Indian chess

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about regional versions of chess played in India. For ancient Indian chess variants, which are believed to be predecessors of chess by some historians, see Chaturanga.

Indian chess is the name given to the version of the game as played in India in the 18th and 19th centuries. The more ancient forms are known as Chaturanga, and spread to the west via Persia in the 7th Century. There are several such variations, all quite similar to modern rules, with variants regarding castling, pawn promotion, etc. These variants were popular in India until the 1960s, and are possibly still played in rural areas.

Differences from Western chess[edit]

  • The king is always placed to the right of the queen (as opposed to the left for Black).
  • When only the king and pawns are left in play, the opponent may not give check, but he can win by stalemate.
  • The two-step initial pawn move is absent in Indian chess; thus, en passant is also absent.
  • Normal castling with rook and king is absent. The king can make a knight's move once in a game, known as Indian castling.
  • On reaching the opposite end of the board, pawns promote to the piece of that square. If it promotes at the initial king's position, it promotes a queen.
  • Under-promotion is not permitted.
  • The queen can also make the knight's move in addition to the rook and bishop. It is thus more powerful than in the modern version.
  • The last piece remaining may not be captured.

Noted players of Indian chess[edit]

Moheschunder Bannerjee of Bengal was a strong player whose games have been described by his partner John Cochrane. These included the following game, a Grünfeld Defense against Cochrane in 1855—some 38 years before Ernst Grünfeld was born.

John Cochrane–Moheschunder Bannerjee, May 1855
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.e3 Bg7 5.Nf3 0-0 6.cxd5 Nxd5 7.Be2 Nxc3 8.bxc3 c5 9.0-0 cxd4 10.cxd4 Nc6 11.Bb2 Bg4 12.Rc1 Rc8 13.Ba3 Qa5 14.Qb3 Rfe8 15.Rc5 Qb6 16.Rb5 Qd8 17.Ng5 Bxe2 18.Nxf7 Na5 and White checkmates in three moves: 19.Nh6+ double check Kh8 20.Qg8+ Rxg8 21.Nf7#.[1][2]

Bannerjee's fondness for fianchettoed openings was noted by Cochrane in his writings in 1884, and eventually led to the class of openings called Indian defence (Nimzo-Indian, Queen's Indian etc.).

Mir Sultan Khan of Punjab transitioned from Indian chess to Western rules. During a visit to England for five years, he won the British Championship in 1929, 1932, and 1933.

Names of the pieces[edit]

The queen is called the "Minister". The knight has been called a horse since chaturanga times, and is attested to in the iconography of the modern knight. The following table describes the Indian chess terminology for the various pieces (including Hindi pronunciations):

Name Modern Hindi
King king Raja
Minister queen Mantri, or Wazir
Camel bishop Oont
Horse knight Ghoda
Elephant rook Haathi
Infantry pawn Paidal or Pyaada

Mantri is the Sanskrit and Hindi term for Minister, while Wazir is the Urdu term for the same. Its use is prevalent in parts of India that were under Islamic rule in medieval times.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Edward Winter, Kings, Commoners and Knaves: Further Chess Explorations, Russell Enterprises, Inc., 1999, p. 141. ISBN 1-888690-04-6
  2. ^ Cochrane–Moheschunder