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This page is written by the game's inventor, Joe Joyce.

Lemurian Shatranj

Lemurian Shatranj is an 8x8 chess variant that features shortrange pieces. Three are leapers. Three are 2-step pieces which may change directions during their move, one of which is a slider, the other two leapers.


The original shortrange chess game most of us were exposed to was Edgar Rice Burrough's Jetan. I read the John Carter on Mars series about age 10-12 or so, and thought Jetan was a great game idea. While I never consciously thought of Jetan in the design of these games, I have to believe that Jetan planted a seed in my unconscious that grew into part of my thinking about shortrange games in general. With this game in particular, I am lucky to not have re-designed a Jetan piece, especially as they are envisioned by LL Smith. Finally, I would like to thank Mike Nelson and George Duke for pointing out the correspondences between games.


Click on this picture to get the preset.


King - This is the royal piece. It may move 1 square in any direction. It may not move into or remain in check. It captures by landing directly on an opposing piece.

Sliding General - This piece is a combination of 2 guards. It slides 1 or 2 squares. It may not jump. It may change direction during its move. It may not make a null move [move off and then back onto its starting square]. It captures by landing directly on an opposing piece and ending its turn. -

Shaman - This colorbound piece (also called the Bent Shaman) is an inclusive compound of alfil and ferz. It may step 1 square diagonally and/or jump 2 squares diagonally, for a maximum of 3 squares moved per turn. It may: step 1 square; or jump 2 squares; or step 1 and jump 2 squares; or jump 2 squares then step 1 more square, always diagonally. It may change direction during its move.

Hero - This piece (also called the Bent Hero) is an inclusive compound of dabbabah and wazir. It steps 1 square orthogonally and or jumps 2 squares orthogonally, for a maximum of 3 squares per turn. It may: step 1 square; or jump 2 squares; or step 1 and jump 2 squares; or jump 2 squares then step 1 more square, always orthogonally. It may change direction during its move.

War Elephant - This is a combination of ferz, alfil, and dabbabah. It may move 1 square diagonally; or jump 2 squares either orthogonally or diagonally. It captures by landing directly on an opposing piece and ending its turn. This is a colorbound piece.

Pawn - This is a shatranj-style pawn. It moves 1 square orthogonally forward. It captures 1 square diagonally forward.


The object of the game is to checkmate the opposing king. Baring the opponent's king counts as a win, unless your king is bared on the very next move; then it's a draw.
If you stalemate your opponent, you win.*

There is no castling, initial double-step for pawns, or en passant.

Pawns must promote when they reach the opponent's back rank. Promotion is to sliding general or any lost piece.

*Pritchard cites a rule variation that is not mentioned by all authors: A stalemated King may be transposed with one of its other pieces, as long as this does not result in check. If both players agree, this rule may be used.

Piece Movement Diagram

This diagram courtesy of David Paulowich.

The Hero may move to and capture on all positions marked with a red square.

The Shaman may move to and capture on all positions marked with a red "X". It may also capture the Hero.


This game is a continuation of the examination of shortrange pieces started in Two Large Shatranj Variants. As this game corresponds to Modern Shatranj, at least one more game is planned for this series.

The following rule was removed April 12, '21 by request , because it is much easier to program this game without tha rule.

"A promoted colorbound piece may not be placed on the same color as the promoting player's remaining piece of that specific type."

Recent Discoveries

Almost nothing was known about the origins and history of this game until some recent, very interesting findings, relevant not only to the game of shatranj as played on Mu, but very probably also to the ultimate fate of the island nation. Before the "modern" game of Lemurian Shatranj, there were other versions, mostly centered on temples. Records from the temple at Ban [or Bane] are still being restored and translated, but we have the outlines of a disturbing game, played yearly between the High Priestess of Ban and the Sorcerer or Shaman of a temple "which would never be named", for seven years, for control of the Ban temple, according to the record. Other temple records seem to indicate this sort of thing was occurring throughout Mu about this time. With the seventh consecutive defeat of the "evil Wizard of the Unnamed Temple" by Ban's High Priestess [Lilath?], the [secular?] ruler of the Lemurians [literally: "The People of Mu"] seized the moment, disbanded the "Unnamed" Temple, and outlawed the playing of their version of shatranj. The defeated were not without power, however; the moves of their pieces were combined with the standard moves of the time to create the Hero and Shaman [a reference to the banned temple rulers] of the game still played today. The "wizards" did not disband, they went underground, hiding under the surface, much like the pieces that were uniquely theirs disappeared from obvious sight, but changed the entire game. The game compromise was toward more power, and a merging of the two sides' abilities. For a game, this can work, and work well. As a political compromise in the larger theater, this rarely works for long. Mu had less than a century to survive.

The pieces used at Ban were fairly standard throughout Mu. We do not know all the variant pieces and their moves, but we do know this. The hero and priestess were 2-square leapers that then had an optional 1-square step. The game pieces were white and black. The wizard's game reversed the moves of the hero and priestess, calling the pieces the Dragon [or Lizard] and the Shaman [or sorcerer]. These 2 pieces moved 1 square, then made an optional 2-square leap. The colors of the pieces were changed to white and blood-red, and Red moved first. There was also mention of an Assassin, which apparently could kill nearby pieces without moving, but we do not [yet] have knowledge of this piece's moves. We believe it was replaced by the current war-elephant.

The Ban Hero leaps two squares orthogonally, then, optionally, steps 1 square orthogonally, in any direction.
The wizard's Dragon steps one square orthogonally, then, optionally, leaps two squares orthogonally, in any direction.
The Priestess leaps two squares diagonally, then, optionally, steps one square diagonally, in any direction.
The Shaman steps one square diagonally, then, optionally, leaps two squares diagonally, in any direction.
The Assassin is conjectured to move one square orthogonally, then, optionally, one more square orthogonally, in any direction.

Game design by Joe Joyce. Hero and Shaman graphics and playtesting by Jeremy Good.

More Recent Discoveries: Granlem Shatranj

There was more contact between Mu and Atlantis before the end. A dig at a supposed Atlantean colony showed it was actually a mixed colony, with a number of Lemurians living and working among the Atlanteans. Together, they created a large shatranj incorporating pieces from both island's traditions and with some unusual pawn rules.
All pawns starting on the 3rd and 10th ranks may slide forward 2 squares on their *first* move.
All 2nd and 11th rank pawns may slide forward 3 squares, slide forward 2 squares, or step diagonally or orthogonally 1 square forward on their *first* move.
If 2nd or 11th rank pawns move 1 square diagonally to land on the 3rd or 10th rank, they may slide 2 squares forward as their second move.
Anywhere else on the board, pawns move 1 square forward.
Pawns always capture diagonally forward
Pawn promotion:
on ranks 2 or 11, to guard;
on ranks 1 or 12, jumping general.
Of course all pawns may always step 1 square forward (if available) on any move, as any shatranj pawn.
pieces not found on this page will be found on the Grand Shatranj rules page:
A set-up is found here:

This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

By Joe Joyce.

Last revised by Joe Joyce.

Web page created: 2006-08-13. Web page last updated: 2021-04-12