Four Seasons Chess
Les échecs des « quatre saisons »
In the Spanish codex of Alfonso X (1283), there was also a Four Handed Chess. It differs from Indian Chaturaji because here each player plays for himself, against three opponents. There is no team play. However, it is very plausible that this four player variant was again inspired by some oriental influence as al-Bîrûnî had described Chaturaji in 1030.
The symbolism attached to this game was very strong. Every side was associated to a color, a season (hence the name of Acedrex de los Quatro Tiempos), an element and a "humor". In the Middle Age, people were thinking that humors were due to fluids flowing inside the human body.
This game makes use of a regular 64 squares Chess board. The two diagonals which stand on the illustration play no role in the game, there are just a visual aid for the Pawn's move. Pieces are placed at the corner (a difference with the Indian Chaturaji) allowing frontal clashes between the players.
Every side has: 1 King (Rey), 1 Elephant (Alffil), 1 Horse (Cavallo), 1 Rook (Roque) and 4 Pawns (Peon). Note that Green and Black have their Horse at right hand whereas White and Red have it at left.
Green starts, which is logical for Spring. Then, players play in the order of the seasons.
Pieces move according to mediaeval rules. The Elephant jumps at the 2nd square, diagonally.
The Pawn moves 1 step straight forehead and get promoted into a Queen (Alfferza), a piece which is not represented on the starting array. Then, it moves 1 step diagonally in all 4 directions.
Moves of Alffil and Alfferza
When a player mates another King, he gets all remaining pieces from that side. The mated player get out of the game. The winner is the last King present on the board.
ASSOCIATED TABLES: EL MUNDO
Here also, a Table game was put in relation with this Chess game. Logically, it was a four handed sort of Backgammon, called El mundo (the World), played on a circular board with 12 men per players. The men had the same colors than for Four Seasons Chess.
El Mundo: a four handed Backgammon variant
ORIGINAL TEXT in OLD SPANISH :
ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF ORIGINAL TEXT :
I add here the translation made by Sonja Musser. I acknowledge the very high quality of her work.
Sonja Musser's additional notes are put between brackets.
Here begins another chess that was made after the four seasons of the year, which the ancient wise men divined.
There is another chess that the ancient wise men [Cite Isidoro] made after the four seasons of the year and it was organized in this way: The first season is spring which begins in the middle of March and goes through the middle of June. The second season is summer which begins in the middle of June and goes through the middle of September. The third season is autumn which begins in the middle of September and goes through the middle of December. The fourth season is winter which begins in the middle of December and goes through the middle of March.
And these four seasons are divided like the four elements. Spring is air; summer is fire; autumn is earth; winter is water.
And because as we said above in the first season, spring, all things grow and men are refreshed and the trees and plants turn green the reason why air is its element is clearer than for any other season; therefore they made this season green. And the summer which is hotter and drier than the other seasons they made it like fire, which is of this nature. And therefore they made this season red for it element which also is. The autumn is dry and cold because its element is earth; it is more temperate than summer because it tends more toward cold than heat. The things that burn in summer, are born and refreshed in this season. And because its element is earth, its nature coldness and dryness therefore they made this season’s color black. Winter they gave the element water which is cold and wet because in that season there are great cold, ice, snow, and rains. And because its element is water they made its color white.
And this similarity they made according to the four humors that grow in the body of man, like blood, which they gave to spring; and choler, to summer; and melancholy, to autumn; and phlegm to winter.
Of the humors which grow in each season
Of these four seasons we described above, the first is spring. And the blood grows in it more than in all the others. And in the summer, choler; in the autumn, melancholy; and in the winter, phlegm.
The seasons are divided in this manner: spring is temperate because it is between winter which is very cold and summer which is very hot. According to the ancient wise men, it tends more towards warmth than cold because it takes more from summer which is coming than winter which is passed. Summer is hot and dry because of the warmth from the previous spring and the warmth of the coming autumn. Autumn is temperate and tends more towards cold than warmth because it is between summer which is very hot and winter which is very cold, taking more from the coming season than the past. Winter, which comes between autumn and spring, is very cold because it takes coldness from the previous autumn and from the coming spring. And in this way the seasons all take from one another.
And like the four seasons and the four humors they divided the pieces of this chess into four parts, each with its own color as you heard above, which suits each season.
How the four-seasons board is made and how many colors the pieces are and how they are arranged on it
This board should be made in this way: square with eight spaces per side for a total of sixty-four. It is to have four lines in the shape of an “x” that goes from the second [inside corner] square [b2, b7, g2, or g7] and goes to the second [inside corner] square diagonally across. The other line does the same. The one that goes through white squares is to be black and the one that goes through black, white in order to divide between the types of pieces. And these lines that cut through the squares mark the direction in which the pawns are to move first – those to the right move to the right and likewise for those to the left. They capture forward and diagonally as pawns should capture.
And these pieces are thirty-two in total and are to be set up in the four corners of the board. Each arrangement is to have eight pieces that are a king, a rook, a knight, a fil, and four pawns. All pieces are to move wherever they want according to their movements in the other chess that is more common.
And this is their arrangement: the kings are placed in the corner most squares on the board. The rook is next to the king [Due to the mirrored positions of the four colors, for white and red the rook is to the right of the king; for black and green it is to the left], the knight is on the other, and the fil in front of him. Two pawns face one side of the board and the other two face the other. In this chess there is no fers until one of the pawns is promoted.
And there are four kings and four men each with his pieces of his color are to play on it.
And the colors are these four that we have said correspond to the seasons. Spring’s pieces are green; summer’s are red; autumn’s black, and winter’s white.
On how they are to begin to play with these pieces
The player with the green pieces is to play first and he should move towards his right, towards the other player who has the red pieces. This is like spring moving towards summer. He who has the red pieces should also play towards the other player who has the white pieces at the same time defending himself from green. The one with the black pieces is to play also towards his right, against the player who has the white [The ms. says black in error. Black, whose move is being described, cannot play towards himself. However, it is interesting to note that the two words used for black are different. In the first chapter, the “Libro del acedrex”, the word used for black is always prieto whether describing the black pieces or the black squares on the board. In this fifth chapter of four-player games the word used to refer to the black chess pieces is always negro while the black squares are described with prieto. In four-player tables the word used for black’s pieces is once again prieto. In the seventh and final chapter on astrological games, the word used for Saturn’s black piece is negro in both the chess and the tables] guarding always from attack from the player with the red pieces. He who has the white pieces should do the same, guarding against attack from black. After [the first move] each player may move according to his will.
And thus in playing these four players take from one another like the seasons of the year which also take from one another.
And each of these four players should make an opening wager. Thereafter for each piece that a player loses he should pay an amount as well as for each check given to a king.
And when a player is checkmated he pays the victor an amount for as many pieces as he has on the board and then removes his pieces. Of the three players that remain thereafter, the first to be defeated leaves on the board as much as he has won and an amount for each of his pieces that remain when he is checkmated. Of the two remaining players, the one who wins takes all the money on the board plus the loser gives him an amount for each of his remaining pieces.
And this is what the board and pieces look like as well as their arrangement, painted here.
This is the board of tables of the four seasons, called the world, which begins like this:
Since we have told about the board of the four seasons, as the ancient wise mean ordered it, now it is fitting that we show the tables board that is played after that some manner.
This board is squared and the points are placed in a circle. The circle is divided into four parts; each part has six spaces that are carved out in semi-circles in which the pieces fit.
And on this board four men are to play, each with his pieces of his color according to the colors of the chess that we have named. And each one of these players is to have twelve pieces of the colors of the aforementioned chessmen which are these: green, red, white, and black – for a total of forty-eight. And they are played with the [7-sided] dice of this same chess and the players roll to see who plays first. And then the player to his right and so on around.
And the first to begin is to place his pieces according to the rolls of the dice as in doze canes and all the others do likewise.
And once they all have placed all their pieces each must bring his pieces to where the third player first entered which is across from his own, by playing around to his right according to the rolls of the dice.
And when one makes a roll that he cannot use, let the player who to his right use it. And if he cannot, the third. And if he cannot, the fourth. And also in this game if a roll is made that allows the capture of an unguarded piece, it is to be captured. The one whose piece was captured must return it to where it was first placed.
And no pieces are to be borne off until each player has his pieces in the opposite quarter as is stated above.
And the player who first should bear off all his pieces will beat the player to his right and so on around.
And this is the explanation of this game. And this is the diagram of the board and of the pieces and of their colors and of the arrangement. [The arrangement show is a position achieved very early in the game when each player has so far only entered one roll’s worth or three pieces. The roll of 6-4-1 shown has not yet been played but since green plays first it must be his turn to enter his pieces with these values]