What on Earth is 5D chess?

by Arne Kaehler
7/31/2020 – Just last week a new chess game launched on the Steam client — 5D chess. The term 3D stands for third dimension, while 4D includes “time” plus the three spatial dimensions. 5D chess boldly claims to go even beyond that as it mixes chess, as we know it, with a multiverse time-travel function. And this is where my mind starts to go a bit crazy! | Photos: 5D Chess press kit

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Time travelling

Many fictional films and works of literature tackle the time travel theme in various forms. Some try to change the past, others attempt to reshape the future. There are also versions that consider that time travel simply cannot influence our destiny.

Time travel fiction explained

5D chess tries to avoid most of those paradoxes by shaping multiverses which branch into different timelines, rather than looping back and forth.

Instead of playing on one board, we can push our pieces from the present to the past and vice-versa, thus making several moves on all those different timeline-boards we have created.

What might sound complicated at first...actually stays complicated.

5D Chess

In this game created by Conor Petersen and Thunkspace LLC, you have your normal chess rules, except that these are taken to the next "multi" level.

This means you can:

  • Move pieces back in time and create new timelines
  • Move pieces around in those newly created timelines and create mate threats
  • Protect your king(s) from those checkmate attacks

And while you can try out all those time travel tricks against another opponent, you can also play against the engine and even change the board size from 8x8 to 6x6 squares — which is very smart to start with, trust me.

Furthermore, you can solve puzzles and checkmates in any dimension.

The game runs very smoothly and every move made feels natural. It surprised me that the game is not bigger than 8 MB. The background sound is filled with a fitting “spacey ambience” and the whole game setup is very minimalistic, but why would it need more?

Having said all that, the AI doesn’t seem to be very smart and loses every time you attack the f7 and f2 spot with all your pieces, as you might checkmate one of the past kings by accident. Perhaps the game is not really made to be played on a normal chess board. There are plenty of different versions, even starting with more than one timeline and random pieces. This is where the fun actually really begins.

The formula is simple: the more moves you play, the more complicated it gets. At one point, you simply cannot keep up with all the different moves from the pasts and timelines any more.


This game is definitely worth taking a shot. Once you get used to the different behaviours of the pieces, jumping from timeline to timeline and plotting never seen before mates, this can be a long-lasting and fun chess variant. It also is fairly well priced, at around 10 USD.


Arne Kaehler, a creative mind who is passionate about board games in general, was born in Hamburg and learned to play chess at a young age. By teaching chess to youth teams and creating chess-related videos on YouTube, Arne was able to expand this passion and has even created an online course for anyone who wants to learn how to play chess. Arne writes for the English and German news sites, but focuses mainly on content for the ChessBase media channels.


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