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The Chess Variant Pages

This page is written by the game's inventor, Roberto Lavieri.

Alpha Centauri

By Roberto Lavieri



Alpha Centauri is a very complex game, somewhat exotic, with some elements from Chess, Rococo, and Terrace, but with a few new ideas that make this game unique.

Board and Setup

The Board is 9x9, with squares colored yellow, brown and blue. There is a Central Square formed by 9 squares, the "Encounter Zone". The object of the game is to move your King and your Dame to adjacent squares in the Encounter Zone. The King and the Dame are uncapturable pieces, and you can't move any piece to a square where the opposite King or Dame are directly attacked by your piece (there is no check in this game). Initially Kings and Dame are set up in the enemy zone, surrounded by enemy pieces (they are in some manner "prisoner" pieces). You need to liberate them so they can reach the Encounter Zone and finish together on adjacent squares.

Almost all the pieces have similar basic movements (with a few exceptions):

1.- Orthogonal movement of only one square ("O" movement).

2.- Change of horizontal rank, moving from one colored horizontal line of squares to the immediately following or the immediately preceding parallel line of squares of the same color ("CH" movement). This is, in most of cases (some exceptions apply for a few pieces), a non-capturing move, and the piece can go to any position in the new line. 

3.- Moving over the horizontal line, with a FIDE-Rook movement ("H" movement). 





A Pawn moves with O and H movements. It captures by replacement moving diagonally one position.




A Guard moves and captures with O movement, but it can move and capture to adjacent diagonal squares. (The movement and mode of capturing is like FIDE King.)







The Hopper moves with O, H and CH movements, but captures hopping over a piece, and for capturing purposes the Hopper can move diagonally too, as we are going to explain. If there is an enemy piece adjacent (orthogonally or diagonally), or if the enemy piece is on one of the next parallel lines of squares of the same color and on the same orthogonal rank without any pieces between them, the Hopper can jump over the piece and capture it, if the landing square is free or occupied by a friendly piece. (Hoppers can sacrifice friendly pieces in a capturing movement). A similar jumping movement for capture applies with the H movement, jumping over an enemy piece on the horizontal line if there are no pieces between them, and it can capture a friendly piece in the landing square if necessary.

Hopper can't capture with the CH movement.


Possible non-capturing movements (dark lines). (E) is an enemy piece.


In the graphic, capturable enemy ($) is captured if the landing square (x) is free or occupied by a friendly piece.










A Centaur moves with O, H and CH movements, and it can capture with the three types of movements. 

If there are enemy pieces in the two orthogonally adjacent squares to the landing square (not in the same file or rank, i.e., one in a square adjacent in the same rank and one adjacent in the same file), and there is not another piece orthogonally adjacent, both enemy pieces are captured after O or H movement. If there are three enemy pieces orthogonally adjacent to the landing square, the Centaur can't capture any of them. If there is only one capturable enemy piece orthogonally adjacent and a non-capturable piece orthogonally adjacent but not in the same file or rank, only the capturable piece is captured. If there is an enemy piece orthogonally adjacent and exactly one friendly piece orthogonally adjacent in the same conditions explained before, the Centaur has the option of capturing both pieces, the friendly piece and the enemy piece. The Centaur is the only piece that can capture with the CH movement. A Centaur is immune to the Reducer.


Possible non-capturing moves. (E) is a piece.


The upper capturable enemies (white $) are captured after the adjacent movement. The right pieces, one enemy (white $) and one friendly (dark $), may be captured. With the left movement on the horizontal, nothing can be captured.







An Advancer also moves with O, H and CH movements. When moving with O or H movement, it captures a piece adjacent to the landing square in the same direction of movement. When moving with the CH it can't capture.


After landing on (x), enemy capturable pieces (white $) are captured. Black lines mark the other possible non-capturing moves. (White E) is a piece.





A Withdrawer moves with O, H and CH movements. When moving with O or H movement, it captures a piece adjacent to the starting position in the opposite direction of movement. It can't capture with the CH movement.


Moving on (x), enemy capturable piece ($) is captured. Moving on (y), enemy capturable piece (%) is captured.





A Rotor moves with O, H and CH movements. It can't capture any piece. Instead of this, it has another "stationary" ability: if the Rotor is on a square that is not along the edges (edges: files 1 or 9, ranks a or i), it can rotate all the surrounding pieces one, two, three, four, five, six or seven positions. Rotors are uncapturable pieces. 

A Rotor can't rotate surrounding pieces if there is another uncapturable piece adjacent (Rotor, King or Dame, friend or enemy). If there is a Reducer attacking a Rotor, the Rotor can still rotate surrounding pieces, but can only move away from or towards the Reducer on the orthogonal line of attack between them.





A Reducer moves with O, H and CH movements. It can't capture any piece. Instead of this, it has the ability of reduce the movement and capture abilities of an orthogonally attacked enemy piece. An enemy piece in direct orthogonal line with a Reducer with no pieces between, can only move or capture in the orthogonal line that it has in common with the Reducer, moving (with the piece movement allowed in that line) in the opposite direction or towards the Reducer in the same line.












The King is one of the two royal pieces in the game. A King can't be captured. A King can't be attacked for capturing. There is no "check" in this game. (You can't move any piece to a square where the moving piece or another piece can capture the King. But the King may be affected by the Reducer. You can move a Rotor adjacent to the enemy King, but you can't rotate it). 

The King moves only one step in orthogonal movement, and the King can capture enemy pieces with it's movement. It is permissible for another King or Dame to move to a square orthogonally adjacent to the King. Royal pieces can't attack or capture Royal pieces..


The Dame is the another Royal piece. The Dame moves like the King, one step orthogonally, and can't be captured. The capturing abilities of the Dame are identical to the King's abilities.




Win condition: the King and Dame are on adjacent squares in the Encounter Zone. 

Two moves per turn, per player, are required. One move of one uncapturable piece (Rotor, King or Dame), followed by a move of one capturable piece. If the first move is not possible, the player must make the second move, the move of a capturable piece.


Playing Tips

Alpha Centauri has an enjoyable playability, but strategy is not trivial. Alpha Centauri really is a very complex game. You must try to open lines of movement for your King and Dame. For this purpose, in advanced stages of the game, deep positional tactics and sacrifices may be frequent. I have played some test games of Alpha Centauri on a wood board. Honestly, I will need an undetermined amount of time to play this game a bit better; Alpha Centauri´s game philosophy seems to be dramatically different from that of any other Chess-type games I have ever played.


Computer Play

There is currently no computer program for playing Alpha Centauri, although it is highly desirable. If you are encouraged to try, I'll be pleased with you, or we can work together in a project for a not-so-easy to implement Zillions ZRF. Welcome!