The Chess Variant Pages

Oblong chess

Oblong chess is an about thousand years old chess variant. More precisely, oblong chess is a variant of Shatranj, the Arabic pre-decessor of modern chess.

The board and opening setup

Oblong chess is played on a board of four by sixteen squares. The players have the same forces as in Shatranj, namely a king, a general (firzan), two elephants, two knights, two chariots or rooks (rukh), and eight soldiers or pawns. There are seven different opening setups known for this game.

Movement of the pieces

The pieces move in the same way as in Shatranj. I.e., the king, rook and knight move as in the modern chess game. Pawns move also as in the modern chess game, but with this exception: they do not have a double first move. The general moves one square diagonally. The elephant moves two squares diagonally, and may jump an intervening piece, e.g., in the first opening setup, the elephant on a1 may jump to c3.

Object of the game

The player that mates the opponent wins the game. Rules about stalemate and `bare king' are not precisely known, but are most probably as follows: A player that stalemates his opponent also wins the game. When a player takes the last piece of his opponent, except the king, he also wins the game, except in the case that his opponent can in his turn also take the last non-king piece of this player. In the latter case, the game is a draw.

Playing with dice

This game was often played with (and also often played without) dice. When playing with dice, each turn the player throws one six-side die. When rolling a six, the player may move the king, when rolling a five, the player may move the general, when rolling a four, the player may move an elephant, when rolling a three, the player may move a knight, when rolling a two, the player may move a rook, and when rolling a one, the player may move a pawn.

When no move is possible, (e.g., a player rolls a six in the third opening setup), then the turn is lost. Moving is not obligatory. In this variant, a win is achieved by taking the opponents king.

Written by: Hans Bodlaender
Version without graphics.
WWW page created: November 20, 1995. Last modified: January 13, 1998.