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Turkish Great Chess and Chinese Whispers: Misadventures of a Chess Variant



A large chess variant with 52 pieces originally described in a 1800s Ottoman Turkish book as šaṭranǧ-i kabīr, or great chess, appears under various names in a number of subsequent Western sources, including authoritative works on chess history and variants. Game rules as presented in the latter are seriously flawed though, with inaccuracies regarding pieces array and moves. Over a period of more than two centuries, baseless assumptions, misreadings of previous sources and outright errors gradually accumulating in the literature have changed the game almost beyond recognition. With some of the game’s aspects not covered even by the original Turkish source, reconstructed rules are suggested and discussed, as well as a reformed variant.