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The Piececlopedia is intended as a scholarly reference concerning the history and naming conventions of pieces used in Chess variants. But it is not a set of standards concerning what you must call pieces in newly invented games.

Piececlopedia: Ferz

Historical notes

The Ferz is the predecessor of the Queen. It is one of the original Chess pieces, found in the earliest known variants, such as Chaturanga and Shatranj. Its original Sanskit name is mantri. Golombek and Gollon translate this as minister, but Murray and Davidson report that it means counsellor. The Persians translated mantri to farzin. Gollon translates this as general, but he seems to be wrong. Murray, Davidson, Eales, and Golombek all translate it as counsellor. Murray additionally points out that the name is connected with the adjective farzana, which means wise or learned, and the name of farzin literally means wise man. The Arabs shortened this to firz. In early medieval Europe, it became known as a ferz or fers. It went through more name changes in Europe, which eventually led to calling it a Queen, but that name got co-opted by the new Queen of modern Chess. So, when fairy problemists resurrected the piece in more recent times, they began calling it by its older name.

Although popular opinion has it that Ferz and Wazir, the name of another piece, are connected etymologically, Murray maintains that they are not. He says, "It has no connexion with wazir, 'vizier', and a wise man is not necessarily a vizier. That the piece was at a later time associated with the vizier of the Persian kings and 'Abbasid caliphs was due to its position on the chessboard at the side of the king" (159).

The same piece is also found in Xiangqi, the Chinese form of Chess, in which is it called a shi, which Murray, Davidson, Golombek, and Lau all translate as counsellor. Gollon stands alone in offering the translations of Mandarin, officer, and guard, while omitting the translation of councellor.

Overall, the received opinion is that the name of this piece means counsellor. Unfortunately, Gollon's translations are more widely spread, because Gollon has been more widely read by Chess variant enthusiasts. Although his book has played the important role of awakening an interest in Chess variants in many people, it is not an especially scholarly work, and it seems that it should not be trusted on matters of correct translation.


The Ferz moves and takes one square diagonally.

In Xiangqi, the Shi moves the same as the Ferz, but it may not leave the "palace" (3x3 areas at the bottom and top center of the board).

Movement diagram


Vocabulary: Colorbound

The Ferz is a colorbound piece. This means its movement is limited to spaces of only one color on a suitably checkered chessboard. It is limited to only one color, because it moves diagonally, and the board is checkered such that diagonal movement never changes the color of the space a piece is on. Because of its diagonal movement, the Ferz is limited to only half of the board. The Bishop is another colorbound piece. While the Ferz and the Bishop can ultimately reach any other space of the same color, some colorbound pieces are more restricted in their movement. The Dabbabah can reach only half as many spaces as a Ferz, and an Alfil can reach only one quarter as many spaces.


The Ferz cannot inflict checkmate on a rectangular board with only assistance of its own King, and is thus a minor piece. Even with a pair of Ferzes you cannot force checkmate on a bare King, but paired with another minor this is sometimes possible. A Wazir can execute the required manouevre, but together they are too weak to drive the King to the required corner (of the shade of the Ferz) on 8x8. On a 9x9 board it is easier, if the Ferz is on the shade of the corners. Try this on (6x6) or on (9x9).

Alternate Images

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Abstract Set Abstract Set
Alfaerie Set Alfaerie Set
Cazaux Set
Traditional Chinese Set National Standard Chinese Set
Iconographic Chinese Set


Davidson, Henry A. A Short History of Chess, 1949.

Dickins, Anthony. A Guide to Fairy Chess, 1969.

Eales, Richard. Chess: The History of a Game, 1985.

Gollon, John. Chess Variations, 1968.

Lau, H. T. Chinese Chess, 1985.

Murray, H. J. R. A History of Chess, 1913.

This is an item in the Piececlopedia: an overview of different (fairy) chess pieces.
Written by Fergus Duniho, Hans Bodlaender, and David Howe.
WWW page created: September 4, 1998. Last modified: December 15, 2001.