Three-player chess

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Three-player chess (also known as three-handed, three-man, or three-way chess) is a family of chess variants specially designed for three players. [1] Many variations of three-player chess have been devised. They usually use a non-standard board, for example, a hexagonal or three-sided board that connects the center cells in a special way. The three armies are differentiated usually by color.


Three-player chess variants (as well as other three-player games) are the hardest to design fairly, since the imbalance created when two players gang up against one is usually too great for the defending player to withstand. Some versions attempt to avoid this "petty diplomacy" [2] problem by determining the victor as the player who first delivers checkmate, with the third player losing in addition to the checkmated player, or having the third player getting a half-point.

Three-player variants

Boards with hexagonal cells

Some variants use a board with hexagonal cells. Usually three bishops per side are included, to cover all cells of the hex playing field. Pieces move usually as in one of the versions of hexagonal chess.

Boards with quadrilateral cells

Hexagonal boards

A regular hexagon 96-cell board is a frequent choice by inventors of three-player chess. Chess for Three - Hexagonal Board.jpg
A regular hexagon 96-cell board is a frequent choice by inventors of three-player chess.
Chess for three geometry, also using 96 quadrilateral cells. The wooden armies are stained slightly different colors. 3 players chessboard.jpg
Chess for three geometry, also using 96 quadrilateral cells. The wooden armies are stained slightly different colors.

Some variants use a hexagonal-shaped board with quadrilateral cells (see example in the photo).

  • Trichess: [11] [ citation needed ] Features a "non-aggression" rule whereby a player in inferiority is immune from capture in his home portion by a numerically superior opponent, unless the capture also gives check. A pawn that reaches the back rank of an opponent is exchanged for any previously captured friendly piece. Played on a 96-cell board. By Chistophe Langronier (date unknown).
  • Chess for three: [12] By Jacek Filek (1992).
  • Three-Man Chess : Pawns reaching the 5th rank gain multi-direction capability. The first player to give checkmate wins. Played on a 96-cell board. By George Dekle Sr. (1984).
  • Trio-Chess: [13] Played on a 96-cell board, a center triangle splits the central files. By Van der Laken and G. J. Buijtendorp (1979).
  • Three-Player Chess: [14] Played on a 96-cell board, the patent for this game provides suggested rules whereby kings are captured, and the player with the last-remaining king wins. The pieces of an eliminated player remain on the board and may be captured. A player may move into check. The patent also describes a variant whereby the army of an eliminated player is appropriated by the capturer. [15] By Robert Zubrin (1971).
  • Self's Three-Handed Chess: [16] Played on a 144-cell board. By Hency J. Self (1895).
  • Waidder's Three-Handed Chess: [17] Played on a 126-cell board. By S. Waidder (1837).

Other boards

Some variants have used other board shapes with quadrilateral cells.

  • III-Color-Schach: [18] [ citation needed ] Uses a special three-dimensional board or can be used with three-colored boards.
  • Megachess: [19] Uses a roughly triangular board with 130 squares. Pawns have multi-direction capability. Players manage the first-mated player's army according to one of three options. The last surviving player wins. By Mega Games/Danny McWilliams (1986).
  • Mad Threeparty Chess : Play starts on an empty 10×10 board with players placing their pieces initially, including an extra king per side. Kings are designated so that each opponent attacks a different king of a given player. By V. R. Parton (1970).
  • Triple Chess: [20] Uses a chessboard unbalanced by 8×3 extensions on three sides. A player must checkmate or stalemate both opponents to win, using only pieces of his color. By Philip Marinelli (1722).

Boards with triangular cells

Guide to Ilshat Tagiev's three-player chess (click image for extensive pdf rules tutorial (in Russian)
) Pravila Shakhmaty na troikh.pdf
Guide to Ilshat Tagiev's three-player chess (click image for extensive pdf rules tutorial (in Russian))

Triangular cells not on the perimeter have three cells obliquely adjacent, and three cells adjacent at points.

Circular boards

Circular boards have three- or four-sided cells, but not triangular or quadrilateral.

Using fairy pieces

Some variants incorporate fairy chess pieces in addition to standard chess pieces.


The introduction of a third player drastically alters the style of play, even when standard pieces are used. Many chess openings are useless due to the extended board and third player. Each player must think twice as far ahead—anticipating the moves of both opponents, with the added complexity that the next player may move to attack either opponent.

If a player trades off pieces with a second player, the third player benefits. Hence, players will be more reluctant to make trades. Players often avoid such trades so as to carry out other strategies.

The introduction of the "extra" move by the third player can introduce situations of deadlock, for example, if a white piece is undefended and simultaneously attacked by both black and red pieces. Black cannot take the white piece, since Red would then capture the black piece next turn. Thus the black and red pieces are both simultaneously attacking the white piece and defending it from attack by the other player. In similar situations, a piece can move quite safely to a square where it is attacked by both opponents, since neither opponent would take the piece and risk capture by the third player.

In games where the third player loses as well as the checkmated one, players must concentrate not only on their own attack and defense, but also on preventing the two opponents from checkmating one another. A player can take advantage of one opponent's position to checkmate the other, but must be careful that the third player does not checkmate first. White could checkmate Red, only to have his piece captured by a black piece, which checkmates Red. In this situation, White would lose since Black delivered the final checkmating move. This strategy also applies to games which give the checkmating player command of the checkmated opponent's pieces – a player who allows the second player to checkmate the third would surely go on to lose due to the increased power of his remaining opponent, now armed with the third player's pieces.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Four-player chess

Four-player chess is a family of chess variants typically played with four people. A special board made of standard 8×8 squares with an additional 3 rows of 8 cells extending from each side is common. Four sets of differently colored pieces are needed to play these variants. Four-player chess generally follows the same basic rules followed on regular chess. Exceptions to these rules include nuances of when checkmate is delivered, depending on the variant, on what rank a pawn promotes, and the ability to capture a player's king, which takes priority over checkmate in the teams variant. There are many different rule variations; most variants, however, share the same board and similar piece setup.

Hasami shogi

Hasami shogi is a variant of shogi. The game has two main variants, and all Hasami variants, unlike other shogi variants, use only one type of piece, and the winning objective is not checkmate. One main variant involves capturing all but one of the opponent's men; the other involves building an unbroken vertical or horizontal chain of five-in-a-row.

Hexagonal chess Set of chess variants played on a board with hexagonal cells

Hexagonal chess refers to a group of chess variants played on boards composed of hexagon cells. The best known is Gliński's variant, played on a symmetric 91-cell hexagonal board.

Yonin shogi

Yonin shōgi,, is a four-person variant of shogi. It may be played with a dedicated yonin shogi set or with two sets of standard shogi pieces, and is played on a standard sized shogi board.

Sannin shōgi, or in full kokusai sannin shōgi, is a three-person shogi variant invented circa 1930 by Tanigasaki Jisuke and recently revived. It is played on a hexagonal grid of border length 7 with 127 cells. Standard shogi pieces may be used, and the rules for capture, promotion, drops, etc. are mostly similar to standard shogi. While piece movement differs somewhat from standard shogi, especially in the case of the powerful promoted king, the main difference in play is due to the rules for voluntary and mandatory alliance between two of the three players.

Outline of chess Overview of and topical guide to chess

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to chess:

Dragonfly (chess variant) Chess variant played on a 7×7 board

Dragonfly is a chess variant invented by Christian Freeling in 1983. There are no queens, and a captured bishop, knight, or rook becomes the property of the capturer, who may play it as his own on a turn to any open square. The board is 7×7 squares, or alternatively a 61-cell hexagon with two additional pawns per side.

Rhombic chess Chess variant

Rhombic chess is a chess variant for two players created by Tony Paletta in 1980. The gameboard has an overall hexagonal shape and comprises 72 rhombi in three alternating colors. Each player commands a full set of standard chess pieces.

Triangular chess (game) Chess variant

Triangular chess is a chess variant for two players invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1986. The game is played on a hexagon-shaped gameboard comprising 96 triangular cells. Each player commands a full set of chess pieces in addition to three extra pawns and a unicorn.

Masonic chess Chess variant

Masonic chess is a chess variant invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1983. The game is played on a modified chessboard whereby even-numbered ranks are indented to the right—resembling masonry brickwork. The moves of the pieces are adapted to the new geometry; in other respects the game is the same as chess.


Chesquerque is a chess variant invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1986. The game is played on a board composed of four Alquerque boards combined into a square. Like Alquerque, pieces are positioned on points of intersection and make their moves along marked lines ; as such, the board comprises a 9×9 grid with 81 positions (points) that pieces can move to.


Tri-chess is the name of a chess variant for three players invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1986. The game is played on a board comprising 150 triangular cells. The standard chess pieces are present, minus the queens, and plus the chancellor and cardinal compound fairy pieces per side.

Three-man chess Chess variant intended for three players and played on a hexagonal board

Three-man chess is a chess variant for three players invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1984. The game is played on a hexagonal board comprising 96 quadrilateral cells. Each player controls a standard army of chess pieces.

Cross chess Chess variant

Cross chess is a chess variant invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1982. The game is played on a board comprising 61 cross-shaped cells, with players each having an extra rook, knight, and pawn in addition to the standard number of chess pieces. Pieces move in the context of a gameboard with hexagonal cells, but Cross chess has its own definition of ranks and diagonals.

Quatrochess Chess variant

Quatrochess is a chess variant for four players invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1986. It is played on a square 14×14 board that excludes the four central squares. Each player controls a standard set of sixteen chess pieces, and additionally nine fairy pieces. The game can be played in partnership or all-versus-all.

Hostage chess Chess variant

Hostage chess is a chess variant invented by John Leslie in 1997. Captured pieces are not eliminated from the game but can reenter active play through drops, similar to shogi. Unlike shogi, the piece a player may drop is one of his own pieces previously captured by the opponent. In exchange, the player returns a previously captured enemy piece which the opponent may drop on a future turn. This is the characteristic feature of the game.

This page explains commonly used terms in board games in alphabetical order. For a list of board games, see List of board games. For terms specific to chess, see Glossary of chess. For terms related to chess problems, see Glossary of chess problems.

Dynamo chess is a chess variant invented by chess problemists Hans Klüver and Peter Kahl in 1968. The invention was inspired by the closely related variant push chess, invented by Fred Galvin in 1967. The pieces, board, and starting position of Dynamo chess are the same as in orthodox chess, but captures are eliminated and enemy pieces are instead "pushed" or "pulled" off the board. On any given move, a player can make a standard move as in orthodox chess, or execute a "push move" or a "pull move". A move that is either a push move or a pull move is called a "dynamo move".


  1. Pritchard, D. B. (2007). "Games for three". In Beasley, John (ed.). The Classified Encyclopedia of Chess Variants. John Beasley. pp. 333–41. ISBN   978-0-9555168-0-1.
  2. Schmittberger, R. Wayne (1992), "Three-Player Games: The 'Petty Diplomacy' Problem", New Rules for Classic Games , John Wiley & Sons, Inc., pp.  44–5, ISBN   978-0471536215
  3. Chesh
  4. Chexs
  5. Echexs
  6. HEXChess
  7. Pritchard, D.B., John Beasley. The Classified Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, 2nd edition. John Beasley, 2007
  8. Wellisch's Hexagonal Chess
  9. including free downloadable rules
  10. Nikos Sidiropoulos and Rasmus Bro (2009). "In memory of Richard Harshman". Journal of Chemometrics . 23: 315. doi: 10.1002/cem.1247 .
  11. Trichess by Christophe Langronier
  12. Chess for three
  13. Trio-Chess The Chess Variant Pages
  14. Three Player Chess by Hans Bodlaender, The Chess Variant Pages
  15. US3,652,091 Three-Player Chess board Robert Zubrin
  16. Self's Three-Handed Chess The Chess Variant Pages
  17. Waidder's Three-Handed Chess The Chess Variant Pages
  18. III-Color-Schach
  19. Megachess at BoardGameGeek
  20. Triple Chess The Chess Variant Pages
  21. Patent number 86486 – Chess game – Ilshat Tagiev Archived 2018-11-25 at the Wayback Machine (in Russian)
  22. Sohail, Umer (2016). "Three Player Chess Is Now A Reality". Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  23. Interesting Engineering (2017). "Three Player Chess is Just as Crazy As it Sounds". Retrieved 25 November 2018. Cited in: .
  24. 3 Man Chess: A Review by David Howe, The Chess Variant Pages
  25. 3 Man Chess in the Round official website
  26. Orwell Chess
  27. Giampaolo Dossena (1999). Enciclopedia dei giochi. UTET. p. 428.