Best Chess Variants


I was wondering what your favourite chess variants are and why.


Spartan Chess. Because end-games are the part of Chess that I like most, and there never are any symmetric dead draws in Spartan Chess. It will always be the battle between unequal material, each side having to exploits its particular strength and exploit the characteristic weaknesses of the opponent's material.

I am also intrigued by Chu Shogi, although I foresee that the length of an average game could be a deal breaker. It takes time to wear down your opponent when he starts with 46 pieces... But this Lion piece really offers an entirely new dimension to the game, introducing entirely new tactical concepts, such as 'hit-and-run' captures. Yet it feels quite familiar to Chess players in most other respects, featuring Rooks, Bishops, King and Queen.


Losing chess, because you can play it at blitz speeds and the rules are real simple: the first player to lose all their pieces wins, the King is just another piece and captures are mandatory (your choice if more than one capture is possible)

I also like bughouse chess - 2 games at once and you're partners with the guy in the other game facing you. It's regular chess except the partners give each other captured pieces which can be placed on the bd in lieu of moving a piece already there. I always played it with clocks at blitz speeds but that's not mandatory, I guess.

In general I seem to like the variants where it's a variant of classical chess and not something like Shogi with different pieces, moves and rules.

There are entire books on this subject with hundreds of variants. I doubt if the answers here will even scratch the surface of all of them.


I enjoy many variants!  My favourites (apart from the classical ones) tend to be those with simple rule changes, but drastically different play

Shogi - Japanese chess, with drops

XiangQi - Chinese chess, with the General (King) restricted to his fortress

JangGi - Korean chess, cousin of XiangQi, but slightly more interesting

Makruk - Thai chess, pawns start on third rank and promote on sixth... but only to low-powered Queens.

Shatranj - old Persian / Arabic chess, baring the king or stalemating it are wins too

Alice chess - crazy tactics and threats with the two boards

Ambiguous chess - plenty of sacrificial play to get the king out in the open

Ambi chess - with proper coordination, some very sharp attacks can be made

Atomic chess - needs very careful opening play

Berolina chess - turns the foundation of chess, the pawn, on its head

Cannibal chess - capture your own pieces only to later drop them 

Capture chess - forced captures introduces new tactics

Chu shogi - the lion is such an interesting piece

Coregal chess - curtails the power of the queen

Crazy Elephant - combining the low-powered pieces of Shatranj with drops works excellently

Cylinder chess - controlling space tends to become more important 

Dipole chess - as every move is irreversible, big forward moves require much more caution

Dragon chess (Parker's, not Gygax's) - I enjoy the Dragon, thinking it adds to the game while still keeping it simple enough - many fairy pieces tend to try too hard to be different, and end up being cumbersome.  Also, the flanks really do help the Bishops!

Extinction chess - very sharp tactics

Grand chess - favourite variant with Capablanca pieces, I feel the larger board allows them to shine

Gustav III's chess - crazy power on small board, with 4 amazons on 68 squares!  Plus, invented by an old Swedish king (Sweden is my home country)

Hexes chess - only hexagonal chess I've actually tried out, but I enjoyed it!

Janus chess - my favourite out of the 8x10 with Capablanca pieces... I feel the rook compound does not get enough space on an 8x10 board, so duplicating the bishop compound instead makes for more interesting games

Knight Relay chess - some very hard to see tactics in this one

Legan chess - familiar pieces, yet the diagonal movement and pawns mixes things up enough

Loop chess - chess with drops, I prefer this to the closely related Crazyhouse and Chessgi

Los Alamos chess - small chess, very cramped, mobility is supreme, and in many ways feel like an endgame from early on

Mammoth / Mastondon chess - like the dragon in Dragon chess, the mammoth is a new piece that is simple yet works well

Massacre chess - as number of pieces will always be more or less equal, quality and position reigns supreme

Metamorphosis chess - brain-twisting as material quality keeps changing

Minishogi - surprisingly deep for such a small board and few pieces

Navia Dratp - crazy fantasy chess variant, with customizable armies and earning money to promote your pieces

Omnigon - pieces that rotate to change what directions they can move in

Racing kings - very different game, yet with the familiar chess pieces, and the concept of check being vital

Tori shogi - very slow game of gradual advantages

Troitzky chess - the board shape forces new pattern.  Some surprise promtion possibilities on the flanks

Upside down chess - needs accurate opening play, can give rise to crazy endgames with many queens on the board

Yari shogi - I am embarassingly bad at this one... the strong forward momentum of the pieces is interesting

... I guess that's a long enough list.  Let me end by pointing out a major omission, and say why.  I don't particularly enjoy Chess960 - the castling rules feels like an unnecessary cludge to me - too much complexity added by an attempt to be similar to Fide chess that isn't needed.  I much prefer some shuffle variant to Chess960 - remove castling (and the restriction that the king has to be between the rooks), and you have 1440 starting positions, or 2880 if you allow black's pieces to be both horizontally mirrored and centrally mirrored relative to white's.


I play in a closed community and have only recently begun playing chess online. If these variants already exist, or something extremely similar to it, please correct me. 

Suicide chess: First person to lose their king first wins. If there is an available capture, you must take. For example, a queen checks a king and a pawn, the queen must take but can instead take the pawn. 

Avatar chess: Regular rules, only captures are affected. In order to capture a piece, the capturing piece must use the attack of the piece it is taking. For example, a queen is threatening a pawn from across the board. The pawn takes the queen using her moves. The queen cannot take the pawn because a pawn's attack does not span the board. 

Portal chess: Blitz rules but your pawns act as portals. Say a piece moves into a pawn, that piece has another move from that pawn's position. Example: A knight moves onto his pawn, he then is able to move once again from the position from that pawn.


Just discovered Losing Chess on the site, sorry about the post.


Strip chess - Take off an article of clothing every time you lose a piece besides pawns

Bomb Chess - You throw your captured pieces at the opponent at the end of the game

Tongue Out


As the Chu Shogi Lion is such an interesting piece, but Chu Shogi itself has the disadvantage of being a bit slow (because of the very large board (12x12) and number of pieces (2x46)), I wonder why I have never seen a proposal for the following variant (which I made up on the spot):

Lion Chess:

The rules are as in FIDE Chess, except that instead of Queens the players start with Lions (L) on d1 and d8. A Lion can be moved as a King twice per turn (even if both moves are captures). It can also stop after a single King step, or directly jump to any square it could have reached on an empty board by two King steps (this includes all Knight moves).

There is a special rule to make trading of the Lions (and thus quickly convert to a rather dull end-game of orthodox Chess) almost impossible: when two Lion captures happen in consecutive (half-)moves the game ends immediately. If the first of these captures was LxL, (possibly together with other material), the side making the second capture has won (if that second capture was legal). If the first of these captures was made by another piece, the side making the second capture has lost.

Pawns cannot promote to Lion, but they can promote to Queen (as well as under-promote to R, B, N).

Note: on there is mention of a completely unrelated variant also called Lion Chess, which doesn't seem to have anything to do with Lions, so I don't think it deserves the name.


Wolf Chess, probably, because it handles riders well (and does a good job of asymmetry.) Alternatively Chess 2: The sequel because of its six independent and interesting armies, although Midline Invasion can be a bit annoying if neither side is Reaper/Two Kings.


the best chess variant (IMO) is Chess Evolved (
Because you create your own army and get to use new pieces, the battle is easy even though you're playing an ultra complicated game, and there is long-term progression through the collection mechanic.


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bullet and blitz is the best learning tools on the internet


horde is awesome, and antichess, atomic chess, caplancha chess, king of the hill ect.


Hi everyone, this is a variant I would like to see - not sure if it has already been suggested, and I would like to know what you think of it:

Classic rules, with the additional rule that players can take their own pieces. That's all.

My thinking is that in a real battle, friendly fire has happened (intentionally too), and also there are many cases of soldiers sacrificing themselves for eachother and for victory. So for these reasons, this variant might make the game more realistic. There are variants which include this rule but also have lots of silly rules for fun. I would just like to know how you think this simple rule might change the play, and if you've seen it before.

Thanks for your time to read :)

Hermanss007 wrote

Thanks for your time to read :)

thats funny you wrote that, because half way thru your post i skipped to theend, where i saw that, so i finished reading your thing :-)

Hermanss007 wrote:

Classic rules, with the additional rule that players can take their own pieces. That's all.

 It's fun but a very different game. A lot of mates are due to being boxed in by their own pieces. Being able to capture your own units can save you from those situations, at the cost of limiting your own resources. It also gets the backrow pieces into the forefront faster by capturing the pawns in front of them. Games end up getting very chaotic quickly Tongue Out


For me, my favorite variant (not including regional games such as xiangqi or shogi) is Chess 2 purely for the "midline victory" rule. I like anything that reduces draws and gives a victory condition that can always be achieved.


Benedict 960: as the name implies, Benedict Chess but with randomised start positions.


Benedict Chess: When a piece moves, any piece that it is attacking from its new square changes to the colour of the attacking piece.

The objective is to turn the enemy king. There is no check and no checkmate.


Chess Variants are still being invented as an ongoing thing. 




"It only takes 10 sec to invent a new Chess variant, and unfortunately some people do!"

I confess guilt in this respect too. I usually refrain from publishing new variants, as there already are so many. Unless I really encounter a good and original idea that seems to deserve some exposure. I conceived Team-Mate Chess because I like the Bishop + Knight ending, and it seemed a really cool idea to have a Chess variant where no single piece would have mating potential, and you would always have to perform the mate with at least a pair of pieces as in KBNK.

And I designed Werewolf Chess to honor a centuries-old idea from Maka Dai Dai Shogi, where a strong, game-shaping piece is prevented from being traded out of the game by the rule that any piece capturing it instantly promotes to it. I could have applied that to the Queen in orthodox Chess, but it seemed more fun to apply it to a slightly different piece that even is a bit stronger. Hence the 'Werewolf'.