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List of chess variants

Gliński's hexagonal chess by Władysław Gliński (1936) was popular in Eastern Europe with a reported half-million players. It is one of more than 2,000 published chess variants.

A chess variant (or unorthodox chess) is a game "related to, derived from or inspired by chess". The difference from chess might include one or more of the following:

Regional chess games, some of which are older than Western chess, such as chaturanga, shatranj, xiangqi and shogi, are typically called chess variants in the Western world. They have some similarities to chess and share a common game ancestor.

The number of possible chess variants is virtually unlimited. Confining the number to published variants, D. B. Pritchard, author of The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, estimates there are well over 2,000.

In the context of chess problems, chess variants are called fantasy chess, heterodox chess or fairy chess. Some chess variants are used only in problem composition and not in actual play.

Chess-derived games

These chess variants are derived from chess by changing the board, setup, pieces or rules.

Chess with different starting positions

In these variants, the starting position is different, but otherwise the board, pieces and rules are the same. In most such variants the pawns are placed on their usual squares, but the position of other pieces is either randomly determined or selected by the players. The motivation for these variants is to nullify established opening knowledge. The downside of these variants is that the initial position has usually less harmony and balance than the standard chess position.

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Chess960, one of the 960 possible starting positions
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Upside-down chess starting position (White sits at bottom)

Chess with different forces

Some chess variants use different numbers of pieces for White and Black. All pieces in these games are standard chess pieces, there are no fairy chess pieces.

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Dunsany's chess by Lord Dunsany
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Endgame Chess
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Legal's Game by Legall de Kermeur
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Peasants' Revolt by R. L. Frey
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Weak! by Ralph Betza

Chess with unusual rules

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Knightmate starting position

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Racing Kings: first king to 8th rank wins.

Multimove variants

In these variants one or both players can move more than once per turn. The board and the pieces in these variants are the same as in standard chess.

Chess with incomplete information or elements of chance

In these variants, luck or randomness sometimes plays a role. Still, like in poker or backgammon, good luck and bad luck even out over the long-term with clever strategy and consideration of probabilities being decisively important.

Play It By Trust by Yoko Ono

Chess with different boards

In these variants the same pieces and rules as in chess are used, but the board is different: It can be smaller or larger, non-square overall, or based on hexagonal or triangular cells (instead of square cells) or even modular regarding shape or number of cells; it can even be extra-dimensional. The movement of pieces in some variants is modified in concurrence with the geometry of the gameboard.

An implementation of spherical chess: Chess on the Dot by Joshua Chao

Double Chess by Julian Hayward

Masonic Chess by George Dekle Sr.

Rhombic Chess by Tony Paletta

Chess with different boards and unusual rules

Chad by Christian Freeling

Jesön Mor starting position

Chess with unusual (fairy) pieces

Most of the pieces in these variants are borrowed from chess. The game goal and rules are also very similar to those in chess; however, these variants include one or more fairy pieces which move differently from chess pieces.

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Anti-king chess. The anti-king is shown as an inverted king.

Chess with empress and/or princess pieces

There are a number of variants which use empress (rook+knight) and princess (bishop+knight) compound pieces. Several other different names have been given to them. The empress (R+N) is also named marshall, chancellor, etc. The princess (B+N) is also called cardinal, archbishop, janus, paladin, Prime Minister, etc. To adapt the two new pieces, the orthogonal board is usually extended to 10x8 or 10x10 with two additional pawns added.

Grand Chess by Christian Freeling

Chess hybrids

The pieces in these variants are borrowed from both chess and another game. The game goal and rules are either the same or very similar to those in chess. However, these variants include one or more fairy pieces which move differently from chess pieces.

Chess with unusual (fairy) pieces and different boards

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Raumschach initial position; inverted knights represent unicorns

Single-player variants

Queen's Quadrille. All pieces are placed randomly.
Hippodrome. All pieces are placed randomly, except the knights.

Similar to card solitaires, there are a few chess variants for a single player. In difference to chess puzzles, these variants have a random starting position. Some of these variants are similar to permutation chess problems, for example the game Queen's Quadrille, which was invented by Karen Robinson in 1998. All chess pieces (except pawns) are randomly placed on a 4x4 board. Then one of the queens is removed and the game is started. Pieces move as usual, however capturing is not allowed. A player can move white and black pieces in any order, without regard for colour. The goal is to move the queen to one of the corners, or visit all squares on the board only once. The same idea is found in the game Hippodrome, which was invented by Andy Lewicki in 2003. The initial position is obtained by placing four knights on the first row and all other pieces from a chess set (except pawns) on the remaining fields. Then one of the pieces (except knights) is removed and the game is started. The goal is to move all knights to the opposite rank.

In 1998 Karen Robinson also invented a game which Hans Bodlaender named Chess Contradance, as the setup is like a contradance with the two lines facing each other. Set the pieces up as in regular chess, but without the pawns. The first and eighth ranks are safe havens, i.e., no piece can be captured on these ranks. The object of the puzzle is to move the pieces such that all pieces move to the opposite back row without ever putting any piece in danger of being captured. Black and white alternate moves. Karen now prefers the name Grand March for this game.

Multiplayer variants

These variants arose out of the desire to play chess with more than just one other person.

Bughouse chess, the game in progress

Games inspired by chess

These variants are very different from chess and may be classified as abstract strategy board games instead of chess variants (by restrictive, proper definition).

Chess-related historical and regional games

Some of these games have developed independently while others are ancestors or relatives of modern chess. The popularity of these variants may be limited to their respective places of origin (as is largely the case for shogi), or worldwide (as is the case for xiangqi). The games have their own institutions and traditions.

Historical

Shatranj set, 12th century

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Chaturaji

Regional

Xiangqi Shogi Senterej, moves in the first phase are played simultaneously Sittuyin, players elect their own starting setups behind the pawns

Chess variants software

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