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

                            CINCINNATI 4-WAY CHESS
                               by david moeser
                  Revision 2.0 -- Copyright (c) January 1999
        1.  INTRODUCTION
   1.10:  Overview:  This version of four-player chess is called "4-Way," 
an especially appropriate name for a Cincinnati chess variation consider-
ing this city's unique penchant for chili parlors and its chili terminol-
ogy of 3-ways, 4-ways, and 5-ways.  
   1.11:  Chili Note:  For the benefit of non-Cincinnatians, a 3-way con-
sists of chili smothered in a bed of old-fashioned spaghetti, topped off 
with grated cheddar cheese.  A 4-way adds chopped onions.  A 5-way adds 
beans.  As for the lesser combinations, only wimps order 2-ways!  Nobody 
ever orders a 1-way!
   1.2:  Historical Note:  Cincinnati 4-Way improves on an important 
development in four-handed chess, namely the Quadular chess game invented 
by Nelson Hart of St. Louis, Missouri, USA.  By cutting down the size of 
the central area, Quadular made a vital new contribution to the chess 
scene:  For the first time, four-handed chessplaying became practical and 
lively like regular chess.  As of this writing, Quadular sets are no long-
er available.  The Harts and their marketing company, HPH Development, 
have disappeared.
   1.3:  Dynamics of the Board:  Whereas the most common form of four-
handed chess has 64 center and 96 side squares, for a total of 160, the 
Cincinnati 4-Way board has only 101 squares.  Whereas the chess pieces in 
the initial position occupy 40% of the territory in the 160-square game, 
and 50% in Regular Chess, in Cincinnati 4-Way the pieces occupy 55.5% of 
the board.  In Regular Chess the two sides are separated by 4 ranks; in 
the 160-square game the partners are separated by 10 ranks; in 4-Way the 
partners' front ranks of Pawns are only 7 rows apart.  All of these fac-
tors give Cincinnati 4-Way more fireworks than the dull 160-square game.
        2.  THE GAME
   2.1:  Rules:  Except as noted herein, the rules of "regular chess" 
apply to 4-Way.
   2.2:  Teams:  4-Way is a game between two teams of two players each.  
Two different chess sets, or four colors of pieces, are required.
   2.3:  Partners:  Players opposite to each other are partners and their
pieces cooperate.  White and Black are partners, as are Yellow and Red. 
Capturing a partner's material is illegal.
   2.4:  Object:  The game is won when one side checkmates BOTH Kings of 
the opposing side.  Checkmating one King counts one point; checkmating 
both Kings counts two points.
   2.5:  Knotty Point:  Having a King checkmated doesn't prevent a side 
from winning the game.  Altho the situation is unlikely, Red might be 
checkmated by Black pieces and White checkmated by Yellow pieces; then 
Yellow also checkmates Black, ending the game, since both White and Black 
are simultaneously checkmated.
   2.6:  Frozen Material:  When a player is checkmated, he loses his turn 
and all his pieces are frozen.  Frozen pieces cannot be captured and they 
have no powers, but they continue to occupy their squares until either the 
game ends or the player is relieved from checkmate.
   2.7:  Advice:  A checkmated player's partner is well advised to endeavor
to relieve the checkmate so his partner, with his pieces unfrozen, can re-
join the game.
   2.8:  Play:  The turn to play moves clockwise.
   2.91:  Knotty Point #1:  It's possible for a player to be put into check 
but relieved of check by his partner before the player's next turn to move.  
   2.92:  Knotty Point #2:  While it's possible to argue that a player 
should have the right to move into check because his partner (second-next-
on-move) could undo the check before the checking opponent (third-next-on-
move) could make a King-capturing move, this should be considered illegal.  
For one reason, it violates the rules of Regular Chess; and secondly, the 
partner isn't obligated to make such a move.  
        3.  THE BOARD
   3.1:  4-Way Board:  The board consists of 101 cells, described as fol-
lows from the center outward:  A central area of 25 squares, consisting of 
five rows of five squares each.  Adjoining each of the four sides of the 
central area are three ranks of five squares each.  Adjoining the three 
central squares of each outermost five-square rank is a rank of three 
squares.  Adjoining the entire three-square rank is a triangle, called the 
home triangle, large enough to contain within it one square (called the 
King's square) adjacent to the middle square of the three-square rank.
                        e  d  c  b  a
                             /  \
   15                      /______\
   14                   __|__|__|__|__
   13                  |__|__|__|__|__|
   12                  |__|__|__|__|__|
   11                  |  |  |  |  |  |
Y              __ __ __****************__ __ __
E  10       __|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__       e
L   9    / |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__| \    d  R
L   8  <   |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|   >  c  E
O   7    \ |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__| /    b  D
W   6         |__|__|__*  |  |  |  |  *__|__|__|         a
    5                  |__|__|__|__|__|
    4                  |__|__|__|__|__|
    3                  |__|__|__|__|__|
    2                     |__|__|__|
    1                      \      /
                             \  /
                        a  b  c  d  e
   In Diagram 3.2 above, ranks are numbered from White's perspective.  
Files are lettered left-to-right as viewed by White, Red, and Black.
   3.3:  The Blue Line:  Surrounding the 25-square center area is a blue 
line which demarcates the boundary between the central area and each play-
er's territory.  The 25 squares in the central area are said to be OUTSIDE 
the blue line; the 19 cells (18 squares plus the triangle) that make up 
each side area are said to be INSIDE the blue line (i.e., inside the play-
er's territory).
   3.4:  Home Square:  For all purposes other than Pawn promotion, the 
only playable area within the triangle is the marked square.  That square 
is considered to be part of the centermost, 15-square file, as well as two
3-square diagonals.  It also constitutes a one-square rank by itself.
   5   |__|__|__|__|__|       In Diagram 3.5 the c1 square has been 
   4   |__|__|__|__|__|    inscribed in the home triangle.  A Bishop or
   3   |x_|__|__|__|__|    Queen could move on the three-square-long c1-a3
   2      |x_|__|__|       diagonal (marked "x").
   1       \ |x_| /
             \  /
        a  b  c  d  e
   3.6:  Home Triangle:  For Pawn promotion only, the entire home triangle 
counts as a rank, like the back rank in Regular Chess.  Otherwise the 
triangle is simply a graphic device, which may be colored in to represent 
the different colors of the pieces representing the players in the game.
   3.7:  Coloring the Board:  Except for the home triangles the board is
alternately colored, with the Queens' squares being a light ("white")
color.  The triangles are colored the same as their respective players' 
armies.  The home squares, which dynamically are part of the dark ("black") 
square diagonals, are colored the same as the surrounding triangle.  (This
color scheme is arbitrary, of course.)
   3.80:  NOTATION:  The home triangle is the first rank for each player.  
The 3-square rank is the second rank.  The remaining ranks inside the blue 
line are 3, 4, and 5, numbered away from the player's home base.  The cen-
ter area has ranks 6 thru 10.  From each player's perspective, his part-
ner's ranks are 11 thru 15.  The 5-square ranks are denoted a, b, c, d, e 
(left to right) as in Algebraic Notation.  The four players' territories 
are denoted with capital letters: W for White, B for Black, Y for Yellow, 
and R for Red.
   3.81:  Notation Nuances:  While the individual squares on the board are
named in Algebraic style, 4-Way gamescore notation is essentially 
Descriptive, with each move denoted from the perspective of the player on 
move.  However, when a movement is made from or into an opponent's terri-
tory, the departure and/or arrival square must be prefixed by the capital 
letter denoting the opponent's territory from whose perspective the squares 
are being recorded.  This same principle may be applied to moves made with-
in a partner's territory in order to keep the rank numbers low for easy 
        4.  PIECES
   4.1:  Armies:  Each player has 14 pieces: 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Rooks, 
2 Bishops, 3 Knights, and 5 Pawns. (A regular set may be used, with a Pawn 
specially marked to represent the third Knight.)
   4.20:  Initial Position:  The King is placed on the square drawn in the 
triangle (c1).  The Queen is placed in the center of the three-square rank 
(c2).  Two Rooks fill out the second rank (b2 and d2).  Five Pawns fill the
fourth rank.  The third rank is as follows:  Knights are on the edges (a3 
and e3).  The black-square Bishop occupies the center (c3).  For White and 
Black, the white-square Bishop is on the middle-right side (d3).  For Yel-
low and Red, the white-square Bishop is on the middle-left side (b3).  The 
remaining square (b3 for White and Black; d3 for Yellow and Red) contains 
the extra piece, a third Knight in the standard version.
   4.21:  Note:  The initial placement of the white-square Bishop has been
modified slightly compared to the first draft of these rules in 1991.  
White and Yellow's white-square Bishops, and Black and Red's white-square 
Bishops, now oppose each other.  No white-square Bishop now opposes 
another player's extra piece; that piece could be a Squirrel, which like a 
Knight cannot counterattack a Bishop with the same kind of move that a 
Bishop can attack it (along the diagonal).  As long as the extra piece is 
not a diagonal-mover, it seems to be impossible to have an initial posi-
tion which both protects all fourth-rank Pawns and also provides a perfect 
and symmetrical position.  The revised position allows White to open 
1. S-a3, thereby forcing Yellow to defend by playing 1. S-c3 or S-e3.  
Unless a worse "flaw" is found, it's hoped that the revised initial posi-
tion will prove in the long run to be superior to the older version.
                        e  d  c  b  a
                             /  \
   15                      /__K___\
   14                   __|R_|Q_|R_|__
   13                  |N_|B_|B_|N_|N_|
   12                  |P_|P_|P_|P_|P_|
   11                  |  |  |  |  |  |
Y              __ __ __****************__ __ __
E  10       __|N_|P_|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|P_|N_|__       e
L   9    / |R_|B_|P_|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|P_|N_|R_| \    d  R
L   8  < K |Q_|B_|P_|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|P_|B_|Q_| K >  c  E
O   7    \ |R_|N_|P_|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|P_|B_|R_| /    b  D
W   6         |N_|P_|__*  |  |  |  |  *__|P_|N_|         a
    5                  |__|__|__|__|__|
    4                  |P_|P_|P_|P_|P_|
    3                  |N_|N_|B_|B_|N_|
    2                     |R_|Q_|R_|
    1                      \  K   /
                             \  /
                        a  b  c  d  e
   4.30:  Variation:  The third Knight (on b3 for White and Black; on d3 
for Yellow and Red) may be replaced by a Squirrel.  The Squirrel's move 
combines the moves of Knight, Alfil, and Dabbaba.  In other words, it 
leaps over the eight squares a King would move to, landing on the ring of 
squares two squares away in any direction.  (Some players who are accus-
tomed to "regular chess" and who don't want to deal with new chess pieces 
may prefer to use a third Knight instead of a Squirrel.)  Using a Squirrel 
is recommended because it's at least twice as powerful (in relative point 
value) as a Knight and thus adds more firepower to the game.
               __ __ __****************__ __ __
   10       __|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__        
    9    / |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__| \      
    8  <   |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|   >   
    7    \ |__|__|x_|x_*x_|x_|x_|__|__*__|__|__|__| /     
    6         |__|x_|__*  |  |x |  |  *__|__|__|          
    5                  |S_|__|x_|__|__|
    4                  |__|__|x_|__|__|
    3                  |x_|x_|x_|__|__|
    2                     |__|__|__|
    1                      \      /
                             \  /
                        a  b  c  d  e
   In Diagram 4.31 above, the Squirrel (S) on Wa5 can leap to 12 squares 
(marked "x").  The Squirrel was invented by N. Kovacs of Budapest, Hungary.
   4.4:  Pieces:  All movements of the pieces are the same as in "regular 
chess," except for certain peculiarities of Pawns.
   4.5:  Pawns:  Pawns move forward only one square at a time; no double-
jump is allowed.
   4.6:  Leapfrogging:  When partners' Pawns meet on a file, the player 
on-move may leapfrog his Pawn forward on the file over the partner's Pawn,
but only if the landing square is vacant.  
   Example: In the diagram below, Yellow has a Pawn (P) on c8; Red, a Pawn 
(p) on c9.  Yellow can move P-c10.  Note that the Yellow Pawn can capture 
to b9 or d9 (marked "x"), its normal capturing squares, but NOT to such 
squares as b10, d10, b11, or d11.  If any piece were on Yc10 the Yellow 
Pawn could not leapfrog forward over the Red Pawn on c9 until after that 
piece vacated c10.
 Y             __ __ __****************__ __ __
 E  a       __|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__       e
 L  b    / |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|x_|__*__|__|__|__| \    d  R
 L  c  <   |__|__|__|__*__|__|P_|p_|__*__|__|__|__|   >  c  E
 O  d    \ |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|x_|__*__|__|__|__| /    b  D
 W  e         |__|__|__*  |  |  |  |  *__|__|__|         a
         1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11 12 13 14 15
   4.70:  Semi-Promotion:  When a Pawn reaches a square inside the part-
ner's blue line, it semi-promotes to a Superpawn, which can move either 
forward or backward on its file.  A Superpawn can capture on any of the 
four diagonal squares surrounding it.  A large coin, poker chip, or other 
disk-shaped object can be placed under the Pawn to denote its promotion to
super status.
   4.71:  Superpawn Status:  Semi-Promotion to a Superpawn is permanent, 
regardless of where the Superpawn goes on the board thereafter in the game.  
A Superpawn is still eligible to fully promote if it reaches an opponent's 
home triangle, but it may never return to being an ordinary Pawn.
   4.72:  Variation:  An experimental version allows a Superpawn to move 
one square in any orthogonal direction.  In other words, to move like a 
Wazir (one square along rank or file) and to capture like a Ferz (one 
square diagonally).  In this variation, instead of being limited to being 
a filerider the Superpawn would be able to march around the board at will; 
it would be able to enter the opponents' territory without having had to 
capture to get there; and it would be a much stronger candidate for promo-
tion.  If this idea proves to be practical it will be incorporated into 
future rules.
   4.80:  Inside Opponent's Blue Line:  When a Pawn reaches a square inside
an opponent's blue line (after having captured), its movement becomes one 
square forward on the file of the opponents, toward the opponent's home 
triangle.  In other words, the axis of the Pawn's movement changes to that 
of the files connecting the opponents' two home triangles.  The Pawn can, 
of course, capture diagonally forward, with "forward" defined by its new 
direction.  Example:  When a Yellow Pawn reaches a square inside Black's 
blue line, it can no longer move on a Yellow-Red file; it now moves only on
the Black-White file.
   4.81:  Exception to 4.8 For Deadends:  When a Pawn is moving inside an
opponent's blue line and reaches a deadend, it may move one square in the
direction of its original axis of movement so as to escape the deadend.
After making such a move the Pawn is no longer on a deadend file and re-
turns to moving in the direction toward the opponent's home triangle.  
(It's also possible for a Pawn to escape a deadend situation by capturing 
if such a capture is available.)
   Example #1:  In the diagram below, a White Pawn has invaded Red's space,
moving along Red's 'a' file until it reached a deadend at a3.  It could
capture onto b2 (marked "x") but since there's no enemy piece there, it can
move to b3.  Once it's on the 'b' file it can move to b2 and then promote 
on Red's first-rank triangle.
 Y             __ __ __****************__ __ __
 E  a       __|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__       e
 L  b    / |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__| \    d  R
 L  c  <   |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|   >  c  E
 O  d    \ |__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|o_|x_| /    b  D
 W  e         |__|__|__*  |  |  |  |  *__|__|P_|         a
         15 14 13 12 11 10 9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1
   Example #2:  The White Pawn in the diagram below captures (noted with 
"x") on Yellow's c5, then makes a second capture on Yb4 and a third capture 
on Ya3.  Now what?  Allowing the Pawn to escape the deadend by moving to 
Yb3 may seem "backwards," but it's really sideways because the Pawn's axis 
of movement is now supposed to be in the direction of the Yellow-Red files.
From Yb3 the White Pawn can move to Yb2 and then promote on Yellow's home
 Y             __ __ __****************__ __ __
 E  a       __|x_|__|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__       e
 L  b    / |__|__|x_|__*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__| \    d  R
 L  c  <   |__|__|__|x_*__|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__|   >  c  E
 O  d    \ |__|__|__|__*P_|__|__|__|__*__|__|__|__| /    b  D
 W  e         |__|__|__*  |  |  |  |  *__|__|__|         a
         1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 11 12 13 14 15
   4.90:  Promotion:  When a Pawn reaches any of the three squares of an 
opponent's second rank, it can on its next move (if such a move is other-
wise legal) go forward into the triangle and promote as in Regular Chess, 
but only in accordance with the following limitations and stipulations:  
   4.91:  Point #1:  If the King's square (c1) is vacant, the Pawn may move
forward from b2, c2, or d2 into the triangle.  
   4.92:  Point #2:  If the c1 square is occupied by an opponent's piece, a 
Pawn on c2 is blocked from moving forward.  However, a Pawn on b2 or d2 can
capture to the c1 square.  
   4.93:  Point #3:  If the c1 square is occupied by a friendly piece, a 
Pawn on c2 is blocked from moving forward, and a Pawn on b2 or d2 is 
blocked from moving or capturing to c1 (because it can't capture its own or 
a partner's piece).
   4.94:  Point #4:  Note that in all of these cases, the arrival square 
inside the triangle is always considered to be c1 (the original King's 
square).  The triangle's main value is to help visualize Pawn promotion in 
the case of rule 4.91.
   4.95:  Knotty Point:  A Pawn on d2 moves into the triangle, promoting 
to a Rook.  The Rook is considered to occupy square c1 and thus now 
controls the c-file, not the d-file.  In effect, the Rook has "switched" 
files.  However, the same effect is seen in Regular Chess when a Pawn 
promotes by capturing to the eighth rank, so this is basically a "regular" 
phenomenon.  To give the triangle any more power -- i.e., to allow more 
than one square to be defined within the triangle -- would distort the game 
by creating cylindrical board effects, which would change the board from 
being "regular" into being a fairy-chess board.  Therefore, except for rule 
4.91 the triangle must be considered mainly an artistic device, not a cell 
for defining super-files or super-diagonals.
   4.96:  Promotion Material:  A Pawn may promote to any piece that was 
represented in the initial position.
        5.  CHECKMATE
   5.1:  Checkmate:  When a player is checkmated, his pieces are frozen and
he loses his turn.  The turn to move continues clockwise among the remain-
ing players.
   5.2:  Pyramids:  Frozen pieces cannot be captured; they remain on the 
board as "pyramids" as long as the player is checkmated.  Frozen pieces 
have no powers.
   5.3:  Relieving Checkmate:  If the partner relieves a player from 
checkmate, or if the position on the board changes so that the checkmated 
player himself can make a move to get out of both check and checkmate, 
then that player is back in the game and resumes taking his turn to move.
   5.4:  Winning the Game:  When both Kings on a side are checkmated, the 
opposing team wins the game.  (The full game value is 2 points, one for 
each King.)
   5.5:  Draws:  If a side checkmates one opposing King and then draws with
the remaining opponent, that side scores 1.5 points.  If the game is ended 
by a draw in any other way (such as agreement between the teams, a valid 
claim of repetition of position, or insufficient checkmating material, 
etc.) without ANY King on the board being checkmated, then each side scores 
one-half point.
   5.6:  Stale:  Stalemate of one King has little significance in 4-Way.  
As in "regular chess," it means that a player's King isn't in check and 
has no legal move and in addition all his other pieces have no legal move.  
For practical purposes, the player loses his turn as long as stale con-
tinues.  However, that player's pieces CAN be captured and they retain all 
their powers -- because the player's King is NOT checkmated.  
   Example:  Suppose that (at least) one of the player's pieces is merely 
being blocked by a friendly piece.  If by the next turn that friendly 
piece is gone, the player is by definition no longer stalemated, since he 
now has a piece that can move.  Thus pieces of a staled player retain all 
their powers and can move as soon as movement becomes possible.
   5.7:  Unfreezing:  If checkmating material moves away or is captured, 
and a checkmate is relieved, then the formerly checkmated player's pieces 
are unfrozen and that player regains his turn.
   5.8:  Nuance:  A player might be relieved of having to heed check if 
the checking (i.e., opponent's) piece becomes frozen before the player's 
next turn to move.
   LES JEUX D'ECHECS NON ORTHODOXES, by Prof. Joseph Boyer.  Paris, 1951.
   A GUIDE TO FAIRY CHESS, by A.S.M. Dickins.  Surrey, England, 1967.
(Reprinted by Dover.)
   NEUE CHESS: THE BOOK.  US $5 from David Moeser, 6255 Beechmont Avenue,
#22, Cincinnati, Ohio 45230-1927.  (USA addresses only.  For addresses 
outside the U.S., contact the publisher for a quote of shipping cost.  
E-mail address: erasmus at iglou dot com.)
   THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CHESS VARIANTS, by D.B. Pritchard.  Surrey, England,
                 [removed by ed.]

   8.1  This article is Copyright (c) 1999 by David Moeser.  Cincinnati 
4-Way chess has been played since the mid-1980s; the first version of this 
article was published in 1991.

Written by david moeser -- erasmus att iglou dott com.
WWW page created: January 30, 1999.