Spartan Chess


I recently encountered a variant that seems a real improvement compared to the FIDE game, called Spartan Chess:

1) White and black play with different pieces

2) White ('the Persians') has the standard FIDE army

3) Black ('the Spartans') has an army consisting entirely of un-orthodox pieces, headed by 2 (orthodox) Kings.


Property (2) guarantees that the complexity of this variant is about equal to that of orthodox Chess (so no tactical slugfest due to an abundance of overly powerful pieces). Property (1) makes that there are much fewer dead draws, as any end-game must always be with unequal material. Indeed, in computer play the draw rate was only about 20%, against 33% for orthodox Chess. The dual Kings of Sparta (where you lose only when your last king is mated) add an entirely new twist to the game, where initilly you can defend against 'checks' by protecting your spare king, rather than stepping out of the check. After one of the kings is captured, however, all normal concepts of checking /pinning etc. apply as usual.


Of course it has the advantage of no opening or end-game theory being known, so it leaves much more room for creativity.


For an elaborate discription, see:


Sounds unbalanced.


Yet another chess variation, nothing new or unseen.

jtt96 wrote:

Sounds unbalanced.

 Actually it seems to be better balanced than orthodox Chess. There white always has the advantage of the first move, which amounts to a 53-54% score in favor of white (human or computer play alike). In Spartan Chess the score is much closer to 50%. (In computer play, at least; to get a statistically significant result on this needs thousands of games, and so many games have not been played between humans yet.)

This is another, yet unmentioned advantage of asymmetric setups: they can compensate the advantage of the first move, by giving black slightly stronger material, or a slightly better position.

As to Ckhaan's remark, this reminds me of the famous statement of Prichard:

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

But the remark misses the point as much as when you say about Ghandi, Pele or Albert Enstein: "Just another human / soccer player / physicist, nothing new or unseen". Fact is that some Chess variants are brilliant, while others are cr*p. The Mad-Queen variant that now rules in the 'western' world is pretty good, explaining the huge success it had in replacing earlier western variants, but that does not mean it is the best possible. (And it is not even the most popular by numbers; for about 90% of the Worlds' Chess players, Chess means Xiangqi, rather than Mad Queen...) One always has to keep an open eye for improvements. I mentioned Spartan Chess because it is the first western variant I encounter where I get the impression that it is clearly superior to the FIDE game.


I set up a viewer for live computer-computer games, at

Currently Fairy-Max is playing 40moves/min demo games against ChessV. I hope to have more engines soon, so that I can run a real tournament.


The fact that White has a 53-54% advantage in Fide-chess is what makes it so perfect. White has an edge, so it is worth playing for a win. It is what makes it a bellicose and exciting variant. It is easy to create a variant that is perfectly balanced and totally drawish, and therefore useless. Therefore, "perfect balance" is not a good criterion, because theorists will soon find ways for black to practically force a draw. 



"Balanced" is an independent property from "drawish". E.g. in Shogi the 'sente' advantage seems to be very low (I am told), while the draw rate is below 1%.

I don't expect it to be easy to find opening lines in Spartan Chess that lead to drawish positions. There is no way to get equal material before both have bare Kings. So there are no obviously equal positions. You always get end-games between pieces with quite different strong and weak points. Because of this they are always lively and interesting. The draw rate seems intrinsiclly lower in this variant (20% in stead of 33%).

Ckhaan wrote:

Yet another chess variation, nothing new or unseen.

Hi, Ckhaan. Joined this site just so I could comment on your comment. I suspect you might be unfamiliar with the vast number of chess variants and their compositions. F.I.D.E.-rules chess, too, is yet another chess variant, nothing new, yet it is well-respected and played widely. Spartan Chess, by contrast, is something new, which has been demonstrated to be a very good and very balanced game. I believe it is demonstrably new and different. I can recommend it to anyone who is looking for a little variety in their intellectual amusements. Grin, I won't commit the heresy of suggesting people who play  casually at any time might enjoy some of the hundreds of very good or excellent variants, of the thousands of chess variants that exist. But I do have excellent reason to believe Spartan Chess is something unique. ;-)


Joe Joyce, editor, The Chess Variant Pages


There are several unusual features of Spartan Chess and a couple that are apparently unique.

1. Unusual Different Armies - Spartan chess pits two completely different chess armies against each other. The Spartan side is Black and the Persian side white. The Persians are a traditional chess army. With the exception of their Kings however, every Spartan piece moves differently than that of the Persians (FIDA). While this is by no means unique, only a percentage point or two of chess variants vary the chess pieces between sides.

2. UnusualHistorical Rationale - There is a historical rationale for the opposing sides; Spartans vs. Persians. While the origin of Chess is debated (did it originate in India or Persia?) I naturally accepted the FIDA army as the Persians. While designing the Spartans I tried to capture the flavor of a more slowly moving, solid, mainly foot-soldier army. Of the chess variants with different armies only a fraction of those try to represent historical armies. A historical rationale is an unusual feature, not a unique one.

3. UniqueSpartan Hoplites or Spartan pawns - Spartan Chess features pawns on the two sides with different capabilities. The Persian uses traditional pawns of course. The Spartan uses hoplites  in place of pawns which are a first move hopping variation of a berolina pawn. The use of different types of pawns on opposing sides is, it seems, unique. BTW - the berolina pawn move diagonally and captures straight ahead.

4. UniqueTwo Kings - In Spartan Chess the Spartans field a chess army with two Kings. This is a part of the historical rationale owing to the fact that the Spartans did, in fact, have two Kings. Placing two fully royal Kings on one side along with rules to make that work, including situational check immunity and duple-check, is a unique feature of Spartan Chess.

Waiting for the other Shoe to Drop - Everything around chess has already been done before, hasn’t it? Over the years, as I thought about chess pieces and game variants, I would come up with an idea. I would then visit the various wikis and the CV website and find that it had already been done (*sigh*). Not so with different pawns on different sides. “Why?” I thought, “Was it just too hard?” I stuck with this idea until I came up with the additional idea of the Spartan army and two Kings and then developed this chess variant. There is still, a part of me that is waiting for someone to step forward and say something like “Well, this has all been done before. See my web link to Mr. T. H. Chesserman’s game Lacemedonian (i.e. Spartan) Chess invented in 1884”. So I sit, “Waiting for the other shoe to drop”.

Spartan Chess is posted on among over 1,000 chess variants. So far the other shoe has not dropped and it does not look like it's going to.

S.D. Streetman, Inventor of Spartan Chess


LOL that is hilarious.


And on the topic of spartan chess, wouldn't it suffer from the same problem as normal chess?  Namely, that people will eventually analyze it to death until games are nothing more than a set of memorized moves.

This is why I love chess960.  It's different every time.


Indeed, this is a problem for any game with a fixed setup. But Chess960 is also not immune for this. It just takes 960 times longer. (And probably not even that, as very similar setups might quickly transpose into each other's opening lines once the differently located pieces get developed.)

In Spartan Chess creating exhaustive opening theory is far more difficult than for a single Chess960 position though. Because of the symmetric nature of Chess960 it is possible to cancel everything that is equal at the end of an opening line, and be left with only a small number of differences to evaluate who has the advantage. E.g. if you traded the Pawn, both sides now might have an open e-file, and whatever an open e-file is worth doesn't matter very much. In Spartan Chess intially you simply would not know who benefits more from trading a Pawn for a Hoplite. It is far mor difficult to decide who has the advantage after a given opening line. Theory building becomes only useful after it has become clear what the exact piece values are, what are good strategic motifs for Spartan piece development, etc. This seems to require an order of magnitude more time than merely generating new theory for a single position from a variant with a very-well known evaluation function.

And althogh it does not solve the problem of the need for excessive memorization, the danger for a 'draw death' because of opening theory seems to be much smaller in Spartan Chess. Because you never can get to symmetric obviously equal positions, and the draw margin seems a lot smaller than in FIDE Chess.


For variety atop variety one could play Spartan Chess 960 (if that's the correct numerical equivalent.


I've played spartan chess before. Black wins every time.


In face to face play Spartan Chess is very balanced. In over 5000 computer games the winning percentage for black is 50.5% and the game has a 20% draw rate.

See H.G. Muller for detail on computer match Spartan Chess play.


So I'm taking the dual kings in this for my newest variant, "War Board". Mainly because it is the only thing in winboard that uses two kings simular to how I wanted them. I tested every variant on it. Saving me the effort of figuring out how to make them, or having to ask Muller to help.(which I did before finding this).

Curious Muller if I use 2 kings on both white and black will winboard know to apply the same rules to white as it does for black.

Just tested & it does. So yep. I'm taking this king setup for my game. Just so you know S.D. Streetman, Inventor of Spartan Chess.


I have found that winboard uses this rule very well. It will even work with 3 kings. Which is better & closer to what I wanted in the first place. Before finding this game. So I won't be using this game's idea after all.

Just happen to need it's code in winboard for how checking works with extra kings. To achive more or less what I wanted to do. Before finding this "base game rule". That I could put in my custom.dat file, for winboard.  By testing the mate rules for every variant it had. Which makes me happy.


Now just need to fix my piece limitation. Sad this is one of two sites that had info on it. Makes me wonder if Muller added this to the P2P file.


Spartan chess is amazing. So far I have only played against the computer and it is incredibly tough to beat , no matter which side that I choose. 


Its a shame that spartan chess isn't more poplar, i feel like it is very balanced and the two different  armies is a very unique and refreshing take for a variant. The two kings for black creates a whole new element that chess doesn't offer. I would love to be able to compete online against human opponents to learn new tactics , and watch as strategies evolve.


I have even made my own spartan chess set to play in person. 


It's fine if topics on musketeerchess are opened. It's sad if all existing topics on other variants slowly turn into promotion for musketeerchess, due to Mr musketeerchess and his (undoubtedly) 2nd alias brainking2016.