Traditional Board Games


Chaturaji is a four-handed dice chess variant from India. Four play in two partnerships, black and green against red and yellow. A die is used to decide which pieces can move at any given turn. This game differs from many other chess variants in that kings are not subject to check, but may be captured and ransomed.

History of Chaturaji

Once considered as the original game of chess, this four handed Indian variant is now thought to be a later development. It has been extremely long-lived, however, being seen at various times from the eleventh until the twentieth century, more recent variants being played without dice. With modern world-wide communications, it is gaining a new lease of life. Some know it as Chaturanga, others as Chaturaji.

Rules for Chaturaji

Rules for Chaturaji
The rules of the traditional dice game are not altogether certain, and some variants are very complex. The rules given here are a combination of the simplest and most elegant ideas put forward by chess historians.

1. The game is played on an 8×8 square board with some squares marked.

2. Four players play as partnerships, red and yellow against green and black. Partners sit opposite each other.

3. Each player has a king, an elephant, a horse, a boat and four soldiers, set out as shown in the diagram.

4. Movement is controlled by a single 4-sided die bearing the numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5.

5. Players roll the die, he who rolls the highest goes first and takes the number as his first roll. Play then moves clockwise around the board.

6. The player whose turn it is rolls the die, unless he has already done so as described in rule 5.

7. If a 2 is rolled, the boat may move; if 3, the horse; if 4, the elephant; if 5, the king or a pawn. If movement of the indicated piece is impossible, the turn is lost.

8. The pieces move as described in the following paragraphs:

(i). the boat moves two squares diagonally, jumping over any intervening piece;

(ii). the horse moves one square diagonally then one square horizontally or vertically away from its starting point, jumping over any intervening piece;

(iii). the elephant moves horizontally or vertically as far as its owner wishes, though it may not jump over other pieces;

(iv). the king moves one step in any direction, horizontally, vertically or diagonally;

(v). the pawn moves one step forward, unless it is capturing, as described in rule 11.

9. If a king, elephant or knight, in its normal course of movement, lands on another player's piece, that piece is captured and removed from the board. Kings may be captured like any other piece, and a player may capture his ally’s pieces.

10. A boat may likewise capture other players’ pawns, or boats, but not their elephants, knights or kings.

11. A pawn captures another player’s pawn or boat by moving forward diagonally one space. It may not capture elephants, knights or kings.

12. If a player’s boat comes to rest beside the other three boats, those other boats are all captured and removed from the board. This is called the “triumph of the boat”.

13. If a player lands his king on his ally king’s starting square, then he has “gained a throne”; he takes control of his ally’s army. Thereafter, he may use his roll to move an ally’s piece, or vice versa. This does not count if an enemy throne is gained; that enemy may continue to move as normal.

14. If one player from each partnership has captured the other enemy’s king, e.g. if black has captured red’s king and yellow has captured green’s king, then the capturing players may agree to an “exchange of kings”. The captured kings are then returned to their owners, and placed on their starting squares, or as near as possible if those squares are occupied.

15. If a player has captured both enemy kings, he may demand the release of his ally’s king, to be replaced on the board as above.

16. If a pawn reaches an unmarked square at the end of the board, it is promoted to whatever piece started on that file, be it a horse or an elephant. This may only be done if a pawn has already been lost; otherwise a pawn may not move to the end of the board.

17. If, however, the player has only a boat and a pawn left, then the pawn becomes “privileged”, and on reaching any square at the end of the board, may promote to any piece at the choice of its owner.

18. A partnership wins the game if their forces are the last remaining on the board.

19. If only kings are left on the board then the players are said to have fought to an “honourable peace”, and the game is drawn.


My favorite game. A very hectic game with four players. Chaturaji is the best of games.

Tobacco - 01:05, 27/12/2019

Hi there!

Is there a website where I can play this online?

Storm Ryan - 18:22, 27/11/2020

Distinguished Mister Ryan, there are various places in Internet, mainly using the Hyper Text Transfer Protocol of the World Wide Web, where different varieties of Chaturaji can be played. The name of the game may also be given as 'Chaturanga of Four Armies', 'Four-Handed Chaturanga', or some other names, and the rules are somewhat different because the rules given by all the hitherto known historical sources are also different. I strongly recommend to play Chaturaji in the Game Courier section of the Chess Variants Web document. It is by far the most comprehensive place that exists in the whole Internet for playing board games derived from Chess, ancestors of Chess, or similar to Chess, of ancient or of recent invention, against human opponents. Literally THOUSANDS of different board games or its varieties can be played there, if You find an opponent willing to play a particular game or variety. You just make Your challenges public and wait up to fourteen days for some other player to accept. You can play in 'real time' or 'by correspondence', in both cases with ample choice of time limits, or without time limits. If You wish and if You have programming skills, You can CREATE Your own game or variety, and challenge other players to play it. I have created several games, invented by me or by others, to whom I have given proper credit. Specifically for Chaturaji, please visit these hyper links: 'Chaturanga Four Kings Double Mate' written by Lady Christine Bagley-Jones (although the correct name for Chaturanga with four armies is Chaturaji): 'Chaturaji Modern Variant Revised' written by Mister Emmanuel Baud (it is a modern invention, it has a few different rules from the previous variety): If You wish to play one or the other, You may challenge any player, or more specifically You may challenge those players known as experts in Chaturaji. As of May 2022 the strongest Chaturaji players in Game Courier are Lady Christine Bagley-Jones and Mister Kevin Pacey. The former is a well known game inventor, while the latter is a FIDE Master in European (International) Chess. It will be very difficult to beat any of the two. I hope, Sir, to have been of assistance in Your request for finding opponents in the ancient game of Chaturaji. P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland.

P. A. Stonemann, CSS Dixieland - 17:49, 07/05/2022

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