The Chess Variant Pages

Check out Metamachy, our featured variant for December, 2023.

This page is written by the game's inventor, DavidMoeser.

Do-or-Die Chess

by David Moeser


Do-Or-Die Chess is played on a 40-square board consisting of five ranks and eight files. It was an entry in the Chess Variant Pages contest to design a chess variant with 40 squares. It was invented on April 17, 1999, by David Moeser of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. Since the game adds no new pieces or rules, it should be easily understood by conventional chess players.


The 8x5 square array is as follows:

King e1; Queen d1; Rook a1, j1; Knight b1, i1; Bishop c1, h1; Pawn a1, b1, c1, d1, e1, f1, g1, h1.

King e5; Queen d5; Rook a5, j5; Knight b5, i5; Bishop c5, h5; Pawn a5, b5, c5, d5, e5, f5, g5, h5.

Initial Setup:


Aside from the smaller board size, all rules are as in orthodox chess, except that pawns cannot make a two-space move. Pawns promote on the last rank as usual.


A regular chess set can be used for this game. A regular chess board can be used by covering over three ranks, or by more dramatic expedients such as sawing off three ranks or cutting out three ranks from the middle and taping or pasting the board back together.

Computer Play

Interactive Diagram: You can also play against a very basic AI with this interactive diagram (click on "Play it!" under the diagram):

files=8 ranks=5 promoZone=1 promoChoice=NBRQ graphicsDir=/graphics.dir/utrecht/ squareSize=50 graphicsType=png pawn:P:fmWfcF:pawn:a2,b2,c2,d2,e2,f2,g2,h2,,a4,b4,c4,d4,e4,f4,g4,h4 knight:N:N:knight:b1,g1,,b5,g5 bishop:B:B:bishop:c1,f1,,c5,f5 rook:R:R:rook:a1,h1,,a5,h5 queen:Q:Q:queen:d1,,d5 king:K:KisO2:king:e1,,e5

Written by David Moeser. Updated by Greg Strong.
WWW page created: 1999-08-04.
WWW page updated: 2020-10-01.