Free Instructions for the Chess Variant Forchess
A great way to combine self-development and entertainment.

INTRODUCTION: Forchess® is an exciting four-handed chess variant played on a single standard chessboard with two different sets of chess pieces. These can be a plastic and a wooden set or two plastic sets painted different colors (ordinary enamel spraypaint usually works well). The keys to Forchess are the board setup and pawn movement. Forchess is easy to learn but challenging to master.

So why would a four-person chess variant show up on a link from a website devoted to intuitors? It's because intuitors are exactly the type of people who play chess and recognize its many benefits for self-development as well as entertainment. Forchess contains all of these and adds the element of being a great social game for family activities or entertaining friends. In addition it has many new strategic elements, like attack on two fronts, pincer movements, and the coordination of allied armies. Forchess does a better job of reflecting the realities of modern conflicts than chess.

A game of Forchess takes about the same amount of time as a game of chess. In fact, many players report that it moves faster. The main reason is that the armies do not have to march up to engage. They already stand toe-to-toe so that the action can begin immediately.

If you have found this page you are probably already an avid chess player. However, if you are a beginner click on the link to chess instructions for beginners.

BOARD SETUP: Forchess is played with two sets of partners who sit diagonally across the chessboard from each other. Players take turns in a clockwise manner around the board. The seating arrangement ensures that partners don't take their turns in a row.

Unlike chess, Forchess uses only seven pawns of each color instead of eight. At the beginning of the game only four squares are not covered by chessmen and many people wonder how anyone can move. The answer is simple: virtually every move at the beginning results in a piece being captured. Trust us, it not only works but makes the game faster paced!

The pieces are arranged as shown in figure 1 with one of the four kings at each corner of the chessboard. The castles are placed on each side of the king, and the queen is positioned on the diagonal square directly in front of the king. The knights and bishops are placed in front of the queen and castles. Note: the bishops and knights are placed in alternating fashion. The first bishop is always placed on the edge of the board to the king's right. It is very important to place the knights and bishops in this manner or the bishops will not be on opposite colors.

MOVEMENT OF PIECES: Pawns are the only pieces in Forchess which move and capture differently from standard chess. The movements of the other pieces are identical to chess. The pawn can still only move and capture in the forward direction as it does in standard chess, however, the method of moving and capturing is different. Instead of capturing diagonally, the pawn moves diagonally and captures pieces laterally to either side, as shown in figure 2. The forward movement direction is defined as shown in figure 3. The pawn moves toward its final destination squares along a path parallel to a line drawn between the team's two kings. Figure 2 shows examples of how pawns can legally move or capture from different positions. Note: when a pawn captures or moves, it advances one square closer to its final destination. Any move or capture by a pawn which does not advance the pawn one square closer to its final destination is backwards and hence illegal.

......... FIGURE 2: EXAMPLES OF HOW ............... FIGURE 3: CORRECT

When a pawn reaches one of its final destination squares it becomes a queen or any other piece desired (see figures 2 and 3). Thus a kingdom may have two or more queens.

If a piece, either opponent or friendly, occupies the square diagonally in front of a pawn, the pawn is blocked and cannot move. At the beginning of the game, the Forchess pawn can only advance by capturing.

The pawn can never move more than one square at a time. The option in standard chess to move two squares on the first move was invented to speed up the opening game. Forchess has no such need. Forchess has no en passant capture technique for pawns since this was invented in response to the two square pawn move. Castling also does not exist in Forchess . Castling makes sense in chess because the king starts the game in a fairly vulnerable position and the rooks are trapped in the corners. In Forchess, none of these problems exist.

OBJECTIVE FOR WINNING: Capture both of the opposing team's kings. Democracy was not in style when chess began; so it would have been scandalous to capture a king like a mere pawn. Hence, the polite term checkmate was invented. Forchess is democratic. Kings are captured like other pieces. However, a player must still say "check" when putting an opponent's king in jeopardy.

Like standard chess no one can move his king into check under any circumstances. Even if a king is in check it cannot be moved to a different square if it would remain in check after doing so. A player cannot move any of his pieces so that his teammate is placed in check. However, he can choose not to rescue a teammate in check.

When put in check, a player must first attempt to protect his king regardless of whether the king can be rescued by the other teammate in a subsequent move. This is done by blocking or capturing the attacking piece, or moving the threatened king. If none of these can be done, the threatened player is allowed to make a token move with any piece other than the king. If a player's king is captured before his turn, he receives no token move. A player can make multiple token moves if his turn comes up and he still has not been captured (for whatever reason).

If a player's turn comes up and he is blocked so that he cannot move any pieces, he must remove one of them. If he is still blocked on his next turn, he must remove another piece. He does this until he either has no pieces and is out of the game, or has a turn where he can move.

When a king is captured, it is removed like a normal piece. The player who lost the king is out of the game and his turn is passed over. The captured king's pieces become subjects of the conquering player who can use either his newly acquired pieces or his regular pieces during his turn to move. His teammate can still move only his original pieces. A team will find it difficult to win after losing a king. They not only lose a player's pieces, but also his turn.

Last-minute rescues are possible in Forchess. Occasionally, a teammate can block or capture an attacking piece. The more likely tactic, however, is for the teammate to put the attacking opponent's king in check. Hence, the opponent will have to extract himself from check before completing his attack. This gives the original player in check an extra turn to attempt an escape using a well-chosen token move.

Since Forchess is designed as a social game, players are allowed to openly talk. Talking includes discussing plays or deliberately misleading opponents. This is okay as long as it is done openly. If both sides hear the discussion, there is no undue advantage.

READY TO PLAY?: Click here to open our Forchess applet. programmed by Chris Siden

CUTTHROAT FORCHESS: Forchess can be played in an every-person-for-themself, or cutthroat, variant, but be forewarned: this is not a game for the faint-hearted. It is positively machiavellian. The last player left wins. This is accomplished as much by negotiation, manipulation, and coercion as by skillful movement of the pieces.

On the surface, Cutthroat Forchess appears to be essentially the same game as Forchess but is not. The distinction lies in overall game strategy. Chess simulates a regional conflict between two armies, Forchess a global war between two alliances, and Cutthroat Forchess a struggle for global domination between four separate powers. The game strategy in chess and Forchess is primarily military. Cutthroat Forchess maintains many of these military aspects, however, the overriding strategy for winning is political. Alliances have to be skillfully made and broken at key moments since no single power is strong enough to prevail by itself. This makes playing Cutthroat Forchess a distinctly different experience (see summary below).

  Chess Forchess Cutthroat Forchess
Board Type Standard Standard Standard
Players 2 4 4
Partners No Yes No
Conflict Type Regional War Global War Global Domination
Belligerents 2 Armies 2 Alliances 4 Separate Nations
Alliances None Fixed Fluid
Dominant Strategy Military Military Political

Cutthroat Forchess is also a good simulator for market competition. Most product markets in the business world have about four key competitors who must constantly respond to each other's marketing attacks. In the end one usually emerges as the dominate competitor although in the real world the others usually don't go completely out of business. Who knows, marketing wars may someday be won on the playing boards of Cutthroat Forchess.

This ability of Cutthroat Forchess to simulate global domination or marketing strategy is not found in chess. Cutthroat Forchess, like standard Forchess, offers the chance to explore unique strategic elements.

THE OLDEST FORCHESS CLUB IN AMERICA: The Forchess Knights is the oldest Forchess club in America and was founded in 1992 by a group of twelve to thirteen year-olds at about the time the first instruction book was published. It was well attended and met once a week pretty much continuously until most of its participants left for college.

However, it still exists as a discussion group on the Internet. We mention it because it illustrates a point. The teens and preteens who have religiously attended wouldn't have come if it hadn't been a fun social activity. Forchess is also one of the best chess variants for use in a club. It requires no equipment other than what's readily available in most chess clubs.

FORCHESS HISTORY: Forchess was invented by T. K. Rogers in about 1975. At that time he often found himself playing Bridge or other card games when entertaining friends. Being a techno-nerd he, of course, preferred games of skill to games of chance. The more a game depended on skill, the more it strengthened mental abilities. However, even the best card games always had an element of chance, a fact which bothered Rogers greatly. Chess had no element of random chance and would have met all the requirements except it was not a true social game. To fit this category it had to be played with four people.

The only reasonable solution was to play four-person chess. A good four-handed chess variant would be the ultimate social game. While there were four-person chess variants in existence, they either used a different chessboard or dramatically cut the number of pieces used. Not wanting to buy a new board or play with a skimpy army, Rogers set about determining how to use virtually all the pieces on a standard board.

When he finished, he leaned back in his chair to admire his work and was stunned by the realization that there were virtually no empty spaces on the board. For a moment he felt embarrassed that he hadn't made a calculation before setting up the pieces. Then it hit him. It was not a problem. Instead of spending time marching up, the game would begin with immediate attack. This made the game more exciting and is the reason why a Forchess game typically has about the same number of moves and lasts about as long as a standard chess game even though Forchess has about twice as many pieces.

Rogers wanted to spread the game but was unsure of how to do it. He made several attempts to write an instruction set with his Amiga computer (no hard drive) but kept losing the data when he tried to store it on a floppy disk. In 1992 he decided to do it right and produce a book. He bought a Macintosh IIfx with 20 megs of RAM and the needed peripherals. This was no small commitment. 20 megs of RAM cost over $1000 at the time. There were also many problems, such as drawing the chess pieces for four different players using only black, white, and shades of gray.

In producing the book, Rogers, a lifelong student of strategy, looked for ways to relate Forchess strategy to other types. He researched not only chess strategy but every type of strategy he could find. This included martial arts such as Aikido, Karate, Kenjutsu, and various forms of wu su; the writings of military strategists such as Musashi, Sun Tszu, Clausewitz, and B. H. Liddell Hart; and numerous sources on marketing and business strategy. He also mathematically analyzed Forchess and chess games using a technique he invented called influence indicator. He incorporated ideas from these sources into the book in the belief that a useful game should be presented as a simulation of real life. This would impart skills beyond the game itself.

The resulting illustrated instruction book was deliberately produced in a small, pocket-sized format to symbolize that it contained simple but revolutionary ideas like Thomas Paine's pamphlet Common Sense. It was well-received but still failed to adequately spread the word about Forchess.

In 1996 Rogers posted a free Forchess instruction set on the Internet and began distributing thousands of brochures containing free Forchess instructions. In addition, Rogers began periodically teaching free Forchess lessons to interested groups and individuals. It's Rogers' sincere hope that people around the world will not only enjoy Forchess but will also use it to sharpen their intellectual skills.

REQUIRED EQUIPMENT: We would like to emphasize that you do not have to purchase special equipment to play Forchess. If you have two different sets of chess pieces you already have all the equipment needed. We do carry matched four-color sets in the Intuitor store when we can find them. So please check there if you want a matched set. Otherwise, we suggest the options listed below. We have provided a link to the Google search engine to help you shop for a suitable vendor.

1) Economy Option: Purchase two identical tournament-quality standard solid plastic chessmen sets. These usually come with 3-3/4" kings (approximate cost $16 for the two sets). They are generally listed under chess club or educational chess supplies on vendor pages. Spraypaint one of the sets with two different colors using ordinary enamel spraypaint (approximate cost $5). We've done this several times and found that it's surprisingly durable. Use a roll-up vinyl board (approximate cost $6.50). The total cost will be about $27.50 plus shipping. Painting the pieces makes a good activity for chess clubs. A hand-painted set also makes a nice Christmas present because it is personalized.

2) Wooden Option: Combining two different wooden chess sets with four distinctive colors generally costs at least $100 and requires some research but can be done by using different woods. The biggest problem is the white pieces since they are generally made of boxwood. This can be overcome sometimes by combining a lacquered set with a wooden set. Be sure to get identical king sizes when mixing sets.

3) Glass Option: Glass chess sets are extremely striking and offer a variety of colors. This option usually costs about $150 and requires some research to find two compatible sets. Be sure to get identical king sizes when mixing sets.



Forchess Online: This is a good online place to discuss Forchess and locate other players.

Chess Variants Club: Another possible online place to discuss Forchess and locate other players.

Chess Instructions for Beginners: A great place to start for those who are chess beginners.'s Chess Strategy Page: After learning the basics, visit this page for more advanced chess concepts.

Vist the Intuitor Store

For high quality Chess and Forcehss t-shirts



Return to the Intuitor Home Page

E-mail Mr. Rogers (the inventor of Forchess®):

First the Web Site, Now the Book

Yes, Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics (ISMP) is now in print with lots of new content not available on the web site.

Read about:

  • ISMP in the movie JFK
  • the physics behind the real Pearl Harbor
  • how Star Wars compares to Star Trek
  • the single biggest ISMP mistake

and many more topics in the ISMP book. Click here for more information.


© 1996-2008 by T. K. Rogers, all rights reserved. No part of this web page can be reproduced in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written approval of T. K. Rogers. Forchess is a registered trademark.