9 Chess Variants You Must Know

Today’s article is on chess variants; I plan to share a few of the interesting variants. Normal chess is itself an interesting game, but there are a lot of other ways to play chess. Some of them can be played face-to-face, while a few need to be played online. So for playing these variants, there are special rules altered to play them.

Playing chess variants is fun and entertaining. Playing variants like 960 allows you to broader your vision and helps you to become a better chess player. Chess960 is also considered an official chess format as World Chess Federation organizes the chess960 world championship often.

No wonder chess variants will add up the fun element of a chess game.

I hope you enjoy this article.


Chess960, aka The Fischer Random, is the variant developed by Former World Champion Robert James Fischer. His point was to keep the basic rules of chess as it is and just shuffle the remaining pieces. This means that all the pawns will stay on the 2nd rank, both the Bishops will be on opposite colors, and the King will stay in between the two Rooks. Just to make you all know what chess960 is, this is one of the positions. Of course, both players will have the pieces placed identically.

You must be wondering why the name Chess960; it is because the number of starting positions with the basic rules staying the same is 960. It just shows how rich the game of chess is! To be able to arrange the pieces in 960 ways, and also, those positions are not analyzed as heavily as the standard chess position.

Benefits of playing chess960 – as standard chess is explored so much and with engines coming in, my personal opinion is we should try chess960. This will give us fresh positions to play and also to play creatively. Generally, we tend to check opening books or refer engines for our preparation, but it’s great that the remaining 959 positions are not discovered.

A game from Chess960 World Championship Final between Carlsen and Wesley So was covered by Agadmator.

Four Player Chess

Four-player chess is not yet seen in over-the-board practice. I gathered information to check where we can play 4-player chess. There are a few options, and many rules are varied on each website. I like chess.com ‘s 4-player chess. The rules are well explained, and the clock also makes it interesting.  I recommend everyone to give it a shot at playing this.

Depending on your taste, you can choose a two vs. two or the last man standing. In the 2vs2 game, you can play directly, but it is nice to have a friend with you as a partner; the benefit is you can call each other and discuss how to mate your opponents.

In the format of the last man standing, it all depends on luck, just the way that if 3 people decide to gang up against you, even luck can’t help you. Click here for more information.

I think the best way is to get 3 of your friends and start playing a four-player game where you can play on the last man standing and enjoy checking how trustful your friends are 🙂

A fun stream by Samay Raina, including GM Anish Giri, GM Vidit Gujrathi, WFM Alexandra Botez, and Agadmator


This is a popular format. The rules are of a normal chess game, just the fact that white plays 1st move, then black gets 2 moves, then white gets 3 moves, and black gets four, and so on in which a player can deliver a  check on the last move and can deliver a mate whenever possible. This is a good tool to improve creative patterns, ideas, and force moves, and you can enjoy discovering while playing!


This is a team game where four players play on two separate boards. Both Bughouse and Supply are different; I feel Bughouse is a bit improved version of supply. Both are possible over-the-board chess. In Bughouse, the team is with 1 white and 1 black; for instance, there are four players wiz A, B, C, D. A and B are teams, and C and D are a team.

Plays with white pieces, and on other boards, B will take black pieces. When A captures a black piece, it goes to B, and B can use it on his board, so no pieces leave the board as they are used on the partner’s board. There are a few specific rules for this variant, so I am attaching a link to the rules. You can check it out here.

The reason I like Bughouse or even supply is you need to keep two boards in mind and trade pieces wisely, like until delivering checkmate; Queen is a useless piece; it gets attacked easily by the minor pieces. I feel Rooks are not as powerful as knights or pawns, as both these units are much more annoying for the opponent. I will suggest everyone play Bughouse online in this COVID-19 situation but once it’s over, the fun of playing bughouse/supply is amazing.

Above is the video of World Champion Magnus Carlsen playing Bughouse with other top players.

So these were some of the interesting variants in chess, there are a lot of variants like correspondence chess, crazy house, atomic chess, horde, king to the hill, etc., so I will try to cover other variants in some future articles. I hope I made you curious to play any of these variants. Do continue following our website for more interesting articles.

Hand and Brain

The hand and Brain variant is generally played on standard board position, which requires four players, 2 on each side. In this, one player will be the brain, and the other will be the hand; the brain can only name the piece or pawn and not tell which square to play it depends on the hand to predict where to place the piece or pawn and also to guess which piece (as there are two rooks, two knights, two bishops and eight pawns.) to play.

It is so unique that you need to guess what your partner is planning, and if you miss, you might already be losing, but here comes the best part, even your opponents need to be coordinated, so the tables can turn at any time. The clock adds a different type of pressure and increases the fun element.

Hand and brain can be played both online and face to face; of course, chess is best-played face to face, but you can do a group call and play it online as well! My favorite part of hand and brain is the banter that goes on when the hand doesn’t play what the brain expected and they have to revise their strategy soon. The mess is where the real fun belongs!

Here is a video of GM Hikaru Nakamura and WFM Alexandra Botez playing Hand and Brain.


Doubles is also a 4-player format, with two players on each side; in this case, the players play alternate moves, just like the game of table tennis doubles. When 1st player of white plays a move, the 1st player of black will respond to it, and then 2nd player white will play a move which will be replied to by 2nd player on the black side.

In this way, the sequence is decided which player will reply to which player, and the sequence cannot be broken. The rules of the game stay the same as basic chess, but as in hand and brain, winning depends a lot on which team has good coordination. Even here, the banter brings the fun.

The benefit of this can be that you can learn to think about how your partner thinks in certain positions and how he plays positions (attacking/safe).

This format is also seen on the elite level; here are a few videos of it.

King to the Hill

A lot of people play this variant. There is an additional method of winning in this variant. Like regular chess, all rules stay the same, but one player wins if his king reaches the center of the board. This version of chess can develop your skill of trying to stop your opponent from reaching his goal and, at the same time, trying to get your king there. I don’t like this format as it doesn’t give the thrill which the other variants give.

Three checks

Three check variant also gives an additional winning option to normal chess. The game is decided by which side lands three checks to the opposition. As in the game of chess, the king needs to be protected; here also, that’s the goal. One needs to play safe and keep his king away from checks. Generally, games end very quickly in this variant. It can improve one’s defense skills.


chess variants
Horde Initial Position

Horde is a variant available on lichess and on chess.com. When I first saw this variant, it just blew my mind! The white side has 36 pawns, while the black side has the regular pieces arranged. I think this is the first variant that is played without a king on the white side. It is a unique format, and one can give it a shot. I felt a bit of a headache after playing this variant for the first time. That might be its initial impact. If you want to learn more about Horde, you can check this link. So I will suggest those who are bored of playing equal positions, you guys can surely play this variant.

So these were the variants I felt were worth covering in this article. These are worth trying if you are bored with standard chess.