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The Chess Variant Pages


I want to know about mysterious game "Semedo". I read about it in another CV site (it have much less games than here).

This article writes (literal translation from Russian lunguage):
"Another Chinese chess variant is much different from normal Xiang-qi. Catholic missionarys in China reported about special Chinese chess, called "Semedo". Description of this game (in Latin language) was given in book, published in 1694 in Oxford, England. Author of this book is Thomas Hide, book's name is "Mandragorias, or history of chess games"."


Game is played on squares, not intersections of lines. Board's size is 8x5. Here is opening setup:


P - pawn;
K - king;
N - knight;
S - scientist;
R - rocket.

Articles writes, that in book rocket piece's name was "Copper, pot or gunpowder". and it probably means "vessel with gunpowder", bomb.


Looks like, this article meant that exact rules of this game are unknown, Thomas Hide described them unclearly. But article made these rules even more unclear: it did not mentoited rules of movement of knights and pawns at all! These rules may be like in Xiang-qi: pawns captures orthogonally, knight don't leap; but they also may may be like in Shantraj: pawns capture diagonally, knight may leap! And can pawns promote?..

Article also don't give description of scientist's move. It only tells that it's probably related to Xiang-qi bodyguards: they also stands adjecent to king, there are 2 of them.

About rocket or vessel with gunpowder:
Article says that Thomas Hides gives this description for this piece: "Vessel with gunpowder moves like rook, but if crowded, as cannonball". When article writes: "This description reminds Xiang-qi cannon, but they may be different. Here are arguments to prove relationship of vessel/rocket and cannon. Opening positions of these pieces are alike, there are 2 of them".

Article, about king:
"Thomas Hide writese about king: "King don't attack". It's possible that king don't move at all, that is, his opening square for him is same as palace in Xiang-qi."


And last, article writes:
"Not straight line of pawns will not confuse as if we'll know that in chess of Burma, China's neighbour, opening position of pawns is also not straight line (but this line have another shape).

Interesting that Semedo board have the following likeness with Xiang-qi board: they both have more ranks than files. Small board proves that this game is probably quite primitive. It's possible that this game appeared during early stages of transformation of ancient Indian chess by Chinese people. Another evidence of this is that plying space here is square, not intersection".

Of course, here i disagree with this artickle at all: it's clear that Xiang-qi have much more common things with Chaturanga than Semedo!
Probably, it's just ancient small Xiang-qi variant (but it's only historical small variant i know, expect for Tori shogi).

And so, if you know something about rules or history of this game, please, write about it in comments!

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Author: Daniil Frolov.
Web page created: 2010-06-15. Web page last updated: 2010-06-15