Chess Variants

Chess Variants

Have you seen people playing what looked like chess but with very different rules? You might have witnessed a game of a chess variant.


What Are Chess Variants?

Chess variants are games that have derived from standard chess. They have at least one main difference from regular chess but can sometimes involve multiple deviations from the original rules.

A chessboard used for a common chess variant.
A four-player chessboard. Photo: Luistxo, CC.

Examples Of Popular Chess Variants

In the world of chess, there are thousands of variants. Among them, quite a few are widely known and played all around the world.

Bughouse

One of the most popular modifications to the game of chess is Bughouse Chess. In this variant, you team up with another player to take on another pair of opponents. Each person on a team plays with the same color, and your teammate can use every piece you capture by spending a turn to "drop" it on their board.

The Bughouse variant of chess.
A Bughouse game and its two boards.

Check out the video below for some tips on how to get better at Bughouse.

Crazyhouse

Crazyhouseis another variant similar to Bughouse. The same modification to the rule is present: captured pieces can be dropped back on the board. In Crazyhouse, though, you are playing alone, and you can only use the pieces you have won yourself.

The Crazyhouse chess variant.
A game of Crazyhouse.

Chess960

Another popular variant played all over the world is Chess960, also known as Fischer Random. In this variant, all the rules of regular chess are valid, with only two alterations: every game starts in a semi-random position, which, in turn, affects the way people castle.

The Chess960 variant.
One of the semi-random starting positions in Chess960.

Legendary GM Bobby Fischer proposed this variant as a way to reduce memorization by players. It has become so popular that FIDE, in a partnership with Chess.com, has promoted a Fischer Random World Championship.

Chess960 World Championship.
The first Chess960 World Championship organized by FIDE. Photo: Lennart Ootes, CC.

Understanding how to play Chess960 can be difficult because the positions are so different from regular chess. If you need an extra help, this video can help you.

4-Player Chess

Want to play chess with more than one friend at a time? There is a variant for that, too. Another fun way of shaking things up is 4-Player Chess. As the name implies, you play together with three others. Here's the twist: you are all using the same board. You can play it in a Free-for-All game, or you can team up with another player to battle the other team.

The 4-Player Chess variant.
Four players use the same board in 4-Player Chess.

Not sure how this sort of game works? Watch this short video explaining the rules of 4-Player Chess.

3-Check

If you enjoy checking the enemy king, there is a variant for you, too. In 3-Check Chess, you win the game by checking your opponent's king three times.

3-Check variant.
In 3-Check Chess you win by checking your opponent's king three times. Note the check counter next to the board on the left.

Want tips to improve on 3-Check Chess? Watch the video below and get ready to win more games.

King Of The Hill

Have you heard how dominating the center of the board is crucial? In King of the Hill (shortened KOTH), another popular variant, this concept is even more decisive. In these games, you win the game by getting your king to one of the central squares of the board.

The King of the Hill variant.
In King of the Hill, a player win by reaching one of the four central squares with their king.

Do any of these variants seem exciting to you? The good news is that you can play any of them on Chess.com!

How To Play Chess Variants On Chess.com

Are you ready to start playing these thrilling games? Doing so is very simple. Hover over the Play button in the sidebar menu and click the orange New Game button.

Play chess variants on Chess.com.

Click the button under Type and select the variant that you would like to play. Notice that some variants are not available for Daily Chess games.

Choose the variant you want to play.

If you need a quick explanation of the rules of a specific type of game, you can hover your mouse over the question mark icon.

Use the question mark icon for explanations on the variant.

You can also find these variants in the Live Chess page. Check out this video to learn how to do that.

Conclusion

You now know what a chess variant is and the basic rules for the most popular of them. Head over to the Live Chess section and start playing one of these exciting games now.