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The Chess Variant Pages:
Recognized Chess Variants

Note: This is a defunct program that has been idle since 2006. It has been replaced by the Favorites page, which ranks the favorite games of our members.

What is a Recognized Variant?

When you come to this site, you will find hundreds of Chess variants to choose from. But with so many, how do you tell the dross from the gold? How can you be sure to find one that you'll really like? We began the Recognized Chess Variants section to help you find something you'll like without much fuss and bother. A recognized variant is one that we have selected, either by ballot or editorial decision, as one that is worth trying out, or at least worth knowing about. We don't guarantee that the recognized variants are the best of the best. You may well find that the games that become your favorites have never been recognized here. But what we can say of these selections is that they tend to be time-tested, popular, critically acclaimed, or at least of some significant interest. By starting with some of the games here, you are likely to find something that you really like; and once you begin to form your own preferences, it will be easier to decide what to try next.

Current Polls

The Recognized Variants

Here is an alphabetized list of all our recognized variants, listed along with comments about why each variant was chosen:

The recognized variants have been divided into five tiers. In order of decreasing prestige, these are Classic, Vintage, Popular, Acclaimed, and Famous. Please note that being in a more prestigious tier does not mean that a game is better than one is a less prestigious tier. The main factors that differentiate the tiers are time-testedness and popularity. Here are the requirements for each tier and the recognized variants that have been placed in them:

Classic

This is the most exclusive and prestigious of tiers. A Classic must be so massively popular that it is the dominant variant for a large portion of the world, such as one of the world's most populous nations. It must have been played for several generations. It must have a large body of literature about it. And it must be substantially different from any other Chess variant that is more popular than it. Only three Chess variants meet these stringent requirements. These are Chess, Xiang Qi, and Shogi.

Vintage

A Vintage game is one that has proven itself through the test of time. More specifically, it is one that has remained popular for several years since the death of its inventor and still remains popular. This is an important benchmark, because it shows that a game can stand on its own merits without the prestige, influence, or promotional activity of its inventor. The Vintage games are Alice Chess, Berolina Chess, Janggi: Korean Chess, Courier Chess, Glinski's Hexagonal Chess, Kriegspiel, Losing Chess, Marseillais Chess, Pocket Knight, Progressive Chess, and Raumschach.

Popular

A Popular game is one of relatively recent invention that is being played by many people. Unlike a Vintage game, the inventor of a popular game is still alive or only recently deceased. Signs of popularity include organizations, tournaments, and commercial sets for the game, publication in books, and being regularly and frequently played by mail, email, or online. The Popular games are Avalanche Chess, Bughouse, Chess with Different Armies, Crazyhouse, Extinction Chess, Fischer Random Chess, Grand Chess, Hostage Chess, Minishogi, Omega Chess, Smess, Ultima, and Wildebeest Chess.

Acclaimed

It takes more than excellence to make a game popular. Sometimes an excellent game remains obscure, and sometimes an excellent game is too new for many people to know about it. So you can't always rely on popularity to tell you which games are good, and that's where critical acclaim comes in. This tier is for new and obscure games that have been critically acclaimed by people who know Chess variants. It is for games some of us think should and hope will become popular. The Acclaimed games are Anti-King Chess II, Crazy 38's, Flip Chess and Flip Shogi, Magnetic Chess, McCooey's Hexagonal Chess, and Pocket Mutation Chess.

Famous

Sometimes a Chess variant has been recognized mainly for its fame, and not so much for its appeal or popularity. Famous Chess variants are known to groups of people who may otherwise have no further knowledge of the field of Chess variants. One advantage of knowing these games is that you may be more likely to find someone who already knows how to play the game. And you might be able to use one of these games to spark someone's interest in Chess variants. Each Famous variant is listed below with an explanation of why it is famous.

Shatranj
Despite reports of an earlier Indian origin, the Arabic game of Shatranj is the earliest form of Chess that we actually have rules for. It was popular among Arabs and Europeans for hundreds of years, and over that time it amassed a large body of literature about it. It is also known as Medieval Chess. Its popularity fell after the modern form of Chess arose.
Chaturanga for Four Players
This ancient Indian game for four players has been hailed by some as the original form of Chess, but it probably isn't.
Tamerlane Chess
A well-known historic large variant of Shatranj.
Los Alamos Chess
This was the first Chess variant a computer was ever programmed to play. It was smaller and simpler than Chess so that computers of that time could better handle it.
Dragonchess
This 3D variant was created by E. Gary Gygax, the inventor of Dungeons & Dragons, and published in Dragon magazine, a TSR publication devoted to D&D. It is fairly well known among D&D players.
Tridimensional Chess (Star Trek)
This game is played on the best known of 3D Chess boards, as seen in many episodes of Star Trek. The board on the show was just a prop without any official set of rules. This game was designed as an unofficial set of rules for the equipment seen used on the TV show.

Recognized Variant of the Month

Each month, we will select one of our recognized variants to be recognized variant of the month. For that month we will work on improving the web page for that variant, display a link to that variant prominently on all our web pages, and encourage our readers to read about, play and explore that variant. Variants of the month are displayed with the special recognition icon:

Recognized Variants of the Month

Months
December
November
October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January
2006
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
Crazyhouse
McCooey's Hexagonal Chess
Courier Chess
Janggi: Korean Chess
Anti-King Chess II
Pocket Mutation Chess
2005
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
Kriegspiel
(n/a)
Avalanche Chess
(n/a)
(n/a)
Omega Chess
Losing Chess
Marseillais Chess
Hostage Chess
2004
Extinction Chess
Chess with Different Armies
Alice Chess
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
2002
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
Progressive Chess
Los Alamos Chess
Grand Chess
Fischer Random Chess
Tandem Chess
Shogi
Glinski's Hexagonal Chess
2001
Shatranj
Ultima
Xiangqi
Raumschach
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)
(n/a)

How Recognized Variants are Chosen

When the list of Recognized Variants began, games were chosen mainly by the editorial decision of Hans Boedlander and David Howe. In time, new additions were chosen by polling the editors, and more recently by polling the members of this site. At present, new additions will be chosen by polling the members with ranked ballot polls counted by the Maximize Affirmed Majorities method. Candidates will be drawn from nominations, from lists of games chosen for tournaments, and from the first-place winners of our various contests.

When the same game ranks last two polls in a row, it will be removed from the candidates list. This applies only to polls for selecting new RCVs, not to polls for selecting an RCV of the month. Once the RCV list begins to grow too large, a weeding process will be introduced. It will probably involve the full ranking of the games in a tier, followed by voting whether to keep or drop the lowest ranked game.

Contributions

You can contribute to this section in the following ways:

  • Nominate additional Recognized Chess Variants, to be listed here. A few rules:
    1. You may not be the inventor of the game or propose it just because the inventor is a good friend of yours.
    2. The game must exist at least one year.
    3. You must find this chess variant to be good; more people must have played the variant, etc.
    4. You must write a review, telling why the variant deserves to be listed here.
  • Write a better/additional review for one of the games already listed here.
  • Translate one of our web pages for a recognized variant from English to another language.

Written by Fergus Duniho, Hans Bodlaender, and David Howe.
Page Created: February 21, 2000.