Variants in Chess – Part 2


Once I  received very positive feedback for the previous article Variants in Chess part 1, which included 1. Chess960, 2. 4player chess 3. 1,2,3,4 and 4. Bughouse chess. So it was a no brainer for me to come up with part 2. I am sure that you all must have tried some of those variants. Continuing the sequence in this article, I will present Hand and Brain, Doubles, King to the hill, 3+ Check, Horde.

5.Hand and Brain

Hand and Brain variant is generally played on standard board position which requires 4 players, 2 on each side. In this, one player will be brain and the other will be 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 8 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 any time. The clock adds to 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 which goes on when the hand doesn’t play what the brain expected and they have to soon revise their strategy. The mess is where the real fun belongs!


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

6. Doubles

Doubles is also a 4 player format, 2 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 of white will play a move which will be replied by 2nd player of 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 seen on the elite level as well, here are a few videos of it.


7. King to the Hill


A lot of people play this variant. There is an additional method of winning in this variant. Just like normal 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 personally don’t like this format as it doesn’t give the thrill which the other variants give.

8. 3 check

3 check variant also gives an additional winning option to the normal chess. The game is decided on 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 defending skills.

9. Horde

Horde is a variant available exclusively on lichess. When I first saw this variant, I 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 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 really bored of playing equal positions, you guys can surely play this variant.

So these were the variants which I felt worth covering in this article. These are definitely worth trying in COVID-19 situations if you are bored with standard chess. If you know any other variants which you feel are interesting then you can let us know in the comments section. If you like this article then do let us know in the comments section and also you can suggest improvements.