Traditional Board Games

Shatranj Problem, July 2015

Shatranj problem, July 2015
Shatranj problem, July 2015

Saturday, 4th July 2015

The solution to June's problem is as follows: 1. Rook g7-g6, Rook h6xg6; 2. Rook b4xa4 (check), King a8-b7; 3. Rook a5-a7 (check), King b7-c8; 4. Rook a7-c7 (checkmate). Though my source doesn't mention the possibility, I see no reason why the king could not have moved b7xc6 on the third move, but the response Queen d6-e7 would have given another checkmate on the fourth move.

A Reminder of the Rules of Shatranj

The start of a game of shatranj.
The start of a game of shatranj.

This is a brief reminder, for chess players, about how shatranj, or mediaeval chess, differs from the modern game.

The king, rook and knight move as the modern pieces do. The pawn only ever moves one step forward, never two. The bishop moves exactly two squares diagonally, and can jump over a piece in the way. The queen moves diagonally to an adjacent square, much like a draughts king.

Castling and en-passant moves are unknown. A pawn always promotes to a queen. Stalemate is a loss for the trapped player, and if one side is reduced to only a king then that player has lost the game.

The diagram shows the full setup of the pieces, and illustrates the symbols used for each of the pieces in the mediaeval game. For a full discussion of the game, including a full set of rules, see the Shatranj page.

This month's problem starts with a densely populated board, and the solution is a little bit longer than last month's. Only one solution is given by my source, though. It comes from a real game between chess masters an-Nasrani and bin Hisham, and the white pieces are again starting on the 8th rank and moving down the board. The instruction is simply "black plays and wins."


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