Beautiful Chess – A Chess Variant Nearly Lost to Time

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After cleaning out many old bookmarks gathered by my Firefox browser over the course of multiple laptop and mobile phone installations, it struck me just how much potential knowledge has been lost to time. In addition to attempting to preserve what I can with the help of the Wayback Machine, I decided to also produce some articles on specific topics which tickle my fancy. 

The idea behind this inconsistent, but persistent article series is preserving knowledge from abandoned blogs before it’s lost forever. Future installments of articles of this variety will appear on my other website, Obscure Curiosities. But, for my first installment, I wrote briefly about a chess variant known as “beautiful chess.”

In my search for abandoned and orphaned blogs, I happened across a small list of such; one of these was known as the Wikipedia Knowledge Dump. The general idea of this blog by its founder Cliff Pickover was to appreciate “Wikipedia rejects.” (Fortunately for Clifford, he’s still doing alright.) While many of these articles eventually would find their way onto Wikipedia and end up being fleshed out, a number of them weren’t. One such article that immediately caught my attention was one about “Beautiful Chess.”

Fortunately for the chess world, this article was already preserved in the Wayback Machine. From the article blurb on this orphaned blog:

“Beautiful chess is a chess variant originated by amateur players from Czech Republic in 2013. It is similar to Chess960 and Transcendental chess. In Beautiful chess the beginning positions of the pieces on the back row are changed, with an idea to preserve the spirit of the game and increase variability while retaining symmetry between pieces.” –

Chess960, also known as Fischer Random Chess, is a well-known variant devised by the legendary former world champion himself, Bobby Fischer. Transcendental chess is another fairly well-known variant. You can find more information on these at the Wikipedia links provided.

However, this amateur variant is somewhat interesting. In particular what struck me was the starting position indicated. It showed the White King and Queen swapping positions with the Knights. For the Black pieces, it showed the Black King and Queen taking the spots of the Rooks, with the Rooks sliding over one spot. Then, the displaced Knights take the spots of the Bishops, who then in turn take the place of the King and Queen.

I strongly suspect that this starting layout could produce some absolutely mind-boggling game states. As someone who actually dabbled in chess as a youth, it’s interesting to me that I never became interested in such variants, despite them having been around for many years. In elementary school, I used to devour a lot of chess books and played grand-master chess programs for hours on end.

I dropped the game for a bit during junior high, but joined chess club during my freshman year in high school (2001-2002). But, I found I was nowhere on the level of my peers at the school and eventually lost interest in the game altogether. I was an adequate player, but I’ve never had any real interest in picking up the game again. In any case, I wanted to write a short something about this interesting oddity I came across.

In case you’re curious, here’s a solid article on some other chess variants.

What experiences do you have with the game of chess? Have you ever played with any chess variants? I’d look forward to discussing this game I abandoned so long ago, just as the author did with this blog.

Bonus content!

Right after writing up this short article, I happened upon yet another chess variant, this one for three players, called Pip’s Three Handed Chess, from the same blog.

Pip’s Three-Handed Chess is a chess variant for three players played using a standard square chess board. It is played as a series of at least two games, in which the winner is the first player to mate each opponent in a game.

Standard chess rules apply, with the following exceptions or clarifications:

  • Pawns must go forward in the direction they originally face.
  • Castling is not allowed.
  • Pawns only move one space at a time.
  • Match ends when a player checkmates each of his opponents. Games are reset after each checkmate.
  • Checkmate is official on the mated player’s turn, not when it is first made (if there is a player between the player mating and the player being mated, he may choose to “unmate” the player).
  • Players alternate the order of turns each game, starting clockwise.
  • Players rotate board sides each game clockwise.
  • If a player puts an opponent in checkmate, then another opponent puts the same player in checkmate (either a different checkmate or “adding to” the checkmate), then the first player to put the opponent in checkmate gets credit for the win.”

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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