How to Play Three Player Chess

The game of chess has traditionally been limited by two players, wherein casual games the better player often won with a monotonous regularity. With the introduction of three-player chess, (also known as Three-handed, Three-man, or Three-way chess), a third player is engaged in the struggle, changing up the dynamics with exciting fashion.


Chess Board Starting Layout

Three Player Chess Board Layout

The chessboard takes the form of a hexagon and is divided into three areas with 32 squares each. Each area has a base determined by one of the sides of the hexagon labeled by letters and on which chess pieces are placed before the beginning of a game. The dark squares of a chessboard may be of a single color or, in the version for beginners, each player's area of a chessboard is painted in a different color.

The chessmen are identical to the ones used in classic chess sets. The color of the chess sets are red, white and black in the case of a monotone chessboard, or red, blue and green in the case of a three-color board.

The game is opened by red chess pieces set at the base labeled with A-H. Next, in a clockwise movement, the game continues the pieces white (A-L) and then black pieces (H-L).


All the principles concerning the movement of the pieces are the same as in classic chess. Each player plays against each other, especially at the beginning stage of the game. In order to play a game against two opponents it is required to enable to move chess pieces forward and towards the right or to the left side of a chessboard. Such a possibility exists for the pieces coming across the rosette consisted of six squares in the center of the chessboard.


Three Player Chess - Movements of the Queen Piece


Three Player Chess - Movements of the Rook Piece


Three Player Chess - Movements of the Bishop Piece

Three Player Chess - Movements of the Knight Piece

Three Player Chess - Movements of the King Piece

Three Player Chess - Movements of the Pawn Piece


Rule Variations

  1. The first way to play is from the PL No. 168962 patent description. The game is continued until the first checkmate is delivered and the winner is the player who delivered the checkmate. The losers are both the player who was checkmated and the third player who did not prevent the king under direct attack from being captured. 
  2. After the first king is captured the game continues. The player who managed to deliver a checkmate receives a kind of a “bonus” — he/she takes over the pieces of the checkmated player and plays with two sets of pieces until ultimate checkmate is delivered.
  3. Similarly to the second way, the game continues after the first king is captured. The pieces of the checkmated player are not removed from the chessboard, however, no movements are made with the use of these pieces, but they can be captured and replaced when a player wants to set his/her piece on the square occupied by such a piece excluded from the game — until the delivery of an ultimate checkmate.

Three player chess combines all of the infinite varieties of a classic game of chess with an addition of complex psychological elements. Alliances are formed and broken if players so wish. A player must be focused not only on attacking and protecting his/her own pieces but also on the protection of the player threatened by the third one. This nature of conquering and surviving is familiar to all who have played chess.


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