“Chess is a matter of delicate judgement, knowing when to punch and how to duck” – Bobby Fischer

Update (18 May 2017): A very warm welcome to those who’ve come here after seeing the article on the ChessBase front page (image below for posterity!)


Read on to learn how to play Duck Chess… or search for “Duck Chess” on YouTube to see the inventor take on popular online chess streamer ChessWhiz at both Duck Chess and Three Checks Duck Chess! (Direct link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCXw-RAmcpA)

And to get in touch, just use the email address at the bottom of this page!


Duck Chess is an exciting and absorbing new chess variant invented in early 2016 by Dr Tim Paulden, the president of Exeter Chess Club (Devon, England).

The basic principle of the game is very simple: in addition to the usual pieces, the two players have joint control of a small rubber duck which acts as a “blocker” (i.e. nothing can move onto or through it), and which must be moved to a new square after every turn. The goal is to successfully capture the opponent’s king.

The detailed rules of the game are given below, followed by an example.

Rules of Duck Chess

  • To play Duck Chess, you need two players, a standard chess set, and one rubber duck (small enough to occupy a single square of the chessboard).
  • Each player’s turn always consists of two actions: (1) making a standard chess move, and then  (2) moving the duck to any empty square on the board. (The duck must be moved – it cannot be left where it is.)
  • The duck acts as a “blocker” – i.e. you may never move a piece onto or through the square currently occupied by the duck (though knights may jump over it). The duck cannot be captured.
  • You win the game by capturing the opponent’s king.
  • There is no concept of check – i.e. it is permissible to make a chess move that does not remove an existing attack on your king, or to make a move / capture with your king that places it on an attacked square. (Of course, if you do this, you are strongly advised to use your duck movement to block the attack, to prevent your opponent from capturing your king – though doing so is not compulsory.)
  • You may castle in the same way as normal chess, provided that the king and rook involved have not yet moved, and all the squares between them are empty. (All check-related restrictions on castling are lifted, as there is no concept of check.)
  • There is no stalemate in the usual sense – for instance, the position (WK a1 / BK a3 / Duck b1) with White to move is a win for Black, since White is forced to move his king to either a2 or b2, where it can be captured by Black’s king. (Of course, in this instance, White has no possible way to block with the duck.)
  • In place of stalemate, Duck Chess has the following special “fowling” rule: if the player on turn has no possible moves whatsoever – not even a king move onto an attacked square – then the player without a move has been “fowled” and wins the game immediately. (Due to the extreme difficulty of arranging such a position, this rule has virtually no impact on practical play – it is mainly relevant to composed Duck Chess problems.)
  • Finally, the standard notation for recording a turn in Duck Chess is to write down the chess move portion of the turn in the usual way, followed by an “@” symbol and the square on which the duck was placed. For instance, the move “Qxh7@g5” denotes the chess move Qxh7, followed by the duck being placed at g5. There is no symbol for check or checkmate.

A warm-up puzzle

Can you identify White’s best move in the position below?


Answer: It might be tempting to play Qxh7@g5, which initially seems to be winning – White’s protected queen attacks Black’s king, and the only flight square (g5) is blocked by the duck. However, in response, Black could simply capture White’s queen and shut out the bishop’s route to h7 with Kxh7@f5 – a perfectly legitimate move in Duck Chess! Instead, White can win in the above position with the clever move Qf6@g6!, after which White will be able to capture Black’s king next turn (as Black is obliged to move the duck away from g6). In passing, we note that if it were Black to move in the above position, he would have an immediate win with Qxg2@f3, followed by capturing White’s king next turn.

YouTube video: The inventor takes on ChessWhiz!

To get a quick flavour of how the game is played – and some of the things to watch out for! – search for “Duck Chess” on YouTube to see the inventor take on popular online chess streamer ChessWhiz at both Duck Chess and Three Checks Duck Chess! (Direct link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCXw-RAmcpA)

Keep in touch

We hope you enjoy playing Duck Chess – if you do, please tell other chess players about it, and let them know about this page!

And of course, if you have any comments, questions or ideas relating to the variant, or would like to share your Duck Chess games and puzzles, please just drop an email to the address shown in the image below. Look forward to hearing from you!