Category: Chess Variants

Dead Man’s Chess

There are so many chess variants out there that I doubt I’ll ever be the first to come up with a truly unique one.  However, the other day while wiping my friend’s army off the board I had an idea for a new set of rules.  It was partly inspired by “Alice Chess”, one of my favorite variants, but really has nothing to do with it.  Hopefully you can tell by the title of this post that it’s called “Dead Man’s Chess”.

It’s titled such because you never know when a dead man (or piece) will come back to get you.  So here we go…

What you need

  • Chess Board x2
  • Chess set x1,
  • “Tombstones” (anything you can use as a marker on the board, I use checkers)

It’s a two board setup with your primary board (Earth) having all the pieces in their regular starting positions and the secondary board (Hell) empty for now.


1. Taking Turns

  • As per regulation rules white goes first (if you care).
  • Players play a normal chess game until someone ends up with pieces in Hell (explained next).
  • If a player has pieces in Hell, then on his turn he may choose to move either a piece on Earth or in Hell.

2. Capturing on Earth

  • Whenever a piece is captured it is moved to its legal starting position in Hell (the secondary board), e.g., if the white queen gets captured she is moved to the fourth square in from the left (a white square) on white’s back row.  If a black knight gets captured then it is moved to either one of the two starting squares for knights on blacks back row.
  • Secondly, back on Earth, a tombstone is placed where the captured piece “died”.

3. Capturing in Hell (here’s where it gets fun)

  • When a piece is captured in Hell it is annihilated and removed from the game forever.
  • Any piece that makes a capture in Hell can choose to resurrect on Earth at any tombstone.  This decision has to be made at the time of the capture, but a piece does not have to resurrect.

4. Resurrecting

  • Kills – A resurrecting piece can spawn on any tombstone , even (and especially) one occupied by an enemy piece.  Doing so immediately kills the enemy piece sending them to Hell.
  • When a piece resurrects the tombstone that it spawned through gets removed from the board.

5. Special Moves

  • The king has one special ability exclusive to him, he can remove tombstones.  By moving onto a square with a tombstone on it he effectively “seals the grave” and prevents any “dead men” from spawning there.
  • Annihilation – As mentioned previously a piece is removed from the game forever by dying while in hell, but there is another way to kill them forever.  Occupy their starting square(s) in Hell when that piece is captured, e.g., if black has a piece on both of white’s rook’s starting squares and either of those rooks dies on Earth then they are removed from the game because they are unable to spawn in Hell.
Lastly, unless listed above all pieces always act as in a standard chess game.  Even a pawn gets promoted in Hell if it crosses the board, it just can’t come back unless it makes a kill.  And on the same note, the game always ends in checkmate (i.e. the king never gets sent to Hell).

So those are the rules, hope you enjoy the game, let me know what you think and any ideas you have!