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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 2012-01-06 UTC
Thanks for putting up the diagrams Charles. However, I am not sure about the last form of Xiangqi before the cannons were added. It's possible the 2nd minister and 2nd counselor were only added along with the cannons, but I really don't know. I don't know how long the heavy middle-file version was played or how widely it was played. The 2nd counselor and 2nd minister could have been added independently before the cannons were added. I wasn't saying that pieces were brought to a new board and made worse on purpose. I don't necessarily believe the Indian civilization did such a thing. There is a theory proposed in Li's book (which is just a theory) that the 8x8 square board comes from China and is a simplified version of the 9x10 intersection board which is exactly 1/4 of a 19x19 full Go (Weiqi) board. If you add up 10x9 4 times, you will get 19x19. Therefore, if the 8x8 square board comes from China, then the same pieces were used, but they did not work properly until they were fixed in Europe several hundred years later. Another possibility is that between China and Persia or China and India, the pieces some how got moved over to the squares as a matter of cultural preference and essentially a different but similar game was created by playing on squares instead of intersection points. Yes, I agree that it does not make sense to make a game worse, but I don't know who or why someone would switch the same pieces to a slightly different board. All I do know is that its more logical for those original pieces to come from a board where they fit. Also, we shouldn't view the prime minister piece as an elephant because the whole concept of the prime minister not being able to cross the river is more about the minister not leaving its own countryside and not about an elephant not being able to cross a river. I also have no idea how the placement of the pawns are different in each game and most importantly, why the pawn in 8x8 Chess captures diagonally instead of straight forward. For a pawn to be able to capture diagonally and be a different movement is a more advanced concept than just pawns capturing straight forward and then to the side later on after it crosses the river. I believe that a pawn that captures diagonally but moves by going forward is a more modern concept than the Xiangqi pawn which is very straight forward. It wouldn't conclude anything based on this, but would lean towards the 8x8 pawn as being more of an evolution of chess and thus being later in the development stage. Anyway, I am making a simple game development observation. The 2 space moving minister and the 1 space moving counselor seem to come from the Xiangqi board and not the 8x8 Chaturanga or the other Shatranj. Whichever board those pieces fit better, means they are more likely to have been developed for that board. The goal is to figure out which game likely came first, not to figure out why someone or a civilization would move pieces to a slightly different board so they wouldn't work right. There are a lot of explanations for that, but to me that's a separate issue because I am not trying to figure out how the migration actually happened. Also, I think its highly unlikely that the Chinese could have gotten those pieces from a game that wasn't working right and applied a board that made those pieces fit right. Because, you've got to be a little lucky to do that. It's not impossible, but it's not how a game development process usually works. If the 8x8 game came first, the pieces would fit it and when they were moved to 9x10 intersection board, the movements would need to be changed in order to fit that board. It's strange to me to say that Xiangqi is an improvement of Chaturanga because that does not necessarily mean that Xiangqi came after Chaturanga just because its better. Chaturanga can come after Xiangqi and be the worse game because the original pieces were moved over to an 8x8 board and didn't work right anymore. It's an assumption to say that the better game must be dated after the worse game. There's more than one explanation for why Xiangqi works better than the original Chaturanga. Therefore, I never looked at which game was better. I just looked at the movements of the pieces and which board they seem to naturally fit. Also, nothing else from the history of Xiangqi points to any sort of Indian origin or borrowing from any foreign culture but looks inherently of Chinese origin. The 9x10 board can be derived from an already existing 19x19 Weiqi board. There is no indication of a palace in Chaturanga or a concept of a countryside and the prime minister needing to stay on its own side. These are all Chinese concepts and the Xiang piece has nothing to do with an elephant but just has the same sound of the word for elephant in Chinese. Xiang Qi's Xiang means 'live atmosphere' or 'live pieces'. That is the pieces are alive and can move around as opposed to static pieces in Weiqi. Remember, I said that the xiang comes from the Chinese word Qi Xiang. Elephant is Da Xiang. I know that knowledge of the Chinese language is perhaps beyond the purpose of this forum, but I think it should be pointed out because its critical to understand that Xiangqi has nothing to do with elephants either in names or the 2 space diagonal moving piece. It's a very big misunderstanding to think that the elephant was borrowed from the Indian army. Another thing to point out about the original Chaturanga board. The king/generals do not face each other. They are asymmetric. This could be because of the rule in Xiangqi that the generals cannot face each other due to their attack capability like a chariot(rook). This suggests that Chaturanga's placement of pieces could have been influenced by this rule in Xiangqi but was later abandoned in Shatranj. I don't think there's sufficient evidence of the game going from anywhere to anywhere, so I don't insist that Chaturanga comes from Xiangqi. I only insist that if we assume the 2 games have a common origin, that the pieces fit the Xiangqi board better. As far as how the migration could have happened or where the 8x8 board really comes from, I'm not sure. But to go back to the issue of what civilizations claim, I think that any civilization has the right to claim their own game as having come from within itself if it chooses to. As far as I know, I have not heard any Chinese scholar claim that India or Persia copied the game from China. They just say that Xiangqi comes from within China probably during the Spring and Autumn period. That's it. They don't claim that India and/or Persia copied it because there is nothing in literature or anything else that suggests this. Therefore, the Chinese scholars should have the right to make a claim about their own history unless we are saying here that the Chinese don't have that right. I am reading some writings by British authors in the late 1800's and they seem to indicate with strong authority that India is the birthplace and that 'China' has admitted to getting the game from India. How can anyone write that China or the Qing dynasty at that time has 'admitted' to getting the game from India? If the earliest indication of 8x8 Chess is from Persia or India in the 6th or 2nd century A.D., that's fine with me. I'm not insisting that the board comes from China. That's not the point. The point is, if the Chinese say their game is from a certain period of time in history, they should have the right to do so. That's the only 'grievance' that I really have because its kind of upsetting when its assumed that everything must be copied from an original 'Western' source even though India was not a part of the Western world in the 6th century. Even the name 'Chess' suggests precisely that its the original one. For people who grow up calling chess 'Chess' and may not be aware of Chinese Chess or Japanese Chess, would naturally think that if the Western version of the game is simply called 'Chess' and those others are called Chess with Japanese or Chinese in front of it, then that means (Euro or Western) Chess is the original or orthodox one. The most correct one instead of being just another form of chess in the world. I've seen an 11x10 version of Xiangqi and that version of Xiangqi definitely comes during the Song dyansty when some experimentation of Xiangqi was happening because they couldn't find a way to put the cannons on the back row. There was an apparent attempt to expand the board from the original 9x10 to 11x10 to fit the cannons, and it did not work. Finally, the cannons were left floating 2 points ahead of the horse and left there. So I appreciate the link you have, but I am pretty sure that 11x10 comes much later. If Murray uses the Song dynasty 11x10 as evidence that Xiangqi looks like that and suggests that it comes from a 10x10 board, I am sorry, but he didn't look hard enough. We all know that the original Xiangqi did not have cannons, so why would he show that board as an 'early' version of Xiangqi when he should have just said it was an 'a failed experiment' during the Song dynasty? It seems manipulative to show that 11x10 Xiangqi game as an earlier predecessor. There is no indication that there is any board pre-dating the 9x10 board in Xiangqi. I think the Weiqi theory makes perfect sense to me. You can cut up a 19x19 Weiqi board into 4 pieces and you will get four 9x10 boards. I apologize about the comments about Westerners saying Chess is better than Shogi and Xiangqi. I did not mean that this site endorses that kind of thinking in any way. This site is certainly not about that kind of thing. I was saying that this is a common perception in Western circles that Chess is the best game and that Xiangqi has limited attacking power. Among my Western friends, they seem to respect Shogi a bit more as a game. But as an observation of the game play, while Xiangqi has no pawn structure and therefore less positional complexity, and also has less attacking pieces and no pawn promotion (queen), the draw rate in the game is still lower than FIDE Chess which does not suggest inferiority. The game is more checkmate oriented due to the small palace the general is confined to which leads to more games ending in the middle game due to checkmate. At the highest levels, Xiangqi masters draw about 20% less than GM's in FIDE Chess, so the apparent lack of attacking material does not lead to more draws in Xiangqi. I'm not claiming either game is better than the other myself. I personally prefer FIDE Chess because its what I grew up on. The games have different kinds of complexities and I also correct the common Chinese belief that Xiangqi is just way better designed and more complex than Chess because it is certainly not the case in every regard.