Main Chator, the Malay Chess
Les échecs malais
Main Chator is Malay Chess, Chess played in Malaysia.
The rules of the game are very similar to modern Chess, except the Pawn promotion which is a rather complicated process. This type of Chess has been reported in regions forming the modern Malaysia and Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Borneo). A similar set coming from neighboring Philippines is also displayed below.
The names of the pieces and their meanings are the following
Located on the maritime roads linking China and Japan to India and Persia, the Malay islands and peninsula have been influenced by a deep and strong Indian influence before the islamisation, since the 7th c AD. Those people adopted Buddhism and Hinduism and rules mighty empires like the Çailendra at Java from 7th to 12th c. which built Borobudur temple, Çrivijaya at Sumatra from 8th to 13th c., and Majapahit in the 14th c.
They probably took Chess as well from Indians. Chess is attested there since the first European (Portuguese) contacts at the beginning of the 16th c. and seemed already well known when it happened. However, the game was later on deeply influenced by the European play. For instance, the modern moves for the Queen and the Bishop were adopted.
Main means "game" and Chator is obviously "chess", as a broken form of Sanskrit Chaturanga. The Malay name of the pieces also come from Sanskrit (Raja, Mantri, Gajah) or from Tamil and Telegu, Dravidian languages from South East India (Kuda, Ter, Chemor). The only exception is Bidaq which obviously is inherited from Muslim contacts (Baidaq in Arabic).
Two kinds of sets exists. One very basic, carved in 10 mn from bamboo or other vegetals with abstract shapes, the other is finely carved. Interestingly, the Rook is represented by a Boat there, like in certain parts of India and in Burma. It probably denotes the Hindu influence, a common character with Thailand and Cambodia where Boat is name of the piece.
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