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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2016-05-03
 Author: Fergus  Duniho. Chaturanga. The first known variant of chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Jason L. wrote on 2011-12-26 UTC
The initial known version of Xiangqi has one minister in front of the general at the top of the palace and one counselor or scholar behind the general where the general is located at the start of the game in the modern version of Xiangqi. I also pointed out that Janggi has the general in the middle of the palace like in the initial version of Xiangqi which suggests that having the general or king there is the actual initial placement of the general/king. Please refer to David Li's book for the diagram for the initial look of Xiangqi. I am not endorsing the story he tells in his book. Just pointing out the diagram in the book. Take the middle column of the palace in Xiangqi, and put the counselor on the first rank, the general on the 2nd rank, and the minister on the 3rd rank. That was the original setup. That plus 5 pawns or foot soldiers in the initial positions and a chariot and horse in the corners of the board. There were no other pieces on the back rank. Therefore, out of 9 possible points on the back rank, only 5 of them were occupied. My point is that the initial version of Xiangqi which I have just described does NOT look like it is developed from Chaturanga because it has less pieces and looks less developed with the back rank unfilled. A game with its back rank filled to begin with is more developed and is probably developed at a later date, if we assume that Chaturanga and Xiangqi are related games with similar pieces on different boards. Once again, a game that has 16 pieces in it to start with is probably more modern than a game with 12 pieces that eventually became 16 a side also. In Xiangqi's development, the 2nd counselor and 2nd minister were only added after a period of time and perhaps at the time the cannons were added. In Chaturanga, or Persian Chess, or any version of 8x8 chess, all have 2 ministers/bishops to start with suggesting that they appear later in the timeline of chess. They never had more than one counselor or fers because there is only 8 spaces on the back rank of an 8x8 board. I didn't say the first 8x8 game had 2 counselors, but it did have 2 elephants/ministers in it which Xiangqi initially did not have. How do you argue that a game where the pieces need development is the earlier one and a game where the pieces do not need to be changed is a later one? The chances of that are against game design common sense. If the 1 step moving counselor and 2 step moving minister do not need to be improved in Xiangqi, that means that those pieces were designed for that board. If the original chess was from 8x8, why would anyone put those pieces there? They don't seem to fit. It's more likely that they came from another game and the game stayed that way for centuries because of tradition, but the game was not a fully developed game. You say it can be argued that a game not requiring improvement of the movement of the pieces could have been improved from a predecessor. Where is it then? They cannot find a version of Xiangqi earlier than the one I have just described, and a one step moving counselor seems pretty basic to me as well as a 2 step moving minister. Both are about as simple as pieces as I can think of. What could have preceded a 1 step diagonal moving counselor? A non-moving counselor that just sits there and cannot move? If we assume that chess pieces have always been able to move at least 1 space, there is no piece that could have preceded a 1 step moving piece. I am not saying that your argument cannot be true. I am just saying that it is unlikely that the counselor and minister had any kind of movement to it that could have been different. Only the placement of those pieces and the number of them changed over time according to the information we have about Xiangqi's development. Once again, if we assume that chess games have a common origin, the earliest known movement of the pieces would probably fit the board its been placed on. Chaturanga and Xiangqi have similar moving pieces and 2 of them fit in Xiangqi and do not fit in Chaturanga. That means that those 2 pieces suggest that they were from Xiangqi and not Chaturanga. Isn't it common sense that a civilization or person developing a game, would design movement for pieces that fit the board they are being played on? No one would do something illogical unless there was a matter of tradition involved. As in 8x8 Chess was played with a 2 space diagonal jumping bishop in Europe for several centuries until the long range bishop was finally accepted as the standard piece. Russia played with the 2 space moving bishop and the 1 space moving fers for about 2 centuries while Western Europe moved to the long range bishop and long range queen in the late 15th century. This was due to tradition that they did not want to break in Russia because chess had already been played like that for centuries. There's more than one way for the river to be added and the river to be taken out. I am not insisting it happened one way or the other. It is quite easy to look at a 9x10 intersection board with the river in it and just play within the squares. Any trader traveling between China and Persia can do that spontaneously and essentially create a different but related game. It's harder to take the 8x8 board and add the river because that would take more thinking. My argument is that there is precisely an 8x8 board of square within a 9x10 intersection board because the river has no lines going through it so if you count only squares on a 9x10 intersection board, you get 64. I am saying that in the timeline of Xiangqi within Chinese historical circles who do not look at Western sources, there is no one who believes that Xiangqi was developed during the Tang dynasty which is what the 6-8th century was in China. Although the specific timeline is not agreed upon among Chinese scholars, the Spring and Autumn period is the most agreed upon period of time that Xiangqi was originally developed. One of the reasons was because the pieces and the palace concept is from the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period. That is 5th-2nd century B.C. That means Xiangqi's believed timeline among Chinese historians who study Xiangqi's history or supposed history, believe the game was first developed around 700-1000 years before Tang dynasty. This conclusion was not made to counter Western arguments that all forms of chess were developed from Chaturanga in 6th century A.D. It was made internally and with no intention of starting a war of words between the East and West. I do agree that the 8x8 Chess can be linked back to 6th century India or 2nd century Persia, but there is no reason either from game design development or anything in history to suggest that Xiangqi is borrowed from a different game. What we do know is that similar games with similar moving pieces and slightly different boards popped up in India, Persia, and China by the 6th century. Which game came from which is a matter of opinion as we don't have any hard evidence of it going one way or the other. Therefore, it shouldn't be some hard fact that chess comes from India 6th century because similar games already appeared in Persia and China 400 years or more before chess is known to have appeared in India. What do you mean that my argument that games finishing their development at different points means nothing? We know when the long range bishop and long range queen were agreed upon to be in the 8x8 game. Late 15th century in Europe. This is not in dispute. The bishop was taken from the Courier in Courier Chess in Germany which comes from 13th century approximately. So what do you mean, in existence for centuries? That seems kind of generalized. I am only stating 2 accepted dates of the final development of modern 8x8 Chess in Europe and 9x10 Xiangqi in China. 8x8 Chess in Europe was late 15th century, and Xiangqi was Song dynasty in China which is about 500 years or more before late 15th century. That suggests, but does not prove that Xiangqi is an earlier game because it finished its development much earlier than Chess and did not need to change the movements of any of its pieces. In fact all Xiangqi did was add the 2 cannons and an extra counselor and minister to finish the game. That was an easier development than Chess which required more changes. Not just to the bishop and and queen, but 2 space moving pawns, en passant, and castling. Moves like castling and en passant, and 2 space moving pawns are definitely more modern concepts in Chess than anything in Xiangqi which plays very much more like an archaic game. Please be more specific when you say that the bishop and queen in their modern form had already been around for centuries. From which point? If we go back to the earliest known long range diagonal moving piece in Europe, it was in Courier Chess played on a 12x8 board which also had the 2 space moving minister in it also. All of this took place after Xiangqi was finished in its development. This suggests but does not prove that Xiangqi has an earlier start date because less work was needed to finish the game. To believe the opposite is more likely is saying that a game that takes longer in its development process and needs really special rules like en passant and castling precedes a game that did not require much change 500 years beforehand. It's not impossible, but it's unlikely. That's why I think it's silly that the Western world says with absolute authority that chess comes from India without a second thought to it and that China and Japan just copied it. That seems like a bully kind of mentality and not a commitment to actually studying what most likely happened in history.