Mutual Nonexistence

'Leisure' (30 days + 3 days/move, max 60 days)
This game is being played under Shatranj rules. Click the 'info' tab for more information.
1. d3
Clock started on 12/6/2012
1... f6 2. e3 e6 3. f3 b6 4. g3 c6 5. e4 d6 6. Ne2 c5 7. c3 g6 8. c4 Nc6 9. Nbc3 a6 10. b3 h6 11. Kd2 e5 12. Na4 Qc7 13. Rb1 Be6 14. Nac3 Nge7 15. Nd5 Nxd5 16. cxd5 Nd4 17. Nxd4 cxd4 18. dxe6 Ke7 19. f4 Kxe6 20. b4 b5 21. Be3 exf4 22. gxf4 d5 23. f5+ gxf5 24. exf5+ Kxf5 25. Rc1 Ra7 26. Bc5 Ra8 27. Bh3+ Kg4 28. Qe2 Bd6 29. Rcf1 h5 30. Bf5 Bxb4+ 31. Kc2 h4 32. Rhg1+ Kh5 33. Qf3 Qd6 34. Qg4+ Kg6 35. Ba3 Rac8+ 36. Kb2 Kf7 37. Rg2 Rhe8 38. Rgf2 Rc7 39. Bh7 Re6 40. Rc1 Rxc1 41. Bxc1 Qc5 42. a3 a5 43. axb4 Qxb4 44. Bf5 a4 45. Rf3 a3+ 46. Bxa3 Qxa3+ 47. Kxa3 Ra6+ 48. Kb4 Ke6 49. Kxb5 Ra2 50. h3 Rb2+ 51. Kc5 Rb7 52. Kxd4 Rb4+ 53. Kc3 Ra4 54. Re3+ Kd6 55. Re8 d4+ 56. Kb3 Ra7 57. Rh8 Kd5 58. Rxh4 Rb7+ 59. Kc2 Rc7+ 60. Kd2 Ra7 61. Ke2 Ra2+ 62. Kf3 Ke5= 63. Rh8 Ra7 64. h4 Ra1 65. Re8+ Kd5 66. Re4 Rh1 67. h5 Rf1+ 68. Ke2 Ra1 69. h6 Ra2+ 70. Kf3 Ra1 71. Kg3 Rg1+ 72. Kf4 Kc5 73. Re6 Rf1+ 74. Qf3 Kd5 75. Rxf6 Rh1 76. Qe4+ Kc5 77. Ke5 Rg1 78. Qd5 Rg8 79. Rc6+ Kb5 80. Kxd4 Rg4+ 81. Ke5 Rh4 82. h7 Rh1 83. Rc4 Re1+ 84. Re4 Rh1 85. Kd6 Rc1 86. Bd7+ Kb6 87. Rb4+ Ka5 88. Rb5+ Ka4 89. h8 Rh1 90. Qg7 Rg1 91. Qf6 Rg3 92. d4 Rg8 93. Qc6 Rg6 94. Ke5 Rg8 95. d5 Re8+ 96. Kd6 Rf8 97. Qe7 Rf1 98. Kc5 Rc1+ 99. Kb6 Re1 100. Qd6 Re8 101. Qc5 Re1 102. Rb4+ Ka3 103. Kb5 Rc1 104. d6 Re1 105. Bf5 Re8 106. Kc4 Re4+ 107. Qd4 Rf4 108. Bd3 Rf1 109. Bxf1
White 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.


Shatranj initial position (rnbqkbnr/pppppppp/8/8/8/8/PPPPPPPP/RNBQKBNR)

Shatranj initial position
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 tabiya (8/8/8/8/2P2P2/1PNPPNP1/P6P/1RBQKBR1)

Mujannah tabiya


Mashaikhi tabiya (8/8/8/8/3PP3/1PPQ1P1P/P2NN1P1/R1B1KB1R)

Mashaikhi tabiya


Sayyal tabiya (8/8/8/8/6P1/PPPPPP2/4NR1P/1NBQKBR1)

Sayyal tabiya


Muwashshah tabiya (8/8/8/5P2/3P2P1/PPPQPN2/3N3P/1RB1KBR1)

Muwashshah 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. 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.


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