The Chess Variant Pages

10 Minute Melee

By Mason Green

The games of (American) football, basketball, and soccer all have this in common: they have a time limit, and the goal is to get as many points as possible. For some people, the game of Chess is somewhat foreboding; they're afraid that it will last too long and be boring, or that it takes too long for the action to start. Those people might want to try 10 Minute Melee instead. I tried to make the game of chess more appealing to fans of the above sports and of video games. The game (usually) lasts exactly 10 minutes (which is why the game is suitable for this competition) so it won't last long.


Playing 10 Minute Melee requires only a standard chessboard with FIDE pieces, as well as a method of keeping time. A stopwatch, microwave timer (only the timer, not the actual microwaving), or alarm clock can be used for the GAME CLOCK, which makes a noise when 10 minutes is up. The only restriction is that the amount of time remaining for the game be audible, but not visible, to the players. This is very important.

For the MOVE CLOCKS, a standard chess clock can be used, as long as you are able to set the chess clock to record the time on each move, not record the total amount of time the player has used so far (as in a normal clocked chess game). This is because a player is penalized (though not eliminated) if he/she takes longer than 15 seconds per move, but the total amount of time a player has spent thinking has no significance.


The object of the game is to earn more points than your opponent (as in American football, soccer, baseball, or basketball). Points are earned in three ways: by capturing the opponent's pieces, by getting a pawn to the end, or through forfeiture--if your opponent takes longer than 15 seconds on his/her move, you earn extra points.

For those who wonder, the King plays no special role in the game, and may be taken like any other piece.

When you capture an opponent's piece, you earn the following number of points:

1 for a pawn

2 for the king

3 for a knight or bishop

5 for a rook

9 for the queen

Captured pieces are NOT removed from the game! Instead, they go to their owner's (not the opponent's) "drop pile". A piece in the drop pile may later be dropped, shogi-style, onto an empty square that a friendly piece of this type started on. This takes up a move. For example, pawns may be dropped onto any second-rank square, rooks onto any first-rank corner square, etc. This changes the objective of the game completely! Whereas in FIDE chess, you capture enemy pieces to weaken their army, in 10 Minute Melee you capture them only for points (because they'll return later).

Because the board is unlikely to ever be "empty", it is quite difficult to get a Pawn to the end. Should this ever happen, though, there's a big bonus. You get 10 points, and the pawn goes right to your drop pile (instead of becoming a Queen).

The third way to earn points is through forfeiture. If your opponent takes longer than the 15 allotted seconds, you get to add one point to your total for every 5 seconds overdue. For example, if your opponent takes 16-20 seconds, you get one point, 21-25, two points, 31-35, four points, etc.

Once during the game, you may claim Bonus Time instead of forfeiting. You get 10 "bonus" seconds to think. However, if you go beyond 25 seconds, you still forfeit, and your opponent earns point(s). Bonus Time may only be claimed once for each player.

The game ends when 10 minutes are up. A player interrupted in the middle of a move may NOT finish the move (unless the game is currently tied). Should there be a tie at that point, the game continues into "sudden death" mode. The first player to score ANYTHING wins.


This is a quick, action-packed fight between two opponents. Because draws never happen, and because there are no advanced concepts of "check", "stalemate", or "checkmate", this game is easier to learn than chess. Teach it to someone who wants a lot of action in their game.

Mason Green

Written by Mason Green. Webpage posted: March 5, 2005.