Read Here To Learn How To Play 3 Person Chess!


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Chess is a two-person strategic game that requires a lot of contemplation and planning. But what do you do when there are three players who want to partake in a three-way chess game. You can’t go Sheldon Cooper on the 2D board and invent new pieces, right?

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True as that may be though, there is an alternative to playing 3-person chess games on a hexagonal board. The game was initially invented by George R. Dekle Senior back in 1984 and it is still in use despite what most people believe. You can easily play three-person chess on this game board that uses similar pieces, albeit introducing a new color, traditionally red.

Today, let us explore the world of 3-man chess to learn how to play 3-way chess and the rules pertaining to it.

How to play three-person chess?

Three-way chess is played with 3 people at the helm of alternative sides of the hexagonal game board. Since this is 3-man chess, which means there are 3 different colors, i.e., white, red, and black, the gameplay differs slightly.

The game is initiated by the player with the red pieces. The player with the white pieces then follows suit ending the turn with the player with the black pieces. The movement of the turns is systematically clockwise.

Each player aims to capture the pieces of both their opponents on either side. The objective of the game is to checkmate the opponent’s kings in 3-person chess while watching out for possible threats to your own king.

The three-person chess game can have two possible outcomes. Either one player checkmate both their opponents and emerges victoriously or two of the players checkmate one another so there is one loser and two winners.

The rules of 3-person chess also allow a little flexibility to make the game more complex or simple. We will discuss them shortly. First, let us take a look at how to play 3-way chess by checking the layout, piece movements, and the 3-person chessboard in general.

Chess Board starting layout for 3-person chess

The chessboard at the beginning of a three-way chess game is set up on a hexagonal board as compared to the traditional square board. Due to the added side, each player now sits facing an empty slot on the other side. Simply put, the players leave one side of the board between them such that all the players are facing the center of the game board but no one is directly facing each other as opposed to what you see in a 2-player chess game.

Chess Board starting layout for 3-person chess

The game board uses a 3D appearance wherein the second line, i.e., the bishops, knights, rooks, kings, and queens are placed parallel to the edge of the chessboard. However, the pawns seem like they are already in an advancing concave fashion in a 3-man chessboard.

The layout and setup for 3-person chess are very similar to 2-person games. The rooks are on either side, followed by the knights, then the bishops, then the king on the right, and the queen on the left. This progression moves inward, much like a normal chessboard.

A distinct difference is the alphabets and numbers for the slots are non-specific due to the 3-dimensional layout.

Some 3-man chess layouts also use distinct colors like blue, green, and red instead of the traditional monochromatic black, white, and red board.

Piece movements

The movements of the pieces in a three-way chess game are almost similar to a 2-player board except the middle section is the only place where the pieces can move freely. In order to contest two opposing players on this hexagonal chessboard, the players need to move their pieces towards the center and then go right or left to threaten and capture their opponents.

The Queen can move in any direction as always but once it reaches the center of the board, it needs to take a turn to enter an opponent’s territory.

The rook needs to move forward on the 3D setup before it takes a turn. If it has to go straight across the board though, that is allowed in one swift motion.

The bishop can take long strides once it reaches the center of the board. When it is in one of the arms of the hexagon though, its movements are short and limited.

Due to the 3D setup, the knight can take its usual two and a half steps or go straight as long as it is at the curvature near the center.

Since the king only takes single steps, it can move freely in any direction.

The pawns can move forward till they cross into an opponent’s territory in 3-person chess. After that, the pawn sort of appears to move sideways, although technically they are still moving forward. The detail to remember here in a three-person chess game is that the pawns in the center can only cross over to the empty space in front. The pawns on the right must move from your side to the empty side on the right and the pawns on the left reciprocate on the left side. These empty sides are the hot zones for the chess pieces in 3-person chess to battle.

Rules of 3-person chess

The rules to three-person chess are as follows:

  • The game starts with the red pieces and moves clockwise to white, then black pieces.
  • The movements of each piece, although similar to 2-person chess, require quirky movements in 3-person chess.
  • The players must play independently of each other. No two players can team up against the third.
  • All three players must strive to capture at least one or both their opponent’s kings, i.e., checkmating them both either together or individually.
  • Based on the variant of gameplay, you can choose to forfeit the game once one player is checkmated or continue till one player is victorious over both opponents.
  • If one player checkmates another and the third player checkmates the first, there is only one loser.
  • If one player checkmates both opponents, there is only one winner.
  • Based on the variant of 3-person chess that you play, you can choose to remove the pieces of the player who has been checkmated. However, if you opt to keep the pieces on the board then the two active players must not alter the position of the checkmated player’s pieces. They will serve as blocks.

The rules of 3-man chess seem a little complicated in theory. However, once you start playing, the layout seems traditionally simpler. Of course, the gameplay will require extensive strategies but the overall methods of playing 3-person chess are relatively simpler to understand in practice.

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