Maharajah and the Sepoys

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Maharajah and the Sepoys
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8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 black rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
e1 white upside-down queen
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7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
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Starting position. White figure is a maharajah; it can move as queen or knight.

Maharajah and the Sepoys, originally called Shatranj Diwana Shah and also known as "The Mad King's Game"[1] and "Maharajah chess",[2] is a popular chess variant with different armies for white and black. It was first played in the 19th century in India. A solved game with forced win for Black.

Rules[edit]

Black has a full, standard chess army ("sepoys") in the usual position. White is limited to a single piece, the maharajah, which can move as either a queen or as a knight on White's turn (hence a manifestation of the amazon). Black's goal is to checkmate the maharajah, while White's is to checkmate Black's king. There is no pawn promotion.[2]

The asymmetry of the game pits movement flexibility and agility against greater force in numbers. By perfect play Black always wins in this game, at least on an 8x8 board. According to Hans Bodlaender, "A carefully playing black player should be able to win. However, this is not always easy, and in many cases, when the white 'Maharaja' breaks through the lines of black, he has good chances to win."[3]

Winning strategy[edit]

The Maharajah can pose a serious threat and even win against a weak opponent. Its strategy is to clean as many Black pieces as possible in the early game using fork (attacking more than one unprotected piece at once) as the main tactic; after sufficiently cleaning the board, by doing checks, chase the Black King away from its other pieces, drive it into a corner and give checkmate.

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8
Chessboard480.svg
g8 black king
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
e7 black bishop
f7 black pawn
h7 black knight
c6 black knight
a5 black pawn
d5 black pawn
g5 black pawn
h5 black pawn
d4 black queen
e4 black pawn
g4 black bishop
b2 black rook
c2 white upside-down queen
b1 black rook
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7 7
6 6
5 5
4 4
3 3
2 2
1 1
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After 24...R3b2#

Maharajah's critical weakness is that it's alone, so it cannot do exchanges, which means, cannot capture Black pieces that are protected. So the Sepoys' winning tactic is to make moves in such a way that all their pieces stay protected while gradually stealing away available squares from the Maharajah. It's also important to make sure the Maharajah cannot do checks.

One example line of moves that gives White a forced mate in 24 moves goes like this (White's moves are unimportant):[4]

1... d5 2... Nc6 3... Qd6 4... e5 5... Nf6 6... a5 7... Ra6 8... Rb6 9... Bg4 10... e4 11... Qe5 12... Be7 13... O-O 14... Rb2 15... Ra8 16... Ra6 17... Rab6 18... R6b3 19... h5 20... g5 21... Nh7 22... Qd4

Now if the Maharajah is e.g. on a1 then: 23... Rb1 24... R3b2# 0-1

Else: 23... Qd1# 0-1

References[edit]

  1. ^ Pritchard (2007), p. 264.
  2. ^ a b Rachunek, Filip. "Maharajah Chess: Rules". Brainking.com. Retrieved 20 April 2016. 
  3. ^ Bodlaender, Hans L. "The Maharaja and the Sepoys". The Chess Variant Pages. Retrieved 20 April 2016. 
  4. ^ Some Brainking.com games using this forced win: Game-1, Game-2, Game-3

Bibliography[edit]