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How To Play Variants On Chess.com

How To Play Variants On Chess.com

Sep 8, 2016, 12:00 AM 87 Chess.com Help

There's much more to play on Chess.com than just... chess!

Fun "chess variants" can be a great way to mix things up and apply your chess skills in different and exciting ways. You can play Bughouse, Crazyhouse, 3-Check, King of the Hill and Chess960 (AKA Fischer Random). Each of these variants has been given a small description below, and links to a full "beginner's guide" on the game. First, let's review how to find and play these games on Chess.com:

Where can you play variant chess games?

1) Hold your mouse over the "Play" menu and click "Live Chess":

2) Click the "game type" dropdown:

3) Choose the type of variant you'd like to play:

For a quick description of the basic goals and differences in each variant compared to traditional chess, simply hold your mouse over the "?" icon to get a brief pop-up description:

Already a chess-variant aficionado? Great! Get started and make sure to follow the Chess.com/tv show "Call of the Wild" with IM Danny Rensch and "Bughouse Live" with FM Kazim Gulamali every Monday to play and learn chess variants with other members.

Rules and Variant Intros Below:


Bughouse is a variant of chess played by four players in teams (partnerships) of two on two separate chessboards. Each partner plays an opposing team member with the goal being to win the game by normal means (checkmate or timeout). One partner plays Black, the other White. Partners help each other by capturing enemy pieces which their partner may then place (drop) on an empty square on their turn.

  • When you capture one of your opponent's pieces, it is immediately passed to your teammate's "piece bank" for him or her to use at their discretion.
  • On any turn, instead of making a move, a player can "drop" any piece from their "bank" to any open square on the board.
  • Pawns may not be dropped on the 1st or 8th ranks.
  • A pawn that is placed on the 2nd rank may move two squares on its first move, as in standard chess.
  • Pawns that have promoted and are then captured go into the "bank" as pawns, not as the piece to which they promoted. Such promoted pieces are called "counterfeits."
  • A bughouse game is over when a game on either board ends in checkmate, resignation, or timeout. There are no draws in bughouse.

Click here for Bughouse Tips for Beginners!


Crazyhouse is a variant which follows most of the normal rules of chess, except that captured pieces can be reintroduced to the board on your turn.

  • The pieces move the same way that they do in traditional chess.
  • Games can still end in the same way: checkmate, stalemate, and time-out.
  • Captured pieces reverse their color and are added to the capturing player's "bank."
  • On your turn, instead of making a move ,you may choose to "drop" a piece from your "bank" onto any open square on the board.
  • You can drop a piece from your bank to block a check, even in a position that would otherwise have been checkmate (i.e. without the piece from your bank to drop).
  • You may drop a piece to both check and checkmate the enemy king.
  • Pawns may not be dropped on the 1st or 8th ranks.
  • Pawns that have promoted and are then captured go into the bank as pawns, not as the piece they promoted to.

Crazyhouse Tips for Beginners coming soon!


3-Check is a simple variant with one clear task in mind: Check the king as many times as you can! Normal rules apply, but you can also win (or lose!) a game by checking (or getting checked) 3 times in total.

  • Games can still end in the traditional ways of checkmate, stalemate and time-out.
  • The game can also end if a player checks their opponent's king three times.
  • A move that results in a double-check only counts as one check towards the "total check score."

3-Check Tips for Beginners coming soon!

King of the Hill:

King of the Hill or "KOTH" is an exciting variant in which the goal is to get your king to the center of the board or "top of the hill"."

  • Games can still end in the traditional ways of checkmate, stalemate and time-out.
  • The game can also end when a player moves their king to any of the four central squares.
  • e4, d4, e5, and d5 are "top of the hill" squares, winning the game on the spot for either White or Black, regardless of the nature of the position.

King of the Hill Tips for Beginners coming soon!

Chess960 (Fischer Random):

Chess960, or Fischer Random, is a variant invented by the late World Champion Bobby Fischer. The rules of the game are the same as standard chess, but in an effort to reduce the impact of opening theory, the pieces have been randomly shuffled on each player's back rank:

  • Games end in the traditional ways of checkmate, stalemate and time-out.
  • Bishops must still be on opposite colors in the initial Chess960 position.
  • The king must be between the rooks to maintain the ability to castle both ways. That means a king can only be placed between the squares b1 and g1 or b8 and g8 for Black.
  • This means:
    • No matter the location of the king and rook, standard rules of castling apply. It must be the first move for both king and rook, the king may not travel into or through check, and there may be no pieces on any square that either piece travels through.
    • The king and rook end the process of castling where they would in a standard chess game. Example: Even if a white king is on b1 and a rook is on e1, castling kingside would involve dragging the white king to g1 (its final destination square), which will automatically move the white rook from e1 to f1, as White will always have the king on g1 and the rook on f1 in the final castled position.

Chess960 Tips for Beginners coming soon!

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