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Caution: this chess variant needs more play testing. It may evolve yet


In a similar way that Zanzibar chess is complementing Metamachy, Pemba is filling the holes of the Shako's lineup. Hence the name of this game as Pemba, a neighboring but a smaller island than Zanzibar.

The piece selection here care about the relatively modest size of the board. Therefore, some powerful or long-distance favorite pieces such as the Lion or the Eagle have been discarded. Instead it has been managed to include the natural complements of the pieces of Shako. Thus, the Machine, orthogonal counterpart of the Elephant, and the Crocodile, diagonal counterpart of the Cannon are present in Pemba. Finally, both sorts of “elongated” Knights, Camels and Giraffes are on-board.

Setup rules

The board is the decimal board already used for Shako.

Here, there are 60 pieces of 12 different types, 30 for each player: 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, 2 Camels, 2 Rooks, 2 Cannons, 2 Elephants, 2 Giraffes, 2 Crocodiles, 2 Machines and 10 Pawns.

Setup at Pemba


Pieces from Shako

  • Cannon: exactly as in Shako, it is borrowed from Xiangqi. It moves without taking like a Rook, but it takes by going in a straight horizontal and vertical line and jumping over exactly one piece. When a Cannon takes a piece, there must be exactly one piece between the original and final square of the Cannon's move - this piece may be of either color.

  • Elephant: exactly as in Shako. It moves one or two squares diagonally. When an Elephant moves two squares, no matter what intermediate squares contain. Note that it always stays on the same color of square. The Elephant moves as the combined Alfil and Firzan (Ferz) from Shatranj, two pieces which were also present in medieval Chess and have disappeared with the birth of modern moves for the Bishop and the Queen.

  • Pawn: exactly as in usual Chess, including en-passant capture and a non capturing double step on its initial move.  Pawns promote when reaching the last and tenth row of the board to a piece chosen among Queen, Rook, Knight, Bishop, Elephant, Cannon, Camel, Giraffe, Crocodile or Machine. It must be noted however that the Pawn needs a minimum of six steps to get promoted, which is one additional step compare to orthodox chess.

Pieces specific to Pemba

  • Camel: jumps to the opposite square of a 2x4 rectangle, like an extended Knight. No matter what intermediate squares contain. It is also described as a (3,1) leaper. Note that it always stays on the same color of square. A well known piece from medieval Muslim great Chess like Tamerlane's Chess.

  • Giraffe: jumps to the opposite square of a 3x4 rectangle, like an extended Knight. No matter what intermediate squares contain. It is also described as a (3,2) leaper. Note that it always changes the same color of its square. That piece is found in Alfonso X's Grant Acedrex. The same pattern, but without jumping, is found in Janggi, Korean Chess, for the Elephant. Under the name of Zebra, it is also a fairy piece used by problemists for compositions.

  • Crocodile:  it is the diagonal counterpart of the Chinese Cannon. It moves like a Bishop (which was named Crocodile in Grant Acedrex) and needs an intermediate piece between itself and its victim to capture it. The Crocodile jumps the intermediate and takes the victim on its square. The intermediate is left unaffected. Also known as Vao by problemists.

  • Machine: it is an orthogonal counterpart of the Elephant as it moves one or two squares orthogonally, jumping over the first square if it is occupied. Then, it combines the moves of old Dabbaba and Wazir found in ancient Muslim Chess variants. The word Dabbaba designated a siege machine at war in Arabic, hence the name given for this piece.

Other rules

  • End Of Game: The end-of-game rules, checkmate, stalemate, etc., are identical to standard chess and to Shako.


Pieces Value

Zillions gives these average values, normalized to 5 for the Rook :

Pawn: 1.3 ; Giraffe:2.1 ; Camel: 2.3 ; Elephant: 2.7 ; Knight: 2.7 ; Crocodile: 3.1 ; Machine: 3.2 ; Bishop: 3.3 ; Cannon: 4.8 ; Rook: 5 ; Queen: 8.1

A maybe more realistic estimate would be:

Pawn: 1 ; Giraffe: 2 ; Camel: 2.5 ; Elephant: 2.75 ; Knight: 3 ; Crocodile: 3 ; Machine: 3.25 ; Bishop: 3.5 ; Cannon: 4 ; Rook: 5 ; Queen: 9

These values are just given for a very rough estimate.

You can play Pemba if you own Zillions-of-Games.

Download this zip-file (not ready yet)

Find Pemba in the Chessvariants pages (soon)

There are presets to play Pemba there (soon).


L'extension de Shako.

Avec 4 types de pièces supplémentaires, compléments logiques des pièces déjà présentes


Diagrams made with the fantastic Chess Board Painting Tools provided by Musketeer Chess    




(modified 08/10/2022)