The Chess Variant Pages
Custom Search


Chess origin is still a riddle. Many think the first form was Chaturanga, Indian name, or Chatrang, Persian name, known from the 7th century after Christ, is the oldest known form of chess. Others, think that the Chinese Xiang-Qi present several older features and should come from an earlier ancestor. The question is still open. If it draws you interest, have a look on the pages of the INITIATIVE GROUP KOENIGSTEIN.

For some reasons (detailled elsewhere) it has been interesting to study what could have been a seminal so-called "chinese" game with the minimal configuration. Such a simple game could be classified as an assault game or a blockade game. We must be clear: this is a pure speculation and such a game has never been attested in any sources (so far ?). However, it is already fun to play and show what could have been the origin of the King confinement and the Rook powerful move.

A Zillions-of-Games file is available, so you can play it.

Another reconstruction is the Proto-Chaturanga on the "Indo-persian" side of these reconstructions.


A game with only King and Pawns is boring and of few interests here. Quickly it appeared in this reconstruction the need for a long-range piece as the Rook. The most ancient Chinese sources give a limited move for the Rook, with no possibility of backward move. (Some "chessologists" think that this is the ancestor of the Lance in the Japanese Shogi). Then, it was such a limited Chariot which have been included here.

Opening setup

The game is played on a board with nine by ten intersections (as for modern Xiang-Qi). At the sides of the board there are two palaces: areas of size three by three points: these are distinguished by the cross that goes through it.

General e2; Rooks a1, i1; Pawns a4, c4, e4, g4, i4.

General e9; Rooks a10, i10; Pawns a7, c7, e7, g7, i7.

Moves of pieces

The General moves 1 step square horizontally or vertically, and may not leave the palace. The two kings cannot face each other on the same file. If red's king is on e1 and blue's king is on e9 and there are no pieces directly between them on the e-file, then that is an illegal position. If black's king is the only piece on the f-file, then red's king on the e-file cannot move to the f file.

The Pawn or Soldier takes in the same way as it moves without taking. When a pawn is at his own side of the board, he can move 1 step straight forward. When a pawn has the river crossed and hence is at the opponents side of the board, he can either move 1 step straight forward, or 1 step straight to the left or to the right. Pawns never promote: when on the last row, they only can move left and right

The Rook or Chariot moves any number of points straight ahead or laterally. It never slides backward. When on the last row, it only can move left and right.

Mate and stalemate

There are two ways to win: checkmate or stalemate the opponent King.

Play yourself Proto-Xiang-Qi

You can play Proto-Xiang-Qi if you own Z-o-G. Download this zip-file:


This file proposes a variant using a 9 x 9 points board. This is interesting because it corresponds exactly to the 8 x 8 squares board used for Chaturanga (and modern Chess).

Studies of this configuration showed that placing the Pawns on the 4th row gives too many draws. A solution is to place them on the 3rd row. At this moment, I have no opinion on which variant could be a better candidate for inclusion in the genealogic tree of chess (if this has a sense ...)

WWW page December 29, 1999 by Jean-Louis CAZAUX.