Chess Terms
Hand And Brain

Hand And Brain

Hand and brain: don't almost all chess players use both of these all the time? Yes, they do—okay, maybe not always the brain—but that's not what this term references. Read on to learn what hand and brain chess is, the rules of hand and brain, and more.

What Are The Hand And Brain Rules?

Hand-and-brain is a chess variant where each color is played by two people. One of them (the "brain") announces one of the six pieces—king, queen, rook, bishop, knight, or pawn—and the other player (the "hand") moves any of the named piece on the board that has a legal move. The catch: the "brain" cannot tell the specific move they want to play or give any hint to help the "hand" to figure it out.

For example, on the first move, the brain for White might say "knight." Now, the hand can pick either knight and play it to any legal square. Then the brain for Black might say "pawn" whereon the hand can play any of the eight pawns one or two squares forward. Then the White brain announces "pawn", and so on.

If you were the "brain" for White what piece would you call out here?

Why Play Hand And Brain Chess?

Hand and brain is a popular format, especially for streaming, because it's a way for players of all abilities to get involved on the same ground.

The player naming the piece (the "brain") has a specific move in mind, but the player making the move (the "hand") may or may not realize what it is. But that's part of the fun.

As a trivial example, the brain will likely say "queen" here, but it is up to the hand to play a checkmate that wins (Qa7 or Qb7) instead of a stalemate which draws (Qc7).

Usually, but mainly for entertainment value, the stronger player takes the brain role and the other one plays the hand. However, both arrangements are possible, and hand and brain can also be played with only masters or only amateurs.


In 2021, Twitch Rivals ran a hand-and-brain chess event with several stars of both chess and content creation participating. The team of Ludwig and GM Robert Hess won, defeating the team of Sardoche and NM Kevin Bordi in the final.

The daughter-mother duo of WFM Anna Cramling and GM Pia Cramling played some hand and brain on Anna's stream in 2022.


Now you know what hand and brain chess is, the rules, and how it works in practice. Next time you and three friends are together, try a game of hand and brain!

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