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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]
Anonymous wrote on 2002-04-22 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Joe wrote on 2002-04-30 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
it helped me with all my chess needs thanks!

Anonymous wrote on 2002-05-07 UTCGood ★★★★
give more history?

Anonymous wrote on 2002-03-20 UTCGood ★★★★

Anonymous wrote on 2002-03-11 UTCGood ★★★★
the page gives good information but when you show the games you sould be aloud to play a mini version of the game and see if it is intresting because from what i read i thought these games look fun and i would like to play a number of them before i download it. thanks for you time.

Anonymous wrote on 2002-02-12 UTCPoor ★
this is completely in error, chataranga is a four player game pre-dating crist, you dopes.

Anonymous wrote on 2001-08-23 UTCGood ★★★★

Anonymous wrote on 2001-03-13 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Great! I have to try Chaturanga with my friends. Very interesting!

Anonymous wrote on 2000-12-06 UTCGood ★★★★
At least pople are agreeing that India had some form of chess from the earliest of times Thanx for the info.

Anonymous wrote on 2000-11-02 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Holly crap I've never been to a site with so much info on chess....i mean wow this is a really good site and im a huge chess fan

Anonymous wrote on 2000-09-26 UTCGood ★★★★
This site is o.k. but you should let people play chess on it!

gnohmon wrote on 2002-05-11 UTC
If a reader says 'give me more history', then there should be a prominent paragraph with links to: history, shatranj, xiang qi, shogi. Skip if you've heard this story. When I was 14 years old or so, I used to go to the library every week to read some more of HJR Murray's thousand page history of chess, week after week until I finished. And when I finished, I knew that Chess was not just this one little game with one specific set of rules that I strived to master (and since I'm a national master and an FM, I guess you can say that I did so), no, Chess was not just one game with one set of rules, but rather Chess was a big thing, with billions and billious of games with a wide range of rules. Therefore, according to my own experience, one of the best ways to promote chess variants is to teach the history of chess. Chess variant people often like to make new rules more than they like to play the games; and often also they are less skillful at playing the games than they are at making the rules. Rarely one finds the Chess Variant inventor who is superhuman at chess but totally naive at variants (the two prime examples are Fischer and Capablanca). During my lifetime, the field of chess variants has advanced to an incredible degree. To a large extent I have been able to lead because the average of my chess skill and my variant skill is far higher than anybody else -- and I am not ashamed to claim that my average of the two skills is higher than the divine Parton or the superhuman Fischer -- and if you spread the word about chess history can you imagine what will happen in the future? Imagine an era when chessmasters routinely know about Shatranj and Shogi and Xiang Qi and the Colorbound Clobberers! In such a utopia, the very best ideas that you or I have had will be seen as mere fumblings in the dark by ignorant savages -- and the perception will be correct. Have you met any Grandmasters? Have you played? Do you truly understand how both their knowledge and their wisdom of Chess is far beyond what a mere mortal can hope to achieve? I have; as a mere master, I have what's needed to appreciate the greatness of grandmasters. Imagine an era when Grandmasters of Chess are also routinely Grandmasters of Chess Variants. ((Emanuel Lasker imagined it although he never proposed any variants.)) ... and the one thing you can do to facilitate this vision is to make it easier for people to learn about the history of Chess!

olivia wrote on 2002-06-04 UTCPoor ★
i dont really like this site sorry!

Anonymous wrote on 2002-06-06 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Anonymous wrote on 2002-06-06 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

JULZINE wrote on 2002-06-10 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I think this is a great site. :-) I was interested at the remarkably direct connection across disparate cultures; and remember that chess is a game of intellect and skill...a really deep thought, eh?

Anonymous wrote on 2002-06-12 UTCGood ★★★★
No history.Bad for school kids.doesn't give you inside info.The info on SHogi(or whatever it is is good.Not Bad all up!

Roberto wrote on 2002-06-14 UTCGood ★★★★
Provided the info I wanted, and more. Gracias.

Joshua Roy wrote on 2002-06-14 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I liked this page because it gave me good imformation on my school project and it was interesting too.

Sam wrote on 2002-06-27 UTCPoor ★
This page doesn't tell you one thing that would help you on any project. And also I have a very old encyclopeida which told me that when ever a pawn got to the end of the board it had to be promoted into a queen, which could only move one spot diagonally. Also you do not tell me how this connects to chiness chess in anyway. For example, how did the chiness come up with a cannon piece if it was based off of this game. Also many historyians have said that all types of chess were based off of chiness chess. In other words, you need more information and resource that would prove what you have just put down on your website.

David Howe wrote on 2002-07-27 UTC
I have added more historical and background information in the form of a sidebar.

Steve Nichols wrote on 2002-08-04 UTCPoor ★
Murray's notion that 2-sided Chatrang predates the 4-sided Chaturanga is totally wrong. Where is some evidence? What about previous chess historian Prof Duncan Forbes proof for the priority of the 4-sided game? No mention of Stuart Cullen either. An appalling summary of Chaturanga that should be removed from the web!

Peter Aronson wrote on 2002-08-05 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Honestly! See Jean-Louis Cazaux's page on the relative ages of 2-handed and 4-handed Chaturanga. It can be found at: <ul> <li><a href=''></a> </ul> Neither Forbes nor Cullen are considered exactly up-to-date sources, you know.

Anonymous wrote on 2002-08-07 UTC
At first glance, I assumed that the 'rating' was of the person, not of the site.

Glenn Overby II wrote on 2002-08-07 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Well, I had to go view the complainant's cited page, to give him his due, and it might appear that he, or at least someone, has a modest commercial interest in this issue. I might be more inclined to give his views some thought...especially since I once held them...but for his utter lack of politeness. The preponderance of the evidence in 2002 argues for the 2-handed game being first, possibly by centuries, but the question is surely not settled.

Sam wrote on 2002-08-14 UTCGood ★★★★
I like the information that was added in, but can we really prove that this game came before chinese chess?

Peter Aronson wrote on 2002-08-14 UTC
The real problem in determining which came first, Chaturanga or Xiangqi (or more likely, the ancestors of each) that when you come down to it, historically games have not been considered important enought to be frequently mentioned in the historical record. Last I knew, we had earlier clear mentions for Chaturanga than Xiangqi, but this may not mean very much -- both games could easily have been played for centuries without making their way into a surviving document. <p> Of course, there is also the issue that with commerce between east and west, the two games could have 'co-evolved' with <em>neither</em> of them coming clearly before the other.

Nigel Shaughnessy wrote on 2002-09-01 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
The black pawn that moves to, let us say b8, will get promoted to a knight. But what if it moved diagonally to b8 from a7 (by capturing)? Does it become a rook or knight? Please email me at [email protected] or [email protected]

Nigel Shaughnessy wrote on 2002-09-01 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I can nowhere find in your site the chess game called 'Indian Style Chess' which is played by many orthodox families especially in Delhi (India). The features different from the international style are: (1) Instead of castling, king moves 'horsefully' once in the game before check (once check given, loses privilege); (2) Kings & Queens not aligned (each king faces opp queen); (3) Pawn moving once forward only; (4) Promotion only on rank piece (rook, bishop, knight, queen) [not clear about exact rule re this]; (5) King cannot be left alone on board: must have at least a piece or two pawns i.e. if Black has only king & queen, then White cannot kill the queen. Please tell me where I can find the rules of Indian Style Chess? Please email me at [email protected] or [email protected]

David Howe wrote on 2002-09-02 UTC
According to David Pritchard, there is no single set of rules for Indian Chess. I will work on a web page describing the common ruleset.

WRWilliams wrote on 2002-11-02 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Wonderful research done here. Please keep up the good work. How could we be of help to you? I hope to start playing soon. Could you give me websites? I'm at [email protected]

Anonymous wrote on 2002-11-03 UTCPoor ★

Anonymous wrote on 2002-11-09 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
LOVED it thankyou thankyou thankyou. i want to start a board games club at my school, where people can play not just the ordinary games but also games like chaturanga and also ancient viking games i've been researching. your site was an awesome help. if it all works i'll DEFINITELY be teaching them all chaturanga. if anyone thinks of any other usual or rare games we should play please email the name, (and rules if you can ;))... [email protected] i love your site so much... i can't wait to teach my sister the original of all chess. wow.

nellyfan wrote on 2002-12-13 UTC
Nothing about chess

nellyfan wrote on 2002-12-13 UTC
Nothing about chess

Anonymous wrote on 2003-02-21 UTCPoor ★
your history is an error.(even though, i do give you credit for trying!) however, you said nothing about current chess that is played in tournaments and such. if you added this info., then you be improving greatly.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-03-02 UTCGood ★★★★
This is the only reference that I have seen to the rule that pawns must promote to the piece on whose square they promote, which I suspect may have been a variation to the usual rules. In fact the rule could be adapted as a minor variation to most kinds of chess, although it would not suit Shogi. My one reservation is the problem of the king's square, which I feel should be treated as its symmetric neighbour (counsellor or queen) for this purpose.

Mike Wilson wrote on 2003-05-09 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
The page itself and the resource is just wonderful, as always. The explanation of Chaturanga is definitely useful and playable. The history may be in error; see <A HREF=''></A> for a detailed discussion of the origin of chess. Hans, you may wish to include a link to this discussion and/or some of the content in your pages!

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-05-25 UTC
Sam Sloan's website shows a strong perference for a Chinese origin, but I find an Indian origin more likely. Horses and chariots were established in Indian armies by the time Chaturanga was invented, hence the name meaning an army that included them. Chariots as pieces were derived with the board from the older game of Ashtapada. Elephants must surely have been a piece in India first, and a feature added in India to a Chinese game would be unlikerly to find its way into the original. It is more plausible that the Chinese invented a game on square corners with undifferentiated pieces, discovered that the Indians had one on square centres with varied pieces, and adapted the Indian pieces for the Chinese board. An interesting way to combine ancient and modern would be what I term Recapitulative Chess: a 9rx8f Chaturanga variant allowing promotion (on the 9th rank) of Elephants to Bishops, Ferzes to Queens, and Pawns to any modern piece. The extra rank is required because Elephants cannot reach the 8th!

Anonymous wrote on 2003-05-27 UTCGood ★★★★
1. Elephants were indeed present in China at the time of invention of Chinese Chess (203BC), as were horsemen and chariots, as demonstrated in David Li's book The Origins of Chess (<a href=' 3?vi=glance'> 3?vi=glance</a>). For example, Sun Tzu's The Art of War mentions chariots and recommends that they be positioned at the sides for a real army, hence their positions in the game that mimicks a real army. <br><br> As a side note, Murray's research is incomplete because he did not have proficiency in the Chinese language and did his best with documents of Indian origin. <br><br> 2. It is more likely that the Chinese had the pieces on the points in the tradition of Wei Qi (Go), also invented in China even earlier than Chinese Chess, and that their Indian discoverers, not knowing that the pieces belong on the points, decided to put them within the squares instead. It is equally likely that the Indian discoverers gave the game a name that they were more familiar with (Chaturanga, for example) since they did not understand the Chinese name for it (Xiang Qi, pronounced Shang chi). <br><br> 3. For the differentiated pieces in Chinese Chess, David Li's response: 'As noted in my book, proto-chess (the earliest form of chess of any kind, the forerunner of Xiangqi) was invented in 203 BCE by Han Xin, the commander-in-chief of Han, during the period of Chu-Han Conflict, where Chu was a border-state whose language was different from Han's. Incidentally, the color of Han's flag was red; that of Chu, black. Thus, in Xiangqi, the color of the two sides are red and black, with red considered the superior force. <br><br> The reason for the slight differences in characters is, again, to convey the superiority of red pieces. Generally, as to the chariot, the red piece has 'man' as the radical, while the black piece has none -- this is to suggest that the black chariot is unmanned (the man/men occupying the chariot had fled); ditto for the horse (manned in red and unmanned in black). The word for the black pawn has, as one of its many meanings, dead, thereby conveying similar meanings of red's superiority.' <br><br> The idea is to imply that the side of the army that the inventor was commanding was superior.

Anonymous wrote on 2003-06-11 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Amazing work! I got all the information i needed from this sight

hemp wrote on 2003-06-25 UTCGood ★★★★
not excellent because you not specified a free game. i think ocidental chess is better. i think the idea of promotion in chaturanga is nice, but not filosophic. i love the passage. the chess we play in ocident is perfect. like partenon.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-06-28 UTC
All right, I did not know that war elephants were used in China, nor do I yet know to what extent. They were used intermittently around the Mediterranean (Rome v Carthage might be an interesting Chess with Different Armies) but were hardly the norm there, and I suspect that this may also have been true in China. They were worthy enough of remark for the Chinese game to be named after them. In India they were familiar in both military and civilian life. The tale of the red and black flags is evocative enough but how much truth there is in it is another matter. There are plenty of legends of the origins of Chess, both prose and verse, and many of them are singularly unconvincing. Incidentally Hemp's comment uses an old-fashioned definition of the Orient-Occident divide. A century ago India and even the Middle East were described as Oriental because culture there was exotic to Europeans. However increasing ethnic awareness has led to humans in most of those parts being recognised as ethnically far closer to Europeans than to East Asians and therefore included as Occidentals. It is this modern divide that is used in the Oriental Variants index, which covers only variants from, or based on those from, East Asia. Another example is my describing the Knight as Occidental when contrasting it with its nearest Shogi and Xiang Qi equivalents; I am not neglecting India but including it.

st wrote on 2003-07-27 UTCGood ★★★★
is there a company that sells Chaturanga sets??

Baz wrote on 2003-08-01 UTC
Chaturanga CD Rom is advertised at

Miles wrote on 2003-08-10 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Wow! This page rocks!!! I've always wanted to play Chaturanga ever since I read about it in my encyclopedia, but my encyclopedia did not explain how the game was played. Thanks to this website, I not only know the rules of Chaturanga, but I also know that it can be played with a regular chessboard. I wish Chinese chess was like that, because a regular chessboard is the only one I have right now.

Skye wrote on 2003-08-12 UTC
does this game have black and white squares or are they all one color?

Tony Quintanilla wrote on 2003-08-12 UTC
The ancient forms of chess, Chaturanga and Shatranj used uncheckered boards.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-10-04 UTCGood ★★★★
Further to the last comment the authentic 'Ashtapada', though unchequered, did have some patterning. The intersections of ranks 1/4/5/8 and files a/d/e/h were marked with an X.

Kksis wrote on 2003-11-08 UTCGood ★★★★
Not the best for younger such as 9&10 year olds but informative

John Ayer wrote on 2003-11-23 UTC
Here is something I found posted in a Gnostic interpretation of chess and its history. The web source is . I have, as usual, corrected punctuation, spelling, capitalization, spacing, and such superficial matters: <p>The German historian Johannes Kohtz (1843-1918) supposed that in the protochess the Rook was also a jumping figure, with a mobility limited to a third square. So the squares accessible to a Rook in h1 would be f1 and h3, and later in the game f3, d3, d1, b1, b3, b5, d5, f5, h5, h7, f7, d7 and b7. His theory makes a lot of sense (in spite of Murray's rejection after long arguments by post), because the three jumping pieces (Alfil, Knight, and Rook) represent a diagonal, hook-curved and rectilinear movement of the same range. It also expresses a perfect ranking order: The King and the Knight are the only pieces which can move to any of the 64 squares. The Firzan has half of the board, 32. The Rook half of that, 16 squares. And the Alfil, half of that, 8. <p>The striking fact, unnoticed by Kohtz in his last work of 1917, is that a jumping Rook produces also the same magic sum of 260 in the Safadi or in the Mercury board. For instance: 57-6-43-24-40-27-54-9=260. The same happens in the previous and more widely known magic square of Mercury. The four corners of each quadrant of 4x4 in the magic board sum half of the constant, 130. This reinforcement of Kohtz's theory seems to me decisive. <p>The marvellous Safadi board has, in all probability, predetermined the different movements and classes of pieces in protochess. However, once the Arabs acquired the game from the Persians, the Rook evolved into a long range piece, becoming the most powerful element of the chess army. This evolution can be explained logically as a necessity once the idea of checkmate has appeared, again according to Kohtz. In the first legend of Firdawsi, the game re-discovered by Buzurdjmir was as follows: 'The sage has invented a battlefield, in the midst (of which) the king takes up his station. To left and right of him the army is disposed, the foot-soldiers occupying the rank in front. At the king's side stands his sagacious counsellor advising him on the strategy to be carried out during the battle. In two directions the elephants are posted with their faces turned towards where the conflict is. Beyond them are stationed the war horses, on which are mounted two resourceful riders, and fighting alongside them on either hand to left and right are the turrets ready for the fray.' <p> Note from John Ayer: 'turrets' is a definite mistranslation and anachronism. <p> By the number of pieces it is easy to know that in this game the board was of 8x8 squares, though nothing is said about the rules of movement or the aim of the game. This gap is filled in the second Firdawsian chess legend about two half brothers Gau and Talhend (two typical Persian names), the latter being killed by the former during a civil war. To explain to the queen of 'Hend' who was the mother of both how her son came to die, the game of chess, which represented a battle, was invented. But it is a different game. The board is 10x10 and had perhaps a dividing line in the middle, as in today's Chinese chess, because the text says: 'This (the game) represents a trench and a battle field onto which armies had been marched. A hundred squares were marked out on the board for the manoeuvring of the troops and the kings' which is also a board of 10x10 cases, where is impossible to build a 'perfect Caissan magic square' like Safadi's. This time the movement of the pieces is described. There are three pieces jumping to a third square in diagonal, rectilinear or hook-curved direction. But there is a fourth piece which was the most powerful of all: 'None could oppose it, but it attacked everywhere in the field'. <p>This piece must be the long-ranging Rook, the most powerful figure of the set. Again according to Kohtz's theory, instead of the previous jumping Rook, the long-ranging Rook was adopted as well in the 8x8 board as a necessity once a checkmate becomes the main goal of the game. Check and check-mate have already appeared, as the beautiful text explains: <p>'If a player saw the king during the struggle he called out aloud, 'King, beware!' and the king then left his square, continuing to move until he was hemmed in. This occurred when every path was closed to the king by castle, horse, counsellor or the rest of the army. The king, gazing about in all directions, saw the army encircling him, water and trenches blocking his path and troops to left and right, before and behind. Exhausted by toil and thirst, the king is rendered helpless; that is the decree whch he receives from the revolving sky.' <p>Where did the new idea came from? Since the moment when the fate of the king decides the victory in the game, the value of this piece increases enormously because of its 'divinization' and inviolability. In a way, chess has become a monotheistic game. The cultural atmosphere in ancient Persia fits well with the implicit idea. In contrast to Greece, were a king was only 'primus inter pares', basically equal in his human nature to his subordinates, a Persian 'Shahanshah' was worshiped almost as a God. 'The ruler possessed a special quality in the eyes of his subjects, which was called 'farn' or 'farr' in New Persian, 'farrah' in Middle Persian, 'xvarana' in Avestan. Originally meaning 'life force', 'activity' or 'splendour', it came to mean 'victory', 'fortune' and specially the royal fortune' (R. Frye.op.cit. p.8) <p>There is a well known story in the biographies of Alexander the Great. At his beginning, he was a 'normal' Greek leader, but after conquering the Persian throne he warmed to the way Persian courtiers treated him as a God. He intended to receive the same 'proskinesis' from his countrymen, but Callisthenes refused to genuflect and was murdered in revenge by Alexander's hand. The 'agon' in chess and its voluntaristic message points basically to a Hellenistic background. But 'Shah-mat' in chess, an expression which has kept its Persian root in all languages during the chess evolution, may have its origin in the influences irradiating from Persian cultural ground. <p> End of quotation. The description of the king perishing of exhaustion and thirst seems to me to be strongly influenced by the miserable fate of the Imam Husayn at Karbila. Note that, while 'Shah mat' does indeed mean 'The king is dead,' the king cannot actually be killed, and the Persian phrase is a corruption of 'Shah-i-mandaz,' 'The king is helpless.' <p>Now, assuming this conjecture, we have a pre-chess on an eight-square board with king and ferz in the central files, flanked by alfil, knight, and dabbabah, with single-step pawns on the second rank. The conjecture assumes that check and checkmate had not appeared, so perhaps the battle was to the annihilation of one side. Does anyone consider this a reasonable conjecture? I will welcome any actual discussion, whether favorable or otherwise to the hypothesis. <p>According to Murray's _History of Chess_, one early attempt to improve chaturanga, while still in India, was to change the alfil to a dabbabah.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-12-10 UTC
The changes described by John Ayer are possible, but to me it suggests a need felt by the introducers of the modern Bishop and Queen to justify such radical changes. The change to what became the Bishop would seem more respectable if the same had happened to the Rook a millennium earlier. The growing and reshrinking of the board also has modern echoes in Courier.

John Ayer wrote on 2003-12-18 UTC
Kohtz's idea is that the same thing did happen a millenium earlier: that the original piece on the corners was what we now call a Dabbabah, and that it was joined and then replaced by the Rook.

Anonymous wrote on 2004-02-11 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
im from new zealand yeah thats right and next rugby world cup well win woo hoo go the all blacks good site though

Greg Strong wrote on 2004-07-12 UTC
<p>I am implementing this game for ChessV, but am unclear about the pawn promotion. It says that a pawn can only promote to a specific type, and only if a piece of that type has been captured. So what if no piece of that type has been captured? The pawn moves to that square and stays there forever? or stays there until a piece of that type is captured? or just disappears? or isn't even allowed to move to the eigth rank in the first place? And does this apply to the E1 and D8 squares? <p>And I'm probably reaching here, but anyone know if there was a repetition rule?

Anonymous wrote on 2004-07-13 UTCPoor ★
needs more info for me 2 write my research paper for history. i am writing about the significance of the pieces. post more information on it. i will be back fri. to check it out.

Tony Quintanilla wrote on 2004-07-14 UTC
For historical research, may I recommend Murray's classic, 'A History of Chess'. It should be in print or available at a good library:

Este wrote on 2004-08-29 UTCGood ★★★★
Murry's book is an excellent source of games though historically speaking it now appears out of date. At this moment the evidence supporting Shatranj & even Chinese chess as being older than Chatarunga is overwhelming. Even on this page the words 'what could be chess pieces' 'doubted by some' are used. All thats missing on this brilliant site is an history section. I'm sure your presentation would be much more interesting than some sites, where opinions are expressed rather than facts.

Greg Strong wrote on 2004-12-25 UTC
I am confused about pawn promotion. It says 'A pawn may only promote on b8 to a knight, and only if a player has already lost a knight' ... What if the player has lost no Knight? can the pawn still more there? If so, what happens if a Knight is captured later? Thanks!

George Duke wrote on 2004-12-28 UTC
I play Chaturanga again now in GC, but have not yet checked Murray's 'HOC' about this apparent ambiguity. 1000-1400 yrs. ago there were not so many programmers or lawyers to obsess every eventuality. Seriously, pieces are much more active than the one-step-only pawns, so it hardly comes up. I interpret that if you move Pawn to an 8th square, when ineligible to promote, it sits there and cannot move again.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2004-12-30 UTC
Why would it have to stuck permanently? What would happen if the appropriate piece was captured? I know of some more recent forms of Chess where a Pawn reaching the promotion rank stayed a Pawn until a back-rank was captured, allowing instant promotion. This was abandoned in favour of free promtion due to a general dislike of some of the odder results, e.g. a capture being disallowed because the captured piece would reappear aand put the King in check. Personally I don't find this much different from a capture being disallowed because the would-be captor is pinned.

George Duke wrote on 2004-12-30 UTC
Charles Gilman does not describe Chaturanga promotion as it was played from yr. 600 for many centuries. It looks like Chat. Pawns stop and cannot move from the last rank on any one of three conditions: (1) if at e1 or d8 (2) if at d1 or e8 and Ferse is still in play (3) if at any other square-8 and one's paired same-array-filed pieces are on board. Shatranj, overlapping historically by yr. 700, primarily changes the very promotion rule to Ferse-only (what it is eventually called), eliminating those no-promotion cases. Makruk (What's New last week) preserves to present day that 'weak-Queen' ferz promotion. To players, no promotion at times after 6 steps brings to bear strategic considerations. It can mean waiting at rank 2 or 7; or moving to 1 or 8 and not promoting, but blocking or abetting checks, or even winning by forcing stalemate.

help!!! wrote on 2005-01-10 UTC
i have to give a speech on chess does anyone have any good websites on the histry of chess?

Andreas Kaufmann wrote on 2005-01-11 UTC
May be you find something interesting on or

George Duke wrote on 2005-01-12 UTC
In accompanying Comment under Chaturanga here 11.May.02(Scroll down), Ralph Betza says, 'The average of my chess skill and my variant skill is far higher than anybody else--and I am not ashamed to claim that my average of the two skills is higher than the divine Parton or the superman Fischer...' Interesting. All the more unfortunate no word from Betza since about August 2003 precisely when Game Courier was coming aboard. Imagine play of Chess-Different-Armies at some Fischer level a la Betza.

David Paulowich wrote on 2005-01-15 UTC
Ralph Betza: FIDE Master <p>I believe that his title requires a previous FIDE rating of 2300 or more. Search the forgotten corners of the Web and you may still find a copy of the 1994 USCF ratings list, giving his national rating as 2330. Ralph was kind enough to play a few chess variant games with me by email in the late 1990s. Currently he is mostly invisible, apart from the odd post on the newsgroups by 'gnohmon'.

David Paulowich wrote on 2005-01-15 UTC
Ralph Betza in Japan: October 1997 <p>After examining my old email files, I can state that Ralph was playing Go in Tokyo at that time, but not Shogi. Even then he was 'semi-retired' from chess (and variants). Too bad he never had the chance to play in some sort of 'IRON MAN WORLD CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP' - involving equal numbers of games of FIDE Chess, Shogi, and Xiangqi. Perhaps should arrange a triple-variant ladder tournament for those interested.

George Duke wrote on 2005-01-16 UTC
Yes, I should have noted Ralph Betza's CVP comments too are signed 'ghohmon', when quoting his (Chat. 11.May.02) statement 'the average of my chess skill and variant skill is far higher than...divine Parton or superhuman Fischer.' The very same Comment here begins, 'Chess variant people often like to make new rules more than they like to play the games; and often also they are less skillful at playing the games...' Lots more insight in just that one comment.

Mason Green wrote on 2005-02-15 UTCGood ★★★★
For the most part, this is a good page on Chaturanga. However, it doesn't say what happens when a pawn reaches the King's starting square. Does it promote to a prince, as in Tamerlane's Chess? That doesn't seem likely, because princes are mentioned nowhere on the page. Maybe the pawn just stays there without promoting. Or does it promote to a Counsellor? Another thing--some earlier comments discussed whether 2 or 4 player chaturanga was older, with the theory that 4-players was the first version being 'refuted' almost immediately. However, I have some evidence which seems to suggest that the four player game was older. It's the name of the game--literally! According to this site, Chaturanga means 'quadripartite'. The 'official' theory is that it refers to the four types of pieces. Pawns (soldiers), elephants, rooks (chariots), and horses. However, I find that hard to believe. It seems to me that the armies are actually 'pentapartite', because wouldn't the Counsellor count as a fifth part of the army? Or am I missing something important? I see no reason why the name Chaturanga (quadripartite) couldn't have originally referred to the four players playing the game, and then when the four was reduced to two, someone came up with an explanation ('four types of pieces') to justify keeping the same name. I'm only an amateur chess-variantist right now (I don't have access to Murray, Gollon, or any of those books) so any replies would be appreciated.

Mason Green wrote on 2005-02-17 UTC
I just re-read the rules, and a pawn reaching the King's square simply stays there (it doesn't promote.) I guess I just missed that when I read the rules the first time. Sorry! I played Chaturanga with a friend a few days ago, and it's really slow-moving. It's also very hard to get a checkmate on your opponent especially if you don't have a Rook. I don't like the elephants the way they are, but the pawn promotion rule is interesting (I like it better than the promotion rule in orthodox chess). But the stalemate rule is weird. To me, stalemate should be a victory for the player who immobilizes his opponent, not a loss. After all, that's what a real war probably would be like.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-03-19 UTC
Since I don't presently have access to the books by Murray or Gollon, I can't check on the accuracy of what this page says, but I am suspicious of some details. Other accounts I've found of Chaturanga say that it is essentially the same game we know as Shatranj. For example, Pritchard says this, and so does Cazaux. Yet the rules given here differ in some respects. In Shatranj, Kings face Kings and Councellors face Councellors in the opening position, Pawns promote only to Councellors, and the player who stalemates his opponent wins. Since I'm planning to write a rule enforcing Game Courier preset for use in the tournament soon, I'm hoping someone with access to Gollon or Murray would check up on these details and report back whether this page accurately states the initial position, the Pawn promotion rules, and the rule that delivering stalemate is a loss.

Jared McComb wrote on 2005-03-20 UTC
I have a copy of Gollon's book. I can check this out later today. EDIT: Checked it. The book I'm using is Gollon's Chess Variants Ancient, Regional, and Modern, first edition. According to this book, the starting position and stalemate rules are correct. However, the promotion rule listed here is inaccurate. First of all, pawns do not promote to the piece which started on the promotion space, but to the 'master piece' of that file. In other words, the piece of yours that started in that file is the one that determines promotion, not the one of the opposing army. This only has ramifications in the central two files. Gollon's rules also require the actual piece that started in the file to which the pawn will be moving to have been lost, not just a piece of the type. (The example given is that a pawn cannot promote in the C file until his elephant which started in the C file has been lost.) Additionally, according to Gollon, a pawn may not even move to the last rank unless it is able to promote, which is not stated here.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-03-20 UTC
I've thought of one more question concerning the rules stated on this page. Assuming that the Pawn promotion rules here stated are correct, they aren't fully specified. Can a Pawn move to the last rank even when there is nothing for it to promote to? If so, does it wait around until there is a piece for it to promote to? If not, can it still check a King when it can't move to the last rank? This gives four possibilities. 1) The Pawn can advance even when it can't promote, and it just remains on the last rank unable to ever do anything more. 2) The Pawn can advance even when it can't promote, and when an available piece is captured, it promotes to it. 3) The Pawn can neither advance nor check when there is nothing for it to promote to. 4) The Pawn can't advance when there is nothing to promote to, but it can still check. Does anyone know if Murray or Gollon addresses this issue? Or does this rule only come from a more recent Indian variant, making the matter moot concerning Chaturanga? In The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, Pritchard mentions this rule in connection with more recent Indian variants under his INDIAN C entry, but he does not mention it under his CHATURANGA and SHATRANJ entries. Could Gollon have confused what Murray wrote about Chaturanga with what he wrote about more recent Indian variants and so have misreported its rules?

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-03-20 UTC
Thanks for reporting what Gollon says, Jared. My last comment got posted before I saw the update to your post. Your comments partially answered the questions I raised, namely by narrowing down the possibilities to #3 and #4. Would you know if Gollon has specified which is correct? Also, I still have concerns about whether Gollon has accurately reported on what Murray wrote. Murray wrote a large scholarly text whose focus is more on history than on clearly laying out the rules to specific games, and I expect Gollon used Murray as his primary source. So if anyone has access to what Murray wrote, reporting on it will still be very helpful.

David Paulowich wrote on 2005-03-21 UTC

I wish you all good luck in tracking down references. Sad to say, we have no record of the reasoning behind the rules of historical chess variants. For example, I read that in Chaturanga the player who stalemates his opponent loses the game. This might have resulted from a combination of the following two rules:

'A move that gives stalemate to the opponent is not allowed.' - Sittuyin (Burmese Chess)

'The game is finished if one player makes an illegal move; This player loses the game.' - my 2005-03-09 comment on Shogi (Japanese Chess)

John Ayer wrote on 2005-03-21 UTC
According to Murray on page 57, al-'Adli, in the ninth Christian century, reported that in India a stalemated player won, which he contrasted with the rule with which he and his readers were familiar. According to that same account, the elephants stood in the corner squares, and had the move of the dabbabah rather than the alfil; the rooks stood on the c and f files. A player who bared his opponent's king won, even if the opponent could return the compliment on the next move--a rule that was also current in the Hejaz, although the rest of the Moslem world held that if the opponent could even the score on the next move, the game was tied. <p> As for the crosswise arrangement of the kings, the arrangement shown in Hans Bodlaender's diagram is that given by Murray on page 80 as used in recent times in India in the varieties of chess that were apparently of native descent (distinguished from shatranj, introduced by the Persian conquerors, and European chess, introduced by the British, French, and Portuguese conquerors). In ancient times there may not have been a fixed rule. As for pawn promotion, the rule given in a work 'written about 1600 or 1700,' as Murray says, seems to me to say that a pawn reaching the ultimate rank on the a, d, e, or h file is promoted to counsellor, and a pawn reaching the ultimate rank on the b, c, f, or g file is returned to its square of origin with the rank of counsellor (ferz). This is on page 64, and the text is as vague as the date. As for stalemate, 'When a king is imprisoned without standing in check, and no other of his pieces can move, he may slay the piece of the enemy in his vicinity which imprisons him.' So the stalemated player does not win. Just before this we read: 'It is not proper to protect another piece rather than the King. The slaying of the King is yet considered proper. Imprisonment is counted as a defeat of the King. If the King is left entirely alone it is reckoned a half-victory, if he is checked 64 times in succession he is also held to be defeated.' I think we might fairly understand that as perpetual check. The game begins with each player moving his counsellor and counsellor's pawn two squares forward, 'Also another piece which goes one square distant is advanced at the same time...' apparently another pawn. <p> On page 81 Murray describes Hindustani chess, one of the three native varieties current in the nineteenth century, when all the pieces had the moves current in Europe. In this game a pawn reaching the last rank is promoted to the master piece of that rank, except that on either central file promotion is to vizier (Q). Further, a pawn can only be promoted if the appropriate piece has already been lost; a player can never have more of any sort of piece than he started with. Murray specifies that the color restrictions of the elephant, now moving as a bishop, must be observed. This means that a pawn cannot be promoted to elephant on the c file until that player has lost his elephant that started on the f file. A pawn that cannot be promoted cannot be advanced to the eighth rank; it must remain where it is, an immobile target. Whether it can offer a threat that cannot be executed is a subtlety that seems not to be addressed. Logic suggests to me that it cannot. On page 82 Murray describes various conclusions to the game. Checkmate is a win. Stalemate is not allowed; a move that inflicts stalemate must be retracted, and another move played. Capture of all of a player's pieces (pawns are ignored) is a half-win. When both players are reduced to a king and a single companion, the game is drawn. Perpetual check is a draw. It is in this game, not the earlier ones described above, that the king has the privilege of making one knight-leap, provided he has not been checked. According to one questionable source, the king cannot capture on that leap. Conclusion: John Gollon, sitting in the Cleveland Public Library, reading its copy of Murray's _History of Chess_ and taking handwritten notes, confused three sets of rules. Fergus, I hope you're not too disappointed. This page, with its seventy comments, should probably be scrapped.

David Paulowich wrote on 2005-03-21 UTC

'... a move that inflicts stalemate must be retracted, and another move played.' - Sounds reasonable. Apparently only SHOGI has a forfeit rule for illegal moves.

'The game begins with each player moving his counsellor and counsellor's pawn two squares forward...' Compare the mandatory opening moves in Courier Chess.

As for the 'the color restrictions of the elephant, now moving as a bishop' - that must be a modern rule. Alfils can be regarded as moving on an 8-color board, forever limited to either the odd-numbered ranks or the even-numbered ranks. See Leaping/Missing Bat Chess for some diagrams.

Greg Strong wrote on 2005-03-21 UTC
If the counsellor and counsellor's pawns both move forward two, I assume that the Kings did face each other; otherwise White's councellor's pawn would promptly be taken. Oh, boy ... I see the ChessV implementation of this game will require several changes. Bleh.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-03-21 UTC
Thanks, John. I gather from your comments that Gollon based his description of Chaturanga on descriptions of three other Indian variants, none of which were Chaturanga. Would it be fair to say that Murray identified Chaturanga with Shatranj and didn't make any distinctions between their rules? This is what Pritchard does. He gives only a short entry on Chaturanga, saying that it is 'essentially the same as SHATRANJ', and then he gives detailed rules only under his entry for Shatranj. Also, back when I lived in Rochester and had access to Murray's books, I wrote in my Alfil article, 'Chaturanga was an Indian Contempory of Shatranj, and it is Shatranj, the Muslim form of Chess, that we actually have the earliest documentation for.' Some sites I've found on the web are claiming that there is no physical evidence for the existence of Chaturanga. It would seem that Shatranj is the earliest Chess variant for which we actually have historic documentation of its rules, and Chaturanga is a hypothetical construct that is presumed to be the ancestor of Shatranj, but for which we have no clear historical record. In the absence of a legitimate historical record, it may be fair to assume that the rules of Shatranj are the closest thing we have to any account of the rules for Chaturanga, and for all practical purposes, it would make sense to play Chaturanga by the same rules as Shatranj, or to just play Shatranj and consign the rules of Chaturanga to the unknown.

John Ayer wrote on 2005-03-22 UTC
There are literary references to chaturanga in India apparently of about the same age as the Persian references to chatrang, but there is no description of the rules, so chaturanga, chatrang, and shatranj must all be treated as the same game. Anything before this is conjecture (and conjecture is active). There is no physical (by which I understand 'archeological') evidence of chess in India at that time, nor for centuries afterward, and I think the same is true of Iran; the earliest definite chessmen are from Uzbekistan, and the eighth Christian century. <p>Greg Strong's remark about the required opening leaps implying that the counsellors faced each other in one file is valid for the seventeenth-century(?) rules. The cross-wise arrangement is specified for Hindustani chess in the nineteenth century. Cross-wise arrangements were formerly quite widespread. <p>After scrapping this page (sorry, Hans and all), we will probably want to put up others for these other historical variants.

Greg Strong wrote on 2005-03-23 UTC
So, any opinions on what I should do with Chaturanga support for ChessV? John Ayer has posted that Murray said that the elephants were in the corners, with Dababbah move, and pawns promote to firzan ... That's easy enough. Should I implement it in this way, leave it as-is, or erase the whole thing? Any opinions are welcome!

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-03-24 UTC
I think the one with the Elephants in the corners, etc., was another game, not Chaturanga. We don't have the rules for Chaturanga. So whatever game you chose to call Chaturanga might well not be Chaturanga, and you might not be able to do any better than to have Chaturanga support in name only. I plan to get rid of the Chaturanga Game Courier preset, because I have no guarantee that is is authentic Chaturanga, and for all I know, Chaturanga was the same as Shatranj, which I already have available. But if you wanted to keep this game, you could call it something like Gollon's Chaturanga to distinguish it from the real thing.

Greg Strong wrote on 2005-03-25 UTC
Say, should Chaturanga still be a Recognized Variant?

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-03-26 UTC
I'm thinking it shouldn't be. Given that we don't know what its actual rules were, it's a bit hard, if not impossible, for us to recognize it. And if it is the same as Shatranj, which is the most likely candidate we have for the rules of Chaturanga, then recognition of Shatranj will suffice.

Greg Strong wrote on 2005-03-26 UTC
Yes, I also think recognition of Shatranj should suffice. Also, based on feedback received here and in e-mail, Chaturanga support will be removed from ChessV, since not only are the rules unclear, but the present implementation is really just Shatranj with rotational symmetry and lousy pawn-promotion rules. But, I will probably add support for the other historical games described in Murray's text if they are described here, or if I can find a copy in a local library.

DM wrote on 2005-04-06 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2005-07-17 UTC
even if the rules are unclear, so what, how can you make chaturanga unrecognized!!.. taking it off game courier is ok, but making it not recognized?!

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-07-18 UTC
This decision is based on the fundamental meaning of recognized. It is impossible to recognize the unrecognizable. And that's what Chaturanga is. No one has adequate information on Chaturanga to be able to recognize it. Furthermore, the best candidate for Chaturanga is Shatranj, and Shatranj remains recognized. If, as I think is likely, Chaturanga and Shatranj are the same, then Chaturanga remains recognized, though under the name Shatranj rather than Chaturanga, and it would be redundant to recognize as two separate games what are just the same game under different names.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2005-07-18 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
yes, i can see what you mean, but, the 'unrecognizable' is at the moment being played on game courier, and also has this page, and others pages also yes?, if you make it 'unrecognized' but keep this page and others .. that just doesn't look professional to me, this great site, having info about chaturanga but deeming it 'unrecognized'.. a game which i see as the 'mother' of chess. i can't see how it hurts keeping it 'recognized', i think 'recognized' means more than just being able to see all the rules etc

Tony Quintanilla wrote on 2005-07-18 UTC
See Jean-Louis Cazaux's excellent page on this topic, Shatranj and Chaturanga would seem to be the same game, although, generally speaking, one thinks of Shatranj as the Persian game and of Chaturanga as the Indian game. The two can't be differenciated, it seems. There are also possible influences from China. As far as 'recognized' goes, I would tend to think that both 'Chaturanga' and 'Shatranj' should be recognized, if for no other reason that the CVP articles on these games suggest that the Indian game migrated to Persia. Not 'recognizing' Chaturanga would seem to ignore this root. Perhaps the uncertainty in the history should be reflected in the 'Recognized' variants list.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2005-07-19 UTC
<P>Christine Bagley-Jones wrote:</P> <BLOCKQUOTE> that just doesn't look professional to me </BLOCKQUOTE> <P>That comment amounts to saying that it doesn't look like what it is not, which is fine. This is not a professional site. If it were professional, we would be getting paid to focus on it full time. But instead it is run by unpaid volunteers who too often have other things to do.</P>

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2005-07-19 UTC
you guys have made this site better than professionals ever could, because you do it out of love for chess, not love for money. surely this is the best chess/chessvariants site in the world.

Tony Quintanilla wrote on 2005-07-19 UTC
Christine, your kind comments go to all that contribute to this great site.

David Paulowich wrote on 2005-08-07 UTC
On 2005-04-04 Fergus Duniho wrote: 'I've removed Chaturanga from the list of recognized variants, because it has recently come to light that we don't know enough about Chaturanga to actually recognize it. The best candidate for the rules of Chaturanga is Shatranj, which remains on this list.' <p>I agree with Christine Bagley-Jones and Tony Quintanilla that Chaturanga should stay on the list of recognized variants (FAMOUS section). After all, both Dragonchess (E. Gary Gygax) and Tridimensional Chess (Star Trek) were famous before complete and consistent rules were published.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2005-08-09 UTC
oh that is pretty sad, i didn't know it was removed. was there a vote taken to remove it? may the chess gods have mercy on this site lol :) i don't understand the comment .. 'we don't know enough about chaturanga to actually recognize it' .. isn't it the game that is generally accepted as the mother of chess, isn't it the game that inspired 'shatranj' .. the game where the king starts on e1, and the game where the king can move like a knight 1 time during the game etc etc .. we can recognize it, we just don't fully know the rules (maybe) reading in your section 'what is a recognized variant', chaturanga looks like one to me, i don't see anything saying that all the rules must be known. and it is not the fault of the game that all the rules are not known. anyway, with obviously such a huge historic ancient game, who cares if it is unclear. Tony Quintanilla makes a good point here with his comment, and i quote .. 'As far as 'recognized' goes, I would tend to think that both 'Chaturanga' and 'Shatranj' should be recognized, if for no other reason that the CVP articles on these games suggest that the Indian game migrated to Persia. Not 'recognizing' Chaturanga would seem to ignore this root.' anyway, i have had my say on axeing chaturanga, i will make sure i wear all black every 4th of the 4th from now on :)

Anonymous wrote on 2005-10-16 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Anonymous wrote on 2005-11-07 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
great game to play with a regular chess borad use bishops for elephants and the queen for the chanssler(ferz)

Tony Quintanilla wrote on 2005-12-04 UTC
Celine Roos writes:

I'm Celine Roos WIM. It was just luck that I found a page through Google search for Books which linked to a French translation of an 1805 report established by a Research Society on Bengalese studies.

The book is free of copyright, here are the libraries where it is available.

Also here you can see the whole book:

or just the article (starting p 207):

I guess the English original must be available somewhere. If I had more time, I would propose a translation into English but I'm terribly busy these days, having left the world of chess for the world of National Education in France.

Yours, Céline Roos
Strasbourg - France

Anonymous wrote on 2006-01-19 UTCPoor ★
There is almost no detalils about where chaturanga/chess came from, where it orginated.

Aniket Basu wrote on 2006-03-24 UTCGood ★★★★
The version of the Indian game we play and call 'National' to distinguish it from 'International' (meaning FIDE) is as follows: 1. King moves as usual, except for any number of possible knight moves before it was checked once. No castling move, the knight move can be used to take the king to safety. 2. Queen (Mantri/Minister), Bishop (Gaj/Elephant), Knight (Ghora/Horse), and Rook (Nouka/Boat) - all move as usual in the FIDE rules, but there is no castling move. 3. Pawns move just one square. (Naturally then, no en passant.) 4. Each sides are allowed two moves to begin the game.

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