All You Need To Know About Chess Variants & Enjoy Playing!


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Chess is an incredible test of the mind that gets you addicted to the strategizing and attractive gameplay. It is only fair that you look for chess variants that will offer the same amount of thrill with a little twist.

You may have heard people talking about how to play chaturanga, which was the original name and variant of chess played as far back as the 6th century. There are also people seeking answers for how to play crazyhouse chess, how to play atomic chess, how to play king of the hill chess, and even how to play antichess games. There are 1D chess variants and even 4-man chess games.

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It is fitting that we discuss these chess variants so you know how to play these popular chess games and even implement how to win 3-check chess in these unique methods of gameplay. So let’s take a look.

List of chess variants with descriptions, rules, and how to play

There are several chess variants, however, today we will only discuss the most popular ones that you come across often. Here’s a list of the possible chess variants and how to play them:

1. How to play Rapid chess?

Rapid chess is one of the more popular chess variants and is stable gameplay in several World tournaments. In this chess variant, you use a chess clock that is usually set to 30 minutes for each player.

The gameplay starts normally ad you make your moves with the only twist that you must play quickly. After each move that you make, you must hit the chess clock to stop your side of the timer and initiate the opponent’s timer. The idea is to complete the entire game and make all your moves within the 30 minutes that are allotted to you, i.e., both players need to conclude the game in 60 minutes.

2. How to play Bughouse chess?

Chess variant - Bughouse

Bughouse chess is an interesting and rather popular chess variant among the younger generation of chess players. The conceptual idea of the game is to play chess in teams, however, as chess is a one-on-one game, you use two chessboards and the two players from the same team occupy different boards while playing the pieces of the opposite color.

The twist in this chess variant is what makes the gameplay so exciting. Since the players play the opposite colors, when they capture an opponent’s piece on the game board, they pass it to their teammate. Now, the teammate has extra pieces or can replace a piece that was captured.

When one of the players of any team checkmates his or her opponent, the team wins and the game comes to a stop.

3. How to play Atomic chess?

Chess variant - Atomic

Atomic chess is probably the closest chess variant that resembles actual war scenarios.

In order to learn how to play atomic chess, you need to consider the real-life repercussions of what happens when you walk forward and drop a bomb in your enemy’s camp. You will be blown to shreds and every player around you will also die.

That’s what the chess variant of atomic chess does.

The process of capturing an opponent’s piece is not only a disadvantage for them but for you too. So, if you were to capture an opponent’s pieces, then, of course, that piece will be eliminated from gameplay and along with that so will the piece that you used to make the capture.

In atomic chess, every piece in a radius of one square around the captured piece also dies, except for pawns. The benefit is, you can blow up the opponent’s king by capturing a piece that is one square over.

4. How to play crazyhouse chess?

Chess variant - Crazyhouse

If you want to know how to play crazyhouse chess, the rules and gameplay are quite similar to Bughouse chess, with a small alteration. This is a chess variant online game since the gameplay involves some automatic color changes that you cannot do on a live board.

When you learn how to play crazyhouse chess, what you need to note is that the pieces on the chessboard move in the same way as they should in normal chess games. You make captures, deliver checkmates, or it can even end in a stalemate. The twist only exists with the capturing.

When you capture an opponent’s piece, the online chess variant software collects it in your pool of pieces. Then, at any given time of your turn, you can change the color of the pieces in your pool and reintroduce them on the chessboard as your own. The only criteria are that you cannot reintroduce a pawn on the 1 or 8 files.

5. How to play king of the hill chess?

Chess variant - King of the hill

The king of the hill chess variant is one of the easiest to win. The idea is to get your king to the center of the chessboard, regardless of which colored pieces you play with.

So, if you can bring your king to the D4, D5, E4, or E5 squares, then you win. Of course, you can also take the traditional approach of checkmating your king to win the game. The concept of how to win 3-check chess works perfectly in this scenario.

6. How to play Three-dimensional chess?

Chess variant - 3D chess

3-dimensional chess is often confused with 3-man chess games but they are very different. In 3-man chess games you have 3 players, whereas, in 3-dimensional chess games, there can be 2, 3, or 4 players as per the chess variant that you’re playing.

The 3-dimensional chess board is stacked like the one used by Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. The levels of the three-dimensional board make it difficult to visualize the moves but the components’ movements are pretty similar to traditional chess games. The only difference is that the chessboards placed on different levels allow additional steps to capture your opponent’s pieces. You can even checkmate the opponent’s king from a higher or lower level chessboard

7. How to play hexagonal chess?

Chess variant - Hexagonal chess

Hexagonal chess is popularly known as 3-man chess. The gameplay and rules of the pieces are pretty much the same as any other but there are three players on the game board, so the setup looks different.

In hexagonal chess, you aim to checkmate both your opponents or in turns. Therefore, there will either be two winners or two losers in the game.

The movement of the pieces in hexagonal chess slightly varies. You can refer to our article on 3-player chess to identify how these pieces take tactful turns in order to challenge your opponent’s pieces.

8. How to play 4-man chess?

Chess variant - 4 man chess

4-man chess is another of the chess variants that closely resemble a battlefield. In this gameplay, you have 4 players sitting on 4 sides of the square chessboard but the setup is slightly more distant. Each player leaves a 4-cubic corner space between themselves and their adjacent opponents. There are no empty sides of the game board.

Each player plays independently and strives to dominate the center of the board while taking down all three opponents. Much like 3-man chess, you can have one winner and three losers or each opponent can end up checkmating each other, so there may be three winners and one loser too.

9. How to play 1D chess?

Chess variant - 1D chess

1D chess is an interesting chess variant that resembles checkers in many ways. It is played on a game board that is actually just a straight file of 16 squares with alternating colors.

Each player gets singular pieces of the knight, bishop, rook, queen, and king, with the king sitting on either end of the line. The rival pieces sit opposite each other and aim to capture each other by moving past the pieces in front in order to capture the opponent’s king.

It may look simple but 1D chess is one of the most difficult chess variants with unique maneuvers that are highly difficult to execute.

10. How to play Chaturanga?

Chess variant - Chaturanga

Lastly, there is the oldest chess variant or the father of all chessboards known as Chaturanga.

The gameplay was designed to represent the battlegrounds with the four main divisions. Thus, the setup of the game board and the gameplay differs from modern-day chess.

The rules of how to play chaturanga and the gameplay are unknown. Historians speculate that there were options to promote the pawns to advantageous players, which is the root of the exchange pieces on the chessboard. They also assume that the movement of the chess pieces wasn’t exactly like modern chess games either.

Amidst the speculations of historians, it is difficult to determine how to play chaturanga as our ancestors did but there are a few terms that you could follow such as:

  • Playing the game on an unmarked square board.
  • Capturing the king instead of checkmating.
  • Move the pawns only one step instead of the starting two-step move.
  • The elephants could probably step over the pawns but this rule is a little questionable.

Playing chess variants can be a lot of fun, not to mention challenging. While chess variants like chaturanga involve uncertainty, you can always play viable chess variants like Bughouse chess, Rapid chess, Crazyhouse, and atomic chess. You can partake in 3-man and 4-man chess games too but we wouldn’t recommend the three-dimensional chess games unless you are a pro-level player.

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