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Chess 2. Different armies, a new winning condition, and duels. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Lily Dawn wrote on 2021-07-08 UTC

I played a good amount of Chess 2 (actually I was very obsessed with it for a while, and I stole the ghost piece idea for the variant i posted on this site). Mostly I would play against stronger players, but beat them very badly using the Reaper army. Basically I played the game regularly with someone locally and we came up with all of these ideas with Reaper, and nobody learned how to deal with it in the time that I spent online with the game. So I do think the game probably needs some balance adjustments, particularly to Reaper, Two Kings, and Nemesis. The dueling system also doesn't feel that great a lot of the time. I really like the dueling in a lot of ways, but then there are situations where you can win/lose a game off of a single duel, and that can feel really awkward.

I just want to get a little bit more specific with my thoughts on the game's balance. I think Classic/Empowered/Animals are all pretty good where they are. I kind of feel like Empowered could be a little bit on the strong side, but I could be wrong on that.

Reaper, I think, kills pretty much everyone. I think Classic/Empowered/Animals all struggle immensely and might have just no hope against Reaper at all due to double ghost rook opening. I never saw anyone doing double ghost rook opening online, so maybe they figured out how to deal with it after I stopped playing, but I would completely stonewall players with tons of hours in the game with that. I think Reaper kills Nemesis too though. Maybe some people thought Nemesis beat them, but Nemesis just can't really deal with all of the blockades you can set up. I never really had trouble against Nemesis with Reaper, I would just tie them in knots and eat them alive. Anyway Reaper definitely would need to be nerfed

I think Reaper is basically helpless against Two Kings, though. The thing about Reaper is that it essentially needs midline invasion to win. Two Kings has absolutely no problem defending the midline, so they have to really screw up for you to have a chance.

I actually think Two Kings is probably too good overall, as well. I think they probably beat Empowered/Classic/Animals pretty comfortably, and then are like actually invincible against Reaper unless the Reaper outplays to an extreme degree. So Two Kings probably needs a nerf...

But then there's the problem that Two Kings dies horribly to Nemesis? I guess there's a chance they're actually okay against Nemesis somehow... but I wasn't able to figure it out in the time that I played. I feel like they really just get clobbered there.

So the balance problems seem tough to solve since there's kind of a rock-paper-scissors thing going on. I've thought of ways to weaken Reaper, weaken Two Kings, and make the Reaper vs Two Kings matchup much fairer, but no idea how to fix Two Kings vs Nemesis.

Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-28 UTC

Thanks Ben Reiniger!

That should really help.  My comments add a few side notes that will hopefully be of interest to someone, but having a link in the main body should make it easier.  Thanks again!

Ben Reiniger wrote on 2018-11-19 UTC

Sorry for the confusion.  That page is under the "Related Pages" menu, but maybe the different name muddies things.  I'll try to add a link to the page contents when I get home.

I've also reformatted your comments to visually separate the rulebook quotes from your remarks.

Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-19 UTC

Immediately after I posted the two previous long comments, I did a search for something else and discovered:

Sirlin's Chess

Someone already posted all the rules to Sirlin's Chess2!  Auuuugggghhhh.....I just wasted a couple hours trying to make sure the rules were saved on CV.  Sigh.

Could someone with edit powers please please PLEASE put the above link directly in this article?  People can click right over without looking at the comments or getting confused.

PS.  Like most people, I consider the name Sirlin chose for his chess variant--Chess2, the Sequel--to be full of hubris.  Probably part of the reason never caught on with chess fans.....

Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-19 UTC

The third thing Sirlin did was make 5 new armies in addition to the classic one, in the vein of Betza's Chess with Different Armies.

This is the part I thought was super cool, as there are some very different armies contained, completely unlike Betza's. I had thought I could just port the armies over against Betza's, but that doesn't completely work, as Sirlin balanced his with the midline invasion and dueling rules.  In addition, the tremendous amount of play they got on the steam game before it was largely abandoned proved a few other holes.  The Reaper army has difficulty winning against Nemisis or Two Kings, but can feel overpowering sometimes against other armies.  Sirlin commented Reaper was very difficult to balance, and it appears it still isn't quite right.

Quoting the rules:

The Six Armies

I) Classic (balanced)
It's regular old Chess. This is the only army that can castle.

II) Nemesis (favors pawns)
The queen is replaced with a new piece: the nemesis. The nemesis piece moves as a queen, but cannot capture or be captured except by the enemy king. (It can check and checkmate a king, and a king can capture it.)

Your pawns can move as normal pawns, or alternatively they can make a nemesis move, which is a move one space toward the enemy king. (Imagine a box drawn around your pawn and the enemy king; moving inside that box is a nemesis move. That move can be toward your back row if the enemy king is behind your pawn). Nemesis pawns can only capture pieces (or threaten a king) the same way normal pawns can: diagonally forward. Your pawns cannot move two spaces at the start of the game.

Despite what the rules say, Nemisis is not really about the pawns.  This army is focused on the Nemisis.  You can run the Nemisis right into the thick of things, unworried about loosing it.  It's quite a good army.  The ability to move your pawns out of the way of your rooks to develop them early also changes things in interesting ways.

Betza calls the whole class of pieces that cannot capture except the king nemisis pieces, from the first piece of that type he came across. 

I'm not sure how easy this is to integrate with Betza's Chess with Different Armies. It might be close.

III) Empowered (favors knights/bishops/rooks)
While a knight, bishop, or rook is adjacent (diagonals do not count) to another knight, bishop, or rook on your team, each piece gains the movement powers of its neighbor in addition to its regular movement powers. (King, queen, and pawns cannot gain movement properties.) To compensate for this power, the queen can only move as a king. Example: if knight, bishop, rook are in a line, adjacent to one another, then knight can move as knight+bishop. Bishop can move as knight+bishop+rook. Rook can move as rook +bishop. The knight does NOT gain rook movement in this example, nor does the rook gain knight movement.

Sirlin doesn't acknowledge any influences for Chess2, but this is almost exactly like one of Betza's ideas.  I can't find the page right now, but Betza had the powers relayed when pieces were within the movement range.  (A rook that was a knight's move away from a friendly knight would also be able to move as a knight.)  This becomes especially apparent when you read the forums on the Sirlin games website--David Sirlin posts there he had to reduce their empowerment range to only orthogonally adjacent pieces; playtest proved that anything more was too powerful.

In my opinion, this army could be made a standard part of Betza's Chess with Different Armies.  It is not too much affected by the midline invasion or the dueling rules, and it has gone through a considrable amount of playtesting and balancing. 

IV) Reaper (favors queen)

The queen is called a reaper. It can teleport and capture anywhere on the board except the enemy's back row. The reaper cannot capture a king.

Also, the rooks are ghosts that can teleport to any open square on the board. The ghosts cannot capture or be captured.

The Reaper army is really awesome—it plays very very different than anything else. Unfortunately, it is balanced with midline invasion and dueling. Dueling keeps the Reaper from running amok....the player needs to worry about what he takes. And the Reaper army really needs midline invasion to win-- they only have bishops and knights to create checkmate.

Betza talks about teleporting pieces lower down in the same article about the nemisis right here.

If midline invasion was allowed for only this team, it might be transportable to Betza's Chess with Different Armies without too much modification.

V) Two Kings (favors kings)

You have no queen, but instead have two kings called warrior kings. If either one is checkmated, you lose. To win by the Midline Invasion method, BOTH warrior kings must cross the midline of the board into enemy territory.

A warrior king can move and capture the same way as a regular king, though it also has the option of doing a Whirlwind attack. For this, the warrior king stays in place and destroys all adjacent pieces—friendly and enemy—including diagonally adjacent pieces. You cannot Whirlwind if your other warrior king is adjacent.

After each of your turns, you may (optionally) take a special king-turn where you only move a warrior king. On your normal turn, there are no special restrictions. You can move either warrior king, or some other piece, whatever you want. During your king-turn, you may ONLY move a warrior king or perform Whirlwind with a warrior king. It doesn’t matter if you moved that warrior king or not during your normal turn.

You can’t move into check on your normal-turn or your king-turn.

Helpful hint: whenever you choose to skip this extra king-turn, it would be helpful if you tap one of your warrior kings as a signal to your opponent that he can take his turn.

Two Kings is also very different. The whirlwind attack is very powerful, but it requires you moving your king/s out in front. The delicate balance between attacking with and keeping your kings alive is a very different and fun experience!

I don't recall hearing anything like this in any of Betza's articles.

I'm not sure how much Two Kings relies on the midline invasion rule to be balanced. I don't think it matters much and can be directly ported over to Betza's Chess with Different Armies. But I might be very wrong on that!

VI) Animals (wild card)

Knight -> Wild Horse. Moves as a knight, but can capture its own pieces.

Bishop -> Tiger. Can only move up to 2 squares diagonally, but does not move when it captures (immediately jumps back to the square it attacked from).

Rook -> Elephant. Can only move up to 3 squares orthogonally. It can capture both friendly and enemy pieces, even multiple pieces in one move. If it captures a piece, the elephant rampages and must move its maximum distance, capturing everything in its path. Also, the elephant cannot be captured by a piece more than 2 squares away. (Draw a 5x5 box with Elephant in the center. It can't be captured by pieces outside the box.)

Queen -> Jungle Queen. Can move as a rook or as a knight.

This is a really delightful army, it takes a little bit to develop but is powerful. I really like both the Elephant and the Tiger—they push the envelope differently than Betza's pieces.

In my opinion, this can be moved over to Betza's Chess with Different Armies as-is. The pieces are about as strong as their FIDE counterparts one-on-one, so it should slide seamlessly in.

And I have a few more quotes from the official rulebook on miscellaneous stuff:

Choosing Your Army
Players choose their armies in a simultaneous, double-blind fashion at the start of each match. It’s permitted for both players to choose the same army. Though players will likely specialize in playing only one army, in a multiple-game match, the loser of a game may switch to any army for the next game. The winner of the previous game may not switch.

Promoting Pawns
When one of your pawns reaches the last row, you must promote it (not optional). You can promote to any piece that’s part of your army other than a pawn or a king (or a Warrior King). For example, a pawn on the Animals team could promote to a Tiger piece, but an Empowered pawn can’t promote to a Tiger because Tiger is not part of its army. When you promote a pawn, your opponent does not get a stone.

Dueling Ranks
For purposes determining if you have to pay 1 stone to initiate a duel against a higher ranked piece, the only possible ranks are 1) pawn, 2) knight/bishop, 3) rook, and 4) queen. In other words, all special queens count as queens, even though the Empowered queen is rather weak. Elephants count as rooks. The wild horse and the tiger count as a knight/bishop. Nemesis pawns count as pawns.

There are no stalemates in Chess 2. The other types of draws from Chess 1 still apply here, though they are much more unlikely because of the Midline Invasion rule. The types of draws are: threefold repetition (when the same position occurs three times), the fifty-move rule (when the last fifty successive moves made by both players contain no capture or pawn move), and impossible checkmate (when neither player has sufficient material to checkmate, and Midline Invasion is not possible).

Other Notes

All pawns on all teams have the ability to en passant.

Pieces cannot pass through the Reaper army’s ghost rooks or occupy the same square as a ghost rook.

A warrior king’s Whirlwind cannot destroy a ghost rook.

Even the reaper cannot take an elephant if its more than 2 squares away

Anthony Viens wrote on 2018-11-19 UTCAverage ★★★

I've played a fair bit of Sirlin's Chess2, so I'm going to make a bunch of posts to move the rules onto CV website, in case the game is ever abandoned by Sirlin games.  I will also comment on the game in general.
Sirlin's Chess2 is quite balanced, and has clearly gone through a lot of playtesting.  Being developed by a modern boardgame company owner clearly shows here!

First, Sirlin's Chess2 adds 3 things:

1)win by centerline invasion
2)dueling stones; possible loss of an attacking piece
3)different armies.

Quote from offical rules:

New Win Condition: Midline Invasion
You can still win by checkmate, but you also win if your king crosses the midline of the board. Each move has added significance, because you must weigh how much it helps or hurts each player’s chances of winning by king crossing the midline in addition to the usual considerations of furthering a checkmate.
Just like in Chess 1, it’s illegal to move into check, so to win by Midline Invasion, your King must land on the 5th rank without being in check. Unlike Chess 1 though, there are no stalemates. If you have no legal moves, you lose the game.  While stalemates are common in Chess 1, they aren’t needed in Chess 2 because the Midline Invasion rule provides an even stronger option that a player can aim for when he’s down on material.

In practice, against reasonablely competent players, the majority of games will end by midline invasion.  For one thing, whoever is winning can typically move his king up before he checkmate's his opponent.  The big change, however, is when a player starts to loose, he will usually make a quick attempt at midline invasion win.  This makes the transition between the mid- and end-game very chaotic.
Most non-chess boardgame players will find this a very exciting change; instead of a long slow grind as one player increases his advantage, the the game ends in an explosion of desperate dashes-for-the-midline.  While the player who is in a better position will still usually win, there is more hope for the loosing player.  Having more on the line, it is more exciting for both players, despite the fact that the game still usually ends as expected.
This also esentially eliminates the chess endgame--which most casual players consider the most boring.  Once a player has a significant advantage, chess tends to grind toward an inevitable conclusion.  This is why experienced chess players will conceed when the game gets past a certain point--going through the motions is just a waste of time.
As a side affect, Sirlin's Chess2 games tend to be shorter.  Modern boardgames (not chess variants) tend toward shorter is better, so non-chess enthusasts would generally consider this a good thing.

This is where Sirlin's modern boardgaming design experience is showing....he has designed a change that appeals to the masses (more exciting desperate chance of a win) and eliminated the masses least favorite part of chess (the grinding endgame) and shortened the game in one simple rule.

There is just one problem.
I don't like it either!!!
Effectively getting rid of checkmate just feels WRONG.

Sum it up=theoretically a good change that appeals to casual players, but chess enthusists won't like it at all.


Quote from offical rulebook:


Dueling allows you to spend a new resource called stones to threaten to destroy a piece that takes one of your pieces. Try to trick the opponent into wasting his stones because if he runs out first, you automatically win any further duels.

You start with 3 stones and gain 1 stone each time you capture an enemy pawn, up to a maximum of 6 stones.

Whenever you would capture any piece, the defender can initiate a duel. If your piece is higher rank than his (ranks: pawn -> knight/bishop -> rook -> queen), he must pay 1 stone to initiate a duel. To duel, you each put 0, 1, or 2 stones in your closed fists, then simultaneously reveal them. All stones revealed are destroyed. The winner of the duel is the one who showed more stones--ties go to the attacker.

If the attacker wins a duel, he takes the piece in question as in normal Chess. If the defender wins, he still loses his piece, but the attacker ALSO loses the piece he attacked with.

Initiating a duel and bidding 0 is a bluff to make the opponent waste stones. The attacker calls your bluff by bidding 0 himself. He wins because attacker always wins on a tie and in addition, the attacker can choose to gain 1 stone or cause the defender to lose 1 stone. (A player can't have more than 6 stones.)

Kings cannot be involved in duels because they have "Diplomatic Immunity." (They can't initiate a duel or be dueled.)

Players with 0 stones cannot initiate duels, but they can be dueled against. When you duel against a player with 0 stones, you must bid 1 and you automatically win the duel. If you lose a pawn in a duel, your opponent does gain a stone.


Dueling is another change designed to switch the game up.  Normal chess has a very mathmatical quality to it--good players can predict moves very far in advance.  The farther forward you can think, the bigger your advantage.

Dueling changes this.  Now, sometimes you won't keep a victorious piece.  Consequently, there is only so far out it is practical to predict moves, leveling the playing field a little bit.
Dueling accomplishes this WITHOUT resorting to chance.  The number of stones each player has is public knowledge, and he who correctly reads the importance of the current board position and his opponent will win the duel.  (And the attacker has the advantage, so ties in skill will result in the same board state as if no duel occured.)  However, this requires a very different set of skills than chess.

Consequently, it is possible for someone who is really really good at typical chess to be beaten by a player who is better at reading his opponent and bidding accordingly.  Someone who is bad at bidding may be winning--until they run out of stones.  This gives the othe player a big advantage.

By broadening the useful/necessary skills to win AND lowering the ability to look ahead, a larger variety of player types can be effective players.  Plus each duel is a mini-game, which gives flashes of excitement in the middle of the game.

Again, Sirlin's skill at designing modern boardgames shows.  This is a rule that should appeal to the masses and create some excitement, while lowering the necessity of mapping out future moves.

There is just one problem.
I don't like it either!!!
Effectively making it uncertain if you are keeping a piece just feels WRONG.

Sum it up=theoretically a good change that appeals to casual players, but chess enthusists won't like it at all.

Ebinola wrote on 2017-07-27 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Chess 2 is a fantastic variant that really goes off the deep end in how it changes chess yet still retains that familiar chess feel. It's a great shame that it virtually has no playerbase. It pushes chess to a more gamer and esports oriented audience, in my opinion. Some have complained about the midline rule and duelling mechanics ruining classic chess endgames and adding an unwanted element of chance respectively - I say that on the other hand, midline makes endgames more exciting as moving your king to the midline is the endgame, and makes the king's activity in the game much more apparent; likewise, duelling is what keeps the balance of Chess 2 intact. The armies are supposed to be strong and weak against other armies, that way a metagame eventually forms.

Sirlin's site has since moved domains, and as a result the print-and-play version of the game has been obfuscated. However, I'd like to leave a link to a new version of the print and play that is still being updated:

And for one without backgrounds:

The text has been for the most part lifted from the old print and play, but there's a number of new things that I've added, such as:

  • Updated diagrams - makes memorising the movements of the pieces a little less confusing;
  • Rules for OTB play - just basic stuff for tournament play;
  • CHESS 2 NOTATION. No form of algebraic notation has been configured for Chess 2, until now. I've devised (what I believe to be) the simplest and most effective way to record Chess 2 games while still respecting the integrity of regular chess notation.
  • Multiple conversations that I had between various frequent players and beta testers.

For anyone who blows on by this page, I hope you'll take a look at it (if you're interested). If you're wanting to give feedback, you can always find me on or on lichess.

Ben Reiniger wrote on 2016-12-17 UTC

You can still find the rulebook through their site:

T. Becker wrote on 2016-12-16 UTC

The link for the rulebook seems to be gone. What happens now?

(zzo38) A. Black wrote on 2014-01-01 UTCGood ★★★★

My impression of the game from what I read, the game is not bad, but it isn't exceptionally good either (compared to the large number of other chess variants possible, and even games such as shogi and xiangqi!). This game is certainly an improvement over FIDE, though, and deserves that people will play it as much as other chess variants and other games.

The PDF can be purchased for either $0.00 or $4.99, at your choice. I do not think it is worth $4.99, but the option is there if you do think it is worth that much. For the low price of $0.00, I think it is certainly worth looking at if you are interested in chess variants (or Sirlin's other games in general), though; it would also certainly be worth more than $4.99 in a book full of chess variants, or that discussed strategy too, or whatever.

It does have some interesting ideas, such as the dueling rules, different army selection, centerline crossing. However, I am not quite sure that the 5th rank to win is difficult enough, or if it should be moved to the 6th, 7th, or possibly even the 8th rank.

The different armies are numbered from I to VI, so you can use a dice to select one at random if you wish to do so. (A further variant can be if you not only select at random but also keep it a secret, requiring the opponent to deduce what army you are playing.)

The ideas in this game could be applied in some ways to other kind of chess games too, such as shogi, xiangqi, and others. It could then make more situation, and more ideas, too.

Sirlin's other games are much better than this one, and they are certainly worth the money they cost (all the information you need to play is available for free (which actually makes it worth the money, as far as I am concerned!), but they sell high-quality physical equipment and they are definitely worth the money). I have two of them, and am interested in the others, too.

I don't particularly like the name "Chess 2" for this game, and think "Sirlin's Chess" would be a good name for it (the game is still pretty good though, but it is just one of many possible variants). But, maybe someone is able to somehow figure out how to combine this game with his other games (to make something new)...

Jeremy Lennert wrote on 2012-01-22 UTC
The rulebook is poorly written; information is not presented in a logical order, it is difficult to tell in some cases what is a new rule and what is intended merely to explain the implications of another rule (which might not appear until later in the rulebook), and it glosses over several crucial details.  Some of the diagrams depicting unit movement are exceedingly confusing (I defy anyone to look at the diagram for Jungle Queen and guess how it moves without reading the text), and one depicts a board position that is (as far as I can tell) completely impossible.  Very low marks for editing.

The armies are rather interesting; I was expecting pieces similar to FIDE but with different movement patterns, along the lines of Chess with Different Armies, but most of the new pieces in this game have unique special rules.  There's only about 10 new things between all 5 armies, though, so if you were expecting CwDA amounts of new pieces per army, you will be disappointed.

I don't know whether any of it is balanced; it seems unlikely unless quite a large amount of testing was done (but maybe it was, I don't know).  And I wouldn't be at all surprised if a computer could discover a short forced win from some opening positions (even with the simultaneous-action dueling mechanic).  In particular, Reaper vs. Reaper looks like just a race for the midline with no significant risk of checkmate at any stage of the game.

It is also my suspicion that a computer could play this game very easily.  'Dueling' increases the branching factor (as do some of the armies), but I expect games would be much shorter, and I think computers would be better at handling most of the new elements (especially deciding when it's time for the king to make a break for the midline).

(zzo38) A. Black wrote on 2012-01-21 UTC
You win if your king crosses the center line.

Jörg Knappen wrote on 2012-01-21 UTC
Hi, Charles, I think you are supposed to follow the link and undergo the 'purchase' procedure, as there is currently a special offer at $0.00 for this nice chess variant.

There is far too much in it to summarise it here in a comment. There are 6 different armies (one of them the FIDEs), and each of the new armies is equipped with 'mutators' (as George terms it) that still feel fresh and unusual. 

Besides the new armies, the general rules are extended by new ways of winning the game, bringing down the number of draws, and duelling (introducing a poker-style element). So Chess 2 is different even with FIDE vs. FIDE armies.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-21 UTC
What exactly am I supposed to do with
? Can someone who does know how the game diverges from FIDE Chess just post the info in a comment?

Jörg Knappen wrote on 2012-01-20 UTC
I received the rule book and I like the many ideas in chess 2. It is an interesting game to remember where did I see rampant elephants before? Nemesis? 

Nice food for thought!

John Ayer wrote on 2012-01-19 UTC

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-18 UTC
I see no 'Chess 2' on the home page, and when I click 'game info' it gives it only for Yomi. A link to the relevant page, please, not to an online game of 'find the hidden Chess variant'.

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