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Chaturanga. The first known variant of chess. (8x8, Cells: 64) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Jason L. wrote on 2012-01-06 UTC
Thanks for putting up the diagrams Charles. However, I am not sure about
the last form of Xiangqi before the cannons were added. It's possible the
2nd minister and 2nd counselor were only added along with the cannons, but
I really don't know. I don't know how long the heavy middle-file version
was played or how widely it was played. The 2nd counselor and 2nd minister
could have been added independently before the cannons were added.

I wasn't saying that pieces were brought to a new board and made worse on
purpose. I don't necessarily believe the Indian civilization did such a
thing. There is a theory proposed in Li's book (which is just a theory)
that the 8x8 square board comes from China and is a simplified version of
the 9x10 intersection board which is exactly 1/4 of a 19x19 full Go (Weiqi)
board. If you add up 10x9 4 times, you will get 19x19.

Therefore, if the 8x8 square board comes from China, then the same pieces
were used, but they did not work properly until they were fixed in Europe
several hundred years later.

Another possibility is that between China and Persia or China and India,
the pieces some how got moved over to the squares as a matter of cultural
preference and essentially a different but similar game was created by
playing on squares instead of intersection points.

Yes, I agree that it does not make sense to make a game worse, but I don't
know who or why someone would switch the same pieces to a slightly
different board.

All I do know is that its more logical for those original pieces to come
from a board where they fit. Also, we shouldn't view the prime minister
piece as an elephant because the whole concept of the prime minister not
being able to cross the river is more about the minister not leaving its
own countryside and not about an elephant not  being able to cross a
river.

I also have no idea how the placement of the pawns are different in each
game and most importantly, why the pawn in 8x8 Chess captures diagonally
instead of straight forward. For a pawn to be able to capture diagonally
and be a different movement is a more advanced concept than just pawns
capturing straight forward and then to the side later on after it crosses
the river.

I believe that a pawn that captures diagonally but moves by going forward
is a more modern concept than the Xiangqi pawn which is very straight
forward. It wouldn't conclude anything based on this, but would lean
towards the 8x8 pawn as being more of an evolution of chess and thus being
later in the development stage.

Anyway, I am making a simple game development observation. The 2 space
moving minister and the 1 space moving counselor seem to come from the
Xiangqi board and not the 8x8 Chaturanga or the other Shatranj. Whichever
board those pieces fit better, means they are more likely to have been
developed for that board.

The goal is to figure out which game likely came first, not to figure out
why someone or a civilization would move pieces to a slightly different
board so they wouldn't work right. There are a lot of explanations for
that, but to me that's a separate issue because I am not trying to figure
out how the migration actually happened.

Also, I think its highly unlikely that the Chinese could have gotten those
pieces from a game that wasn't working right and applied a board that made
those pieces fit right. Because, you've got to be a little lucky to do
that. It's not impossible, but it's not how a game development process
usually works.

If the 8x8 game came first, the pieces would fit it and when they were
moved to 9x10 intersection board, the movements would need to be changed in
order to fit that board.

It's strange to me to say that Xiangqi is an improvement of Chaturanga
because that does not necessarily mean that Xiangqi came after Chaturanga
just because its better. Chaturanga can come after Xiangqi and be the worse
game because the original pieces were moved over to an 8x8 board and
didn't work right anymore.

It's an assumption to say that the better game must be dated after the
worse game.

There's more than one explanation for why Xiangqi works better than the
original Chaturanga.

Therefore, I never looked at which game was better. I just looked at the
movements of the pieces and which board they seem to naturally fit.

Also, nothing else from the history of Xiangqi points to any sort of Indian
origin or borrowing from any foreign culture but looks inherently of
Chinese origin.

The 9x10 board can be derived from an already existing 19x19 Weiqi board.
There is no indication of a palace in Chaturanga or a concept of a
countryside and the prime minister needing to stay on its own side. These
are all Chinese concepts and the Xiang piece has nothing to do with an
elephant but just has the same sound of the word for elephant in Chinese.
Xiang Qi's Xiang means 'live atmosphere' or 'live pieces'. That is the
pieces are alive and can move around as opposed to static pieces in Weiqi.
Remember, I said that the xiang comes from the Chinese word Qi Xiang.
Elephant is Da Xiang.

I know that knowledge of the Chinese language is perhaps beyond the purpose
of this forum, but I think it should be pointed out because its critical to
understand that Xiangqi has nothing to do with elephants either in names or
the 2 space diagonal moving piece. It's a very big misunderstanding to
think that the elephant was borrowed from the Indian army.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaturanga

Another thing to point out about the original Chaturanga board. The
king/generals do not face each other. They are asymmetric. This could be
because of the rule in Xiangqi that the generals cannot face each other due
to their attack capability like a chariot(rook).

This suggests that Chaturanga's placement of pieces could have been
influenced by this rule in Xiangqi but was later abandoned in Shatranj.

I don't think there's sufficient evidence of the game going from anywhere
to anywhere, so I don't insist that Chaturanga comes from Xiangqi. I only
insist that if we assume the 2 games have a common origin, that the pieces
fit the Xiangqi board better. As far as how the migration could have
happened or where the 8x8 board really comes from, I'm not sure.

But to go back to the issue of what civilizations claim, I think that any
civilization has the right to claim their own game as having come from
within itself if it chooses to. As far as I know, I have not heard any
Chinese scholar claim that India or Persia copied the game from China. They
just say that Xiangqi comes from within China probably during the Spring
and Autumn period. That's it. They don't claim that India and/or Persia
copied it because there is nothing in literature or anything else that
suggests this.

Therefore, the Chinese scholars should have the right to make a claim about
their own history unless we are saying here that the Chinese don't have
that right. I am reading some writings by British authors in the late
1800's and they seem to indicate with strong authority that India is the
birthplace and that 'China' has admitted to getting the game from India.

How can anyone write that China or the Qing dynasty at that time has
'admitted' to getting the game from India?

If the earliest indication of 8x8 Chess is from Persia or India in the 6th
or 2nd century A.D., that's fine with me. I'm not insisting that the
board comes from China. That's not the point. The point is, if the Chinese
say their game is from a certain period of time in history, they should
have the right to do so. That's the only 'grievance' that I really have
because its kind of upsetting when its assumed that everything must be
copied from an original 'Western' source even though India was not a part
of the Western world in the 6th century.

Even the name 'Chess' suggests precisely that its the original one. For
people who grow up calling chess 'Chess' and may not be aware of Chinese
Chess or Japanese Chess, would naturally think that if the Western version
of the game is simply called 'Chess' and those others are called Chess
with Japanese or Chinese in front of it, then that means (Euro or Western)
Chess is the original or orthodox one. The most correct one instead of
being just another form of chess in the world.

I've seen an 11x10 version of Xiangqi and that version of Xiangqi
definitely comes during the Song dyansty when some experimentation of
Xiangqi was happening because they couldn't find a way to put the cannons
on the back row. There was an apparent attempt to expand the board from the
original 9x10 to 11x10 to fit the cannons, and it did not work. Finally,
the cannons were left floating 2 points ahead of the horse and left there.

So I appreciate the link you have, but I am pretty sure that 11x10 comes
much later.

If Murray uses the Song dynasty 11x10 as evidence that Xiangqi looks like
that and suggests that it comes from a 10x10 board, I am sorry, but he
didn't look hard enough. We all know that the original Xiangqi did not
have cannons, so why would he show that board as an 'early' version of
Xiangqi when he should have just said it was an 'a failed experiment'
during the Song dynasty?

It seems manipulative to show that 11x10 Xiangqi game as an earlier
predecessor. There is no indication that there is any board pre-dating the
9x10 board in Xiangqi.

I think the Weiqi theory makes perfect sense to me. You can cut up a 19x19
Weiqi board into 4 pieces and you will get four 9x10 boards.

I apologize about the comments about Westerners saying Chess is better than
Shogi and Xiangqi. I did not mean that this site endorses that kind of
thinking in any way. This site is certainly not about that kind of thing. I
was saying that this is a common perception in Western circles that Chess
is the best game and that Xiangqi has limited attacking power. Among my
Western friends, they seem to respect Shogi a bit more as a game.

But as an observation of the game play, while Xiangqi has no pawn structure
and therefore less positional complexity, and also has less attacking
pieces and no pawn promotion (queen), the draw rate in the game is still
lower than FIDE Chess which does not suggest inferiority. The game is more
checkmate oriented due to the small palace the general is confined to which
leads to more games ending in the middle game due to checkmate.

At the highest levels, Xiangqi masters draw about 20% less than GM's in
FIDE Chess, so the apparent lack of attacking material does not lead to
more draws in Xiangqi.

I'm not claiming either game is better than the other myself. I personally
prefer FIDE Chess because its what I grew up on. The games have different
kinds of complexities and I also correct the common Chinese belief that
Xiangqi is just way better designed and more complex than Chess because it
is certainly not the case in every regard.