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This page is written by the game's inventor, Joe Joyce. This game is a favorite of its inventor.

Grand Shatranj

As chess evolved from shatranj in the West, pieces gained power by becoming long-range sliders, producing an abstract game where most pieces can cross an open board in a single turn. Eastern variants stay closer to the beginnings of the game, which featured a number of short-range sliders and leapers, but the power pieces still seem to be long-range. What if long-range pieces did not come to be so dominant? Suppose the short-range pieces of chess' infancy became more powerful by gaining additional short-range moves? Grand Shatranj is the companion game to Great Shatranj. It extends the examination of short-range leapers by looking at another 2-square jumper and 2 short-range riders.

This game is taken from "Two Large Shatranj Variants", which contains a complete list of alternate pieces and optional rules. All presets use "Grand Shatranj Alfaerie" piece sets. The Alfaerie piece sets were created by David Howe. The Grand Shatranj piece set includes some new pieces by Joe Joyce, created for Mr. Howe's Alfaerie set. These presets do not check rules. Players are encouraged to experiment with different pieces.


Grand Shatranj D
Grand Shatranj R

Click on either setup pictured above for that preset.


King. The royal piece. This is the standard chess king, moving 1 square in any direction. The king may not move into check.

Jumping general. Moves as the elephant or dababba. It may move 1 square or leap 2 squares orthogonally or diagonally.

Minister. Moves like the knight, dababbah, or wazir. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares orthogonally, or jumps in the standard knight's "L".

High priestess. Moves like the knight, alfil, or ferz. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares diagonally, or jumps in the standard knight's "L".

Oliphant, a double elephantrider. Moves twice as an alfil or ferz. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares diagonally, and then may do either again. Thus it may move 1, 2, 3, or 4 squares. It must move in a straight line.

kNight. This is the standard chess knight, jumping 2 squares, one orthogonally and the second diagonally outward.

Lightning warmachine, a double dababbarider. Moves twice as a dabbabah or wazir. It slides 1 or jumps 2 squares orthogonally, then may do either again. It also can move 1, 2, 3 or 4 squares. It must move in a straight line.

Pawn. A standard chess pawn, always moving 1 square forward and capturing 1 square diagonally forward. There is no double-step option.

Rook. Optional replacement for dababbarider. A standard rook, sliding any number of squares orthogonally.


Win by checkmate or by baring the opponent's king without your king immediately being bared by your opponent. Any other outcome is a draw.

Capture is by replacement. A capturing piece must stop on the square of the piece captured.

Pawns may promote on the ninth and must promote on the tenth rank.

Pawns may promote to any lost pieces. If a pawn should find itself on the 10th rank with no lost piece to promote to, it may move, and capture, sideways along the 10th rank, 1 square per turn, either way. When a piece becomes available, the pawn may promote immediately, or it may wait until after it has moved, and possibly captured, one more square along the back rank.

There is no castling. As there is no pawn first move double step, there is no en passant.

Optional Rule

Initial Double Step for Pawns
By popular request, the following rule is added:
With prior agreement of both players, pawns are allowed an initial double step.


This game was playtested by Gary Gifford. He encouraged the creation of a new piece set. Tactics in this game can get quite sharp, as several pieces can jump over 2 pieces during their move. And while the 2 rider-types in this game have the shortest possible moves of any leaping riders, they may still move 4 squares a turn, making them intermediate-range pieces. This can make them quite dangerous.

After posting a pawn promotion comment on Grand Chess, I received an email from Michael Howe [Nova Chess and others], who has been working on the pawn promotion/movement problem in his work. With permission, I present the relevant body of the text:
[A pawn] 'can move to the back rank even when no previously captured piece is available, and while there it moves like a nonroyal king (commoner). If it moves out of the promotion zone it reverts to pawn. If it moves within the promotion zone it gets another chance to promote. A player can also move into or within the promotion zone and choose the commoner option instead of a piece promotion even if a piece is available: for example, in a situation when a commoner would mate but a cardinal or marshal would not. No in-situ promotion. I think this works better than a sideways-moving pawn because it is more threatening, although I doubt that this situation will come up much'.

Gilded Grand Shatranj

An anonymous poster asked the following question (copied from comments):
'Is there way to use both Lightning warmachine and rook?'
My first thought was 'No, they are alternates of the same piece.'
My second thought was 'It would take David Paulowich to manage that.'
My third thought was to rip off David's excellent Opulent Lemurian Shatranj. And since my game is nowhere near as subtle, well-crafted, and thought out as his, I couldn't call this straight rip 'Opulent Grand Shatranj', so I give you:
Gilded Grand Shatranj
This variant should provide a good range of decent firepower, considering most pieces are worth at least a rook in value. I don't expect it to be all that subtle, though.
My fourth thought was 'Replace 1 Lightningwarmachine on each side with a rook.' Start a game of Grand Shatranj D, and as part of your first move, simply type "R-a1;" or "R-j1;" then TYPE your opening move if white. If black, type either "r-a10;" or r-j10;" then TYPE your opening move. Do not use the click piece, click destination option on this turn.

Game design by Joe Joyce.

This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

By Joe Joyce.
Web page created: 2006-05-01. Web page last updated: 2010-04-08