I was recently leafing through Pritchard's Encyclopedia of Chess Variants when I noticed that the variant Hand and Brain which has recently become popular, in which one player states the piece to the moved ('Brain') and his partner then decides the move with that piece ('Hand'), is missing.

It would be in Chapter 34 of the 2007 edition following Tandem/Alternation Chess, since Hand & Brain is the only other variant which uses 1 standard board, standard pieces, and standard rules, but permits team play.

What are the origins of Hand & Brain chess? I'm interested to know what the earliest recorded mentions of the variant are by this name and also by any older historical name.

N.B. The earliest mention I can find is on Alexandra Kosteniuk's blog dating to February 2013: http://www.chessblog.com/2013/02/. The name and rules already seem to tie up exactly with the variant we recognize today, suggesting that the variant was at least somewhat known by then.

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    Just an anecdotal data point without hard references, but I have definitely played it in college before 2010... May 9, 2021 at 7:10
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    I am a huge fan of Hand & Brain chess. I played it several times, online as well as OTB. It is a great way of playing with several players of different levels. It also has its own interesting dynamics. As well as exciting time scrambles. I also wonder about its origins. I started a bounty, let's see if someone can claim the points.
    – user2001
    May 31, 2021 at 0:12
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    It's not too complicated of a variant so it's perfectly possible that it appeared in several places independently
    – David
    May 31, 2021 at 21:42
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    Perhaps @MobeusZoom can post an answer, a best guess or claim unknown origin. Seems like key data is missing to solve this mystery.
    – user2001
    Apr 24, 2022 at 19:22
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    @RauanSagit It's a shame no-one has been able to answer properly in spite of your large bounties. I'll keep searching and maybe useful info will turn up at some point. It could be worth reaching out to a chess historian (unfortunately Pritchard himself has passed away) or to one of these GMs mentioned in these references (Alexandra Kosteniuk, Simon Williams, ...). Sometimes part of the search has to be done by word-of-mouth Apr 30, 2022 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


A lot of online sources and videos online were from 2018-2021, as it was very popular then, so it is very tricky to find anything

Some say hand and brain chess was inspired in really fun videos from Eric Hansen, Daniel Rensch and Anna Rudolf, but this it isn't that old here, so I conclude that Alexandra Kosteniuk's blog is probably the earliest mention of Hand and Brain chess.

I have searched for the exact phrase "hand and brain chess" and "hand and brain", but all 3950 of the results on google were quite recent, oldest found is the below link (2016)

(Still looking at the moment)

Feb 2016 mentioning of Hand and Brain chess

Reddit question of the origins

There is a possibility that Hand and brain chess is somehow related to Team chess, where the control over pieces on the board are shared among the teammates who are not allowed to communicate with each other during the play other than via valid moves.

Another possibilty, but unlikely, is Smess chess, where arrows on the board indicate where pieces should move. (This variant uses fairy pieces and a 8x7 board)

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    I'm not asking for a listing of all the mentions you can find online of Hand & Brain. I'm asking about the origins of the variant. It's obvious from Kosteniuk's blog that the variant was established by 2013 when she refers to it, likely well before, for the reasons I already explained in my post (clearly both the name and exact practice, which she refers to as a casual consensus, were well-established by the time of writing). For an example of what proper historical descriptions of the origins of variants look like, have a read through Pritchard's Classified Encyclopedia (free online). Apr 23, 2022 at 1:39
  • @DialFrost Also, people downvote for many reasons. Maybe Tim Post lost his keys again. So, you shouldn't ask why someone downvote your question/answer. Apr 23, 2022 at 1:58
  • @MobeusZoom i modified my answer but Ill try to find more accurate origins (there is a high possibility that it cannot be found)
    – DialFrost
    Apr 23, 2022 at 3:30
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    @letmewinpls45 Just because people downvote randomly doesn't mean they shouldn't be called out for it. I don't really see why it should be acceptable (the justification for not making people explain their every vote on SE is that it's time-consuming, not that it's ok to not have a justification). I never downvote without good reason and was already typing mine when they asked for it. Apr 23, 2022 at 17:57

Looks like the idea is from dice chess.

There are a lot of variations to this like using a 6-sided dice where pawn=1, knight=2, bishop=3, rook=4, queen=5, king=6. Or a 10-sided dice as in the chess equalizer. It can be using a single die or 2 dice where if the result is 1 or 6 the player can play either a pawn or a king.

In Hand and Brain the brain is another player but in dice chess the brain is the rolling of a die or dice.

Here are some links of chess with dice from chessvariant.

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    How does this answer the question What are the origins of Hand & Brain chess?? Looks like doesn't mean it is. What proofs do you have? Apr 22, 2022 at 4:26
  • Hand and Brain is a new variant whereas Dice chess is older than it. The idea in Hand and Brain can be found in Dice chess.
    – ferdy
    Apr 22, 2022 at 5:02
  • @ferdy There is no evidence that the (very abstract and somewhat tenuous) connection you draw between the ideas in Dice Chess and Hand & Brain inspired or gave rise to Hand & Brain; indeed it seems unlikely. (But in any case, it is substantive evidence we are looking for.) Apr 23, 2022 at 1:35
  • Dice chess has already existed before it, that is an evidence that Hand and Brain is a derivation from dice. If the inventor/discoverer of the Hand and Brain did not know about Dice Chess then fine. But the fact is the idea was already there. You mention origins in the subject, have a look on the meaning of origin at merriam-webster.com/dictionary/origin and dictionary.com/browse/origin
    – ferdy
    Apr 23, 2022 at 1:57
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    @ferdy You could equally claim that 'Go has already existed before it, that is an evidence that Hand and Brain is a derivation from Go'. Suggesting that Dice Chess is so similar to Hand & Brain that we can confidently say the latter idea came from the former is laughable. In any case, the idea of 'one player picks pieces, the other one moves them' (a die is not a player: it is a move-by-nature) is what we want to know the origin of, as well as when it was first called 'Hand & Brain' etc. See Pritchard for what historical description of chess variant origins looks like Apr 23, 2022 at 17:54

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