The Chess Variant Pages




Shatranj Kamil (64)

by David Paulowich (for the 10-Chess Variant Contest)


Introduction

The name Shatranj Kamil, meaning Perfect Chess or Complete Chess, was given to several chess variants on 10x10 boards around 1000 years ago. Usually the variant would increase the size of each army by two pawns and two new pieces (for example, the dabbabah). Shatranj Kamil (64) is my attempt to achieve a similar result on the traditional 8x8 board. This game keeps all the pieces of Shatranj, while giving the elephants a more powerful move. Note that the "elephants on their own colors" setup of my game requires a checkered board for ease of play. The pawn structure is a compromise between Shatranj and Makruk (from Thailand), with only the pawns from the four central files starting on the third and sixth ranks. Each army has two additional pieces from Makruk, which I call Silver Generals (the Shogi name for the piece). All pawns promote on the player's eighth rank to Silver Generals - this is entirely different from the rules in Makruk and Shogi.

Setup and Pieces

Initial Setup for Shatranj Kamil (64)

rnseksnr/pp1ge1pp/2pppp2/8/8/2PPPP2/PP1GE1PP/RNSEKSNR/ is the initial setup shown in the diagram above.

Each army has 18 pieces with 18 possible moves in the initial setup. The eight Pawns, starting on the player's second and third ranks, can only move one square forward. The two Silver Generals, starting on c1 f1 c8 f8, have the same single square movement as in Shogi: straight forward or any of the four diagonal directions. Each army has one King (starting on e1 and e8) and one General (starting on d2 and d7) traditionally called a Ferz. Note that all of these pieces can only move one square at a time. Elephants, starting on d1 e2 d8 e7 in this game, may move like an Alfil or a noncapturing Dababbah. This results in a weaker version of the Alibaba, visiting 16 of the squares on the board. Thus the two White Elephants control the 32 light squares between them, while the White General controls the 32 dark squares. The Black Elephants are on dark squares, while the Black General is on a light square. Knights and Rooks start on the usual squares and move in the usual way. Shortest possible game is 1.Na3 e5 2.Nc4 d5 3.Nd6 mate.

Pawn=3, Elephant=5, General=5, Silver General=8.5, Knight=9, Rook=15 is my best guess for the values of the pieces. Elephants and Generals should be equal in value, which is one reason this game was designed to encourage players to trade one piece for the other. Silver Generals are (almost) as valuable as Knights. I simply gave the Silver General the average value of a General(5) and a Commoner(12), where the Commoner is the piece that can move to any adjacent square (like a King). Do not attach too much significance to these (somewhat arbitrary) numbers.

The diagram below illustrates the moves of three pieces. Pawns always move forward. They capture (X symbol) diagonally and make a noncapturing move (hollow square symbol) orthogonally. Silver Generals move and capture in the same way (X inside hollow square symbol). There are ten pieces in each army (Pawns and Silver Generals) that are assymetric: they have an orthogonal forward move and no matching backward move. The unlimited promotion rule in this game means that it is possible to have ten Silver Generals of the same color on the board. There are ten pieces in each army (Pawns and Elephants) whose orthogonal moves must be noncapturing.

Moves for Pawn, Silver General, Elephant

Rules

No king's leap or castling rules in this game. Pawns never move more than one square. I tried to remain true to the spirit of the old Shatranj rules, but found it necessary to modify Rule 4 and Rule 5 (below) to deal with some annoying special cases.

[Rule 1] Mandatory promotion of a Pawn to a Silver General of the same color on the player's 8th rank.

[Rule 2] After your opponent has been reduced to a lone King, you may claim a draw at any time. The game is automatically drawn when only the two Kings remain on the board.

[Rule 3] Checkmating your opponent wins the game. Note that you require a king and at least one other piece in order to checkmate your opponent.

[Rule 4] Stalemating your opponent wins the game, except when you have only a lone King. Then the result is a draw. EXAMPLE: the endgame with a lone White King versus a Black King and a-file Pawn can end in several ways. White can stalemate Black, in a rather silly fashion, resulting in a draw by Rule 2. White can capture the pawn, resulting in an automatic draw by Rule 2. Black can stalemate White and win. Or Black can play on for another ten moves, until Rule 5 gives him a win.

[Rule 5] Bare King Loss: You are allowed to make ten moves after being reduced to a lone King in an attempt to achieve a draw under Rule 2 or Rule 4. The ten move count resets to zero after each capture. Your opponent may claim a win after your tenth move. EXAMPLE: the endgame in the diagram below shows White to move and draw. After 1.Rxh1 Kxh1 2.Kb7 a5 3.Kxa8 a4, the Black Pawn will promote to a Silver General on a1, but White can chase and quickly capture this piece.

Bare King Draws

Notes

The pattern of 28 empty squares is original to this chess variant. Peter Aronson's Gothic Isles Chess (2001) is an earlier game which allows pawns to promote to a variety of pieces, including Silver Generals. He provides some interesting comments on the history of chess, as well as a "Zillions of Games" file that correctly implements his game's bare king loss rule (same as Shatranj). I have not seen any other "Zillions of Games" author succeed in doing this - see my previously posted comments on the Shatranj rules page. Unfortunately, additional coding is required to implement my more complicated Rule 5. I would like to propose something similar to Rule 4 and Rule 5 for Chu Shogi and some other old Japanese games. I believe that I am in agreement with Colin Adams, who wrote in 1999: "If one player is reduced to a bare King (no other pieces), then he loses the game, unless he can immediately reduce his opponent to a bare King also (I would suggest that demonstrating that he can reduce his opponent to a bare King by a forced series of moves should also be allowed ..."

Computer Play

No "ZRF" available yet. See the Notes above for some of the problems involved in writing one. A Game Courier Preset, enforcing at least the checkmate and stalemate victory conditions, should not be too difficult.

Equipment

Daniel C. Macdonald's Omega Chess provides 44 pieces for players to use. The bishops can be used for elephants, the wizards for generals, and the champions for silver generals. Peter Aronson even calls his silver general piece a "champion" in Gothic Isles Chess. The best justification I can give for this choice is: the champion in Omega Chess is a short-range piece that can visits all the squares on the board. Thus it serves the same purpose in that game as the silver general does in Shatranj Kamil (64). For more information on Omega Chess go to http://www.omegachess.com/.
Written by David Paulowich.
WWW page created: May 7, 2005.