|By US Chess Federation|
Since the origination of Chataranga, the earliest-known form of chess, in ancient India, many variants of today's modern game have been played. Some are only of historical interest nowadays, and others are played with every bit as much zeal as the official, modern game itself. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, has a great collection of links and descriptions of chess variants at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess_variant.
After dropping out of active participation in competitive chess, Bobby Fischer became the leading advocate of starting play with the modern rules, but with different arrangements of the pieces on the first rank, as a way of eliminating the vast amount of "opening theory" that has accumulated. Known variously as FischeRandom and Chess960 (because there are 960 possible different starting positions!), this variant is popular in many parts of the world, and there have even been top-level GM events organized to determine a Chess960 World Champion. Top-ranked GMs who have excelled so far include Peter Leko, Peter Svidler, and Levon Aronian. Again, Wikipedia offers a great set of links and explanations at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chess960.
In the US, one of the most popular variants is Bughouse, also known as Siamese or Tandem Chess. In Bughouse. two teams of two players face each other on two boards. Allies use opposite colors and give captured pieces to their partner. Games are usually played at blitz time controls. There are Bughouse tournaments at some of USCF's national scholastic championships, and Bughouse games can be found at many chess clubs, and in the skittles room at almost any sizable tournament. Here are two web great resources for Bughouse:
In February, 2006, the USCF Board established a Chess Variants Committee.