Play a couple?

Shatranj
'Standard' (30 days + 1 day/move, max 45 days)
This game is being played under Shatranj rules. Click the 'info' tab for more information.
1. Nc3 Nf6
Clock started on 11/18/2007
2. f3 Nc6 3. f4 Bd6 4. g3 Bxf4 5. gxf4 Kf8 6. Nf3 d6 7. Rg1 Be6 8. e3 d5 9. f5 Bc4 10. b3 Ba6 11. b4 Bc4 12. d3 Rg8 13. dxc4 dxc4 14. b5 Na5 15. e4 a6 16. Rb1 axb5 17. e5 Nh5 18. Rg5 g6 19. fxg6 hxg6 20. Rxb5 c6 21. Rb4 Nf4 22. Rg4 Nd5 23. Nxd5 cxd5 24. Rf4 Ke8 25. Rb5 e6 26. Be3 Qc7 27. Ng5 Rg7 28. c3 b6 29. Rb2 Nc6 30. Rbf2 Nd8 31. R4f3 Ra3 32. Bc1 Ra7 33. Rf4 Kf8 34. a3 Qb8 35. Rb2 Rb7 36. Kf2 Kg8 37. Rh4 Nc6 38. Re2 Re7 39. Qc2 Ra7 40. Re1 Ra5 41. Rf4 Qc7 42. h3 Rb5 43. Kg3 Rb2 44. Rf2 Nb8 45. Nf3 Nd7 46. h4 Qb8 47. Ng5 Qc7= 48. Bh3 Qd8 49. Kg4 Qc7 50. Kf4 Ra2 51. Ref1 Qd8 52. Qb1 Rxf2+ 53. Rxf2 Nc5 54. Bf1 Na4 55. Rf3 Qe7 56. Qc2 Qf8 57. Kg4 Qe7 58. Kg3 Qf8 59. Kf2 Nc5 60. Ke3 Qe7 61. Rf2 Nd7 62. Kf4 f6 63. exf6 e5+ 64. Kg3 Nxf6 65. Kf3 Ne8 66. Rd2 Nc7 67. Ke3 Qf6 68. Nf3 Rh7 69. Rg2 Kf7 70. Rg4 Nb5 71. Kd2 Nd6 72. Qd1 Rh5 73. Qe2 Nf5 74. Be3 Nh6 75. Rg3 e4 76. Nd4 Rxh4 77. Nc6 Ng4 78. a4 Ne5 79. Nb4 Rh8 80. Rh3 Ra8 81. Rh7+ Qg7 82. Kc1 Ra5 83. Bg1 Nd7 84. Rh2 Nc5 85. Be3 Nxa4 86. Nc6 Rb5 87. Rf2+ Qf6 88. Nd4 Rb2 89. Rh2 Ra2 90. Nb5 Qe5 91. Rg2 Ke7 92. Bh3 Rb2 93. Nc7 Kd6 94. Na6 g5 95. Bxg5 Rb3 96. Kd2 Nxc3 97. Qd1 d4 98. Bf5 Rb1 99. Rg1 Qf4 100. Rh1 Qxg5 101. Rh8 Rxd1+ 102. Kc2 e3 103. Nb4 Rd2+ 104. Kc1 Ke6 105. Bh3 Ne2+ 106. Kb1 Nc3+ 107. Kc1 Ne2+ 108. Kb1 c3 109. Ka1 Nc1
Black win


Shatranj is a traditional game that first appeared in Persia around the 7th century AD and remained immensely popular throughout the Middle East for the next nine centuries. Shatranj is said to have supported professional players, produced several books and inspired its own body of chess problems or mansubat. And it is likely to be the predecessor of modern chess.

 

1. Pieces and Movement

Shatranj can be played with a traditional chess set: the start position is similar to that of standard chess, with Alfils replacing Bishops and Firzans replacing Queens.

Shah (king) moves as in standard chess, except there is no castling
Rukh (chariot, rook) moves as in standard chess
Faras (horse, knight) moves as in standard chess
Baidaq (soldier, pawn) moves as in standard chess, except there is no initial two-step and it always promotes to Firzan
Firzan (vizier, queen) moves to the first diagonal square
Alfil (elephant, bishop) leaps to the second diagonal square, can jump over some other piece (like knight).

The game was designed to represent an ancient battlefield. The Baidaq is a soldier, the Firzan is a trusted military advisor (this metaphor is also behind the promotion rule); the Rukh (chariot), Faras (horse), and Fil (elephant) represent advanced ancient military units.

 

2. Rules

The rules of Shatranj are similar to Standard Chess, with the following exceptions:

  • Stalemate counts as a win (if you have no legal move, you lose),
  • Bare King counts as a win, provided that your King cannot be bared on the very next move,
  • Two bare Kings count as a draw,
  • The piece set is changed (alfils and firzans instead of queens and bishops, see above),
  • There is no initial two-step pawn move (and of course no en-passant), no castling, and pawns arriving at the last rank always promote to Firzans

There are check and checkmate, and they work just as they do in standard chess.

 

3. Game hints

Here are some basic suggestions about game play.

 

3.1. Pieces strength

The strongest piece is of course the rukh (rook). If, following standard chess, we keep the values for the rooks (5 units) and knights (3 units), then the firzan would be worth at most 2 units, the alfil about 1, and pawns between 0.5 and 1 (the central pawns being more valuable than those on the side). The low value of the pawns is caused by the fact that they can only promote to firzans. The low value of the alfils is because each alfil can access only 1/8 of the board.

The tenth-century master As-Suli set out the values thus: rukh: 5, knight: 3¹⁄₃, firzan: 1²⁄₃, alfil: 1¹⁄₄, central pawn: 1¹⁄₄, bishop and knight pawn: between ⁵⁄₆ and 1, rook pawn: ⁵⁄₈.

Each alfil can access only 8 squares on the board, and those squares do not overlap. So it is impossible to (directly) exchange alfil for alfil. One can also consider avoiding squares reachable by one's opponent's alfils while deciding where to place important pieces and pawns. At the same time, one's own alfils can be useful to defend important pawns (this is why some openings leave pawns on d3 and e3).

 

3.2. Openings

The game is generally slower than standard chess. In particular, it takes time before the true battle begins: during opening one can develop almost uninterrupted by the opponent for some time. So, the exact sequence of opening moves is not very important; the resulting structure matters. Below are example structures (tabiyas) analysed in traditional literature:

Mujannah tabiyaMashaikhi tabiya
Sayyal tabiyaMuwashshah tabiya

Black can pick the same, or other structure, as white. So, there can be Double Mujannah game (when both players picked Mujannah setup), or Mujannah-Mashaikhi game.

The typical aim of the opening and the early middlegame is to gain space, connect the rooks (second rank is often used for the task), favourably open some file(s), create outposts for the knights, and, if possible, invade the opponent's camp with a rook (or both), supported by knights, and sometimes alfils. Such an attack need not necessarily lead to mate, but frequently lets one win significant material.

 

3.3. Middlegame

Contrary to standard chess, one can often find oneself unable to defend some piece or square in spite of having tempi or even a few available for the task. Except the rooks, all pieces are short range, and it takes time to move them to the other area of the board. Therefore it is important to create a solid structure, where pieces and pawns defend one another. For the same reason, local advantages (having more pieces in some area of the board) are likely to stay for a few moves.

Typical game strategy is oriented rather towards winning material, than creating mate threats (although there are exceptions). Sacrifices happen rarely (if ever). The main tactical (strategical?) theme is to outnumber the opposing pieces in some area of the board to win material there.

 

3.4. Endgame

Pawn promotion is of lesser value than in standard chess as the firzan is only slightly stronger than the pawn. It make sense to promote pawns, but this is only one of many possible manoeuvres.

The most important endgame concept is constriction (taking away your opponent's moves) in order to achieve a stalemate or bare king victory.

The stronger side should be careful while exchanging, especially with rook exchanges. There is a risk of a situation similar to opposite-bishops chess ending - extra firzan (or a few) does not help if the weaker side dominates on - say - light squares. For the same reason sometimes it is better to keep an unpromoted pawn, if it keeps an eye on an important square - once promoted, it will never change its square colour.

 

4. Example games

Links to more instructive Shatranj games are welcome

Some example games:

Nice mate in the centre of the board

Rooks invasion - after typical opening black uses open file to invade white position with rooks

Alfils at work - instructive maneouvering game where white particularly effectively uses his alfils (note battle for open file on moves 26 and 37, fork on move 29 and final sacrifice at move 60), also pretty example of constriction strategy in the final part of the game.

Minor piece king hunt - knights and alfil cooperating to construct the mating net.

 

5. Additional info

This Article on Shatranj was published in the SchemingMind Journal. Read it, you will find a lot of valuable information there.

AncientChess.com is selling chess sets being replicas of traditional shatranj pieces (Nishapur chessmen). See their chess history for some pretty photos, and this page for game rules in their redaction.

 


Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy | Copyright © 2002 - 2022

SchemingMind.com | Westhoughton | Bolton | England