Chess variants

Last week’s question was ‘What is most important for you in a World Championship cycle?’ Over three-quarters of you voted for ‘that the best player wins’. Fair enough, but I suspect the ‘entertainment’ option would have gained more votes if we still had the old classical system of first-to-win-6-games, and matches lasting for six months.



This week I am curious about a topic we at Quality Chess rarely touch in our books – chess variants. We usually focus on ‘normal’ classical chess with the traditional starting position. But there are other chess worlds out there, such as Fischer Random, odds-giving (removing some material from one side, to even up a mismatch in playing strength), chess-boxing, correspondence, problem solving, and many more. Are you interested in chess variants? Unlike our previous polls, when you vote, you can click more than one option, as it’s perfectly possible to be interested in more than one variant.

I will take ‘interested in’ to mean as either a spectator or a competitor. And since we have in the office a World Champion solver in GM Colin McNab, I should admit that ‘solving’ and ‘correspondence chess’ are not really ‘chess variants’, but I am using the term broadly and carelessly, just to distinguish from over-the-board chess.

18 thoughts on “Chess variants”

  1. I voted other and was thinking about studies. I enjoy the booklets by Yacov Vladimirov (Rinck, Kubbel, Troitzky, Loyd, Platovs). They consists in 100 studies with solutions at the end.
    What’s good about these composers is that their studies are not computer generated and can be useful for training (as in Excelling at Chess Calculation) : not so many pieces on the board and the solution is not too deep.

  2. I went for Fischer-Random and Correspondence.

    Fischer-Random interests me because we get to escape theory, and we have to start thinking since move 1. I have played it seldomly online, and always read the news there.

    Correspondence interests me as the ultimate chess experience, the closest we have to a perfect played game.

    Odds-giving does not seem chess to me (from the Komodo matches) and problem solving while may be interesting and valid, does not appeal me, either for practice or to spectate.

  3. If classical chess ever gets boring I would rather play shogi, xiangqi or go. Games with a history, community and cultural background. Random changes to the rules of classical chess aren’t really interesting to me.

    Spinoffs like corr chess or solving are too different from the classical tournament game to be of much appeal to me.

  4. A Russian friend of mine and I have experimented with various forms of draughts, both traditional and modern, including making up our own forms of the game. But besides putzing around with shogi and xiangqi, which we gave up on, we have not had any desire to modify chess. Chess is already as good as it’s going to get.

  5. Progressive!

    White plays one move, Black plays two, White plays three, etc. A great mix between competitive chess and problem solving. “Variant Chess” used to have good quizzes.

  6. I wouldn’t have thought I’d be interested in chess variants, could never really see the point. However I’ve played a bit of ‘King of the Hill’ on Lichess recently and with only a minor tweak (a win through either normal means OR by getting your king to one of the four central squares) makes the games more intense as a win can easily happen in the middlegame, and there’s no endgame theory.
    What I like the most is that there are no new pieces or movements to learn, so normal chess skills still apply (much as in Fischerrandom)

  7. A Rapid or Blitz Random Chess WC would be great !
    And why not a Random Chess Armageddon for tie-breaks ?

  8. Jacob Aagaard

    I think Bughouse is covered by other. The kids I teach play all types of variants. Including Topple the King, for which I am the ambassador! Basically, it is dice chess. And it is really fun, making the game a level playing field. I lost 8-3 to a kid two weeks ago. Then last week I crushed him 2-0. His enthusiasm for chess definitely benefits from this.

  9. Is Raindrop Chess known at all outside of the Netherlands? It’s a kind of chess with a deck of cards representing all your pieces. Play starts with an empty board. On your turn, you draw a card and choose where to place that piece somewhere on the board. Once you have placed your king, you can choose whether to draw another card or to play a chess move each turn. Game ends by checkmate. The randomness works as a skill neutralizer (nice for games between kids and parents) and gives you unique situations immediately.

  10. @Gollum
    My vote also for random. I think it would be good for chess to play some tournaments with it. Besides that it would avoid boring and tricky preparations, it would encourage more people to start playing chess, since you could be able to enjoy chess without being outplayed by someone that know the right moves by heart and has only spent 1′ clock

  11. Fischer-Random and Correspondence on the other 2 variants I like.

    I’m also glad you called it Fischer-Random and not Chess960. No doubt Fischer would have something to say about those trying to rebrand his game to Chess960, if he were still alive today..

  12. I have spent way more time than I care to admit playing suicide chess and bughouse chess on the Internet!

  13. For me it’s crazyhouse. I’ve been playing it since it became available on and it is very exciting. I’m probably extremely bad at it, since there are no good players (for crazyhouse) on So it could be that the excitement comes from the extremely low level 🙂

    @jacob Could you explain a bit more what this topple the king” game is? I don’t know dice chess either.

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