The Chess Variant Pages

Arabian Nights Chess


For my second entry in the 84 Spaces Contest I wanted to share the updated version of Shatranj on a larger board that my son Timothy and I came up with. We have kept all of the original Shatranj pieces (with a slight modification in the movement of the Pawn) and have added a pair of Dabbabahs, two Generals instead of one, a new piece which we call the Grand Vizier and four Magic Flying Carpet squares. We have also purposely preserved most of the basic rules of Shatranj in order to give the updated game roughly the same feel in play. We hope that you enjoy playing our game as much as we do.


The game board is a rectangular field consisting of a grid 9 squares wide x 9 squares long, which is not checkered. The square in the exact center of the board is missing (marked by an X in the diagram below, at 5F), leaving a hole in the board through (or over) which no piece may pass. The two rows on each side where the pieces are initially placed are their respective "camps." There are four squares located in columns A and K, beginning the game at A7, A3, K7, and K3. These are the Magic Flying Carpet squares. The standard initial setup of the pieces is as follows:
	 9    R K E D S D E K R
	 8    P G P P V P P G P
	 7  - - - - - - - - - - -
	 6    - - - - - - - - -
	 5    - - - - X - - - -
	 4    - - - - - - - - -
	 3  - - - - - - - - - - -
	 2    P G P P V P P G P
	 1    R K E D S D E K R

	    A B C D E F G H I J K

We also enjoy a variation where we have a "Setup Phase" prior to beginning play where the opponents each take turns placing their pieces in their respective "camps" one piece at a time (beginning with Black) until all the pieces are placed. The only restriction on placement of pieces during the setup phase is that all Pawns must be in the front rank (rows two and eight).


In the movement diagrams below: x=capture square, m=movement only, o=other piece.
S - Sultan:
The Sultan is the King piece. The Sultan moves and captures exactly like a King in European Chess. The Sultan can never move to a square that would put him in check.
D - Dabbabah:
The Dabbabah moves and captures by leaping to the second orthogonal square, it never occupies the first orthogonal square.
E - Elephant:
The Elephant moves and captures by leaping to the second diagonal square, it never occupies the first diagonal square.
	x   x
	 - - 
	 - - 
	x   x
K - Knight:
The Knight moves and captures exactly like a Knight in European Chess.
R - Rook:
The Rook moves and captures exactly like a Rook in European Chess.
P - Pawn:
The Pawn moves and captures exactly like a Pawn in European Chess, with the addition of a non-capturing move one space to the left or the right orthogonally.
G - General:
The General moves and captures one square in any diagonal direction.
V - Grand Vizier:
The Grand Vizier combines the moves of a Knight and a General.


  1. The object of the game is to check-mate the opponent's Sultan.
  2. Black always goes first.
  3. Pawns are permitted an initial two step move.
  4. There is no en passant capture.
  5. There is no castling option.
  6. Promotion: Pawns arriving at the enemy "camp" (the last two ranks) always promote to Generals. Generals arriving at the enemy "camp" always promote to Grand Viziers. No other piece promotes.
  7. Stalemate counts as a win.
  8. Bare Sultan counts as a win, provided that your Sultan cannot be bared on the very next move. (See below)
  9. Two bare Sultans (see above) count as a draw.
  10. Magic Flying Carpet squares: A piece that moves onto one of the four Magic Flying Carpet squares can choose to either leave the square in it's current location or immediately move it to any empty position in column A, spaces 3 through 7, or column K, spaces 3 through 7, thus ending their turn. If a player chooses not to move the Magic Flying Carpet square when they land on it they cannot move it on a subsequent turn unless they vacate the square and then go back to it. A piece does not have to move off of the Magic Flying Carpet square on a subsequent turn, but they cannot move the Magic Flying Carpet square again unless they vacate the square and then go back to it. A Magic Flying Carpet square will be left where it is until another piece moves onto the square and chooses to move it. Other than the rules above regarding movement of the square, in every other respect it is exactly like any other square on the board and is considered to be connected to the board at it's current location.

Computer Play

We would like to have a Zillions of Games format version of Arabian Nights Chess, but we have not been able to figure out how to implement it in time to submit a Zillions file for the 84 Spaces Contest.


We made a board out of poster board with 1 and 1/2 inch squares. For the playing pieces we used plastic checkers with a paper circle that we cut to fit in the middle, labeled with the initial of the piece it represented on one side and the piece it promoted to on the other. We have also used icon-type drawings instead of the initials.


This game was invented by Paul E. Newton and his son Timothy R. Newton. We hope to eventually work out a point-value system for Arabian Nights Chess. If you have questions, comments or suggestions on any aspect of the game you can e-mail us. (Find the email address via this link; editor.)
Written by Paul E. Newton. Html by Hans Bodlaender.