It seems that computers can beat the majority of chess players out there, and at the current rate in which distributed computing is going, it seems like the #1 chess player out there will be computers these days.

However, this is different with Go, as the best AI available out there cannot beat a decent player.

Are there any chess variants, which while still maintaining some sort of similarity with chess, cannot be effectively played by a computer, while still playable by humans at a level better than AIs?

I was thinking a bigger board with more pieces would help, but rules changes might be needed as well to change the gameplay a bit. But I suppose the further you drift from the original chess game, the less interest people might have on it.

  • A bigger board would be worst. The AI works simply: it takes every possible move in the next 20-30 turns and chooses the best one for itself. Having more pieces doesn't bother the AI because more possible moves isn't a problem for it, but it is for humans!
    – SteeveDroz
    Sep 20, 2011 at 6:58
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    Oltarus: A good computer can see about 12 moves ahead with good pattern-matching (aka pruning). Increasing the number of moves hurts the computer drastically more than it hurts humans, because you have to become more reliant on pattern-matching, something computers are notoriously bad at (and humans good at). Sep 20, 2011 at 15:38

5 Answers 5


Yes. In fact, Arimaa was designed explicitly for this purpose.


It was designed by an AI expert who wanted a game where humans could beat the best computers. There is a contest every year called the Arimaa Challenge where AI's compete to try to beat the best humans. So far, none have.

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    Arimaa is not a chess variant, but a totally different game. It can be played with the same equipment as chess, but so can draughts (checkers), tic-tac-toe, or 9x9 Go. It's no more similar to chess than any of those games.
    – RoundTower
    Sep 22, 2011 at 14:39
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    @RoundTower, I disagree. The other games you mentioned can be played with chess materials, but not naturally as the distinguished pieces lose their meaning. However, if a more authoratative souce would help, it can be found on "chessvariants.org" chessvariants.org/index/external.php?itemid=arimaa Sep 22, 2011 at 18:28
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    @Roundtower, of course you're right, something being listed on chessvariants.org absolutely supports your claim that it is NOT a chess variant. :) Apr 4, 2012 at 21:56
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    To be fair, @RoundTower was only saying that, if you call Arimaa a chess variant then you have to call checkers a chess variant too.
    – Gareth
    Apr 6, 2012 at 8:21
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    Perhaps you want to update your answer to say that on 2015-04-18 the Sharp programme beat the humans: arimaa.com/arimaa/challenge/2015
    – PJTraill
    Dec 14, 2015 at 0:12

A variant much more similar to chess than Arimaa is Twilight Chess. Like Arimaa, the design goal is explicitly to be harder for computer to master. The creator is an Associate Professor is Computer Science and a very good chess player.

The rules are

  • All classical laws of chess apply.
  • Moving to the Twilight zone (Warp move) is a legal moves for all piece but for the King.
  • Moving a piece from the Twilight zone to any free square of the chessboard (Drop move) is a legal chess move but for a pawn into the last rank (8th for white player, 1st for black player).
  • Warp and Drop moves are considered as standard moves with relation to classical laws of chess.
  • Interesting, that is very simple to understand for existing chess players too. Is my understanding correct that multiple pieces can exist in the twilight zone at once, but having too many pieces there can prove a disadvantage?
    – kamziro
    Oct 3, 2011 at 12:59
  • Yes and probably.
    – Clement J.
    Oct 8, 2011 at 7:28

I am uncertain of the effect on an AI specifically, but the following introduces some randomness into the game, and I really enjoy playing it. Quantum Chess.


Also worth checking out Fischer Random Chess. This works well against any chess player (human or computer) that is working off "book." It increases the potential entropy of the game significantly.


Chess Evolved Online (CEO) is so insanely complex that an AI could NEVER keep up with a skilled human player. There are 100+ different pieces and a ton of effects like magic, summoning, reflecting, swapping, auto-attack triggers, revivals, etc. and to top it off you create your own army before playing. This means the traditional method of creating chess AI fails on turn 1 - there is always 0 data on a game between your army and the enemy army because there are more possible armies than people. The only way an AI could master it is if it had access to insane amounts of processing power and brute force calculated every possibility for 50+ moves, which is exceedingly more complicated than doing the same for normal chess, and you would probably be better off using that CPU to simulate a new universe or something.

Game: https://www.facebook.com/ChessEvolved

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