Check out Alice Chess, our featured variant for June, 2024.

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

Spartan Chess

Spartan Chess™ is a chess variant played on a standard 8x8 chess board. The two sides have pieces and pawns with different characteristics and capabilities. Such differences you would expect between opponents on an actual ancient battlefield.

The Black side represents the Spartans and the White the Persians. The Persians have pawns, pieces, an initial placement and move in accord with the rules of orthodox chess. The Spartans have two Kings and with the exception of their Kings, every Spartan playing piece moves differently from any piece found in orthodox chess.

Spartan Chess Features:
A Persian army (white) identical to that of orthodox chess
A Spartan army led by two Kings
Spartan pawns (hoplites) that move differently than orthodox pawns
Spartan pieces that move differently than any found in orthodox chess
Asymmetric play and feel
Can be played with a standard chess set
Different victory conditions for both sides

Play Spartan Chess against the computer through Jocly

Play Spartan Chess against others via Game Courier


White (Persian)
King e1; Queen d1; Rooks a1, h1; Knights b1, g1; Bishops c1, f1; Pawns a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2, g2, h2.

Black (Spartan)
Kings c8, f8; General b8; Warlord g8; Captains d8, e8; Lieutenants a8, h8; hoplites a7, b7, c7, d7, e7, f7, g7, h7.

Using Non-Orthodox Chess Sets
If you have a Capablanca, Embassy or Gothic chess set you can use the Chancellor to represent the General and the Archbishop to represent the Warlord. Other styles of Bishops, Knights, Rooks and pawns, from a second and different style set, can help to distinguish the Spartans from the Persians and remind players of their different characteristics.

Using an Orthodox Set
Spartan Chess can be played with an orthodox chess set. When using a orthodox chess set substitute orthodox pieces for Spartan pieces as follows:

For Spartan Piece Use Orthodox Piece
Spartan King Knight
hoplite pawn
General King
Warlord Queen
Captain Rook
Lieutenant Bishop


The Spartan pieces move as described in this section. See section "Notes" for explanation of
symbols used in the following diagrams.

Spartan General or Strategos
The General may move as a Rook or as a King.

Spartan Warlord or Polemarchos
The Warlord may move as a Bishop or jump as a Knight.

Captain or Tyntagmatarchos
The Captain jumps to move or capture one or two squares horizontally or vertically.

If the first square is blocked by a friendly or enemy piece, then the Captain may jump over the first square to the second square to capture or move.

Lieutenant or Tagmatarchos
The Lieutenant jumps to move or capture either one or two squares diagonally or can move one square horizontally.

If the first square diagonally is blocked by a friendly or enemy piece, then Lieutenant may jump over the first square to the second diagonal square to capture or move.

Hoplite or Spartan pawn
Hoplites move differently than pawns, illustrated and explained as follows:

Hoplite Movement
Hoplite Movement - The hoplite may move one square forward diagonally and captures one square directly ahead. Hoplites may not move backwards.

Hoplite First Move - A hoplite may move one or two squares diagonally on its first move and on this first move may jump over the first square to the second. Hoplites may not capture by jumping.


All rules of orthodox chess apply except as amended by these rules.

The Spartan and Persian have different victory conditions.

Spartan Victory - The Spartan wins when the Persian King is checkmated as in orthodox chess.

Persians Victory - The Persian wins once one of the Spartan Kings is captured and the remaining Spartan King is checkmated or when both Spartan Kings are placed under simultaneous attack (duple-check) and neither King can be removed from attack on the next move (Duple-Check and Mate).

First Move
The Persians, being the aggressors historically and White, always move first.

Check Immunity
When the Spartan has two Kings in play a Spartan King is immune from check. Thus, the Spartan may move a King onto an enemy attacked square, leave a King under attack or move a piece that would expose a King to attack.

Duple-Check & Mate
If both Spartan Kings are placed under simultaneous attack this is a form of check called duple-check. It is illegal for the Spartan to make a move that will place both of his Kings underattack. With both Kings under attack, the Spartan loses if on his move he is unable to remove at least one King from attack. In such case the game ends in checkmate.

Hoplite Promotion
A hoplite, upon reaching the 8th rank, may promote to any Spartan piece including a King but only if the Spartan has only one king in play.

Capturing en passant
There is no capturing en passant in Spartan Chess.

Spartan Kings may not castle.

Rules Download
Download a zip file containing a pdf format copy of the rules here.


Recording Games
Use an accepted orthodox set of notation to record Spartan Chess games plus these symbols.

G = General
W = Warlord
C = Captain
L = Lieutenant

Symbols Used in Illustrations
The following characters are used in the accompanying diagrams:

X - A square to which a piece may move or capture if the movement path is not blocked.
J - A square to which a piece may move or capture ignoring the presence of intervening pawns or pieces.
c - A square to which a piece may capture but may not move.
m - A square to which a piece may move but not capture.

Strategy Notes
With different armies different strategies are effective for Persian and Spartan.

Spartan Strategy
  • Closed Game - With so many pieces that can jump a closed game favors the Spartan. It is often best to avoid exchanges when possible.
  • Hoplite Mobility - Use the superior mobility of the hoplite over pawns to dominate a section of the board.
  • Phalanxes - When two are more hoplites are in a column one behind the other this is a phalanx. One or more phalanxes can be powerful and the bulwark of a Spartan position.
  • Patience - With more Spartan pieces on foot, the Spartan has more short range pieces. Be patient, develop and advance all your pieces.
  • Kings Attack - When you have 2 Kings in play, advance and attack with them too. Kings can be a powerful addition to an offensive.
  • Check Immunity - Keep both Spartan Kings in play as long as you can to preserve the Spartan advantage of check immunity.
  • Quick Victory - A quick, early and long range victory is sometimes possible when your General and Warlord combine in an attack.
Persian Strategy
  • Open Game - Having more long range pieces an open game favors the Persian. Seek favorable exchanges to open the board and exploit your pieces' superior mobility.
  • Attrition - With the Spartan having two Kings a quick victory is seldom if ever possible. Wear the Spartans down.
  • Maneuver - Always look for open lines where your superior mobility can be exploited.
  • Neutralize hoplites - Hoplite mobility can often be neutralized by placing a piece on both diagonals in front of them.
  • Regicide - Look to exchange a minor piece for a Spartan King as early as possible ending Spartan check immunity.
  • Counter-Punch - Wherever the Spartans advance look to counter attack and force favorable exchanges. Then look for an open flank and rush your Rooks and Queen there.
Sample Game
Spartan Chess game after 17 moves recorded using reversable algebraic notation.

No. White Black
1. g2-g3 Ce8-e6
2. d2-d4 b7-d5
3. Ng1-f3 Lh8-f6
4. c2-c3 La8-c6
5. Nb1-d2 h5xh4
6. c3xd4 f7-d5
7. e2-e3 d5xd4
8. Nf6xd4 Lf6xd4
9. e3xLd4 Lc6d5
10. Nd2-b3 Ld5xNb3
11. a2xLb3 Kb7
12. Qd1-f3 + Kf8-e8
13. Bf1-g2 d7-c6
14. 0-0 Cd8-d6
15. Qf3-c3 Kb7-a6
16. d4-d5 Gb8-b5
17. Qc3xg7 Wg8-f6

Of Note:
12. Duple-check
15. King moves into attack
Computer Play

Mr. H.G. Muller programmed a version of his application Fairy-Max to play Spartan Chess.

Fairy-Max is a chess playing engine that runs with WinBoard, a graphical chess interface. With this package hundreds of computer vs computer games were played. Mr. Muller's testing and comments were important to the final form and play balance of this chess variation.

You can download a copy of Mr H.G. Muller's f-Max WinBoard package here: Download Spartan f-Max.
Unzip the file to your root directory.

Back to Top
Disk Playing Pieces

You, like others, may make your own set Spartan Chess set in a style similiar to an oriental chess set from artwork you can dowload.
Spartan Chess set artwork Download View *
Set made by Calvin Daniels View *

Conventional Chess Set
A convention Spartan Chess set is under development and is expected to be available in the first quarter of 2011. You may view sketches for the Spartan pieces here: Spartan Chess Pieces

This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

By Steven Streetman.

Last revised by H. G. Muller.

Web page created: 2010-11-05. Web page last updated: 2023-02-13