The Chess Variant Pages

Duel Chess

By Erez Schatz

This variant is played on two boards, the Main board, which is a 5X7 board without the middle square, and the Duel board, which is a 3X3 board.

The Boards and Setup

There is no square c4.
      7  |:d:| n |:k:| b |:r:|         
      6  | p |:p:|   |:p:| p |     
         +---+---+---+---+---+       +---+---+---+ 
      5  |:::|   |:::|   |:::|     3 |   |:::|   |
         +---+---+---+---+---+       +---+---+---+ 
      4  |   |:::|###|:::|   |     2 |:::|   |:::|  
         +---+---+---+---+---+       +---+---+---+
      3  |:::|   |:::|   |:::|     1 |   |:::|   |
         +---+---+---+---+---+       +---+---+---+ 
      2  | P |:P:|   |:P:| P |         X   Y   Z
      1  |:D:| N |:K:| B |:R:|

           A   B   C   D   E


The game on the Main board is played like FIDE Chess, except for the changes described below.

  • When a piece is captured on the Main board, that piece is removed from the Main board and is positioned on any empty square on the Duel board by the player who made the capture. (i.e. If the captured piece is White, the player who plays with the Black pieces chooses where to position the piece on the Duel board).

  • A piece positioned on the Duel board cannot move until there is at least one piece of the opponent's on the Duel board.

  • Once both players have pieces on the Duel board, a player can choose to move a piece on the Duel board instead of making a move on the Main board. Pieces move and capture on the Duel board in the same manner as on the Main board.

  • If a piece on the Duel board is captured, that piece is permanently removed from the game (a dead piece), and the capturing piece is immediately returned to the Main board by the player who made the capture (a returned piece). This piece can be placed on any empty square on the Main board, with one restriction, a player cannot drop a piece on a square if the returned piece places the opponent's King in check.

  • If the Duel board is full (meaning there are nine pieces on it), and a piece is captured on the Main board, the captured piece will be placed on the Duel board instead of an opponent's piece which will be declared dead and will be removed from the game. The replacing piece stays on the Duel board and can be moved immediately.

  • A captured Bishop can be placed on any square on the Duel board, regardless of colour. This also applies to a returned Bishop.

  • Captured Pawns move in the same direction on the Duel board as in the Main board (Towards the opponent's rank). Returned Pawns can move only one square, even if positioned on the second rank.

  • There is no castling move.

  • Pawns are allowed an initial double move, but cannot be promoted. Pawns that reach the last rank on the Main board or the Duel board cannot be moved.

  • En passant capture is allowed on the Main board.

  • Pieces cannot move through the middle square or leap over it, except for the Knight.

  • The pieces are a King (K), a Knight (N), a Bishop (B), a Rook (R), a Dabbabah (D) and four Pawns (P). The pieces move the same as in FIDE chess, apart from the Dabbabah.

  • A Dabbabah jumps two squares orthogonally regardless of whether or not there are any pieces on intervening squares and captures by displacement.

  • A stalemate results in a draw, a lone King on the Main board losses, regardless of whether the player has any pieces on the Duel board.

Board Notes

The concept of this variant came when I imagined the way the boards are positioned, with the Duel board located above the Main board (positioned on a supporting column which is based on the Main board's middle square), while my art skills are heavily limited, here's an ASCII diagram of what the Duel Chess board should look like:
                  /   /:::/   /
               /:::/   /:::/-+---+---+---+  
             +---+---+---+  /:k:/ b /:r:/
            /   /:::/   /-+---+---+---+
          +---+---+---+p:/   /:p:/ p /
               +- | | |-+--+---+---+       
              /:::| | |:::/   /:::/
            +---+-| | |-+---+---+
           /   /::| |  /:::/   /
        /:::/   /:::/   /:::/
     / P /:P:/   /:P:/ P / 
  /:D:/ N /:K:/ B /:R:/
Another way of playing Duel Chess is by using an orthodox 8X8 board (placing a border between the Main and Duel boards), with an upside-down Rook as the Dabbabah.

Duel Chess was designed for the 43-squares contest. However, it could be also played on 7X7 board with 6 Pawns, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights and a King; or on a 9X9 board with 9 Pawns, 2 Rooks, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, 2 Queens (or a Marshal or a Cardinal instead of one, or both Queens) and a King. The Duel Board is always 3X3. As a side rule for the larger versions, a player that manages to fill the Duel board with 9 pieces of the opponent's colour, wins.

Written by Erez Schatz.
WWW page created: April 3rd, 2003.