Mak-yek (Thai: หมากแยก, rtgs: mak yaek) is a two-player abstract strategy board game played in Thailand (formerly called Siam) and Myanmar (formerly called Burma). Players move their pieces as in the rook in Chess and attempt to capture their opponent's pieces through custodian and intervention capture. The game may have been first described in literature by Captain James Low a writing contributor in the 1839 work Asiatic Researches; or, Transactions of the Society, Instituted in Bengal, For Inquiring into The History, The Antiquities, The Arts and Sciences, and Literature of Asian, Second Part of the Twentieth Volume in which he wrote chapter X On Siamese Literature and documented the game as Maak yék. Another early description of the game is by H.J.R. Murray in his 1913 work A History of Chess, and the game was written as Maak-yek.[note 1]
The game is played on an 8 by 8 square board by two players each having a set of sixteen pieces or "men", and with each set distinguishable from the other by color or design.
Men are laid out on the first and third row from the player.[note 2]
- There is no special way of deciding who starts the game.
- Players take turns moving one of their men horizontally or vertically like the rook in chess (i.e. not through pieces), capturing the opponent's pieces through custodian capture and intervention capture. The captured pieces are removed immediately from the board.
- Intervention capture is the opposite of custodian. If a piece moves between two enemy pieces that are one square apart on a row or column, it captures both pieces.
- The first player with no pieces left loses.
A Malaysian variant called Apit-sodok is closely related. The game is documented in R.J. Wilkinson's work Papers on Malay Subjects (1910), and Raja Samusah's article The Malay Game of Apit (1932), and both refer to the game as Apit. Samusah also refers to the game as Sodok Apit. Both authors describe custodian and intervention capture, but only Samusah describes orthogonal movement of pieces as in the rook in chess. Samusah specifically describes that a line of enemy pieces can be captured through custodian whereas in Mak-yek only a single enemy piece may be captured. But Captain James Low's description of Maak yék does include custodian capture for a line of enemy pieces. Samusah describes that a corner piece cannot be captured by surrounding it on its two orthogonally adjacent squares and the diagonally adjacent square. He also describes that a piece can move safely next to a friendly piece(s) (on a row or column) despite being flanked as a linear group on two opposite ends by opposing pieces provided there are no spaces between any of them (friendly and opposing pieces). Both Wilkinson and Samusah agree that the game is played on a draughts board, and Samusah specifically illustrates an 8 x 8 uncheckered board similar to most versions of Mak-yek. Samusah describes that "There are 16 pieces, all of equal value; and these are arranged in two rows as in chess", but does not specifically reference the chess variant. Malaysia's chess variant is called Main Chator, and the pieces are set up on the first two rows nearest each player similar to Western chess.[note 3] This is a contrast as to how Mak-yek's pieces are initially set up which are on the first and third row nearest each player. As an English translation from the Malay language, apit means squeezed, and this is associated with custodian capture. Sodok means a shovel or spade or a duck's bill, or the process of shoveling up, and this is associated with intervention capture.
A similar game is also played in Cambodia called Rek. The game is played on an 8 x 8 uncheckered square board with each player having 16 pieces similar to Mak-yek and Apit-sodok. One of the 16 pieces is a king, and the other 15 pieces are called men. The kings should be of the same color as their respective men, but distinguishable by size or design from them. The game begins with the 15 men situated on the first and third row (somewhat similar to Mak-yek) with only 7 men on the first row and 8 men on the third row. Each player's king is situated on the very far left (or very far right) square of their respective second rows. The first row square directly below each king is left vacant. All pieces including the king move orthogonally any number of unobstructed squares on the board as in the rook of chess. The objective of each player is to capture the other player's king. It thus resembles chess in this respect. It is not an elimination game as in Mak-yek and Apit-sodok, although elimination of all pieces does imply capture of the other player's king. Intervention capture is the same as in Mak-yek and Apit-sodok, and it is called Rek from which the name of the game is derived from. A type of custodian capture is also featured in the game, but unlike Mak-yek and Apit-sodok where a player only has to flank the opponent's piece(s) on two opposite sides, it requires the player performing the capture to completely surround an opponent's piece or group of pieces with or without the aid of the edge(s) of the board, and in such a way that the pieces being captured cannot perform a legal move (hypothetically on the opponent's next turn). Rek is a transitive verb which means "carry on one's shoulder a pole at each end of which is a container, bundle or object", and the two containers at each end of the pole are symbolic of the two pieces captured through intervention and are carried away by the player performing the capture. Rek is pronounced like rake but the k is silent. Another variant called Min Rek Chanh is also similarly related.
Second version of Mak-yek
Both Captain James Low and H.J.R. Murray described a second version of Mak-yek which resembles more of a hunt game where one player possesses only one piece, and goes against another player with sixteen pieces. The player with one piece can move in any direction except diagonally, and capture a single enemy piece by leaping over it as long as there is an empty square behind it. No more detail of the game's rules is provided, but it does appear that the game is played on the same 8 x 8 square board since both authors make no attempt to describe a different board. If it is not the same board, it is at the very least a square board of some dimension since both authors describe that the single piece can leap over one of the sixteen pieces provided it lands on an empty square behind the leapt piece. If this is indeed a hunt game, it is a contrast to most hunt games from around the world and especially in Southeast Asia where most hunt game boards are of a linear pattern. It also would not be a variant of the first version of Mak-yek which is definitely not a hunt game.
Mak-yek, Apit-sodok, Rek, and Min Rek Chanh are all played on an 8 × 8 square board with each player having sixteen pieces, exhibit intervention capture and custodian capture (or a modified custodian in the case of Rek and Min Rek Chanh), and pieces move like the Rook in Chess with the exception of the kings in Min Rek Chanh; furthermore, captured pieces are immediately removed from the board (as opposed to being converted into the capturing player's pieces as in Ming Mang and a few others). These commonalities suggest that they may form a subfamily within the family of games that also includes Jul-Gonu, Hasami shogi, Dai hasami shogi, Ming Mang, Gundru, Seega, Ludus latrunculorum, Petteia, and Firdawsi’s Nard. They also bear resemblance to the Tafl games which exhibit custodian capture and rook-like movement of pieces except that the Tafl games are asymmetrical in the number and type of pieces each player possess, and the objective in Tafl games is for one player to move their king to the edge of the board with the objective of the other player to capture that king. They distantly resemble Agon, Awithlaknakwe, Bizingo, Watermelon Chess, Reversi, and Othello as all of these games exhibit custodian capture or some form of it. They may also distantly resemble Wéiqí, Baduk, and Go as these games also have a capturing method resembling custodian.
Rek and Min Rek Chanh's "custodian" capturing method resembles that of Watermelon Chess where the player performing the capture must completely surround their opponent's piece (or possibly pieces as in the case of Rek) with or without the aid of the edge(s) of the board, and in such a way that the captured piece(s) cannot perform a legal move (hypothetically on the opponent's next turn). The capturing method also resembles that of Wéiqí, Baduk, and Go.
Rek and Min Rek Chanh may be classified as chess variants since the objective is to capture the other player's king.
The second version of Mak-yek might be a hunt game, but one of the more rare ones that use a square board as in Fox and Hounds, except in Fox and Hounds capture by leap (or any form of capture) is not allowed, but in Mak-yek it is allowed.
- see footnote 15 on page 114 of "A History of Chess"(1913) by H.J.R. Murray.
- It is the same setup arrangement as in Makruk (also known as Thai Chess), and Ouk Chatrang (also known as Ok or Cambodian Chess).
- see page 99 of "A History of Chess" (1913) by H.J.R. Murray which states "At the commencement of the game the chessmen are arranged as in the Indian game (diagram, p.80)...", and on page 80 the pieces of the modern Indian Chess are setup on the first two rows nearest each player.
- Low, Captain James (1839). "Chapter X On Siamese Literature". Asiatic Researches; or, Transactions of the Society, Instituted in Bengal, For Inquiring into The History, The Antiquities, The Arts and Sciences, and Literature of Asia, Second Part of the Twentieth Volume. Calcutta: Bishop's College Press. pp. 382–383. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Murray, Harold James Ruthven (1913). A History of Chess. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 114. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Cronida, Ares. "Los juegos de soldados". Ares Cronida cuentos, mitos, leyendas, magia y más. wordpress.com. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Samusah, Rajah (January 1932). Journal of the Malayan Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, Volume X (PDF). Singapore: Printers Limited. pp. 138–140. Retrieved 16 April 2017.
- Wilkinson, Richard James (1910). Papers on Malay Subjects. Life and Customs. Part III. Malay Amusements. Kuala Lumpur: F.M.S. Government Press. p. 58.
- Murray, Harold James Ruthven (1913). A History of Chess. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 99.
- Potet, Jean-Paul G. (2016). Tagalog Borrowings and Cognates. Raleigh, NC USA: Lulu Press, Inc. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-326-61579-6.
- Wilkinson, R.J. (1901). A Malay-English Dictionary. Singapore: Kelly and Walsh, Limited. p. 417.
- Cazaux, Jean-Louis. "Cambodian". Chesmayne. Retrieved 31 March 2017.
- H. J. R. Murray: History of Board Games other than Chess (1952)