This page is a mirror page. It has been made for caution to prevent the loss of this information if the original page was going to disapear.

The original can be found here : Homepage of Senterej


Introducing Senterej, Ancient Ethiopian Chess Game

This page is Underconstruction

This page is prompted by the article written by Richard Parnkhust in the May-June issue of Ethiopian Review Magazine. According to Pankhrust, the Ethiopian Chess was played for many hundred years. Qerquis, people who played the game, were condemed by the then legal code, Fetha Negest. He made references such as Aleka Taye's dictionary, a record by Alessandron Zorizi who met an Ethiopian Monk Aba Thomas in Venice, who told him that Emperor Lebna Dingel Played Chess at the royal court in Shoa with a Vienetian artist Hieronimo Biccini. In the second Half of the centuary an Ethiopian Chronicle states that the Great Ruler of Tigray Ras Michael Sehul played Senterej, according to his custom at the time of the battle of Fageta in 1769. Here are some important notes about the game.

Our future plan is to do a historical research of the game, develop it and reintroduce it back to the children of Ethiopia. Please send comments and additional information

Also check Some details on the game here From our search under chess variants, we found that Senterej is very similar to shantranj. It seems Ethiopians have been playing the game very early on . For details please check this site Here is a summary of the description of the game by R. Pankhurst who worked on the history of Senterej, which appeared on the Journal of Ethiopian Studies in 1971

...The game has been played in Ethiopia for at least half a millenium. It was played for many hundreds of years. The Game was played with pieces of differing colors. When you have the chance to take your adversary's piece you strike it with great force from the place you play with much noise. Every family member participates arround and has a voice in the game and can seize pieces at pleasure to show any advisable move....

...A large chess board all the squares of which were red in color seperated only by a small blue band. the Ethiopian board consisted of eight by eight squares. Chess pieces were coarsley made of ivory, very large and clumsy or made of horn and delicatley fashioned.

Amharic Names for Chess Pieces

Negus analogous to king
Ferz- played in some ways the role of the queen
Fit equivalentt to bishop
Der equivalent to castle
Ferese equivalent to knight
Medeq equivalent to Pawn

Amharic game terms

Sera means he made
Gedele means he killed or eliminated for capturing a piece
Mot means death. But Checkmate comes from the persian words Shah(king) Mot(dead) or the king is dead

Place pieces on chess board in more or less the same position as Chess. On each corner of the board sits the castle(Der) which can move horizontally or vertcally to any distance.

Ferese (Knight) Ferese sits next "to the castsle" on the board moving inward- moves a straight and a slant, can jump over any intermediate piece.

Fil also known as Saba or man next to the horse, can move diagonally but only three squuares and could jump over an intermediary square

Negus(king) is placed in one of the two central squares. It is powerfull. Always place this piece in the square on the players right. Negus moves one square at a time in any direction and its capture results in the end of the game.

Ferz is the king's companion is a male councilor can move diagonally one square at a time.

Medeq(pawns) are placed in a row infront of the other pieces. Move one step forwards at a time only. A Medeq reaching the opponents first square could be replaced by any of its player's pieces, which had by then been captured.

Werera phase (Mobilization phase) : players move as they wish as fast or slowly as they like without waiting for their oponent to move. The king can move two squares to the right and the nearer castle can be moved or shifted to the immediatley adjacent square(probably equivalent to castling). Werera ends until after the first capture. The players move alternatley as in the modern western game.

Sentereje is based on a combinaiton of observation, prudence, stratagies and surprises. It is a way of testing and trying the spirit of the players. The best was to win to achieve checkmate with only two bishops or with a queen and a pawn.