Chigorin Chess

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a b c d e f g h
a8 black rook
b8 black bishop
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black bishop
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white rook
b1 white knight
c1 white knight
d1 white chancelor
e1 white king
f1 white knight
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
Chigorin Chess, starting position

Chigorin Chess is a chess variant invented by Ralph Betza in 2002.[1] It was named after Mikhail Ivanovich Chigorin.[1] Betza commented that

Today he [Chigorin] is mostly remembered as a player who preferred Knights to Bishops. He didn't, really; instead, he had a more modern understanding of the relative values than his contemporaries, he realized that it all depends on the position, and that losing a tempo to get [Bishop] for [Knight] is usually a bad idea.

— Ralph Betza, Chigorin Chess, The Chess Variant Pages


The game follows all the rules and conventions of standard chess, with two differences:[1]

  1. White starts with additional knights instead of both bishops, and a chancellor (which moves as rook or knight) instead of a queen, while Black starts with additional bishops instead of both knights, and has a standard queen.[1]
  2. Pawns can only promote to any piece that their side had at the beginning of the game, except the king. Thus, white pawns may only promote to knight, rook, or chancellor, while black pawns may only promote to bishop, rook, or queen.[1]


Chigorin Chess was meant to emphasize the contrast between the relative values of knights and bishops in standard chess. Betza commented that it was a good introductory variant for chessplayers, like his earlier Almost Chess.[1]

Betza noted that White has a large advantage due to his fast development, being able to castle as early as the third move, whereas Black cannot castle before the fifth move, and to castle that early he must move the f- or h-pawn to develop the g8-bishop and weaken his kingside.[1]