Indian chess

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Antique Indian chess set depicting elephants, horses and camels

Indian chess is the name given to regional variations of chess played in India in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is distinct from chaturanga. 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. However, even today a mix of Indian and international rules and terminology are used in some parts of India.

Differences from Western chess[edit]

  • The king cannot move unless at least one check has been given.
  • When only the kings and pawns are left in play, the opponent may not give check, but they can win by stalemate. Alternatively, giving check is allowed, but the capture of the last pawn (which would result in a draw) is disallowed.
  • The pawn's two-step initial move is absent in Indian chess; thus, the en passant capture 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, a pawn is promoted to a piece of the type that began on that square. If it is promoted on the king's initial position, it is promoted a queen.
  • If there is one piece remaining other than the kings, it may not be captured. Alternatively, it may be captured unless it is a pawn.

Names of the pieces[edit]

The following table describes one version of Indian chess terminology for the various pieces (including Hindi and Urdu pronunciations):[1]

Standard chess piece Indian chess piece
English Hindi Urdu ISO 15919 Other Telugu Malayalam Tamil
king king राजा راجا rājā రాజు രാജാവ് ராஜா
बादशाह بادشاہ bādśāh
queen minister मन्त्री منتری mantrī మంత్రి മന്ത്രി
व़ज़ीर وزیر wazīr
queen बेगम بیگم bēgam None
रानी رانی rānī ராணி
मलिका ملکا malikā
general सेनापति سیناپتی sēnāpati
rook elephant हाथी ہاتھی hāthī āna[2] ఏనుగు None யானை
chariot रथ رتھ rath rukkha[3] തേര് கோட்டை
knight horse घोड़ा گھوڑا ghōṛā గుఱ్ఱము കുതിര குதிரை
bishop camel ऊँट اونٹ ū̃ṭ None
bishop व़ज़ीर وزیر wazīr அமைச்சர்
chariot रथ رتھ rath శకటం/శెగటు
elephant ആന
pawn infantryman पैदल پیدل paidal బంటు കാലാള്‍
प्यादा پیادا pyādā കാലാള്‍ / പടയാളി
सैनिक سینک sainik പടയാളി
सिपाही سپاہی sipāhī None

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cazaux, Jean-Louis. "Indian Chess Sets". Another view on Chess: Odyssey of Chess. Archived from the original on 6 November 2020. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  2. ^ Malayalam
  3. ^ Punjabi

Further reading[edit]