ⓘ Tamerlane chess

Tamerlane chess

ⓘ Tamerlane chess

Tamerlane chess is a medieval variant of chess. Like chess, it is derived from chaturanga. It was developed in Iran during the reign of Emperor Timur, also called Tamerlane and its invention is also attributed to him. Because Tamerlane chess is a larger variant of chaturanga, it is also called Shatranj Kamil or Shatranj Al-Kabir, as opposed to ash-shaghir. Although the game is similar to modern chess, it is distinctive in that there are varieties of pawn, each of which promotes in its own way.


1. Board

A Tamerlane chessboard is made up of 110 uncheckered squares arranged in a 10×11 pattern "camp". Additional squares, known as citadels, protrude from the left side on the ninth row and from the right side on the second row, making a total of 112 squares. When the opposing king occupies a players citadel, the game is declared a draw. No piece other than a king may occupy a citadel.

There are several ways for an opening setup to be arranged. A common one is as follows:

  • Third row from the left: pawn of pawns, pawn of war engines, pawn of camels, pawn of elephants, pawn of generals, pawn of kings, pawn of vizirs, pawn of giraffes, pawn of pickets, pawn of knights, pawn of rooks.
  • Second row from the left: rook, knight, picket, giraffe, general, king, vizir, giraffe, picket, knight, rook.
  • Whites side bottom row, from the left: elephant, space, camel, space, war machine, space, war machine, space, camel, space, elephant.

Blacks side mirrors Whites.


2. Pieces

Anglicised versions of piece names are used here.

  • pawns – Move as pawns in traditional chess, but with no initial double move or en passant capture. Every piece including the pawn has a corresponding pawn. Hence; pawn of kings, pawn of vizirs, pawn of giraffes, etc.
  • general – Moves one square diagonally
  • camel jamal / shutur – Moves one diagonally and two straight, unobstructed by pieces in between. It moves in an "L"-shape, like an orthodox chess knight, with dimensions 3×1 instead of 2×1.
  • elephant pil – Moves two squares diagonally and is unobstructed by pieces in between
  • king shah – Moves as a traditional king, but once during the game it may switch places with any of its own pieces to evade check/checkmate or stalemate.
  • war engine dabbaba – Moves two horizontally or vertically, unobstructed by pieces in-between
  • picket talia – Moves as a bishop in traditional chess, but must move a minimum of two squares
  • giraffe zurafa – Moves one square diagonally and then a minimum of three squares horizontally or vertically a restricted gryphon
  • knight faras – Moves as a knight in traditional chess
  • vizir vizier/governor – Moves one square horizontally or vertically
  • rook rukh – Moves as a rook in traditional chess

3. Rules

Beginning the game

The player going first is determined by a roll of dice.

The object

The object of Tamerlane chess, as in modern chess, is to checkmate the opposing shah ranks higher than the prince, which ranks higher than the adventitious king. Only the highest ranking of the three on the board can enter the opponents citadel.

The adventitious king has the special honor of being the only piece on the board that can enter his own citadel. Upon entering, it becomes immune, thus blocking the opponent from entering the citadel and declaring a draw.


Once during the game a player may exchange a checked king for another non-royal piece. A player may move into check if he holds multiple kings. There is no castling or en passant moves in Tamerlane chess. Baring the opponents king is not considered a win in Tamerlane chess, as the bared king still has the chance to enter the opponents citadel. There is no three-fold repetition or 50-move draw in Tamerlane chess.

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