Dark chess

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This article is about the chess variant. For the board game played with xiangqi pieces, see Banqi.

Dark chess is a chess variant with incomplete information, similar to Kriegspiel. It was invented by Jens Bæk Nielsen and Torben Osted in 1989. A player does not see the entire board, only their own pieces (including pawns), and squares where these pieces can legally move.

a b c d e f g h
a8 black cross
b8 black cross
c8 black cross
d8 black cross
e8 black cross
f8 black cross
h8 black cross
a7 black cross
b7 black cross
c7 black knight
d7 black cross
e7 black cross
f7 black cross
h7 black cross
a6 black cross
b6 black cross
d6 black pawn
f6 black pawn
a5 black cross
b5 black cross
f5 white pawn
h5 black cross
a4 black pawn
b4 black pawn
d4 white pawn
e4 white knight
f4 white bishop
d3 black cross
f3 black cross
h3 white pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
h2 white queen
a1 white king
c1 white rook
g1 white rook
7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
a b c d e f g h
A game of Dark chess in progress; squares indicated by "×" can not be seen by the white player.


The goal of this chess variant is not to checkmate the king, but to capture it. A player is not told if their king is in check. Failing to move out of check, or moving into check, are both legal, and can obviously result in a capture and loss of the game.

Each player views a different version of the board, on which they can only see their own pieces, and the squares where these pieces can legally move. It is indicated to the player which squares are hidden, so a hidden square can never be confused with a visible empty square. As an example, it is always clear when an enemy piece is directly in front of a pawn, because that square will be hidden (as that is not a legal move for the pawn to make).

En passant capture is allowed; the threatened pawn and the square it moved through are both visible to the capturing player, but only until the end of the turn. Unlike standard chess, castling is allowed out of check, into check, and through the positions attacked by opponent pieces.

This chess variant is best played on one of the online chess servers. For playing over-the-board, three chess sets and a referee are needed, just as in Kriegspiel.

There are some minor differences in the rules on different servers:

  • BrainKing: pawn promotions remain unknown for the opponent.
  • ItsYourTurn: the opponent knows that a pawn was promoted, but does not know where.
  • SchemingMind: you do not see what is in front of your pawns, but know if the position is occupied or not.
  • AjaxPlay.Com: En passant capture is not allowed; pawn promotions remain unknown for the opponent.
  • GoldToken: pawn promotions remain unknown for the opponent.


Generally, because basic Dark chess rules are universal with respect to its "parent" classical variant, any 2-player chess variant may be played "in dark". SchemingMind provides some of the variations.

  • Dark chess (checkmate) — you are notified that your king is in check and you cannot move your king into check. The goal in this variation is the same as in standard chess — to checkmate the king.
  • Dark chess (check) — you are notified that your king is in check, but there is no restrictions on movement, your king can remain in check after a move. The goal in this variation is the same as in standard dark chess — to capture the king.
  • Dark crazyhouse — combination of crazyhouse and dark chess.
  • Dark suicide — combination of suicide and dark chess.
  • Sun Tzu chess — combination of Double Fischer Random Chess (like Chess960, but with different positions for white and black), crazyhouse and dark chess. You can drop pieces you have in any possible square on the board (like crazyhouse). This chess variant was invented in 2005 by John Kipling Lewis.
  • Lao Tzu chess — like Sun Tzu, but you can only drop pieces on square you can see. Also invented in 2005 by John Kipling Lewis.
  • Dark Omega chess — combination of Omega Chess and dark chess.[1]
  • Dark Seirawan chess — combination of Seirawan chess and dark chess.


Dark chess has a strong strategic flavor. Planning and strategy, as well as some psychological reasoning, are very important; tactics and move searching are not.

In this chess variant a king should be carefully protected from very dangerous checks by invisible pieces. For a queen the most dangerous pieces are knights, which can attack it without becoming visible.

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