Welcome to the 3 Man Chess Rulebook
Welcome to the 3 Man Chess Rulebook

Welcome to the 3 Man Chess Rulebook

3 Man Chess: In The Round is a chess variant invented to bring the intense strategy of the traditional game and allow a third player to join in on the action. You'll find none of the traditional 2 player chess rules or goals of lost, but you will find hours of enjoyment as you spin around the now round world of chess.

Please feel free to contact Clif if you have any questions.

3 Man Chess Exclusive Rules


"3 Man Chess: In the Round" is a variation of traditional chess played on a round board with 3 players. A pass-through-only center has been added along with moats to divide the players' starting positions, but the rules of the game are the same as always. Please feel free to look through a closer explanation in the following sections, or head over to "New to Chess?" if you're in need of a more in depth review of chess.


3 Man Chess is set up in much the same way as regular chess; players position their pieces in the 8 square wide sections between moats with all three players' queens starting on the black squares and their kings on the white. White always moves first, followed by gray and then black in a clockwise direction.

Moat Bridging

Moats become bridged when a player is eliminated and when a player's first rank is completely empty. In either case, the two moats that touch his or her starting position become bridged for the duration of the game. A bridged moat cannot become non-bridged, even if the first rank has pieces on it later in the game.

Bridged moats are passable by any piece; however the piece's move may not end in the capture of a piece or in putting another player in check (or checkmate).


Just like in traditional chess, players are in checkmate when they have no legal moves remaining on their turn and, specific to 3 Man Chess, when their king is captured. Upon being in checkmate, the player's remaining pieces (including the king, if applicable) remain on the board as inactive "corpses" which cannot attack or move, but may be captured freely by other players for positioning needs. Checkmate is not reversible, even if an otherwise legal move presents itself later in the game.

3MC Notation

3 Man Chess Notation, as proposed by C.S. Graves, is similar to Forsyth–Edwards Notation (FEN) with some additions to include the third player.

The board ranks (horizontal rings) are noted from 1 (outermost/first rank, the closest rank to each player) to 6 (the rank closest to the center). In this image, the 5th rank is highlighted

The files (vertical columns) are noted a-h, per player section, starting at the king-side rook and ending on the queen-side rook. Here, the file "a" is highlighted

Sections are noted according to the color of the player in each third of the board (section 1 has white, to the left is gray followed by black). These sections are noted with WH, GR, and BL.

Pieces are noted by their color and type. Piece color is noted by the pieces' first letter capitalized (W for white, G for gray, and B for black). Piece type is noted by the piece's first letter in lowercase (p for pawn, r for rook, n for knight, b for bishop, k for king, and q for queen).

For example, WHWpe4 is a white pawn in the 4th rank, file "e" of the White third of the board and WHBpd5 is the black pawn that started at BLh1 who will be captured by WHWpe4 on white's next move.



The objective of chess is to put your opponents in checkmate - to leave them with no remaining valid moves, or capture their king.

You each start with the same pieces: 1 king, 1 queen, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 rooks, and 8 pawns; a total of 16 pieces. Each type of piece has its own method of movement and capture, which is explained in further sections.


3 Man Chess is set up in the same manner as traditional chess; in the first rank, each player's pieces are arranged (from the left) rook, knight, bishop, king, queen, bishop, knight, and rook. In 3 Man Chess, the queens always start on a black square and the kings always start on white. In the second rank, each player places his or her 8 pawns, one on each square.

Check / Checkmate

A player is considered in "check" if his or her king is immediately threatened by an opponent's piece. This is a warning that if you do not move your king out of the way, or do not otherwise block the opponent's attack on your king, you will be in "checkmate" and will lose the game. Checkmate is finalized at the start of your turn if there is no legal move for you to make, or after your king has been captured. Your king may not move into check in any circumstance, so if on your turn you have only your king remaining and he is surrounded by positions which place him in check, you are in checkmate.


King-Side refers to the 4 files (columns) of a player's section on which the king initially is placed. In 3 Man Chess, this is always the left half of the section.

Queen-Side refers to the 4 files (columns) of a player's section on which the queen initially is placed. In 3 Man Chess, this is always the right half of the section.



The king moves in any direction (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) a maximum of one square per turn.


The king may capture any piece that is on one of the immediatly adjacent 8 squares, so long as doing so does not put it in check.


The king is initially placed in the first rank, 4 squares in from the player's left-hand moat, which in 3 Man Chess is always a white square.


Castling is a special move involving the king and either one of the player's two rooks. In castling, the player chooses one of his or her rooks and moves the king 2 squares towards it, followed by moving the rook 2 (king side of the board), or 3 squares (queen side) towards the king. The pieces effectively cross over each other, leaving them directly adjacent to each other but on the opposite side of each other from when they started.

Castling may only occur if neither of the involved pieces have previously moved; there are no pieces between the chosen rook's and king's starting positions; and the king is not presently in check, does not end up in check, and does not pass through a square where it would be in check.



The queen moves in any direction (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) any number of unoccupied squares per turn.


It may capture any piece occupying a square in any valid direction of movement, so long as the path to that square is unoccupied.


The queen is initially placed in the first rank, 4 squares in from the right, a black square, immediately to the right of the king.



They may capture any piece occupying a square in any valid direction of movement, so long as the path to that square is unoccupied.


The bishops are initially placed immediately next to the king and queen in the first rank, on the 3rd column from the left and right of the moats.



The knights move either 2 squares horizontally and 1 vertically, or 2 squares vertically and one horizontally in an "L" shape, effectively "jumping" any pieces in between the start and end positions. They may not "jump" over an non-bridged moat if either "L" shaped move crosses it and they in no circumstances observe the diagonal movement lines on the 3 Man Chess board.


They may capture any piece which resides on the square they land on.


They are placed immediately on the outside of the bishops, on the first rank, 2nd column from the right and left of the moats.



The rooks move horizontally and vertically any number of unoccupied squares per turn.


They may capture any piece occupying a square in any valid direction of movement, so long as the path to that square is unoccupied.


The rooks are initially placed in the first column, first rank, immediately to the right (king-side) and left (queen-side) of the moats.



Pawns generally move one vertical square forward; however, on their first move (and only their first move) they may advance 2 vertical squares forward. Regardless of whether a pawn initially advances one square or two, all of its following moves must only advance one square, without exception.


Pawns may capture pieces that are one diagonal square to either their front left or front right. Across the center void of the 3 Man Chess board this appears to be a two square leap, however given the nature of diagonal movements on a round board it is viewed as only one square.


Pawns are initially placed in all 8 squares of the second rank.

Pawn Promotion

Once a pawn proceeds through the center and reaches the first rank again, it must be promoted into a queen (often called "queening"), a rook, a knight, or a bishop ("under promotion") of the player's color. If the piece that the player chooses to promote the pawn into is already in use, a substitute piece may be used (an upside down rook to represent the player's second queen, for example).

En Passant

En Passant is a unique capture technique that only pawns may observe. When a player moves a pawn forward 2 squares in one move and an opponent's pawn is directly adjacent horizontally to the destination square, the opponent's pawn may immediately capture the player's pawn as if the player's pawn had only moved one square forward. The opponent still advances diagonally forward, leaving it where the player's pawn would have been had it only moved one square initially. This is the only legal chess move where a capturing piece does not end up where the captured piece was. En passant must occur as the move immediately following the player's 2 square advance or the ability to do so is lost.


Coming soon!

We'll add some unque scenarios here in the near future!

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