so use them as shields and don't always make every capture. You can castle but may not want to given the limited mobility of your King in the corner.

Kings cannot capture because they would explode so mates can be had with just a Queen, but most often games result in the Kings being exploded so watch for any threat that comes close to pieces adjacent your king. Checks are allowed but if you are under threat of an impending explosion your check is useless. Knights are quite sneaky in this game.

Kings can be side by side as they cannot capture each other, that is a good way to force a draw if possible.

Benedict Chess

Pieces move as in Standard Chess, except that captures are not allowed.

When a moved piece attacks (threatens it with what would be a legal capture in Standard Chess) the attacked piece changes color -- it defects.

A piece that changes color -- a traitor -- has full function for the new side and can be moved on the very next move; but it does not attack an opposing piece to change its color until it is moved on a subsequent move.

Discovered or uncovered threats have no effect. Nor do “chain reactions” occur. Only the piece that is moved can attack an opposing piece to cause it to defect.

When pawns promote, the promotion piece (for example, the queen) attacks as a moved piece would; that is, upon “queening”, opposing pieces and pawns that are attacked by the new queen defect.

The object of Benedict Chess is to change the color of the opposing player’s king. This is done by attacking it with a moved piece.

There is neither "check" nor checkmate. If the player with the turn has no legal moves available, but still has an unflipped king, then it is considered stalemate and the game is drawn.

When castling, only the King is considered to have moved and hence to attack adjacent squares. The Rook does not attack as a result of a castle.

Benedict Chess was invented by W. D. Troyka and is used here with his permission. Benedict chess is featured on ChessVariants.org

Benedict960

Rules as Benedict but Chess960 start positions.

Blindfold Chess

Blindfold Chess is a variant where the players can see all the moves, but cannot see the actual image of the board. This requires the players to visualise the positions, rather than just relying on the eye. This can be useful for teaching younger players the theoretical side of the play, rather than just moving what looks right.

Capture Chess

The game is played using standard chess pieces and standard chess initial setup. All chess rules are in place, with two exceptions:

1. if you can capture, you must capture (like in checkers)
2. the king is treated as any other piece

In case you have many captures available, you are free to pick which one to make.

As king is normal piece, there are no checks, mates or stalemates. There is also no castling. And you may promote to the king if you like.

The side which captures all opponent pieces - wins the game.

If a player can't move (for example has a blocked pawn only), the game is won by the player who has more material.

Chess480

Chess480 is played with an Orthodox Chess set but employs a randomly generated array. Each new setup is determined by a computer program (or manual procedure) which assigns starting squares according to the following guidelines:

* White Pawns are placed on their Orthodox home squares.
* All remaining white pieces are placed on the first rank.
* The white King is placed somewhere between the two white Rooks.
* The white Bishops are placed on opposite-colored squares.
* The black pieces are placed equal-and-opposite the white pieces.


Orthodox Chess rules apply when applicable.

"Orthodox Castling" is used.

Orthodox Castling

This is a move of the King and either Rook of the same colour on the same rank, counting as a single move of the King and executed as follows: the King is transferred from its original square two squares in the direction of the Rook (which may move the King over or into the Rook's original square), then that Rook is transferred to the square the King has just crossed (if it is not already there). If the King and Rook are adjacent in a corner and the King can not move two spaces towards the Rook, then the King and Rook exchange squares.

(1) The right for castling has been lost:

1. if the King has already moved, or
2. with a Rook that has already moved

(2) Castling is prevented temporarily

1. if the square on which the King stands, or the square which it must cross, or the square which it is to occupy, is attacked by one or more of the opponent`s pieces.
2. if there is any piece between the King and the Rook with which castling is to be effected.

Chicken Chess

Chicken Chess was invented at lunch one day in late 2005 by the scheming minds of racy and surfnsuds. They dreamed up the idea of playing suicide chess with Benedict characteristics. The resulting variant proved manic, fun, and hard to predict. Making that first crucial move feels a little like the old game of Chicken ("You go first" "No, you" "No, you!") Thus the name...

1) When a piece is moved, it flips all threatened pieces (as in Benedict).

2) If a piece can capture an opponent's piece, it must do so (as in suicide). After the capture, all newly threatened pieces are flipped (as in Benedict).

3) Winning is accomplished by losing all your pieces first (as in suicide).

4) En Passant is legal (as in suicide).

5) Castling is legal, and may be done anytime the intervening squares are unoccupied (as in Benedict).

6) Promoted pawns flip opposing pieces in the move that the promotion takes place (as in Benedict). Pawns may promote to any piece, including king (as in suicide).

Chicken960

As Chicken Chess but with Chess960 start position.

Crazy Elephant

Crazy Elephant is a variant of Shatranj where players can to drop captured pieces as in CrazyHouse, this variant was originally suggested by Thomas Meehan (Orangeaurochs). Shatranj is the medieval predecessor to modern chess.

Pieces and Setup

Like Shatranj, Crazy Elephant is played with a slightly different set of pieces to standard chess, in particular with Alfils (elephants) replacing Bishops and Firzans replacing Queens:

  • Shah (king) moves as in std chess

  • Rukh (rook) moves as in std chess

  • Faras (knight) moves as in std chess

  • Baidaq (pawn) moves as in std chess

  • Firzan (queen) moves to the first diagonal square

  • Alfil (elephant, bishop) leaps to the second diagonal square, never occupying the first diagonal

The initial setup of the board is identical to standard chess, with the Alfils and Firzans taking the same places as their standard chess equivalents.

Rules

The rules of Crazy Elephant are similar to Standard Chess, with the following exceptions:

  • There is no initial two-step Pawn move

  • There is no en passant capture option

  • There is no castling option

  • Pawns arriving at the last rank always promote to Firzans

  • Stalemate counts as a win

  • Bare King counts as a win, provided that your King cannot be bared on the very next move

  • Two bare Kings count as a draw

  • Pieces you capture become yours to use as you wish on a future turn (and vice versa for your opponent). You can "drop" them anywhere on the board including checking the King. Pawns cannot be dropped on the 1st or 8th rank, and if a promoted pawn is captured, it reverts back to a Pawn, so be sure you know which Queen you are hunting!


On SchemingMind, you can view captured material via the "Material" tab. Here you can click on any piece of your opponent's colour and then click on the square you wish to place it on.

CrazyHouse

Perhaps the most fitting name of all the variants. This one is by far the most unpredictable, where even when you are sure you are losing a counterstrike is possible leading to victory.

Pieces you capture become yours to use as you wish on a future turn (and vice versa for your opponent). You can "drop" them anywhere on the board including checking the King. Pawns cannot be dropped on the 1st or 8th rank, and if a promoted pawn is captured, it reverts back to a pawn, so be sure you know which Queen you are hunting!

Here on SchemingMind.com, view captured material via the "Material" tab. Here you can click on any piece of your opponents colour and then click on the square you wish to place it.

More information on CrazyHouse is available on ChessVariants.org

CrazyHouse960

See CrazyHouse (but uses a randomly selected Chess960 starting array)

Dark CrazyHouse

This is just about as outrageous a game as you can get whilst still being considered a chess variant. As far as we are aware it is unique to SchemingMind.com (Surely there isn't anyone else out there mad enough to try it!)

Your opponent's pieces are invisible (see Dark1) and start in normal chess positions. However, the playing rules are those of CrazyHouse (see CrazyHouse) so they can be dropped invisibly back on the board whilst you're least expecting it!

For those who really like to be kept in the dark about what your opponent is up to, this game's for you.

Dark CrazyHouse 2

Dark CrazyHouse 2 is like Dark CrazyHouse 1, except that you can only drop pieces on 'visible' squares.

Dark Suicide

Your opponents pieces are hidden (see Dark1) and movement rules are the same as suicide.

Dark1 (checkmate wins)

Dark1 is played using standard chess rules and start position - the only difference is that you can only see your opponents pieces when they are in your 'searchlight' (you can see which pieces you have taken).

Your opponents moves are displayed as question marks, however these will still be appended with '+' and '#' for check and mate.

If you return to the game after it is finished you will be able to see the whole board.

Dark2 (king capture wins)

See Dark1, however there are no checks or mates - the game is won by capturing your opponent's king.

Double Fischer Random

Pieces are set up according to Fischer Random rules, however unlike Fischer Random Chess, black and white have different starting positions.

Because the initial position may give a significant advantage to one player, it is suggested that you play parallel games with colours reversed (you can select this option on the 'challenge' page).

Castling is allowed in DFR - see Fischer Random for more details.

Extinction Chess

Invented by R. Wayne Schmittberger and added here with his permission.

More information on Extinction Chess is available on ChessVariants.org

Fianchetto Chess

Fianchetto chess plays like regular chess except that the initial positions of the rooks and bishops are reversed. No castling is allowed.

Full House

This game was invented by surfnsuds and as far as we know is unique to SchemingMind.

Start by switching to your materials list. You'll see a nearly complete set of reserve pieces. Only the king is missing. During the first phase of the game, we take turns placing all our pieces on the board. The only restriction is that we may not check the opponent's king. Then we play chess by regular rules.

Kriegspiel

Kriegspiel is played using standard chess rules and start position - the only difference is that you can't see your opponents pieces (you can see how many pieces you have taken).

Your opponents moves are displayed as question marks, however these will still be appended with '+' and '#' for check and mate.

If you return to the game after it is finished you will be able to see the whole board.

More information on Kriegspiel is available on ChessVariants.org

LaoTzu Chess

Inspired by the great war philosopher LaoTzu, this variant combines three previous variants into one game that further simulates the fog of war.

The first thing you will notice is that your pieces are (likely) not in the normal chess configuration. The pieces are set up according to Fischer Random rules, however unlike Fischer Random Chess, black and white have different starting positions.

The second thing you will notice is that you can only see your half of the board when you start. That is because you can only see your opponents pieces when they are in your 'searchlight' (you can see which pieces you have taken). Your opponents moves are displayed as question marks, however these will still be appended with '+' and '#' for check and mate.

The third thing you will notice, and this will come as a real surprise if you haven't read these rules, is that pieces you capture become yours to use as you wish on a future turn (and vice versa for your opponent). You can 'drop' them anywhere on the board that you can 'see' including checking the King. Pawns cannot be dropped on the 1st or 8th rank, and if a promoted pawn is captured, it reverts back to a pawn, so be sure you know which Queen you are hunting!

Loser's 960

See Loser's Chess (but uses a randomly selected Chess960 starting array)

Loser's Chess

Ever feel like winning is too much work? Then try losing!

In Loser's chess you must try to GET checkmated or else lose ALL of your pieces! How hard is that? Try it and see.

If you have a legal capture you must make one, though when in check you must respond, capturing the other piece if you must, otherwise the rules follow pretty much standard chess.

Beware of locked up pawns because then you have to try and dislodge them in order to lose them.

Castling is allowed in Loser's Chess.

A stalemate in Loser's Chess is a victory for the stalemated player.

Makruk (Thai Chess)

Makruk or Thai Chess enjoys widespread popularity in Thailand and Cambodia (Standard Chess, by contrast, has a very limited following in these places). Like Shatranj, Makruk is believed to be a descendent of the 6th century Indian game of Chaturanga.

The game of Makruk is different from Standard Chess in the following ways - start position, piece movement, special rules.

The start position differs from Standard Chess in two ways. The Khuns (kings) are both placed on white squares, and the Mets (queens) are both on black. Additionally, Biias (pawns) are all advanced by one rank. This means there is an empty row between the major pieces and the pawns at the start of the game.


  • Khun (king) moves as in standard chess, except there is no castling

  • Reuua (rook) moves as in standard chess

  • Maa (knight) moves as in standard chess

  • Biia (pawn) moves as in standard chess, but without the initial two-step, and with automatic promotion to a Met (queen) occurring on the 6th rank

  • Met (queen) moves to the first diagonal square (in any direction)

  • Khon (bishop) moves as met, but can also move and capture one square forward (but not backward)



Makruk doesn't have the Standard Chess counting rules which allow a draw after a 3-fold repetition of board position or 50-moves without a piece being gained. Makruk does have it's own counting rules. The Makruk counting rules will not be given here, as they are not enforced by the server and will only work when both players agree and do the counting themselves. The use of the counting rule should be agreed by both players before the game or tournament starts. The webmaster will not terminate a game based on Makruk counting rules unless the players agreement to play by counting rules is clear at the beginning of the game discussion.

For more information about Makruk (including details of the counting rules), there are many websites with details about Makruk. In addition, if you are logged on to Scheming Mind, you can access the SM Support page about Makruk here - http://wiki.schemingmind.com/Makruk.

Racing Kings

Each player starts with a normal set of pieces without pawns. The opening setup is as below:

White Kh2 Qh1 Ne1,e2 Bf1,f2 Rg1,g2

Black Ka2 Qa1 Nd1,d2 Bc1,c2 Rb1,b2

Check is entirely forbidden: not only is it forbidden to move one's king into check, but it is also forbidden to check the opponent's king.

The winner of the game is the player who first moves his king to the eighth rank. A special case is that if white's king reaches the eighth row, and black's king immediately follows, the game is declared a draw (this doesn't apply if the black king is the one ahead.) This rule is to compensate for the advantage of white's first move.

Stalemate is a draw, and the pieces move and capture as they do in Standard Chess.

Shatranj

Shatranj first appeared in Persia around the 7th century AD and remained immensely popular throughout the Middle East for the next nine centuries. Shatranj is said to have supported professional players, produced several books and inspired its own body of chess problems or mansubat.

Shatranj can be played with a traditional chess set, the start position is similar to that of standard chess, with Alfils replacing Bishops and Firzans replacing Queens.

  • Shah (king) moves as in std chess

  • Rukh (rook) moves as in std chess

  • Faras (knight) moves as in std chess

  • Baidaq (pawn) moves as in std chess

  • Firzan (queen) moves to the first diagonal square

  • Alfil (elephant, bishop) leaps to the second diagonal square, never occupying the first diagonal

The rules of Shatranj are similar to Standard Chess, with the following exceptions:

  • There is no initial two-step Pawn move

  • There is no en passant capture option

  • There is no castling option

  • Pawns arriving at the last rank always promote to Firzans

  • Stalemate counts as a win

  • Bare King counts as a win, provided that your King cannot be bared on the very next move

  • Two bare Kings count as a draw

(source ChessVariants.org)

For more information about piece values and general shatranj strategy, please visit our wiki: http://wiki.schemingmind.com/Shatranj

Traditionally Shatranj was played on an uncheckered board.

Stanley Random Chess

Technically speaking, Stanley Random Chess (SR Chess) is not a chess variant, since purists allege that Standard Chess is merely a simplified form and development from it. While SR Chess appears superficially to be similar to Standard Chess, it is actually a far more advanced and complex form of chess that predates Standard Chess, and requires greater creativity and more imaginative play. SR Chess implements the extra rules governing move sequences and board patterns that were later lost when Standard Chess developed as a result of the Great SR Chess Purge in the nineteenth century (commemorated annually on April 1).

Unfortunately it is not possible to reproduce the rules here; at the last count the official ISRCF handbook consisted of 175 volumes (which have to be transported to tournaments by articulated lorry). SchemingMind.com is very grateful to the ISRCA for allowing us to interface directly with their database and for providing us with an XML SRC rule parser to control the games played here - without this facility an array of several hundred servers would be required to host games on this site.

Be warned... if you attempt to play this game as Standard Chess, you may find that unexpected transpositions are made to your moves after submission, since an automated algorithm adjusts illegal moves to the nearest legal move.

More information on Stanley Random Chess is available on ChessVariants.org. GM Topov has also contributed an article about SR chess to the SchemingMind.com journal, and there is an annotated game with the webmaster available.

Suicide Chess

Looks can be deceiving. The board is setup traditionally, yet the object is to lose all of your pieces. If either player has a legal capture they must take it, so watch for multiple choice in captures and use that as a tactical strategy as well. There is no such thing as check, the King is a regular piece, and in fact you can promote pawns to Kings. Castling is not permitted in this variant.

You win by either losing all your pieces or having less material should a stalemate (no legal move) situation occur.

More information on Suicide Chess is available on ChessVariants.org

Suicide960

See Suicide Chess (but uses a randomly selected Chess960 starting array)

SunTzu Chess

Inspired by the great war philosopher SunTzu, this variant combines three previous variants into one game that simulates the fog of war.

The first thing you will notice is that your pieces are (likely) not in the normal chess configuration. The pieces are set up according to Fischer Random rules, however unlike Fischer Random Chess, black and white have different starting positions.

The second thing you will notice is that you can only see your half of the board when you start. That is because you can only see your opponents pieces when they are in your 'searchlight' (you can see which pieces you have taken). Your opponents moves are displayed as question marks, however these will still be appended with '+' and '#' for check and mate.

The third thing you will notice, and this will come as a real surprise if you haven't read these rules, is that pieces you capture become yours to use as you wish on a future turn (and vice versa for your opponent). You can "drop" them anywhere on the board including checking the King. Pawns cannot be dropped on the 1st or 8th rank, and if a promoted pawn is captured, it reverts back to a pawn, so be sure you know which Queen you are hunting!

One special note, after you capture your first piece, you'll be able to see all the free squares available to place a piece. This is a large tactical advantage because it gives you the terrain. However you still have very little idea which of the dark squares represent which enemy pieces!

Symmetrical Fischer Random Chess

One of the criticisms often levelled at Fischer Random Chess is that many of the starting positions lack the symmetry and elegance of the Standard Chess starting array.

Symmetrical Fischer Random Chess was proposed on this site by Lux in an attempt to restrict the possible starting arrays to ones that have a degree of symmetry, yet maintain independence from opening theory enjoyed by FRC players.

In SFRC, rooks always start on the a and h files, the king and queen always start on the d and e files (but may be transposed) and the two bishops are always on opposite coloured squares. Black and White start with the same position and castling and en-passant is allowed (see Fischer Random for castling rules).

There are eight possible SFRC starting arrays including the Standard Chess array, only the seven non-standard arrays are used on SchemingMind.com, these are:

1 rbnqknbr
2 rnbkqbnr
3 rbnkqnbr
4 rbbkqnnr
5 rbbqknnr
6 rnnkqbbr
7 rnnqkbbr

Three Checks

Check your opponent three times to win

Three Checks 960

Check your opponent three times to win

Tiszta Bolondokháza

Crazier than ever house, suggested by Ilang (tiszta bolondokháza means just that in Hungarian) - Double Fischer Random start position, but CrazyHouse rules!

Upside Down Chess

For the truly deranged, or those wishing to become so, this variant will upset your chess karma for sure. Your pawns are on the seventh (!) or opposing rank, with your pieces in FRONT of them, so you must first move a knight in order to advance a pawn to promote it to whatever you wish.

Watch out for smothered mate traps with knights! Openings can otherwise be a bit clumsy but Queens are also easy to come by and don't forget which direction pawns are moving and capturing! Castling is not permitted. Play to checkmate.

More information on Upside Down Chess is available on ChessVariants.org

Unrated Standard

Have you ever wanted to play an unrated game of standard chess to try out an opening or other idea without running the risk of losing rating points? Have you ever wanted to play an unrated game against a friend so that you can exchange views on the game as it progresses? What about playing an unrated game simply to try out the site's features? If any of these apply, Unrated Standard is the variant for you.

This variant is especially useful for chess teaching - it introduces the possibility of playing training games such that the two players can discuss / annotate the game as it is played. This might be a good means for a stronger player to help increase a weaker player's understanding within the context of a game, rather than just sending him a list of annotations afterwards (which could serve simply to highlight where the weaker player blundered). The stronger player would benefit because a good way to test your own knowledge is to be forced to explain concepts to someone else, particularly if that someone else is the questioning sort! And of course the stronger player in one training game might be the weaker player in another.

The Unrated Standard variant is identical to Standard Chess except that the result does not contribute to either participant's site rating.

Because Unrated Standard is a tool for exploring new ideas in chess without your rating being affected, the use of chess computer engines, or consultation with other players, are allowed (with the provision that you inform your opponent of this and that he or she accepts it). Please note that engine use is not allowed on rated Standard Chess games on the site.

Unrated Chess960

Have you ever wanted to play an unrated game of Chess960 to try out an opening or other idea without running the risk of losing rating points? Have you ever wanted to play an unrated game against a friend so that you can exchange views on the game as it progresses? What about playing an unrated game simply to try out the site's features? If any of these apply, Unrated Chess960 is the variant for you.

This variant is especially useful for chess teaching - it introduces the possibility of playing training games such that the two players can discuss / annotate the game as it is played. This might be a good means for a stronger player to help increase a weaker player's understanding within the context of a game, rather than just sending him a list of annotations afterwards (which could serve simply to highlight where the weaker player blundered). The stronger player would benefit because a good way to test your own knowledge is to be forced to explain concepts to someone else, particularly if that someone else is the questioning sort! And of course the stronger player in one training game might be the weaker player in another.

Unrated Chess960 is identical to Chess960 except that the result does not contribute to either participant's site rating.

Because Unrated Chess960 is a tool for exploring new ideas in chess without your rating being affected, the use of chess computer engines, or consultation with other players are allowed (with the provision that you inform your opponent of this and that he or she accepts it). Please note that engine use is not allowed on rated Chess960 games on the site.

Advanced Chess

The use of chess computers and endgame tablebases is allowed in 'Advanced Chess'.

Advanced Chess960

The use of chess computers and endgame tablebases is allowed in 'Advanced Chess960'.