Shatar - Mongolian Chess
Shatar was the variant of chess, played for many centuries in Mongolia, before it was replaced by FIDE chess by pressure of the former CCCP. This game is a direct offspring of the medieval Arabic chess, evolving in a different direction as chess did in Western Europe and Russia. The movement of the queen is particularly interesting, as it has the combined moves of a Ferz (general) and Rook.
In 1993, AISE organized a `Grand Prix' tournament (played by postal mail) on Shatar. In later years, more Shatar tournaments were held in this game.
The same pieces and the same startup position as orthodox chess are used, but with the following modifications:
- The King (Noin) cannot castle.
- The Queen (Berse) can move like a rook or one square diagonally.
- The Knight (Mori) cannot give mate.
- The Pawn (Chu) does not have a double initial step, with the exception of the pawn before the queen. Pawns only promotes to Berse (Queen).
Rooks (Terge) and Bishops (Teme) have the same moves as in orthodox chess.
The first move of the game is obligatory: 1. d2-d4, followed by 1. d7-d5.
There are different types of check: Shak is given by queen, rook or knight; Tuk is given by a bishop, and zod is given by a pawn. As written above, a mate with a knight is forbidden. Moreover, one may not mate except by a shak (i.e., checking by queen or rook), or by a mate that is followed after a series of checks that included at least one shak. E.g., if we mate the opponent after checking with a knight, then in the next move with a pawn, and then mating with a bishop, then the game is won. If one mates the king without fulfilling the criterium, i.e., with a bishop or pawn, or after a series of bishop and pawn checks, then the game is a draw - this is called Niol. Also, if a player has only a king and no other pieces left, then the game is a draw - this is called Robado.
How to Play Mongolian Chess
It was probably during the 13th century raids against the Arabs that the Mongols first adopted the game of chess. The Mongol game, Shatar, takes its name from the Arabic Shatranj. Since that time, Mongolian chess has followed a unique pattern of evolution, mixing ancient, modern and characteristically Mongolian influences.
|The Shatar playing pieces show an unusual degree of artistic originality. The piece which corresponds to our chess king – Noyon – is usually depicted by a prince seated on a throne. But the queen – Bers, meaning “snow panther” – may be depicted as a mythical lion, a tiger, a snow panther or a bull. The piece corresponding to the western bishop is a two-humped camel – Teme. And the piece corresponding to our knight is, not surprisingly, a horse – Mori. But a great deal of creative latitude is given to depiction of the Mongol rook – Tereg, which means “cart.” This piece may be represented by a horse-drawn cart, a portable tent, a cart wheel, a karmic wheel, an Asian swastika, a yin-yang symbol, a truck, an automobile, or even a bunch of flowers or peacock feathers. The pawn – Fu, meaning “child” – is always smaller than the other pieces, and it can look like just about anything. It can be a smaller mythic lion, a soldier, a smaller horse, a chicken, a rabbit, or just about any small person or animal.|
The King (Noyon) moves one space in any direction.
|The Rook (Tereg) moves as many squares as it wishes forward, backward, left or right until it reaches another piece or the end of the board. Exactly like our western rook.|
|The Bishop (Teme) moves just like our western bishop: any number of squares diagonally, as long as its path is clear of other pieces.|
|The Knight (Mori) also moves like its western counterpart: two spaces forward, backward, right or left, plus one square at a right angle. It can not be blocked by another piece.|
|The move of the Pawn (Fu) is like that of the ancient pawn. It moves one square forward when not capturing, but captures by moving one square forward/diagonally. Unlike the modern western pawn, it has no option of moving two squares on its first move – except in the opening move of the game (described below). When the pawn reaches the far end of the board it promotes, becoming a Queen (Bers).|
|The Queen (Bers) has a move very rarely seen in the wide world of chess. It may move like a rook, as far as it likes along any clear path, forward, backward, left or right. Or it may move like a king, one space in any direction.|
How the Game is PlayedThe pieces are arranged as shown above, in the same configuration as modern western chess. The two kings must face each other directly across the board. Either player may make the first move. The first player must start by moving the pawn which stands in front of his queen forward two spaces, and the second player must reply by doing the same, so that the two queen pawns face each other. After that initial mandatory opening, the players take turns, alternately moving one piece at a time.
Winning the GameThe game is won, as in other forms of chess, by putting the opposing king into a position of being threatened with capture (check), and unable to move to safety – checkmate (Mongolian: Mat). However, in Shatar, some very peculiar restrictions apply:
When the king is threatened by a queen, rook or knight, it is called Shak. When threatened by a bishop, it is called Tuk; and when threatened by a pawn, it is called Tsod. These all correspond to what we call “check,” and the threatened player is obliged to move so that his King is no longer under attack.
But in order to win the game, the attacking player must use Shak (check by queen, rook or knight), either in the final checkmating move, or in the series of checks that leads directly to checkmate.
To make matters more peculiar, the final move, which delivers checkmate, can not be made by a knight – or the game is drawn.
Drawing the GameThere are a few ways the game can end with no winner:
if a king is checkmated with a knight giving the final check;
if there is no “Shak” check given in the final checkmating sequence;
if one player is left with only a king, and no other pieces; or
if both players agree that no win will be possible.