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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]
Aurelian Florea wrote on 2019-02-25 UTC

Is anyone else finding weird similarities between Chaturanga (Davidson's variantion) and Makruk?


Jose Carrillo wrote on 2018-06-22 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

My rating is specific to the Davidson Variation of Chaturanga.

If Davidson was correct (about Kings being able to move into check and to be captured), this would make an interesting alternative evolution story from Chaturanga to Shatranj, which makes a nicer transition story from Chaturanga to Shatranj to Chess.

Chaturanga - Davidson Variation (Rule Enforcing) Presets:


Kevin Pacey wrote on 2018-03-01 UTCGood ★★★★

A poorish game by modern standards, especially due to the alfil pieces, but modern chess is indebted to this historic early version of it.


Jose Carrillo wrote on 2016-07-25 UTC
Here is a Game Courier preset that enforces the rules for Henry A. Davidson's 1949 version of Chaturanga.
 

Jörg Knappen wrote on 2016-05-04 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
An excellent for the great rewrite.

George Duke wrote on 2015-03-13 UTC
This Morality, http://www.chessvariants.org/fiction.dir/poems/falconpoem9.html, from 13 years ago cites in the last Pleiad Calaeno (of Rook, of Saturn, of metal Lead, of bird rook and raven, of 7 Wonders Mausoleum and so on) the same bases for pairs T, A, C and G in another number four arrangement. In renewal of the well-known Chaturanga four, the claim arrogantly re-stated by Calaeno is that there are the four fundamental Chess pieces obviously from different mutually exclusive destination squares by the R N B and F. In fact, this Poem would claim Chess itself as first or necessary cause of the universe which follows, let alone mere billion-year Life inception.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-03-13 UTC
Or is this book a kind of Uncyclopedia?

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-03-13 UTC
The nonsense book of the week. That chess ever was a dice game is wrong, let alone the other points

Daniil Frolov wrote on 2015-03-13 UTC
In "Encyclopedia of absolute and relative knowledge" by popular French writer Bernard Werber, there is a short article about chess. Well, one should read this "encyclopedia" spectically, as it's philisophical tone confidently states some things that are not necessary true, and Werber could copy other people's mistakes, lie or speculation, and in the beggining of this article it's said that Chaturanga's first mention is found in 1000 BC, wich already makes to doubt about the rest article, but anyway, I'll ask about it. It's said that Chaturanga is an ancestor of chess, cards and dominoes(!). It's said, it used dice with four symbols of four Indian castes: cups for priests, swords for warriors, sticks for peasants, coins for merchants. I know that these symbols was used in Indian cards, and in Europe they evolved to card suits we know (cups = hearts, swords = spades, coins - diamonds, sticks = clubs). But I never heard about connection between chess and Indian castes or card suits. Are there any serious sources to prove it? Another interesting but very doubtful guess in this book (well, at least it said that it's only the guess) is that number four - of castes, card suits and chess pieces, is somehow linked with four DNA nucleotides - Thymine, Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine.

Daniil Frolov wrote on 2014-02-16 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
After modern European Chess and Chinese Xiang-Qi, Chaturanga with 2;2 elephants and Shatranj looks odd.
In European Chess there are logical and worthy pieces. In Xiang-Qi there are resonable and harmonical positions of pieces, though elephants and ferzes are even weaker.
In comparision with these games, at first sight Chaturanga looks clumsy, with very random pieces, with elephants, chaotically dangling in 8 squares each.
But actually, after a few tries to play this game, you'll see some harmony in it...

Jason L. wrote on 2012-03-29 UTC
I was not aware of Murray's conclusions regarding Xiangqi, but he seems to have found a way of saying that references towards Xiangqi are a different game based on the constellations or something and that the new game from India was simply given the same name. By speculating that there were multiple games named Xiangqi, as it appears in Chinese, the historical references to Xiangqi that pre-date 8x8 Chess in India or Persia are essentially nullified from a literary perspective. It's quite a devil's advocate argument because it means that references to Xiangqi before 6th century essentially don't count because that could be a different game whereas references after the 6th century to Xiangqi mean the current game we call Xiangqi now. Seems convenient, but as far as I know there isn't another kind of Chinese game that was named Xiangqi at some point. I haven't seen anything in a museum or any kind of artifact of a different kind of game that was called Xiangqi before the 'copied Indian version' came to China. As far as I know, the name of the game does not have anything to do with constellations or astronomy. Until I had read Murray's theory, I have never heard of anything like that from any Chinese historian with any knowledge of Xiangqi. The river in the middle of the board is most commonly interpreted as a river of a key battle that took place between 2 armies just before the founding of the Han dynasty. Instead of looking at Chinese history, Murray seems to want to point at the Milky Way as being the explanation of the occurrence of the river in Xiangqi. As far as I know, the river was put in later on (probably during the Han Dynasty). That's the simplest explanation. I'm kind of surprised that Murray did not or was not able to find out what the name of the river meant to any Chinese historian or any Chinese person with a basic high school education that would know about how the Han Dynasty was founded. Or rather it seems to me, that Murray wants to attribute another game which does not seem to exist to astronomy instead of a historical battle that took place at least 600 or 700 years before 8x8 Chess appears in India. Murray poses the possibility that there were different games in China called Xiangqi, but as far as I know, there was nothing else called Xiangqi from that period of time. In my opinion, if he is going to make this kind of assertion, some kind of clue as to what this so-called game(s) were like would be helpful. However, it seems he just wanted to discredit China as a possibility when in fact its the most obvious choice because its design is based on a battle that took place several hundred years before Chess in India happens. I also think its kind of surprising that Murray would make such strong conclusions about Xiangqi without even trying to figure out what the characters mean in modern Chinese. While the meaning of Chinese character often change over a long period of time, and it can have multiple meanings, I wonder why he came to the conclusion that it was based on astronomy and not 'atmosphere' or 'live and moving' pieces as opposed to static in Weiqi (Go). It seems that Murray knows ancient Chinese better than Chinese people who can actually read Chinese, because if I started telling people that Xiangqi 2000 years ago was based on astronomy instead of actual battles that were taking place at that time, they'd think I was crazy because it's common sense that a war game would be based on.... war. A chariot goes straight forward. The ancient character for chariot is a pictograph of a chariot with 2 wheels on it. In the Spring and Autumn period, it was the strongest weapon in the battlefield. These more common sense interpretations seem much more plausible rather than pieces being based on stars, etc. There seems to be a conflict in the reverse engineering of Xiangqi. Instead of reverse engineering it to a very simple game with just a few pieces based on actual people on horses or chariots fighting in battles, we are supposed to believe that there's this other game that does not seem to exist in China called Xiangqi, and then a modern version of Xiangqi was developed quickly in the 6th century so that earlier designs of Xiangqi which have only 11 pieces on each side to start with are discarded and not considered. Based on this logic, any reference to anything can be interpreted as being something else without a plausible explanation to what that other thing called the 'same thing' is. I honestly feel the standards for a game being developed in India are extremely flexible in terms of interpretation, while the standards for China are extremely strict almost as if unless a very specific blue print is presented, there's no way a game based on war could be developed from a society that fought wars like that and liked to play board games also.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-02-10 UTC
http://history.chess.free.fr/papers/Banaschak%201997.pdf Here is a good paper from a German researcher that has a strong usage of Chinese to actually examine the origin of Xiangqi directly. The author has been quoted as disputing David Li's theory of Xiangqi coming specifically from a general from the end of the Warring States Period and does not necessarily subscribe to any particular theory. Unfortunately, Banaschak is misquoted in places as a researcher who is disputing that Xiangqi has a Chinese origin. This is certainly not his position. He is simply disputing David Li's theory and not that Xiangqi has a Chinese origin. From his paper, it looks as if he personally believes that Xiangqi has a Chinese origin, but concludes there is not enough evidence to prove any of the possible theories of its origin but believes that future archeological findings could support one theory or another.

George Duke wrote on 2012-01-28 UTC
Thanks Jason. It is sheer speculation about separate mathematical development of 3x3, and you may have mentioned no early palace before. Though I linked John Ayers GoddessChess article a year ago, this is one thread I have not kept up on all that much what is said during 2011. However, half impression is that it is certainly up for grabs whether Chess is eventually found to go back even more centuries in India or in China. That is, based on Jason L.'s the structural rather than documented historical seems to tilt to China. Good arguments all around and Jason L. has one more in his camp.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-27 UTC
From what I read, the original concept was no 3x3 palace, but just a 9x10 intersection board with the general in the center file on the 2nd rank by himself with the 1 space diagonal moving counselor right behind him on the first rank. In this formation, the counselor can reach all sides of the general. Supposedly, the 3x3 palace came later to restrict the general from leaving the center of the board where he belongs. Then the 2 space minister in front of the general was added. The another counselor and another minister at some point.

George Duke wrote on 2012-01-18 UTC
Betza -- one of Betza's summary comments appears early this same article, that Jason L. has kept going for a year now as the most popular. Also Peter Aronson right here too states ''co-evolved'' ten years ago: Aronson. History was preparatory for the John Ayer GoddessChess article, Origin. Has it been maintained yet, that there was no promotion in Chaturangan origin? Speculation on promotion after the fact without documentation, makes Xiangqi and Chaturanga more alike in the regard, since Pawn to the last rank can only move laterally Xiangqi. In the advanced upper half of board both pawn-types have three possible movements, regardless divergency. Looking at Xiangqi alone, ignoring other Chesses, but allowing a little history of Xiangqi, for instance that Counsellor precedes Minister in historical development, there is the following. One would think the Palace 3x3 came first before embodying big surrounding complete 90 spaces; and before any other piece-types, just orthogonal one-step King and one or then two diagonal ''Ferz/Advisers.'' How those two elemental piece-types interact on a small 3x3 board, like trivial tic-tac-toe. Just the nine spaces played around with might become complex enough for a game; then a regular Chess out of it comes much later. Tetraktys is nine spaces too made by ten dots: Tetraktys. [Notice the link inside link, Wikipedia is blacked out this 24 hours.]

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-16 UTC
I don't think that the original 16 pieces in 8x8 Indian chess has no relationship with Xiangqi. Only the King moves slightly differently and the rest of the back rank pieces move the same but can jump in 8x8 chess due to the pawns being on the 2nd rank. The difference in pawns is not a strong argument I am putting forth. I am aware of the fact that a different capturing pawn and different position pawn is not necessarily directly influenced from Xiangqi. My main point about game development is that the 1 space moving counselor and 2 space moving minister don't appear to fit the 8x8 board but they do for the 9x10 intersection board. It's also very unlikely that weird moving pieces would be developed on a board they don't fit and were fixed by moving to a slightly different board. To make this kind of conjecture seems like putting forth something that is not extremely likely just to make it seem like that is what could have happened so it probably happened. I have read Western chess books on Shogi and Xiangqi and I have heard similar arguments for how Shogi and Xiangqi could have been developed. They all try to reverse engineer from the 8x8 game. I do think Shogi comes from an 8x8 variant similar to Makruk with the silver general, but it does not seem that logical that original 8x8 with 16 pieces could have become Xiangqi for several reasons I have already stated. I am not saying that these reasons you are stating don't make sense. I am saying that in order to make conclusions about Xiangqi, one should look at China's history regarding the development of the game. The documentation does not suggest that China exported the game to Persia or India. To my knowledge there is nothing that suggests that. I have given you guys several reasons for why Xiangqi's origin is native to China without making definite but probable conclusions on how it could have influenced 8x8 chess in other parts of Asia. Therefore, if Xiangqi can be predated by to an 11 piece arrangement with no minister that moves 2 spaces, and the general on the 2nd rank like in Janggi, then it is obviously not taken from 16 piece Indian chess with the back rank filled, because its very unlikely that pieces would disappear along the way. Now the legitimacy of this progression of Xiangqi needs to be confirmed and I would like to do that myself, but if this progression of Xiangqi is true, then it does not follow that the board and the pieces are from India or Persia. Also, I have already pointed out that a 9x10 intersection board most likely does not come from an 8x8 square board. Because if you simply move the pieces from an 8x8 board to the intersection points, you get 9x9 intersection board. You do not get 9x10. And the original Xiangqi was 9x10 with no river. I repeat. No river. That means, the river was added later to separate the 2 armies, so it was not the addition of the river that made Xiangqi go from 9x9 intersection point game to 9x10 intersection game. In Taiwan, they sell Xiangqi boards on a cheap piece of wood with a Weiqi board on the back. If one looks at the 19x19 Weiqi board and then flips it over, the comparison would be obvious. Not just because of intersection points being used for both Weiqi and Xiangqi, but because where did 9x10 come from? Why not 9x9 or 10x10, or 8x9? It's because 9x10 is precisely 1/4 of a 19x19 Weiqi board. That's the simplest explanation for where the original 9x10 intersection board with no river comes from. If Xiangqi comes from 8x8 chess, then the first version of Xiangqi would probably be 9x9 intersection board with no river and no palace. But it was not. Anyway, I have stated many reasons for why Xiangqi's origin basically comes from China and there should be nothing wrong with that because all I am doing is asking Chinese people about the origin of their own game and reading books and whatever I can find on the subject done by people who can read Chinese and not just sources from the Western world. What I am sharing here should be viewed as the other side of the story that is lacking in Western literature or Western thought you could say. I grew up in the States, and I was lacking in these views also. I'm personally disappointed when my quest to learn about the history of game(s) becomes a political and cultural battlefield for the superiority of the Western vs. Eastern cultures. I'm not saying that about everyone on this forum, but just my personal experience with talking to Westerners about this. It seems very emotional and narrow minded the way that many of them respond and it seems like they couldn't care less about archeological findings are the meaning of Chinese characters and how they can change over the centuries, etc. It seems it can only be about how British ruled the world and codified things for the rest of the world to enjoy. I love learning about that also, but it's not the entire history of mankind.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-16 UTC
'As I stated in my last post, the observation that Xiangqi has no divergent pieces in it until the cannon does not apply because Xiangqi's earliest known version had only 1 counselor and no minister.' What is the connection? 'This progression from 11 pieces to 14 to 16 where 8x8 chess always had 16 to begin with and had the same moving pieces (not counting cannon) means that Xiangqi predates and influenced 8x8 Chess.' As it's a different 16 pieces in each case the comparison is irrelevant. Shogi (20 pieces aside) is older than Diana (only 12 pieces aside). 'The issue with the pawn in 8x8 Chess capturing differently than it moves does not necessarily mean that the game is older than Xiangqi.' No, but it could be that the Pawn structure was abandoned to open up the back rank and ionce that happened all that was required was something to stop the Rooks capturing each other - something which no longer needed to be as complicated as a Pawn. Or perhaps the Pawn had a non-divergent predecessor even on the 8x8 board, but was reduced in number in China to improve back-rank mobility before being replaced by the Pawn in India to improve front-rank interactions. 'I also noted step by step how Xiangqi developed, and there is no apparent influence from 8x8 chess, and 8x8 Chess looks like a more modern version of Xiangqi.' Yes. but how? To what documentation do you refer? Most of us have seen back to Chaturanga in India and 8x8 race games before that, but only back to 14-piece Xiang Qi in China. Chaturanga does not look consistently more modern. A point that you yourself made, that the Elephant nearer the King does not work so well in Chaturanga, could be used as an argument that the files were expanded to 9 to make the side that did not work match the one that did, and the pieces moved from squares to intersections to save making a new board. 'It seems like I am using common sense logic, and I am being refuted with a different kind of logic that I could not have come up with unless I saw the responses to my posts here.' Well to me it looks as if everyone else's logic is common sense. 'I am giving a great deal of detail, and it seems that I am getting back a line of logic that is making my head spin.' Again, the feeling is mutual. 'Why does a more modern pawn in 8x8 chess have to be from something other than a simple moving pawn in Xiangqi?' See comments above. The fact that I have to say this indicates that your 'great deal of detail' tends to be poorly organised and consequently repetitive. 'It's like saying that because Xiangqi has no queen in it, then it must be the newer game because it has older moving pieces in it like the counselor meaning that 8x8 Chess is an older game because it requires more change to get where it needs to be.' No, that is what saying that Xiang Qi is an older game because it is better developed is like. 'That kind of thinking is prevalent here instead of the more obvious line of logic that a 1 space moving counselor is probably from a game that requires a 1 space moving counselor for the game to work right.' Well it does 'work right' in Chaturanga, and so does the Elephant beside it. It is just the Elephant beside the King that doesn't, and inserting an extra Ferz in between (and therefore an extra file) addresses this.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2012-01-15 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
You can speculate all you want, but in the end, it is all speculation. What governs what is considered the 'oldest' chess is what records are the oldest found, that is it. I dont think this is correct of course, so much records of the ancients has been lost. I consider it unclear where chess began, no one can say for sure. An earthquake could happen in China revealing an ancient tomb and chess writing 2,000 years ago are discovered, then chess would be said to have come from china. The idea that chess always evolves to something better also is debateable. People love inventing things and trying new things, it does not mean the newer idea is a progression. There is no reason to consider that the modern pawn, moving 1 square forward and capturing diagonally could not have been the first pawn to exist. One thing i can't help thinking, the date we give as chess beginning, seems to me to be highly unlikely, i feel chess is much older, in India, China and Japan. The ancients were NOT stupid. They were highly advanced. To think that all they played was a 'race game' .... well, really? Look at the mahabharata verse, where Yudhisthira talks about 'delighting the king with his play' ... he is going to delight the king with his play in a race game? Come on ... Chess most likely has been around in India and China and Japan for thousands and thousands of years. But of course, this is speculation. It's interesting what you saying though, don't get me wrong.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-14 UTC
As I stated in my last post, the observation that Xiangqi has no divergent pieces in it until the cannon does not apply because Xiangqi's earliest known version had only 1 counselor and no minister. Later 1 minister was added, and then another minister and another counselor were added. This progression from 11 pieces to 14 to 16 where 8x8 chess always had 16 to begin with and had the same moving pieces (not counting cannon) means that Xiangqi predates and influenced 8x8 Chess. The issue with the pawn in 8x8 Chess capturing differently than it moves does not necessarily mean that the game is older than Xiangqi. That's like saying a more modern game is older than we believe it to be because it has more modern moving pieces instead of making the more obvious observation that a more modern (pawn) is a later evolution of chess in general. If there is a less modern version of the pawn in 8x8 chess, its predecessor was obviously the pawn in Xiangqi which captures the same way it moves. I don't know about any possible Greek influence, but the fact that the position of the pieces and the movement of the pieces are the same in both games on the back row, strongly suggests they have a common origin. I also noted step by step how Xiangqi developed, and there is no apparent influence from 8x8 chess, and 8x8 Chess looks like a more modern version of Xiangqi. It seems like I am using common sense logic, and I am being refuted with a different kind of logic that I could not have come up with unless I saw the responses to my posts here. It seems that there is no way I can state something totally obvious to me here because it will always be looked at it in a totally different way based on the assumption that 6th century A.D. India Chess is first. I am giving a great deal of detail, and it seems that I am getting back a line of logic that is making my head spin. It's like if I showed someone 2 cereal boxes. One looks like it is from the 90's and the other clearly looks like it is from the 60's that are similar to each other suggesting a common origin. I would say and most would say that the box from the 60's is older, but I am hearing here that the box from the 90's is actually older because of the advanced designs, etc. suggesting a older origin. It's like on this forum, things that seem newer and more modern are actually older than something that seems more ancient because its evolution process must be longer. Well, yes, a simple moving pawn moving straight forward evolved into a pawn on the 2nd rank that captures differently than it moves. Why does a more modern pawn in 8x8 chess have to be from something other than a simple moving pawn in Xiangqi? It seems like no matter what, some form of logic not based on specific details must be stated in order not to acknowledge something that is very obvious to me and others who do not have a pre-set opinion regarding the matter as if it was their political allegiance or something. It's like saying that because Xiangqi has no queen in it, then it must be the newer game because it has older moving pieces in it like the counselor meaning that 8x8 Chess is an older game because it requires more change to get where it needs to be. That kind of thinking is prevalent here instead of the more obvious line of logic that a 1 space moving counselor is probably from a game that requires a 1 space moving counselor for the game to work right. i.e. Xiangqi and not 8x8 Chess. I know it survived in Makruk, but that piece is still out of place to me and it's movement is essentially duplicated by the 'Silver General' next to it. I am not saying anything is for sure, but I am saying that from many points of view, such and such is more likely than the opposite, and the initial game design of Xiangqi strongly suggests that it has no influence from 8x8 Chess, but the opposite is true.

Michael Nelson wrote on 2012-01-12 UTC
Note that Xiangqi had no divergent pieces until the cannon was added, in the original version all pieces moved passively and captured in the same way. On the other hand, the Pawn in the various forms of early Indo-Persian Chess has been divergent since the earliest known times. If divergence is an evolutionary change, that suggests that Indo-Persian Chess is older that we currently think it is. On the other hand, it could be an import from some non-Chess Indo-Persian game, perhaps acquired from a Greek game at the time of Alexander the Great. This last factor does not apply at all to China. Note that divergent Pawns are conspicuously absent from Xiangqi, Janggi, and Shogi, but do occur in various SE Asian variants, which have influences fom both China and India. So I would propose the points: 1. Maybe both the Indo-Persian origin theory and the Chinese origin theory are wrong and two different but somewhat similar games were developed independently, perhaps with some mutual influence on one another. 2. My idea could easily be wrong (probably is). 3. So could anybody's idea be wrong, whether they think Chess originated in China, India, Atlantis, or Mars. 4. Documentary evidence is not definitive, nor is it likely to become so. 5. It ultimately doesn't matter, however interesting the question is. 6. It sure as hell isn't worth a. practicing racism, or b. accusing others of racism.

Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-10 UTC
It's a possibility that the 8x8 chessboard comes from China or the pieces were moved over to the squares in China, or they were moved over to the squares some where between China and Persia or China and India. All of these are possible. What is not likely is the pieces from Persia/India were moved from the squares to the intersection points some where between Persia/India to China because the original Xiangqi design has less pieces than the 16 pieces found in the first version of Indian or Persian Chess. I was mistaken about the first known design of Xiangqi. The earliest one appears to have no palace, no river, and no minister. It's the same design as what Charles has posted, except with those changes. If you look at that board, it looks even less like the first known version of chess in India/Persia unless you believe the pieces were removed some where between India/Persia to China. There's only 11 pieces per side in Xiangqi originally as opposed to 16 in the original versions of Persian or Indian chess. A game with less pieces in its original design and one which does not even have the 2 space moving minister, most likely predates a game with '2' ministers. Xiangqi did not have 2 ministers until much later. At first it had none, then one, then 2. That's a progression. Indian and Persian versions start with 2. That suggests the 8x8 version came later. Unless of course you believe that a progression of game design includes removing pieces that were already there. Another important thing to point out in the first version of Xiangqi, is that the general or king is the character 'Han' . The same Han from Han dynasty. Later version of Xiangqi had the generals changed to 'Shuai' or 'Jiang'. The character 'Han' is the same one you can see in Janggi. That Janggi preserved the position of the general in the center of the palace on the 2nd rank as well as the character used for the general, is a strong indication that parts of Janggi are based on the earliest known version of Xiangqi and then evolved as Xiangqi evolved, but the general stayed on the 2nd rank. This is often the case with Korean and Japanese culture. They seem to be influenced by Han Chinese culture at certain points in history and essentially preserve parts of it while Chinese culture moves on and forgets what it was in the past. Therefore, Korean and Japanese culture are places to look for hints of what Chinese culture was like at a certain point. Regarding the elephant vs. minister confusion, with all due respect to this site and every other form of research regarding the name and meaning of Xiangqi, the Xiang means 'Alive, or atmosphere' as in the pieces move as opposed to static pieces in Weiqi. If you think of Weiqi as being an influence on Xiangqi, the pieces in that game are static while the pieces in Xiangqi move around. If you want to debate this issue, you will have to learn Chinese and go into the literature of Xiangqi to dispute this. In Chinese, a character can be used for different words. In the case of Xiangqi, 'qi xiang' means 'alive/atmosphere', and 'da xiang' means elephant. The xiang on one side means prime minister and the other xiang takes after the name of the game. I've addressed that the main points I have written here are to try to figure out which game likely came first. I don't claim to have all the answers to how a game can migrate from place to place. If we have what we believe to be reliable records that the earliest Xiangqi does not resemble the earliest forms of chess in Persia and India, that is good enough. I'm also trying very hard to point out that there are some very big misunderstandings as far as what the 'xiang' characters mean and the name of the game. I am only sharing what I have learned from Chinese people who know something about the history of Xiangqi and are unaware of the India vs. China debate which originates from the West. I'm a little confused by the reference to the Xiangqi site on this web site chess variants.org. Are you saying that because this site says that Xiangqi means 'elephant game', etc. that Chinese people don't know their own language or history or not entitled to interpret their own history and language without adhering to Western sources first? This site claims that Chess comes from India first. Does that mean I am not allowed to post any of these things here that suggest that it does not? So because a site and a lot of other sources say Xiang in Xiangqi means 'Elephant Game', that I am not allowed to say that the Chinese Xiangqi historians say it means 'Qi Xiang' and not 'Da Xiang'? I didn't say the game means 'Minister's Chess' although if I wrote that by accident at some point, I apologize. I mean that the chess pieces (red side) means prime minister. The game uses the black side 'Xiang' which is from 'Qi Xiang' (atmosphere, live) and not 'Da Xiang (elephant)'. In short the game means moving and alive pieces as opposed to static stones in Weiqi. If that's the case, then there is no room for discussion or debate, because it means that so-called established sources in English take precedence over Chinese sources regarding Chinese history, language, and the history of a board game. Does this also mean that Chinese teachers must ask Westerners what the meaning of their own language is before teaching Chinese to Westerners? If you want to say it's more likely that the Chinese moved un-working pieces to a different board so that they did work, I can't try to convince you, but I think the evolution of board games is much more likely the other way around. When deciding how a chess piece moves, it has to be on a board with certain dimensions. Therefore, it's a bit difficult to come up with the 2 space moving minister on the 8x8 board, because it only reaches 25% of the squares and doesn't reach any of the back rank squares at all. The 2 space moving minister/elephant obviously didn't come from 8x8. And I've also pointed out already, that the original Xiangqi design didn't even have the minister in the game, so debating this point is moot. Regarding the facing each other thing, the fact that the kings do not face each other in the original version, is another hint that they were reversed essentially to prevent them from facing each other if the center pawns are exchanged as they so often are with anyone who is familiar with playing Chess. In the French Defense exchange variation, the e-file pawns get exchanged and the kings face each other. Even in the original game where pawns move 1 space only, the same thing can happen. I'm not saying it's proof, but it's a possible reason for why the kings do not face each other. There's other possible reasons of course.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-08 UTC
'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.' Who's saying that the 8x8 board came from China? '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.' Well what's sauce for the Peking duck is sauce for the Bombay duck, as it were. If the Chinese wouldn't switch the same pieces to a slightly different board, why would the Indians? '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.' Well this site's Xiang Qi page shows the Chinese characters for 'Elephant Game', not 'Minister Game'. Are these not the correct characters? '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.' Lucky or skilful. They could have seen how well the Ferz and Elephant worked defensively on one side and experimented, switching from squares to intersections (on two half-boards) to get the symmetry that they desired. Perhaps they went through a stage with one aside of more pieces because they wanted to work wit the existing sets, and then decided to make ones specially deisngfed for their own game. '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.' That's a pity, because finding out how might give a clue to who. '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.' The Chinese could easily give two half-boards purely for ease of storage a game-play significance that it never had in India. That would give the River. The Palace or Fortress might be a later addition, perhaps influenced by the Xs at the corner squares of each 4x4 quarter of teh Chaturanga board but moved to fit Chinese culture. Are any of these features on the Wei Qi board? '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 refer the hon. gentleman to my previous point about this site's Xiang Qi page. 'Another thing to point out about the original Chaturanga board. The king/generals do not face each other. They are asymmetric.' They also have Pawns in front of them, so facing would seem an irrelevance.

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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaturanga 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.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-06 UTC
Well seeing a Pawn row as an obstacle that has been cleared out to make the symmettic pieces more mobile turns the one familiar fact that I saw favouring Xiang Qi being first out on its head. So that leaves tbe issue of pre-pre-Cannon Xiang Qi with just the one Ferz ands Elephant aside (anyone else know anything of that gane?), with everything else pointing to Xiang Qi being an improvement on Chaturanga.

John Ayer wrote on 2012-01-04 UTC
'I often read in places, that Shogi and Xiangqi are not as good and appealing as Chess.' I don't know where you saw that, but I don't think it was in this forum. Our header for Xiangqi says that it is played by millions or tens of millions of people around the world. Our header for Shogi says that it is distinguished for its immense popularity and rich history. So 'appealing' is established. 'Good,' we agree, is subjective. Please do not blame us for something published elsewhere, maybe by someone now long dead.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2012-01-04 UTC
Who says Xiangqi is 'finished'? (Or Chess, for that matter?) I think Asia rules for Xiangqi were proposed less than 50-years ago. And in the first half of the 20th century they still played Chess with a different initial setup (with someof the Pawns already advanced). Aren't we trying to improve on Chess every day? Asto the rest of the discussion: I don't think that moving back the Pawn rank with Pawns that don't have an initial double-push can count as an improvement...

John Ayer wrote on 2012-01-04 UTC
My, my, my!

Jason, I never said that Chinese chess is derived from shatranj. I suggest that both are derived from Shatranj al-Kamil, V.1 (John Gollon's listing), which was played on a 10x10 board. My reasoning is at http://www.goddesschess.com/chessays/johnayer.html .

I think the names 'India' and 'China' are having an undue effect, making people think of the modern nation-states, which are rivals. Gerhard Josten, of the Initiative Group Koenigstein, postulates that proto-chess was invented in the Kushan Empire, fusing elements of Greek origin (from the game of poleis or petteia) brought by the Macedonian army with elements of Indian origin (taken from a race game) and elements of Chinese origin (from liubo). His essay is at http://www.mynetcologne.de/~nc-jostenge/ in a pdf. I would like to hear what you think of it. Myron J. Samsin, also of the IGK, argues for a somewhat earlier date in the same area http://www.schachquellen.de/15122.html .

I would also like to hear why you think that the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period are a particularly likely setting for the origin of chess.


Jörg Knappen wrote on 2012-01-04 UTC
I have seen speculations (sorry, I don't have sources ready) about a precursor of the pawn: A forward moving piece using custodian capture (as in Tablut). It may be related to the game Petteia played in ancinet greece (the rules of that game are unfortunately lost). This explains the divergent nature of move and capture of the Shatranj pawn.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2012-01-04 UTC
Let me see if I've got your 'pre-pre-Cannon' Xiang Qi right, on the basis that a picture paints 1000 words. If modern Xiang Qi is
and its immediate predecessor was
, was the one before that

I see what you mean that if the 'finished' version of one is later the 'original' is later too, but that pre-supposes that the two have no common 'original'. That would mean that pieces with similar moves in similar positions were created independently in India and China. Most contributors (apparently including yourself) consider this unlikely.

I have already acknowledged that FIDE Chess is a bigger change from Chaturanga than post-Cannon Xiang Qi is from pre-Cannon Xiang Qi, but I do not see it following that the game that needed more change had already been greatly changed from another game. Surely it is more likely that the game that needed less change was the one that had the most prior change.

To call Xiang Qi an improvement on Chaturanga is not to put down China compared to Europe, which also improved on Chaturanga. To call Chaturanga a worsening of Xiang Qi is to say that India cannot even improve a game, let alone create one from scratch. Why should anyone change a game to make it worse? Repositioning pieeces to 'make them work properly' seems far more likely than repositioning pieces that already work properly so that they do not.

A better argument for Chatruranga being derived from Xiang Qi is the Pawn, which does look like an improvement. I concede that this strengthens the case for Chaturanga being derived from Xiang Qi, as does your evidence of pre-pre-Cannon Xiang Qi. How did you find out about that game? On the other hand, does anyone know whether there was a pre-Pawn Chaturanga with a front rank more like Xiang Qi or Shogi? I have read discussions on the Rook having a precursor (the Dabbaba - and where would that come from in a Chinese-origin theory) but never the Pawn.


Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-01 UTC
To Charles G.: When I say 'finished in development', what I mean is that the fact that 8x8 Chess could be improved at least 500 years after Xiangqi's last improvement before it was 'finished', suggests that the original 8x8 game comes after the original Xiangqi game. It's not full proof, but generally if 2 games come from the same source, it should be faster for the original game to finish its development first because there should be less changes necessary. And my point is that there were less changes needed to be made from pre-cannon Xiangqi to cannon Xiangqi as opposed to 8x8 Chess with 1 space moving counselor and 2 space moving minister and 1 space moving pawns and no castling and obviously no en passant. Chess' complexity is approximately the same as Xiangqi (state-space) and Xiangqi would have been more complex than Chess before the bishop and queen were made long range and the pawns 2 spaces. In Xiangqi, pawns only move 1 space, the 2 counselors only move 1 space in the palace, and the minister still moves 2 spaces exactly. That means all they did was add an additional minister, counselor and the 2 cannons in the only place they can fit on the board. That's an easier development process than what happened with 8x8 Chess in Europe. So if both games have those same moving pieces and they come from the same game, then Xiangqi is more likely the first game because those pieces still move the same on the board. I'm not making a strong argument about which board comes from which. Just that the in terms of game development, a game that does not need to change the movements of its pieces is probably precedes another game with the same pieces on a different board and different setup. In order to say logically that the original moving pieces are borrowed from 8x8 Indian Chess in its first known form, the Chinese would have had to take the one space moving counselor and 2 space moving minister and change the board dimensions to make those pieces work properly. That is not impossible, but it is less likely. Generally, a civilization would change the movements of pieces and rules of the game when developing a game and not the board. When I say 'finished its development' I know it is a matter of opinion what 'finished' means, but I am saying that the fact that the minister and counselor needed improvements for 8x8 Chess to be as good as Xiangqi with the cannons, suggests that the game came later and the movement of the pieces are borrowed. Logically speaking, if 8x8 Chess came first, the Indian/Persian civilizations would have put in the long range bishop/minister to begin with and not made a 1 space moving counselor which does not make much sense next to the king. If the king can move to all of its 8 spaces around it, why would you want to put a piece right next to it that can move 1 space diagonal only? It seems out of place and not logical. And the minister or bishop moving exactly 2 squares seems silly also because that piece can only reach 25% of the squares on the board. If Xiangqi came from 8x8 Persian/Indian Chess, then there would probably be changes to the movements of the pieces and not the other way around to fit the different 9x10 intersection board. Instead, we have the same moving pieces on both games and they need to be changed on 8x8 and not 9x10. The 1 space moving counselor in Xiangqi makes sense because the general or emperor moves only 1 space orthogonal and therefore the counselor(s) moves differently than it. The 2 compliment each other. In 8x8 Chess, the 2 pieces in the center do not compliment each other. I am not pointing fingers at anyone on this board, but the general attitude of most Western sources that say with authority that Chess comes from India at a certain time without doing any research into how related chess games were developed in other parts of Asia. That seems like the European world wants their version of Chess to be the first one. The original one and arguably the best. I often read in places, that Shogi and Xiangqi are not as good and appealing as Chess. It looks like bigotry to me or at least ethnocentric thinking which all cultures are like to a certain degree. However, I have noticed that Asian cultures like Japan and China don't automatically say that FIDE Chess is junk and should be disregarded because its just copied from Xiangqi or Shogi. That kind of attitude is not as prevalent although the Japanese and Chinese also have their own superiority issues. You guys say that no one on this board has any stake in whether the game comes from Persia, Afghan, India, China or any other place, but I think there is something at stake. Maybe not necessarily with everyone on the board here, but with the Western world in general. Since the Western world plays the best and most commonly accepted form of Chess on an 8x8 board with Staunton pieces, if it were to be said that the birthplace of Chess comes from China and not India, it would in a way damage the image of the game as being the original and best one. The concept being sold is that India is the birthplace and Europe improved the game to what it is today. If people start saying the Indian version is borrowed from the Chinese version on a different board, then Chess loses its mystique and 'credibility' almost. If you love 8x8 Chess or any form of chess, you naturally do not want to say it is just copied from another game because it hurts your pride as a person who plays that game as well as to perhaps your culture too. I talk to Westerners, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people and none of them want to say that their game was from another game. They all like saying their game is original to their culture and they came up with it on their own. Since we know for sure 8x8 Chess doesn't come from Europe, it has to be linked to some where and India/Persia are the earliest known places the game comes from which is fine. What is not fine is to say that other related games are assumed to be copied from the first known cases of 8x8 Chess. That's an assumption that should not automatically be made because as in the case of the Chinese civilization, the Western world is telling the Chinese world that they cannot make certain conclusions or estimations based on their own history without proper evidence. I'm saying that its wrong for people to demand evidence from a civilization that they have proof that their own game comes from their region. If they want to say it comes from their region, that's their business. You don't have to agree with it, but it seems that for Chinese Xiangqi historians, they are automatically wrong to think Spring and Autumn period or Warring States period without sufficient evidence.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-12-28 UTC
Charles has said several things that I had in mind when I was obliged to break off. I want to add that I think the concept of 'a game that has finished its development' is unsound. Shatranj/medieval chess was played for at least eight hundred years, and during that time most people probably considered it a finished game. A few restless minds kept tinkering with it, usually to no effect.

Lastly, Jason, you should stop claiming racial grievance and imputing improper motives to everyone else. We mongrels of the western world have explained repeatedly that we have nothing to gain or lose by whether chess originated in India, China, Egypt, or Antarctica. Nor is it true that we have announced a doctrine and then refused to reconsider. We have made an interpretation of the (alas! imperfect) evidence, but eagerly examine every new bit of evidence, and every new argument. This is why we consider everything you have to say, and keep asking for evidence.


Charles Gilman wrote on 2011-12-27 UTC
Jason L.: '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.' I was not aware of that. Nor have I seen any evidence from the comments that any other contributor was except you. That would certainly make a difference. If Xiang Qi used a pre-existing board it means that the board wasn't derived from the 8x8 one in the 'two half-boards' that so many here consider intuitive. It does not however mean that the reverse derivation happened either, as the 8x8 board too was a pre-existing one. It means that the half-boards misunderstanding never happened in either direction, and that the boards therefore have no bearing on which game came first. '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.' Have you never seen an advertisement selling something as - 'new, improved!'? Think of FIDE Chess. Outside variant circles that is generally considered a game that does not need improvement. The reason is that is a product of improvements of something that did need improving. That how it works. Of course a game that needs improving is older than a game based on it but with improvements made. You are not arguining that because FIDE Chess does not need improvement for most players means that it too is older than Chaturanga, are you? '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?' We all agree that the predecessor to Xiang Qi with Cannons was Xiang Qi without. As to what the predecessor to that was, most contributors here seem to say Chaturanga, and you yourself say this earlier middle-file-heavy Xiang Qi. 'Please be more specific when you say that the bishop and queen in their modern form had already been around for centuries.' That was not what I said. I was pointing out that those pieces were added to an 8x8 game without them that had, in the form of Chaturanga and Shatranj, existed for many centuries.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-12-27 UTC
Jason, I admire the patient courtesy with which you maintain your position toward people who still don't see things the way you do. My copy of Prof. Li's book is miles away at the moment, so I can't give a full reply this evening.

I think it is adequately established that both the ashtapada and the Chinese chess board were taken from previous uses, so trying to derive either from the other is pointless.

You say that '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 is new to me. Please explain how the pieces and the palace concept are specific to the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period.

More later.


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.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2011-12-26 UTC
Who's claiming that pre-Cannon Xiang Qi closely resembles Chaturanga? Perhaps there really is a Charles Gillman and for some reason I cannot see his comments! For myself I acknowledged that the differences were (a) considerable betwen Chaturanga and any kind of Xiang Qi; (b) considerable between Chaturanga and FIDE Chess; and (c) relatively slight between pre- and post-Cannon Xiang Qi. I simply added that it didn't follow that two considerable changes going west - Xiang Qi to Chaturanga to FIDE Chess - and a slight change in China were any more likely than one considerable change going west - Chaturanga to FIDE Chess - and one going east - Chaturanga to Xiang Qi. Saying that the General has 'only 1 counselor and 1 minister on each side' (perhaps that's where the rogue L came from) is puzzling, as that - on the basis that 1 of a piece each side of the General means 2 of that piece in the entire army - is what Xiang Qi still has and therefore there is nothing for it to be 'only' compared to. Or are you saying that there was only one short-range piece on each side, a one-step one on one and a two-step one on the other? If so, this is not a game that appears widely known of based on previous comments. I would not say that Chaturanga looks more 'modern' than any kind of Xiang Qi, only that it looks simpler. Why should 8 more pieces (4 aside) be any greater a sign of a more recent game than 26 more positions for them to occupy? The first 8x8 game certainly did not have '2 minister and 2 counselors'. It did have two Elephants - the Elephant=Minister pun was specific to China and did not work anywhere else - but there was one Counsellor with two Ls, not two with one each. That one 1-step piece does not fit 8 files as well as two fit 9 files does indeed mean that the latter case had 'no improvement needed', but it does not follow that the game not requiring improvement is the older one. It could equally be argued that the one not requiring improvement had already been improved a lot from some predecessor, and the one still needing improvement had not - and perhaps was that predecessor. The point about which change of board is more likely is, as far as I understand, unaffected by any known timeline. Are you saying that there was a time when Xiang Qi was known to exist and Chaturanga known not to? Otherwise what matters is which change seems more natural. Chaturanga's board with 8x8 squares or 9x9 corners had already been long in existence for the older game of Ashtapada. It is easy to imagine versions of this being made as two half-boards, each with 8x4 squares or, as a result of repeating one boundary, 9x5 corners. This is then easy to turn into the Xiang Qi board, complete with something that could be interpreted as the River. It seems far less likely that the River would be invented spontaneously and the Indians then 'take out the river', deliberately or accidentally. Your conclusion that 'games that are based on another game, generally will finish its development at a later date than its predecessor' sheds no light on anything. Chess with modern long-range Queens and Bishops was already only 'based on' an 8x8 game that had been in existence for many centuries, regardless of what that earlier game was in turn based on.

Jason L. wrote on 2011-12-24 UTC
@ Charles Gillman Have you seen the pre-cannon version of Xiangqi? It does not resemble the earliest known version of 8x8 chess in India or Persia which are basically the same. The earliest pre-cannon version of Xiangqi has less pieces (12) per side with only 1 counselor and 1 minister on each side with the general in the middle which does not resemble the first known version of 8x8 chess anywhere. It's assumed that the earliest known version of chess in India is the first game and all games are derived from that, but why are there already 16 pieces in that game with 2 ministers/elephants? The game is more modern looking than the first version of Xiangqi which suggests that it comes after Xiangqi and not before. If something looks older and has less pieces in its setup, it probably predates a more modern looking formation, not the other way around. The first version of 8x8 chess in Persia and India looks like a modern version of Xiangqi with 2 minister and 2 counselors in it. The position of the pieces is more similar. That suggests that the first version of 8x8 chess is derived from a more modern version of Xiangqi. That means 8x8 came after the first known version of Xiangqi. This assumption that the Chinese drastically changed a game that was developed in India by moving to intersection points and putting in a palace, river, and cannons goes against common sense if you look at the timelines of the 2 games. If Xiangqi's earliest known version had slow moving pieces like a 1 space diagonal counselor (fers in 8x8 chess) and a 2 space moving minister (elephant in 8x8 chess), then that means those pieces had to have come from one game or the other originally. The fact that there was no improvement needed for those 2 pieces in Xiangqi means that those pieces come from that 9x10 board to begin with. That is not radical change. That means origin. If one is to argue that the 1 space moving counselor and 2 space moving minister came from 8x8 and were moved to 9x10, then this a more hard pressed argument, because those pieces never fit that game well to begin with which is why it took longer for those pieces to evolve into the long range bishop and long range queen. That is why Xiangqi's development ends around the year 800-900 A.D. and Chess does not finish its development until 15th Century A.D. in Europe. That means that those pieces were NOT developed for that 8x8 board no matter how simple that board looks with the 64 squares. That means they were borrowed from another game and needed to be altered to fit the new board. Therefore, based on the movement of the original chess pieces which had 1 or 2 counselors, and 1 minister with a 2nd being added later, the 9x10 board appears to pre-date the 8x8 board and it looks like the pieces on the 9x10 board were simply moved from the intersection points to the squares and the river was not counted. If you take out the river in Xiangqi and just count squares, you get 8x8. Easy enough. It would be harder for someone or a group of people to take the 8x8 board and add a river in between as well as a palace. Shogi which plays more like FIDE Chess or actually like Makruk, is obviously a descendant of South East Asian Chess which is played in squares on the 8x8 board, but the Japanese used a 9x9 square board instead. Shogi finished its development in the 1600's. Therefore, games that are based on another game, generally will finish its development at a later date than its predecessor. This is not contrary to common sense. Xiangqi finished its development 500 years before 8x8 Chess in Europe, and Shogi finished its development about 100 years after Chess in Europe. Therefore, it is likely that 8x8 Chess comes from 9x10 Xiangqi, and 9x9 Shogi comes from 8x8 Chess or Makruk specifically.

Jason L. wrote on 2011-12-20 UTC
The addition of cannons has really nothing to do with the discussion between whether the original game is from Persia, India, or China. It's a well known fact that the cannon was added in the Song dynasty which is a few hundred years after chess appeared in India. By that time there was already 8x8 in Persia and India, and 9x10 in China and/or Korea, so the cannons don't really address which one came first or which one came from which. It is a fact that Xiangqi finished its development in the Song dynasty which is at least 500 years before 8x8 finished its development in Europe, so in the case of chess, the development of Xiangqi finished earlier, so development of these 2 games was faster in China. Regarding the 2 boards, it's possible to develop either from each other, but my main point from the beginning has always been the apparently out of place counselor in 8x8 chess. It moves 1 space diagonally and seems out of place. The counselor in Xiangqi has a specific role to defend either the side or the front of the general. In Xiangqi's original setup, the counselor or scholar was behind the general (which was in the center of the palace like in Janggi). My point has always been the original pieces of both games are designed for the 9x10 board and are out of place on the 8x8 board with no palace suggesting that 8x8 is from 9x10 and not the other way around. If you look at the Grand Chess page, the guy who designed the game writes about how the original 8x8 pieces don't seem to fit the board, so the long range bishop was developed, and the counselor or queen was improved to combine the powers of a bishop and rook. So its not as simple an issue of whether an 8x8 board is more intuitive or a 9x10 intersection board. We also need to look at the earliest known version of Xiangqi with just 1 counselor and 1 minister and the earliest known version of 8x8 chess in India which already had 2 ministers (elephants) with the back row filled out with pieces. The earliest known version of Xiangqi has less pieces (12 per side) than 8x8 chess in India (16 per side). Less pieces suggest an earlier game. I've been talking to people with some knowledge of Xiangqi in Taiwan and there does not appear to be any definitive description of the game detailed enough in literature to confirm its origins before chess in India or Persia as far as I know. There are references towards people playing some sort of qi (chess game), but that could mean any kind of board game involving pieces. It is believed that the game is from the Spring and Autumn period and is around 2,000 years old and did not finish its development until the Song dynasty. Please remember, that this is just the general Chinese belief of their own game and was not created to dispute the European theory that Chess is from India in the 6th century. It is an internal Chinese opinion. I'm not saying it is necessarily correct, but I am saying that this is a general belief because many things were invented at that time and the game is not believed to have a foreign origin. Another interesting thing I heard is that the xiang in Xiangqi does not mean elephant. It is from the word qi xiang. I mean the 2 characters put together that mean weather. qi as in air. xiang as in image. qi xiang can mean weather as in weather report, and other words related to the weather, but qi xiang means 'atmosphere' or 'mood' in regards to the game. If this is correct, it is totally not correct to say that Xiangqi is the elephant's game and that the elephant was imported from India. If you know Chinese, it's very believable that there are a number of interpretations possible for a single chinese characters, and the xiang character that is used for elephant only means elephant when it is with the character for 'large', or da xiang. This is not evidence that Xiangqi was developed in the Spring and Autumn period of course, but it does suggest that the origin or at least the name of the game has nothing to do with elephants and therefore the original version of 8x8 chess in India does not seem to have any direct influence on Xiangqi, because the xiang piece which is written 2 different ways in a Xiangqi set, does not mean elephant on either side. One side means zai xiang or prime minister, and the other xiang could be from the name of the game as it has the same sound as xiang from zai xiang. In Chinese people's understanding of the minister, it is meant to be a government official who stays in his own countryside and does not cross the river to the other side. He moves exactly 2 spaces to show that he has a high rank and can move swiftly about his own country as opposed to the scholars who stay inside the palace only and can only move 1 space. Therefore, for the purposes of our discussion here, the existence of an elephant in Persian and Indian Chess should not be used a strong piece of evidence that chess originated in India. Anyway, I need to learn more, but so far, I have not seen much from the history of Xiangqi that would suggest that it was derived from Indian or Persian 8x8 chess.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2011-08-27 UTC
Hey, i've noticed something about this mahabharata verse, and i don't think we have been looking at it in the right context. I'll tell you why. First of all, to understand exactly what Yudhishthira is saying in this verse, you have to know what is going on in his life at this time. He and his brothers have just spent 12 years in exile and have one more year to go, but if they are detected in this final year, they must spend another 13 years in exile. So they plan to spend the final year in disguise, living in the city of Virata. So now, each brother speaks, telling the others .... 1. how they are going to disguise themselves 2. how they will spend their time in this disguise and go undetected till the year ends. With this in mind, let's look at what Yudhishthira says. Sentences 1 and 2 ... (1). Yudhishthira replied, 'Ye sons of the Kuru race, ye bulls among men, hear what I shall do on appearing before king Virata. (2). Presenting myself as a Brahmana, Kanka by name, skilled in dice and fond of play, I shall become a courtier of that high-souled king. ok, this is clear, Yudhishthira tells his brothers how he plans to disguise himself as a pro-gamer, so to speak. Now sentences 3 and 4. (3). And moving upon boards beautiful pieces made of ivory, of blue and yellow and red and white hue, by throws of black and red dice. (4). I shall entertain the king with his courtiers and friends. Now the 3rd sentence here is the one we are always told Yudhisthira describes a game, however, this is not true, Yudhisthira is actually describing HIMSELF PLAYING A GAME. He is telling his brothers how he will be passing his days in the king's court playing games. It is one thing to describe a game, but it is another thing to describe yourself playing a game, they are two different things. And look at the 4th sentence, it follows on from the 3rd, it shows the outcome of his playing games, he shall entertain the king. In the 5th and 6th sentences, Yudhisthira then says how he will be undetected. (5) And while I shall continue to thus delight the king, nobody will succeed in discovering me. (6) And should the monarch ask me, I shall say, 'Formerly I was the bosom friend of Yudhishthira.' And look at the last sentence .... (7) I tell you that it is thus that I shall pass my days (in the city of Virata). He finishes telling them 'it is thus that i shall pass my days ..'. When you understand he is describing himself playing a game, rather than the game itself, it isn't such a big deal he has used the word 'board' instead of a more specific term. How many of us today use the word 'board' instead of 'chessboard', and as far as not describing the piece movements, what is the point? If we ask these questions, 'why not board specific word' and 'why not describe piece movements', i think we are clearly not understanding what Yudhisthira is telling his brothers. If you read the Mahabharata after Yudhisthira finishes, all his other brothers speak, telling how they will disguise themselves and how they pass their days in this disguise. Also, looking at the 3rd sentence of Yudhisthira, note his words 'And moving upon boards' and 'by throws of black and red dice'. He is painting a picture of himself playing the game. You will note in this sentence, he describes what the pieces are made of, the colors of the pieces, even the color of the dice, all the visuals. Also i think it is interesting he says 'beautiful pieces', though you can conclude nothing from it. It is more easily imaginable this describes chess-like pieces rather than Pachisi pieces, though as i said, this proves nothing. Oh, one more thing, i think there is also no doubt Yudhisthira's brothers knew very well the game he was talking about playing. So i think i have to go back to what i originally thought, this game could be a pachisi type game or it could be chaturaji.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-08-13 UTC
Certainly! On page 36, in footnote 31 to Chapter 1, Murray writes, 'Careless translators have represented the game as chess.' After quoting a text very similar to yours, he continues, 'The same passage was translated by E. W. Hopkins (_Journal Amer. Or. Soc._, New-haven, 1889, xiii. 123): 'I shall become a dice-mad, play-loving courtier, and with the bejewelled holders fling out the charming beryl, gold, and ivory dice, dotted black and red.' On reference to the original Sanskrit, it is perfectly clear that there is no term that necessitates chess. The word used for _board_ is the perfectly general term _phalaka_.''

Peter Aronson wrote on 2011-08-12 UTC
Pachisi and a related game, Chaupar, were sometimes played with long dice. Here's a picture of a set with dice. Wikipedia isn't all that good with traditional games, alas.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2011-08-12 UTC
yeah it does seem strange after a pretty detailed description of the game no info on pieces is given. Pachisi doesn't sit too well either does it, because of the dice maybe? i looked on wiki about that game and it says it is played with 'shell' thingies for dice, and you use 6 or 7 of them to roll or each roll? i'm guessing though you could play with dice?

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2011-08-11 UTC
hey john you don't have an exact quote from murray about this verse do you? i'll post soon what i have concluded about this verse too, there's a couple of questions i have also about it.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-08-10 UTC
Murray argued, and I agree, that if the chessboard had been meant, the text would name the ashtapada, rather than using the general term phalaka (gameboard). One of the most engaging facts about chess in any form is the variety of shapes and characters and names of the various pieces, and in a colorful description of the game--'of blue and yellow and red and white hue, by throws of black and red dice'--the author would, I think, have mentioned the variety of pieces, if there had been any variety, instead of using a single word that is not specific to chess at all. I agree that it is possible to apply this description to chaturaji. I think it is a very bad fit.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2011-08-09 UTC
Yudhishthira replied, 'Ye sons of the Kuru race, ye bulls among men, hear what I shall do on appearing before king Virata. Presenting myself as a Brahmana, Kanka by name, skilled in dice and fond of play, I shall become a courtier of that high-souled king. And moving upon chess-boards beautiful pawns made of ivory, of blue and yellow and red and white hue, by throws of black and red dice. I shall entertain the king with his courtiers and friends. And while I shall continue to thus delight the king, nobody will succeed in discovering me. And should the monarch ask me, I shall say, 'Formerly I was the bosom friend of Yudhishthira.' I tell you that it is thus that I shall pass my days. Now replaceing 'chess-boards' with 'boards' and 'pawns' with 'pieces', we still have a very interesting verse here! It is true there is not very much detail here, about the game, but that is to be expected. There is a drama going on in the life of Yudhishthira and his brothers, and he is explaining how he will disguise himself. That is the main purport of his talk. So, let's look at what we have about the game. We have a game, played with dice, on a board, with pieces of four specified colors. There is no mention of piece movements at all, but, this is to be expected isn't it, Yudhishthira is talking about how he will disguise himself, not talking really about the game, which is not the main point. Now John, you say .. 'So we have a gameboard, dice, and pieces of four specified colors but NO MENTION OF DIFFERENT TYPES. Not chess, probably pachisi.' I don't understand why you say 'not chess, probably pachisi', can you explain why you say this. It seems to me that a game with dice, board, and pieces of 4 different colors could be 'Chaturaji'.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2011-06-19 UTC
Jason compares two games as they currently are, and acknowledges that both are somewhat modified. Just how much each is modified relative to the 'original' is of course begging the question, but he rightly points out that Xiang Qi is far closer to its pre-Cannon precursor than FIDE Chess is to Shatranj and Chaturanga. It does not follow that pre-Cannon Xiang Qi is itself closer to the common ancestor of all these games. Jason could be saying that as change has been slower in China recently, it has always been slower, but that is ultimately just a guess. It could equally be argued that we would expect the average change has been the same both east and west of India, in which case the mere addition of Cannons to Xiang Qi is a change to a game that had alreday been drastically changed - from being on an 8x8 board, perhaps. This too is just a guess, but one pointing to an Indian rather a Chinese 'original'. My instinct is still to credit India, simply because it is so much easier to imagine an 8x8 board in two halves turned into a 9x10 board with a River than vice versa.

Jason L. wrote on 2011-06-17 UTC
EDITORIAL NOTE: Jason, I have excised a small part of your otherwise well-written discussion. What I have done is remove opinions on a non-chess topic. I understand people have strong opinions on many topics, but we get heated up enough about chess here, and site rules specifically state non-chess topics may be removed. I will do so when I feel it is in the best interests of the site. Should you or anyone wish an explanation of my decisions, please contact me at the email address listed on my person ID page. Joe Joyce, editor, TCVP ****************************************** I believe that Xiangqi originates from China, but I did not come here to say that the Persian and Indian versions are definitely copied from it. It's assumed in Western chess origin discussions, that Chess originates from India and that Far East Asian countries like China, Korea, and Japan all copied it. That's the assumption I am pointing out here as being a superiority thing. The truth is that Westerners play Western chess on an 8x8 board. Therefore, most would rather believe that the original game was the 8x8 game and not some 9x10 intersection game played in dirty Chinatowns all over the world. It's the same thing with Chinese people. They would rather believe that their game came first. Gives them a sense of pride. I talk to a lot of Chinese people about this, and they definitely prefer to believe their game is an original design. In more objective analyses on chess origin, documentation seems to support India, archeology seems to support Persian, and game design seems to support China. The game design aspects I have been repeating like a broken record because no one is acknowledging the really common sense things I am pointing out, support a Chinese theory but do not prove a Chinese origin. The British controlled all of India and Hong Kong is just a small part of China. India was Britain's crown colony. So it's not the same situation. The whole Xiangqi vs. Western Chess debate also extends into which game is more complex and well designed. I have met many Westerners who immediately bash Xiangqi as being a more simple game where the pieces don't move as far as the bishop and queen. Xiangqi also has an incompetent horse that can't even jump. Well, the average number of moves to finish a Chess game is around 40 and Xiangqi is around 47. The game tree complexity of Xiangqi is also about 20% higher, but these facts are not considered of course. It's because of the no-perptual check rule in Xiangqi that the game tree complexity is 20% higher which artificially inflates the complexity! Not because of the larger board of course. I don't know that much about archeology and documentation and what is considered legitimate, but I do have common sense, and anyone who plays these 2 games will feel that the Western chess game is more modern and evolved. That means newer! When teaching Xiangqi to Westerners over here, they feel that Xiangqi feels more archaic because the pieces are more limited. That implies that the game is older, and not newer. I am talking about the game design aspect of course. If 2 games are obviously related, the one with pieces that feels more archaic is probably the older game. If you look at Courier Chess (the German 12x8 game) it is obviously older than the modern version of the 8x8 game because of the limited movement of many of the pieces. Without knowing the history of Courier Chess and 8x8 Modern Chess, one can tell that Courier Chess is older. Why don't these common sense things apply to Xiangqi as well? Forgive me for repeating a broken record, but it is fairly well recognized that the best version of the 8x8 game was not finalized until the late 1400's when the modern queen and bishop were both used at the same time, and the final version of Xiangqi came about in the Song Dynasty which is about 500 years earlier. Based on this game development timeline of the 2 games, which game most likely came first? A game that finished its development 500 years after another one or the one that finished its development 500 years before? This is not rock solid proof, but it certainly suggests that the commonly accepted India origin may be suspect based on a game design point of view. So does anyone want to discuss the origin issue from a game design standpoint, or are you guys going to attack me personally for suggesting that this is a racist issue? Let's take the minister/bishop/elephant piece for example. There was a great deal of experimentation with this piece for around 1,000 years. There was the Silver General move, which exists in Shogi and Thai Chess, there was the 2 space diagonal jump move, and also a 2 space orthogonal jump for this piece. That means that between India, Persia, and Europe, it seems that we didn't know quite what to do with this piece before settling on the long range bishop. Now, the Xiangqi minister or elephant if you will, has always had that same exact movement which is 2 spaces diagonal and in the final modern version, the 2 ministers are placed on the same diagonal so they support each other. In Xiangqi history, the starting position and number of ministers changed, but not the movement as far as I know. So from a game design standpoint, if we assume the minister in Xiangqi and bishop in 8x8 chess have a common origin, which game was it originally designed for? A game where it did not undergo any change (movement wise) in its entire history, or a game where there were at least 3 different versions of it and didn't get fully developed until like almost 1,000 years later in Europe. The jumping bishop couldn't even capture its counterpart because the 2 pieces will end up jumping over each other. That doesn't sound like good game design to me. That seems like the piece was not designed for that board, so the movement of the piece needed to be changed. It needed to evolve into a piece that could move 1 or more spaces, so that bishops on the same diagonal could capture each other and not always jump over each other. One more thing about elephants. Please keep in mind that Xiangqi pieces originally did not have color, so the pieces were written with different Han Chinese characters to distinguish them. Xiang (Prime Minister) rhymes with Xiang (elephant), and the minister piece is supposed to simulate what a high level gov't. official does in his own countryside. It stays near home and doesn't go across the river to the other side. Who would design an elephant piece that was mostly defensive? War elephants are not defensive in real warfare. So the elephant debate does not apply to Xiangqi. Does anyone want to talk about game design and the evolution of pieces on different boards? I'm not here to try to present documentation of a Chinese source that Xiangqi 'does not' come from India. Such documentation does not exist probably, because no Chinese documentation would feel the need to say such a thing literally because they probably never considered the possibility. Just because Murray writes a big book on the Indian origin theory, doesn't mean I need to provide a Chinese source that says it's not the case that China copied India. I'm just looking at the bigger picture from another point of view. As I pointed out in an earlier post, the Chinese in general do not say that the West copied chess from them, but just feel Xiangqi is their own game. But the reverse is not true. The common notion in the West is that Xiangqi comes from India as do all forms of chess. I'm not even saying that India and Persia copied China. I'm just saying that Xiangqi seems to be older for a lot of common sense reasons.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-03-27 UTC
Looking at the map of Bactria, I see a place northeast of it called Ferghana. It seems obvious to me, without any further analysis or study, that this is where Chess was invented.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-03-27 UTC
Jason, you say that chariots were not used in Chinese warfare beginning with the Chin Dynasty, about twenty-two centuries ago, and that this suggests that chess in China is older than that. Interestingly, chariots seem to have been disused in Indian warfare since the invasion by Alexander of Macedon and his mixed army twenty-three centuries ago, and some have used that fact to argue that chess in India dates from before Alexander.

'Anyway, Li's book presents all the Western arguments which are always based on the indisputable assumption that India is first or else the white man loses face...' It seems to me that the British might have felt (not that I can discuss this with any nineteenth-century British) that they would lose face if they had chess from their own Indian subjects. I get the impression that they thought China more civilized and respectable than India.

As for Dr. Li's assertion that chess survived underground at the Imperial Court for eight hundred years, this is as completely unsupported as everything else he says about chess before the Tang Dynasty.

The two supposed chess pieces from Russia from the second century are actually from Uzbekistan (Dalverzin Tepe). They are an elephant and a bull, so they are not generally accepted as chess pieces. The earliest generally accepted chess pieces are also from Uzbekistan (Afrasiab, right by Samarkand), from the eighth (Christian) century. There are seven of them, covering all six ranks.

As for the Chinese naval expeditions of exploration some six centuries ago, I accept that they happened; they left archeological evidence here and there. We wicked westerners didn't destroy the records, the Chinese did. I have already stated that the Chinese originated gunpowder, rockets, and printing with movable type, and we have them from China. By the way, I have a Chihuahua. According to sources including the Wikipedia, archeology has found remains of dogs of this type, but larger, in Mexico in the centuries before the Spanish Conquest. Our small Chihuahuas are supposed to be derived from the pre-Conquest dogs crossed with Chinese miniatures brought by the Conquistadors. I asked for any evidence that the Conquistadors, or for that matter the Spanish of that period, had Chinese miniature dogs. Profound silence. I suggested that the Chinese miniature dogs had more likely been brought by the Chinese in the generations before the Spanish Conquest. Continued profound silence.

Jason, the rest of us have disclaimed any investment in whether chess originated in China, India, Iran, Bactria, or Antarctica. You are the only one--the only one!--who has suggested that pinning down the location where chess originated would say anything about the superiority of one nation over another.


Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-03-26 UTC

Chess was created by King Arthur, originally in the form we have it in now. When Queen Guinevere slept with Lancelot, Arthur decided the Queen was too powerful and reduced her power in the game. The game reached India through one of the knights of the round table who went there looking for the holy grail. In the meantime, the game became lost in Britain, because Arthur was killed by his own son Mordred, who never had a close enough bond with his father to learn the game from him. Since the Indians were savage heathens who worshiped animals instead of the one true God, they replaced the Bishops with Elephants. They also didn't understand rules like castling, because they had no castles, and en passant, because they didn't speak French. So they left those rules out. From there, the game spread to China and Persia. Because the Chinese were also heathens, their form of the game became even more corrupted. But since Islam had some affinity with the one true religion, even if it was a heresy, the Muslims preserved the Indian form without corruption. When the game came to Europe, where the one true religion had made its home, white Christians, with the help of God, were able to discern the true form of the game and return it to the ideal form originally created by King Arthur. So all hail Britannia. Britannia rules the waves. Uber alles Britannia. Oh, and speaking of how wonderful the British are, why did we ever overthrow them in this country? It just makes no sense. We should be putting Queen Elizabeth II on all our money, or better yet, King Arthur. And isn't it about time that we made English the official language of the United States? Does anyone really need another language? Wouldn't this more easily facilitate the spread of British culture to the rest of the world, which, of course, would be good for everyone, seeing as how all good things stem from Britain?


Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-03-26 UTC

Jason, You're sounding like a broken record. You keep repeating the same insubstantial and fallacious arguments. If the Chinese historical record shows that Xiangqi is not of Indian origin, show us this. Don't complain that westerners will not read Chinese sources when you cannot even produce one single Chinese source to back up what you're saying. Peter Banaschak has carefully looked into the Chinese sources on Xiangqi, as described in this article on his website, and he has not found adequate evidence that Xiangqi is earlier than Chaturanga.

Also, let me reiterate that the white man has no stake in whether the brown man or the yellow man created the original version of Chess. It is true that India was part of the British Empire. But so was Hong Kong. If it is at all prestigious for the British for them to think that Chess comes from India, it would be just as prestigious for them to think that it came from China, which Hong Kong is a part of. And if the British were really so motivated by racism to dishonestly claim an Indian origin for Chess, why didn't they just claim a European origin or a British origin for Chess? You keep trying to frame this as a racial issue, but it is not one.

And where did you pick up the idea that Americans believe all good things come from Europe, or by extension regions of the British Empire? It's ridiculous. I'm an American, and I've never met any other American who has claimed such a thing.


Jason L. wrote on 2011-03-26 UTC
I'm not here to defend David Li's book because I too found the lack cites disappointing because we don't know if he's just making up a convenient story to date Xiangqi back 800 years before the first Indian version or if the research he did really does suggest this. The document written in the late 1700's of course does not count as evidence because it's just a story. I have already written most of my points in earlier posts so there's no need to keep repeating them. It can be argued both ways which game influenced the other because they are so similar except one is played on the squares and one is played on the intersection points and it can go both ways. However, why is it more reasonable to assume the Indian version came first? I don't see a reason to assume that that's the case. I will try to reiterate my basic point here again. If the diagram on pg. 173 showing the early design of Xiangqi is legitimate and he didn't just make it up, the development process of Xiangqi is not derived from Shatranj because there are less pieces on the original Xiangqi board. There is no minister in the game at first. Just one counselor. If you bring another game over, you generally don't delete pieces from the board, but you might modify the pieces or the board. Therefore, it's common sense that the earlier game would have less pieces on it and then more pieces get added later on. This is, a 2nd minister and a 2nd counselor were added in later only when the 2 cannons were added. So my key point which I am repeating again, is that to make a logical comparison between Shatranj and the Xiangqi, you have to look at the earliest version of Xiangqi and not the modern version of it which has the board full of pieces. Does this make sense to everyone? We don't need to agree on whether the diagrams in the Li book are legit or not, but we should be able to agree on the fact that an earlier game would have less pieces on the board than a later game. Shatranj and modern Xiangqi look similar so either could have influenced the other, but the diagram on pg. 173 in that book shows us 1 counselor sitting behind the general in the palace and that does not look like Shatranj at all. Later on, 1 minister was added in front of the general. That also does not look like Shatranj. Only in the Tang-Song dynasty diagrams of Xiangqi was a 2nd minister (bishop) added and a 2nd counselor and the general was pushed back to the 1st rank where the game finally looks like Shatranj. In fact, modern setup of Janggi is more similar to the original Xinagqi setup with the General on the 2nd row and not the first, and there are many instances where Korea and Japan preserved an earlier Chinese version of something and made it their own while the Chinese changed their ways and their language. It's common to find Japanese usage of Han characters to have a Tang dynasty meaning which modern Chinese is not similar to creating confusion nowadays. What can I say, living in Asia over here, I have learned to look at things from the other way around as opposed to the way I looked at things in the States where we assumed all good things must have come from Europe and therefore India which later became a part of the British pride. I was only saying the Weqi board divided into 4 parts is 10x9 which is either an interesting coincidence or an explanation for where the 10x9 board came from in the first place. If we want to view things from the Western superiority point of view, then we can believe the Chinese took the 8x8 board and put the pieces on the intersection points just to be different or to be similar to Weiqi. Xiangqi was not a direct predecessor of Weiqi. That is a connection game and not a war game. I was just saying the board seems to be taken from it. So just look at the earlier diagrams from the book because I am tired of typing here. It's so obvious from the Chinese point of view that the game was not copied from Shatranj which looks like a more modern version of Xiangqi, it's not even funny. When I discuss the topic with my Chinese friends either in Taiwan or mainland China, people view the game as being from the Warring States period or the Spring and Autumn period because of the emphasis on the chariot. Chariots were supposedly not used starting with the Qin dynasty so its a rather old piece. So since this topic is about who thinks what, I am pointing out to you guys that there's quite a few Chinese people out there who think its their game and this is not something they copied from India. And Warring States period and Spring and Autumn period are like 1000 years before 600 A.D. But it is true that there's gap in the history Li is suggesting. A convenient gap. His book claims the game was not revived among the general public until the Tang dynasty which just at the same time the the Indian version appears on the scene. Therefore, if you believe the Indian theory which is also based on really nothing but Western arrogance and superiority, then Li's story sounds like a convenient story to explain why the game didn't game popularity among the public until around the same time as the emergence of the first Indian game. I would need to learn more about this from Chinese sources directly and not just depend on Li's book for why the game was allegedly not played among the public but only the royalty for a very long time. But I did make an objective observation here. If Janggi was really taken from Shatranj, then why did they put the King or General up on the 2nd row when the so-called original or 2nd one after the original one in India does not? Did the Koreans just get funny with their placement or is that just because the original Xiangqi designs have the general up on the 2nd row. Korea is so close to China that its reasonable the modern day version of Janggi kept that older setup of the General. Anyway, Li's book presents all the Western arguments which are always based on the indisputable assumption that India is first or else the white man loses face and the Chinese thinking has like several logical reasons why the game was developed independently of Chaturanga. And also, someone needs to confirm if the archeology discovery of so-called chess pieces in Russia dated to 2nd century is really true or not. How come no one is discussing this very obvious and important event? We are talking about a difference of 4 centuries if those were really chess pieces discovered along the Silk Road. So once again the bigger picture. The Chinese think their game is about a few hundred years older or around Qin dynasty and do NOT claim that Chaturanga and every other version of chess in the world came from theirs and don't care very much how those other chess games came about, but yet a few mostly British authors INSIST to the entire world that chess in its original form comes from India and not that nation called China because they play a modern version of the Indian one. The Chinese only care about the issue when they start getting accused of copying things they feel are their own. Anyway, from a player's standpoint, it's very obvious Xiangqi is older. It's a more restricted game with less movement granted to the general. When a game evolves, more movement is generally granted to pieces and not less. If we assume Chaturanga was first, that means the Chinese decreased the movement of the pieces just so they could fit into a palace and get trapped there. From a game design standpoint, this seems silly to think that the Chinese would make pieces more restricted. Also, it doesn't seem that reasonable that if you saw a game where the pieces are placed in the middle of squares, that you would place them on intersections instead and thereby increasing the number of spaces on the board to 90 from 64. And if you saw a game where there were 8 foot soldiers on the 2nd row, it also seems very unlikely that you would not use that design and instead put them on the 4th row but staggered instead of occupying every file. It seems much more likely that in India and/or Persia the 8x8 in the square version of the game was more acceptable culturally and the pawns were moved back to the 2nd row and the horse was granted the power of jumping because otherwise it can't move on its first move. The Xiangqi horse or knight is obviously the older one. In terms of gameplay, almost everything about Xinagqi feels older. I'm not here to insist the Indian and Persians copied the Chinese. That's their own business. I just think its wrong to make assertions about where a civilization got their game from without even looking into that civilization's history. I've already said this before. That so-called Western Chess historians don't feel the need to read one word of Chinese before they make their bold assertion that the game travelled to China from India. That seems rather ignorant and convenient and this mode of thinking seems to continue. That's like me saying India must have copied everything from the great Chinese civilization but yet I don't care about reading one word their language or looking into their history at all. So out of respect for 1 billion plus people and their history, it would really help people get along better in the world if others did not make assertions about other's history without studying their history first. If the Chinese don't say anything about where Chaturanga is from, then why do Westerners have to say Xiangqi comes from Chaturanga? In fact the Chinese probably don't even know what Chaturanga or Shatranj are. Do you guys realize how arrogant this comes off as? My Japanese friend saw the wiki site for Shogi and it also says it comes from India. She was like... 'That's rather presumptuous.' On what basis do we make this assumption? And I know not all of you are anti-Chinese in general. I am just saying this Chess invention assumption that exists in the Western world is really without any real basis and we shouldn't keep saying 'something is something' just because its been said in the language of English and other Western languages for the past few hundred years. I told you guys how silly the Encyclopedia Britannica supposedly is with the invention of dominoes right? They say its from the 1700's yet the Italians don't even play the game it seems and yet the Chinese are hard core gamblers with dominoes in Pai Gow? So yes, you can quote the great Encyclopedia Britannica if you like but it should be noted that the authors who write these sources are Europeans and would naturally know mostly when things popped up in Europe and they do not have a vast knowledge of the entire world but just see things mostly from a Western European view. If this wasn't a chess site, we could debate about the Ming Dynasty's navy and how it supposedly went to Mexico, Australia, East Africa, and Italy before Columbus made his journey to America much later but already had a map to go there. That whole issue really gets the Western superiority people all riled up. :) And by the way, my friend has been to a Mexican village where the local people have artwork showing the Chinese coming to visit them in the 1400's and introducing how to raise chickens to them apparently. Good god, we need to destroy any evidence all over the world of China having a navy in the 1400's that can reach as far as North America because it would destroy the whole Western superiority complex! ;) I'm pointing these things out, because I feel we are not even talking about chess but just a mindset that we've been educated to believe in the Western world. I read the Encyclopedia when I was a kid and I know things are not as simple as it is laid out there. You can find in the Oxford dictionary that Mao Zedong fought of the Japanese invaders when in fact Russian and Japanese forces do not have much mention of him ordering battles against them. Also, like every Chinese person whether they are pro-CCP or pro-KMT knows that wasn't the case and Mao was happy the Japanese were invading so he could build up his power base for a final conflict which he still really lost if he didn't get saved by America who didn't want Chiang to unite the country and make China (gasp) strong. But yet, the great Oxford dictionary is a legit source right? The dictionary on my Mac Book Pro says for Mao: 'A cofounder of the Chinese Communist Party in 1921 and its effective leader from the time of the Long March (1934–35), he eventually defeated both the occupying Japanese and rival Kuomintang nationalist forces to create the People's Republic of China in 1949.' Are you going to believe that just because it comes from a Western dictionary? According to interviews with people close to Mao like his personal doctor, Mao was livid anytime CCP forces fought the Japanese. Why help the enemy (KMT) like that? It's about taking over China, not helping the Chinese people for heaven's sake! I am getting off topic, but that's my point about chess history. Because Murray says so everyone believes it because of his standing. But what legitimate reasons does he give? Does he know Chinese or is he just saying this is what it is because that's what he want to believe? Does anyone wondering about this history of chess even want to know more about Chinese history in regards to chess or if I happen to find something that suggests it came from China, you guys will just say it's not legitimate because of this that and the other? 'We have a book written by Murray as well as numerous Western sources that say so otherwise.' I must becoming David Li. This Western habit of assuming everything comes from them is driving me nuts. I have too many Western friends in Asia that walk around thinking like this and apparently this kind of thinking is much too common.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2011-03-07 UTC
hey John, of course your not butting in, haha, sorry, i really meant that question to be for everyone too.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-03-06 UTC
Charles, if you were replying to me, 'ashtapada' is not only the name of a race game, it is (primarily) the name of the 8x8 board on which it was played, and on which chaturanga was also played.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2011-03-06 UTC
Ashtapada is not at all chesslike, but neither is Wei Qi. Whichever was the original version of Chess was a big change from anything that went before.

M Winther wrote on 2011-03-05 UTC
It is this 4 colour chess variant: 4-handed Chaturanga with dice. http://hem.passagen.se/melki9/4chaturanga.htm Please try my implementation. It plays rather well. It is also quite fun. This variant could possibly be popularized. /Mats

John Ayer wrote on 2011-03-04 UTC
Christine, I'm butting in here. Murray commented on that passage on page 36. The word rendered 'chess-board' is not 'ashtapada' as you expect but 'phalaka' which is a general term for a game-board. The word rendered 'pawn' is also much less specific. So we have a gameboard, dice, and pieces of four specified colors but NO MENTION OF DIFFERENT TYPES. Not chess, probably pachisi.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2011-03-04 UTC
India as well as China had a tradition of board games before the earliest recognisable proto-Chesses. The name for the board on which Chaturanga was played, Ashtapada, was also the name for an earlier game, probably a race-game, played on that board. The name means 'eight-footed' (cognate with octopus) and refers to the size of each dimension. People in the China camp could argue that Chaturanga was an adaptation of pre-Cannon Xiang Qi for an Ashtapada board, but in that case it seems equally likely that Xiang Qi is an adaptation of Chaturanga for Chinese ways of playing games.

Mark Thompson wrote on 2011-03-03 UTC
I do have David Li's book, which I bought years ago. I had read a favorable review of it that led me to expect that he had interesting new evidence on the origin of chess, but I was disappointed to find that the book merely piled up a tower of unsupported speculations. The closest thing to evidence was an anecdotal account of Xiang-Qi's being invented by a figure from ancient Chinese history, who as I recall lived a few centuries before Christ, the anecdote being attributed to a Chinese document only a few centuries old. This is valueless as evidence of such a theory: it means only that someone about the time of Newton or Voltaire wrote down a legend about something that had happened about the time of Alexander the Great. Without earlier documents, how could the late author know anything about events so far in his own past? Maybe the 18th century Chinese author got the story from an earlier period, but there were plenty of earlier periods between the supposed events and our document when such a legend could have been composed. Besides this legend, everything I could find in Li's book was a seemingly endless parade of descriptions of how it MIGHT HAVE happened that way, and how it's really not so implausible that it COULD HAVE happened that way. Well, of course, it MIGHT have, as I didn't need Li's book to know. But that's what we call 'idle speculation', not evidence. Someone needs to find some much older documents, or dig up some very old equipment, or something, or this theory will remain negligible.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2011-03-03 UTC
Hey, H.G., i came across this webpage the other day, i'd like to know if you have ever seen this and what you think. http://infomotions.com/etexts/gutenberg/dirs/1/5/4/7/15475/15475.htm The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, Volume 2 Books 4, 5, 6 and 7 / Optic, Oliver, 1822-1897 the intersting part is where Yudhishthira says ... Yudhishthira replied, 'Ye sons of the Kuru race, ye bulls among men, hear what I shall do on appearing before king Virata. Presenting myself as a Brahmana, Kanka by name, skilled in dice and fond of play, I shall become a courtier of that high-souled king. And moving upon chess-boards beautiful pawns made of ivory, of blue and yellow and red and white hue, by throws of black and red dice.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-03-02 UTC
Okay, first I don't own a copy of David Li's book. So I can't follow your references to it. Since you keep invoking Occam's Razor, I will point out that it favors my theory, not yours. To account for why other regional Chess variants are more like Shatranj, your theory supposes that they are descended from a descendant of the original game that lost its similarities to Weiqi. My theory is simpler than this, and it goes like this. (1) Shatranj, Malay Chess, Thai Chess, Burmese Chess, and Xiang Qi all share a common ancestor. (2) This common ancestor was played on an 8x8 board with 16 pieces per side, these being 8 Pawns, 1 King, 1 Counselor, 2 Elephants, 2 Horses, and 2 Chariots. (3) This game was probably invented in southwest Asia, spreading to China and southeast Asia through trade routes. (4) In China, someone familiar with Weiqi modified the game to take on a very different form, whereas in southeast Asia, the game stayed closer to its original form. (5) Since Korea is in northeast Asia, and its only neighbor by land is China, it got only the Chinese version instead of the original. (6) Japan, relying more on sea travel due to being an island nation, may have picked up versions from southeast Asia, as well as Korea. The Korean influence on Shogi is seen mainly in the name, which is identical when written with Chinese characters. Let me add that we are not arguing about whose culture is superior. When it comes to India vs. China, both cultures are renowned, and it matters little which is the birthplace of Chess. Even if India is the birthplace of Chess, China still has much in its favor. It is the birthplace of Go, and more importantly, its culture has been much more egalitarian than India's. Indian culture has been dominated by the caste system of Hinduism, whereas China accepted Buddhism, a reform of Hinduism that rejected the caste system, and its promotion of Confucianism led to an egalitarian society in which education mattered more than birth. On a personal note, I am neither Chinese nor Indian, but I'm close to some Chinese people, and I don't currently have any Indian friends. So, if anything, I have a slight preference in favor of China being the birthplace of Chess. For me, this is about facts and evidence, and what I know tends to favor the Indian origin of Chess. What I've read of David Li's theory hasn't convinced me.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-03-01 UTC
Jason L. writes, 'A Chinese person (not me) really needs to bring all the relevant and credible documents towards so-called early designs of Xiangqi to the world so the rest of us don't have to get into these discussions over whose culture is superior or whatever.'

I have no notion that the question of when or where chess originated in Asia will prove anyone's culture superior. Bringing relevant and credible documents forward would indeed do a good deal toward settling this question. According to Dr. Li, General Xan died in political disfavor, and his papers were destroyed, and his game fell into disuse for eight hundred years. How, please, was it then restored to use and favor?


Jason L. wrote on 2011-03-01 UTC
Yes, you make good points about how other variants in Asia are closer to the Shatranj game, but that does not make me think that that was the original game because of the thought historical chronology of the game suggested by Dr. Li. As the book points out, early on the 9x10 intersection board was not accepted by the Persians and the 8x8 board played in the squares was also developed by the Chinese as an experiment. This version was accepted by other cultures and that is why other countries which are quite close to China like Thailand are close to Shatranj. Shogi seems to be a mix of Xiangqi and Shatranj so its possible it was influenced by both and over a long period of time. The pawns in that game move forward and capture the same way which suggests influence from Xiangqi, but many other aspects of that game are either Japanese developments or influence from Shatranj. So while I think your point is true that most chess variations in the world are closer to Shatranj with Korean chess being the exception, coming from my Chinese point of view, it doesn't really matter because 1st century B.C. which is at least 400 years after Weiqi is invented seems more reasonable to me and I am not stuck on intersection points or squares because they are basically the same thing. The logical points brought forth in Dr. Li's book is enough for me and I look forward to one day looking at supposedly supporting evidence either in Chinese literature or artifacts being found in China that support the existence of Xiangqi as we know it today. If this debate didn't exist between China and the West, Chinese scholars would say Xiangqi started around 1 B.C. or around the beginning of the Han dynasty. They did not make that time period up just to be 800 years before the start of Chaturanga in India. The Chinese did not proclaim their game as the first one, but just think it's their own game from around that time. It was the West that proclaimed that Chaturanga was first and that automatically all other forms of chess are derived from it without looking into other sources from other countries. It seems that the Chinese are confident of their own history while the West has to make proclamations about other cultures in order to boost the superiority of their own culture. If you look at some of the quotes from the British writers, they want to equate all inventions that Chinese believe they had to the Indians. It's not about Chess. It's about putting down China because the Brits seemed to hate them for the last 300-400 years. Or rather, China wasn't a British colony so its history needed to be ignored. I'm sure the Dr. Li book won't have much of an influence on anyone who is so sure of the Chaturanga theory that is known as fact in the Western world. Even if several artifacts dated well before 600 A.D. were found throughout Asia, it wouldn't budge a single Westerner's assumption that Chaturanga was the origin of all chess games out there. Playing chess within squares is more popular throughout all the world's chess variants. Does that make it the original game or could that just be the version that was exported out of China that was accepted by other cultures? Regarding the diagrams on the supposed evolution of Xiangqi in Li's book, the original version did not have any ministers but just one adjutant. If Chaturanga is the original game and the Chinese copied it from India, that means they took out 2 ministers/bishops and 3 pawns and rearranged them on the 4th rank so they'd be split. That seems unlikely that a culture would delete pieces it borrowed. In the Chinese chronology, 1 minister was added later, and then later on there was 2 ministers and 2 adjutants as well as 2 cannon. But obviously, the game had already been transplanted to other parts of Asia and the Middle East where the cannon was not included. I gave most of my reasons in the last post so this one will be a bit shorter. We need to look at sources from all over the world and their possible dates to make solid conclusions about chess origins. However, I don't see a single shred of influence in Xiangqi from any other game from its original form to its modern form 1,000 years later. And I can say that because the first version of Chaturanga looks like a late version of Xiangqi without the cannon pieces. The original version of Xiangqi had a very open board. Only 11 pieces for each side. 5 foot soldiers, 2 chariots, 2 horseman, 1 adjutant placed behind the general, and the general on the 2nd rank by himself. Now assuming that a chess game starting from scratch would have less pieces and not more, which game looks like it is the more likely predecessor assuming they really are related cousins? A game like Chaturanga with 16 pieces on it with the back row filled up and the soldiers/pawns fully filled, or a fairly empty board with only 5 pieces on the back row and a lone general on the 2nd row. Which board looks like an earlier development? If you have the book, its illustration 20 on page 173. If I were designing a chess game, I would start with the basics and then add more later on to spice up the game. Since all variants of Chess were being experimented on by various cultures throughout the world as things were adjusted and added on, the earliest game would most likely be the one with the least number of pieces on its original board which is 22 for Xiangqi as opposed to 32 for Chaturanga which has 2 ministers/bishops in it that did not exist in Xiangqi at first. If one assumes Xiangqi is taken from Chaturanga, that means the Chinese deleted pieces and then put them back at some later point in the Tang dynasty. That doesn't seem very logical. If pieces get deleted, that means they don't work right, but the Chinese supposedly deleted pieces and then put them back if you follow the Indian chess origin theory. On the other hand, most board games start with less and then later developments generally add more to the game and fix up some rules to make it run smoother. So I hate to repeat that old adage Occam's Razor, but the more I look at diagrams in that Li book of early Xiangqi boards, the more brian-twisting I need to do in order to find some kind of logical justification for things being the other way around. The West always compares the original Chaturanga board to the modern version of Xiangqi and sees how similar they are in terms of pieces and movement, so that's all the proof that is needed without considering if the converse could be true. Then the Chinese look into their own records and produce boards with less pieces which look more like an early version of Chess, but the West hasn't looked at those early designs and has tried to reverse engineer history in its own way by only looking at the modern version of Chinese Chess. A Chinese person (not me) really needs to bring all the relevant and credible documents towards so-called early designs of Xiangqi to the world so the rest of us don't have to get into these discussions over whose culture is superior or whatever. Unfortunately, the Chinese have a habit of destroying each other's things because they are always fighting amongst themselves given that they think there is nothing else worth fighting for except what we know as China today.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-03-01 UTC

Well, that was a long response. First of all, it is not unheard of that something created in one place becomes far more popular someplace else. Check out the article 7 Things From America That Are Insanely Popular Overseas, and also note that the author is Chinese. So, the relative unpopularity of any Chess ancestors in India does not rule out the the possibility that Chess has its origins there. Although there isn't much Indian literature on any possible ancestors of Chess, I do know that Chatrang became popular in Persia, and the Persians attributed the game's origins to India, not to themselves. Since India is between Persia and China, it certainly remains possible that the Persians picked up a Chinese game from Indian sources without knowing of its Chinese origins. But I am not convinced that this happened.

It seems likely that the common ancestor of Chess and Xiang Qi did not have a Cannon in it. The remaining question is whether that common ancestor is more like Xiang Qi or more like Shatranj, such as whether it was played on points or spaces, whether Knights and Elephants could be blocked, and whether there was a river and a palace. If we look at the other regional Chess variants of Asia, we find that Korea's Janggi is the only other one resembling Xiang Qi in any of these respects, and Xiang Qi remains the only regional variant that has a river. Since Janggi has Cannons, it is safe to assume that Janggi is based on a later form of the game, not on the original game. I know China and Korea have had close ties for over two millennia. I am currently watching Jumong, a Korean drama which shows relations between the Korean nation of Puyo and the Chinese Han dynasty before the time of Christ. Since you mentioned the Tang, I'll also mention that I know from The Great Queen Seondeok that the Tang were allies with the Korean kingdom of Silla, and Seondeok's nephew Chun Chu, who became King Muyeol of Silla, lived for a time with the Tang in China. Given such close relations between China and Korea, I would expect earlier forms of Chess to have made their way into Korea if indeed Chess was of Chinese origin. But, as far as I can tell, Korea only got a later version of the game. The other regional Chess variants of continental Asia -- Burmese Chess, Thai Chess, and Malay Chess -- were all played on the spaces of an 8x8 board with the same pieces as Shatranj, and they are all more like Shatranj than they are like Xiang Qi. Shogi is also played on the spaces of the board despite the popularity of Go in Japan. In general, if the original form of Chess was closer to Xiang Qi than to Shatranj, I would expect more similarity to Xiang Qi among Asia's other regional Chess variants, and I don't see that.

As a game designer, I have witnessed the evolution of my own games from inferior games. I am not always likely to invent a great game right off the bat. My best games are refinements of ideas that first came to life in inferior games. For example, Eurasian Chess is superior to the earlier Yang Qi, and Kamikaze Mortal Shogi is superior to the earlier Mortal Chessgi. Given that Chess and Xiang Qi are both superior to Shatranj, it seems likely that both are improvements upon an original game, and the evidence suggests that this game is more like Shatranj than it is like Xiang Qi.

The fact that Xiang Qi reached its current form before Chess did speaks more to the differences between China and Europe than it does to the origins of Chess. China has had a larger, more homogeneous culture than Europe has ever had for many centuries. Reasons for this are described in Jared Diamond's book Guns, Germs and Steel, which I am currently reading. With greater political stability, greater size, and greater homogeneity of culture, it would be natural for the seed of Chaturanga to grow more quickly in the soil of China than in Europe. Besides that, Europe picked up the game from the Muslims, who got it from Persia, who got it from India, whereas China and India share a common border. So, even if the game is of Indian origin, it is natural that China would have a headstart over Europe.

I cannot say for sure whether Chess is of Indian origin. But what I am fairly sure of is that the common ancestor of Chess and Xiang Qi was closer to Shatranj than it was to Xiang Qi.


Jason L. wrote on 2011-02-28 UTC
Yes, and Chinese people are willing to acknowledge that the religions they look to are from India. But does that mean we should ignore the fact that the Chinese were strong at board games and that Xiangqi as we know it today and not that other game (Xiangxi) which is not a war board game apparently is just the 19x19 Weiqi (Go) board divided into 4 pieces for a 9x10 board? What is more likely? That the Chinese invent Weiqi as late as the 6th Century B.C. or whenever it was and then invent another game using 1/4 of the board that is also played on the intersection points as Weiqi is and includes some of the same principals such as being blocked. Or rather, the Indians who are not into board games culturally invented a game played on the squares rather than intersection points with the same moves as Xiangqi as it was during the Tang Dynasty but the minister and counselor's movements are essentially updated into the modern day bishop and queen in Europe later on because those movements do not fit the game to begin with. Why? Because the soldiers or pawns are right in front of the major pieces so a counselor moving up one diagonal square is hardly interesting at all and the minister (not elephant) is also rather dull in the game because it has nothing to defend really. If the Indian version was really invented by them, you would think that India would have a long history of playing the game, but they don't. Anand is not proof of India's long history of playing the game since 600 A.D. or so. Europeans starting around the 1400's or a little later have a long history of making the pieces move right on the 8x8 board and producing tons of talented players. In fact, the real improvements were made by the Europeans. The pawns can move 2 spaces on its first move because it is on the 2nd row instead of the 4th. The rule en passant (French word) has to be added to prevent players from illegally advancing pawns without a fight against another pawn. Castling is added to the game. We call it castling since there were castles in Europe! Seems like the game wasn't really playable by modern standards until it got to Europe. How come there isn't a single modern opening named after anything Indian? Did the Indians invent a game with awkward moving pieces and then abandon it only to find it again like 1,000 years later with all these openings named after European people and countries? Or maybe a board game with pieces that moved right on a 9x10 board had the pieces put in the squares on an 8x8 board and the pawns were moved back the 2nd rank and filled in for aesthetic reasons, but no other necessary changes were made to the counselor and minister (elephant) so the game is not really playable and its slow also. If the modern Chinese version was already basically done by 800 or so during the Tang Dynasty and the queen piece was added during the Middle Ages in Europe, which game probably came first? A game with pieces that have not changed in their design but only their position on the board and the number of pieces there, or a game with pieces in the middle of the board that don't fit there until it gets a makeover like 600 years later in a different part of the world? So I am proposing to people that in terms of board game design which all of us can think about on paper and pencil, that when a game reaches its modern form like 600-800 years before another game that looks quite similar to it, then that game most likely came first. It's not absolute proof, but it's a bit like common sense. As I have mentioned before, don't forget archeological findings found before 600 or so. The transmission of religion and spirituality from a country strong in those aspects does not have any direct relationship with a board game based on war. That's also ignoring the fact that Weiqi came from China. That statement suggests a superiority of Indian culture in every respect instead of looking at all the factors involved. How come no one ever talks about Weiqi when discussing the origin of chess if certain principals are similar? It's like the world's oldest board game that is still played today must be ignored in order to make the assertion without much good reason that a game made famous in Europe is the original chess game in the ENTIRE world. Regarding the document that Dr. Li quotes in his book. It was apparently written in 1793, and it's about how General Han Xin invented the game 379 years after Confucius and you can see in Chinese the actual character Xiang Qi in the document. If the document was written in 1793, no Chinese person would put out the possibility that Xiang Qi could have meant another board game that was not played any longer for like over a thousand years. It's true the document does not have a description of how the game is played but describes the condition of the camp during winter. So I don't think the document proves that the game was first started in 203 B.C. or whenever, but to say that the document might be referring to another game with the same name even though such a misunderstanding could not occur in 1793, is like the Western cure all thinking to discredit the Chinese assertion that the game was invented in China without any foreign influence. In the Western world, when we say 'Chess' we do not mean any other version of Chess other than the Western version of it which we presume to be an original game as the name 'Chess' suggests. Therefore, if someone writes a document in the Western world after it has been played for at least a few hundred years, then it is not that reasonable to say that the word 'Chess' does not mean Chess as we know it today. Does anyone ask anyone what do they mean by 'Chess' in the Western world? Like is it Japanese chess, Chinese Chess, or Korean Chess? So in the Chinese world after playing Xiangqi in its modern form for like 1,000 years, an author would not quote a different game with the same exact 2 characters if it was not in play anymore. That would be causing a very illogical misunderstanding and there isn't a single Chinese person today that would think that that document from 1793 would be referring to anything else. In fact, if you ask your average Chinese person that there was a game named Xiangxi or Xiangqi that has nothing to do with Xiangqi as we know it today, they would probably not know what you are talking about unless they were a board game historian. But it appears that Westerners who believe Chess comes from India because the English have said so over and over again, seem to know how to interpret Chinese documents better. Anyway, Dr. Li's books lacks cites, but the process he suggests in the book of how Xiangqi was developed and the charts of how the game was developed are reasonable. The game has always been well designed and they just kept adding pieces to it until the back row was totally filled up. At first, the general was one space up on the 5th column with the adjutant (counselor) behind it. Interestingly enough, the Korean version of Xiangqi has the general in that position till today. The Japanese and Koreans who borrow from the Chinese and then make it their own have a tendency to preserve a great deal of Chinese culture in many ways. There was no minister at first and there were always 5 foot soldiers spaced apart like that in the 4th row with the chariot and horse placed where they still are on the first row. After Han Xin is executed for treason and his writings destroyed, his game which is apparently named after the Prince of Chu (Xiang qi) and not an elephant piece, is lost among the common people until it gets revived again in 600 or so where it adds more pieces. The minister is added in front of the general on the 3rd row. Then the 2 cannon pieces are added on the 3rd row prompting the need for more defense. Another counselor is added as well as another minister and everything is moved to the back row. The back row is a bit crowded and the horse can only move up the 3rd row on its first move instead of the 2nd row because the minister piece is now blocking it. So whether you believe these alleged Chinese sources Li is referring to discuss the making of Xiangqi into its original form is your own choice, but I am just referring to board game design. It's a lot more reasonable to believe that the game developed on its own from Weiqi and the teachings of Sun Tze's Art of War than it is to think the Chinese took an awkward game from India and made it better by changing the positions of the pieces so their movements have a purpose. So if you guys would like to discuss the evolution of board game design, then we can discuss it. I am not a chess historian, so please don't give me the task of producing what the Western world considers to be hard evidence of Xiangqi being invented in China and not a borrowed Indian game as Europe likes to believe. But I hope that by putting down the apparent evolution of Xiangqi here, that I am discussing the development of the board game and coming to probable conclusions based on how board games can change over time. If 2 board games are apparently very similar, one can make reasonable judgments based on how the pieces developed over time and 'when' they developed into its modern form. Like I said, there's a difference of about 800 years or so between Western Chess' modern form and Xiangqi's modern form. Yes, there is still room for argument, but I am just stating what is more likely. What is that rule called? Occam's Razor. The theory that is the most simple one is most likely correct. In this case, a game that comes to its modern form about 800 years before its apparent cousin played on squares instead of intersection points comes to its modern form, most likely came first and not the other way around. A culture that wants all cultured people to play board games develops a board game exactly 1/4 the size of an existing board game at least a few hundred years after the former board game is invented. The board game is revived 800 years later or so and the current dynasty (Tang) promotes the game and it goes out to the rest of the world in places like India, Korea, Japan, and Persia. Or the opposite train of thought, a culture strong in board games, borrows an awkward board game from a culture that does not promote board games and then develops it into its modern form just 200 years later while the supposed original game does not obtain its modern form until it is shipped off to another continent before it reaches its modern form. The early Indian game has a 'queen' that moves one space diagonally only and has an elephant that moves exactly 2 spaces diagonally are both suspiciously the same to the adjutant/counselor piece and minister piece (minus the ability to jump over a piece) in Xiangqi. The early queen and bishop do very little in the Indian game, while they perform a very specific defensive purpose in Xiangqi which is to defend the general on all 4 sides by moving diagonally either 1 space or 2 spaces. The general is on the 2nd rank in Xiangqi so the adjutant can go around all 4 sides without the general moving. The adjutant/queen and minister/bishop work well in one game and doesn't work well in the other. Which pieces were designed for its board and setup and which one was most likely just borrowed from the other game because the pieces don't fit the game? Occam's Razor again. A group of scholars in Europe state only sources from India as evidence that the first chess game in the world is from India because the game they play is from it. The scholars have no interest in looking at sources in other languages as it does not support their argument. Later on, scholars from that other large Asian country suggest a much earlier date and the European scholars can't take it and don't want to take back what they have been saying for like 300-400 years because that would look silly. Besides the whole world speaks English and not Chinese so information has been monopolized world's most influential empire. Occam's Razor. A minister piece is developed called Xiang much later the initial game was developed. It is a homonym and one of them is 'elephant' even though nothing suggests that that piece literally means elephant but everything does in fact suggest it is a minister of the kingdom with swifter movement than the adjutant. A 3 person game is also developed later in the Song Dyansty that has 3 different pieces pronounced Xiang. 1 of them is elephant and the 2 others are not. On the other hand, the chariot, cannon, and horse all mean the same thing for all 3 sides. They do not use homonyms. The same piece is found in the Indian game and is literally an elephant and that culture happens to love elephants and the Chinese did not use elephants in war as far as I know. Oh boy, the European scholars have won some points here. Too bad many Chinese characters have the same sound and this so-called proof is actually a lack of understanding of the Chinese language.

H. G. Muller wrote on 2011-02-10 UTC
> I can't believe no one until now has noticed that 2 boards are just 
> the same thing with the river removed and the pieces being played 
> within the squares or on intersection points.

In fact this is exactly how I use the board in my multi-cultural min Chess set. Just slip in the River between the two board halves when playing Xianhqi.


Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-02-10 UTC
If we look at the cultural transmission of religion, we see that the transmission goes from India to China, not in the reverse direction. Buddhism spread from India to China, Japan, and Korea. Taoism and Confucianism, which began around the same time as Buddhism, did not migrate to India. If this is due to a general direction of cultural transmission, it adds to the likelihood that Xiangqi is of Indian origin rather than Chaturanga of Chinese origin.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-02-09 UTC

Jason L. wrote:

I can't believe no one until now has noticed that 2 boards are just the same thing with the river removed and the pieces being played within the squares or on intersection points.

I can't believe it either, mainly because I know it to be false. This has been noticed before. For example, I pointed it out in my How to Play Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) video, posted to Youtube on October 13, 2010. On December 21, 2008, I made the same observation in this comment, which addresses the same topic as you've been addressing here but takes the Chaturanga-first position.


John Ayer wrote on 2011-02-09 UTC
I see that I didn't quite write what I meant. I meant that no one has suggested that chess was invented in Tang-dynasty China. I cannot evaluate Jason L.'s apparent meaning that if chess had been adapted to Chinese use in that period, it would not look like the Chinese chess that we know.

Jason L. wrote on 2011-02-09 UTC
Have you guys looked at this site suggesting Egypt as an earlier place where 'chess' like games have been played? http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Timeline_of_chess http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Origin_of_chess I'm not insistent that Xiangqi is the first board game that has 'chess' merits in the world myself, but am mostly annoyed that there is a Western claim that the early Indian version is the first and only one and that all others must have come from it when the reverse could easily be true. I don't know the details about literary references in Chinese potentially meaning different games and that was not my point about the gameplay between Xiangqi and Chaturanga. I was saying that the pieces move in a very similar fashion but they happen to fit the Xiangqi board naturally as if that kind of movement was designed for a 9x10 board with a palace for the king. I think that is a very common sense observation of the counselor and elephant. They fit in that game and they protect the king. Moving 1 space for the counselor and 2 spaces for the elephant is all that is needed to protect the king, but in the 8x8 board, the queen moving 1 space and the elephant moving 2 spaces don't really seem to do anything defensively or offensively, suggesting that those moves were not designed for that board and set up. i.e. possibly taken from a different game. Meanwhile, in most of the Western analysis of the game play differences, the observation that there are stark similarities are there, but its assumed that China copied India and therefore copied the West once again because India is a part of the British empire. Of course those words are not spoken directly, but the author's bias is clear. If there were other board games representing war developed all over the ancient world, then our discussion gets even more complicated, but I feel that the Chaturanga vs. Xiangqi argument is really just head butting between Western Europe and China. That's why in the Li book you see the authors making very strange statements like Chess pieces become better or more liberated moving West, but become more constrained when moving East. That's not the only explanation and its not necessarily even logical from a cultural standpoint. I can't believe no one until now has noticed that 2 boards are just the same thing with the river removed and the pieces being played within the squares or on intersection points. But anyone is entitled to their own opinion as far as which game influenced the other. But I do think that reasons given by Western writers for how it could have gone from India to China, don't seem logical to me from any standpoint and that they never thought about it happening the other way around which does in fact make sense to me from the standpoint that the original game would have pieces that move better on its board. Is that assumption too much to make? If you were developing a game, you would make the pieces move with a sense of purpose.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-02-08 UTC
As for what the Courier Game may have contributed, on the comments page for that game H.-G. Muller suggests that, in addition to the modern bishop, the Courier Game may have given us the optional double first move of the pawn. In the Courier Game the queen's pawn and the two rooks' pawns on each side (and the queen) must each make a double step forward at the start of the game. Now, when the optional double first move of the pawn was introduced, it was limited to the king's, queen's, and rooks' pawns. It was then extended to the bishops' pawns, and lastly to the knights' pawns.

Joe Joyce wrote on 2011-02-08 UTC
The study of chess, its origins and evolution, can be considered from many angles. Let me offer an argument for the game of Chaturanga having primacy: http://www.goddesschess.com/chessays/Alex$20Kraaijeveld.pdf Dr A Kraaijeveld has developed a phylogenetic approach to the origins and relationships questions that uses internal evidence to set up a series of evolutionary trees, each radiating from a different ancestor, to illuminate the relationships among games. His findings strongly indicate Chaturanga is much more likely the ancestor of all chess forms than any other game, including proto-Xiangqi. Prof. Kraaijeveld has written 3 papers on various aspects of chess phylogeny. SOmewhere, I hve an email with links. Should anyone be interested, I'll try to find that email. The key paper [in my estimation] however, is this one.

John Ayer wrote on 2011-02-08 UTC
Jason L., even if you found a very early reference to Xiangqi, we still wouldn't be satisfied. There seem to have been two other games by the same name, so we would need a sufficient description to make clear that Chinese chess is meant. Names can be casually misapplied. The same problem occurs in Europe. The household cashbook of one medieval English king records an expenditure for 'two silver-gilt foxes and twenty-six geese for merels.' Merels is a boardgame in which the two players have the same number of playing pieces, all alike. The pieces mentioned are for Fox and Geese, an asymmetrical hunt game.

No one has suggested that Xiangqi was invented in China under the Tang Dynasty.

Yes, I am also aware that the Chinese developed printing with movable type, and that the idea likely reached Europe through a Chinese trade mission. Really, we are not enemies of China, and I wish you would stop imputing improper motives to us. The fact remains that the earliest definite reference to chess in China is later than the earliest definite references in India and Iran. You say you want to do further research on this subject. We will be delighted to hear what you find.


George Duke wrote on 2011-02-07 UTC
The 3 commenters are not mentioning yet 96 squares and 100 squares in pre-modern chesses. John Ayer's revised genealogical timeline changes Courierspiel(96) as contributing to Modern Chess of 64 squares, rather than traditional thought of its being dead-end branch. Is that only for the Bishop? Then more importantly and maybe radically, Ayer's article posits I think something like 8 -> 10 -> 8 in the very early going, with Shatranj al-Kamil v.1 being the large size 100 10x10.

Jason L. wrote on 2011-02-07 UTC
I think that anytime we say that one thing came from another, the converse also needs to be considered because there is usually another line of thinking the person has not considered just like I would have never have thought anyone would think that Xiangqi could have come from Chauturanga because the pieces in that game just don't move right. Shatranj is just a better version of that game, but I am mostly looking at things from a common sense standpoint. I don't know anything about how games in different places influencing each other or any of that because it doesn't appear there is any definite way of confirming that in history, but it's just logical to me that Xiangqi developed after Weiqi in China and that the Chinese are strong in boardgames. To say that Xiangqi developed Tang dynasty which is quite late in history seems like this was stated just to be after the 6th century 'invention' in India. From a Chinese point of view, if Weiqi developed 5xx B.C. or much earlier, it is not much of a stretch to think Xiangqi developed a few hundred years later. Also, both games are played on intersection points and have similar tactics with blocking pieces in so they can't flee. It's easy for a Chinese person to believe that Xiangqi (without the cannon) was developed around the Qin/Han dynasty. The pieces, the cultural aspects, and the tactics seem to be from that period. Whether we are overseas Chinese growing up in N. America or in Asia somewhere, the Qin and Han dynasty period are very clear to us as far as what was going on in China and what kind of warfare was used. Xiangqi shows a civil war between 2 Chinese armies. Since Qin and Han dynasty was all about civil war, we would think the game developed around that time or a little after to represent what was going on at that time. We would not think that just because several British/European thinkers proclaimed that India was the origin in the 7th century or so and we wanted to be some 800 years earlier to be superior. We would think that Qiangqi was from Han/Qin, independently of what the Western world would think. So to us, its not even a debate. We are not proclaiming that the Indian/Persian versions were influenced by Xiangqi for sure, we just think Xiangqi came from around that period of civil war. If one says it was developed in the Tang dynasty, we would think it was strange because the Tang dynasty was well organized and expansive. The Tang dynasty was invading other regions of Asia and was not a period of civil war. Or at least, that's what our impression of that period is. It's the golden age of expansion and not Chinese fighting amongst Chinese as it always is. I know I gave a lot of reasons why I think the Indian version was developed from Xiangqi, but my main point is that among a very large population of Chinese people, if you were to ask them when Xiangqi most likely developed whether it was an original invention or borrowed from India like Buddhism, they would not say Tang dynasty. They would think Qin/Han dynasty. Problem is, the Indian version only traces back to the 7th century, so there's a discrepancy of 800 years or so implying that it might be the other way around if the 2 are related. I feel like this argument was really started by the West and Chinese people are getting sensitive about it because we don't appreciate Westerners assuming everything originated from there and nothing Chinese is really Chinese. That may be true of nuclear and stealth technology, or a great deal of technology developed from the 17th century and afterwards, but China was technologically advanced up until the end of the Ming dynasty, so we wouldn't automatically assume anything worth a grain of salt must have come from the West before that period. Plus, in regards to the issue at hand, China happens to be strong in board games while India is strong in divinity and Chinese people acknowledge that. I haven't read through all of Li's book, but I think this issue is worth delving further into on my own. Of course, even if I found some kind of historical document that appears to be dated like several hundred years before 600 A.D., that seems to be referring to something like Xiangqi, I am sure that it would be automatically refuted by the West because the exact word 'Chess' wasn't written there. Of course, it wouldn't be. Chess is an English word, and Chinese would just write 'qi', which means chess or a board game of some sort, but that requires a translation into English and it isn't a precise translation. It seems that because there isn't a precise word in Chinese that means 'Chess' therefore, no document or historical etc., can be counted as evidence because its a matter of semantics. If anything, the summary of logic from the Western writers shows a definite bias towards Indian documentation and not anywhere else. If we want to say Int'l. or Western Chess is clearly derived from these earlier Indian versions, that is fine with me, but it isn't necessary to automatically proclaim that other forms of chess in other parts of the world are all derived from that same version also. I feel this debate that has been going on for centuries or whatever isn't even totally necessary. Why can't we just look at how chess was developed in different parts of the world instead of proclaiming that any one version was the mother of them all? That's like making comments on another country's history and culture and making judgments for the sake of making a world claim on a board game in another country as being the true one and all others are modified from it. We should just leave Chinese history to the people who can read the language and study it. There's no reason to tell another group of people that they are 'incorrect' about their own estimations to when their board game was developed. If the Chinese don't make assertions about Indian history or any other country or region's history, then why can't the same be done for the Chinese or Han region too?

John Ayer wrote on 2011-02-07 UTC
Murray was aware of the Ramayana. It contains references to the ashtapada, which we know antedated the game of chaturanga, and to the chaturanga, in the sense of an army of four branches; none to the game of chaturanga. Murray does not mention the Arthashastra as far as I see. I find on line a commentary by Group Captain S. M. Hali on the military portion of this work, in which, I gather, 'chaturanga' means an army of four branches. If the Arthashastra really does mention chaturanga as a war game on an eight-by-eight-square board, I would very much like to see the text.

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2011-02-07 UTC
Viswanathan Anand talks about the origin of chess. He says chess, chaturanga is mentioned in the Ramayana, which is much older than the Mahabharata. He also mentions another writing, Arthashastra (3rd century B.C.) where chaturanga is mentioned. These other guys (murray and so forth) just plain missed these writings. See here ... http://www.chess.com/article/view/where-was-chess-invented

John Ayer wrote on 2011-02-07 UTC
I have read Prof. Li's book. In fact, I own it, and have taken it off the shelf and am looking through it again. I am still not persuaded. As I have explained elsewhere, I don't think Chinese chess developed from chaturanga, I think it developed from Shatranj al-Kamil v.1. While the king (governor, general)'s and aide-de-camp's moves were restricted, because they landed in the nine-castle, the dabbabah's move was greatly increased, and the pawn's move was slightly increased, and simplified. I can't imagine how that weird rule about the pawn capturing diagonally forward would ever have been introduced after the game had been established.

I understand that there were elephants in China, too.

There are different kinds of symmetry. FIDE chess has reflective symmetry: symmetry with respect to a line, as I think of it. The crossover pattern has rotational symmetry: symmetry with respect to a point, as I think of it.

I don't recall about the names of the armies. That could be suggestive.

I live in America, and it is no matter to me whether chess originated in India, China, Bactria, Iran, or Albania. I am simply trying to make the best sense I can of fragmentary evidence.


Jason L. wrote on 2011-02-06 UTC
Please read that book yourself and not rely on just the wiki site. It's very persuasive, but I cannot vouch for any of his so-called sources. Also, his book does not talk just about the 2 B.C. thing, but others which are not mentioned on the wiki site for the origin of chess. Wikipedia on the chess games and their origin fit in line with the common Western thinking. The Li book looks at the arguments of writers in the West and in general, they say they can't really give good arguments for how it could have gone from India to China, but they say that India was the first is not refutable. i.e. basically using their authority to say they are right. When other writers or scientists proclaim that might not be so because of such and such reasons long before 7th century in India, the next writer just says, well, then India did it before that whether we have reason to believe so or not. The reasons to believe Xiangqi was developed well before 7th century A.D. are numerous and not just that little story during the civil war. I'm not a chess historian, so I'm not the person to talk to. The main point of my post was that it shouldn't be assumed that chess went from India to China just for the sake of it because that's what seems to be going on. We should consider the entire world and not what Europeans want the world to be. Also, it shouldn't be assumed that there were no elephants in China. Yes, elephants are big in India as we all know, but one has to be pretty knowledgable of Chinese history for thousands of years to make that kind of statement. I saw the posts on the Xiangqi page, and I don't agree with the 64 to 90 comment on the squares. That poster is basically saying that in order to make the awkward moving pieces move right, the Chinese developed a 90 point board from the 64 one. The boards are essentially the same, with the river removed and played in the middle of the squares instead of on the intersection points. 90 to 64 is reasonable and so it 64 to 90 depending on how you think about it. Since I have not examined the so-called documents, artifacts, and whatever else you want to call evidence of chess being in China like 700 to 1000 years before India, I can only look at the earlier version of the Indian game and as soon as I did that, it was obvious to me which game came from which. 1) If the Indian game came first, they wouldn't put the kings on opposite sides of each other. That looks like the configuration of the pieces was borrowed from Xiangqi and they changed it later to make it symmetric. 2) The counselor/queen piece is useless on the 64 square board and the elephant/bishop is also. The other poster thinks these problems were fixed in 2 ways. The Europeans made the pieces move more spaces, and the Chinese built a different board that fit those pieces and added a palace. Well, I can't say that that is definitely not what happened, but I don't think that it is that reasonable that the Chinese built a different board and added a palace to fit the awkward movement of those pieces. The counselors and elephant pieces move like that because that is how Xiangqi was originally designed. To protect the king that can't leave the palace. Taking awkward moving pieces to a new board is a rather difficult transition. The fact that those pieces move right in Xiangqi is because they were probably designed that way to fit the board, and that's why they still fit in the modern game. Making pieces move better on the same board is a much more logical development for a game. An elephant becomes a bishop. A counselor or whatever they call it, becomes a queen. Li's book mentions that chess pieces were found in Russia in the 2nd century along a trade route. That's an archeological find. This results in a writer proclaiming that no matter how old findings of whatever nature are, the Indian invention automatically predates is because we said so. That's 4 centuries before the so-called Indian invention, but Western writers don't care to question their thinking nor is trying to learn Chinese or at least consult with Chinese historians let alone other Asian countries is a priority to them. In fact one writer said that research in multiple languages is important for this topic. But then he says that only sources from India should be considered. In fairness to some writers and scientists from the West on this matter, Li's book also cites a few that don't think the Indian version came first but the other way around and they cite pretty logical reasons which of course just get shot down by the next guy writing an article or book. But those thinkers are in the minority. But its the points they make that count. If you want to debate with someone who has done the research who can at least read English and Chinese, read Li's book on Amazon. I don't agree with everything in his book, but if there is any merit to a lot of the points in it, it is highly unlikely that Indian version traveled to China. I live in Taiwan and travel to Hong Kong and mainland China sometimes. No Chinese person who plays Xiangqi thinks the Western version influenced their game through India via trade routes. Of course, they haven't done the research, but this is not common thinking among the Chinese crowd with any knowledge of Xiangqi and Western Chess. From a cultural standpoint, most Chinese people would think the game developed just before the Han dynasty was founded because of the names of the armies on the board. Those are the 2 armies that battled it out before the Han won out. Of course, they can be named that well after that civil war was fought, but considering that Weiqi or Go was developed a few centuries before that, it isn't much of a stretch for a Chinese person to think Xiangqi was developed around that time. But thanks for the tip on 'misnomer'. I won't forget that mistake.

(zzo38) A. Black wrote on 2011-02-05 UTC

To John Ayer: Weiqi is the Chinese name for Go. The similarities are that players take turns and that there is no chance or hidden information involved.

There is also possibility that both of these games have been invented independently, or that they both took ideas from an earlier game (which might be a Chinese game). But I don't know these things, and I am not Chinese or Indian.


John Ayer wrote on 2011-02-05 UTC
Jason L. asks, 'But what if there are historical documents or artifacts in China that suggest that Xiangqi has been around since 2nd century B.C.? What if the similarities between the early Indian version and Xiangqi were the result of influence from the other way around?

Are there any such documents? Last fall someone argued in the English Wikipedia that Chinese chess is the earliest and original version, but the only substantial source offered was a Chinese document at http://ent.veryeast.cn/ent/26/2006-4/23/0642309574393496.htm . Can you translate this for us?

Prof. David Li stated that Xiangqi was invented about 200 B.C., but in the first section of his book, in which he described this invention, he adduced not a single source of any type.

'Just because European scholars had no access to Chinese documents but did with Indian archives, that does not mean it can be assumed that the first game was from India. It seems since China was not a part of the British empire, then its archives can be ignored and only regions of the world which are a part of Britain's sphere of influence can be deemed as inventing anything.' Britain was heavily involved in China in the nineteenth century, and quite influential, and British savants could probably have gotten access to Chinese documents. We are aware that China invented many things, including gunpowder and rockets.

'How come no Westerner or scientist has noticed the similarities between Weiqi and Xiangqi?' I don't know about Weiqi, but Gerhard Josten, of the Initiative Group Koenigstein, argued in his essay 'Chess--A Living Fossil' that the ancient Chinese pastime of Liubo was one of the ingredients that went into chaturanga.

'Also if one assumes it went from India to China, it is unlikely that pieces would become more restricted. This is a misnomer.' A misnomer is an inaccurate name. Probably 'This is a fallacy' was meant.

'So when the Chinese come forward with so called records, they are refuted by European chess historians as being inaccurate!' What records?


George Duke wrote on 2011-02-05 UTC
At Goddesschess John Ayer rejects also the received genealogy, http://www.goddesschess.com/chessays/johnayer.html. Http://www.goddesschess.com/chessays/chessaystoc.html, afore index of many historical chess articles. ___________And another specific one of those from their Goddesschess history index: http://www.goddesschess.com/chessays/needham1.html. ________________The Silk Road: http://www.goddesschess.com/chessays/remus.html.

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-02-05 UTC

The possibility of a Chinese origin is mentioned on the Xiangqi page.


Jason L. wrote on 2011-02-05 UTC
It's widely assumed by Western scholars that Indian chess was the first form of chess, but it is also widely assumed that Asian forms of chess were derived from it although there is no direct evidence of it other than the fact that the pieces move in a similar fashion. But what if there are historical documents or artifacts in China that suggest that Xiangqi has been around since 2nd century B.C.? What if the similarities between the early Indian version and Xiangqi were the result of influence from the other way around? Just because European scholars had no access to Chinese documents but did with Indian archives, that does not mean it can be assumed that the first game was from India. It seems since China was not a part of the British empire, then its archives can be ignored and only regions of the world which are a part of Britain's sphere of influence can be deemed as inventing anything. I have not done the research myself, but it is generally considered by chess historians with access to Chinese archives that Xiangqi came much earlier than the Indian version, so no scholar who can read Chinese would think that the Indian version came first. This does not prove that the Indian version came from China, but the similarities in the boards would suggest that one is taken from the other but with a different board. The 8x8 chess board used for the India/Western version is simply the 9x10 board for Xiangqi with the river removed. This removes a row, and results in an 8x8 board if you play in the squares and not on the intersection points. Therefore, in a way, the 2 boards are almost the same board. What can be objectively pointed out is that the pieces for Xiangqi move in a way that fit its board that has survived up to its modern form while the moves for the counselor/Queen and elephant/bishop do not fit the gameplay of the 8x8 board. That's why the pieces were logically improved or adapted to fit the gameplay of an 8x8 board later on. If we assume that one game influenced the other and was the first version of it known to man, then it is more reasonable to assume things went from China to India based on the fact that the 9x10 board actually fits that movement and the 8x8 board does not suggesting the initial movement of those pieces was borrowed and does not fit the 8x8 board. Also if one assumes it went from India to China, it is unlikely that pieces would become more restricted. This is a misnomer. The main reason why the pieces can jump over pieces in the Indian version is because the board is smaller and the pawns are right in front of the horse/knight and elephant/bishop requiring the rules to be adapted so they could move right away rather being blocked right off the bat. Western researchers conclude that pieces become more restricted when going East and more free when moving West. But does that really make any logical sense? Are our cultures so different that Asians like to restrict, and Indians, Persians, and Europeans like to make things more free? That makes it sound like Westerners or countries colonized and/or influenced by the West like to make things better while the people in the Far East like to make things 'worse'. It's more reasonable just to look at the different boards and notice that a major difference between the 9x10 board and 8x8 board (other than the size difference) is that the pawns are not blocking the main pieces in the 9x10 board so the pieces can move right away. The fact that the knight and elephant can be blocked in Xiangqi is reminiscent of Weiqi where the 2 sides are 'blocking' each other from going to further territory albeit with stones rather than pieces. How come no Westerner or scientist has noticed the similarities between Weiqi and Xiangqi? Also, let's not forget the bigger picture in terms of board games in China. If Weiqi was first recorded in the 4th century B.C. and now there are claims that Xiangqi was first played in 2nd century B.C. and has similarities in the blocking concept, why is that so hard to believe for Western Chess historians? Because it has already been stated and stressed in European literature that Chaturanga was the first game, so why would an entire continent of people want to revise their thinking and basically admit that they did not consider an entire region's documents simply because that would be tantamount to admitting either ignorance or basically a condescending attitude towards 'yellow people' who could not have possibly invented anything first. So 2nd century B.C. is not that much of a stretch for board games in China. Actually, the origin of chess in China makes a lot more sense because the cannon was not added until much later when that kind of technology was invented, so that's a more probable reason why the cannon has no corresponding piece in Indian/Western chess. A version without the cannon was brought over earlier before it was recorded in India first. And its the version with the cannon that seems to have been brought over to Korea and Japan. i.e. It went to those regions later on. Why does the origin of those games have to be from India also when they resemble the modern Chinese game more than the original Indian game? It goes back to the original assumption that not enough Western writers/scientists or whatever you want to call a person with a right to have an authority on this subject, said that India was first and that is the end of the conversation. One would think that if there was a different version of Go that is widely played in Europe and India, Western scholars would also insist the origin was India by only looking at Indian documents that support their thesis without bothering to look at any records in Chinese. So when the Chinese come forward with so called records, they are refuted by European chess historians as being inaccurate! So Europeans also know Chinese history better than Chinese people. Well, that is something I had not thought could happen. Or is it just Western arrogance as we have all become accustomed to in this world? In no way, am I attacking this website or anyone in particular. I am just frustrated with why even things that can be viewed objectively, are not being viewed objectively like the awkward movement of certain pieces in the Indian version and fluid movements of those same pieces in Xiangqi. That is an objective observation anyone could make but instead other theories that do not seem reasonable are put forward without the converse ever being considered. If the question is which chess game was first and therefore could have been the father of all others, then shouldn't archives and other related evidence from all over the world be considered before declaring any one country or region as the first game?

Daniil Frolov wrote on 2010-07-28 UTCBelowAverage ★★
This page describes chturanga rules as if somewhere was official documents, that states that 'in 7th century chess was played for 100% sure in this way...' and describes these rules. I think, page must state that exact rules of first form of chess are unknown and mentoin some alternative rules, wich also could be in the first chess. Maybe, it's ok that it did'nt mentoided other possible rules of promotion, stalemate, bare king, king's special knight's leap, but it's horrible that it did'nt mentoided another possible elephant's move: silver general's move, 1 square diagonally or 1 forward (elephant's 4 legs and trunk)!! All other souces tells that no one knows, wich move came first! And the earliest game with silver general, described on CV pages is makruk, as if this move was invented in Thailand! While CV pages is probbably one of main source for these, who want to know more about history of rules of chess (most of encyclopedias don't mentoin anything further than 'first form of chess was played by four players and with dice')!

George Duke wrote on 2010-02-18 UTC
Flowerman's at http://www.chessvariants.org/index/displaycomment.php?commentid=25071 is where we get the theory that Chess mutates every 500 years out of control. Roughly, 500 - 1000 Chaturanga, 1000 - 1500 Shatranj, 1500 - 2000 Strong mad Queen Shatranj. 500 year Comet Caissa is long period: http://www.chessvariants.org/fiction.dir/poems/falconpoem4.html. Then the Next Chesses from the top down this time, because CVers are far the more informed. Bodlaender may find here promotion differences too between Chaturanga and Shatranj, to the same Flowerman inquiry. The five hundred years, http://www.chessvariants.org/index/displaycomment.php?commentid=22850, accord with Phoenix.

optional wrote on 2009-03-14 UTC
Does that apply for Star Trek 3D and Jetan, also? Imagine Martians landing on Earth, and excavating our vanished 20th century civilization. They could, without being able to read anything, reconstruct the basic rules of chess from all the pictures. But could they possibly know about 'touch rules'? And how long would they argue over the details of castling and en passant vs passar battaglia? Yet, they would have, and probably be playing, chess, in spite of their not officially knowing the rules, or even being able to determine all the nuances of the rules. We are currently in the same position vis a vis chaturanga that our Martians are with chess. We know dice games, race games, the 4-sided and later 2-sided setups, and we know the rules to its child shatranj. I suggest that is enough to give the game legitimacy. We don't know the rules, but we still have the game, especially in the wider sense of chess variations. Ignoring it is the bigger sin.

John Smith wrote on 2009-03-14 UTCPoor ★
I agree that it is strange that an unscrupulous variant be recognized. What game exactly is this? We should recognize also 'Chootooroonkoo', which is the truly original form of Chess from ancient Goobleland, which is played on a board with squares and with pieces that move, other details unknown.

Nuno Cruz wrote on 2009-03-13 UTCPoor ★

John Ayer's very complete and acute comments our remarks are so true. This form of chess never existed. At least with this set of rules that is just an erroneous conception of John Gollon. So this page should have already been at least corrected if you do not want to scrap it, which would be preferable; to end the discussion and stop people, especially the new ones to this site, to believe in a 'Lord of the Rings' kind of world -beautiful but non-existing.

Of course you would have to rewrite the very front page of chessvariants pages. I believe that for the sake of truth it is worth it.

The same goes to both Shatranj Kamil. All it is needed to do is to read carefully the pages on Murray's book the source of - good intentioned but in his case wrong - Gollon.


Sledge290 wrote on 2009-03-10 UTCGood ★★★★
I like the depth of the article. It is a short article to be sure. I like the subject of chess. I like the game of chess.

matthew wrote on 2008-09-28 UTCPoor ★
How do I play chaturanga ?? I once played the game verses the computer. Your page seems to have changed since I visited last. Any information on this topic whould be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance for you help. matt

Jose Carrillo wrote on 2008-06-10 UTC
Anyone interested in a game of Chaturanga? This preset has regular pieces: /play/pbm/play.php?game%3DChaturanga%26settings%3DAlfaerie

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2006-12-02 UTC
king starts on different square, and also the king, just once in the game, can make a knight move ... there may be something else about the pawns and promotion, but it is all unclear, i think, bit like me, answering this question :))

Anonymous wrote on 2006-12-01 UTC
what exactly is the difference from shatranj?

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.

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

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

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. http://worldcatlibraries.org/wcpa/oclc/07026195

Also here you can see the whole book:
here

or just the article (starting p 207):
here

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

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

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 :)

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.

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