Check out Chess with Different Armies, our featured variant for July, 2024.

This page is written by the game's inventor, Flynn Leek.

Messenger Chess

or Courier Chess

By Flynn Leek



This is a fairly simple variant, though it adds a layer of complexity while at the same time speeding up the game in a dramatic fashion. It adds one new piece, the Courier, which is necessary to win.
Traditionally, Chess is best thought of as a battlefield, with the goal of taking the enemy's commander, or reducing their army to the point that surrender is the only option. This version instead places the power of victory in the hands of a lone piece, charged with crossing enemy lines at all costs. 


Setup is standard as for normal Chess, with the exception that a pawn of each player's choice becomes their Courier. (White must place their Courier first, helping to offset their first move advantage a bit)


The Courier:
The Courier moves as a King; one space in any direction. As it is a non-combatant, the rules of war dictate that it cannot capture, and more importantly, cannot be captured. It does not gain an extra space when it moves from it's starting position.
 The Courier is moved at the beginning of each player's turn, followed by the regular move. If the Courier cannot move, then only the regular move is taken. If the Courier is pinned down, and no other moves can be made, then the player must pass their turn.
|_C_|_p_|_    "Let me out!!"
It is important to note that the Courier places a higher value upon the King's freedom than upon the goal, so standard rules regarding Check apply. If it can break Check or Checkmate, then it must, even if the game could be won upon that move, and even if it could be broken by another piece moved that same turn that the player would prefer to use. The Courier may not place the King in Check to win, Note that the Courier is not obligated to wander all the way across the board to break up a Checkmate, only to do so if it can be taken in one step.

Example: White cannot move off the board to win, since it would place the King in Check.


Standard rules apply except where noted, though it is easy to work Messenger Chess into another game.
Goal: To move your Courier off the opposing edge of the board. While there is usually very little an opponent can do once the final rank is reached, the distinction is important, as seen below. Checkmate of the opposing King will no longer win the game, though it is likely to lead to it.

Checkmate: If an opponent's King is successfully Checkmated, then his regular pieces cannot move until the Courier either wins or the Checkmate is broken somehow. A frozen piece may still Check an opponent's King, and it is possible (though Discovered Check) that a condition of Double Checkmate may occur.


Playing Tips

The moving of two second-rank pieces at the same time makes for some very fast openings, and most games will be won in what would normally be the middle of a game. Having to protect your King, block any openings to your back row, and maneuver your Courier closer to its goal makes for some exciting strategy, as well as periodic bouts of panic. 


This variant also 'plays well with others', good for a nonstandard board or some other odd pieces to keek it company. One extremely fast variant is to make all Pawns into Couriers. They can be captured, but if any of them cross the board successfully, the game is over.


Standard Chess equipment can be used. Some way of designating the Courier Pawn is needed.