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Rules of the Game

Doubles ChessTM is a game played between four players, two on a team. Teammates sit opposite each other forming "allied armies." Each player commands an army of 16 light or 16 dark colored chessmen. One team consists of 32 light colored pieces (White and Red) and the other team consists of 32 dark colored pieces (Black and Green).* The battlefield is 128 spaces, double that of a normal chessboard, alternately light "white" spaces and dark "black" spaces. Each teamís objective is to checkmate BOTH of their opponentsí Kings.

The Doubles ChessTM board is placed between the players in such a way that the corner space to the right of each player is white. The pieces are set up as shown above. Make sure that the light colored Queens start on a "white" space and the dark Queens start on a "black" space. The player with the White pieces moves first, then Black, Red, and Green in a clockwise direction. The numbers and letters around the playing board are for recording games (chess notation) and are covered on page 7.
* NOTE: In some sets Gray or Brown pieces are used instead of Green pieces.

Learning to play Doubles ChessTM is easy whether or not you have played ordinary singles chess. In both games set up, piece moves, rules, and strategies are basically the same.

Pieces move, landing on unoccupied spaces, except when making captures. With the exception of the Knightís leap, no piece may pass or jump over a piece in its path. Captures are made by removing the enemy piece from the board and occupying its space with the capturing piece. All captures are optional. A player may never move his King into check or leave his King in check.

The rows of spaces extending from a player to his opponents are called "files" and the rows of spaces starting horizontal to each player are called "ranks." Notice in diagrams 1 and 2 how the files and ranks bend.

The Rook moves "sideways" in any rank, or "up" or "down" in any file providing there is nothing obstructing its path. Examples are shown in diagrams 3 and 4.

The Bishop moves along spaces of the same color. Each player has a Bishop which moves on the white spaces and one that moves on the black spaces. It moves diagonally through the spaces as shown in diagrams 5 and 6, and can stop at any space along the path. In diagram 6, the Bishop can move six ways as shown. Notice in diagram 6, that when a Bishop moves into the center it can move three different directions. This is called moving along the "long diagonals."

The Queen is the strongest piece in the game. It has the combined powers of a Rook and a Bishop. A Queen commands all of the spaces in any of the various directions illustrated in diagrams 7 and 8. A Queen has the option of moving like a Rook or a Bishop on each move.

The Pawn can only move forward towards the closer opponent (along files). From its starting position, the Pawn may advance one or two spaces (diagram 9). However, after that, it may advance only one space at a time. Since the Pawn cannot leap over any other piece, any chessman directly in front of it blocks further advance of the Pawn. A Pawn may only capture an enemy piece that is on a space diagonally in front of it. This is the only time a Pawn may move diagonally. In diagram 9, the Pawn may capture either black Pawn and in diagram 11, the Pawn may capture diagonally in four ways. In the special case when a Pawn takes an enemy piece through the center into his partnerís territory (diagram 12 shows the White Pawn has captured the Bishop from diagram 11), that Pawn continues to move towards the closer opponentís side of the board along a new promotion path and may capture as shown.
If a Pawn is able to reach the end row of either opponentís side of the board, it must be changed into a Queen, Rook, Bishop or Knight of the same color. No restrictions. Normally a Queen is chosen and you may have two or more Queens. This is called Pawn promotion.
Capturing en passant: A special rule. If a Pawn moves two spaces from its starting position, that Pawn may be taken by an opposing Pawn as though it only advanced one space. See diagram 10. However, this can be done only on the opponentís first opportunity (on his very next move) or the position stands.

The King can only move one space in any direction. This includes moving "sideways" in any rank, "up" or "down" in any file, or any space diagonally. The Kingís movement is shown in diagrams 13 and 14. The King is not allowed to move into a space where it would be in check.

The King is in check when the space it occupies is attacked by an enemy piece. There are three ways to get out of check:
(a) moving the King to a safe place where itís not attacked by an enemy piece.
(b) capturing the enemy piece.
(c) blocking the check with a piece. This is known as "interposing." Note: a player may but is not required to block a check of his partnerís checked King.

To win in Doubles ChessTM the player and/or his partner must checkmate or capture both of their opponentsí Kings. Checkmate is when a King is in check and cannot move out of check. Once a King has been checkmated and it is that playerís turn, immediately remove his King from play and skip to the next player. In this way a King is not actually captured by an enemy piece. The checkmated player loses just that one turn but continues to play and his team is now down one King to two. A player whose King has already been captured skips his turn if his remaining pieces are blocked (cannot move). The game is also won by players whose opponents both agree to resign.

A game is drawn when:
(a) the player(s) cannot "checkmate" the other(s).
(b) the players agree to end the game.
(c) anytime there is a "stalemate." This happens when a King is not in check but the player's only legal move puts the King into check. This differs from a "checkmate," where the King is already in check before moving. If ANY King is stalemated the game is a draw.

The Knight is the only chessman which can leap over other pieces. The Knights move is composed of two different steps: first it makes one step of one space diagonally in any direction, and then, still moving away from the space of departure, one step of one single space along any rank or file. Another way to explain the Knights move is it may move one space over in a rank and then two spaces along a file, OR one space in a file and two spaces over in a rank. If a Knight starts on a white space it must land on a black space; if it starts on black, then it must end on white. See diagrams 15 and 16. A Knight in the middle of the board (diagram 16) can move to a maximum of 12 spaces.

One of the most interesting moves in the game is called "castling." The two pieces that partake in this maneuver are the King and the Rook. There are a few rules that govern this move. You may castle if:
(a) all the spaces between the King and the Rook are unoccupied.
(b) neither the King nor the Rook to be used for castling have been moved previously.
(c) the King does not move into, out of, or through check.
The figures below show the position before and after castling.

The relative value for the strength of the pieces are measured in units. As a rule of thumb Pawns are worth 1 unit. Knights and Bishops are both worth 3 units. Rooks equal 5 units and Queens are worth 9 units.

A. A player cannot capture his teammateís pieces.
B. There is no talking or gesturing regarding moves or strategies allowed.
C. In rare cases a King can be physically captured. This can only happen when the opponent on your left moves and discovers check on your King from your opponent on the right who moves before you do. In this case your King could be taken, but you would not lose a turn.
D. If moving a piece leaves a teammate in check, the piece cannot move and is considered "pinned." The King must always move out of check even if in doing so it exposes the partners King to check.
E. If you touch a piece you must move it unless you first state "I adjust."
F. Violation of any rule is first subject to a warning and then is grounds for forfeit.

A chess clock may be used to limit the length of a game. The clock is used in the same way as in regular chess. Teammates share the same clock and the clock is placed between the players with the White and Black pieces, who also control the clock. Regular chess time controls are generally used and blitz style chess is given 10 minutes per team.

Chess notation: In tournament competitions each player is required to record all four playersí moves in either algebraic or descriptive chess notation. In algebraic notation the pieces (except Pawns) are identified by the first letter of their name in upper case. "King" and "Knight" both start with "K" so the letter "N" is used for the Knight. The spaces are identified by a letter and a number. The rows of spaces "files" extending from a player to his opponents are labeled a through h (lower case) starting with the rows to Whiteís and Redís left. The "ranks" are labeled with numbers 1 through 8 starting both at Whiteís and Redís side of the board. Since the board has spaces identified by the same letter-number, it is divided into two halves labeled 1 and 2. The division is shown by a 1 x 2 and is represented in the notation by a subscript as indicated in the sample game below.

There are also some special symbols show below.

castles King-side
castles Queen-side
captures or takes
a Pawn promotion, as in f8=Q
star move
en passant


Sample game written in algebraic notation. This game is known as the "Scholarís Mate."
White Black Red Green
1. e41 Nc61 e42 e52
2. Qf31 e51 Nf32 Bc52 ? (Better is Nf62)
3. Qxf72+! Nge71 Bc42++! MATE (King is removed and skip
4. Bc41 Nge71 Ng51! Nh62
5. Bxf71++ Mate (game over)

Doubles ChessTM is a game in which mastery of coordinated attack and defense is vital. Allies should carefully (without discussion) coordinate offensive moves and protect one another's armies. Also, when one is able to, he should attack the player who moves before him. This enables his partner to also attack the opponent before it is his move. The opponent then has two attacks to answer with only one move. Another helpful tip is to move diagonally through the center along the "long diagonals" for mobility on the board. It is also a good idea to keep your King well defended to avoid a sudden two move attack against your King by your opponents.
Doubles ChessTM can be played with two or three players by allowing a single player to control both sides of his team. If three play, the player who controls both armies of his team has an advantage because he does not have to coordinate his strategy with a partner.

Four way chess has an interesting history. In fact, chess started in India as a game for four players, as its old name Chatrang reveals (Chatur: four + anga: part); and Chaturaji which means "four Kings." As in modern bridge, partners sat opposite each other with opponents at their sides. The division into four suits in a modern deck of playing cards almost certainly originated from four-handed chess. During the middle ages four-handed chess was very popular and was called "The Royal Game" for centuries. This name was later adopted by ordinary chess. The game of Doubles ChessTM brings back the original idea of chess.

The conception of Doubles ChessTM is illustrated below showing two standard chessboards merging into an octagonal Doubles ChessTM board.


© COPYRIGHT 1984, 1998 Rick Gillespie, Henry Rolling
All rights reserved.

Doubles ChessTM Rules (Third Edition) were edited and revised in 1994
by International Chess Grandmaster Larry Evans

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