Traditional Board Games

Shatranj Problems

Saturday, 19th July 2014

It seems that the mediaeval masters had as much time composing puzzles as I do following them! I've discovered an error in the solution to last month's problem, meaning that the presented solution is no solution at all.

The first solution to last month's problem is given as: 1. Rook f7-f6 (check), King e6-d5; 2. Pawn e3-e4 (check), Pawn f5xe4; 3. Pawn d3xe4 (check), King d5-c5; 4. Bishop c1-e3 (check), King c5-b6; 5. Rook a7-b7 (check), King b6-a5; 6. Rook b7xb5 (check), Pawn a4xb5; 7. Knight d6-b7 checkmate.

Playing this out on a board shows that move 7 isn't checkmate at all; the king may move to square a4 which has been vacated by the pawn in move 6. For this reason I'll make that the last of the shatranj puzzles, at least until such time as I have the time and expertise to verify each and every puzzle in advance!


a4 is not a vacant square and that problem is a mate. pawn at a4 cannot capture b5. that would be a reverse move. pawn atc6 captures in move 6.

ozan ozlek - 03:17, 26/07/2014

Thanks for that, Ozan, yes, I have written some utter nonsense above. My source uses a shorthand where not every move is spelled out in full and forced moves are omitted altogether, meaning I sometimes have to figure out what the missing moves are. On this one I failed :-)

Things are a bit busy over the next couple of weeks, but I'll revise the solution on here when I can, and probably restart putting the problems up too now that my faith in them is restored!

Damian Walker - 10:40, 26/07/2014

Well medieval manuals on shatranj can be a difficult issue as far as I can see. I really like this ancient game, I found it to be very intriguing. But mistakes seem to be frequent. I found some problems in The Book of Games of Alfonso. They sem to be copies of arabic mansubat. So mistakes may have happened in the process. for example your may problem seems to be a no mate. e7 square is completely safe and problem acts like that square is not vacant. But I really like your work and this series. Please keep up the good work.

P.S: I've been following your work for a few years now on BGG.

Ozan Ozlek

Ozan Ozlek - 21:52, 27/07/2014

My source for these problems in Murray's 1913 History of Chess. I think he's hand-picked them from Islamic sources (they're numbered, but many are missed out) so I'm hoping he's picked the ones without mistakes :-) In a couple of weeks I'll have chance to check out that last problem properly, and post another.

I started out using BGG as a way to circulate the Traditional Board Games series of leaflets, but being a web developer, it was inevitable that I'd build them a home of their own. I'm glad you found me here!

Damian Walker - 05:50, 28/07/2014

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