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Tamerlane chess. A well-known historic large variant of Shatranj. (11x10, Cells: 112) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Benjamin Ross wrote on Mon, Dec 5, 2022 10:10 AM UTC:Good ★★★★

Are there no promotions in this version? Where is the prince and adventitious king?

chessy wrote on Mon, Jul 11, 2022 06:49 AM UTC in reply to Greg Strong from Thu Aug 20 2020 03:48 PM:

i think it does, and considering its been up for 20 years i think its doing good work.

Greg Strong wrote on Thu, Aug 20, 2020 03:48 PM UTC:

I doubt that deserves to have its own page. It seems like moving it into a comment on this page would be adequate.

H. G. Muller wrote on Thu, Aug 20, 2020 10:26 AM UTC in reply to Daphne Snowmoon from 09:51 AM:

Can Giraffe only go 1 square diagonally?

Who cares? Someone mentions some ideas in an e-mail, of the type "it only takes 10 seconds to invent a new chess variant". It doesn't seem like anyone seriously followed these ideas, by making a preset for it, or even a serious page with a rule description and a diagram. It doesn't seem like anyone ever played it.

So if you want the Giraffe to move as F, and the original idea did not, you now have invented a new chess variant that is just as important as the one described in the link, and you could decide to play that.

Daphne Snowmoon wrote on Thu, Aug 20, 2020 09:51 AM UTC:

in this page, at the variant 4, Girrafe can move 1 diagonally and 1 or more straight. but i dont know if Girrafe can move only 1 square diagonally or not. can Giraffe only go 1 square diagonally?

Greg Myers wrote on Sat, Jun 10, 2017 05:40 AM UTC:

Thank you H.G. Muller for the interactive set up. It is hard to find anything interactive online regarding Tamerlane Chess. 

H. G. Muller wrote on Thu, Dec 1, 2016 11:00 PM UTC:
files=13 ranks=10 promoZone=1 maxPromote=12 promoOffset=11 promoChoice=+ graphicsDir= whitePrefix=W blackPrefix=B graphicsType=gif squareSize=35 darkShade=#FFFFFF symmetry=rotate Pawn (P)::fmWfcF:Pawn:b3 Pawn (V)::fmWfcF:Pawn:h3 Pawn (G)::fmWfcF:Pawn:f3 Pawn (E)::fmWfcF:Pawn:e3 Pawn (W)::fmWfcF:Pawn:c3 Pawn (G)::fmWfcF:Pawn:i3 Pawn (C)::fmWfcF:Pawn:d3 Pawn (N)::fmWfcF:Pawn:k3 Pawn (B)::fmWfcF:Pawn:j3 Pawn (R)::fmWfcF:Pawn:l3 Pawn (K)::fmWfcF:Pawn:g3 Pawn ()::fmWfcF:Pawn: hole::::a1,a2,a3,a4,a5,m1,m3,m4,m5 Vizir::W::h2 General::F::f2 Elephant::A::b1,l1 War engine:D:D:Cannon:f1,h1 Giraffe::afsafyafF::e2,i2 Camel::::d1,j1 Knight:N:::c2,k2 Picket:B:yafF:Assassin:d2,j2 Rook::::b2,l2 Prince:F:K:: Adventitious King:A:K:MidBrother: King::K::g2

Tamerlane Chess

This historic variant is one of the strangest that ever acquired large popularity: many strange pieces, a 'citadel' square as board appendix to provide an alternative winning condition, strange to very strange promotion rules. Perhaps a bit too much to capture that exactly in an Interactive Diagram, but what can be done is already useful enough to make it worth the effort.

Anton Grimes wrote on Sun, Jun 7, 2015 03:01 AM UTC:
you can (FINALLY) find a set here:

it's a 3d printing place, and sort of pricey, but the pieces look awesome.

Daniil Frolov wrote on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 09:37 AM UTC:
Well, it seems that girrafes ("camelopardus") in Tamerlane's epoch was exotical and legendary in Eurasia, as much as "unicorns" (rhinos). Perhaps, in chess girrafes had only symbolic meaning. (Well, so as rooks in standart forms of chess at some points of time was supposed to be roc birds.)

George Duke wrote on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 05:12 PM UTC:
Good question, everyone knows Hannibal's elephants crossing the Alps: And Indian Elephant piece belongs as part of military in original Chaturanga of India that's certainly not fanciful.  What about Giraffe as military, perhaps historian John Ayer would know, or Gary Gifford, giraffes used for reconnaissance?

Daniil Frolov wrote on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 08:57 AM UTC:
A historical question. Among usual military units, there are giraffes. Moreover - in another historic variant - Turkish Grand Chess - giraffe is the strongest piece, having the movement of amazon. (Of course, no question about the Grande Acedrex, as there most of pieces are named after exotical or fantastic animals.) Was giraffes actually used in army? Or it was simulation of hunt - as there was no mechanism that could control "neutral" piece (or there was no idea like that), opponent controlled giraffes you hunt?

Daniil Frolov wrote on Wed, Feb 26, 2014 06:50 PM UTC:
I've noticed that i never seen photos of historical sets of this game. And ancient diagramm depicts pieces by ligature inscriptions. Is this game known only from old documents, having no surviving physical sets? It would be interesting to know, how non-standart pieces and variable pawns was originally represented.

(zzo38) A. Black wrote on Sun, Feb 23, 2014 08:51 PM UTC:
If you don't like citadel to be a draw, you can make up the subvariant, moving king into opponent's citadel is a half-win. Maybe this way better.

Kasey wrote on Tue, Mar 8, 2011 07:01 PM UTC:Excellent ★★★★★
Tamerlane Chess is my favorite chess variant. At first it may seem that the pieces are too weak, but I've found that when you are playing a chess variant with over 20 pieces to a side, it is better that most pieces have only a few moves. Otherwise the shear number of moves available that you have to consider each turn can be astronomical. Also, the fact that many of the pieces cannot be exchanged for the equivalent pieces from the other side actually makes the game more interesting. You must consider when it is worth it to make uneven exchanges.

Meadmaker wrote on Fri, Aug 21, 2009 04:16 PM UTC:Good ★★★★
I finally won a game of this against zillions of games.

For those who have never played it, but would like to see what a game
might look like, I've created an annotated description of the game at

Nuno Cruz wrote on Wed, Dec 24, 2008 02:59 PM UTC:
There is a free on line font that has the pieces of chess as well as of shogi.. but also of Tamerlane chess(!). I made a screenshot that you can see below.

the link for this site is:

Nuno Cruz wrote on Wed, Nov 5, 2008 11:41 PM UTC:
This is THE REAL Shatranj Kamil!

(Murray, A history of chess page 344, line 21)

David Paulowich wrote on Mon, Mar 12, 2007 03:58 PM UTC:

Eric Greenwood proposed '... the Ferz gains the power to move 1 square straight back ...'

See also the humpback in Whale Shogi. This is precisely the reversal of the moves of the silver general from Shogi.

Anonymous wrote on Thu, May 25, 2006 08:09 AM UTC:Excellent ★★★★★
Thank you, everyone, for the kind comments on the Variants!
Mr. Gilman is correct: One of the purposes of the expanded ranks is
to allow for coverage of more squares. I have played games where the
position more or less was color-stalemated.
Part of the charm of the game is the weaker pieces; however, it is very
frustrating to not be able to attack a particular square when you need

 Variant 1 is designed to keep the flavor of the game intact as
as possible while expanding the piece range to both colors. The GUard is
very useful addition with the limited abilities of the rest of the

 Mr. Ayer is correct; the the Prince [promoted King's pawn] and the
Adventitious King [third-time promoted Pawn of Pawns] are not Royal until
the Original Monarch is Captured. At that point they become Royal.
the Original King is sufficient whenever the Prince or AK aren't
Variant 2 is perhaps my favorite; the picket/bishop is restored to the
familiar chess move, the ferz is able to change color [without changing
its basic function] the Giraffe is SLIGHTLY more mobile, and the war
machines and elephants are MUCH more useful! The piece's powers are only
slightly enhanced; the game flavor is retained while allowing a LOT more
strategic options.

Variants 3, 4, and 5 are for those wanting a little more firepower
available. While the Queen and the increasingly Liberated Giraffes allow
for more speed and tactical tricks, the rest of the pieces are the same,
which makes for a nice alternative when the regular game [or Variants 1
and 2] gets a bit stale. [a temporary circumstance, to be sure! :)  ]

Regarding double-moving pawns: the slow pawns help to keep the game
flavor, and that is why i left them as is. [Another part of the charm is
the unique pawn designation on promotion]. However, feel free to use
double-pawn moves in any of the Variants! It does make for a faster game,
and that's not necessarily a bad thing, depending on one's individual
tasted. Just let your opponent know! :)

In fact, feel free to mix and match ANY of the rules to whatever your
tastes are! For instance, Retain the Guard instead of the Queen in
5. My Variants are just a jumping-off point; Let your own creativity

 Btw, there are a couple of alternate setups given. However, it is fairly
universal that this one is the best one.

 Retaining the 'complicated' rules are, once again, part of the game's
charm; And they are rare enough in actual play [except for the King-swap
during a check] that they are hardly ever seen. just keep a set of Rules
handy when playing to settle any questions.

 Thank you for the chance to explain the reasoning behind the Variants
presented!  :)

  Eric V. Greenwood

Quintucket (Luke) wrote on Sun, Feb 12, 2006 11:24 PM UTC:Excellent ★★★★★
Wow. I've never much cared for chess (except Xianqi which I can never get people to play with me), but this is great.

After Tamerlane I had to try some of the other applets as well.

Only found two new variants aside from this one that I like as much as this.

If I get a chance I'm gonna make a set and see if I can get some of the chess geniuses at my school to beat me at it.

Barett wrote on Thu, May 12, 2005 04:00 AM UTC:Excellent ★★★★★
I ended up making up my own board because i was bored... anyway, i think that the game is very good however i think that the opening could go a lot smoother with allowing the pawns to have the two jump as thier initial move, i would like some comment on this from someone more experienced because i'm not very experiecnced in this game, seeing as i haven't had an opponent yet, or played a full game out.

Jonadab the Unsightl wrote on Sat, Apr 16, 2005 05:20 AM UTC:Good ★★★★
I really like the piece balance in this variant.  No one type of piece is
very strong (I think the rook is strongest), but there are a number of
different pieces with different abilities, and I think they are balanced
quite well.  For instance, I disagree with the variant notes about
liberating the giraffes; I believe they are limited the way that they are
to prevent them from being too powerful; otherwise, setting two of them
side-by-side could effectively control four whole files, which is just
much power for two pieces to have, even on a larger board like this.  As
the rules are given, though, they are not so overwhelmingly powerful
because they can be blocked easily by relatively close pieces, and so to
retain their power have to keep some distance from the action, or their
close range has to be protected by other pieces (a job I suppose rooks
would be well suited for, if they are not busy elsewhere).

I thought at first that the war carts and elephants would be weak, but
upon further inspection they are useful and complement the other pieces
My only quibble with the elephants is that their moves are not very
elephant-like (unlike the giraffes, whose move makes sense for that
in a couple of ways).  But that is a very small thing, and the elephants
are as in Shantranj in any case.

The general and the vizir seemed weak to me at first, and then I realized
that without castling, the king will need something to hide behind, and
that is why those pieces are not very mobile.

Regarding the guard variant, I'm not sure whether it's necessary,
it does seem like it would help.  The elephants and camels and war carts
are balanced to some extent by the pickets (although I do like the idea
playing the pickets as regular biships, partly because it helps fortify
their squares, and partly for symetry, since the horses and rooks are as
in modern chess), and in any case both players are in the same bind for
the squares those pieces can't cover.  Then again, the way pawns promote
could upset the balance further; for instance, if a player were to get
pawns of camels, war carts, and elephants all promoted, he could have a
strong position on those squares then.  On the other hand, getting one or
two of those promoted on the opposite squares, plus the pawn of pickets,
could have the reverse effect.  I guess I'd have to play it a good bit
both ways to be sure whether adding a middle column is a worthwhile
improvement or not.  I'm thinking it might be.

I believe I would prefer to allow the pawns the initial-double-move
as in modern chess, mainly to help get things going at the beginning,
the board is a bit large.

I think if I wanted to simplify the rules a bit, the first thing I'd do
is toss out the citadels and the special draw and stalemate rules, and
regular chess rules for those things; I don't think that would upset the
balance of the variant at all.  I might also simplify the pawn-of-pawns
promotion rule also, perhaps allowing it to promote (the first time) to
any one formerly-captured friendly piece the player wants back.  But
are minor quibbles.

On the whole, this seems like a very nice, balanced, playable variant,
with some fun pieces.

John Ayer wrote on Fri, Dec 10, 2004 12:34 AM UTC:
Yes, I think most people who are good at chess would know about this game. This is one of the first variants known to the west, being described in Falkener's _Games Ancient and Oriental and How to Play Them_, published in the nineteenth century, and again in Murray's _History of Chess_. It has been described since in many books about chess and its relatives, or more generally about board games.

Elk wrote on Thu, Dec 9, 2004 09:11 PM UTC:Excellent ★★★★★
Neat. Would you think most people good at chess know about this?

Charles Gilman wrote on Tue, Oct 12, 2004 07:29 AM UTC:
What are the image files for the individual pieces? I can see a good use for piece images of two sizes in several of my own variants.

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