The Chess Variant Pages
Version with graphics.


Scientists generally assume that Chaturanga, played in India, in or before the 7th century after Christ, is the oldest known form of chess. Resemblances, both with the current chess, and with Chinese chess are remarkable.

The rules below are after Murray and Gollon.

Opening setup

The game is played on an uncheckered board of eight by eight squares.
White King e1, Counsellor d1, Rook a1, h1, Knight b1, g1, Elephant c1, f1, Pawns a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2, g2, h2.
Black: King d8, Counsellor e8, Rook a8, h8, Knight b8, g8, Elephant c8, f8, Pawns a7, b7, c7, d7, e7, f7, g7, h7.

Moves of pieces

The king moves as usual king, but additionally has the right to make one knight-move during the game, provided that he hasn't been checked before he makes his knight-move. Castling doesn't exist.

The counsellor moves one square diagonally.

The elephant moves two squares diagonally, but may jump the intervening square.

The knight moves as a usual knight.

The rook or chariot moves as usual rook.

The pawn or soldier moves and takes as a usual pawn, but may not make a double step on its first move.


Pawns can promote when they arrive at the last rank of the board, but only to the type of piece that was on the promotion-square in the opening setup, e.g., a white pawn that moves to b8 can only promote to a knight. Additionally, promotion is only possible when the player already lost a piece of the type, so the pawn moving to b8 will only promote to a knight, when the white player already lost a knight during the game. A consequence is that pawns never promote on e1 or d8.

Mate and stalemate

Object of the game is to mate the opponents king. The player that stalemates its opponent loses the game.
Last update: July 1, 1996.