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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2012-01-21
 Author: Hans L. Bodlaender. Inventor: David  Sirlin. Chess 2. Different armies, a new winning condition, and duels. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
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.

(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)...

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