Chess Pieces in Different Languages.

Ari Luiro has created a classic webpage, Chess Pieces in Different Languages:

This article presents words for chess, six chess pieces and check in 78 languages in the table. This article is originally written in Finnish. If you know more languages to be added to the table, please send me e-mail. […]

The rook has many meanings in different languages. The rook is a tower in many European languages (eg. Spanish and Portuguese torre, Finnish torni, French tour, Dutch toren), sometimes a large farm (Frisian stins), a ship (Russian lad’ja, transcribed also as ladya), a fortress or castle (Indonesian benteng) or a wagon (Chinese ju, Estonian vanker). […]

Words for chess queen in European languages are generally feminine, with a few exception. But outside Europe the chess queens usually don’t have gender or the piece is masculine. The Arabic firz or firzān (counsellor) was never translated into a European language although it was adopted. For example the Italians call the queen as donna (‘woman’) or more common regina (queen in Italian). A Latin manuscript preserved in the Einsiedeln Monastery in Switzerland (997 AD) contains the first recorded mention of the chess queen (regina). In French usage reine ‘queen’ replaced fierce or fierge (from the Arabic fers) during the 14th century; during the next century reine was replaced by the word dame. […] The queen in Estonian (lipp) is a flag. Arabic (wäziir, firzān), Russian (ferz’), Farsi (vazir, farzin), Uzbek (farzin), Hindi (farzī, wazīr) and Turkish (vezir) among others still use the ancient word of no gender firz for today’s chess queen. […]

There are many ways in different languages to call a bishop. The bishop can be a messenger (Finnish lähetti and Polish goniec), a clergyman (English bishop and Irish easpag ‘bishop’ both from Latin episcopus ‘bishop’), a rifleman (Czech střelec), a runner (German läufer, Romansh currider, Latin cursor), an elephant (Indonesian gajah) or a crazy (French fou, also a jester or a fool). Romanian nebun and Greek trelós mean fool or crazy.

That’s just a few tidbits; there’s much more at the link, and if you scroll down you’ll see a magnificent table with everything from Finnish to Tahitian.

Comments

  1. Trond Engen says:

    Nice.

    The Norwegian entry has an error. The chess queen is a dronning. It’s the queen in a deck of cards who is a dame. Also, colloquially if not officially, the knight goes by hest “horse” rather than springer. The knight in a deck of cards is a knekt. A knight, as in a royally privileged equestrian warrior in a medieval setting or the member of a honorary order in a contemporary setting, is a ridder.

  2. Before seeing the list of names for the game itself, it never occurred to me that chess and check(mate) were doublets.

    Exploring further, I guess the relationship in many languages is just plural and singular.

  3. PlasticPaddy says:

    @trond
    If knekt meant “servant”, this would be closer to one sense of knave in English (I do not know if this sense applies to the card of that name).

  4. The Norwegian entry has an error.

    I just dropped him a line to alert him.

  5. David Eddyshaw says:

    While it’s perfectly true that Welsh esgob and castell are borrowed from Latin, that’s a slightly odd way of putting it: they’re the ordinary words for “bishop” and “castle.” I mean, what isn’t borrowed from Latin in Welsh?*

    Gwyddbwyll, like Irish fidhcheall, originally referred to a quite different (and alas, somewhat dull) game:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fidchell

    *Well, quite a lot, but you know what I mean.

  6. There’s a similar list on Wikipedia, which also includes the abbreviations used for notating a game.

    I can’t say with any certainty, but I think ტურა for queen in Georgian is wrong, as that word means jackal. კუ, also meaning tortoise, is some nice commentary on bishops.

  7. This made me look up the curious Hebrew פַּט /pat/ ‘stalemate’, which rhymes with מַט /mat/ ‘checkmate’. In the back of my mind was the idea that since they rhymed and were related semantically, they must have a similar origin. But /pat/ comes from French pat, which per TLFI is probably a borrowing from Italian patta (yet influenced by mat), of whose etymology it is unsure.

  8. John Emerson says:

    ”Gwyddbyll….”

    I’m sorry, this is not a real word, not even in the primitive Welsh quasi-language.

  9. David Eddyshaw says:

    Of course not. No argument there at all.

    Gwyddbwyll, on the other hand, is a perfectly cromwlynt word.*

    *Though I should point out that the two wy‘s are actually pronounced differently. Welsh spelling is extremely logical.

  10. Lars Mathiesen says:

    Let me guess: One consonant pair is rising, the other is falling?

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    Exactly! dd is rising, and ll is falling. Sympwls!

  12. pc, Georgian Wiki says ლაზიერი for the queen. Reads “lazier” and is from a vizier line of names.

  13. @PlasticPaddy: Both knight and knave are common West Germanic words, with the same earliest attested meanings: “boy, lad, young servant.” However, while they may have influenced one-another, they appear to be of distinct origin; it does not seem possible to get from one to the other by any regular phonetic process. On the other other hand, it is apparently challenging to explain just the various cognates of knave found around West Germanic—since they can manifest with any of /b/, /p/, /f/, or /v/ as the final consonant, with relatively little pattern to explain which appears when.

    According to David Parlett, A History of Card Games (1991), as quoted by Douglas Harper’s Online Etymological Dictionary, the equivalence of knaves and jacks among playing cards can be traced to the game of all-fours:

    Previously, the English equivalent of the French valet was normally known as Knave, in the sense of ‘serving-lad’. In the seventeenth century it came to be called Jack, from the name properly applied to the Knave of trumps at All Fours. All Fours being a low-class game, the use of ‘Jack’ for ‘Knave’ was long considered vulgar. (‘He calls the Knaves Jacks!’, remarks Estella contemptuously in Dickens’s Great Expectations.) When indices came in, it was obviously preferable to use ‘J’ rather than ‘Kn’ to avoid confusion with ‘K’ for King. Jack has since become the normal title of the lowest court, though ‘Knave’ can still be heard.

    I certainly remember that line from the first time I read Great Expectations, and I can’t be the only one.* Despite my familiarity with the nursery rhyme about the Queen of Hearts (and its appearance among the playing-card people in Alice in Wonderland), I don’t think that, prior to reading Great Expectations when I was fifteen, I had really realized that “knave” was an old-fashioned term for the “jack.”

    * There are a number of memorable scenes in the novel in which various characters, in their variously revealing ways, point out and try to correct Pip’s unrefined country habits. The best known of these bits is probably when Herbert Pocket tells Pip not to put his knife in his mouth:

    “True,” he replied. “I’ll redeem it at once. Let me introduce the topic, Handel,[**] by mentioning that in London it is not the custom to put the knife in the mouth,—for fear of accidents,—and that while the fork is reserved for that use, it is not put further in than necessary. It is scarcely worth mentioning, only it’s as well to do as other people do. Also, the spoon is not generally used over-hand, but under. This has two advantages. You get at your mouth better (which after all is the object), and you save a good deal of the attitude of opening oysters, on the part of the right elbow.”

    ** A few paragraphs earlier, Pip had received this unusual nickname from Herbert, in honor of his being an apprentice blacksmith, under his brother-in-law Joe:

    “With pleasure,” said he, “though I venture to prophesy that you’ll want very few hints. I dare say we shall be often together, and I should like to banish any needless restraint between us. Will you do me the favour to begin at once to call me by my Christian name, Herbert?”

    I thanked him and said I would. I informed him in exchange that my Christian name was Philip.

    “I don’t take to Philip,” said he, smiling, “for it sounds like a moral boy out of the spelling-book, who was so lazy that he fell into a pond, or so fat that he couldn’t see out of his eyes, or so avaricious that he locked up his cake till the mice ate it, or so determined to go a bird’s-nesting that he got himself eaten by bears who lived handy in the neighbourhood. I tell you what I should like. We are so harmonious, and you have been a blacksmith,—would you mind it?”

    “I shouldn’t mind anything that you propose,” I answered, “but I don’t understand you.”

    “Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There’s a charming piece of music by Handel, called the Harmonious Blacksmith.”

    “I should like it very much.”

    “Then, my dear Handel,” said he, turning round as the door opened, “here is the dinner, and I must beg of you to take the top of the table, because the dinner is of your providing.”

  14. David Marjanović says:

    Exploring further, I guess the relationship in many languages is just plural and singular.

    Or just identity.

    German:
    Schach “chess, check”
    (Schach)matt “checkmate”
    Patt “stalemate”

    Also variation Springer ~ Pferd, Königin ~ Dame.

    On the other other hand, it is apparently challenging to explain just the various cognates of knave found around West Germanic—since they can manifest with any of /b/, /p/, /f/, or /v/ as the final consonant, with relatively little pattern to explain which appears when.

    It’s a Kluge mess. Check out this book from p. 71 onwards.

  15. Chechen
    конь: говр
    король: паччахь
    ферзь (королева): ферзь
    ладья: ладья, тура, бIов
    пешка: жIакки
    слон: пийл, эпсар
    шах: шах; объявлять шах ала
    мат: мат; объявлять мат ала
    шахматы: шахматаш; играть в шахматех ловза

    駒 ‘piece’

    https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/zugzwang

  16. Korea, China, and Japan all have their local traditional versions of chess whose pieces do not correspond exactly to those of Western chess. For example, in Korean 장기 janggi, Chinese 象棋 xiàngqí and Japanese 将棋 shogi there is no analogue to the queen, and in janggi and xiangqi the king is instead called the general. The games are also all different from each other, so a janggi player and a xiangqi player wouldn’t be able to play each other for example.

    However, the table lists the Korean names in Yale Romanization for the king as “oang” 왕 wang and for the queen as “nje.oang” 녀왕 nyeowang (or 여왕 yeowang in the South Korean standard), which means that it must be referring to the Korean names of pieces for Western chess. But the Korean name of chess is given as cang.ki (janggi), which is the name of Korean chess. Western chess would be called 서양장기 seoyangjanggi (“Western janggi”) or more usually 체스 cheseu (loaned from English “chess”) instead.

    The table includes a term corresponding to checkmate in janggi, “cang.kun (pat.a.la)” 장군 (받아라) janggun (badara). 장군 janggun is the name of the general, but also the term for check (not checkmate). Adding 받아라 badara makes it something like saying “take the check”, but I don’t think I’ve actually heard it said that way; usually you just say janggun when making the move. One can escape the check and say 멍군 meonggun. So strictly speaking, janggun means check, not checkmate.

    Curiously, the text above that says that the Korean word for checkmate is “thongcang” which would be 통장 tongjang. I had never heard the word used this way, and a Korean dictionary didn’t list this definition either. But I found a link in Korean that indicates that this is a North Korean expression. A checkmate in janggi (a check that cannot be defended) is called 외통장군 oetongjanggun, and the link says that in North Korea this can be called 통장 tongjang.

    I don’t play Western chess, but Korean players would not use the same expressions for check or checkmate when playing this game, since janggun would sound inappropriate for a game that has kings instead of generals. South Korean players simply use the English loan 체크메이트 chekeumeiteu. Indeed, all the pieces simply use their English names, so you have 킹 king, 퀸 kwin, 룩 ruk, 비숍 bisyop, 나이트 naiteu, and 폰 pon. The Korean names for the king and queen listed in the table are therefore even more puzzling. Yes, these are the normal Korean words for king and queen, but we don’t use these in chess.

    For the rest of the pieces, the table gives “cha” 차 cha, “mal” 말 mal, “sang” 상 sang and “col” 졸 jol which means they are using the names of analogous pieces from janggi. I’m now wondering, given the mention of tongjang above, if these might actually be the names used for the pieces of Western chess in North Korea, which is known for avoiding English loanwords in sport terminology. I haven’t been able to find any further information though.

  17. Arabic (wäziir, firzān), Russian (ferz’), Farsi (vazir, farzin), Uzbek (farzin), Hindi (farzī, wazīr) and Turkish (vezir) among others still use the ancient word of no gender firz for today’s chess queen.

    No gender? There is now a female wazīra “minister”, Hala Zayed, currently serving as Egypt’s health minister in this time of pandemic. Hikmat Abu Zayd was Egypt’s first wazīra.

    The Urdu dictionary of Platts gives the gender of فرزين farzīn and فرزي farzī masculine and also possibly feminine, but Fallon just gives it as masculine. Of course, a word like sounding فرزي farzī would maybe sound a little bit more like a feminine than a masculine in Hindustani, but there is nothing to stop a word in from being masculine.

    I think a lot of people might read Luiro’s page and come away thinking that Persian فرزين farzīn “ferz, queen (in chess)” (> Arabic فرزان firzān, producing further variants across the Islamicate world) and Arabic and Persian وزیر wazīr “vizier; queen (in chess)” are the somehow the same word, or at least etymologically related, but they aren’t. It seems they weren’t even originally used of the same piece…

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferz

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wazir_(chess)

    Persian farzīn is from Middle Persian ⟨plcyn’⟩, “ferz”. The original meaning of ⟨plcyn’⟩ is thought to have been *“guard” or the like, as a member of the king’s entourage. Most probably from an Iranian *fra-zai̯na- “very watchful”—compare Avestan zaēnah- “wakefulness, watchfulness”, possibly related to Vedic jénya-, a epithet of unknown but positive meaning, and maybe even Sanskrit jina-, applied to tirthankaras (as “awakened”) in Jainism and similarly to tathagatas in Buddhism. I hope you can see the further etymological discussion by Antonio Panaino here (p. 136ff). I find it fascinating.

    As for the etymology of Arabicوزیر wazīr “vizier, wazir (in chess)”, the medieval Arabophone world considered that it was derived from the root of Arabic wazara “to carry a burden”. A vizier carried the burden of administration for his sultan, so to speak. Such an etymology is given to the word in the Lisān al-ʿArab of 1290, for example. However, modern scholars prefer an Iranian origin. The most accessible discussion is still at the entry for the word in Arthur Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’an, page 287f. Jeffery mentions that West thinks that the Middle Persian etymon vizīr has not only the meaning “decision, judgment” but also “judge”, in one place in the Denkard (a Zoroastrian text). I’ll try to verify that with the text later. Armenian վճիռ včiṙ, a borrowing of the same Middle Iranian word, also means simply “decision, judgment”, and not “judge” or “counsellor”.

  18. Very interesting stuff, thanks!

  19. David Marjanović says:

    The decider!

  20. For what it’s worth, Albanian kala for rook and kalë for bishop seems wrong in the table (the former is apparently a definite form of the latter).

    two wy‘s are actually pronounced differently

    Is there a rule? I somehow got the impression that it’s /ʊi̯/ always except after g, where it is usually, but not always, /wɪ/. But in the same time I am sure it is more complicated, not to mention differences between southern and northern Welsh.

  21. David Eddyshaw says:

    That’s not a bad rule of thumb, though there are indeed exceptions, and even minimal pairs, like gŵydd “goose” versus gwŷdd “trees, wood.”

    In principle, the two could always be differentiated with circumflexes, as here, but in practice that’s only done to avoid actual ambiguity. (In Welsh, the circumflex is usually a length mark, but as vowel length is mostly but not entirely predictable it’s only used in cases where the vowel might have been short given the usual phonotactic constraints, and not even then in common words like dyn “person, man.”)

  22. PlasticPaddy says:

    @de
    How does Welsh spelling show broad/slender consonants? In Irish
    duine = d-BROAD i-SHORT n-SLENDER schwa
    daoine = d-BROAD i-LONG n-SLENDER schwa
    tine = t-SLENDER i-SHORT n-SLENDER schwa
    síne = s-SLENDER i-LONG n-SLENDER schwa
    fionn = f-SLENDER i-SHORT n-BROAD *
    fíon = f-SLENDER i-LONG n-BROAD **
    buíoch = b-BROAD i-LONG ch-BROAD **
    ***

    * = the short vowel can sound like “yo” because of its production
    ** there is an epenthetic schwa after the i-LONG
    *** I cannot think of a word with the missing pattern. There may be a constraint disallowing it (e.g. in such environments the i is lengthened or one of the consonants is palatalised).

  23. David Eddyshaw says:

    Welsh doesn’t have the broad/slender contrast; insofar as there is a parallel etymologically, it’s reflected in the actual vowel via so-called “i-affection”, eg. brân “crow” plural brain. (In other words, what is often merely a graphic convention in Irish, in Welsh simply reflects the pronunciation.)

  24. I assume the pronunciation of wy is not affected by mutations, is it right? So “gwynt” is /ɡwɪnt/ and “dau wynt” would be /dai̯ wɪnt/ rather than /dai̯ ʊi̯nt/ even though the g has disappeared?

    I wonder what is the situation etymologically. Is it the case that /ʊi̯/ is originally a diphtong while /wɪ/ was a consonant w plus vowel y and accidentally they ended up spelled the same? Or was it the case that the two are originally the same and somehow split later depending on surroundings (such as being influenced by a preceding g)?

    The way how the rule of thumb with g works (not bad, but not entirely reliable either) would make more sense with the first hypothesis, as gw- is a common consonant onset even before other vowels, so it makes sense to see gwy as gw + y at least initially. But I haven’t seen it discussed explicitly.

  25. David Eddyshaw says:

    Albanian kala for rook and kalë for bishop seems wrong

    Indeed, the Albanian WP page for chess gives torra for “rook” and oficeri for “bishop”; whereas kali (“horse”) is used for “knight.”

    https://sq.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahu

  26. On the other hand, if gwy was gw + y, I would expect the y to retain it’s normal realisation as /ə/ in non-final syllables, which apparently does not happen. So I am a bit confused.

    (Sorry for replying to myself, but somehow I cannot edit my earlier comment, even though it is normally possible. Perhaps it’s because I am connected through a VPN.)

  27. David Eddyshaw says:

    The Albanian is indeed wrong:

    https://sq.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahu

    “Rook” is torra “tower”, and “bishop” is oficeri, whereas kali “horse” is used for “knight.”

  28. Welsh initial gw- before most vowels (and potentially before y as well) is normally from IE and Proto-Celtic w-. The soft mutation reduces it to w- again. E.g. gwyn ‘white’ from Celtic *windos, Irish fionn.
    wy when not as above is often from Brythonic / e: /
    gŵydd ‘goose’ is cognate with Middle Irish géd.

  29. David Eddyshaw says:

    I assume the pronunciation of wy is not affected by mutations, is it right?

    Quite right, yes. And you’re right about etymology: with my two minimal-pair words above, gŵydd “goose” corresponds to Old Irish géd, while gwŷdd “trees, wood” corresponds to Old Irish fid (and, of course, to English “wood.”)

    Welsh ŵy is the regular outcome of earlier long /e:/ (including /e:/ in Latin loanwords, like swydd “office”, from Latin sedes); original initial /w/- has acquired a prosthetic g– in Welsh, again including in Latin loans, like gwyrth “miracle”, from Latin virtus.

    On the other hand, if gwy was gw + y, I would expect the y to retain it’s normal realisation as /ə/ in non-final syllables, which apparently does not happen

    That environment blocked the change of /ɨ/ to /ə/ in unstressed syllables (the rule dates from the period when Welsh stress fell on the final syllable.)

    [EDIT: jinx! anhweol got there before me]

  30. Diolch yn fawr!

    Also the part about Welsh stress falling on the last syllable originally gives sense to the current phonology. Schwas inhabiting stressed syllables preferentially are weird.

  31. John Emerson says:

    The “Welsh“ are like computer nerds, the way they insist that you spell their barbarous “language” *exactly right*.

  32. Despite I don’t want to hijack the entire discussion, I have not exactly many people who know anything about Welsh around, so forgive me one more question: What about cwympo and wyneb? Wiktionary gives pronunciation /wɪ/ for both. No etymology is given for the former and for the latter it says that it comes from Proto-Brythonic *ėnib. I would expect ŵy rather than then, at least for wyneb.

  33. David Eddyshaw says:

    Gŵyr “knows” corresponds to the Old Irish -fitir, and is one of only a couple of remnants of deponent flexion* in Welsh. It’s undoubtedly from the PIE wid- root but I don’t know how it achieved its present shape exactly. Presumably there was an intermediate stage *wēr-.

    *Or maybe not: GPC seems to think that the -r- in the Insular Celtic verbs may have got imported from a 3pl form like Vedic vidré. I seem to remember that it’s a pretty aberrant verb in Old Irish too (even for an Old Irish verb) but can’t look it up until I get home.

  34. To complicate matters, not all Welsh “wy” groups get pronounced etymologically, at least colloquially. Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) ought to have the falling diphthong according to the origin, and the article form in ‘yr’ (required before vowels) reflects that. But I can only remember hearing it with ‘w’ as a consonant; and Hogia Llandegai certainly sing it that way in their lyric “Dowch ar y trên bach i ben y Wyddfa fawr”.

  35. David Eddyshaw says:

    @prase:

    You’re right about wyneb: it’s ŵy. (Old Irish énech matches exactly etymologically.)

    Cwympo really is /kwɨmpo/, though. I imagine it’s onomatopoeic in origin. Or something.

  36. David Eddyshaw says:

    Anhweol is right about there being unetymological pronunciations in the dialects, though. I shall do a straw poll of Welsh speakers on how they say wyneb if I ever get out into the wild again.

    There are Google hits for y wyneb (instead of yr wyneb) so the depravity is clearly real, and Wiktionary didn’t just make it up.

  37. David Eddyshaw says:

    their barbarous “language”

    At least it’s not [shudder] Dravidian.

    Welsh (being the oldest language in Europe) is naturally also the sole surviving non-Dravidian language of Europe.

  38. It’s undoubtedly from the PIE wid- root but I don’t know how it achieved its present shape exactly.

    Some recent discussion of the matter of gŵyr “knows” by Peter Schrijver (along with references to important previous literature on the formation) can be found on the first few pages of his contribution to the Olsen Festschrift, “The first person singular of ‘to know’ in British Celtic and a detail of a-affection”, available here.

    His earlier discussion of the phonology, in Studies in British Celtic Historical Phonology (1995), p. 354, can be read here, I hope.

  39. David Eddyshaw says:

    Hah! Not only is anhweol right, he is extremely right. I just did some fieldwork in the hospital corridor with an indigenous Abertavite, who not only says [wɪnɛb] but has the remodelled unmutated form [gwɪnɛb] to go with it.

  40. Welsh (being the oldest language in Europe) is naturally also the sole surviving non-Dravidian language of Europe.

    Which is evidenced by the the fact that you get only seven Google hits for drafydd.

  41. David Eddyshaw says:

    Drafydd

    He’s my crousin.

    @Xerîb:

    Very interesting, thanks! (Also reassured that even the experts seem to be reduced to ad-hockery in these cases.)

  42. David Marjanović says:

    I seem to remember that it’s a pretty aberrant verb in Old Irish too (even for an Old Irish verb) but can’t look it up until I get home.

    And then you shall undoubtedly go mad from the revelation.

  43. Old Irish verbs are not for the faint of spirit.

  44. David Eddyshaw says:

    -fitir

    Says Thurneysen: “The explanations offered by Wackernagel [ … ] and Krause [ … ] are not convincing.” (My italics.) Is there then no hope? No hope for us at all?

  45. As Kafka so memorably said: There is hope… but not for us.

  46. Indeed, the Albanian WP page for chess gives torra for “rook” and oficeri for “bishop”; whereas kali (“horse”) is used for “knight.”

    ship horse elephant ferz’ king – pawns

    It is Russian, in translation. But there are also informal names:

    turá, … , ofitser (“officer”), queen, …. – …..

  47. David Eddyshaw says:

    I notice that Greek also has “officers” for bishops (and towers for rooks.)

    I see that AL says

    “ζατρίκι ; in classical Greek zatríkion) was a popular board-game in ancient Greece”

    Not so: the word is from the Persian شترنج‎ shatranj (itself, of course ultimately, from the original Sanskrit Name of the Game चतुरङ्ग caturaṅga), and was adopted in Byzantine times (along with the game itself.)

  48. In German, Offiziere is the class designation for all pieces that aren’t pawns.

  49. John Cowan says:

    Thanks all for elucidating the matter of gw, the one true mystery in Welsh spelling. I must jib at the matter of Welsh being the oldest language in Europe, however: multi auctores tell us that it is Lithuanian.

    The Tarot deck, of course, has 14 cards per suit, and therefore both a Knight (who always tells the truth) and a Knave (who always lies). The usual view is that the modern Jack descends from the Knave, which fits in well with Carroll’s account. I find Tarot-whist to be an amusing game: it is basically bridge, but with no need for bidding, for the trump suit is always … the trumps.

  50. David Eddyshaw says:

    I must jib at the matter of Welsh being the oldest language in Europe, however: multi auctores tell us that it is Lithuanian

    This Cannot Be, because Lithuanian is a Dravidian language (though showing some traces of a Welsh substratum.)

  51. David Marjanović says:

    In German, Offiziere is the class designation for all pieces that aren’t pawns.

    Never heard that, only Figuren (…which is an insider shibboleth in that Schachfiguren does include the pawns but isn’t a useful term to True Professionals).

    caturaṅga

    …”Four corners”?

  52. David Eddyshaw says:

    Four limbs/divisions (sc. of the army.)

    Referring (probably) to this game:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chaturaji

    When I were a lad, this is what people meant by Chaturanga. I suspect that some Hindutva-adjacent influence may have been going on with the WP articles (though, to be fair, it looks like the true origins of chess are fairly murky, beyond the fact that it surely originated in some form in India.)

  53. (…which is an insider shibboleth in that Schachfiguren does include the pawns but isn’t a useful term to True Professionals).

    In Russian, when discussing games figury are:

    – a bishop or knight: “he exchanged a rook for a figura”.

    – everything that is not a pawn. Bishops and knights are “light figures” then.

    otherwise

    – [shahmatnyje] figury are just chess pieces

  54. Surprised not to see Thai or Burmese – both countries have their own historic chess variants that use the standard Persian / European pieces and board, so they’d be easy to add to this list.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sittuyin
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Makruk

    I really like that the pawns in Thai used to be cowrie shells, flipped over when they reach the other side of the board.

    Obviously, this list is focused on European chess, so the Japanese terms are unrelated to actual Japanese chess, Shogi, but I am fascinated by those piece names – “incense chariot” etc., and Dai Shogi included all of the following pieces:

    1 King
    1 Queen
    1 Lion
    2 Dragon kings
    2 Dragon horses
    2 Rooks
    2 Bishops
    1 Kirin
    1 Phoenix
    2 Violent oxen
    2 Flying dragons
    1 Drunk elephant
    2 Blind tigers
    2 Ferocious leopards
    2 Gold generals
    2 Silver generals
    2 Copper generals
    2 Angry boars
    2 Cat swords
    2 Vertical movers
    2 Side movers
    2 Reverse Chariots
    2 Lances
    2 Knights
    2 Evil wolves
    2 Iron generals
    2 Stone generals
    2 Gobetweens
    15 Pawns

  55. In English, a piece in chess terminology typically means a knight or bishop (as in, “A rare slip by Karpov in the opening causes him to lose a piece”—a description of this 1982 game that I read about thirty years ago and somehow never forgot). If a distinction is needed, minor piece is will work, as, in contrast, a rook or queen is a major piece.

  56. David Eddyshaw says:

    Dai Shogi

    My younger son loves this game.
    The Lion is the most fiendishly ingenious invention. It’s extremely powerful. It moves like a chess king – but twice per player’s turn.

    Best thing in Japanese chess before some unsung Tokugawa genius board-games nerd invented the drop rule.

  57. 1 Kirin

    2 Violent oxen
    2 Flying dragons
    1 Drunk elephant

    Causality or coincidence?

  58. @DM: Offizier. The definition I gave was incomplete, the king is not an officer in German chess terminology.

  59. John Cowan says:

    Evidently the drunken elephant has gone into the blind tiger, where he will soon enough become a mere pawn.

    In 5x5x5 chess, my favorite variant, the Unicorn (U) moves along any 3D diagonal (that is, through the corners of the cubies). White starts out on levels A (bottom) and level B; black on level E (top) and level D. The layout of level A is R-N-K-N-R on the 1st rank and pawns on the 2nd rank; level B has B-U-Q-B-U on the 1st rank (the asymmetry is required to have one bishop on each cubie color), and again pawns on the 2nd rank, and correspondingly for black. R and B moves are extended to the third dimension in the obvious way. The queen’s moves are any of R or B or Q, and likewise the king, limited of course to a single step. Castling is disallowed; pawns can move vertically or horizontally: whether e.p. captures should be allowed is disputed.

    Another variant I like is for three players: white, red, black. I rarely get to play this, even though I have a physical board. Each player has a 4 x 8 half-square, warped as to form a hexagon in toto; it is otherwise orthochess.

  60. David Eddyshaw says:

    5x5x5 chess

    Ah, yes.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three-dimensional_chess#Raumschach

    I agree. Definitely the best 3D chess. I made a set when I was a kid.

  61. David Marjanović says:

    I’ve never played any kind of 3D chess, alas. But I’ve played Bauernschach (just the kings and the pawns; if a pawn of yours reaches the other end of the field, you win, which is tricky to prevent, but a checkmate is difficult to set up, too) and Atomschach, the nuclear option. It’s rather MAD: any figure taken off the field takes the figures on the surrounding 8 squares with it, always including the attacker, and potentially including a king or two, so you need to prevent any attack on anything close to your king.

  62. David Eddyshaw says:

    I think if I was sentenced to playing only one kind of chess forever I would pick (regular) Shogi, though I would plead with the judge to be allowed Go instead of chess.

    AFAIK 3D Go is not a thing. The human brain is probably not capable of it.

  63. Stu Clayton says:

    The human brain is 3D Go.

  64. David Eddyshaw says:

    That would explain – everything.

  65. David Marjanović says:

    *galaxy brain meme*

  66. Stu Clayton says:

    Masters of the 3D version are renowned for their subtle exploitation of black-and-white thinking, which is otherwise deprecated in fashionable society.

  67. @David Marjanović: For games that are MAD, I give you the classic 43-Man Squamish. It was originally devised in 1965, but it was reprinted numerous times over the years.

  68. David Eddyshaw says:

    To the uninitiated Brit, the game seems essentially indistinguishable from American Football, but I dare say that deeper familiarity with the latter would help to elucidate some of the more nuanced distinguishing features.

  69. David Marjanović says:

    I particularly appreciate the flamethrower and the tyrannosaur.

  70. David Eddyshaw says:

    More pieces for Dai Shogi!

    (I will suggest it to my fellow-countryman, that well-known board-games aficionado Dafydd Siôgi.)

  71. Nikolai Karayev says:

    Maybe reflecting the original gender ambiguity the Russian ферзь is now masculine (ходить ферзём), but once it was feminine. Dal’s dictionary gives the name ферзь всяческая for the Russian version of the rules wherein the queen can move in addition like the knight, like we say, буквой Г 🙂

  72. To the uninitiated Brit, the game seems essentially indistinguishable from American Football

    Not at all. Squamish is an exaggerated form (pro satura) of Mass Soccer, a game I played much of in my youth. Though it is played on a standard pitch (that is, A=440), any number may play; indeed the number is not even necessarily even. There are three roles, called Forward, Back, and Goalie. Almost all the players are Forwards, who form a huge human clot vaguely in the middle of the field. A few Backs remain closer to the goal, which is occupied by Goalies. I was generally a Back, as this role was not much in demand.

    Rule 1 is “Not more than one goalie per ball on each team”. In general, it is poor strategy to have less, since only a goalie can throw a ball back in bounds, and play does not stop for that or any other reason, save when the players are uniformly called Late-for-Dinner. The number of balls is not prescribed, but five is not unusual. Rule 2 is “No shoes”, as their use would be disastrous in case of a misaimed kick. Fortunately, socks are required while double socks are merely permitted. The teams are distinguished as Shirts and Skins, determined by what they wear above the waist (this is not unique to this game but is commonplace among the non-uniformed).

    American Rugby, on the other hand, is simply live-action chess.

  73. David Eddyshaw says:

    Thankyou. Now I understand. There is really no substitute for a native guide in these matters.

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