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Clockwork Orange Chess

by Fergus Duniho

Clockwork Orange Chess was based on the 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange. Since creating the game, I have also read the novel by Anthony Burgess. I highly recommend both the novel and the movie. In A Clockwork Orange, a young hooligan named Alex is released from jail after being conditioned to feel ill and nauseous at the thought of commiting violence. The idea behind Clockwork Orange Chess is that the same conditioning process is used on captured pieces. Captured pieces are replaced with non-capturing counterparts and given back to the player they were captured from, who holds them in hand until choosing to drop one on the board. When a non-capturing piece is captured, it gets replaced with a regular piece. This provides an incentive to not capture non-capturing pieces.


A regular 8x8 Chess board and two sets of Chess pieces. These two sets should be distinguishable from each other, differing in size, color, or design. One set will be used for the regular Chess pieces, and the other set will be used for the non-capturing pieces. If there is a size difference between the sets, use the smaller set for the non-capturing pieces.


The initial setup for Clockwork Orange Chess is exactly the same as for regular Chess. So there is no need for a diagram.


Clockwork Orange Chess is played like FIDE Chess with the following exceptions:

  • When a regular Chess piece is captured, it is replaced with a non-capturing counterpart of the same color and given back to the player of that color, who holds it in hand until he drops it on the board.
  • When a non-capturing piece is captured, it is replaced with the regular same-color Chess piece which corresponds with it, given back to the player of that color, and held in hand until he drops it on the board.
  • With one expection, a player who has a piece in hand may use his turn to place it on any empty square on the board. The one exception is that Pawns and non-capturing Pawns may not be dropped on the last rank.
  • On moving to the last rank, regular Pawns promote only to regular Chess pieces, the same pieces as they do in Chess.
  • On moving to the last rank, non-capturing Pawns promote to any non-capturing piece, but may not promote to regular pieces.
  • Any regular Pawn on its player's second rank gets a double move.
  • A non-capturing Pawn does not get a double move from the second rank.


Use algebraic notation as you would for Chess. To denote a non-capturing piece, place its abbreviation in parentheses. For example, (R) denotes a non-capturing rook. For non-capturing Pawns, use (P). For drops, use an asterisk in place of the coordinate for the square it is moving from. For example, (P)*e4 means a non-capturing Pawn was dropped on e4, and P*d7 or *d7 means a regular Pawn was dropped on d7.


I have written a ZRF file for playing Clockwork Orange Chess with Zillions of Games, an AI program for playing different board games, and you may download my Zillions Rules File for playing it from

Zillions needs lots of thinking time to play a good game. It didn't beat me at the game until I gave it one minute of thinking time. However, I have since beat it even at one minute.

Written by Fergus Duniho
WWW Page Created: Tue Nov 30, 1999