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

Sun Tzu Chess

By John Kipling Lewis



Sun Tsu chess is a chess variant inspired by the ancient Chinese manuscript entitled "The Art of War."  Information is restricted and attacks are often brutally fast.  The game is best played with a computer referee but can be played face to face with a human ref.


The board is exactly the same as standard chess.  Online the squares that can not be seen are often darkened.


For face to face games, three boards will be required.  One for the referee who can see all the pieces, and two for the players who only have limited information about their opponents pieces.

The pieces are set up in Fischer Double Random fashion:

Pawns are placed on their Orthodox home squares.

All remaining pieces are placed on the first rank.

The King is placed somewhere between the two white Rooks.

The Bishops are placed on opposite-colored squares.

Black and White are set up separately so they often do not have the same starting positions.


Standard chess pieces are used.


Normal chess rules apply with the following differences:

You may only see the spaces on the board where you could capture.

Captured pieces change sides and are held in hand by the capturing player, who may on a subsequent turn drop a captured piece back on the board.

Except for Pawns, pieces held in hand may be dropped on any empty square.

Pawns may be dropped on any empty square which is not part of the first or last rank.

When a promoted piece is captured, it changes back into a Pawn before it is put in hand.

It is legal to checkmate a King with a Pawn drop.

Playing Tips

The first thing you will notice is that your pieces are (likely) not in the normal chess configuration. The pieces are set up according to Fischer Random rules, however unlike Fischer Random Chess, black and white have different starting positions.

The second thing you will notice is that you can only see your half of the board when you start. That is because you can only see your opponents pieces when they are in your 'searchlight' (you can see which pieces you have taken). Your opponents moves are displayed as question marks, however these will still be appended with '+' and '#' for check and mate.

The third thing you will notice, and this will come as a real surprise if you haven't read these rules, is that pieces you capture become yours to use as you wish on a future turn (and vice versa for your opponent). You can "drop" them anywhere on the board including checking the King. Pawns cannot be dropped on the 1st or 8th rank, and if a promoted pawn is captured, it reverts back to a pawn, so be sure you know which Queen you are hunting!

One special note, after you capture your first piece, you'll be able to see all the free squares available to place a piece. This is a large tactical advantage because it gives you the terrain. However you still have very little idea which of the dark squares represent which enemy pieces!

Computer Play

Currently played at


Three boards and potentially six full chess sets for face to face player.


Created by John Kipling Lewis, implementation by Austin Lockwood.