Four-player chess
A popular four-player chessboard and initial setup
GenresAbstract strategy game
Chess variant
Random chanceNone
Skills requiredStrategy, tactics
SynonymsFour-handed chess
Four-man chess
Four-way chess

Four-player chess (also known as Four-handed, Four-man, or Four-way 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.

Gameplay modes include teams and free-for-all, wherein two players team against the other two or each player is out for themselves, respectively. As is the case for regular chess, four-player chess strategy generally begins with defense and development of pieces, but opportunities for capturing pieces (and gaining points) generally come about quickly, as each of the three opponents attack and make threats of capture. Therefore, in free-for-all picking friends and enemies has a political quality; ultimately the impromptu teammates will have to combat each other as only one player can win first place in free-for-all.


The Cox-Forbes theory of the origin of chess, though debunked, asserts that a four-player version was the earliest form of the game. A description of a four-player chess game was found in an Indian text written c. 1500. The Tithitattva of Raghunandana describes such a version, which continued to be played into the 20th century.[1]

The first documented example of a modern four-player chess system was written by Captain George Hope Verney in England in 1881.[2]


Teams is a two vs. two format wherein allied pieces cannot be captured by teammates. The allied players sit across from each other and win by checkmating the opposing team (those to their left or right). In some versions of teams, the game is over when both opposing kings are checkmated.[citation needed] If only one can be checkmated, the game is a draw. In the online version of teams played on, however, the game ends in a victory for the team that either checkmates one opposing teammate on that player's turn or when a player captures one of the opposing teammate's kings.

Singles (FFA or Solo on

Single play arguably draws from a larger set of skills than team play, which means that some believe it may be more difficult than teams. Others believe, however, because teams generally requires sharper calculations, that teams is more difficult. In this mode of play, each player can attack any of the other three players and vice versa. Once a player is checkmated, the checkmated player can remove their pieces from the board, the player that checkmated can use the remaining pieces during that player's turn, or the pieces can remain as "dead" on the board, such that they cannot move, block diagonals, files, and ranks, and do not give players points when captured (standard practice on Play continues until only one player remains. On, the player with the highest number of points wins and pawns promote on the 8th rank to queens. Unlike in teams, checkmate is delivered on the turn that the player is checkmated, as opposed to on that player's turn (on

Points (on Pawn or promoted pawn: 1 point Knights: 3 points Bishops or Rooks: 5 points Queen: 9 points Checkmate: 20 points Stalemate: 10 points to all remaining players

Common game rules

See also


  1. ^ Partlett, David, The Oxford history of board games, Oxford University Press, 1999, p.281.
  2. ^ "4 Player Chess". BoardGameGeek. Retrieved 29 September 2012.

Further reading