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This page is written by the game's inventor, Robbie Manson.



Bluff Chess is a variant of orthodox chess which is very closely related to the orthodox game and is played on a regular (8x8) board with all the regular pieces. It relies on two essential variant aspects, firstly an alternate method of winning, and secondly an element of hidden information.

The principal feature is the notion that a player's turn piece becomes imbued with their alter ego (or their other self), as if in order to move the piece they had needed to physically enter into it themselves to do so (as with man sized pieces). The game can, and usually is, won by a player capturing the chess piece which then holds their opponents' alter ego, as if by so doing they thereby also captured their opponent themselves whilst in the piece ! This is the alternate method of winning.

The moves a player can make in their turn divide into two sorts, regular chess moves and "death moves". A death move occurs whenever a player moves their turn piece onto any square where it is then capable of being captured by their opponent during their opponent's next turn. As a result a death move is not complete until the player making it also makes a formal decision as to whether their alter ego is to remain in that piece, during their opponent's turn - termed a "stay" ; or else they decide instead to move it into any other of their pieces during their opponent's turn - termed a "transfer", principally in order to protect it from possible capture thereby losing the game.

This decision is formally noted down by the player making it, on a written record of the game play, using standard notation, typically in a column next to the player's regular moves column (usually headed with the letter 'd' for decision), which they then replace - face down - next to the board. Their opponent naturally only discovers what that decision was when they have made their move and in turn come to lift and turn over the written record in order to themselves note down their own move. This is the element of hidden information.

The advantage of deciding to 'stay' in your turn piece, during your opponent's turn, is that you are then free, at the start of your next turn, to transfer your alter ego to whichever of your pieces it then seems best to move, especially in light of your opponent's previous move. Whereas, if you decide instead to make a 'transfer' for safety's sake, then in your next turn, having already made your transfer you are compelled to move the piece into which you chose to transfer, whether or not that still remains an attractive piece to move in light of your opponent's previous move, or in deed in light of whether or not you are then still lawfully able to move that piece. If you cannot lawfully move it then you lose that turn and also your alter ego is compelled stay in that piece for a further turn.

The disadvantage of deciding to make a 'stay' is, naturally, that your opponent can choose to capture your previous turn piece, and thereby instantly grab a quick win by also caputring your alter ego with it. Hence your decision becomes vital and can be, in the right positional circumstances, the determining factor - this is the 'bluff' element of the game, have you risked a 'stay' or else have you made a smart 'transfer' ?


( 1 ). Rules of ordinary chess shall apply.

The rules of ordinary chess apply in all material respects to the game of bluff chess subject only to modification by reference to the further rules as set out hereinbelow.

( 2 ). Definition of "turn piece".

As with ordinary chess the players shall take it in turns to make a single move of a single chess piece commencing with the white player who shall have the first move. Again as with ordinary chess whenever it is a player's turn to move they must move whichever chess piece they touch first during their turn; and furthermore they may not move it further during that turn once they have released it. The chess piece which a player chooses to move in any given turn shall be known, for the purposes of these rules, as their "turn piece". In the game of bluff chess, as soon as a player touches their turn piece, that piece becomes invested with what is termed, for the purposes of these rules, as the player's "alter ego" (their other self). It follows that a player's turn piece must always carry their alter ego.

( 3 ). Object of the game.

A game of bluff chess may be won in either of two ways. Firstly, as in ordinary chess, the game is won by the player who succeeds in putting their opponent's king in check-mate. Secondly, however, and more usually the game will also be won by the player who captures whichever chess piece carries with it at the time their opponent's alter ego. That is to capture your opponents alter ego is to win the game.In practice this is invariably the means by which a game is won.

( 4 ). The making of a record.

The players must make a record of each of their moves, using standard chess notation, usually on the same piece or pieces of note paper, which shall be termed the "record", each player recording their own move on that same paper in turn. A player's turn is only completed when they have completed their turn record and thereafter they have placed the "record" down next to the chess board. Once placed down the "record" may then only be lifted by that player's opponent once they have made their move in the next game turn.

( 5 ). Definition of "death move".

In bluff chess the moves divide naturally into two types. Firstly, "ordinary moves" which are indistinguishable from ordinary chess moves. Secondly, what are termed "death moves". A "death move" occurs whenever a player moves their turn piece onto a square where it is capable of being captured by their opponent in the next game turn.

( 6 ). Definition of a turn "decision".

Whenever a player makes a death move, having noted it down on the record, they must then make their "decision" before they can complete their turn. A game turn in which a player makes a death move must always comprise in the turn move followed by the turn decision. Subject to Rule (7) below, a player's "decision" consists in noting down on the record, next to their last move, the square (using standard notation) on which then stands their chess piece which they wish to carry their alter ego during their opponent's turn. Naturally, each player must keep their "decision" hidden from their opponent until after their opponent has made their next move, and to this end the record must be replaced face down.

( 7 ). Definition of "stay" & "transfer".

If a player decides having made a death move that, during their opponent's turn, they wish their alter ego to remain in their last turn piece, then this is signified by their simply drawing a small horizontal dash next to their move on the record and their decision is then termed a "stay". The alternative is where a player decides after having made a death move to shift their alter ego to another of their pieces. In this case the decision is termed a "transfer" and their alter ego is immediately transferred by that decision (i.e. before the next move of that player's opponent). A player is always free to make a transfer to whichever of their pieces they choose.

( 8 ). The consequence of making a stay.

Where a player' decision is to make a "stay" at the end of their game turn then when it comes to their next turn they are at liberty to make a choice as to which is to be their turn piece for that turn in the usual way, including of course the previous turn piece in which they stayed. In effect, they are free to choose at the start of their game turn whether to move the piece in which their alter ego stayed during their opponent's last turn, or instead to "transfer" it to another piece which then becomes their turn piece for that turn.

( 9 ). The consequence of making a transfer.

Where a player's decision is to make a "transfer" at the end of their game turn then in their next turn they are committed to moving only that piece to which they transferred their alter ego, i.e. that piece must be their turn piece in their next turn. If a player transfers their alter ego to a piece which they find they cannot lawfully move when it comes to their next turn, then they lose that turn and their alter ego is compelled to "stay" in that piece until their next turn again. In effect, whenever a player decides to transfer their alter ego at the end of their game turn they are prevented from transferring it again until after they have made their next move, always assuming they get one !

( 10 ) Playing against the clock.

As with ordinary chess, bluff chess may be played against a clock for a fixed period, the player who runs out of time first losing the game, but it is advised that this not a suitable playing method for persons with known heart conditions and weak bladders !

(10) "Empty Mate"

There is a special rule which caters to a particular situation in which the game may be won, which derives partly from the bluff chess element and partly from applying the rules of regular chess. Where, following a death move, a player decides to make a transfer into a piece, other than his King, only to find that, in his opponent's next move, he is put in check by them, then unless the piece into which he has transferred is able to move, so as to "block" that check, or equally capture the 'checking' piece, then he losses the game under this rule of 'empty mate'. That is to say having already made a transfer, he may not now transfer again in order to move his King out of check, and so, since the King cannot move out of check (because it is 'empty' of the ego needed to move it) , although it may not appear on the surface to be a mate, in fact it is ... an 'empty King mate'.

Trimagarion Chess Federation.