Chess960 Variant

Chess960 is a chess variant created by Bobby Fischer in which the starting position of the pieces on the home ranks are randomized (with a number of restrictions):

Before the game, a starting position is randomly determined and set up, subject to certain requirements. White’s pieces (not pawns) are placed randomly on the first rank, with two restrictions:

The bishops must be placed on opposite-color squares.
The king must be placed on a square between the rooks.
Black’s pieces are placed equal-and-opposite to White’s pieces. (For example, if the white king is randomly determined to start on f1, then the black king is placed on f8.) Pawns are placed on the players’ second ranks as in standard chess.

After setup, the game is played the same as standard chess in all respects, with the exception of castling from the different possible starting positions for king and rooks.

This yields a potential 960 different starting positions.

Fischer’s motivation in creating the variant (and its popularity since) was to, as Frederic Friedel summarized it in Chess News, “eliminate the staggering amount of preparation that is required in regular chess.”

Fischer’s intention in introducing the new rules was to eliminate the incredible level of openings preparation that prevails in contemporary chess. In my conversations with him, I admitted that this was a real problem: imagine a world championship in a few years from now, where the two players reel off 28 moves of a known variation, in just a few minutes — and then one of them plays a novelty. His opponent thinks for an hour and resigns the game! Bobby enjoyed this somewhat facetious scenario that justified his introduction of New Chess, where players must devise original moves from the start. Memorizing thousands of home prepared opening lines would be eliminated, and the playing field would be levelled.

Friedel notes a number of issues with Chess960, however, the biggest of which is that some of the randomized positions give a substantial advantage to one side. This can be remediated somewhat by having players play two games, swapping the white and black starting positions, but this requires more time and has other issues (as Friedel notes, “in the second game players have learned from the first one” so the second game isn’t necessarily a great equalizer).

ChessPlus

ChessPlus is a chess variant where you can split and combine chess pieces into new combinations.

Chessplus is played under standard chess rules with one difference – pieces can be merged to combine their powers, and merged pieces can be split back into their individual pieces.

Here is a quick guide to the rules:

1. Merging or splitting is considered a move.

2. Individual pieces must always move according to their traditional ability.

3. A player can create a merged piece by moving an individual piece onto the square of another piece of the same colour, except for the king.

4. A merged piece can move as either of it’s joined pieces, or can be split by moving a joined piece away individually.

5. When a merged piece containing a pawn makes it to the other end of the board it is promoted to a queen.

6. When a merged piece is captured or promoted the merged piece leaves the board.

Selim Akl’s Quantum Chess Variant

Selim Akl’s website has a suggested chess variant that relies on quantum-like states,

Quantum Chess, a variant of the chess game invented by Selim Akl, uses the weird properties of quantum physics. Unlike the chess pieces of the conventional game, where a pawn is a pawn, and a rook is a rook, a quantum chess piece is a superposition of “states”, each state representing a different conventional piece. In Quantum Chess, a player does not know the identity of a piece (that is, whether it is a pawn, a rook, a bishop, and so on) until the piece is selected for a move. Once a piece is selected it elects to behave as one of its constituent conventional pieces, but soon recovers its quantum state and returns to being a superposition of two or more pieces. Why Quantum Chess? Conventional chess is a game of complete information, and thanks to their raw power and clever algorithms, computers reign supreme when pitted against human players. The idea behind Quantum Chess is to introduce an element of unpredictability into chess, and thereby place the computer and the human on a more equal footing.

The site includes rules for one possible variation of quantum chess that can be played with a Java applet linked to

Loka – A Fantasy Chess Variant

Loka is a 4-player chess variant that had a successful Kickstarter campaign last year.

The game features both a fantasy-styled chess set that can be used for traditional chess, as well as a variant rule system built around a point-based army building system,  and dice for resolving captures.

AncientChess.Com posted an excellent, generally positive overview of how the variant play works:

Mecklenbeck Chess Variant

Mecklenbeck chess is a chess variant that changes the pawn promotion rules,

he only difference with the rules of orthodox chess, is that pawns may also promote on the sixth and seventh rank. When a player moves a pawn to the sixth rank, it may choose to promote the pawn, or may decide to keep the pawn as a pawn. (Usually, one would choose the first option, but one might for instance want to avoid stalemate, or leave the option to take a knight open.) When the pawn remains a pawn, the same choice is there again when the pawn is moved to the seventh rank. When a pawn is moved to the eighth rank, it must be promoted.