As you know the game of chess originated in India. It was known as Chaturanga, which is a very  ancient Indian game that is the common ancestor of the games of chess

(The word Chaturanga means "having four limbs or parts" and often means "army". The name itself comes from the ancient Indian battle formation mentioned in the Indian epic Mahabharata, referring to four divisions of an army, viz. elephants, chariots, cavalry, and infantry.) 




But here we are not going to discuss about Chaturanga but another Variant of chess, which is meant to be played by not 2, but 4 players!!








This Variant was prevalent in India, and was known as CHATURAJI meaning "four Kings", or the 4-Handed Chaturanga. It is depicted as a diced game where four teams of 8 pieces fight for a final victory.

Originally, this was a game of chance: the pieces to be moved were decided by rolling two dice. A diceless variant of the game was still played  at the close of the 19th century in India.



There are several variants of this game. Of these, I intend to discuss the modern variant which is probably by far the most playable and entertaining.


Basic variant


1. The game is played on a board of eight by eight squares.

2. There are four players using 4 colored pieces, in general being red, green, yellow & black.

 3. The squares are not checkered.

4. The game is played by four players, individually or most commonly by forming two teams of two players.

5. However, rules allow players to win individually, and partnerships may be quite loose as well.

6. The player with the red pieces plays with the player with the yellow pieces, and the player with the green pieces plays with the player with the black pieces.



Moves of pieces

 1. The king, rook, and knight move as in orthodox chess.

2. The boat replaces the bishop here, though its movement is limited. It jumps two squares diagonally.

3. Pawns move as in orthodox chess, but have no initial double move, and more complicated promotion rules.

Pawns move in the expected direction, i.e., every pawn must move 6 times to get to their final rank.

4. There is no castling in this form of chess (and its not needed also)


A special move called triumph of the boat 

 All pieces take as they move, with one addition special case, called the triumph of the boat.

When a boat moves to form a square of four boats, then he takes the other three.

Look at the following example.

1. Here we have 3 Boats on d4, d5& e5.

2. A boat on g7 moves to e5.

3. When the boat on g7 moves to e5, then it takes the other three boats with this move. This special case is unlikely to happen.

In other words, When a boat moves in such a way that a 2x2 square filled with boats is formed, it captures all three boats of other players (see diagram). This rule is called boat triumph. 


Pawn moves:


Each of the four players' pawns moves and captures in a different direction along the board, as one would expect from the initial player's setup. For example, the red pawns which start on the g-file above move left across the board, promoting on the a-file.


Promotion rules of a pawn

Also, the pawn's promotion rules are different; one must promote to the piece that starts on the same file (or rank) of the promotion square (king included) and one can promote only after one's piece of that type has been captured.

 The type of piece to which a pawn can promote, when it reaches the last rank, depends on the field where it comes: one looks to which type of piece is on that row/column on the initial position, and that is the type of piece the pawn promotes to (but see also below!) To be precise:

  • On a1, a8, h1, h8, a pawn promotes to boat.
  • On a2, a7, b1, b8, g1, g8, h2, h7, a pawn promotes to knight.
  • On a3, a6, c1, c8, f1, f8, h3, h6, a pawn promotes to rook.
  • On a4, a5, d1, d8, e1, e8, h4, h5, a pawn promotes to a whole new king.  (Could you possibly imagine such a move?!!) 


Conditions for Pawn promotion

1. When a player owns three or four pawns, a pawn may not promote.

2. Also, when a player has one or two pawns, he may promote to knight and rook.

3. Only when a player owns one pawn and at most one boat, and no other pieces except his king, the pawn may promote to any type of piece (depending on the square, as above.)

4. In all cases, when a pawn reaches the final rank but may not promote, then the pawn stays as a pawn on the square on the final row.

5. As soon as he may promote, the pawn is changed into the respective piece. In the mean time, the pawn can be taken as well.

Dice throws 

On each turn two dice are thrown. Usually oblong (four sided) stick dice were used. Players were allowed to throw the dice in the air and catch them, exercising some control over the outcome. However playing with cubic dice is also possible. Pieces to be moved are determined by dice numbers (note that the stick dice didn't have 1 and 6):

  • 1 or 5 - pawn or king
  • 2 - boat
  • 3 - knight
  • 4 or 6 - elephant



On each turn two moves may be made, one for each die. The same or two different pieces may be moved, and the player may skip one or both of his moves if desired


More information about the King


1. It may come to you as a surprise that in this game, Kings can be taken as any other type of piece.

2. The player who loses his king may not move. His pieces remain on the board and can be taken.

3. When his partner takes another king, then kings can be exchanged.


Win, Loss & Draw


1. When a player has lost all his pieces except his king, the game is a draw.

2. There is no check or checkmate as the king can be captured like any other piece. The goal of the game is to collect as many points as possible. Points are scored by capturing opponents' pieces, according to this scale:

Pawn - 1

 Boat - 2

   Knight - 3

Rook - 4

King - 5.


A score of 54 points is awarded to a player who manages to capture all three opponents' kings while his own king remains on the board. The value is a sum of points of all pieces in three armies.







The pawn promotion is indeed complicated.  If chess truly did evolve from this game, i do prefer chess over it.  I do not like the the luck involved by using dice.  It does appear to be interesting to play.

Crosspinner wrote:

The pawn promotion is indeed complicated.  If chess truly did evolve from this game, i do prefer chess over it.  I do not like the the luck involved by using dice.  It does appear to be interesting to play.

 Chess didnt evolve from this game.Chess evolved from Chaturanga, which is more or less similar to the modern game..This is an enjoyable variation called Chaturaji.

I know its easy for people to get confused between Chaturaji & Chatauranga.

There is not much difference bwtween Chaturanga & Chess.

In fact it is the same, for we in India call chess as Chaturanga only.

Its a very ancient game and records of chaturanga has been found 5000 years back.


But Chaturaji is a different game &  a relatively modern variant of chaturanga or chess.

Yes, pawn promotions are a bit complicated, but it was like that in the early days, when people (esp the nobility) had more time to play.

The older versions were not speedy ones as the modern versions.In chess, you can theoretically mate in 2 moves.That wasnt the case in the olden times.

This game can be played without dice.In fact people used to play this game without using dice .




This is the most interesting thing I've read all week, a lesson learned around every corner. Thank you PalaceKnight, I soon may bore someone to death at a party with my new nerd knowledge

Fezzik wrote:

Why would any avid chess player prefer a game that involves dice?

I'm not impressed.


Thank you all my friends for your feedback.

As you can see,This game can be played without dice.In fact people used to play this game without using dice .

The game with dice is a bit different for it involves a lot of stakes.

On the lighter side, this will be fun to play, if you have 4 players and all you want is to spend a jolly little time.

But beware: Your chess skills may not come to much use here,so never approach this game as an accomplished  chess player.I would advise to play for the element of fun and just for the sake of it.


This game can  get nastily complicated in the middle game stages,and it can played by anyone if there are 2 chess sets,preferably white, black and any other shades or size.

Try playing this game out with your friends and let me know.

all the best!!

0ak wrote:

This is the most interesting thing I've read all week, a lesson learned around every corner. Thank you PalaceKnight, I soon may bore someone to death at a party with my new nerd knowledge

 Thank you Brandon

I suggest you try playing this game one day.

Just try treating it as a chess variant or like any other board game like checker.

You will enjoy it for sure.

echecs06 wrote:

I didn't know that, good stuff ( as long as dice are not used)

 Of course Jacques, dice is not required to play.

I mentioned it only because they also used to play it with dice like other board games.Thank you for your feedback


Thank you, this is the first non-chess960 topic I've seen.


Dear Palaceknight

Good delivery of "Chaturaji" information. In future this might become very interesting fun game among the world Chess players. The Chess 960 games already proved that. Sometimes an improved and re-structured rules and manner this game could be well known in coming days.

I am pretty sure that most of the Chess players would not like to play this  as a game of chance. When this become in a foarm of 'Brain Game" most of them would be interested and enthusiatic.


very good information ,thank you.


I definitely will try this out some day


Thankyou Sunil,Gk,Martin, Peter for supporting this thread..



This game if played will be interesting as you can learn new tactics from all the four corners..

Another important aspect of this game is the socializing effect it has, as it can be played by a group of 4 players all in a single board..If u want this to be a game of pure skill, Try not to use dies at all..

In order to appreciate this game, one need to understand an aspect of the ancient Indian culture which is foreign to modern Western society and ironically disassociate this game from modern Chess to which it bears superficial resemblances. 

    A number of ancient societies would play two forms of most board games of skill, a diceless form in which players' skill alone determined the outcome and another form in which a die is introduced to limit the use of that skill.

 Whether chaturaji also had an ancient diceless form is not definitely known, but I am not aware of any actual evidence that it did. Therefore to play a recognized form of the game, one must play a form involving a die.

The incorporation of a die into a game of skill is best thought of as a leveling mechanism that was common throughout the ancient world. For example, when players at different levels of skill play, the weaker player starts the game with a certain number of pieces already present on the board at key positions..And he may or may not hold an initial advantage because of the relative space available on the board as compared to a real chess setup..

I am sure by continuous play this variant may also have developed tactics & there may be skilled players too in the diceless form of the game..  To the view most common in the ancient world, incorporating a die was seen as a much more fair solution which required no prior knowledge of how skilled either player is and does not in principle favor either side..


Another interesting thing is about the dice used..

The die used throughout the ancient world was almost universally the knuckle-bone of a sheep (or a similar animal in a few cases)..


More literate people would also paint numbers on the sides, and illiterate but wealthier people would paint appropriate numbers of marks on each side.


The die then could be used to determine if

1. A player could move (e.g., odds yes and even no),

2. How far any given piece could be moved (i.e., the number of spaces rolled as a maximum)

3. Which piece would be moved?  

Which system one used would depend on the game, the culture and individuals involved.


"For example, the red pawns which start on the g-file above move left across the board, promoting on the a-file."

This was confusing. I believe it should say "the (yellow) pawns." 


Hi Sunshiny

Thankyou for pointing that out my friend..

Yes,You are right in a sense,EmbarassedEmbarassedfor  based purely on the given diagram, I should have said yellow pawns..But unlike in a chess board, there is no regulation on keeping colours confined to a particular corner..WinkWink

for eg:If red pawns are placed in the g5-8 file, Then they promote on the a5-a8 files respectively..Innocent

But yes, it could well be confusing if we go by the diagram ..Tongue Out

A more simpler suggestion from me is to Forget all those ranks and files equation, just move straight from the initial position you are in(facing) and you get promoted when you reach the last rank..;-) ;-)CoolCool

Bcoz,rank  numbering from 1-8 will not be an effective tool as in chess, bcoz of the 4 different directions we are playingLaughingLaughing 


Amazing topic! I'm thinking about ressurrect this game between friends.