Talk:List of chess variants

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Former good article nominee List of chess variants was a good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
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Some suggested criteria for what counts as a chess variant[edit]

From the comments here:

  1. Turn-based two-player game with complete information
  2. Played by moving pieces between discrete positions ('board squares')
  3. The players can move one piece per turn
  4. Pieces capture by replacement
  5. Many different piece types
  6. One piece type is 'royal', the loss of which ends the game
  7. One piece type is much more abundant than the others, quite weak, and moves irreversibly and can promote
  8. Pieces belong to a player

(The original 7 from H.G.Muller, with another by A. Black that he put on a par with these 7 later; though he adds "Violating one or more of these rules doesn't necessarilly immediately di[s]qualify a game for being a Chess variant. But if you violate a rule very badly (e.g. win by total extinction, in stead of check-mate, as in Suicide Chess), you'd better follow the others to the letter, or you are in trouble." (So that suicide chess is fine despite violating 6, and Kriegspiel is fine despite violating 1, and Progressive Chess is fine despite violating 3.)

  1. Bilateral symmetry and equality of material

An additional one from Parlett; his other four criteria are the same as Muller 2, 4, 5, and 6, though he does not allow for the possibility of multiple royal pieces. Chess960 usually violates the first point here, and odds games would violate the second.

  1. Game does not involve physical dexterity, drinking, etc, so it could be put into a computer; but no computer is required to play game in general
  2. Real time taken does not affect the rules of the game (except the tournament rules, which might give you time limits, and stuff like that)
  3. Board is finite and the geometry/topology of the board won't change during the game
  4. There is no decision other than the movement of the pieces
  5. You will normally have a choice of which piece to move and which way to move it (within the restrictions of the rules)
  6. Game has well-defined ending condition
  7. You win, or lose, or draw; it is not ambiguous and you do not win by a number of points which can vary [Betza PASGL violates this, but violating one is probably OK.]
  8. The different function of different pieces is mostly only their difference of movement

(More from an A. Black comment. I deleted two because they are really biased towards orthodox chess: the ability to use standard chess equipment, and pieces that move in the same way. 15 and 16 are pretty close, but the latter is more specific: I'd keep only 15, so that the ending condition, whatever it is, is well-defined.

  1. All squares are essentially equal, there is no terrain to consider. [Obviously, except the edges. See 12. H.G.Muller's definition of this is "[E]very piece should have the same move steps from every square. But to account for board edges, you would have to allow some steps to be disqualified for falling off board."]
  2. A chess piece is either fully functional or captured, there is no such thing like 'damage' or 'health' with consequences to the piece (slower motion, need of repair, easier capturability). Of course, a bad position (e.g. pinned) does not count as damage. In FIDE chess the only (very mild) violation of the no damage rule is the loss of castling rights. [And also e.p. capturing rights. OTOH, I do not think this would disqualify "iron" pieces that cannot be captured at all, or "rusty iron" pieces that can only be captured by certain piece types, since these capturing rights do not change.]
  3. There is Zugzwang: players with legal moves are obliged to move even if every legal move leads to defeat. [Similar would be a rule that you cannot make a move that has no effect; in cylindrical chess, for example, Rh4-h4, going all the way around, would be illegal. This is mildly violated by chu shogi and tenjiku shogi, as well as the other mostly uninteresting historical large shogi variants.]

Another three from Jörg Knappen. Double sharp (talk) 08:18, 13 February 2016 (UTC)

This is a worthy effort. I like the idea that you can abrogate one of these conditions, maybe two, slightly -- after all, it wouldn't be a 'variant' otherwise. However if you get crazy, it removes the game from consideration here. ('Chess boxing' is an example of something that violates your 'no physical dexterity' rule.') WHPratt (talk) 13:31, 13 February 2016 (UTC)
Indeed, though they're not my rules: at most I just collected them from various comments on The Chess Variant Pages. If we were to be absolutely strict on them, even FIDE chess would be disqualified for violating 3 (castling) and 4 (en passant)! But nobody would do that. In fact, I think some violations (like castling and en passant violating 3 and 4, or xiangqi's castles and rivers violating 18 – though maybe these can be considered edges that only apply to some pieces) could be almost taken as grandfathered in because the games they appear in are so well-known. I'd say that whatever violations appear in xiangqi, shogi, or FIDE chess at the very least get a free pass.
I was by the way tempted to add a 21 "it does not matter how the winning condition was obtained", so that you could checkmate with any piece. Shogi of course violates this slightly (打ち歩詰め uchifuzume; pawns cannot be dropped to give immediate checkmate), as does shatar under the old rules (knights cannot give checkmate). But I decided to just leave it to the ones stated by somebody else, and discuss potential additions separately. Double sharp (talk) 03:51, 14 February 2016 (UTC)

CVP now has a page on this! Double sharp (talk) 14:38, 5 May 2016 (UTC)


Why is 'Endgame Chess' listed in the section of variants with unequal material? Both sides have King + 8 Pawns. I left it there, because I did not see where else to put it. I did usurp the diagram for it, however, for the benefit of 'Charge of the Light Brigade', which is an unequal-material variant. And I think it deserves to be mentioned because it is of fundamental importance for the understanding of the limitations of the concept of piece values. (As under optimal play this seems to be won for the Knights, despite them being superficially 6 Pawns behind.)H.G.Muller (talk) 14:10, 25 April 2016 (UTC)

There doesn't seem to be a section for symmetric variants with normal Chess pieces, but in different numbers.

I believe you've misinterpreted the subhead "Chess with different forces" to mean with unbalanced forces, when I think it has meant with different forces (armies) from the standard/orthochess setup. Likewise the description "[...] use different numbers of pieces for White and Black" means different numbers, from standard/orthochess. (So the class is inclusive of different but balanced.) IHTS (talk) 00:24, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
Are you claiming that it is a coincidence that ALL OTHER variants mentioned in that section have different armies for black and white? While such variants are in fact extremely rare? H.G.Muller (talk) 11:56, 26 April 2016 (UTC)
H.G.Muller, why are you trying to pin me down/argue? I thought I helped by explaining how I believe that sec appears to have been defined & used. If you have a suggested org improvement idea, go ahead & say. But I didn't create that section, nor do I see it as deficient or undue. IHTS (talk) 11:10, 11 May 2016 (UTC)
Well, nothing personal, but I just happen to think you are wrong. The section seems to be defined and used for variants where white does not have the same initial army as black, (but without fairy pieces), and Endgame Chess was somehow put in there by mistake. So my idea for improvement is to remove it from that section. There currently does not seem to be a section where it does fit, however. (Normal board, symmetric setup, normal pieces, but in abnormal quantities. There are more variants like that (e.g. 'wild castle' (wild 4?), where the King is placed randomly on the back rank, but all other squares there are occupied by an independently randomly chosen piece type, so that in theory you could have only Bishops. Or misc/shogi on FICS, which starts with two extra pieces on 2nd rank, and all Pawns on the 3rd.) — Preceding unsigned comment added by H.G.Muller (talkcontribs) 20:26, 23 May 2016 (UTC)
I would say that yes, it is a coincidence that all of the other games in that section have unbalanced sets of pieces. The first section is for games that use a regular set (PPPPPPPPNNBBRRQK) on a regular (8x8) board, but begin the game with the pieces on nontraditional squares. The second section is for games that use something other than the standard set on a regular board. As it happens, most of those that we have here are unbalanced.
But there did/does seem to be room for improvement with the section organization. I took a stab at reworking some of it. Basically that meant simplifying, standardizing, and multiplying headings. It's a long list, so I think it can accommodate more subsections. The gist is that it's broken into orthodox rules and unorthodox rules. Each of those sections has subsections for standard and nonstandard boards as well as more specific subsections.
I think the non-two-player variants could be better worked in.
The historical/related games that aren't technically variants should probably be spun out...but how to frame that list? List of chess-related games seems pretty poor... — Rhododendrites talk \\ 22:32, 23 May 2016 (UTC)
I'm finding the re-worked article organization (heads & subheads), confusing and difficult to digest. IHTS (talk) 23:37, 23 May 2016 (UTC)

So, briefly, regarding the section headings which have not changed, it seems like "chess-derived games" shouldn't be necessary and that, as the subject is chess variants, I don't think it makes sense to include anything that isn't a chess-derived game. IHTS, I think you've read more of the literature on the subject than I have, though, so perhaps I'm wrong and "variant" can also be defined as ~"a game which bears some resemblance to chess".

But that can be a separate discussion. On the topic of the sections, and omitting those at the end that haven't changed, here is what the sections were:

Original headings
  • Chess-derived games
    • Chess with different starting positions
    • Chess with different forces
    • Chess with unusual rules
      • Multimove variants
      • Chess with incomplete information or elements of chance
    • Chess with different boards
      • Chess with different boards and unusual rules
    • Chess with unusual (fairy) pieces
      • Chess with empress and/or princess pieces
      • Chess hybrids
      • Chess with unusual (fairy) pieces and different boards

Here's what they are now:

Current headings
  • Chess-derived games
    • Orthodox chess rules
      • Orthodox rules on a standard 8x8 board
        • Different starting position
        • Different number of pieces
      • Orthodox rules on an unorthodox board
    • Unorthodox rules with traditional pieces
      • Unorthodox rules on a standard 8x8 board
        • Multimove variants
        • Incomplete information or elements of chance
      • Unorthodox rules on an unorthodox board
    • Unorthodox rules using nontraditional pieces
      • Nontraditional pieces on a standard 8x8 board
        • Fairy pieces
        • Empress and/or princess pieces
        • Other unorthodox pieces
      • Unorthodox pieces using unorthodox boards

The idea is that these games seem to vary according to (a) standard rules or not, (b) standard board or not, (c) standard pieces or not, (d) (if standard pieces) standard number/arrangement of pieces or not. It seems like it makes sense to organize according to those differences rather than use potentially unclear phrases like "different forces", "hybrids", and "unusual rules". It also seems sensible to remove the various instances of "chess"/"chess with", to instead focus on how they differ.

That said, I don't know that this way is the best way. It seems like an improvement to me, but others can disagree, of course. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 00:02, 24 May 2016 (UTC)

It sounds like you started based on inadequate clarity of some of the existing terms ("different forces", "hybrids", "unusual rules", "chess"), but rather than changing or clarifying those, you re-org'd the presentation structure, at same time replacing all those terms. (So, two different things at same time. Which to discuss? It's confusing. [Also, the new terms introduce their own lack of clarity, e.g. "orthodox/unorthodox", "traditional/nontraditional", "standard/{non-standard}", and even "{same}/different" ... all essentially mean the same thing, Also, the heading "nontraditional pieces" is subdivided as "fairy", "empress and/or princess", and "other"; but *all* nontraditional pieces are fairy {so that's confusing since inherently inaccurate}. And "unorthodox rules using nontraditional pieces" can be confusing, since it implies "orthodox rules using fairy pieces" exists, which might be confusing.] There's some inconsistency too ["nontraditional pieces" are later referred to as "unorthodox pieces"]. The new structure is less reader "friendly/accessible" [e.g. there are two layers of structure added before getting to variants which differ only by the starting position].) It would be easier to compare the value of the organizational changes introduced if the new term use could be cleaned up. IHTS (talk) 01:01, 24 May 2016 (UTC)
The "orthodox" et al. terms: I tried to use terms already in use, but use them consistently (e.g. "orthodox" with regard to rules, "standard" with regard to the board, etc.). Ultimately, yes, they're interchangeable. I wanted to avoid repetition in the same line (e.g. X1 rules, X2 board, X3 pieces vs. X rules, X board, X pieces), but my reasons for picking the ones I did were admittedly aesthetic preference. Would you suggest using only one? If so, which?
The fairy: My mistake. I had thought fairy was the catch-all, indeed, but [mistakenly] saw fairy and empress/princess appearing on the same heading level (turns out they weren't). Fixed now. Just removed the fairy subsection and added the word to the parent, leaving empress/princess as a subsection.
If you want to take a whack at it and reverting would make things easier, go for it, of course. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 01:54, 24 May 2016 (UTC)
I tend to work w/ (evolve) what other editors put down, unless there's an obvious/clear-cut problem. I have a hard time finding a basis for entering this discussion, since I'm not sure what you found defective w/ the previous presentation structure, to overhaul it. (What problem was attempted to be solved?) Again, your impetus was with unclear terms, that could have been handled short of structural reorg. (Now we have, IMO, a presentation heavy on structure, so much so it overpowers/obscures the article content/readability/digestibility.) IHTS (talk) 12:53, 24 May 2016 (UTC)

Upside-down chess[edit]

As I was copyediting the description of upside-down chess, I was confused when the notation I was typing out for a typical three move smother-mate didn't actually lead to mate with the starting position as given in the diagram -- a diagram similar to the one at the page. To make sure I wasn't hallucinating I logged into a couple chess servers to play the game, and indeed I am not. looks to have it wrong. The first odd thing I notice is their chessboard has a black square in the lower-right. More importantly, the king and queen are reversed. The starting position for upside-down chess looks like a normal set-up, but like you're playing the opposite color. It's not the same as if the pieces started on the first rank and marched straight up to the 8th. In other words, it's not like white takes black's starting position, with a queen on a dark square -- the queen still goes on her color. My guess is the board was rotated 90 degrees to accommodate that switch (or the switch was because of a rotated board? I don't know). Nearly every game starts with Nf6/Nh6 followed by Ng4/Nf5 forcing moves to prevent the Ne3 smother mate. It might be that the source that page drew from was based on some niche over-the-board only sort of thing, but the page also points to MEWIS (the server formerly at that telnet address), and mentions "wild 5". On every chess server that has wild 5, including MEWIS, it's played as I'm describing it.

So I've gone ahead and changed it, and someone would be justified to revert because I'm not seeing a good source to offer as replacement (though it makes me question [again] the quality of as a source). It is verifiable, though, via ICC or FICS. Meh. — Rhododendrites talk \\ 15:07, 20 May 2016 (UTC)

My guess (to explain the diagram): imagine picking up a chessboard set up in the standard position, and flipping the board physically upside down horizontally (so square a8 becomes h8), where pieces would fall off due to gravity if not stuck to their squares. Then re-assigning sides (i.e. who sits where). IHTS (talk) 20:39, 20 May 2016 (UTC)
Whoa. Maybe? For some reason this conjures an image of an early 90s computer animation demo... — Rhododendrites talk \\ 22:42, 20 May 2016 (UTC)

Unsourced variants[edit]

Before I set to work either trying to source or removing the variants on the list with no Wikipedia article and no citations at all, I want to ask if anyone who's done work to the page knows whether they're verifiable and/or knows what source they came from (but perhaps has not gotten around to adding it, or no longer has access to it, or somesuch)? — Rhododendrites talk \\ 13:32, 7 August 2016 (UTC)

I didn't do an exhaustive search, but I noticed "Checkess" (under "Other unorthodox pieces") has a description that makes no sense. It says "Standard chess but played with the standard rules of checkers instead..." There's no citations for it, and a google search brings up nothing. I'm wondering if it was added as little joke. I suggest we remove it. Let me know if any comments. Thanks, LithiumFlash (talk) 04:08, 15 February 2017 (UTC)
I removed it. The complete description is below if anyone has justification for adding it back. If such a game ever existed it probably would not meet the criteria for what qualifies as a chess variant anyway. It had no references or citations.
"Checkess: Standard chess but played with the standard rules of checkers instead. Pawns being regular pieces and rooks being kings. It is set up like a checkers board instead of a chess board. It is played on a regular chessboard."LithiumFlash (talk) 17:35, 15 February 2017 (UTC)

Blindfold chess (sans voir)[edit]

What about this form of chess? Is Blindfold chess considered part of standard chess, or should it be classified as "Incomplete information or elements of chance" chess variant and added to this respective section in the article? In my opinion - it should! Other similar variants on the same list are Kriegspiel and Dark chess for example. Another suggestion is to break this section in two, separating "Incomplete information" and "Elements of chance", since they are quite different, moreover the element of chance is a delicate question to chess players, since it contradicts with the very essence of standard chess competitions where chance has nothing to do! Apart from drawing lots for colour in Swiss system or starting number in Round-Robin system of tournaments, that is. ---Bobbylon (talk) 18:59, 20 September 2016 (UTC)

But you do have complete information in blindfold chess; the issue is whether you can remember all of it. It is not like Kriegspiel or dark chess when the information is actually denied you. Double sharp (talk) 03:10, 21 September 2016 (UTC)
So, where should it be classified? ---Bobbylon (talk) 04:35, 21 September 2016 (UTC)
The thing is, I don't even think of blindfold chess as a variant. If I presented to you a game of Kriegspiel in algebraic notation, you would suspect it to be a variant because of all the moves that look stupid when you can see where the enemy pieces are. The strategy is different, with the information you theoretically could have. But if I present to you a game of blindfold chess, would you suspect it was blindfold? Even if I dropped my queen like Alekhine famously did because I forgot where some of the pieces were, is this not also possible with sight of the board? (Yes, it is!) To me, it's not so much a variant as a difference in the conditions of play. Double sharp (talk) 12:00, 21 September 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I got what you mean the first time. So, should we consider Blindfold Chess not a Chess variant, but a "form" or "version" of Chess - like Chess Composition for example, Correspondence Chess, or different time control games, called "variations" (Classic, Rapid, Blitz, Bullet, Lightning, Armageddon)? Is it true for Centaur Chess as well? What about the opposite case - instead of aiding with a computer, introducing a Chess handicap (playing with less pieces than the opponent)? Would these be Chess variants or forms of Chess? Could we say that every single Chess variant in this article could have a Blindfold, Centaur, or handicap version? Could we extend this definition further, stating that changing the conditions of play (not the rules) does not create a new Chess variant, but rather a new form of Chess? ---Bobbylon (talk) 15:06, 29 September 2016 (UTC)
Yes, I agree with you. Double sharp (talk) 04:27, 30 September 2016 (UTC)

Uniformity within the Article[edit]

To maintain consistency throughout the article I suggest:

1) Chess pieces are not proper nouns, so they are not capitalized.

Use rook, archbishop. Not Rook, Archbishop.

2) Don't add move notation to pieces (for uniformity across the article)

Use archbishop, lion. Not archbishop (BN), lion (KNAD).
(readers in general will probably not understand the funny notation anyway, and explaining it is not within the scope of the article).

3) Board sizes:

specify files x ranks as:
"Uses a 10×10 board". Not "Uses a ten-by-ten board."

4) Use "colour", Not "color"

(seems to be the norm for all chess-related articles)

I'll adhere to this when I start to do some cleanup. Please comment if other topics to maintain consistency across the article. Thanks,LithiumFlash (talk) 05:21, 14 February 2017 (UTC) (added item 4)LithiumFlash (talk) 23:26, 14 February 2017 (UTC)