The Chess Variant Pages

Modest Proposals - Various Authors

A List of Simple Chess Variants Proposals

Modest chess variants meet a specific set of criteria:

  • Can be played on a standard 8x8 board
  • Can be played with standard 32-piece (Staunton) set
  • Does not involve extraneous equipment (dice, etc.)
  • Rules can be described adequately and accurately in 400 words or less
  • CV name is considered a suggestion
  • Description et al are considered in public domain

It is understood that the CV should be previously unpublished, playable and in some significant way original (standards that do allow some wiggle room). I suspect that the type of CVs of interest to members might be those involving thematic ideas that can be adopted in other chess variants.

Unless otherwise noted, the rules for the following variants are assumed to be FIDE rules with the specified exceptions or additions.

Author Description
Hidden Target ChessMatthew Ackroyd A friend and I were playing a few games of Extinction Chess (invented by R. Wayne Schmittberger) one night when the following variants occurred to me.

In this game, all the rules of Extinction Chess apply with two main exceptions.

1) Unlike Extinction Chess, where one attempts to extinguish any species on the board (i.e. all the pawns, all the bishops, and so on), each player is randomly assigned one target species that he has to make extinct. For example, player A could be assigned to kill off all player B's pawns to win, and player B could be assigned to kill off player A's king to win. Both players can have the same target species.

2) Neither player knows what the other one's target species is. This adds an element of bluffing to the game as each player tries not only to figure out his opponent's goal, but also to disguise his own goal.

An alternative rule would let each player know what his own vulnerable pieces are (i.e. the pieces that the opponent takes to win the game), but not what his opponent's vulnerable pieces are (i.e. the pieces that he needs to take to win the game).

You can e-mail any comments to Matthew Ackroyd, at (email removed contact us for address)

Double Blind ChessMatthew Ackroyd The rules are similar to Hidden Target Chess, but in this variant, a third person acts as a referee, randomly selecting each player's target species. Neither player is given any information as to what either target species is. The referee announces when the game is over and who won.

You can e-mail any comments to Matthew Ackroyd, at (email removed contact us for address)

Handicap ChessFrancois Tremblay Same rules as normal chess, except that each piece has a handicap (like in golf). The queen can only capture pawns. The castle (rook) captures pawns, knights and fools (bishops). Knights and fools (bishops) capture pawns, knight, fools and castles. Pawns can capture every other piece (except, of course, the king). All pieces can check and checkmate, and kings still capture everything, as usual.

Monkey Do ChessEd Friedlander We have a saying which is not unique to medical education, "Monkey see, monkey do."

Mr. Betza challenges others to make "limited doublemove" variants.

Except for White's first move, each player is required to follow a normal move by a second move if possible. The second piece which is moved must be different from the first, and it must move in the same direction and over the same distance. Castling is mimicked as the king's move, two squares to the right or left.

Check, checkmate, and stalemate can only be given when a turn is done. You must escape from check on your first move of a turn. If two pawns are advanced two spaces, both may be captured en passant on a turn.

There is a Java applet implementation:

Penguin ChessAnders Ebenfelt Rules:
  1. The pieces, the setup and the board are the same as in standard chess.
  2. A piece can be moved from its square to any empty square on the board with the restrictions:
    a) A pawn cannot be moved to the first or last rank.
    b) The King moves as in normal chess.

It sounds quite silly that all pieces can be moved to any desired empty square but it works and its a fun game. bughouse experience helps to understand the game. An example of a game could be:

1. pa2-h5 pd7-d5
2. pb2-g6 h7xg6
3. h5xg6  f7xg6
4. Bc1-f7 Ke8xf7
5. Nc1-g5 Kf7-e8
6. Bf1-f7 Ke8-d7
7. Qd1-e6 mate

Which is an opening trap :)

This game also exists as "Half Bughouse" or "Anywhere" Chess. There is a Java applet implementation:

MageOliver Xymoron In the late 80's I created a chess variant called Mage. Mage is identical to standard chess except for the following:

Rooks may not capture or be captured

The 'mage' (formerly queen) moves only one square at a time or may exchange places with any other piece on the board (standard rules about putting yourself in check apply).

There is a Zillions implementation of this game:

and also a Java applet implementation:

(not yet named)John Love-Jensen
  1. Capture is different - when a piece is CAPTURED by a Rook, Knight, Bishop or Queen, it is *not* removed from the square it is captured upon; instead the other person now has the opportunity to WITHDRAW the piece by moving it (as normal) onto another square. The caveats are: the withdrawing piece cannot make a CAPTURE to WITHDRAW; it cannot WITHDRAW into a square that would endanger the piece by another opponent's piece [NOT including the piece that just CAPTURED it]; you *cannot* withdraw your piece such that it would put any opponent's piece in danger either (not including the piece that attempted the CAPTURE). This enables the "penning in" of pieces. If it is not WITHDRAWN on the immediate turn following a CAPTURE, it is then removed from the board.
  2. PAWNs, in contrast to the other pieces, CAN MAKE A CAPTURE to WITHDRAW!
  3. the KING always CAPTURES-and-REMOVES pieces immediately, those captured by the KING cannot WITHDRAW, and are immediately removed from the board.
  4. the PAWNs always CAPTURES-and-REMOVES pieces immediately, those captured by a PAWN cannot WITHDRAW, they are immediately removed from the board.

CheapoEd Friedlander, MD Evan Lipkis MD, cardiologist, taught me "Cheapo" when we were in medical school.

Once during the game, you can move one of your pieces twice. The first move cannot give check. You say "Cheapo!" when you do the double move.

Perhaps "Cheapo" is already online under some other name.

There is a Java applet implementation:

Light Squares Pawn Sergey Sirotkin Light Squares Pawn is identical to orthodox chess except for the following:

  • Pawns on white squares may move back one square, without capturing.
  • A Pawn on the first or second rank may make a double step forward. It may be captured en-passant after so moving.
    DoublePawn Chess Peter Aronson DoublePawn Chess is identical to Orthochess, except that a Pawn that is immediately behind or diagonally behind a friendly Pawn may move to that Pawn's square, and merge with that Pawn to form a DoublePawn (a DoublePawn is indicated by placing both Pawns in the square). In the following diagram, the bottom Pawn may merge with any of the top three Pawns:

    A DoublePawn moves just like a regular Pawn, except that it may make one or two Pawn moves in a single turn; including two captures. A DoublePawn may capture en-passant only on the first of its two moves in a turn. A DoublePawn promotes normally upon reaching the back rank.

    There is a Zillions implementation of this game:

    Revelation Ian Stirling The object of the game is to get four knights of your colour on the board. The king is a regular piece and may be captured or moved into check. Knights may also be captured as usual. If neither player has enough unpromoted pawns to produce four knights (including whatever knights are on the board), then the game is a draw. Pawns may be promoted to kings if you really want.

    There is a Java applet implementation:

    Gazump Ian Stirling All pieces except knights and pawns gain the ability to make a knight's move when under attack. Knights gain the ability to make two moves on one turn when under attack(the first may neither be a capture or give check).
    Must Capture Chess Roger Cooper This modest chess-variant simply requires the players to make captures. There are 2 different ways to play:

    1. Judge the legality of chess moves normally and then choose any captures if available.
    2. The requirement of capturing takes precedence over the normal legality of chess moves. Therefore, if the only possible capture involves your king taking a defended man, you must do so (and lose).

    The attached ZRF file has both versions (but the first version is not implemented perfectly). The second version is actually more interesting.

    A Simple Proposal Ted Clancy This modest variant makes the following changes to Pawn promotion:

    1. Pawns may only promote to pieces of the player have been previously captured by the opposing player, and not yet returned to play.
    2. Pawns may promote on the 7th or 8th rank. A Pawn is not required to promote upon reaching those ranks, and may sit immobile on the 8th rank if the owning player chooses.
    3. A Pawn starting the turn on the 8th rank may, as its move, promote to any previously captured piece of the owning player not yet returned to play. This counts as the player's move for that turn.

    A ZRF has been written for this game:

    Too Many Elephants Peter Aronson This game is played just like orthodox chess except that in addition to their normal moves, each piece may leap two squares diagonally like an Elephant (also known as an Alfil, which means "The Elephant" in Arabic). Kings, Queens, Rooks, Bishops and Knights may leap in all four diagonal directions; Pawns may only leap in the forward diagonal directions.

    This game is a cousin in a way to Every Man a Pawn, which adds a Pawn's move to each piece, and to Cavalry Chess, which adds a Knight's move to each piece.

    A ZRF has been written for this game:

    Home Columns Chess Sergey Sirotkin This game is played just like orthodox chess except that a piece may not be captured on its home column: the Queen may not be captured on the d column, Rooks may not be captured on the a or h columns, Bishops may not be captured on the c or f columns and Knights may not be captured on the b or g columns. Kings and Pawns have no home columns, and so may be captured anywhere.

    A ZRF has been written for this game:

    Cartridge Chess Sergey Sirotkin This game is played just like orthodox chess except that there is a limit to how many other pieces a piece may capture in the course of a game. A possible number is two: once a piece has captured two other pieces, it may not capture for the rest of the game.

    Instead of a fixed number of captures for all pieces, pieces could be allowed to capture based on their values in Pawns: so a Pawn could capture once, a Knight or a Bishop three times, a Rook five times, and a Queen nine times, with no limit on the King.

    Sacred King Chess Peter Aronson This game is played just like usual Chess, except you may not move one of your pieces in such a way as to give check to the opposing King. However, the usual rule against moving into check still applies. Victory is by bare King (reducing your opponent to nothing but a King) or by stalemate. You do not get a chance to capture your opponent's last non-royal piece after they capture yours.

    This tends to be a longish game. Your King is very effective in defending your pieces, since captures that would put it into check are not allowed.

    A ZRF has been written for this game:

    Knightmate Relay Chess Peter Aronson This game is a combination of Bruce Zimov's game Knightmate and Mannis Charosh's game Knight-Relay Chess.

    The rules are those of Orthochess, with the following changes:

    • The King is replaced by a Royal Knight, which is a piece that acts like a King in all regards (check, castling, etc.) except that it moves like a Knight.
    • The Knights are replaced by Commoners (non-royal Kings)
    • The Royal Knights have relay power. Any piece that starts its turn a Knight's move away from its own side's Royal Knight has the option to move like a Knight that turn instead of making its usual move.

    It might be interesting to play this game using the rules of Italian Progressive Chess.

    This game is the indirect result of a challange posed by Ralph Betza. When I stumbled upon it, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the two source games combined.

    A ZRF has been written for this game:

    Restricted Shooting Chess Sergey Sirotkin This game is a minor variant of Shooting Chess, which is the "must capture" version of Rifle Chess, and it follows the rules of Rifle Chess with the following exceptions:

    • All pieces move like Kings, one square in any direction. However, they capture like normal Rifle Chess pieces: any piece that a piece of that type on that square could capture in usual Chess can be captured, but the capturing piece does not move. So a Knight moves as a King, but captures as a Rifle Knight.
    • If a capture can be made, it must be made. If there are multiple possible captures, the player has the choice of which captures to make. Capture takes priority over lifting check.
    Pawn Massacre Chess Jeff "Cavebear" Stroud This modest chess variant changes nothing but the starting setup. White's pieces are set up on the eighth rank and Black's on the first. The pawns are set up normally.

    The game plays quite differently even though all of the rules are the same as in standard International Chess. There is no defence to speak of, tactics trumps strategy, and the game will likely be over within 20 moves each. Fun, fun, fun for speed chess players!

    Starting setup:

    8  RNBQKBNR  <-- White pieces
    7  pppppppp  <-- Black pawns
    6  ........
    5  ........
    4  ........
    3  ........
    2  PPPPPPPP  <-- White pawns
    1  rnbqkbnr  <-- Black pieces

    A ZRF has been written for this game:

    and also a Java applet implementation:
    Feebback Chess Peter Aronson This game is played just like usual Chess except pieces may not capture in the direction of their home rank. Thus Queens and Kings can move and capture in five directions, but not capture in the three backwards directions, Rooks can move and capture forward and to the side, but only move without capturing to the rear, and Bishops and Knights lose half of their capturing ability, being able to capture forward but not back. Only Pawns are not affected.

    This game somewhat resembles Checkers Chess, where pieces can simply not move backwards at all until they reach the back rank and promote.

    This game was created from a remark by Ralph Betza about a letter that offered him "feebback" on an issue, when Ralph wondered what Feebback Chess would be like.

    A ZRF has been written for this game:

    Written by various authors. Introductory text by Tony Paletta. Edited by Ben Reiniger. The idea for Modest Chess Variant Proposals was conceived by Tony Paletta.
    WWW Page Created: Sat Apr 1, 2000; Last Updated: January 4th, 2014.