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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2001-12-14
 Author: Hans L. Bodlaender. Shatranj. The widely played Arabian predecessor of modern chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
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.

Anonymous wrote on 2012-04-03 UTCPoor ★
because i didnn't play a lot.

George Duke wrote on 2009-08-01 UTCGood ★★★★
The linked comment is vintage Betza, usually even better expressed in his polished articles. Betza comments always as ''gnohmon'' and had this to say over seven years ago at Chaturanga in 2002.
''My average of the two skills is higher than the divine Parton or superhuman Fischer.'' Like Gilman for many years, Betza did not use formal identification, and so could not revise his words. I think there are some contradictions in terms here Betza would not fully defend.  Yet this comment shows Betza's coherent/confused mindset the year he left. By August 2003, no more all-too-profound Ralph Betza.  Also some of this particular comment by Betza would be deliberate obfuscation by him just short of sabotage -- conclusion that I can justify and cross-index another time.  A couple significant sentences, midst the true account, he knows to be untrue or does not really mean for effect, in hyperbole not for purpose of satire.

George Duke wrote on 2008-10-12 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
As-Suli, the great predecessor. Shatranj openings The Torrent, The Strongly Built, the Slave's Banner. Great As-Suli (880-946) diabused players of blind belief in the strengths of those openings. Jacobus de Cessolis 'The Game and Play of Chesse' second only to the mediaeval Bible in copies made. Shatranj was once more popular percentagewise than OrthoChess ever became, that provisional derivation of Shatranj still played today. Well, OrthoChess had its years too 1500-1900, and now 100 years of rough sailing. Marshall Attack in the Ruy Lopez, King's Gambit, Guioco Piano, Sicilian all colourful names for openings to be put on the shelf, or to pasture, or buried at Sea, as the 5, 10, 100 settled-on CVs available assume command, so as to have realized Chess return to her cultural-rootedness and full contemporary relevance -- as time of Shatranj glory when Chess ascendant.

longshanx wrote on 2007-01-10 UTCGood ★★★★
Where can i find the openings for shatranj? I only managed to find two of them, the Mujannah and the Mashaikhi. There are surely more, aren't they?

Christine Bagley-Jones wrote on 2006-06-18 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
oops this game needs a ratings boost, where are you shatranj lovers!

Thomas McElmurry wrote on 2005-10-31 UTCGood ★★★★
I would assume that the transposition rule is not being used, since as the rules are stated here it seems to be presented as a nonstandard variation.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2005-10-30 UTCGood ★★★★
I like the 'Bare King' concept and am a little surpprised that it did not continue down with the evolution of today's orthodox chess. Also, though Shatranj seems not to be very popular today, I wonder if the rule variant cited by Pritchard, i.e., 'A stalemated King may be transposed with one of its other pieces, as long as this does not result in check' is being used in the game courier? But I imagine it is not. Pritchard's variant is mentioned on the ChessVariants page. I imagine we are not employing it in our game courier games. If it is being used, however, I would like to know as it could completely change the endgame in certain situations by changing a forced stalemate to a win.

Andreas Kaufmann wrote on 2005-02-14 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Which piece is stronger, General or Elephant? Is it worth to exchange General or Elephant for two pawns? Are there any writings from 1000 years ago about piece values in Shatranj :-) ?

Rook Hudson wrote on 2004-11-09 UTCGood ★★★★
I used to play Shatranj a lot when I was a teenager with a friend of mine
and also with my father.  We all enjoyed it.  It has its own unique feel.

Some modern chess players who have tried it have told me they didn't
it.  That is their right but I have gathered that often their dislike is
due to conservatism: they simply feel uncomfortable trying new things. 
Some also make the mistake of using modern chess as the yardstick and in
so doing see Shatranj's slower pieces as thus being weaker and so less
enjoyable (less power).  They miss the point, I think.  A slower game is
NOT an inferior game just a different game.  Draughts (checkers) is
another game with slow pieces (and in some varieties the Kings are also
slow) but millions enjoy it nonetheless.

When I first played Shatranj I realised that I had to divest myself of
much that I held to be true in modern chess: pawns, for example, are much
more powerful than in the modern game, yet paradoxically promotion is
important.  This tended to make me use the pawns more in the game and not
worry so much about preserving them in order to promote them to Queens. 
The play of the Shatranj Queen and Bishop are also correspondingly
diferent.  The Bishop is useful mainly as an annoyance, a covering force
against rook attacks, and, in conjunction with two friendly pawns in a
chain formation, as a barrier and fortress.  Thus a pawn on e3, another
d4 and a bishop on c5 mutually support each other and can be difficult
to break up without the use of rival pawns.  This arrangement is good in
the middle game when enemy pawns have advanced forward and have moved to
where such a formation can no longer be threatened.  As for the Queen,
limited power could either be used defensively to shelter the King
Rook checks, as H.J.R.Murray noted the European players were prone to do,
or used aggressively by moving it forward, often in conjunction with the
King's Bishop, to assault the enmy lines, as the Arab masters used to
 After a Bishop sacrifice taking out a few enemy pawns, the Queen, alone
in conjunction with say a Knight, can gain entry into the ranks of the
enemy and prove a real threat.  The reason: because enemy Bishops and the
enemy Queen cannot usually attack it (unless the enemy Queen is a
pawn on the same set of 32 squares, and the enemy player is often forced
use a Rook or Knight, or bring over his/her King thus exposing the King
attack.  Thus the Queen ties up enemy forces much more powerful.

Likewise with the changed power of the Queens and Bishops the Rooks and
Knights come into their power.  Not having to fear Bishops, or Queens
sweeping down the board at them, Rooks are the most powerful pieces, and
once a Rook can break into the enemy ranks can usually cause havoc,
especially if both Rooks can get in.  Knights also find themselves more
influential, not having to fear being swapped off by Bishops so much, and
can really threaten the enemy with forks and checks.  The net result is
often an interesting middle of the board clash.

Where the game disappointed some people (and led to the changes made to
bring in the modern game) is the length of time it takes to play.  I've
had many games that went over a hundred moves, easily.  Plus the end game
is less decisive without Rooks, and as a result can be a long drawn out
affair.  The rules of Shatranj allow for a win by Bare King.  This is OK
but no doubt left some players less than satisfied as cornering the King
is supposed to be the prime object of attention, so I can understand why
it frustrated some people, but I still like the game.  Strategy, tactics
and feel are really different.  If one is a little jaded with modern
it can make an interesting alternative for a while as a break.

David Paulowich wrote on 2004-08-01 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Every chess variant can raise complicated rules questions. Here are some for Shatranj.

First Position. White: King e5, Knight e1 Black: King e3, Rook a1 MOVES 1. Nc2 check, Kd3 2. Nxa1, Kc3 3. Ke4, Kb2 4. Kd3, Kxa1 is a simple 'two bare Kings draw' in FIDE chess. I wonder if centuries ago there were Shatranj tournament rules concerning bare King draws that require more than one move.

Second Position. White: King c1, Knight e1 Black: King a1, Pawn a2, Rook e2

MOVES 1. Nc2 check, Rxc2 check 2. Kxc2 stalemate(?) Applying the Bare King rule exactly as stated, White lost the game before he could capture the Rook and win by stalemate. This seems unfair. But if the rules did allow White to play his second move, should a stalemate by a bare King count as a win or only a draw?

Austin Lockwood wrote on 2004-06-19 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
We have just introduced Shantranj as a playable variant on - this is a fascinating game!

Mike wrote on 2003-04-13 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Great website, very interesting and well informed. I'm particularly
interested in the many variants of chess played in India, Central Asia,
and the Middle East. Unfortunately (in my opinion), many of the historical
variations of chess seem to be dying out, replaced by the one same
'standard' game.. to me this is a great shame and a loss to everyone who
enjoys world culture and the game of chess.

Just to add my piece to the discussion about the origins of chess, it
seems to me extremely reasonable to assume that chess was originally
invented in ancient India. There have been very many civilisations that
have risen and fallen in the sub-continent... much of which is far from
desert! In the past it is likely many of the current desert regions were
much more fertile, and since when have people living in the desert not
been able to create great civilisations?!! (are we forgetting that
virtually all the ancient civilisations of the world were located in
desert regions with great rivers, just like Northern India/Pakistan?). 

Any arguments about Indian/Pakistani people not being the 'type' to
invent games are obviously complete bollox. I have travelled widely in
both countries and have found the local people (particularly the old men)
very fond of board games including a number of chess variations. The truth
is that we will never know exactly where chess was first played, and to be
honest I suspect a very ancient game was played millenia ago that
eventually evolved into what we recognise as chess at a relatively recent
date, say the 5th or 6th Century AD. Where this occurred is open to
speculation, but I would say Northern India is an extremely likely spot,
that the first known record came from Persia immediately prior to the Arab
conquest would fit well with that hypothesis as there was a great deal of
trade between the two regions. There can be little doubt that the spread
of Islam also carried with it the game of chess to many distant regions,
including perhaps Europe. 

Remains of boardgames, some of which have a passing resemblance to
chess/draughts/go, have been found in Ancient Egyptian tombs, Ancient
Chinese tombs, burial mounds in central Asia, Africa, Crete and Europe,
and indeed tombs in India. Boardgames are probably nearly as old as man,
and although I don't believe in 'Atlantis' it is quite easy for me to
believe simple chesslike games were played by early man, with stones for
pieces and a board marked in the dust with a stick, why wouldn't they be?
For certain he was as intelligent as any of us (probably more so because
he had to live by his wits), had the same likes and dislikes as we do, and
spare time to relax after a good days hunting. Couldn't the first version
of 'chess' have been a game revolving around a group of hunters and
prey, or a skirmish between two clans? It is only in very recent times
that we have set down the rules of the one 'standard' game of chess in
tablets of stone and hence prevented the multitude of individual
variations which must have been very common in former times.

kingofthering wrote on 2002-12-09 UTCPoor ★
shatranj was originally invented by ancient hindus from india. by hindu
laws that time gambling was forbid so they invented a new version for
this. like 'chaturang' and 'chaupad'.kindly correct the information on

Jason wrote on 2002-10-25 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Clear review of early form of chess.

Iyad wrote on 2002-07-26 UTCGood ★★★★
I would like to note -as a chess player- in the arab countries such as
Jordan and Syria, they play chess the orthodox way with one difference, in
your first move you have the option to move any two pawns one square only,
or one pawn for two squares. but it is becoming old fasioned.

And one more note, it's a fact that chess came to the Islamic world from
Persia. But at that time there was no Persia, instead there was one
Undivided Islamic country, And from there chess spread to the world by
trade. So chess(Shatranj)is not Arabic or Persian, but Islamic. For that
was the only thing incommen among the residents of that huge country.

But furthermore, Persia's origin is from Sumeria, so why not call it
Sumrian chess? or New Cave-man Chess?? or...

Arash Salarian wrote on 2002-07-25 UTCGood ★★★★
Just wanted to comment that Persia is not an arabic country. This way, repeatedly calling Shatranj an arabic game in these pages is not a an acceptable argument. Everyone admits that Shatranj comes from Persia so why you don't call it a Persian game?

Anonymous wrote on 2001-06-09 UTCGood ★★★★
I thought pawns are not allowed to make a double-step on their first move. isn't it?

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