Chess Terms
Odds Chess

Odds Chess

Playing chess is a lot of fun, but it can be tedious if you're playing against someone whose skill level is very different from yours. If they're too good, you won't even have a fighting chance, and if they're a lot worse, your victories will have no meaning—unless you're playing Odds Chess.

Here's what you need to know about Odds Chess.


What Is Odds Chess?

Odds Chess is a chess variant where one of the players starts the game with an advantage over their opponent. Those advantages, or odds, usually involve extra material, time, or extra tempi, although other types of odds are possible.

Odds Chess.
One player starts with better odds when playing Odds Chess—in this image, the game is played with material odds of a rook and a knight.

Odds Chess is a way of balancing the game when there's a difference in skill between players. With odds in their favor, the weaker player has a better chance of playing against their opponent.

Below you can see the genius Paul Morphy defeating chess problemist and author Napoleon Marache in an Odds game in 1859. Morphy gave the 1856 New York Chess Club Cup champion queen's knight odds and still managed to checkmate him.

How Does Odds Chess Work?

The odds the weaker player receives when playing Odds Chess depends on the strength gap between the players. The weaker player receives more significant odds as the skill gap increases.

On Chess.com, an extremely complex algorithm automatically determines the odds that the weaker player receives. In laymen's terms, every 100-rating-point gap leads to roughly one material point.

Odds Chess.
White starts the game with one fewer pawn since his rating is roughly 100 points higher than his opponent's.

The image above shows an Odds Game where one player is rated 117 points higher than his opponent. In that game, the higher-rated player started the game with a pawn missing. In the image below, you can see a 436-point-rating gap. The stronger player started the game with the queen's knight missing.

Odds Chess.
White is missing the queenside knight to compensate for the rating gap between the players.

The same would be true for an even wider rating gap. For two players with a 1000-point-rating difference (e.g., a 2000-rated player versus a player with a 1000 rating), the lower-rated player would likely start the game with queen odds.

How To Play Odds Chess On Chess.com

Playing Odds Chess on Chess.com is simple. To do so, head over to our Play page and hit the "Play a Friend" button. After selecting the friend you want to play with, you should click the variants dropdown menu and select the "Balanced/Odds" option. You can then choose the option of letting Chess.com automatically calculate the odds based on your rating gap or manually one of the odds available.

Odds Chess.
You can play Odds Chess on Chess.com.

Conclusion

You now know what Odds Chess is, how this variant works, and how to play it on Chess.com. Head over to our Play page and invite one of your friends for an odds game!