How to Play Horde Chess?

There are countless chess variants in the world. One of the most popular versions is Horde chess.

In this game, one player has the standard board setup, while the other plays with 32 or 36 pawns. As you can imagine, this makes the chess match a bit challenging.

So, to help you win your next game, check out our guide on how to play Horde chess. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about the game.

We’ll also give you a few tips to ensure you outshine your competition.

Horde Chess Overview

Horde chess is an asymmetrical variant of a traditional chess game. Filip Rachunek created the version in 2002. It’s like Dunsany’s chess, but with a few differences.

With Horde chess, the black player starts with the normal lineup. That means they have:

  • Two knights
  • Two rooks
  • Two bishops
  • Eight pawns
  • One king
  • One queen

As for the white player, they start the game with 32 or 36 pawns. This uneven setup makes for an incredibly interesting game.

Horde Chess Starting Position

The chess match can end in two ways. The first involves the white pawns checkmating the black king. Other than that, black will have to capture all of white’s pawns to claim victory.

Horde Chess Layout

With the overview of Horde chess out of the way, we can jump into the board layout. As we mentioned, the black contestant has a traditional lineup.

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However, the white player will have a unique setup. Typically, white pawns will occupy the first two rows.

The remaining 16 pawns can go on any empty squares on the board.

Because of this setup, both players will need to come up with creative strategies. They’ll need to think outside the box to capture their opponent’s pieces.

Horde Chess Rules

Before you play any game, it’s crucial that you understand the rules. This way, you maximize your chances of winning.

That’s especially true when it comes to Horde chess. For the most part, the guidelines match those of a regular chess game.

That means each player will take turns moving a single piece at a time. Other than that, the white side always moves first.

However, there are also a few other rules you should be aware of to play Horde chess. For example:

  • Black wins if they capture all white pawns
  • White wins if they checkmate the black king
  • If there are no valid moves on the black side, the game ends in a draw or stalemate
  • White pawns can get a promotion if they make it to the other end of the board. Same holds true for black.
  • White pawns can’t move two squares unless they’re in the first or second rank
  • Pawns can only move forward one square and capture other pieces diagonally

Horde Chess Strategies

Now that the basics of horde chess are out of the way, we can jump into game strategies. These are plans that you can follow to ensure your victory.

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How to Win as the White Player

In this section, we’ll show you what you can do to win as the black player.

Protect Your Borders

With 32 or 36 pawns on the board, it can be a little tough to figure out what strategy to follow. Although, there are a few ways you can secure the win.

That includes protecting your borders. Players usually instinctively keep an eye on the center of the chessboard.

They’ll ensure that none of the enemy pieces makes it to the heart of their pawn army. Sadly, that means they neglect the two outermost files ( a and h files).

In Horde chess, the a and h files are incredibly important. If the black army manages to break into either one of these files, they can overwhelm your pawns.

So, as a general rule, you want to hold your position on the extreme files and keep the enemy away.

Clear a Path Forward

The pawn isn’t a particularly powerful piece when it comes to chess. Although, there are a couple of factors that make it special.

First off, pawns are constantly moving forward. Since they can only move in one direction, advancing them shouldn’t be an issue.

Other than that, if a pawn makes it to the opposite side of the board, you can promote it. That means you’ll swap out the soldier with a more powerful piece.

That includes a queen, rook, bishop, or even knight.

So, you have to figure out a way to divide the black army and clear a path to the other side of the board.

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If you manage that, you’ll be able to pull another piece to help you win the game.

How to Win as the Black Player

In this section, we’ll walk you through strategies you can use if you’re playing the white side.

Capture Undefended Pawns

As the black player, you have to capture all the white pieces on the board. This may prove to be quite a challenge, even if all the pieces are pawns.

It’ll take you a while to capture them, especially if you’re trying to avoid losing your own pieces.

So, an excellent tip for Horde chess is to pick off undefended pawns. Don’t attack until you see an opening in the other player’s defense.

That way, you can capture the pawns one by one, without risking your pieces.

Keep an Eye Out for Promotions

The black player should know that the white side will spend most of the game trying to promote a pawn. For that reason, they have to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Because of that, it’s a good idea to position your pieces to block your end of the board. This may mean that you have to sacrifice a few pieces.

However, in the long run, this should lead to a win.

Wrapping Up

If you’re trying to figure out how to play Horde chess, there are a few rules to consider. First off, the black side begins the game with a normal setup.

Other than that, the white player starts with 32 or 36 pawns.

To win, the black side has to capture all white pawns. The game can also end with the white side checkmating the black king.

There are a couple of strategies you can follow to ensure your victory. For the white side, protect your borders and clear a path forward.

As for the black side, capture undefended pawns and keep an eye out for promotions.