ⓘ Dark chess

Dark chess

ⓘ 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.


1. Rules

The goal of this chess variant is not to checkmate the king, but to capture it. A player is not told if their king is in check. Failing to move out of check, or moving into check, are both legal, and can obviously result in a capture and loss of the game.

Each player views a different version of the board, on which they can only see their own pieces, and the squares where these pieces can legally move, as well as any opponent pieces on those squares which must therefore be capturable. It is indicated to the player which squares are hidden, so a hidden square can never be confused with a visible empty square. As an example, it is always clear when an enemy piece is directly in front of a pawn, because that square will be hidden as capturing it is not a legal move for the pawn to make.

En passant capture is allowed; the threatened pawn and the square it moved through are both visible to the capturing player, but only until the end of the turn. Unlike standard chess, castling is allowed out of check, into check, and through the positions attacked by enemy pieces.

This chess variant is best played on one of the online chess servers. For playing over-the-board, three chess sets and a referee are needed, just as in Kriegspiel.

There are some minor differences in the rules on different servers:

  • ItsYourTurn: the opponent is notified when a pawn is promoted, but does not know where. The square immediately in front of a pawn is always visible to the player; when a pawn is on the second rank, if the square immediately in front is empty then the square two squares in front is also made visible.
  • AjaxPlay.Com: En passant capture is not allowed; pawn promotions remain unknown for the opponent.
  • SchemingMind: the player does not see what is in front of their pawns, but know if the position is occupied or not.
  • GoldToken: pawn promotions remain unknown for the opponent.
  • BrainKing: pawn promotions remain unknown for the opponent.

2. Variations

Generally, because basic Dark chess rules are universal with respect to its "parent" classical variant, any 2-player chess variant may be played "in dark". SchemingMind provides some of the variations.

  • Sun Tzu chess – combination of Double Fischer Random Chess like Chess960, but with different positions for White and Black, crazyhouse and dark chess. Pieces can be dropped onto any possible square on the board like crazyhouse. This chess variant was invented in 2005 by John Kipling Lewis.
  • Dark Seirawan chess – combination of Seirawan chess and dark chess.
  • Dark Omega chess – combination of Omega Chess and dark chess.
  • Dark crazyhouse – combination of crazyhouse and dark chess.
  • Dark chess checkmate – standard rules of check apply a player is notified when its king is in check, and the king cannot move into check. The goal in this variation is the same as in standard chess - to checkmate the king.
  • Dark chess check – a player is notified when the king is in check, but the king can remain in check after a move. The goal in this variation is the same as in standard dark chess – to capture the king.
  • Dark suicide – combination of suicide and dark chess.
  • Lao Tzu chess – like Sun Tzu, but pieces can only be dropped on seen squares. Also invented in 2005 by John Kipling Lewis.

3. Gameplay

Dark chess has a strong strategic flavor. Planning and strategy, as well as some psychological reasoning, are very important; tactics and move searching are not as important as in standard chess.

In this variant, a king should be carefully protected from very dangerous checks by invisible pieces. For a queen the most dangerous pieces are knights, which can attack it without becoming visible.

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