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The Chess Variant Pages

Byzantine chess

Byzantine chess, also called round chess, is an about 1000 year old variant of the game of Shatranj. It was popular in the 10th century after Christ in Byzantium (the city now called Istanbul), and hence is called Byzantine chess.

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The game is played on a round board, which is shown in the following diagram, together with the opening setup.

Pieces move as in Shatranj: kings, rooks, knights move as in orthodox chess. Bishops (actually: elephants) jump two diagonal. Queens (actually: generals) move one diagonal. Pawns do not have a double first step, but otherwise move as pawns in orthodox chess. Pawns cannot promote. When two pawns of a player going in different directions meet on opposing squares, thus blocking both of them, the opponent can remove both of them - this does not count as a move.

A player wins the game by mating the opponent, by stalemating the opponent, or by `bare king': by taking the last non-king piece of the opponent. However, in the last case, the opponent can make the game a draw by baring the other king too in its next move.

Written by Hans Bodlaender.
Last modified: June 4, 1997.