Friday 2 August 2013

Board Report

Back in the depths of time I introduced you to Chatarungaraja, a chess variant of my own design that I'm unreasonably proud of. In more recent times, through hanging out with my local branch of the SCA a little too much, I was introduced to the Ace's Boke, a series of letters written in middle-agesey-style explaining the rules of period games.

Before long, this happened:

It is sayed far and wide that you are versed well in the ways of the Chesse of the Mad Qweene, but let me tell you of a new game, that is like and allso unlyke it in many wayes. It is known that the Genneral is no grater than the sum of his armie, and in the same way, the King of this new chess, which the Persians call Chatarungaraja, is nothing more than the somme of his menn, and moves like all of them together, the Ruhk, the Horse, the Bishope and the Mann whom you know well from the Queen's chesse. When his army employs of this multitude of forses, then the powers of a Kinge are treemendous indeed, but when the armie is abanddoned by all of the Horses, then the Kinge no longer has use of them, and also cannot move like a Horze moves. When all of the Ruhks are lossed, so then the Kinge cannot move like a Ruhk. When the armie has not any Byshops, then the King is short of their counsel and cannot move in their manner. And iff, following some great battle, all Menn are lost, the the Kinge shall no longer move as a Man. For the Kinge has not any power of his owne exepting that of his armie. Thus if the Kinge has not his armie then he is more easily taken captiv by his enemyes. In this way, this gayme is like warr. But just as the Queen takes no part in war, though the Mad Queene is in this game the Kinge gaynes no comffort from her presents, and may not move in her fashion. So in this way too, this gaeme of Chaturangaraja is like lyfe. In all other ways the game is like the Chesse of the Mad Queene. I hope learning its ways will teach you more of warr, if indeed you have anithing mor to learn.

If that didn't make sense to you, and it wasn't just because of the pseudo-random approach to spelling, then it's time for a brief and simplified diversion into everyone's favourite topic, Chess History!

At some point in the dim dark past, maybe in India, maybe in China, maybe somewhere in the 'Stans (I'm a subscriber to the Indian theory, myself), maybe none/some/all of the aforementioned; a board-based war game that ascribed different properties to different pieces was invented. We can't be sure what this game was really like, but it must have been pretty popular, because it went postal, and versions of it popped up all over the world.

The version we know the most about, because the Arabs actually wrote things down and then faithfully copied them through the ages, was called Shantraj, and was played by the Persians and then assimilated into Arabic culture. They widely played the game, and the masters developed puzzles and teaching literature. This game was remarkably similar to the chess that we play today, with the movements of the King, Rooks and Knights already established. It travelled with the Arabs into Spain, where became 'acedrex', and then into the rest of Europe.

Mad Queen? Scary.
Then, around about 1500, once chess was already widely spread, a new variation spread, widely known as Mad Queen chess, that with the exception of the technicalities, was modern Orthochess. The chancellor or vizier piece not only became the 'Queen', but gained her current all-powerful movements in place of those the the piece we now call the Fers, a kind of one-step bishop. The bishop also gained its modern movements instead of the extremely weak abilities of the Alfil (or elephant), which could travel to only 1/8 the cells of the board as a two-step jumping version of the Fers. Thus chess players in this period knew two games, the chess of the Arabs and the Mad Queen's Chess, a faster, generally more interesting game.

There, you can go back and re-read the above introduction to Chaturanaraja now, if you like. Hopefully it makes a little bit more sense. After playing a couple of games last night we decided that there's another important rule that was part of Shantraj but isn't part of FIDE chess that probably needs to be incorporated, and I'll post a game demonstrating this principle soon. Kudos if you can guess it before then.

1 comment:

PsephologyKid said...

Ooh! Ooh! I think I can guess!