Shatranj (or Chatrang) is the father of modern Chess,  played for a thousand years before being replaced in popularity by the standard chess known today. The pieces represent the four divisions of the old Indian army - infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots. The farzin is 'a wise man', or 'counsellor' to the Shah; as such the farzin stands in a place of honour next to his king.  The slower pace of Shatranj represents the old style of warfare, marching forward and coming to grips with the enemy. Modern chess, with its long range pieces, can be viewed as representing a more modern method of war; virtually immediate engagement with guns and artillery. Traditionally Shatranj was played on a non-checkered board.

The object of Shatranj is to leave an opponent without legal moves, to leave him with no pieces besides his Shah or to attack the opponent's Shah in such a way that the opponent cannot escape from the attack and cannot block it on his next turn.


At the beginning of the game one of the players has 16 light pieces and the other  player has 16 dark pieces.

The  names of the pieces are in the original old Persian:


Light pieces Dark pieces
- Shah - Shah
- Farzin - Farzin
- Rukh (x2) - Rukh (x2)
- Pil (x2) - Pil(x2)
- Asp(x2) - Asp(x2)
- Piyadah (x8) - Piyadah (x8)



Shatranj is played on a square board of 8x8 cells.

The initial position of the pieces on the board is as shown:


Players move alternatively, starting from a player controlling white pieces.

No piece can be moved to a cell occupied by another piece of the same color.

If a piece moves to a cell occupied by an enemy piece the latter is considered to be captured and removed from the board. The capture is not mandatory, i.e. if one of the player's pieces can capture some enemy piece it's not required to do so.

If a piece A can capture an enemy piece B it's said that the A attacks B or that the B is under attack.

The Shah is said to be "in check" if it is under attack of some enemy piece (even if the attacking piece cannot move for some reason).

A player may never leave his Shah "in check" at the end of his move. The "in check" situation can be eliminated in one of the following ways:

  • The Shah can be moved to a cell that is not under attack.
  • The attacking enemy piece can be captured by one of the player's pieces (even by the Shah, if doing so does not put the Shah in check).
  • The attack can be blocked by placing another player's piece between the Shah and attacking enemy piece (this is not possible if the attacking piece is a Asp or Pil).

Be aware that there is no initial double step by the piyadah, en passant, or castling options in Shatranj; these were much later developments in chess.

All possible moves for each type of the pieces are explained below.

The Pil can jump two cells in any diagonal direction. The Pil is one of two pieces that can jump over other pieces (the other is the Asp).

The Rukh can move any number of empty cells horizontally or vertically. The Rukh cannot jump over other pieces.

The Farzin can move to a diagonally adjacent cell:

The Asp can move to the nearest cell that is not on the same row, column or diagonal. In other words the Asp moves two cells horizontally or vertically and then one cell perpendicular to that. The Asp is one of two pieces (the other is the Pil) that can jump over other pieces.

The Piyadah is the only piece that captures enemy pieces in a different way comparing to other pieces:

  • a piyadah can move one cell forward on the same vertical column if that cell is empty;
  • a piyadah  can capture an enemy piece on any of the two cells adjacent to the cell in front of the piyadah (i.e., the two adjacent cells diagonally in front of the piyadah);



  • If a piyadah reaches the last row then it is promoted to a farzin of the same color.

The Shah can move to any adjacent unoccupied cell that is not under attack. It is considered that these cells are under attack even if the attacking piece cannot move for some reason;


End of Game

If a player puts an enemy shah in check and the opponent cannot eliminate it on his next move, then the game ends and the player wins. Such position is called a checkmate (shah mat). On the following picture the black shah  is in check (under attack of white rukh) and there is no way for blacks to escape from this situation:

If an enemy shah is not in check but the opponent has no legal moves on his turn then the game ends and the player wins. I.e. the opponent has no other pieces (or all his pieces cannot move) and he cannot move his shah without putting him in check. Such situation is called a stalemate in Chess, but in Shatranj it is considered a win by the attacking player.  On the following picture the black shah is not in check but he cannot move since each of the two unoccupied adjacent cells are under attack of the white rukh:

If a player captures all enemy pieces apart from the shah (baring the shah) then the game ends and the attacking player wins, unless the defender is able to capture the attacking  player's last piece on his next move. In this case the game ends in a draw.


Any player can claim a draw if one of the following conditions exists:

  • No piyadah has been moved and no piece has been captured during seventy (70) subsequent moves played by each player.
  • The same board position has been repeated three times.

External Links

[create new page] [copy this page] [edit this page] [translate this page] [view history]

© All rights reserved. Created by Arty Sandler. Privacy Policy