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A game of chess initially developed to address personal concerns about the rules has slowly evolved until it became a full variation of the game called “Chess 99”. The most obvious difference is that it is played on a 9x9 board, hence the name, and a new piece has been added, the “paladin”, named for a military leader in medieval times. The paladin combines the movement of the knight and the bishop which makes it the second most powerful piece of the game after the queen.

Some of the rules were also modified but by and large they were simply restored to their original form. It can then be said that while Chess 99 does retain, in one form or another, all of the more modern features of chess, it is essentially played by the ancient rules.


The kings occupy the central file and face each other. The queens stand on the left of their king – they do not face each other as they do in orthodox chess – and the paladins stand on his right. The rest of the setup is identical to that of orthodox chess.


The basic movement of all main chess pieces are exactly the same. Only the movement of the pawn has been altered. Here are the differences:

  • The paladin moves like a knight and a bishop.
  • Pawns move forward one or two unoccupied squares all the way across the board.
  • Capture “en passant” may be executed by any piece – not just the pawns.
  • Kings may castle with any of their pieces, they may do so repeatedly, and they may even use this move to escape check. (See detailed rules below.)

Capture “en passant” is an important feature of the game:

  • A pawn that has made a two-square move may be captured “en passant”.
  • The capture always takes place as if the pawn had moved a single square.
  • The capture may be executed by any piece that could have captured the pawn if it had moved only one space.
  • The option to capture “en passant” must be exercised on the very next move or it is lost.

To be perfectly clear as to the intent of this rule, whenever a pawn makes a two-square move, the opponent may push the said pawn back one square and proceed to capture it in the square where it now stands. There is never an exception to this rule. [Editor's note: This is a convention of over-the-board play that need not be followed in online play.]

Castling still exists in Chess 99 but in a much-simplified form:

  • Castling is a special play where two pieces are moved at once.
  • One of those pieces must be the king.
  • Both pieces must be in the player’s first rank.
  • A king may castle with any one of his pieces standing right next to him. The two pieces simple exchange places.
  • The king may also castle at a distance but only with his queen or one of his rooks, the only pieces that move horizontally. All intervening squares must be unoccupied. The king moves a single square towards the piece he is castling with, and the piece takes the original square of the king.
  • There are no other restrictions of any kind on castling.

Note the following:

  1. The king always moves a single square, even in castling. (This is simply the way the king moves, and no exception is made for castling.)
  2. The piece the king is castling with always takes the original square of the king.
  3. The king may castle while in check. (One must keep in mind that doing so will automatically leave the piece the king is castling with under a threat of capture.)
  4. The king may castle and put himself in check – but that is usually not recommended.
  5. Castling with a bishop will move the said bishop to the squares of the opposite color – an important feature since all bishops are on dark squares initially.
  6. Movement of either pieces prior to castling does not matter.
  7. Castling may take place anywhere in the player’s first rank.
  8. Players may castle as often as they like.


Here are the basic rules of Chess 99 that differ from those of orthodox chess:

  • The objective of the game it to capture – not checkmate – the opponent’s king.
  • It is NOT illegal to make a move that places, or leaves, one’s king in check.
  • A pawn on the last rank may be promoted to a minor piece, knight or bishop – nothing else. (See detailed rules below.)
  • Players are given 99 moves to win the game. (Or it’s a draw.)

Note the following:

  1. As long as each and every piece is moved according to its own rules, there will never be an illegal play.
  2. Players must, at all times, keep a watchful eye on their king or risk losing the game right there and then.
  3. Players always have a move, and there is no such thing as a draw by “stalemate”.
  4. Two knights may not be able to force a checkmate, but they can force a capture. A two-knight ending, if played correctly, is a win.
  5. Since a single knight or bishop cannot force a capture, a single pawn ending, even one where the pawn can safely promote, will be a draw.

Rules of pawn promotion:

  • A pawn that reaches the last rank does not promote (immediately).
  • A pawn standing in the last rank may be promoted whenever the player has the move.
  • Promotion may be to a bishop or a knight at the player's discretion.
  • The effect of the new piece is immediate.
  • The promoted pawn must then be played (on the same move).

Note: Although the delay in promotion may be quite beneficial on occasion, it exists primarily to preclude any dispute over the capture “en passant” of a pawn reaching the last rank on a two-square move. (A pawn reaching the last rank on a two-square move may be captured “en passant” like any other.)

Rules for a draw:

In Chess 99, there is no threefold repetition rule and no fifty-move rule either. Players may always agree to a draw when neither one has enough material to force a capture or both players stand their ground and no progress is being made. Here are other reasons for a draw.

Both kings are in check!

Since it is permitted to leave one’s king in check, one can easily conceive of a situation where a player would capture the opponent’s king while their own king remains in check, or would become in check as result of the play. In such a situation, the player with the move may claim a draw.

  • Capturing the opponent’s king while one’s own king is in check does not result in a win – it is a draw.

Note: A player in an inferior position who becomes in check may well choose to answer by checking the opponent’s king. (The player who is a superior position – and expect to win the game – would probably not want to answer a check with a check of their own as the opponent would likely call a draw.)

The 99-move rule!

  • Once the opponent has completed 99 moves, the player with the move may call a draw. The player will then make their move and if this player is not in check, the game is declared a draw. (A player may not call a draw if their move puts or leaves their king in check.)

Note: It would serve no purpose to carry on with a game when it has become obvious that no one has a realistic chance of winning by the 99th move. (The rule exists to force the termination of a game, but in practice it should rarely be invoked.)

The Pyrrhic victory!

A player who has lost every single one of their pieces and pawns may no longer claim victory. Should this player be in a position to capture the opponent’s king, they may claim a draw.

Note: One single remaining piece, even a simple pawn, would be sufficient to claim victory.


For a more detailed description of Chess 99, visit

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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 Claude Lapointe.

Last revised by Fergus Duniho.

Web page created: 2019-10-26. Web page last updated: 2021-02-25