Chess Terms
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.

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.

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.

Fog Of War

If you're up for an exciting game and are ready to face your fear of the unknown, Fog of War is the right variant for you. In it, players can only see the squares to which their pieces can legally move to. There are no checks, and the game only ends when one of the kings is captured.

Chess Variants Fog Of War
A Fog of War game. White can only see the squares their pieces can legally move to.

Giveaway

Giveaway chess (also known as Antichess) is a variant that turns chess upside down. The goal of the game is to give up all your pieces or force your opponent to stalemate you. The catch: captures are compulsory, so you can't just wander with your pieces aimlessly.

Giveaway Chess Variants
A Giveaway game between FM Mike Klein and parcelinc.

Atomic

Atomic chess is the right variant for those who like action and explosions. In this game, every capture produces an explosion that affects the pieces surrounding the captured piece, including the attacking one.

Atomic Chess Variants
The king can't capture other pieces or it would explode itself in Atomic Chess.

Automate

In Automate, players have 35 points to "buy" pieces and place them on the board. After both players finish creating their armies, the engines take over to control the pieces and see whose forces are more powerful.

Automate Chess Variants
You can create your army based on the points you have and watch the engine play the game out.

Horde

In Horde, Black starts with the regular chess pieces while White starts with a horde of 36 pawns. Black must capture all the enemy pawns (and promoted pieces) to win, while White must checkmate the black king.

Horde Chess Variants
White starts with a horde of pawns and Black with the normal pieces.

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.

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.

Crazyhouse

Crazyhouse is 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.

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. You can find most of those types of chess on our Variants page.

Chess Variants
Play chess variants on Chess.com.

You can also find some of these variants in the Live Chess page. Check out this video by IM Danny Rensch 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 Variants page or click the button below and start playing one of these exciting games now.

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