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The Chess Variant Pages

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Todor Tchervenkov wrote on 2020-05-02 UTC

I knew the rules of Shatranj for a few years but had never attempted an actual game. But these days I'm again delving into historic Chess variants. My primary goal is to find a few sample games of Shatranj which would hopefully let me understand why the game was appreciated (for me it is just impossible to play it: I fill lost when I open it in Zillions, I don't know where to go, what short term goals to pursue).

While searching for sample games, I discovered the astonishing lack of historic recorded games of Shatranj. I found but two, dating back to the Xth century. It turns out that apparently Shatranj was never played from the initial setup. Players would agree on a standartized position -- which could be called an opening in modern terms -- and would use it as actual setup. I found sixteen examples of such openings but without an analysis of their strengths and weakness it is still difficult to use them. One can still admire their poetic names.

In my opinion, we see Shatranj as a poor, uninteresting game just because we don't know enough about it. It would be so nice if somebody could provide us with the analysis of As-Suli, mentioned by George Duke back in 2008 in the first comment to this page. Perhaps more knowledge of the actual way this game was played would allow us to better appreciate it, since initial setup, piece movement and winning conditions don't seem to be enough?

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