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This item is a piececlopedia entry
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2001-12-17
 Author: Fergus  Duniho. Alfil. Jumps two diagonally (see Alfil).[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Nuno wrote on 2008-10-16 UTC
But I'm confused.. What is the name for Elephant in Arabic? since the
piece represented just that! 'Al' is the article ok.. ist it Fil? Or did
the name just made sense in Persian (Pil?)and the Arabs did the same thing
Spanish did in keeping the name without any mining? (well.. in reality
Alfil IS the Spanish word for Bishop, so it has a mining).
Any native Arabic please want's to comment?

Curious.. if my country (Portugal) and Spain have a lot in common on it's
evolution, why do We call also Bishop to the bishop? :P

Charles Gilman wrote on 2004-09-23 UTC
The anonymous Excellent in the previous comment reminded me why I haven't given this page a rating of Excellent myself. It still carries the errorneous etymological speculation on which I commented earlier. The word elephant derives from the Classical Greek elephas, dating to at least a millennium before early Chess began spreading west. There is plenty of documentation of that.

Anonymous wrote on 2004-06-05 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-07-09 UTC
True, but I was adding to John Lawson's comment. In many of the games that have used this piece the achievement of the combination of pieces would win regardless of position because of Bare King.

Anonymous wrote on 2003-07-07 UTC
<i>Not only could the four-Alfil checkmate never happen in a traditional game, nor could the King-and-two-Alfils checkmate, as an Alfil could not reach c3 or any other square threatening a corner.</i> <p> This makes an assumption about the starting squares of the alfils which is unwarranted. As far as I can tell, the question was not asked with respect to shatranj or any other particular game.

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-07-05 UTC
Not only could the four-Alfil checkmate never happen in a traditional game, nor could the King-and-two-Alfils checkmate, as an Alfil could not reach c3 or any other square threatening a corner.

Robert Shimmin wrote on 2003-05-04 UTC
Two alfils + king can mate the opposing king in a helpmate situation, but they cannot force the opposing king into the corner if he does not wish to go. Three are certainly insufficient for this task. Eight are certainly sufficient. Whether it can be done with some number between four and seven (of course, with all the alfils differently colobound) is not something I wish to think about for the moment.

John Lawson wrote on 2003-05-04 UTC
It can't be just any four Alfils. They must be 'discordant', that is, not on the same cycle of squares. In historical Shatranj, such a position could never arise because the pawns could only promote to Ferz, and though mating with multiple Ferzs was a real-life challenge, there would be only two Alfils to help out at most..

Fergus Duniho wrote on 2003-05-04 UTC
If the King is on a corner space of a regular Chess board, it will take four Alfils to checkmate a King. Three will cover the spaces surrounding the King, and the fourth will check the King. Since the King cannot reach it, it will not need protection. If the King helps in the checkmate of an enemy King, only two Alfils will be required for checkmate. For example, with no other pieces on the board, Black is checkmated with the Black King at a1, the White King at a3, and White Alfils at c3 and d3. The c3 Alfil checks the King, and the d3 Alfil prevents escape to b1.

Sergio wrote on 2003-05-03 UTCGood ★★★★
How many Alfils are needed to checkmate a lone king?

Charles Gilman wrote on 2003-03-01 UTC
Regarding the name, the similarity between Alfil and Elephant is
fortuitous. The latter derives from Elephas, a word in Classical Greek
meaning both elephant and ivory. A similar coincidence in chess history is
that of Spider (literally spinner) and Ashtapada (literally
eight-footed).
Regarding the move itdose seem strange that so weak a piece represents so
strong an animal, and a leaping elephant seems very fanciful. A more
accurate portrayal of elephantine behaviour would be if it were blocked by
an allied piece (as in Xianqqi, the Chinese version) but captured any
enemy piece en route. This would mean that it could capture (a) on three
times as many squares as it can reach and (b) two pieces at once.

Moussambani wrote on 2002-09-10 UTC
Well, the spanish term for a bishop is 'Alfil'

Uri Bruck wrote on 2002-09-10 UTCGood ★★★★
When names move from one language to another, then articles like the
definite article sometimes just stick to them. I've seen quite a few place
names in the south of Spain, for instance, that have names beginign with
'Al-', obviously the Arabic definite article.
'Alfil' is the name the piece acquired in Europe. The fact that the text
mentions it is good enough.
The Arabic 'fil' is also related to the Hebrew 'pil', which can be found
in the Mishna, dating back to the first couple of centuries C.E., and
which the Even-Shoshan Hebrew dictionary traces back to teh Akkadian
'pilu'.
The chess piece was obviously named for the Arabic word.

John Lawson wrote on 2002-07-26 UTC
There's no reason why better linguistic information could not be included, even if the piece continues to be known by what is now its conventional name.

M. Howe wrote on 2002-07-26 UTCGood ★★★★
Your point is well taken.  I'd like to see pieces given linguistically
valid names.  Unfortunately, it's been called an alfil for so long and by
so many that I doubt the more correct feil will take hold, even though it
deserves to.

Iyad wrote on 2002-07-26 UTCGood ★★★★
the information is really good, but it is inaccurate about one thing...the
name.
as an arab, 'alfil' must sound like 'been', and the 'al-' part could be
droped, for it stands for 'the' in english, so it's correct form is 'feil'
and in Arabic it's plural form is 'fei-ya-lah' or 'fie-lan' for two.

Isabel Clements-Jewe wrote on 2002-04-29 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I am currently spending a year in Russia, and have just bought a chess set as a birthday present for my boyfriend. I was very curious to find that there are elephants instead of bishops, and no one I have asked seems to know why. (The Russian for elephant, 'slon', is also the chess term for a bishop, so someone suggested that it might just be a joke on the part of the person who made it!) A quick search turned up your page, which has answered my question. Thank you!

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