How To Play Three Player Chess: A Simple Beginners Guide


Ever heard of the chess variant “Three player Chess” and wondered what it’s all about? We all know that the standard game of chess is played between two persons and is said to be over when one of the players is checkmated. But what happens when the chess board is designed in such a way that it’s not restricted to two persons but also permits an extra person to play? We call that the “Three player Chess”.

What Is Three Player Chess?

As noted earlier, Three player chess is a chess variant that can be played by three persons. It’s sometimes called the three-handed chess, three-man chess or three-way chess.

This chess variant is an interesting one as it employs a non-standard board. Obviously, you can’t play a Three-player chess on a standard 8×8 chess board. The chess boards employed for this kind of variant are usually hexagonal or circular.

Check out the images below:

A Hexagonal Three player Chess Board. Image: Wikipedia
Three player chess
A Circular Three player Chess Board. Image:

How Is The Three Player Chess Board Set Up?

As we can see from the images, three players are able to compete against each other on a hexagonal-shaped/circular-shaped board. These boards have a total of 96 squares unlike that of the standard board with 64 squares, so it’s an extra 32 squares for the third player.

2D rendering of the Three player Chess Board. Image:

Each player starts with 16 pieces and this includes a king, queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. 

What’s The Idea Behind The Three-Player Chess?

Just like the standard chess game, the aim of every player is to win by checkmating the other player’s king. In three player chess however, the ultimate goal is to eliminate at least one king.

Recall the idea regarding the “check” move. A King is said to be in check if one of two of the opposing player’s piece threatens it at that time. The same idea works in Three player chess.

Consider a game between Red, Blue and Black 

(Color is frequently used to distinguish the three sides). Red’s King is said to be in check when either Blue or Black’s pieces threaten it. When Red’s King is no longer in a position to make a valid move and is still in check, checkmate happens. 

The game will be won by the one who captures(checkmates) Red’s King. The small distinction between three player chess and traditional chess is what makes this game so much fun and interesting.

Does This Make Three Player Chess An Unfair Game?

Three player chess has spawned a slew of variants. They frequently employ a non-standard board, such as a hexagonal or three-sided board with a unique way of connecting the central cells. 

Check Out Popular Chess Variants You probably didn’t know existed.

Three player chess variants (and other three-person games) are the most difficult to design equitably, because the imbalance created when two players team up against one is frequently too much for the defending player to handle. Some variants try to circumvent the problem by judging the winner as the person who delivers checkmate first, with the third player either losing in addition to the checkmated player, or receiving a half-point.

How Do Pieces Move In Three Player Chess?

Do the chess pieces in Three player chess move the same way like those in standard chess? Yes, of course. The only difference has do with the slightly-confusing squares but the image below will help you better.

Pawns movement. Image:

Rooks movement. Image:

Bishops movement. Image:

Knights movement. Image:

Queen movement. Image:

Kings movement. Image:

A demonstrative three player chess board. Image: Exeter Chess

The middle squares in the Three player chess board can be confusing hence this important example. 

In the position above, every player has made two moves each with white being the next to move. When white’s pawn moved forward, it lands on the red square labelled A. Just like the rules of pawns in chess, a pawn may only move diagonally if it captures an opponent’s piece. This simply means that the white pawn is able to capture the black pawn on the labelled B square. It also has the ability to take any piece on squares C and D. It may then proceed to the square labeled E. These are the only moves allowed, and they should demonstrate the difference between moving forward (squares A and E) and diagonally (squares B, C, and D).

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT – Check Out All You Need To Know Out Pawns In Chess

Strategic Ideas And Plans In Three Player Chess  

When it comes to Three player chess, the addition of a third player substantially changes the manner of play. Due to the enlarged board and third player, many chess openings applicable on the traditional board are simply not useful. Each player must plan twice as far ahead of time, anticipating both opponents’ actions.

The third player profits when the first player trades pieces with a second player. As a result, players will be less willing to make trades. Players frequently avoid such exchanges in order to pursue alternative strategies.

The introduction of the “extra” move by the third player can lead to deadlocks. Going back to our Red, Black and Blue example, let’s imagine a scenario. Blue has a piece that is en prise and undefended, and can be captured by both Red and Black pieces at the same time.

Of course, Black would hesitate in capturing the undefended piece because that means that Red will surely capture Black’s piece after Black captures Blue’s piece. This can be a very funny and dramatic situation. Similarly, a piece can move to a square where it can be attacked by both opponents but neither player will take it to avoid being captured by the next player.

Players must concentrate not only on their own attack and defense, but also on stopping the other two opponents from checkmating each other in games because the third player loses as well as the checkmated one (this depends on the agreed rules). 

A player can use one opponent’s position to checkmate the other, but he or she must be careful not to checkmate the third player first. Blue may checkmate Red, but his piece would be captured by Black who would then checkmate Red. Blue would lose in this situation because Black made the final checkmate move. 

How Does The Three Player Chess End?

There are two different ending scenarios that result from a game of three-player chess. The first is a last man standing scenario, in which the first checkmated player is eliminated and the game continues between two players.

The second is a truncated game, in which the first checkmated player loses along with one other, with the winner being the player whose pieces truly checkmate. There are times when both players’ pieces unite to checkmate someone; in these cases, the player who checked the checkmated party first wins.

Reference- Wikipedia

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