Makruk (Thai Chess)


Chess variant very popular in Thailand and Kambodia, where it is played by millions of people, important tournaments are shown in TV and newspapers publish Makruk games and problems. The game is probably derived from chaturanga, therefore it bears some similarities to Shatranj.

 

1. Pieces and Movement

Makruk can be played with a traditional chess set, 8x8 board is used and the starting position is similar, only queens and bishops are replaced with differently moving pieces.

 

Makruk initial position (rnbqkbnr/8/pppppppp/8/8/PPPPPPPP/8/RNBKQBNR)

Makruk initial position

http://wiki.schemingmind.com/pieces/makruk__solid_darkgreen/32/wk.gif
Khun (king) moves as in standard chess, except there is no castling
http://wiki.schemingmind.com/pieces/makruk__solid_darkgreen/32/wr.gif
Reuua (boat, rook) moves as in standard chess
http://wiki.schemingmind.com/pieces/makruk__solid_darkgreen/32/wn.gif
Maa (horse, knight) moves as in standard chess
http://wiki.schemingmind.com/pieces/makruk__solid_darkgreen/32/wp.gif
Biia (shell, pawn) moves as in standard chess, except there is no initial two-step, it always promotes to met and promotion occurs on the 6th rank.
http://wiki.schemingmind.com/pieces/makruk__solid_darkgreen/32/wq.gif
Met (minister, queen) moves to the first diagonal square (in any direction)
http://wiki.schemingmind.com/pieces/makruk__solid_darkgreen/32/wb.gif
Khon (bishop) moves as met, but can also move and capture one square up (but not down).

Comparing to Shatranj, the only change in piece set is that alfil is replaced with khon.

Note that in the initial setup kings are not staying on the same file. This is important as thanks to it both mets are of the same colour.

Some websites about Makruk (or Cambodian Chess) mention also additional special moves of the king (opportunity to make knight move on the very first king move, only if king is not checked) and queen (move straight to e3/d6). Those rules happen to be used in street play (just to accelerate opening a bit), but are not allowed in serious tournaments. They are also not available on schemingmind.

 

2. Rules

 

2.1. Comparison with chess

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

  • Pawn promotion occurs on 6th rank

Special counting rule limits length of the game, allowing a player to claim a draw in special situation (see description below).

  • There is no 3-fold repetition and no 50-move rule (both are replaced by counting rule).
  • Different pieces are in use, we have khon and met instead of queen and bishop (see above)

There are check and checkmate, and they work just as they do in standard chess. There is stalemate and it is a draw.

 

2.2. Comparison with shatranj

Comparing to Shatranj initial position is changed, khon replaces alfil, pawn promotion occurs earlier, stalemate is a draw and counting rule introduces specific endgame handling (of course there is no bare king victory).

 

2.3. First counting rule (no pawns)

When neither side has any pawns (all are promoted or taken), the game must be finished within 64 moves, or it is declared draw. Traditionally the side who is in disadvantage is counting the moves, and is allowed to stop counting if he or she no longer feels at disadvantage.

 

The counting rule is not yet enforced by the server, see below how it should be handled in meantime.

 

2.4. Second counting rule (bare king)

When one side remains with a bare king (last other piece is captured), the counting is restarted. But, in this case, the moves number is calculated in a special way, as X-Y, where Y is the count of all the pieces remaining on the board and X is dependant on the stronger side material (pick the first matching rule):

  • At least two reuua (rooks): 8 moves
  • At least one reuua (rook): 16 moves
  • At least two khons (bishops): 22 moves
  • At least two maa (knights): 32 moves
  • At least one khon (bishop): 44 moves
  • At least one maa (knight): 64 moves
  • Only mets (queens) left: 64 moves

So, if white has king, two rooks and knight versus lone black king, he must deliver mate in 8 (two rooks) - 5 (five pieces) = 3 moves, or the game is declared draw. Or if white has king, khon, two mets and a pawn versus lone king, he has 44 (at least one khon) - 6 (six pieces) = 38 moves.

Some players mistakenly restart counting if black captures some white piece, this is not correct.

The counting rule is not yet enforced by the server, see below how it should be handled in meantime.

 

2.5. The counting rule is not yet enforced

The counting rule is not yet implemented in the server - when it is, the server will simply allow to claim a draw once the counting rule criteria are fulfilled. Until then, the weaker player is expected to perform those calculations and to offer a draw at correct moment adding a note about expired counting rule (those duties replace counting in normal game) and the stronger player is expected to accept such offer (after verifying whether it is correct).

Unfortunately, because the rule is not yet enforced by the server, the counting rule can only be used voluntarily by either player. The use of the counting rule should be agreed by both players before the game or tournament starts and the webmaster will not terminate a game based on this rule unless this agreement is clear at the beginning of the game discussion.

 

3. Game hints

 

3.1. Pieces strength

The strongest piece is of course reuua (rook), followed by maa (knight). Khons (bishops) are also fairly useful thanks to the possibility of changing the square colour (they seem more useful than knights especially while trying to mate weaker opponent). As promotion is rather easy, met (queen) value does not significantly exceed the value of the pawn.

 

3.2. Openings

To be written (a few sample openings)

 

3.3. Middlegame

To be written

 

3.4. Endgame

As pawns are exchanged or promoted fairly quickly (pawns need only 3 moves to reach promotion square) endgame must be defined differently than in standard chess, probably as the situation when kings remain without pawns and with only a few supporting pieces.

Counting rule impacts endgame significantly. In particular, there are different sacrificial combinations where the weaker side gives up the last piece(s) to secure the draw thanks to the counting rule. For example, in king and rook versus king and two rooks, in many cases weaker side can sacrifice the rook as the opponent will not be able to deliver a checkmate in four moves.

Do not forget that khons are assymetric. So, for example, it may be easier to checkmate opponent's king on 8th rank, than on the first rank or on the sideline.

More to be written

 

4. Example games

Some example games, picked from those few already played:

All those games contain blunders, this is natural considering makruk is just starting its schemingmind life. If you played or observed good makruk game, feel free to add it here.

Rooks can mate - rooks still can deliver a mate, like in standard chess,

Mating with khon and two mets - some example of mating with small material (not sure whether black defended perfectly, he would have to survive until move 98 to draw due to the counting rule),

Khons in middlegame - quite a lot of tactical play with heavily utilised khons.

Mating with knight and two mets - another example of ending (and interesting game before).

Nice rook mate - black nicely exploits the weak rank.

Checkmating with knon and mets made easy - yet another example how to efficienty deliver checkmate.

 

5. Additional info

Valuable links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makruk (wikipiedia article including counting rule)

http://www.xs4all.nl/~timkr/chess/makruk.htm (Tim Krabbe article - memories from travel to Cambodia and games played there, problems)

http://www.chessvariants.org/oriental.dir/thai.html (chessvariants article)

 


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