The Chess Variant Pages

Great Chess - Indian / Turkish variant

In an 18th century Indian manuscript, this game is described. The game is mentioned by several authors. Murray describes the game, mentioning its Indian source. Gollon bases his description of the game on Murray, but calls the game Turkish Great Chess. Schmittberger also describes the game briefly in his book.

Most authors agree: this is one of the nicest variants of great chess. I agree with them: the game is nice and interesting, with probably as largest disadvantage the slowness of pawns.

The real age of the game is somewhat hard to estimate, but given the modern type of moves of several pieces, its date of birth should probably placed after the middle ages.

The board

The game is played on a ten by ten board (uncheckered?). The opening setup is as follows:

King f1; Giraffe e1; Vizir d1; Queen g1; Rook a1, j1; Knight b1, i1; Bishop c1, h1; War machine e2, f2; Pawn a2, b2, c2, d2, e3, f3, g2, h2, i2, j2.

King e10; Giraffe f10; Vizir g10, Queen d10; Rook a10, j10; Knight b10, i10; Bishop c10, h10; War machine e9, f9; Pawn a9, b9, c9, d9, e8, f8, g9, h9, i9, j9.

Movement of pieces

Rook, knight, bishop, queen, and king move like in usual chess. (Actually, some of these pieces were called different in the original game, e.g., the queen was a general, the bishop an elephant.)

The giraffe is a powerful piece: it has the combined moves of queen and knight, i.e., of rook, knight and bishop.

The vizir has the combined moves of bishop and knight.

The war machine (dabbabah) has the combined moves of rook and knight.

Pawns move as usual pawns, but have no initial double step. When reaching the last row, pawns promote to queens.

Other rules

The player who mates his opponent wins the game. The rules about stalemate are unknown; play e.g. as in orthodox chess. Castling is not possible in this game.

Modern variant

Eric Greenwood suggests to speed up this game, by allowing pawns (except the pawns on e- and f-columns) an initial double step on their first or second move (but not both). The pawns on the e- and f-columns can make a double step on their first move. This means effectively that a pawn can make a double step when on the second or third row (counted from the side of the player owning the pawn). They can be captured en-passant when making a double step.

Eric Greenwood also suggests to allow castling: the king is moved three squares towards the rook, and the rook jumps over the king to the next square.

Written by Hans Bodlaender. With thanks to David Paulowich for noting an error, and to Eric Greenwood for the variant suggestions.
WWW page created: 1995. Last modified: October 30, 1997.