The original Persian-Arabian 'game of the kings'
  • 5 posts
  • Page 1 of 1
The_Bishop wrote:
It's an interesting game, not inferior to standard Chess in my opinion.

If you can play modern orthodox Chess, then you can also play the ancient Shatranj: basically they mean the same thing -- just the English word and the Arabian word for two different variants (and ages) of the same game -- so we should more properly say 'Ancient Chess' (around 1500 years old) and 'Modern Chess' (around 500 years old). Similar but so different ...

Rules in fact are similar to current Chess, even simpler. The game is less dynamic, ideal for long play, not much for speed games. Less tactical than Chess, you cannot normally destroy your opponent by a single devastating move. Instead you have to defeat him/her with a long series of accurate positional moves. So the game goes into deep strategy soon, not just in some rare endgames.

Spoiler (click to show)

-- Pieces and rules --

There is no castling move, nor double-step pawn moves. Rather than the Bishops there are the Al-Fil (elefants) and they move landing 2 squares away diagonally (so jumping one square). They are weak pieces, sometimes really hard to move. A good placement of the Al-Fil can make the difference, but in case of a bad placement you would probably like to exchange one of them for an opponent's pawn (possibly a central pawn).

The King is actually called Shah, and there's no Queen but Farzin (wise man /counselor), which moves 1 step diagonally: also weak, but helpful for protecting the King/Shah or for supporting the pawns structures. King, Rooks, Knights and pawns move the same way as in Chess, except for what said above: no castling, no double step. On the last rank pawns promote always to Farzin, not great but at least they can go back and forth (1 diagonally).

If your opponent has no moves out of check you win the game -- stalmate actually counts as a checkmate.
If you leave your opponent with no pieces (other than the Shah) then you also win the game, unless he/she can do the same thing at the very next move, in which case the game ends in a draw.

Spoiler (click to show)

-- Basic strategy --

In the openings there is usually not much interaction between the two players and both build their own tabiya (battle array). An early attack to the enemy is mostly seen as a bad strategy, which can result in a loss of material or being set in a bad position. The most common tabiya is probably the Mujannah, quite simple and efficient, it can be made in 12 moves.

I think the value of the pieces is more-or-less like this:
Rook: 5.0+
Horse/Knight: 3.0
Farzin: 1.5
Alfil: 1.25
Pawn: around 1.0
(there are more accurated sources though!)
The King is also a strong piece and, if there is no danger, can go active into the fight.
Rooks are the only long-range pieces, therefore they are very strong.

Endgames are generally different from Chess because, as mentioned above, one can win in 3 ways:
1. by checkmate ( 'shooting the opposing king' );
2. by stalemate ( 'choking the opposing king' );
3. by capturing all opponent's pieces ( 'baring the opposing king' ).

Pawn promotions can be helpful to win, but not as much as in standard Chess.

-- Mansubat --
the ancient chess problems
Spoiler (click to show)

The only site that I know where Shatranj (Ancient Chess) can be played live, is this:
http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/it/main.html
(many other games are available, but only few users are active).

I'm there with the same nickname as here... Just not so easy to find a challenger!
Please, send me a private message if you fancy to try out Shatranj or you want to play a game once in a while.
«God doesn't play dice with the World» ~ Albert Einstein
The_Bishop is online.
The_Bishop wrote:
A proper value of the pieces, based on what As-Suli wrote (880-946 AD, likely the greatest player ever lived):
Rook = 6
Knight = 4
Farzin = 2 or 2.25
Alfil = 1.5
central pawn = 1.5
Alfil pawn = 1.25
Knight pawn = 1
Rook pawn = 0.75

Otherwise in fractions (which is exactly what As-Suli wrote):
Rook = 1
Knight = 2/3
Farzin = 1/3 or 3/8
Alfil = 1/4
central pawn = 1/4
Alfil-or-Knight pawn = 1/5 or 1/6
Rook pawn = 1/8

I think a modern chess player would be more confortable with the first list of values, which I provided multiplying everything by 6. These theoretical values are for practical use, but then one can win by sacrificing 2 Rooks, so all this won't make sense anymore.

Anyway I guess I'm losing my time here and I feel like I'm the only guy on Earth really interested on playing (and studying) this game, which is actually the real original game of Chess. What today we call 'Chess' is just a special variant of Shatranj, initially called the 'Game of the Mad Queens' and little by little become the standard version.

Someone could argue that Shatranj comes from the Indian game of Chaturanga. Yes it is, but the differences are so minimal that it's practically the same game, Arabs just refined the original Indian rules to make the game a bit more 'professional', that's all.
«God doesn't play dice with the World» ~ Albert Einstein
The_Bishop is online.
The_Bishop wrote:
I've finally found an excellent Ancient Chess on-line option on a very well known Chess site, which I don't tell... And:

I find this 1500 years old game amazing and deeply strategic, and also much more some-how-tactical than what I expected.
I had the plesure to play a few excellent players already, including a guy spending lot of minutes in the openings, studying the position in deep, untill he got some material advantage, and then finally destroying me on the last few seconds of his clock.
I'm doing well really, especially when playing against 'Chaturanga pioneers looking for some Chess variant adventures', a bunch of games are easy to win; but then there are a few playing very well (and also very quickly). Knowing some openings helped me as my first 10-12 moves are usually fast and I already know what to do.

It's always Chess, just the 'older version'' and the 'newer'. both are great games, and they are similar in many things.
The majority of pieces has the same movements, only Queen and Bishops has changed, originally being much weaker pieces.
However it's also quite a different game as pieces -- as a whole -- definetly 'dance' making different moves and steps compared to modern orthodox Chess. The board also is the same 8x8 grid, while the strategic squares on the board are totally different...

I'm just amazed ! :)
«God doesn't play dice with the World» ~ Albert Einstein
The_Bishop is online.
Blagoje_Jovovic wrote:
A very interesting topic, to be honest, a headache from classic chess and all the theories in it is enough for me. I have one match every week, I use the time in between to prepare for the opponent and to play risk and relax my brain.
Soon when I'm fresher I'll definitely try this mode.
“Vital lives are about action. You can't feel warmth unless you create it, can't feel delight until you play, can't know serendipity unless you risk.”
Blagoje_Jovovic is online.
The_Bishop wrote:
I have been playing this game intensively for a couple weeks and yes that's so cool, though it is not as complex as modern Chess. Less tactical and more positional, this is nice; but I think that two excellent players would likely draw pretty often. However the way the pieces moves is, at same time, funny and elegant, and there's some strategical details, especially concerning the weaker pieces, which make the game great as a whole. There's the bad and the good in both versions of Chess, the modern (so-called orthodox) and the ancient: Shatranj or Chaturanga (both names are correct, Arabic and Indian).

Sometimes I also play MakRuk (Thai chess) or XiangQi (Chinese chess) and they too are very interesting games which clearly derive from the same ancient game. So if one version of Chess has to be called 'orthodox' that one would be the oldest, in my opinion, from which all the other versions derive.
«God doesn't play dice with the World» ~ Albert Einstein
The_Bishop is online.