Check out Chess with Different Armies, our featured variant for July, 2024.


Shatranj is the oldest known ancester of modern chess game.

The design of the pieces was based on a very old chess set dated to the 12th century found in Nishapur, Iran

The original names of pieces were: Shah (King), Firzan (Minister), Fil (Elephant), Faras (Horse for Knight), Rukh (no meaning for rook) and Baidaq (Soldiers for pawns).

Here is what you can read about Shatranj on Jean-Louis Cazaux Odyssey of Chess site:

Illustration of Shatranj piece in Thomas Hyde's book (Mandragorias, seu, Historia shahiludii, 1694)

"Within 638-651, Muslim troops defeated and conquered the Persian empire. There, they soon assimilated the culture of their ennemies. The Persian elite adopted Islam and, in return, they were very important contributors to the bright civilization that shone from Middle East. Chess is a good example of that success. The Arabs learned Chatrang that became Shatranj after a phonetic evolution from Persian to Arabic. They brought Shatranj to the level of science, publishing several treatises of problems (mansubat) and openings (ta'biyat).

Al-Adli (800-870), ar-Razi (dead <900), as-Suli (854-946), al-Lajlaj (900-970), where among the best players of their time, living and becoming famous at Caliphs court in Baghdad. Al-Ya‘qûbî (dead in 907), at-Tabarî (838-923), al-Masûdî (circa 940-950), Daqîqî (dead in 975), Firdawsî (circa 1010), ath-Tha'âlibî (961-1038), al-Bêrûnî (973-1048), Mahmud al-Amulî (dead in 1352) are also famous Muslim authors and intellectuals who wrote about the game."


Differences from orthodox chess

Inital setup

The initial setup is similar to Orthodox Chess but 2 pieces have different names and movements:

The Minister and the Elephant are weaker than Queens and Bishops in modern chess.

The Minister

The Minister moves and captures 1 step diagonally.

The Elephant

The Elephant moves and captures 2 steps diagonally (jumping pieces).

Shatranj characteristics

Castling: No.

"En passant" capture: No.

Double move for Pawns (start): No.

Please see below for orthodox Chess rules.

Orthodox Chess rules

The following text is extracted from Wikipedia, under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License. For more details and references, please access the original article.

Chess is a game played by two people on a chessboard, with sixteen pieces (of six types) for each player. Each type of piece moves in a distinct way. The goal of the game is to checkmate, i.e. to threaten the opponent's king with inevitable capture. In addition, there are several ways that a game can end in a draw.

Initial setup

Chess is played on a chessboard, a square board divided into 64 squares (eight-by-eight) of alternating color, which is similar to that used in draughts (checkers). No matter what the actual colors of the board, the lighter-colored squares are called "light" or "white", and the darker-colored squares are called "dark" or "black". Sixteen "white" and sixteen "black" pieces are placed on the board at the beginning of the game. The board is placed so that a white square is in each player's near-right corner.

Each player controls sixteen pieces:

NameNumberWhite SymbolsBlack Symbols
King 1
Queen 1
Rook 2
Bishop 2
Knight 2
Pawn 8

At the beginning of the game, the pieces are arranged as shown in the diagram. The second row from the player contains the eight pawns; the row nearest the player contains the remaining pieces. Popular phrases used to remember the setup, often heard in beginners' clubs, are "queen on her own color" and "white on right". The latter refers to setting up the board so that the square closest to each player's right is white.

Play of the game

The player controlling the white army is named "White"; the player controlling the black pieces is named "Black". White moves first, then players alternate moves. Making a move is required; it is not legal to skip a move, even when having to move is detrimental. Play continues until a king is checkmated, a player resigns, or a draw is declared, as explained below. In addition, if the game is being played under a time control players who exceed their time limit lose the game.


Basic moves

Each chess piece has its own method of movement. Moves are made to vacant squares except when capturing an opponent's piece.

With the exception of any movement of the knight and the occasional castling maneuver, pieces cannot jump over each other. When a piece is captured (or taken), the attacking piece replaces the enemy piece on its square (en passant being the only exception). The captured piece is thus removed from the game and may not be returned to play for the remainder of the game. The king can be put in check but cannot be captured (see below).


The king can move exactly one square horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. Only once per player, per game, is a king allowed to make a special move known as castling (see below).


The rook moves any number of vacant squares vertically or horizontally. It also is moved while castling.


The bishop moves any number of vacant squares in any diagonal direction.


The queen can move any number of vacant squares diagonally, horizontally, or vertically.


The knight moves to the nearest square not on the same rank, file, or diagonal. In other words, the knight moves two squares horizontally then one square vertically, or one square horizontally then two squares vertically. Its move is not blocked by other pieces: it jumps to the new location.


Pawns have the most complex rules of movement:


Castling consists of moving the king two squares towards a rook, then placing the rook on the other side of the king, adjacent to it. Castling is only permissible if all of the following conditions hold:

En passant

If player A's pawn moves forward two squares and player B has a pawn on its fifth rank on an adjacent file, B's pawn can capture A's pawn as if A's pawn had only moved one square. This capture can only be made on the immediately subsequent move. In this example, if the white pawn moves from a2 to a4, the black pawn on b4 can capture it en passant, ending up on a3.

Pawn promotion

If a pawn advances to its eighth rank, it is then promoted (converted) to a queen, rook, bishop, or knight of the same color, the choice being at the discretion of its player (a queen is usually chosen). The choice is not limited to previously captured pieces. Hence it is theoretically possible for a player to have up to nine queens or up to ten rooks, bishops, or knights if all of their pawns are promoted. If the desired piece is not available, the player should call the arbiter to provide the piece.


A king is in check when it is under attack by one or more enemy pieces. A piece unable to move because it would place its own king in check (it is pinned against its own king) may still deliver check to the opposing player.

A player may not make any move which places or leaves his king in check. The possible ways to get out of check are:

End of the game


If a player's king is placed in check and there is no legal move that player can make to escape check, then the king is said to be checkmated, the game ends, and that player loses. Unlike other pieces, the king is never actually captured or removed from the board because checkmate ends the game.

The diagram shows a typical checkmate position. The white king is threatened by the black queen; every square to which the king could move is also threatened; it cannot capture the queen, because it would then be threatened by the rook.


The game ends in a draw if any of these conditions occur:

The player having the move may claim a draw by declaring that one of the following conditions exists, or by declaring an intention to make a move which will bring about one of these conditions:

If the claim is proven true, the game is drawn.

At one time, if a player was able to check the opposing king continually (perpetual check) and the player indicated their intention to do so, the game was drawn. This rule is no longer in effect; however, players will usually agree to a draw in such a situation, since either the rule on threefold repetition or the fifty-move rule will eventually be applicable.


Jocly implementation