In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, character Sheldon Cooper designed a highly complicated three-person game of chess, with an odd-shaped nonagon board and two new pieces—serpent and old woman. Seemingly pioneering, in truth, three-player chess has been around since the early-1700s, with many different variations, most of which retain the basic game structure and sixteen pieces that each player controls.
A newly released variation is called 3 Man Chess, a circular board that claims to "accommodate three players, without compromising any of the rules, strategies, or competitive challenges" of conventional chess.
The gameplay is pretty much the same, with most of the traditional rules applicable. The center of the board could get pretty tricky, and consider yourself checked if your two opponents decide to join forces and gang up on you.
Curious, I asked Russian chess Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk what she thought about three-player chess, and the former Women's World Chess Champion responded, "Chess is hard enough without having to figure out strategies in case two players team against the third. Chess is a fair game, one person against another, both starting with the same number of pieces. How can the game be fair with three players?"
Indeed, there will always be an imbalance with three player chess, so is it worth trying out? If you're a diehard chess fan with a yearning for a twist, surely.
One chess variant that Kosteniuk likes is Chess960, also called Fischer Random Chess, invented by former chess legend Bobby Fischer. She's currently the Women's World Chess Champion in that style of play. Kosteniuk also enjoys Chess Attack, a smaller, kid-friendly version with only ten pieces per player.
If you want to take a stab at some three-player chess without the commitment of purchasing a full game, you can try out an online version, like ThreeChess. And instead of shelling out more than $40, it's probably worth making your own board; Just outline a similar gridded board on some paper or cardboard, grab three players worth of pieces from a few classic sets, and whip out the spray paint.
I wonder how difficult it is to checkmate both opponents at the same time?