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Modern Shatranj

Introduction

This is a 'strong' variant of Shatranj. It was created as a bridge between modern chess and the historic game of Shatranj. It is meant to retain the flavor of Shatranj while having some of the flow of FIDE chess. This page is an adaptation of the original Shatranj page on the ChessVariants site. There are two movement changes to the historic Shatranj, with the elephants and general becoming more powerful, and a change in the promotion rules. All else is as the historic game. It is not 'modern' except in relation to the historic game.

I got the idea for this variant during a tournament game of Shatranj with Roberto Lavieri. We were discussing the annoying weakness of Shatranj pieces in our after-move comments when I suggested the movement changes and the name "modern" shatranj, just off the top of my head. David Paulowich, who was reading the comments, referred me, in a kibbitz comment, to Peter Aronson's game "Gothic Isles Chess", and a variant of his, called Shatranj Kamil (64), which are reasonably similar in intent and execution. My reply got another comment from David, asking about promotion, leading me to make the promotion changes. Further discussion with David generated an estimate of piece values. After this game's initial posting, I was contacted by Christine Bagley-Jones, who was very helpful. She made the ZRF for me; helped clarify and expand my ideas in discussions; and provided the impetus for the augmented knights and for creating a pair of companions to this game that expand on ideas presented here.

Setup

The array is similar to that of Orthodox Chess, with Elephants replacing Bishops and Generals replacing Queens. The game was also played with Generals and Kings transposed; so in all cases, Kings and Generals face their own kind.*

White:
King d1; General e1; Rook a1, h1; Knight b1, g1; Elephant c1, f1; Pawns a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2, g2, h2.

Black:
King d8; General e8; Rook a8, h8; Knight b8, g8; Elephant c8, f8; Pawns a7, b7, c7, d7, e7, f7, g7, h7.

*The positions for the King and General may also be: White King: e1; White general: d1; Black king: e8; Black general: d8.

Pieces


King
Moves as in Shatranj or FIDE chess

Rook
Moves as in Shatranj or FIDE chess

Knight
Moves as in Shatranj or FIDE chess

Pawn
Moves as in Shatranj or FIDE chess except there is no initial double-step possible.

General
Moves as the king, to the first orthogonal or diagonal square.

Elephant
Moves to the first diagonal square or leaps to the second diagonal square.

Rules

"Modern" Shatranj is intermediate between Shatranj and Orthodox Chess. Perhaps the quickest way to learn "Modern" Shatranj is to understand how it differs from the Orthodox:

  • The board is not checkered.
  • Elephants replace the Orthodox Bishops.
  • Generals replace the Orthodox Queen.
  • There is no initial two-step Pawn move.
  • There is no en passant capture option.
  • There is no castling option.
  • Promotion is to General.
  • Stalemate counts as a win.**
  • Bare King counts as a win, provided that your King cannot be bared on the very next move. (See below.)
  • Two bare Kings (see above) count as a draw.

**Pritchard cites a rule variation that is not mentioned by all authors: A stalemated King may be transposed with one of its other pieces, as long as this does not result in check.

Discussion and Additional Variants

Shatranj to Modern Chess, step by step.

This is not meant as a history of chess, which I don't know, but a speculation on how chess could evolve, and a way to see the effects of the increasing range and power of the pieces. I believe there are 6* basic steps between the two games in movement, and maybe 3 in promotion rules. Each movement step changes Shatranj somewhat, giving a playable game, when the steps are presented in reasonable order. Promotion changes also affect the game, but they are not as basic, and may be 'folded in' to the movement changes. Promotion goes from only generals to generals and lost pieces to freely-chosen pieces.

Shatranj has 7 non-royal pieces, 5 of which are short range. Modern chess (orthochess) has 7 non-royal pieces, 5 of which are long range. So, in shatranj, the pieces are relatively weak; in chess, strong. In reasonable order, the steps between shatranj and chess are:
1) The general (queen) goes from 1 square diagonally only to the king's move. This is the least change from shatranj.
2) The elephant (bishop) goes from a 2-square diagonal jump (allowing it only 8 positions on the board) to a 1-square diagonal move and the 2-square jump. At some point, the jump is lost, but preferably later than this.
3) Castling is allowed.
4) The double first move of pawns is allowed. En passant logically fits here, as an adjunct to the double step, rather than a seperate step, occurring later.
5) The bishops gain their modern move, and lose their jump, although an interesting variant would allow them a 2-square jump with capture of the intervening piece.
6) The queen gains her modern move, creating modern chess.
While numbers 3 and 4 may be reversed, these 6 (or 7) steps are, pretty much, the least (remaining) change from the previous step toward modern chess.

Modern Shatranj incorporates the first 2 steps and intermediate promotion rules, making a 'strong' Shatranj. Using steps 1 through 4 and freer promotion would likely give a game that is still Shatranj-like but more modern in some aspects of play. * Roberto Lavieri has suggested that another intermediate step would be a 2-square slide for the Modern Shatranj general. Using this weak queen along with the first 4 steps above would be a 'Hypermodern Shatranj', a name/game suggested by Roberto, and should provide an excellent variant. Steps 1 through 5 and totally free promotion would give us an Old Chess variant.

Now, Christine Bagley-Jones, who did the ZRF for this game, feels that pushing shatranj too close to chess (using more than the first 2 steps, above) is a mistake, and takes away from the essential 'shatranj-ness' of the game. This prompted me to re-analyse MS from a different angle. The changes made to shatranj to create MS are to take the weakest pieces and add the move of the ferz or wazir to them. This created the 'general-wazir' and the 'alfil-fers'. Maintaining this pattern gives 2 'new' pieces, a knight-wazir and a knight-ferz, which replace the king's knight and the general's knight, respectively, for which Christine has been kind enough to make another ZRF.

Knight-Wazir (NW) - This piece combines the moves of the knight and the wazir. It moves one square orthogonally, then optionally, one square diagonally outward. It jumps any piece in its' way. It is suggested that this piece not be used until players become a bit familiar with the game and the other pieces.

Knight-Ferz (NF) - This piece combines the moves of the knight and the ferz. It can be considered to move one square diagonally, then, optionally, one square orthogonally outward. It jumps any piece in its' way. It is suggested that this piece not be used until players become a bit familiar with the game and the other pieces.

Notes

The promotion rules have been changed, by popular demand. Jose Carillo hs made a rules-enforcing preset, found here: preset The original rules were:

  • Promotion is to General, or a lost piece. If a pawn promotes to a lost piece, these are the restrictions:
    • At most, only 3 lost pieces may be regained: 1 rook, 1 knight, and 1 elephant, even if the player has lost both of any type.
    • If promotion is to an elephant, it may not be the same "color" (occupy the same squares) as the promoting player's remaining elephant. If both elephants are lost, a pawn may promote to either.

      The alfil and general become far more useful and active in this variant. The alfil is almost as valuable as the knight, and the general's value falls about midway between the knight and the rook. Roberto's 2-step queen would be roughly the equal of a rook. Use of the augmented knights, each close to a rook in value, takes this game away from the direct line to chess and more toward a game of considerably different character; many potentials of which are examined in "Great Shatranj" and "Grand Shatranj", companion games to Modern Shatranj. Two more presets, Modern Shatranj D and Modern Shatranj R, using updated graphics have been added here. The "D" version uses the DW piece found in Two Large Shatranj Variants to replace the rook. This piece slides 1 square orthogonally, or jumps 2 squares orthogonally.



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By Joe Joyce.
Web page created: 2005-05-01. Web page last updated: 2005-05-01