Coalition chess is played by four persons.
The board has 10 x 10 squares.
Yellow and Black are greater powers.
Red and Green are lesser powers.

Arnold Schönberg

Coalition chess is played by four persons.
The board has 10 x 10 squares.
Yellow and Black are greater powers.
Red and Green are lesser powers.

Arnold Schönberg


Schönberg developed his Coalition Chess in the first half of the 1920s. The set of rules exist as a draft with levels of power that are subtly differentiated yet still balanced and with extremely unconventional and original elements whose construction required a substantial amount of work.

Schönberg’s chess variant is an expansion of the traditional game. There are four players, two “greater powers” (Yellow, Black) and two “lesser powers” (Green, Red) who can form coalitions during the first three rounds. Instead of the six different pieces in the traditional game of chess, “Coalition Chess” has pieces with nine different types of move. Their range of moves is either taken from traditional chess or, in the case of the three new pieces, two pieces from traditional chess are merged to form one new piece.

Schönberg’s pieces remain figurative, they symbolise possibly the original motif of the army in modern form. The pieces, their names and their distribution correspond to Schönberg’s experiences with the war machinery of the First World War. Red symbolises the air force (Planes), Green the navy (Submarines), the greater powers Yellow and Black are equipped with the military arsenal of the land forces.

However, the version designed by Schönberg – and this is the game’s peculiarity – is not a war game and therefore not just one of innumerable variants in the history of chess. In this agonal “fight,” the players are involved in demanding diplomatic relations and negotiations between potential coalition partners.

Ernst Strouhal: "Es müsste möglich sein ...". Arnold Schönberg - Konstruktionen, Modelle, Spieledesigns, in: Arnold Schönberg. Spiele, Konstruktionen, Bricolagen. Games, Constructions, Bricolages. Wien 2004.

The pieces, their moves and their distribution

The King moves and captures as in chess and also has the same importance.

The Plane is a new piece, it corresponds to two successive moves by the Knight. The only move which is not permissible is one that takes the “Plane” back to its starting position.

The Submarine is also a piece which is not found in the game of chess. It is permitted to move in the same way as the Queen and Knight.

The Tank corresponds to the Queen in chess.

The Artillery corresponds to the Rook.

The Eningeer corresponds to the Knight.

The Motorcyclist corresponds to the Bishop in chess.

The Guard corresponds to the Pawn in chess.

The Machine-gun is a piece which is not found in the game of chess. It has the same rights as the King and Pawn, but can be captured without the player losing the game. Therefore, it can also move forward two squares from its starting position and can move one square in all directions to capture other pieces.

Basic rules and variants of the game, abridged version

1. Coalition chess is played by four persons (Yellow, Green, Black, Red).

2. The board has 10x10 squares. Yellow and Black are opposite each other, as are Red and Green.

3. Yellow and Black are the “greater powers” (they have kings), Red and Green are the “lesser powers” (they do not have kings). The usual rules of chess apply unless otherwise stated.

A. The game

4. Yellow always has the first move, i.e. it starts every new game, with the following order of play: Yellow, Black, Green, Red.

5. A greater power (Yellow, Black) forms a coalition with a lesser power (Green, Red), which means that the following coalitions are possible:

Yellow + Green vs. Black + Red
Yellow + Red vs. Black + Green

6. Winning team is the coalition which checkmates the opposing team’s King.

B. Forming a coalition

7. During the first three rounds the players must decide whether a coalition will be formed – and if so, they must choose which coalition–or whether the game is to be stopped. A round is completed when each player has made one move.

8. The players set up their pieces before the beginning of the first round; each player is allocated a “set-up area” (see Fig. 1, bordered area).

9. Green, Red and Black initially place their pieces in designated positions (see Fig. 1); Yellow has the first move and is therefore permitted to place all pieces in any square within the set-up area which seems advantageous to the player. Then Yellow begins the game.

10. During the first three rounds the lesser powers Green and Red can form a coalition with a greater power as soon as it is their turn to move. This coalition is arranged either by a verbal declaration, a check or by capturing a piece owned by an opposing greater power. The chosen coalition cannot be changed during the game. 6 points are received for a victory and 2 points are received for a draw.

11. The lesser powers Green and Red also have the right to remain neutral during the first three rounds. The game is then stopped. Coalition partners each receive 1 point, no points are received by players who have not formed a coalition.

12. During the first three rounds Black, Red and Green also have the right to change the position of their pieces once as desired within the set-up area instead of moving.

13. It is possible to immediately respond to a check (without keeping to the order of play). The player may not move during the following round.

14. If a lesser power has lost all its pieces, then the player retires from the game and only three (or two) moves are made per round.

C. Variants of the game

15. Game with dummies: Coalition chess is best played with four people, but it is also possible to play with 3 people and 1 dummy or 2 people and 2 dummies.

16. Optional rules for moving during the first three rounds: Players can refrain from making one move, i.e. they can wait for one move. Yellow and Black are permitted to put their “Motorcyclist” once on a square of a different colour within the set-up area without losing a move.

17. . Coalition of lesser powers against greater powers: A coalition of Red+Green versus Yellow+ Black is also possible. The coalition of lesser powers then wins by checkmating one of the two Kings, as in chess, and the greater powers win by capturing all the pieces.

Editors: Daniel Zaman und Ernst Strouhal

Trial game

In 2004 the Arnold Schönberg Center hosted a trial game with the aim of evaluating and discussing the playability of Schönberg’s Coalition Chess. The “greater powers” were played by grandmaster Stefan Kindermann (Yellow, GER) and the world champion in correspondence chess Tunç Hamarat (Black, TUR); the “lesser powers” were played by Michael Ehn (Green, AUT) and Ernst Strouhal (Red, AUT).

STL Data for 3D printer


Download 3D models (.stl) und chessboard (.jpg)

King: 1 x black, 1 x yellow

Plane: 2 x red

Submarine: 2 x green

Tank: 1 x black, 2 x yellow

Artillery: 2 x black, 1 x yellow

Eningeer: 1 x black, 1 x yellow

Motorcyclist: 1 x black, 1 x yellow

Guard: 2 x black, 3 x yellow, 2 x red, 2 x green

Machine-gun: 4 x black, 3 x yellow, 2 x red, 2 x green