Shatranj

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Shatranj. An ancestor of chess, and possibly other national chess-related games.

Shatranj or shatranji, also called medieval chess, is an ancient Persian game from which modern chess developed, and which is thought by some scholars to be the common ancestor of chess, Xiangqi, Shogi, Janggi and Makruk.

Each descendant has modified the ancient rules in a different way, but for simplicity only the differences with chess will be listed. The popular contention has long been that Shatranj came to Persia from the Indian game of Chaturanga. However, modern scholars now view this theory with reserve. (See origins of chess.)

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Alfil. A move diagram of Alfil. This piece can jump over other pieces.
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Fers. A move diagram of Fers.
  • Alfil (from Persian pil, elephant) moved exactly two squares diagonally, jumping over the intervening square. Note that the four Alfils each could reach only one eighth of the squares on the board, and because their circuits were disjoint, could never capture one another. This is the one piece that changed its move from Chaturanga. Alfil was replaced by a bishop in modern chess. Even today, the word for the bishop piece is alfil in Spanish and alfiere in Italian.
  • Fers (from Persian farzin, counsellor) moved exactly one square diagonally. This made it a rather weak piece. It was replaced by a queen in modern chess. Still even today the word for the queen piece is Ферзь (ferz) in Russian and vezér in Hungarian.
  • Pawns in Shatranj did not have the option of moving two squares on the first move.
  • Pawns which reached the eighth rank were promoted, but only to a Fers.
  • Castling was not allowed.
  • Stalemating the opposing king resulted in a win for the player delivering stalemate.
  • Capturing all one's opponent's pieces apart from the king (baring the king) was a win, unless your opponent could capture your last piece on their next move, when it is a draw.


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