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: [9] [ 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: [10] 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: [11] 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: [12] 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. [13] By Robert Zubrin (1971).
  • Self's Three-Handed Chess: [14] Played on a 144-cell board. By Hency J. Self (1895).
  • Waidder's Three-Handed Chess: [15] 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: [16] [ citation needed ] Uses a special three-dimensional board or can be used with three-colored boards.
  • Megachess: [17] 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: [18] 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

Chess strategy is the aspect of chess play concerned with evaluation of chess positions and setting of goals and long-term plans for future play. While evaluating a position strategically, a player must take into account such factors as the relative value of the pieces on the board, pawn structure, king safety, position of pieces, and control of key squares and groups of squares. Chess strategy is distinguished from chess tactics, which is the aspect of play concerned with the move-by-move setting up of threats and defenses. Some authors distinguish static strategic imbalances, which tend to persist for many moves, from dynamic imbalances, which are temporary. This distinction affects the immediacy with which a sought-after plan should take effect. Until players reach the skill level of "master", chess tactics tend to ultimately decide the outcomes of games more often than strategy does. Many chess coaches thus emphasize the study of tactics as the most efficient way to improve one's results in serious chess play.

This glossary of chess is a list of definitions of commonly used terms in chess, in alphabetical order. Some of these terms have their own pages, like fork and pin. For a list of unorthodox chess pieces, see Fairy chess piece; for a list of terms specific to chess problems, see Glossary of chess problems; for a list of chess-related games, see List of chess variants.

Dark chess

Dark chess is a chess variant with incomplete information, similar to Kriegspiel. It was invented by Jens Bæk Nielsen and Torben Osted in 1989. A player does not see the entire board, only their own pieces and the squares that they can legally move to.

Tamerlane chess chess variant derived from Chaturanga developed in Persia during the reign of Timur (1336–1405)

Tamerlane chess is a medieval variant of chess. Like chess, it is derived from chaturanga. It was developed in Iran during the reign of Emperor Timur, also called Tamerlane (1336–1405) and its invention is also attributed to him. Because Tamerlane chess is a larger variant of chaturanga, it is also called Shatranj Kamil or Shatranj Al-Kabir, as opposed to ash-shaghir. Although the game is similar to modern chess, it is distinctive in that there are varieties of pawn, each of which promotes in its own way.

Four-player chess family of chess variants played with four people

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 follows the same basic rules as regular chess. 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 four-player variant of Japanese chess

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.


Chesquerque is a chess variant invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1986. The game is played on a board equaling four Alquerque boards combined, and like Alquerque, pieces move along marked lines (9×9) to the points of intersection. All the standard chess pieces are present, plus one additional pawn and one archbishop fairy piece per side. The pieces move in ways specially adapted to the Alquerque-gridded board.


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

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 is a chess variant for four players invented by George R. Dekle Sr. in 1986. The board comprises 14×14 squares minus 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.

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.


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  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. including free downloadable rules
  8. Nikos Sidiropoulos and Rasmus Bro (2009). "In memory of Richard Harshman". Journal of Chemometrics . 23: 315. doi:10.1002/cem.1247.
  9. Trichess by Christophe Langronier
  10. Chess for three
  11. Trio-Chess The Chess Variant Pages
  12. Three Player Chess by Hans Bodlaender, The Chess Variant Pages
  13. US3,652,091 Three-Player Chess board Robert Zubrin
  14. Self's Three-Handed Chess The Chess Variant Pages
  15. Waidder's Three-Handed Chess The Chess Variant Pages
  16. III-Color-Schach
  17. Megachess at BoardGameGeek
  18. Triple Chess The Chess Variant Pages
  19. Patent number 86486 – Chess game – Ilshat Tagiev (in Russian)
  20. Sohail, Umer (2016). "Three Player Chess Is Now A Reality". Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  21. Interesting Engineering (2017). "Three Player Chess is Just as Crazy As it Sounds". Retrieved 25 November 2018. Cited in: .
  22. 3 Man Chess: A Review by David Howe, The Chess Variant Pages
  23. 3 Man Chess in the Round official website
  24. Orwell Chess
  25. Giampaolo Dossena (1999). Enciclopedia dei giochi. UTET. p. 428.