The Chess Variant Pages

Chess Kingdom

By Jeremy Cooper, October 22, 2006



This game is a 4-player chess variant, played on a plus-shaped 20x20 board with 364 squares, with 28 pieces per side. 

It is heavily influenced by other 4-player chess games but uses only extra traditional pieces, not new ones and rules which more accurately reflect the standard way of playing chess.


It doesn't make much difference which colour starts first, although I recommend white begins, if only for traditional purposes.  Play continues in a clockwise order.

Chess Kingdom is played on a plus-shaped 20x20 board with 364 squares.


(Image created with Game Courier - Ed.)


The back rows of 14 squares are set up in the usual manner, except that each player has 4 rooks, 4 knights and 4 bishops.  2 of each are placed on either side of the king and queen.  The king always takes the left-middle square, while the queen takes the right.  As usual, the pawns are lined up in front.


Standard Chess pieces.


All the regular rules for chess apply, with the following exceptions.

Pawns: Pawns may only move forward 1 space at a time, or 2 on their opening move. Upon reaching an opponent's back row, they can be promoted to a bishop, knight, rook or queen.  It is possible for a pawn to reach a left or right opponent's back row, only by taking other pieces.

En passant: When attacking an opponent directly opposite, the usual rules for this move apply.  However, when attacking a player to the left or right, the move is played as follows:

The lower pawn moves 1:   The left pawn moves 2:    The lower pawn takes the left pawn:

(Image created with Game Courier - Ed.)

So long as a pawn has moved 2 spaces forward on it's opening move, it will leave itself open to the en passant capture.  But the capture can only take place by one of the opponents on their next move (if they have a pawn in position) and not later on.

Check and Checkmate: When a king is in check, you must wait until your next move to attempt to get out of check.  When a player checkmates another, they remove the beaten king and the remaining pieces become theirs but they can only be played on that player's turn only.  In other words, they take on the "role" of the beaten player and as such, you cannot place your king into check from your other colour.  If you think this gives an unfair advantage, then simply leave the beaten player's pieces on the board, in which case they cannot move but may be captured.  Again, you cannot place your king into check from any of the "dead" pieces.

Alternatively, as this effectively gives the player 2 or 3 moves, it may be mutually decided that a player who has acquired another player's remaining pieces, only be allowed to move one piece from the 2 or 3 sets that he or she now owns (obviously 2 pieces, the king and rook, if castling).  So instead of taking on the role of an extra 1 or 2 players and having extra turns, the pieces get added to the players "kingdom", as if they were all the same colour and the king can only be checkmated by an opponent.

Castling: To castle, both the king and rook must have remained on their starting squares.  Your king cannot castle out of check, into check, or through check.  There cannot be pieces of any colour between the king and the rook.  When conditions are met and the move is legal, players have the choice of castling to the left (kingside) or to the right (queenside).

Recommended way to Castle: 

To the left: King moves 3 squares to the left.  Left rook then moves to the right of the king.
To the right: King moves 4 squares to the right.  Right rook then moves to the left of the king.

You may choose any method of castling.  For example, if you prefer, the kings may move only 2 squares left or right as in regular chess, or a maximum of 5 to the left and 6 to the right.  Players must decide and agree upon how many squares the king may castle to, before play commences.  If you wish, the king may move any number of squares.  However, it must always move at least 2 squares to castle and cannot castle on the outside rook's squares.  Any one of the 4 rooks may be used to castle.

If you prefer, the kings may be set up to the right of the queen instead of the left.  All players would have to agree upon which is best but it's recommended that everyone starts with the same setup.  Just remember the rules when castling in this alternative setup and if using the recommended castling method, 4 squares to left or 3 to the right.

It is possible for 3 people to play this game, however the player with opponents on either side has an obvious disadvantage.  So playing with 3 is not recommended, unless the third player is more advanced at chess, in which case he or she should play in the middle.


This game was invented after looking at various 4-player chess games.  I had made 100s of 11th Century Isle of Lewis chess pieces (2 different sets exist), 14th Century German Leipzig pieces, modern Gothic Lewis and Dragonhunt pieces, all out of stonepowder.  I had enough pieces of each set for all 4 players to have the same or all different and thought it would be a great idea if 4 people were able to play with these, all at the same time, on a much larger board.

Computer Play

Editor's note: Click on the below button to start a Game Courier preset of Chess Kingdom. Note, however, that Game Courier is not designed for 4-player games, only 2-player games. Nevertheless, this preset can be useful to set up positions, study positions, illustrate games, etc. Possibly it could be used to play a 4-player game if 2 players make the actual moves for all the players.