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Shatranj (Chess, Chatrang, Zatrikion)





Central Asia, Southern Asia, Western Asia, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Western Europe


Board, War, Chaturanga.


Shatranj is a game derived from Chaturanga which probably began in Iran and spread throughout the Islamic world and into Europe. It is the game from which Chess directly evolved into its modern form, though Shatranj was known as "Chess" in Europe when it was adopted there.


8x8 board. The pieces move as follows, with the number per player: 1 x Shah (king): moves one space orthogonally or diagonally. 1 x Fers (counselor): One square diagonally. 2 x Rukh (rook): Any number of spaces orthogonally. 2 x Pil (elephant): Two squares diagonally, jumping over the first. Cannot capture another Pil. 2 x Asb (horse): Moves as a chess knight. 8 x Sarbaz (soldier): Moves one space forward orthogonally; one space forward diagonally to capture. No en passant. Promoted to Fers when reaching the eighth rank. No castling. Stalemate results in win for player causing it. The player who checkmates the king wins.

Murray 1913: 220-227.



Ludeme Description



Murray 1913: 220-265.

Evidence Map

19 pieces of evidence in total. Browse all evidence for Shatranj here.

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Anna Comnena. Alexiad.

Dalton, O. 1909. Catalogue of the Ivory Carvings of the Christian Era with Examples of Mohammedan Art and Carvings in Bone in the Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities and Ethnography of the British Museum. London: The British Museum.

Eales, R. 2007. "Changing Cultures: The Reception of Chess into Western Europe in the Middle Ages." In I. Finkel ed Ancient Board Games in Perspective. London: The British Museum Press, 162–168.

Eder, M. 1994. "Die Schachfiguren aus Afrasiab: Fragen an die Wissenschaft zur Deutubng, Zeitstellung und Ikonographie. ANtike Welt 25(1): 71–78.

Gamer, H. 1954. The Earliest Evidence of Chess in Western Literature: The Einsiedeln Verses. Speculum 29(4): 734–750.

Grabar, O., R. Holod, J. Knustad, and W. Trousdale. 1978. City in the Desert: Qasr al-Hayr East. Harvard Middle Eastern Monograph Series XXIII/XXIV. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Keene, R. 2007. "Grandmasters of Shatranj and the Dating of Chess." In I. Finkel ed, Ancient Board Games in Perspective. London: The British Museum Press. p. 158–161.

Mark, M. 2007. "The Beginnings of Chess." In I. Finkel ed, Ancient Board Games in Perspective. London: The British Museum Press, p. 138–157.

Murray, H. J. R. 1913. A History of Chess. London: Oxford University Press.

Oleson, J. P. and R. Schick. 2013. Humayma Excavation Project, 2: Nabataean Campground and Necropolis, Byzantine Churches, and Early Islamic Domestic Structures. Boston: American Schools of Oriental Research.

Panaino, A. 2017. WIZĀRIŠN Ī ČATRANG UD NIHIŠN Ī NĒW-ARDAXŠĪR. Encyclopaedia Iranica. accessed 03/23/2020.

Semenov, G. 2007. "Board Games in Central Asia and Iran." In I. Finkel, ed Ancient Board Games in Perspective. London:The British Museum Press. p. 169–176.

Wilkinson, C. and J. McNab Dennis. 1968. Chess: East and West, Past and Present. A Selection from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.




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