The Chess Variant Pages



A Chess Variant

WHY ZM "MACHIAVELLIAN" QUADCHESS IS BETTER THAN REGULAR CHESS.   We don't need to tell you that regular chess is one of, if not the best game of all time. But think of regular chess as two dimensional, and think of quadchess as multi-dimensional. Two to four players can play. Normal chess complications are compounded when a player only gets one turn in four. Much more can happen. Much more needs to be anticipated. Kings can Queen. Frozen pieces make games unique, allowing or thwarting normal tactics. Players that are behind still have chances to win and winning players can suddenly find themselves devastated through no fault of their own (except perhaps getting ahead at the wrong time). Yet this game can still be played at various levels of competency. In the talking mode, experienced players can coach others, which makes this a good game for youngsters who are learning how chess is played. But even more important, unlike regular chess, this game tests emotion and character. You learn a lot more about the other players and about yourself. Deals between players are often made and broken. Being able to play opponents off against each other, to be convincing, to see a plan and sell it to a temporary ally is a significant asset. Your ability to control your emotions and take the pragmatic road to victory is not unlike the realm of politics, of real life. This game will expose your assets and liabilities as regular chess cannot do. It makes ordinary chess seem dull.

This game is FREE, so you can download it and try it out. Send us your comments and some ideas about how to play it on the net.




   A regular chessboard with a-h, 1-8 boarders to identify squares if game is to be notated. Any regular chess set with half the white and half the black pieces distinctively marked; or two chess sets that are distinctive in size, color or style.  Using only one set necessitates Queens substituting for Kings.

   With board space a1 in the lower left corner, place a white king on that square; a rook on b1; a bishop on c1 and a knight on d1. Place a pawn in front of each at a2,b2,c2,d2. Rotate the board one quarter turn counter clockwise and place corresponding black pieces on the corresponding squares. Repeat the process using the marked, or differentiated set, light and dark pieces. At this point each side should have 4 pieces on its left back rank and 4 pawns just in front of them. Now you are ready to play. If you have not done so already, now is a good time to read the rules.


ZM QUADCHESS is a game for 2-4 players, but 4-player ("cutthroat style") is recommended. It is an offshoot is based upon the game Chaturanga (from which Chess is descended), popular in India some two thousand years ago.

Pieces move as normal chess pieces would unless otherwise noted. Play is clockwise unless interrupted by a check.

A player is considered to be in check if his King is attacked. A player who is placed in check must respond immediately. Play rotation proceeds from that point. This may mean one or two players get "skipped". (If, e.g., South checks North, North must move, and then East plays, being next in rotation. West loses a turn.) As in normal Chess, a player may not expose his King to check. In ZM QUADCHESS, one player's pieces might "guard" or be "guarded" by those of another player.

Mate occurs when a player's King is in check and he cannot escape by moving his King, by blocking check, or by capturing the checking piece. Credit for mate (see below) goes to the player who moved, even if the checking piece is owned by a third player. [Note: If the checked player has pieces acquired by annex (see below), they can only be used in their proper turn and cannot be drafted out of turn to stop mate or check.]

In ZM QUADCHESS, a mated player retires from active play by removing his King from the board. His remaining pieces are then annexed by the mating player who moves with them immediately, and thereafter on the normal turn for those pieces. E.g., East checkmates West; West removes his King from the board and East moves with West's pieces. Thereafter East will have two moves each complete rotation of turns -- one with the East pieces, and one with West's. [NOTE: A player's King is allowed to move onto a square controlled by pieces annexed by that player.] Mate ends the game when only one active King remains. This usually occurs with two Kings left in play, but simultaneous mate of 2 or 3 Kings is theoretically possible, as is mate combined with stalemate.

Frozen pieces cannot move, cannot check, cannot be captured, and cannot be passed through.

A player may only resign on his turn; in so doing he may either: a) remove all his pieces from board, or b) remove king while remaining pieces become frozen. [NOTE: In the case of an absentee player, i.e. non-returning, option b) applies, beginning on his next unchecked turn unless that player specifies otherwise. If the absentee player's King is in check, the next clockwise player shall move for him.]

a). Stalemate- King left frozen; players pieces removed
b). Occurs when only kings remain on the board (frozen pieces excluded) and cannot reach the "queening" square (see KING PROMOTION below); if only two players remain active, normal chess insufficiency standards may apply or not, depending on whether one King or both can reach their respective promotion squares. It is possible for frozen pieces to create freak situations which allow mate in drawn positions or vice versa.
c). 3-time repetition
Involved players draw; remaining players continue. If only one player remains, that player wins. d). Perpetual check
Occurs when a player checks the preceding player in unending succession. Involved players draw; remaining players continue. If only one player remains, that player wins.
e). 50-move rule
Normal 50-move rules apply with the additional provision that the player with most material [if two or more players have the same material, the first to go] must mate at least one other opponent within the prescribed number of moves. Otherwise all active players draw.
f). Player agreement
Involved players draw; remaining players continue. If only one player remains, that player wins.

Pawns moving toward each other from opposite directions capture as in normal chess. Pawns moving at right angles to one another involve two capturing situations. The pawns may be attacking each other, or one will be attacking the other from behind. In the latter case, the attacked pawn cannot capture the attacking pawn. In En passant captures involving pawns moving at right angles, the pawn moving two spaces will wind up in front of the pawn(s) which have the capturing option. A pawn exercising the capturing option (on its next legal turn) captures the two-move pawn as if it moved one square.

Any pawn reaching the opposite first rank must promote to the player's choice of Rook, Bishop, or Knight.

First the King must reach the diagonally opposite square from its starting position. On the next legal move, if the King can and does move to an adjacent square, a Queen of its color is placed on the corner square. (One Queen per player per game.)

In the castling process, the King and Rook trade places -- provided neither has moved before, and the King is not moving out of or into check.

a). 2-Handed This is usually played like a teams version. b). Teams Four players need not play cutthroat; they may also play partners. Partners may either be opposite or adjacent. The key rule change is that neither partner may move his King onto a square controlled by the other partner. Nor may a player make a move which causes one of his pieces to "check" his partner's King. c). 3-Handed version The three players occupy South, West, and North with East as the "dummy" player. Ownership of the "dummy" rotates among the three players, with South getting it first, followed by West, then North, etc. The "dummy" can be checkmated; the pieces are annexed by the checkmating player. If the "dummy" checkmates, the controlling player annexes the mated player's pieces.

STRATEGIC "COMMUNICATING" (Verbal and/or non-verbal) --
In ZM QUADCHESS discussion entails 3 variations. a). No communication; b). Open communication (recommended) -- i.e., anything communicated must be presented simultaneously to all players; c). Open and/or Secret communication -- closet conferences allowed. Mode of communication must be unanimously agreed upon before the first move. Otherwise, option b) applies. [NOTE: Suggested penalties for violations may include: removal of offender(s)' Pawn(s), giving priority to farthest advanced Pawns, and right to left thereafter; then Knight, Bishop, Rook, and finally King. Majority vote decides if a violation has occurred.]

   Great care has been taken to capture the spirit of the ancient Chaturanga game while incorporating regular chess rules as closely as possible. Because there may be game situations which require special adjustment not dealt with in the rules above, we reserve the option to make modifications from time to time as warranted. The current rules, for example, reflect alterations in some of the draws, so that players not directly involved in a particular situation are not required to take a draw against their will. Additional suggestions are welcome.
   Bruce Moon unexpectedly died in January 1997.  His help was essential in developing and uploading this game.  Therefore, I have elected to retain the "we" in this presentation.

GAME EXAMPLES: Here are four 3-game tournaments which you can replay to gain insights as to strategy, tactics and how emotions and character are tested. For purposes of visualizing the match, South is at the bottom, West on left, North at top and East on the right.

                                         DIAGRAM OF STARTING POSITION


Written by John Zimmerman (c).
WWW page added to the Chess Variant Pages: December 23, 1998.