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
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.